Broccoli, White Beans and Lemons with Red Pepper Flakes

IMG_7917A very HAPPY NEW YEAR to you all. I hope that you saw in the new year in style. I tend to opt for more relaxed, low key affairs on New Years eve so that I can wake feeling as fresh as daisy on the first of January. I am always impressed by those who are able to take part in the Hyde Park New Year’s Day run or those who decide to enter the freezing waters surrounding Britain, which is becoming increasingly more popular as the years roll by. Typically my family go on a good long ramble and play board games in front of the fire. This year we’ll be playing a lot of ‘Pucket’, which was given to me this Christmas. It’s hugely addictive and really good fun and I’ve turned into a little demon playing it, much to the annoyance of my siblings. You can purchase your very own board here.

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As is often the way we all start the year with many good intentions, whether that be to exercise more, drink less, eat more healthily, read more, achieve more (* delete as appropriate) but as the months go by some of our good intentions begin to wane. I thought that I would lend a hand however on the eat more healthily part. I can bet that we’ll be seeing numerous detox diets and health programmes in the papers and magazines this coming weekend. I do think it is good idea to cleanse the body but to bear in mind that it is January and it is cold and therefore we do need those hearty dishes now and again to fill our bellies. Pulses, vegetables and fish is a great way to start off the year and to only eat meat products a couple of times a week – avoiding too much diary is also a sensible way to crack on with the year.

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I thought this recipe would be a great one to kick off the year with as you may already have all the ingredients in your kitchen waiting to be thrown together. It’s incredibly quick to prepare and can be eaten hot or cold, on its own or accompanied by some white fish or a crab cake perhaps. Tasty and packed with goodness, it’s definitely a feel good dish. Helen who runs the website ‘Well-Being Secrets’ has written an in-depth piece on the benefits of broccoli here, which is both fascinating and highly informative, so have a read. I also like Joey Bruno’s, founder of Thrive Cuisine, article here.

For those who had a ridiculously large night and are feeling a little worse for wear, might I suggest the health regime starts tomorrow and you tuck into some of these little beauties instead – see here.

Broccoli, White Beans and Lemons with Red Pepper Flakes

adapted from the December 2013 issue of Bon Appetit Magazine

Serves 4

3 large tbsp of olive oil

4 garlic cloves, finely sliced

3 anchovy fillets packed in oil

1 lemon, washed and finely sliced (pips removed)

225g broccoli, chopped into small florets

5 stems of fresh thyme

2x400g tins of cannellini beans, rinsed

200ml water

salt and pepper

generous pinch of red pepper flakes

2 tbsp parmesan, finely grated (plus a little extra for grating on top)

1. Gently heat the oil in a large deep pan and then add the garlic, lemons and anchovies, stirring occasionally to help break up the anchovies. Cook for 5 minutes before adding the broccoli florets and thyme and stirring into the juices from the lemon.

2. After a further 5 minutes add the cannellini beans and water and stir into the other ingredients. Season with salt and pepper, bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer allowing the flavours to blend together for a further 5 minutes.

3. Add the parmesan and stir into the ingredients and place a lid on the pan and take off the heat.

4. Turn out onto a serving dish and sprinkle with red pepper flakes (chilli flakes could also be an option here in fact) and an extra scattering of fresh parmesan.

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Save the English cauliflower from extinction by EATING it!

It was during a recent family conversation about how cauliflower consumption is in decline, that gave me the idea for this blog. I wanted to do my bit, so as to speak, to give the cauliflower some much needed positive PR and encourage people actually to buy and eat the vegetable.  The sad truth is that if we don’t consume them we will slowly see them disappearing from our farmers’ markets, grocers, supermarkets (delete as required) and they will join the list of other extinct vegetables. A really interesting article was published a couple of  years ago in “The Daily Telegraph” with the heading ‘Cauliflower to make a comeback with environmentally friendly rebranding’ – it’s worth a read so just click here.

I think a lot of people are not too sure what to do with cauliflower, other than the obvious cauliflower cheese, which don’t get me wrong is tasty, especially when you add crispy bacon bits to the topping, but there are so many other delicious things to do with cauliflowers.

So I thought I would share two completely different recipes with you to inspire you to love and eat cauliflower. Broccoli and other so called ‘superfoods’ seem to have taken centre stage due to their health benefits, but the fact is that cauliflower is also very nutritious, perhaps not quite as much as broccoli, but close, and if the truth be told cauliflower has less calories than broccoli. You can check out the facts here if you don’t believe me!

First up…………………………drum roll please……………………. is………………………………………………..

Sweet Piccalilli, which is a gloriously tangy and vibrant looking relish which includes cauliflower as the main ingredient, along with green beens, courgette/marrow, pickled onions and spices. It’s also been referred to as ‘Indian Pickle’, indicating that it’s origin stems from the Indian subcontinent. I recently made a huge batch and then gave a number away as gifts at christmas time. A dollop of this relish is the perfect accompaniment to hams and cheeses, in fact you are guaranteed always to see it on the plate when ordering a traditional ploughman’s lunch at any good English Pub.

This recipe is sourced from my favourite preserves and pickling book called The Complete Book of Preserves and Pickles by Catherine Atkinson and Maggie Mayhew. I have remained pretty loyal to the original recipe other than the fact that I do add a little more flour as I like the piccalilli to be slightly thicker. It’s personal choice, so see how you get on and don’t be afraid to add a little more flour if need be. It is also really important to note that steps 1 and 2 you need to do 24 hours before the next steps can be completed.

