Penne with Broccoli, Chilli & Pine Nuts (Serves 4)

This is a very satisfying pasta dish with light, fresh flavours and better still, it will be on the table from start to finish in 15 minutes!

*You could cook the broccoli by adding it to the pasta pan towards the end of cooking, but I prefer to cook it separately as in this way you can be sure that it will not be overcooked.

350g penne or other short pasta

6 tablespoons olive oil

3 cloves garlic, finely sliced

2 red chillies, finely chopped

1 broccoli head, about 350g, cut into small florets

50g pine nuts, toasted (in dry frying pan)

  1. Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions, until al dente. Drain, reserving about 2-3 tablespoons of cooking water.
  2. Meanwhile cook the broccoli in boiling water for about 3 minutes until just tender – but still has ‘bite’. Drain.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a large pan, add the garlic and chilli and cook gently for about 5 minutes.
  4. Finally, add the drained pasta and broccoli to the pan with the garlic and chilli. Toss to combine adding a little of the reserved cooking liquid to loosen.
  5. Serve sprinkled with the toasted pine nuts.

Courgette ‘Carbonara’ – Pasta all’Ortolanana (Serves 4)

This is a wonderful recipe from Diana Henry’s cookbook, ‘Simple’, it is basically carbonara but the bacon is substituted with courgettes, thus making it a great vegetarian option…and a delicious one at that!…

300-400g spaghetti

400g courgettes

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 small onion, very finely sliced

1 garlic clove, very finely sliced

2 eggs, plus 4 egg yolks

100g finely grated Parmesan cheese

50g finely grated Pecorino cheese

Leaves from a small bunch basil, torn

Salt and black pepper

  1. Cook the spaghetti according to the packet instructions until al dente.
  2. Meanwhile, top and tail the courgettes and cut the flesh into thin batons. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and sauté the courgettes and onions over a medium-high heat until golden and cooked through. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
  3. In a bowl, beat the eggs, the yolks and both cheeses, seasoning with lots of black pepper.
  4. When the pasta is cooked, drain, reserving half a cup of cooking water. Pour the reserved pasta water into the courgettes and then add the spaghetti, stir the mixture over the heat for a few moments to allow the water to evaporate and the spaghetti to absorb some of the flavours.
  5. Remove from the heat and quickly stir in the egg and cheese mixture, mixing well so that every strand of pasta is covered and the sauce has thickened. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt if required. Sprinkle over the torn basil leaves and serve immediately.

Asparagus, Corn & Goats Cheese Frittata (Serves 4)

This is a summer favourite, it makes a great, fast supper with a big, crunchy salad (see my salad dressings here!) or it’s great for a picinic!

400g asparagus

2 corn-on-the-cob

50g butter

4 spring onions, chopped

Bunch of fresh dill, chopped

8 eggs, beaten

200g firm goats cheese, broken into pieces

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Snap off and discard the woody ends of the asparagus and cut the spears into 2-3 cm lengths (if the spears are particularly thick, split them in half lengthways).
  2. Remove the corn from the corn-on-the- cob, by running a sharp knife down along the cob.
  3. Heat half the butter in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the asparagus, corn and spring onions, fry for 2-3 minutes, stirring. Transfer to a bowl, add the chopped dill (reserving a little for a garnish), and gently mix in the beaten eggs, seasoning with salt and pepper.
  4. Wipe the pan clean, then add the remaining butter over a high heat. When it has melted and starts to sizzle add the frittata mixture and reduce the heat to medium. Arrange the pieces of goats cheese over the top of the frittata, pushing them down into the mixture.
  5. Cook for about 10-15 minutes, until the sides of the frittata start to puff up.
  6. When it is just about set but still has a little wobble, place the pan with the frittata under a very hot grill to set the top.
  7. Let it cool a little, before sprinkling with the reserved dill and cutting into thick wedges to serve.

Summer Vegetable Paella (Serves 4)

This is a wonderful vegetarian take on the classic Spanish dish paella, it is from Ross Dobson’s cookbook ‘Market Vegetarian’.

