William Greer (Ole Bill), my dearest friend will have a go at anything! Besides turning kindling and old, odd pieces of wood into something magical, building a stonewall in his garden, fire bricks out of old newspaper, he has now taken up preserving fruit with gusto! and the hedgerows in North Essex are not safe any more…. Not one for prescriptive anything and ready to break the rules, he gamely combines whatever his garden, the neighbour’s garden or the bountiful hedgerows of Essex have to offer and turns it into mouthwatering preserves, jams or marmalade (in this case apples and oranges, what next Bill?).
So here is his very own apple & orange marmalade recipe and he has promised to save one jar for me for when we visit later this year. Bill and Barbara, his wife and childhood soul mate, live in Gestingthorpe in a postcard perfect pink cottage and I wrote about this a while ago with a few pictures of some of the beautiful pieces he crafts using mainly kindling and will sell if you ask nicely.
Makes approximately 10-11 regular 450 grams jam jars
1 kg oranges
2 kg mixed apples (any eating apple will do – I picked apples off a tree in the hedgerow outside our house)
3 kg sugar – granulated is fine
1.2 litre water
- Squeeze the oranges, add juice and pulp to the water.
- Cut orange peel into 1/4 inch thick strips, length to choice, and leave to soak for 36 hours in 2 pints of water
- After 36 hours of soaking, peel, core and chop the apples and add to the oranges
- Tie the peel, pips and core in muslin and place in the preserving pan with all the other fruit
- Preheat the oven to 140C, 275F or gas mark 1; put the sugar in a bowl and place in oven
- Wash the jars and pop these into the oven as well
- Bring the fruit to a boil, lower heat and simmer until soft and pulpy (about 30 minutes – check to make sure the apples are cooked)
- Squeeze out and discard the muslin bag with the pith and pips
- Stir in the sugar on low heat and keep stirring until thoroughly dissolved
- Bring the marmalade to a rapid boil and continue boiling & stirring until setting point is reached (10-12 minutes)
- To test setting: Put a spoonful on to a cool saucer (pop into freezer when the jam is on!) – if it forms a light skin when pushed with your finger then it has set – congratulations!
- Remove from the heat, skim if needed
- Set aside to cool slightly for a few minutes, then pour into warm jars, cover while still hot, and label
Pilau rice means the rice is cooked in the liquid – water or stock. Plain steamed rice is boiled in a lot of water (like pasta) and strained when the rice is al dente and then put back on the hob on low to steam. All sorts of vegetables can be added to pilau rice – peas, all variety of beans, carrots, potatoes, French beans, runner beans and whatever takes your fancy.
There is no one way of cooking peas pilau – every household will have it’s own favourite tweak! Sometimes I add fried onion which makes the pilau creamier and sweeter. Other times when I can’t be bothered with chopping and frying an onion, I use this recipe which is simple and a good variation.
Basmati rice comes in a variety of grades – some better than others. That being so, it is not always easy to give precise measurements of how much liquid you will need. But don’t panic – usually a ratio of 1:1 of rice and water does the trick. And it is always possible to adjust the water while cooking the rice – see tip below. Less water is probably better than using too much – keep a kettle on the boil and add a little more if required. Once you’ve cooked pilau rice a few times you will know how much water to use just eye-balling it.
You could use brown rice if this is what you prefer although typically pilau rice is cooked using white rice – brown rice will take a little longer to cook.
2 cups Basmati rice (200-225 grams) soaked for 1 hour
2 cups frozen peas
Whole garam masala: 4 black peppercorns, 4 cloves, 2 cardamoms, 2 small sticks cinnamon, 2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon black zeera or jeera (black cumin seeds are from the same family as regular cumin seeds but smaller – available at Asian stores, see link)
½ teaspoon turmeric
2 good tablespoons oil
2 cups water (300 mls) (see tip below for adjustment)
½ teaspoon salt
- Rinse rice 3-4 times
- Heat oil in a large pan (small pans mean squished rice), lower heat and add whole garam masala and black zeera and fry for 30 seconds
- Add turmeric, peas and salt and fry for a further 2-3 minutes
- Add rice and 2 cups of water and bring to boil
- Lower heat to low/medium and simmer uncovered until most of the liquid has disappeared – about 3-4 minutes
- Cover the lid with a clean tea cloth and place tightly over the rice
- Lower heat to lowest and steam for about 10 minutes (use heat diffuser if you have one – I don’t know what I’d do without mine!)
