Carrot-top and beet-green soup

July 22, 2014

carrot top and beet green soup

Is there anything better than free food? Maybe only free booze but then that gift is a double-edged sword thanks to the threat of a hangover. When carrots and beetroots come with the stems and greens still on (which they do, if like me you’re the kind of bourgeois bastard who buys your vegetables from a health food shop in Dulwich), I’ll often bin them, because, well, laziness. But times are tight chez Silver, thanks to a forced surprise career-change into the world of freelance, so I had a little look around for frugal recipes, and it seems beet-green soup is a proper thing. A delicious thing! This blog’s not called Feast on Scraps for nothing.

Renegade that I am, I threw carrot tops in there too. Carrots and beets work well together in their root form after all, and their leaves also have a flavoursome common ground. This did mean the soup took a good bit more blending than a basic beetroot one, as the carrot leaves are tougher, but I’m sure you can handle that. Does being tougher means they’ve more goodness in? Let’s say it does.

Speaking of goodness, this soup is packed full of it – often-wasted greens come packed with as many vitamins as the kale you’re paying £3 a bag for after all. That’s why it looks so gross – it’s basically a savoury green smoothie. Those are chopped cashew nuts making a vain attempt to tart it up btw. They were nice, include at your discretion.

So get cooking up your cut-offs, for a lunch that’s nutritious, satisfying, and sort of free.

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Beetroot and sweet potato curry

July 10, 2014

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I hear what you’re saying – you’ve seen this dish somewhere before, probably in some regional vegetarian restaurant with the walls rag-painted a sunny yellow that prides itself on its ~kooky mismatched furniture and dark blue glassware. Meat-avoiders who don’t like sweet potato must be fucked, such is its prominence as the ‘vegetarian option’ on pub menus far and wide alongside its culinary cell-mates, goat’s cheese and undisclosed ‘roasted vegetables’ (always pepper and red onion, always).

But let us overlook the supposed naffness of a sweet potato curry and remind ourselves, with this very dish, that it’s an ingredient that shines brightest when you mix it with a load of spice, lends a sauce thickness without having to shit on any healthiness with cream and butter, and goes a very long way in small quantities. There’s just one medium sized sweet potato in the above dish (and not masses else, as you’ll see), and it fed six, easy.

I decided the sweetness of this particular potato would work nicely with earthy South Indian spices since they sit so well with easily-sickly coconut. Speaking of which, there’s a bit of that in there too, but diluted so as not to get a creamy sauce. Used sparingly, and with a can of tomatoes the partially cooked down sweet potato as the main sauce base, you get a nice hint of its flavour without any overwhelming richness.

One of the best curries I’ve ever eaten was a beetroot pachardi at Peckham’s South Indian gem, Ganapati, so since I was looking that way for spices, I threw a chopped beet in too. Holding its shape even after a long cook, it added a necessary amount of bite where some of the sweet potato had broken down, and look at the lovely colour it gives! Maybe this is where all those restaurant with a 90s hangover are going wrong. Beetroots save all!

There’s a reasonably long list of spices here, so you could use a paste if you don’t have them (I’d recommend something mellow like tikka and boost it with fresh chilli and ginger), but I can’t advocate having a load of spices enough. Stored well they last ages, and having a good stock at all times means you’ll never have to eat dull food, even if all you’ve got in is an egg and a potato.

With a couple of birdeye chillies in the mix, this is a fairly hot curry, but palatable thanks to the sweet vegetables and a final drizzle of cooling yoghurt, but adjust to however you like it by using either less birdeye chilli, or a basic red one.

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Sea bream baked with summer lentils and brown shrimp butter sauce

June 10, 2014

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I don’t cook fish much, but I’m trying to keep myself out of restaurants for entirely boring financial reasons, so when I had a hankering for a fancy dinner of a maritime ilk the other day, it was making my own or nothing. But hey, me and my housemate ate this feast, which would easily have had a £17 price-tag if served to you under the light of exposed bulbs by some beardy type in a butchers apron and T-shirt with the sleeves rolled up, for a fraction of the price (£4 that fish!) with a nice bottle of wine, wearing lounge clothes. And we only had to change rooms to pass out on the sofa afterwards. You don’t get that in Soho. Well, mostly.

The fishmongers near where I live, F.C. Soper in Nunhead, since you ask, always has a great selection, for a reasonable price, so I went bananas and got a pot of brown shrimp as well as a couple of lovely fillets of sea bream. Not only because they made the dish seem all ~restaurantey, but because since I tried them served similarly, swimming in butter and herbs, I can’t get enough of the salty, slightly sour edge they offer the polite taste of a meaty white fish. In terms of what they bring to the table, I think they’re like capers with more bite, or crispy bits of bacon with more subtlety.