Sweet Piccalilli

Makes circa 1.8kg/4lb, which was precisely 7 jars  and I bought them from here.

1 large cauliflower

450g pickling (pearl) onions

900g mixed vegetables (marrow/courgette, cucumber, French green beans)

225g salt

2.4 litres/4 pints cold water

200g granulated sugar

2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

2 tsp of mustard powder

1 tsp of ground ginger

1 litre/1 and three quarters distilled (white) vinegar

25g plain flour

1 tbsp turmeric

1. Clean and cut the cauliflower into small edible florets and cut off the ends of the French green beans and cut them into 2.5cm/1inch in length. The pickling onions I use are small, but if you have bought the slightly larger ones you will need to quarter them.

2. In a large bowl place the vegetables in layers and add a sprinkling of salt over each layer. Pour the water over all the vegetables and then cover with cling film and leave to soak for 24 hours.

24 hours later

3. Drain the soaked vegetables and discard the brine. You will need to rinse them well several times in cold water so as to get rid of the salt. You may find it easier to do this in batches.

4. In a large pan (preserving pan if you have one) add the sugar, garlic, mustard, ginger and 900ml/1 and a half pints of the vinegar. Gently heat the pan stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved.

5. Add the vegetables to the pan and bring to the boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until they are almost tender.

6. In a separate bowl stir the turmeric into the flour and then add to the remaining vinegar. Stir this mixture into the vegetables. Bring to the boil and stir and then turn down the heat so that it simmers for another 5-10 minutes allowing the piccalilli to become thick. If it is not the consistency you want, simply add a little more flour and it should thicken up.

7. Into warmed sterilized jars, add the sweet piccalilli and cover and seal. Store in a cool dark place for at least 2 weeks. Use within the year.

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The second recipe I wanted to share with you is Cauliflower Curry, which is really straight forward and speedy to make and perfect to eat either on its own or with a bowl of dal on the side; I also like to have mine with a little natural yoghurt. This recipe comes from my mother-in-law who stores all her recipes in her head and never seems to have precise measurements. It’s always a little bit of this and a little bit of that, and the result is always divine.  I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how tasty and simple this dish is to make.

Cauliflower Curry

Serves 2-4 accompanied with another dish such as dal or speedy salmon curry

1 large cauliflower

2 tbsp of mustard oil (or sunflower oil if you do not have mustard oil)

1 tsp  nigella seeds

1 tsp turmeric

1tsp ground coriander (cilantro)

1tsp ground cumin

1tsp garam masala

1 tsp salt

half tsp chilli powder

3 inch cinnamon bark, broken into smaller parts

splash or two of water

1 heaped tsp of ghee or butter, optional

1. Wash and cut the cauliflower into small florets. Do not discard the outer green bits as these too can be used in the curry.

2. In a pan warm up the oil on a low heat and when it’s hot add the nigella seeds. After 10 seconds add the cauliflower and stir into the seeds and the oil. Add the turmeric and then let the cauliflower gently cook away. You want to begin to see the cauliflower bronzing before adding any more of the ingredients, this will take between 5-10 minutes. Keep the oil on a low heat or you will find that the cauliflower will burn, which is not the effect that you want to achieve.

3. Add all the rest of the ingredients, aside from the ghee/butter and water. Stir them all together and then add a small amount of water to help soften the cauliflower and help it cook. Cook for further 10 minutes and then add the ghee/butter and stir into the cauliflower to give it a more buttery taste. This is not essential so try it both ways and see which you prefer.

4. Serve with natural yoghurt.

Do you have any any cauliflower recipes that you cook at home and would recommend? I’d love to hear them.


King Prawn Noodle Broth – effortless joy in a bowl

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Do you ever feel too exhausted to cook in the evenings but want a fresh, healthy, comforting dish that you can prepare in lightening speed with very little effort? I think all of us do from time to time, I certainly did this evening. So I put together this wonderfully flavoursome broth in less than 10 minutes. I feel it cleanses the body and heightens ones senses. It’s definitely my kind of dish.

King Prawn Noodle Broth – Serves 2

190g  Jumbo king prawns (or any prawns will do)

1 bag/ 200g of udon noodles (double the amount if you are feeling hungry)

1 tamarind broth cube (Knorr make them)

1 garlic clove, finely sliced

6 thin slices of fresh ginger

half a red chilli, finely sliced

1 lime

1 spring onion, finely sliced

1/2 tsp of lemongrass paste

2 tsp of light soy sauce

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 tbsp of coriander, chopped

1. Thinly slice the garlic, ginger, red chilli and spring onion. Heat the sesame oil in a pan, and when it is hot, add the chopped ingredients and the lemongrass paste, and cook gently for a couple of minutes.

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2. Meanwhile put 600ml of boiling water in a pan on a low heat and break up the tamarind broth cube into the water. Then add the prawns and watch them reduce in size slightly – this will only take a couple of minutes – be careful not to over cook them!

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3. Place the contents of the pan with the garlic, ginger, chilli, lemongrass and spring onion into the broth along with the udon noodles. Whilst I use udon noodles any type of noodles will work equally well. Experiment and see which you prefer. Cook the noodles for 3 minutes and during this time add the soy sauce and the juice from half a lime.

4. Serve piping hot with chopped coriander on the top with a lime quarter on the side.

If you are feeling under the weather or want a general ‘pick me up’ this warming broth is sure to reinvigorate you. Instead of prawns you could use chicken or for a vegetarian option: broccoli, sugar snap peas, mange tout or pak choi.