Tip: As there are various varieties of Basmati rice it is not always possible to give exact measurements of how much water you will need. However, it is easy to adjust the amount of water during cooking. If you think you’ve added too much water, simply turn the heat on high and let it dry (only takes a minute or so); if there is too little water and the rice still uncooked, add a little boiling water. Rice needs to be watched and checked while it is on the boil – it should be al dente before covering and steaming
Remember, rice freezes well and can be reheated in the oven
Soup as first course is fine, but a hearty, filling soup makes a beautiful meal and is a favourite with us. A chunk of fresh crusty bread to accompany and what more can one wish for. The beauty of hearty soups is you can bung in almost any vegetable, lentil and bean and come up a winner. Add a handful of fresh herbs like flat leaf parsley, dill and coriander for a fragrant soup fit for angels. And if that wasn’t enough to tempt anyone, black-eyed beans are full of goodness and onion and garlic are well-known for their therapeutic properties. If you are in a desperate rush, you could use tinned black-eyed beans although these beans don’t require soaking and don’t take as long to cook as some other larger beans.
I have used black-eyed beans for this one and teamed it with flat leaf parsley – dill would do fine too or both! If you plan to freeze some just double the ingredients except for the oil – 3 tablespoons should be enough to fry 2 medium onions.
½ cup black-eyed beans (black-eyed beans don’t require soaking)
1 medium or large onion, sliced (I used a large onion)
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large stick celery, chopped
1 full cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
¼ teaspoon turmeric
2 small sticks of cinnamon
2 tablespoons olive oil
2½ cups water – 450 ml
Salt & black pepper
1. Put the beans in a saucepan, rinse and add 2 cups of water. Bring to boil, lower heat to lowest, cover with lid and simmer gently for about 40-45 minutes until cooked – don’t strain
2. While the beans are cooking, fry onion and cinnamon sticks in olive oil until golden
3. Add celery, parsley and turmeric and fry for 3-4 minutes to release flavours
4. Add cooked beans with the liquid and 2½ cups (450ml) water, salt and black pepper
5. Bring to boil, cover and lower heat to lowest and simmer for about 20-25 minutes
6. Check how thick you would like the soup – if too thick, add some more water and simmer for further 7-10 minutes. The soup in the picture is what mine looked like using 450mls of water
I serve mine with a slice of lemon or a dollop of natural yogurt like Sojade available at As Nature Intended, Planet Organic and Wholefoods or online
I made this the other day when I got home after shopping and hadn’t had lunch and was starved to distraction. So, quickly popped on a little rice (no time to soak it this time), peeled a few potatoes, dived into the fridge and found a green pepper and some cherry tomatoes and literally threw it together in a pot and had a very satisfying jiffy meal. I was so hungry that I forgot to write the recipe down but I think I remember as it was so simple and here goes…..the trick is to use what is available – carrot, celery, small piece of leftover cauli or peas.
4 medium potatoes, cut into chunks (not floury potatoes) about 500 grams
1 medium onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
About 10 cherry tomatoes, halved (cherry tomatoes cook very quickly and the basic variety cost £1 a punnet these days)
½ teaspoon turmeric
2 tablespoons oil
- Fry the onion in oil until pale golden
- Add all other ingredients and 1 cup of water (150 ml)
- Bring to boil, turn heat down to low, cover and cook for about 20-25 minutes until potatoes are cooked
- Sprinkle a little fresh coriander if available (I usually freeze coriander, just wash, chop and freeze – perfect)
An old Italian dish we are all familiar with minus the parmigiana. It used to be one of my favourites in Italian restaurants in the days I ate cheese but this is just as good and healthier. You could add some grated vegan cheese to the breadcrumbs for a richer topping but I am happy without.
For fresh breadcrumbs I find it simpler to just freeze a couple of slices, pop them in a strong plastic bag and bang away with a wooden rolling pin! Saves me getting the gadgets out but we all have our own preferred modus operandi and do what suits us best.
I was going to call it aubergine bake but that is not what I was trying to achieve so aubergine no parmigiana it is! The addition of tofu gives it a robustness and excellent served with a green salad or steamed potatoes and spring greens which I opted for because I was very hungry!