A large pinch of saffron threads

6 tablespoons olive oil

200g cherry tomatoes

100g green beans, trimmed and halved

4 baby courgettes, halved diagonally

80g peas (fresh or frozen)

2 garlic cloves, chopped

2 fresh rosemary sprigs

320g Arborio rice

800ml vegetable stock (I use Marigold Swiss Vegetable Bouillon)

30g flaked almonds, lightly toasted in a dry frying pan

  1. Put the saffron in a bowl with 65ml of hot water and set aside to infuse.
  2. Heat half the olive oil in a frying pan set over a high heat and add the tomatoes. Cook for 2 minutes, shaking the pan so that the tomatoes start to soften and split. Use a slotted spoon to remove the tomatoes from the pan and set aside.
  3. Add the beans, courgettes and peas to the pan and stir fry over a high heat for 2-3 minutes. Set aside with the tomatoes until needed.
  4. Add the remaining oil to the frying pan with the garlic and rosemary, and cook gently for 1 minute to flavour the oil.
  5. Add the rice to the pan and cook, stirring continuously, for about 2 minutes until the rice is shiny and opaque. Add the stock and the saffron with its water to the pan, increase the heat and bring to the boil, stirring to combine.
  6. When the stock is boiling rapidly, reduce the heat to medium and simmer for about 20 minutes until almost all the stock has been absorbed.
  7. Scatter the tomatoes, beans, courgettes and peas over the rice, cover lightly with a lid or some foil and cook over a low heat for a further 5 minutes so that the vegetables are just heated through.
  8. Sprinkle with the almonds and serve.

Linguine with Asparagus and Prosecco (Serves 4)

This is a wonderfully simple recipe from Skye McAlpine’s cookbook ‘A Table in Venice’. As she herself says, cooking with Prosecco always seems rather extravagant, but the delicacy of Prosecco definitely lends something extra special to the sauce. I also use Prosecco when I cook ‘Spaghetti Vongole’ (recipe here), as it gives the sauce a lightness (from the bubbles) and a subtle sweetness. You could, of course, use white wine instead of Prosecco, but do try it with Prosecco at some point. The mini bottles of Prosecco are perfect for this recipe, or of course you could get a full bottle and enjoy the remainder of the bottle with your meal!

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

400g asparagus, trimmed and cut into 3 cm lengths

100ml Prosecco

Handful of parsley, chopped

400g linguine (gluten free if required)

30g butter

30g parmesan cheese, grated

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat, then add the onion and a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring over a low-medium heat for 5-10 minutes until softened but not coloured.
  2. Add the asparagus and Prosecco, and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until the Prosecco has evaporated and the asparagus is tender (if it is not quite cooked by the time that the liquid has evaporated add a splash of water and cook for a little longer). Finally stir in the parsley.
  4. Meanwhile cook the linguine according to the packet instructions, until al dente. Just before draining the pasta, scoop out about half a cup of cooking water and set to one side.
  5. Drain the pasta, toss it back into the pan and add a good splash of the reserved cooking water to ‘loosen’ it. Little by little stir in the butter. Finally add the asparagus mixture, give everything a good stir and serve topped with grated Parmesan cheese.

Peas & Mushrooms with Green Curry Sauce (Serves 4)

This is a great, easy vegetarian curry and extremely quick to cook once you have blended the ingredients for the spice mixture. I like to serve it with rice and chutneys.

1 fresh green chilli, coarsely chopped

30g fresh coriander leaves

2 cloves garlic, peeled

2.5cm cube fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped

¼ teaspoon ground turmeric

425g peas, defrosted if frozen

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

250g chestnut mushrooms, sliced

1¼ teaspoons salt

4 tablespoons whipping cream

  1. Put the green chilli, coriander, garlic, ginger and turmeric into a blender. Add 4 tablespoons of water and blend to a purée, pushing down the mixture with a rubber spatula when necessary. Set the green spice mixture aside in a bowl.
  2. Toss 140g of the peas into the blender. Add 4 tablespoons water and blend to a purée. Set the purée aside.
  3. Put the oil in a large frying pan and set over a medium-high heat. Put in the cumin seeds, sizzle for 10 seconds, then add the mushrooms, saute for a few minutes then remove with a slotted spoon.
  4. Now add the green spice mixture, cook, stirring for 2 minutes. Add the remaining peas, pea purée, mushrooms, salt and cream plus 4 tablespoons of water. Stir gently, cover with a lid and cook for 3-4 minutes.
  5. Serve the curry with rice and some chutneys on the side.