Lentils are a great addition to a dish you want to beef out without just plonking a few potatoes on the side, and they don’t have to be wintery. Because this dish uses cooked lentils (I just had tinned, but you could use pre-boiled or leftover from another dish), the tomatoes and spinach don’t get long enough in the oven to really cook down so, the finished thing retains a nice freshness.

This would be great if you’ve got friends over, as you basically just wang it in the oven and then fry your shrimps, so the whole thing can be started and on the table within half an hour.

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Honey, oat and quinoa granola

May 26, 2014

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So I make my own granola now, yeah? Scoff all you want (I also live on the Dulwich-really side of Peckham and intend to eat said granola with trendy almond milk – put that in yer pipe and smoke it), but it’s actually for pretty boring, practical reasons. Like a wolf in organically bred sheep’s clothing, granola is one of those foods that purports to be healthy but is generally as sugary as a bowl of Ricicles – many a time have I turned up late for work after scrutinising every box of nice looking cereal in Whole Foods, only to discover that the second ingredient is invariably fructose, or glucose syrup. That’s just sugar by a fancier name, bros! I don’t like eggs or milk, and I’m weird about yoghurt in non savoury dishes, so I’ve generally ended up slinking back to my desk with a bowl of sugar-free muesli and rice milk in some attempt at filling myself up with something healthy, and man that’s a joyless bowl of food – it’s like hipster gruel with currants in.

MY BREAKFAST STRUGGLE – you still with me?

I did find that Dorset honey granola is sweetened with only honey and not that much of it, but who wants to spend £4 a week on granola? So, make your own. It’s cheap – yeah, you’ll have to buy a few bags of nuts and dried fruit and honey and shit, but it’s mainly made from cheapo oats, and a worthy initial investment for something that’s actually very low cost per portion, and those are all things worth having in the cupboard anyway. It’s essentially just throwing things together so you can make it in less than half an hour, and best of all, you can control the ingredients and genuinely know that you’re left with something that is definitely only nuts, seeds, honey and oats. Yeah, yeah, I know honey is also sugar, but good (better?) sugar, yeah, and you don’t need that much of it.

It was (obv) Gwyneth’s recipe for quinoa granola that made me think I should just make my own, but WHOA are quinoa flakes – sort of a gluten free equivalent of rolled oats – expensive, and my mate Harriet said I could just use regular, sort-of-not-as-pricey, and way more multi-use, quinoa instead. Plus, I’ve no beef with gluten myself, so I’ve used good old oats too.

You just need to do the baked oat bit, and then you can throw whatever the eff else you want in it (try peanut M&Ms, treat yourself!) so I’ll give my recipe below, but adapt as you so fancy. Read the rest of this entry »

Cauliflower rice risotto with leek and mushrooms

May 25, 2014

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I’ve not given up carbs or any bullshit like that – I’m just trying to balance out the fact that I YOLO’d the winter away on Pret croissants and cheese. Plus, I get a vegetable box every couple of weeks (from Riverford, and I couldn’t fault their value, service and selection, since you ask) so you’ve got to get creative. You get sent whatever’s in season, and it’s all very well roasting your first few April cauliflowers, but you know, that wears thin quick.

I was previously pretty sceptical about cauliflower rice. It seemed like some joyless substitute for one of the most wonderful of foods, trying to trick you just because it looks the same, but I was actually surprised at just how ‘risotto-ey’ this ‘no grains’ version was – still creamy, still with that al-dente rice bite, but without the post-food coma the heaviness of a regular risotto induces. This also made it pretty great for lunch – or just eating double the amount of without feeling gross.

My blender has given up the ghost after a run in with some chick peas, and my NutriBullet dreams are yet to come true, so I did this one just by chopping up the cauliflower really finely, a task not nearly as tedious as you might thing, and it makes it look all ~rustic, ooh.

Before I moved out of my mother’s to go to university, I used to cook dinners for my sister who was five at the time, regularly sneaking pureed cauliflower into her mac and cheese, and I reckon you could trick a kid with this cauliflower too, as chopping it so fine really does rid it of its vegetable texture.

Throw parmesan in it if you want, cheese rarely ruins anything but I kept the ol’ calories down with a spoon of light Philadelphia, because FML, but that was still really nice.

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Beetroot spaghetti with mackerel and dill dressing

May 24, 2014

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Bought myself a mother-fucking spiraliser! Feel like total badass, noodling away all of my vegetables. The day I got it I couldn’t get Ren & Stimpy’s ‘Billy The Beef Tallow Boy’ song out of my head, but with the lyric, ‘can we deep fry the…’ replaced with ‘can we spiralise the…’ It was quite a day.

Let’s not go and pretend a vegetable noodle is better than pasta btw – I remember once seething through an episode of Ready Steady Cook while Tesco’s most-wanted Anthony Worrall Thompson insistently refer to slivers of courgette as ‘pasta’. Pasta is pasta, long strands of vegetable can be referred to as noodles at best, for the shape.