This picture evokes memories of going to the market with my mother when I was young – baskets heaving with fruit and vegetables of all colours, shapes and sizes amidst the buzz and noise of a fruit and vegetable market; aubergines being at the top of the list of vegetables in our family we always came back with loads specially if we could pick a bargain at the height of the season. My mother being of Iranian descent cooked aubergines beautifully and I remember aubergines being salted in a colander to rid them of the bitterness. I think this was only because the large plump varieties were not available back then and the thin, long aubergines could be a tad bitter. Aubergines taste sweetest when fried! they do absorb a fair bit of oil but taste heavenly. I tend to mostly grill mine when possible with a little oil – healthier option but I confess there are times when fried aubergine slices served with yogurt, garlic and mint are irresistible!
2 large aubergines (cut in half laterally, then into 4 slices lengthwise – 8 slices each aubergine)
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tin chopped tomatoes, 400 grams
2 tablespoons tomato puree
300 grams tofu, sliced thickly (firm silken or firm regular)
Olive oil (see recipe for quantity)
Fresh breadcrumbs (2 slices)
1 tablespoon dried oregano (use half for sauce and rest mix with breadcrumbs)
Half cup of red wine (optional – I buy cheap red wine and freeze in ice trays, ready to use)
- Grill the aubergines: Put aubergine slices in large bowl and drizzle with a little olive oil – mix with hands to coat the slices
- Place single layer of aubergine slices on tray and grill both sides till golden – set aside
- Make the sauce: In 2 tablespoons olive oil fry onion and garlic for about 10 minutes until edges just begin to brown
- Add tomatoes, tomato puree, oregano, about quarter cup of water, red wine (if using) and a little salt – cover & simmer on medium heat for about 20-25 minutes
- In an ovenproof dish (mine is 6½ x 8½ inches) pour a little tomato sauce and place 8 slices of aubergines on it
- Pour a little more sauce and lay the sliced tofu on this
- Pour some more tomato sauce to cover tofu and arrange last 8 slices of aubergines on this then pour rest of tomato sauce on the aubergines
- Mix the breadcrumbs with a pinch of salt, remaining oregano and drizzle with a little olive oil
- Scatter the breadcrumbs on the aubergines and bake at 180C, 350F, gas mark 4 for 35-40 minutes until breadcrumbs are golden and aubergines bubbling!
Layering the bake
Tomato sauce + aubergines + tomato sauce + tofu + tomato sauce + aubergines + tomato sauce + breadcrumbs
Most of us have had a taste of saag aloo in our local Indian and love it. Here is a very simple variation using just fresh dill – I am sure you’ll love this too. Dill has a sweet heavenly fragrance and is used frequently in Middle Eastern and Persian cuisine. I use dill a lot – simply buy a couple of big bunches from any Asian or Middle Eastern shop, wash, chop and freeze – that way it is always available and ready for use. Fresh dill is also delicious in salads and teams up very well with white beans; next time you make bean or lentil soup, add a cup full and it will add another dimension to an everyday dish. There are many Persian scrumptious rice dishes prepared with herbs and dill is always a prominent feature – I will soon post a bean and dill rice dish which is one of our favourites.
4 medium boiling potatoes, not floury (approx. 500 grams) – cut into large chunks
1 medium onion, sliced
1 full cup chopped fresh dill
3 cloves garlic, grated or chopped
1 inch piece ginger, grated or chopped
½ teaspoon turmeric
¼ teaspoon chilli powder
2-3 tablespoons oil (in a dry veggie curry I tend to use a little more oil to compensate for the lack of sauce)
Salt – about half teaspoon
1 In a good sized saucepan fry the onion in oil until golden brown (it’s always better to cook potatoes in a larger saucepan; keeps them from getting squashed!)
2 Add all other ingredients and fry for a further 2-3 minutes on low/medium heat
3 Add ¾ cup of water (about 150ml), cover and cook on low heat for about 20-25 minutes
4 Check and stir gently a few times to ensure potatoes don’t stick to the pan
5 Serve with rice, quinoa, stuffed pitta bread, nan or simply pop it on a thick slice of wholemeal toast!
Another all time favourite made with vegan mince and lots of mushrooms! I love cottage pie because it can be varied to suit all tastes…. use peas or broad beans instead of mushrooms; bung in swedes, celery, leeks or whatever is available and have a variation each time you serve it for dinner. Or eat some and save some for another day as it is fine to freeze. Make it dry or add a tad more water for a gloopy version. Got a glass of wine on the go, well pop some into the mince mixture and you have luxury cottage pie for a special occasion. Vegan mince can also be replaced with an adequate amount of lentils – brown or green lentils have an earthy flavour and work very well.