Vegetable Laksa (Serves 4)

This is a delicious Southeast Asian aromatic soup with clean, fresh flavours whilst the addition of the rice noodles makes it a filling midweek meal.

For the spice paste:

4cm piece of fresh root ginger

3 shallots

3 garlic cloves

3 lemongrass stalks

4-6 red chillies

4 tablespoons peanut or sunflower oil

Handful of coriander leaves

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon caster sugar

3 tablespoons tamarind paste

For the Laksa:

170g rice noodles

1 small aubergine, cut into 2cm dice

85g mangetout

85g green beans, topped and tailed

Groundnut or sunflower oil

600ml vegetable stock

300ml coconut milk

1 lime, juiced

Handful of coriander, roughly chopped

Handful of Thai basil leaves (or normal basil leaves), roughly chopped

For garnishes:

½ cucumber cut into thin batons/strips (seeds removed)

1 lime, cut into wedges

Bean sprouts

Thai basil leaves (or normal basil leaves)

Chilli oil

  1. To make the spice paste, peel and chop the ginger, shallots and garlic and finely chop the lemongrass and chillies. Put into a blender with the oil and blend until smooth. Roughly chop the coriander leaves and add to the mixture with the turmeric, sugar and tamarind paste. Put to one side.
  2. Cook the rice noodles according to the packet instructions, drain and refresh in cold water, then add a little oil to prevent them from sticking together. Put to one side.
  3. Heat a little oil in a frying pan and sauté the diced aubergine until soft. Put to one side.
  4. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat, add the spice paste and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring until it is just beginning to brown.
  5. Pour in the stock and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and cook for a further 5 minutes, to slightly reduce.
  6. Add the coconut milk, bring to a gentle simmer, then add the mangetout and beans, continue to cook for 3 minutes before adding the diced aubergine, and cooking for a further minute – the vegetables should be just tender.
  7. Finally stir in the lime juice to taste, and the chopped coriander and basil.
  8. Divide the noodles between four bowls and pour over the hot broth. Top with the beansprouts, basil leaves and cucumber. Serve with a wedge of lime and chilli oil for more heat if desired.

Courgette and Cheddar Risotto with Courgette Fries

(Serves 4)

This is my new favourite risotto…I’ve always loved courgette fries, so a risotto topped with them is heaven! The pea shoots are a delicious garnish, they add a lovely fresh, sweet flavour and look beautiful!

For the risotto:

275-300g courgette, grated

1 small red onion, finely chopped

150g Carnaroli risotto rice

500ml hot vegetable stock

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

50g butter, cubed

100g mature Cheddar cheese, grated

Olive oil

Sea salt and black pepper

Pea shoots to garnish

For the Courgette Fries:

1 courgette

150ml milk, for dipping

4 tablespoons plain flour (gluten free if required)

Sunflower or groundnut oil for frying

  1. First of all prepare the courgette fries. Cut the courgette into thin batons (removing centre core of seeds). Place the flour in a lidded container, and put the milk into a bowl. Dip the courgettes first in the milk then put them in the flour, put the lid on the container and give them a good shake so that they are evenly covered (shaking off any excess flour), you may want to do this in batches. Place the floured courgette batons to one side whilst you start the risotto.
  2. Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and fry the onion until it has softened, about 2-4 minutes. Add the rice and give it a good stir so that they are completely covered in the oil, cook for about 2 minutes until they are slightly opaque looking.
  3. Add a ladle of hot vegetable stock to the pan, stirring. Gradually add more stock, ladle by ladle until each one is absorbed. Continue cooking in this way, stirring, for about 20- 25 minutes until the stock is absorbed and then rice is al dente (with some bite). Add the grated courgette and the parsley, cook for 2 minutes and then stir in the butter and 50g of the cheese, season to taste.
  4. Meanwhile fry your courgette batons: Generously cover the base of a small frying pan with sunflower oil or groundnut oil, heat over a high heat until very hot, then fry the courgettes, in batches, for a few minutes until golden and crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon to drain on kitchen roll and season with salt.
  5. Place the risotto on plates and top with the courgette batons, then sprinkle the pea shoots around the plate. Serve with the remaining grated cheese.