A noodled vegetable is instead something delicious in its own right – a novel way to eat salad, you could say, and actually, a lot can be said for the familiarity of the twisted texture that certainly makes it as satisfying as pasta, especially when it’s as deeply flavoursome as earthy beetroot, sharp dill and lemon, and rich oily fish. Best of all, this recipe takes less than 15mins.

The dressing for the beetroot comes from a mind-blowingly delicious (yep) beet and bulgar salad on NYT’s Restaurant Takeaway blog, which is essentially just a mustard and dill vinaigrette, but man, is it good with beetroot (nb: I recently made beetroot noodles with no dressing, just the yoghurt topping, and they were a bit dry, so need at least a drizzle of oil). I’m pretty obsessed with the honey, tahini and garlic yoghurt dressing, which I found on life-envy blog, My New Roots. It’s sweet, and nutty and sharp and just extremely tasty so I’ve slapped it on everything lately. I can’t actually find the original post, so I’ll include my remembered version below (soz MNR ILU).

I’d originally planned this recipe with a bit of smoked salmon, but had a frugal panic in Whole Foods and went for smoked mackerel instead. Either would work just as well, but the meatiness of the mackerel certainly made this into a heartier meal.

The beetroot gets a quick stint in the oven because personally, I like hot food better, but if you do fancy them cold, still do the oven bit and let them cool, as the heat softens the rawness out of them slightly, while still retaining the crunch. The peas are just there for a bit of green, so take them or leave them – rocket might be nice instead.

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Turkey, lemon, thyme and quinoa meatballs

May 12, 2014

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We all like to think we are completely in control of all of our decisions, but you’d be a fool to think that we’re not influenced by the surge of information free-flowing towards us every day. Advertisers and the like have known that for decades, but even everyday occurrences will alter your behaviour – noticing a workmate wearing a certain shade of lipstick might mean your make-up is subconsciously altered or you may find yourself differing your bar order depending on who you’re with.

I’ve always fancied myself as a healthy eater. I love a plate of Tayyabs lamb chops and a pile of rice smothered in their truly otherworldly grilled aubergine dhal more than life itself, but a body type that hangs onto fat like an enthusiastic shopper clutching a cut-price Celine bag in a sample sale means that I’ve always embraced the other end of the food spectrum too. And do you know what, I like lentils, so it’s hardly even a chore. That said, with the recent increased influx of clean eating seeping into my Instagram feed this year, opening the online rabbit hole to beautifully photographed meals with not a complex carb in sight, I’ve felt the need to up my game a bit. There’s nothing like all your internet friends going bananas for courgette noodles and green juice to make you think that white rice, roast chicken, spinach and soy sauce isn’t the saintly dinner you’ve been kidding yourself it is all this time. I’ve bought the Gwyneth book! I’m serious about this shit!

Turkey meatballs seem to be a much loved food of the feel-good set – low fat, easily flavoured, and easy to make yet fancy-enough looking to give you good Instagram boast-fodder, so I had a bash at my own version, since I’m now a self-appointed member of this smug-club. Initiation through meatballs.

The reasonably bland turkey took on the flavours of the lemon and thyme in these meatballs beautifully to create bites that were both fresh and richly herby, while the added quinoa not only made the meat go further (I got two portions out of just a third of a packet of mince) but made them nutty and wholesome. The tomato sauce here was just quick and basic, so I’d say just it however you usually would make it, or use a simple bit of passata or something, but I’ll throw in the details of my version anyway.

I just had them with some steamed greens, since there was grain in the balls, but you could have them with some spiralised courgette, if you really want to up your likes.

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Avocado hummus

April 28, 2014

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My friend Iso outright refuses to eat what she considers to be 90s foods. Cous cous, sunblush tomatoes, tortilla wraps, pasta salad – she’s as reluctant to eat as a five-year-old with a plateful of broccoli if you present her with any of those. When telling her about this blog post, she responded, ‘you can add balsamic vinegar to my 90s shitlist too’, rather than dismissing this decade-based aversion.

Why? Who knows. Everyone has their beefs don’t they? Try and get me to eat a Muller Light or one of those Belvita breakfast biscuits, tasty as they may be, and I’ll be having none of it either. Nothing gets my goat like processed food in pseudo-healthy packaging. Or idiot food, as I think of it. There’s nothing good for you about something that’s only low in fat because it’s laced with sugar and E-numbers. Natural yoghurt and fruit is good for you. Or a couple of oatcakes and peanut butter – especially because they come without a patronising dose of ‘hey wimminz, let’s be good and stay thin’ marketing. This is nothing to do with food snobbery, I must add. I’ve got a lot of time for a Pot Noodle and Batchelors chicken and mushroom pasta n’ sauce would make my top ten foods – at least they’re honest about their shitness.