Do experiment – it is fun and you never know until you’ve tried. Most of all enjoy cooking it – food prepared with love always tastes better!
I’ve served mine with the last of the Blue Lake French beans from the garden – as you can see they’ve gone a bit knobbly! but Blue Lake is a magic bean and remains tender and tasty at all stages of growth and the seeds are wonderfully tender.
1 kilo potatoes, boil in salted water and mash with a little olive oil (floury potatoes like King Edwards)
1 large onion, sliced
1 large carrot, sliced
300 grams approximately mixed mushrooms (use some white button mushrooms and leave them whole, good for texture)
2 cups frozen vegan mince (Linda McCartneys, Tivall or Vegideli)
1 tablespoon tomato puree
1 teaspoon Marmite or similar
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon dry thyme
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons cornflour
3 cups water
- Gently fry onion in the oil for few minutes until translucent
- Add sliced carrots and fry for further couple of minutes – remove and set aside
- Add chopped and whole mushrooms to the same pan and fry for few minutes – put onions and carrots back in the pan with the mushrooms
- Add mince, bay leaves, thyme and water and bring to boil
- Add Marmite and tomato puree and give good stir. Reduce heat and simmer covered for about 10-12 minutes
- Mix the cornflour in a little water and add to mince mixture – cook for further 2 minutes to allow the gravy to thicken
- Check seasoning, pour into ovenproof dish and cover with mashed potatoes and smooth the top
- Bake at 200C, 400F or gas mark 6 for 35 minutes (these temperatures are for non-fan assisted oven)
Tip: Add a cup each of frozen peas and broad beans instead of mushrooms if you wish
Another simple hearty potato bake served with cabbage flavoured with caraway seeds
5 large potatoes, sliced thickly (about 800 grams)
2 large onions, sliced thickly (about 350 grams)
3 large tomatoes, sliced thickly (about 500 grams)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dried mint
¼ cup water
Salt and black pepper
- Layer an ovenproof casserole dish with onions, tomatoes and potatoes in this order
- Mix the oil, water, mint and salt and pepper in a mug and pour
- Bake at 200C, 400F or gas mark 6 for 45 minutes (non-fan assisted oven)
- Serve with pointed cabbage as below
Pointed cabbage with caraway
1 pointed cabbage, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
- Heat the oil in a wok and add caraway seeds followed by cabbage
- Add 3 tablespoons water, a little salt, cover and cook for about 8-10 minutes
- Remove lid and fry for a further few minutes
Here’s another tofu miracle perfect for weekend breakfast, brunch or a light meal. One of my favourites and very satisfying.
Use black salt if available as this gives it an “eggy” flavour – but if you don’t particularly like the eggy flavour then best to use ordinary sea salt.
Quarter block of firm or medium tofu (the blocks usually weigh 349grams)
1 large ripe tomato
½ teaspoon curry powder
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 spring onion, chopped
Salt (or black salt which can be purchased from most Asian supermarkets or Amazon)
- Warm the oil; add chopped tomato, curry powder and a little salt, cover and cook for about 4-5 minutes until the tomato is mushy
- Add tofu and break it up with a fork
- Add spring onion (if using) and cook for a further 3-4 minutes stirring all the time
- Serve on toast
Tip. Add some frozen peas with the tomatoes for variation
If you have had a successful crop of marrows this year you will be feeling like I do! Give one to the neighbour, force another on a friend and still more merrily growing and showing off their striped coats. I like marrows – they are easy to grow and easy to cook; a taste of summer – fresh and clean provided you don’t overcook them. This is a fairly simple recipe of baked marrow stuffed with curried borlotti beans – give it a go
1 marrow (about 14 inches long) – cut into 4 boats, do not peel
2 tins borlotti beans, drained and rinsed
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, thinly sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons curry powder
½ teaspoon cinnamon powder (optional)
2 tablespoons tomato puree
2 tablespoons soya sauce
- Gently fry onions and garlic until translucent – about 7-8 minutes
- Add spices, tomato puree, soya sauce, a little salt if necessary and fry on low heat for a couple of minutes to cook spices
- Add borlotti beans and 1 cup of water and simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes – the beans should be moist and not too dry
- Cut the marrow into 4 boats and remove seeds and pith
- Stuff the boats with the beans and place in oiled baking tray and cover with foil
- Bake in oven at 200C, 400F or gas mark 6 for 25-30 minutes (my oven is not fan assisted)
- Test with skewer and if marrow is cooked, uncover and bake for another 10 minutes