Penne with Courgettes, Mushrooms & Pine Nuts (Serves 4)

This is a pasta recipe which I have been serving to my family for more years than I care to mention, it’s a ‘home grown’ recipe, one which I developed after being inspired by a pasta I tried in a restaurant. It’s not fancy, but it is one of those easy midweek dishes, which is instantly gratifying.

400g courgette, cut into batons

400g portobellini mushrooms (or large flat mushrooms), sliced

3 garlic cloves, sliced

4 tablespoons pine nuts

3 tablespoons olive oil

400g penne pasta

Sea salt and black pepper

4 heaped tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated, to serve

  1. In a dry frying pan, toast the pine nuts over a medium/high heat for a few minutes until golden. Remove and keep to one side.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in the frying pan and fry the courgette batons over a medium heat until softened, but retaining some ‘bite’ (al dente). Remove and keep to one side.
  3. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil to the pan, add the garlic slices and fry over a medium heat for about 30 seconds before adding the mushrooms. Cook for about 5 minutes until the mushrooms have released their juices and have softened but are still retaining their shape.
  4. Meanwhile cook the penne pasta according to the packet instructions until al dente.
  5. Finally, return the courgettes to the pan along with the pine nuts, stir to combine and reheat before adding the drained penne pasta. Give everything a good mix and season with salt and pepper.
  6. Serve with a very generous sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.

Rigatoni with Sweet Tomatoes, Aubergine & Mozzarella (Serves 4)

This has been one of my family’s favourites for many years, it is a Jamie Oliver recipe from one of his older books, ‘Jamie’s Dinners’, it is his take on the classic Italian dish of ‘Pasta alla Norma’. The wonderful combination of aubergines and tomatoes is enriched by the addition of mozzarella, as the cheese melts it becomes deliciously ‘stringy’! I prefer if without the addition of the dried chilli flakes, but if you like a bit of heat you could add some.

To watch the video of this recipe being cooked click here!

1 large aubergine (or 2 small)

Olive oil

2 cloves garlic, sliced

1 onion, chopped

2 x 400g tins of plum tomatoes

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

A bunch of fresh basil, leaves picked and stalks sliced

4 tablespoons double cream

455g rigatoni or penne

200g mozzarella cheese

½ teaspoon of chilli flakes (optional – see note above)

Grated Parmesan cheese to serve

  1. Remove both ends of the aubergines and slice into 1cm slices then slice these across to form 1 cm cubes.
  2. In a large frying/sauté pan heat 5 tablespoons of olive oil. When it’s hot, add the aubergine cubes and stir them around so that they are lightly coated in the oil. Cook for about 10 minutes over a medium heat until softened.
  3. Add the onion and garlic, cook for a few more minutes. When they have a little colour, add the tinned tomatoes, the balsamic vinegar and the sliced basil stalks (if you want to add some heat you could add the chilli flakes at this point). Simmer gently for 15 minutes, season with salt and pepper, then stir in the cream.
  4. Meanwhile cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet, until al dente.
  5. When the pasta is ready, drain it and add it to the aubergine and tomato sauce. Tear up the mozzarella and fresh basil leaves, and stir them through the pasta and sauce – the mozzarella will start to melt, becoming beautifully stringy (it can be a little messy to serve!). Serve sprinkled with grated Parmesan cheese.

Spinach and Gorgonzola Stuffed Jacket Potatoes (Serves 4)

This is a delicious recipe from Ottolenghi’s cookbook, ‘Simple’, and yes, it is a very simple, yet satisfying midweek supper! The Gorgonzola cheese is the winning ingredient in this recipe, turning the humble potato into a show stopper – just serve with a crispy salad.