But back to the 90s. Hummus is a defining food of the middle class 90s (and my mother’s second favourite food after spaghetti bolognese). It was as much of a symbol of trendy bourgeoise eating as kale and quinoa are now. It’d be used in jokes as shorthand for ‘they’ve gone posh now they’ve moved down that London’.

So how can we update it this for century and get it past the lips of that particular Isabelle and other 90s haterz? Wang in an avocado, that’s how! Avocados in everything will be as much of a marker of our generation as vol au vonts are to our parents’. If Gwyneth Paltrow were to be made a saint (seems possible) then there’d be a bounty of avocados on her saintly crest (or whatever those lovely pictures of saints on the side of spanish buildings are called).

I suppose this recipe is like a cross between guacamole and hummus, the two top dogs of the dip world if you ask me, so a chopped chilli and a squeeze of lime instead of the lemon would probably be quite nice, but I kept this one on the side of a trad hummus – tahini, garlic, lemon- and I liked its simplicity, with a creamy hint of avocado, slathered on an oatcake and with some pepper for dipping.

One thing I will say though – blending up those chick peas was the straw that broke the camel’s back for my already ailing blender, and I had to finish it off with a potato masher. That worked quite well tbh, so unless you’re the proud owner of a swish and sturdy processor, I’d go 100% masher from the start.

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Sausage and roasted fennel penne

April 27, 2014

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So that winter pasta binge I mentioned - what a glorious time it was. Slithery snakes of spaghetti, gallons of creme fraiche, snowy mountains of parmesan and ragu galore. But alas, all good things must come to an end, and it least while I’m professionally required to look nice in clothes, there’ll be no more scoffing bowls-full of pasta-dreams three times a week. Plus, while I don’t want to get all #eatclean dick head on you, it does make you feel like shit if you go bananas on the carbs all the time. It’s just one of life’s great injustices, like hangovers and the fact that I won’t be able to up my goth ante in this Dolce & Gabbana dress when me and Harriet tear the Scottish highlands a new arsehole this summer.

I wouldn’t want to advocate giving anything up entirely though, and this sausage and fennel creation is definitely one worth resurrecting when the pasta mood takes you. It’s especially easy to make because you just roast the sausage, which I like to squeeze out of the skin to make little meatballs, and fennel and the juice that creates is all you need for your pasta sauce. If you did want to lube it up further a spoon of creme fraiche wouldn’t go amiss, because when does creme fraiche ever make something worse, but there’s something quite nice about the almost gravy-like coating the pasta gets just by adding a ladle of starchy, emulsifying pasta water.

The best thing about this dish is the double fennel whammy you get from roasting the bulb and then adding the chopped up fine leaves at the end like a herb. It’s really worth doing that because it adds a really good green freshness, so you might have to stray from the supermarket, who seem to always remove this bit for some reason, into a Whole Foods or other fancy-dan vegetable shop.

I love how fennel has a fresh but earthy taste about it, like the smell after it’s rained, and this dish would be great eaten outside in the summer with a cold glass of dry white wine, most likely in this country, after it had just rained.

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Pickled carrot and smoked tofu quinoa salad

April 27, 2014

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Now that my diet is consisting less of Prosecco and Supernoodles again, I’m bringing this bad-boy of a blog back to life, because a) I’m finding myself coming up with a lot of new recipe ideas lately, and b) you all seem to like my smug healthy Instagrams, so who I am to prevent you the privilege of re-creating them yourself? Expect shit iPhone photography! Sporadic posting! And of course loads of tasty things. What more could you want from a food blog?

I’m on a bit of a Gwyneth tip following a winter pasta binge (is there anything better than a massive steaming bowl of spaghetti and a warming red wine to wash it down with, is there???) and this salad was something I came up with when thinking up a reasonably hearty-but-healthy way of using up my ever expanding stock of carrots. If you’re a Riverford vegetable box subscriber, you’ll know what I’m saying – carrots galore with those lads.

I found the smoked tofu in a health food shop in Dulwich, and I’m sure you can buy it everywhere, and it’s brilliant. It’s nice and firm and is flecked with little bits of cashew and sesame. The smoky taste meant it reminded me of those wonderfully filthy hot dogs from a jar. In fact, you could totally sub the tofu for the dogs if that kind of thing floats your boat. I friend my tofu cubes, because YOLO, and I like hot food, but you could do it raw.

The lightly pickled carrots, and a sweet and sour vietnamese dressing that Uyen Luu taught me how to make at her fantastic Vietnamese cooking class, counter the nutty quinoa and rich smoky tofu with a nice amount of sharp zest. I used some pickle juice out of a pickle-free pickle jar when I made it, just because it was lying around, which I reckon did add some flavour, though any light vinegar – white wine, cider, rice – would do.

Click on through for the recipe.

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