4 large baking potatoes

50g butter

6 tablespoons double cream

120g Gorgonzola cheese

400g baby spinach

40g walnut halves (optional)

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. First of all toast the walnuts (if using) in a preheated oven, 200’c fan, for about 5 minutes (keep an eye on them!), then chop roughly.
  2. Pierce each potato a few times with a fork and place them on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Bake in a preheated oven, 220’c fan, for 1 hour or just over.
  3. Cut each potato in half, lengthways, scoop the flesh out into a medium bowl, setting the skins aside for later.
  4. Roughly mash the potato with 40g of butter, the cream, Gorgonzola, 1 teaspoon salt and a generous grind of pepper and set aside.
  5. Take the remaining 10g of butter and divide between the potato cavities. Sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt and return to the oven for 7-8 minutes to crisp up. Remove from the oven and set aside.
  6. Place a medium saucepan, half filled with salted water, on a high heat. Once boiling, add the spinach for about 10-15 seconds, just to wilt. Drain the spinach, squeezing out as much water as possible. Stir this into the potato flesh mixture and spoon this mash back into the empty potato skins, piled high.
  7. Bake the potatoes in the oven, 220’c fan, for 10-15 minutes, until the mash is crisp and browned. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with the walnuts, if using, and serve with a side salad.

Chickpea and Spinach Curry (Serves 3-4)

This mildly spiced vegetarian curry makes a super easy supper, perfect midweek when time is of essence. Serve with steamed rice.

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

½ teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon ground allspice

1 teaspoon hot paprika

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

1 pinch chilli flakes

1 thumb sized piece ginger, peeled and chopped

4 garlic cloves, chopped

400g tin tomatoes

400g tinned chickpeas, including the chickpea water

A large bunch spinach

3 tablespoons coriander, chopped

  1. Toast the coriander and cumin seeds in a dry frying pan over a medium/high heat until fragrant – a couple of minutes. Put them in a mortar and pestle and grind to a fine powder before mixing in the other spices. Then mash in the chopped ginger to create a dry paste.
  2. Heat the oil in a pan, add the onion and garlic, gently sweat until softened.
  3. Add the spice mixture and cook for a minute or so, before adding the tomatoes, chickpeas and their chickpea water. Cook over a low heat until the sauce is thickened and the tomatoes have broken up  – around 25 minutes.
  4. Finally stir through the spinach until wilted, check the seasoning (perhaps add an extra sprinkling of chilli flakes). Serve topped with the chopped coriander and with rice.

Vegetarian Chilli with Homemade Guacamole (Serves 4-6)

This Vegetarian Chilli recipe is from Rachel Allen’s cookbook, ‘Entertaining at Home’. The dish is bursting with flavours, I serve it with rice, homemade guacamole (recipe below), sour cream and tortilla chips – it’s a real crowd pleaser. It’s a good idea to serve a little Tabasco or Encona sauce on the side, for extra heat, to suit individual tastes. This recipe calls for soya mince, I used and would recommend ‘Vivera plant mince’, which you can buy in supermarkets, it is fresh and ready to use. Any meat lover will be incredibly impressed with this chilli – see if they can guess it’s vegetarian!!…

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ large onion, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 carrots, finely chopped

2 sticks of celery, finely chopped

1-2 red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

100g soya mince, ready to use weight (soaked, according to packet instructions if dried – see note above)

400g tin red kidney beans

400g tin chopped tomatoes

125ml vegetable stock (I use Marigold Swiss Bouillon)

75ml red wine

Sea salt and black pepper

Bunch of coriander, chopped to serve

To serve: rice, guacamole, sour cream and tortilla chips

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or casserole, add the onion, garlic, carrots and celery. Season with salt and pepper, and cook stirring occasionally for 20 minutes, until the vegetables are cooked and golden.
  2. Grind the coriander and cumin seeds in a mortar and pestle, then add to the pan along with the chopped chilli, cook for a further 5 minutes.
  3. Add all the remaining ingredients except the coriander. Cook over a medium heat, uncovered, for about 30 minutes until thickened.
  4. Scatter with the chopped coriander and serve with rice, homemade guacamole (recipe below), sour cream and tortilla chips.

Easy Guacamole

I’ve tried a few recipes for guacamole over the years, some have the addition of garlic and tomatoes, but I always return to this easy recipe from Sally Clarke – the flavours are simple so don’t overpower the avocado.

3 ripe avocados, peeled
Juice of 3 large limes
1-2 small chillies, very finely chopped
2 tbsp roughly chopped coriander leaves

  1. With a fork, mash the avocados in a bowl until almost smooth – a few lumps are fine.
  2. Stir in the lime juice and add the chillies and salt. Stir in the coriander and adjust to taste by adding more chillies, lime juice or salt.

Spicy Red Lentil Soup (Serves 4)

This is a very warming soup, and quite spicy, I would add less chilli the first time you make it, as you can always add more chilli flakes at the end of cooking, it’s one of those recipes which you have to let your taste buds lead you!.. (Toasted Naan breads are good with this soup!)

200g split red lentils

1 medium onion, roughly chopped

A little groundnut oil

A small thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled and grated

3 cloves garlic, peeled

4 tomatoes, quartered

1 teaspoon black mustard seeds

1-2 small red chillies (less to taste – see note above)

1-2 teaspoons of dried chilli flakes (less to taste – see note above)

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 litre vegetable stock (I use ‘Marigold Swiss Vegetable Boullion’)

A small bunch of coriander leaves, chopped

Sea salt

  1. In a heavy based saucepan, gently fry the onion in the groundnut oil, until softened but not coloured.
  2. Add the mustard seeds and cook until the seeds start to pop a little.
  3. Add the lentils, ginger, garlic cloves, tomatoes, chopped and dried chillies and the ground turmeric, stir well before adding the stock and a pinch of salt.
  4. Bring to the boil, skim off any froth that appears on the surface. Lower the temperature, half cover the pan with a lid and simmer for 20 minutes or so until the lentils have softened and have started to fall apart.
  5. Add most of the chopped coriander (keep some back to serve). Place in a food processor and process until smooth, check the seasoning.
  6. Serve sprinkled with the remaining chopped coriander.

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie with Goats’ Cheese Mash (Serves 4)

As you may be aware, I am a complete meat lover, so when I say that this recipe could convert me to vegetarianism, you’ll know it’s extremely good!…I found this recipe many years ago in Delia Smith’s ‘How to Cook: Book Three’, I have made it on numerous occasions since then. It is quite a straightforward recipe but you must remember to pre-soak the black eyed beans the night before cooking it. The vegetables need to be chopped small so it is a good idea to use a food processor – and it saves a lot of time! I like to serve this with a green salad with a classic vinaigrette dressing (recipe here).

110g dried black-eyed beans, pre-soaked and drained

75g green split peas (no need to soak), rinsed

75g green lentils (no need to soak), rinsed

725ml boiling water

50g peeled carrots

50g peeled swede

50g peeled celeriac

1 large onion, peeled

1 small green pepper, deseeded

50g butter, plus a little extra for greasing

1 heaped tablespoon chopped mixed fresh herbs (sage, rosemary, thyme and parsley)

¼ teaspoon ground mace

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Salt and black pepper

For the topping:

110g soft goats’ cheese

700g potatoes (such as Maris Piper), peeled

225g tomatoes, peeled and thinly sliced

50g butter

2 tablespoons milk

25g Pecorino cheese, grated

Sea salt and black pepper

(A round baking dish, roughly 23cm diameter and 5cm deep, buttered)

  1. First put the drained beans in a saucepan with the split peas and lentils. Add the boiling water and some salt. Cover and simmer gently for 50-60 minutes until they have absorbed the water and are soft. Remove from the heat and mash them just a little with a fork.
  2. Meanwhile cook the potatoes.
  3. Whilst the potatoes are cooking, roughly chop the vegetables before placing in a food processor and chopping small.
  4. Melt the butter in a large frying pan over a medium heat, add the vegetables and cook gently for 10-15 minutes until they are softened and tinged gold at the edges.
  5. Add the vegetable mixture to the lightly mashed pulses, along with the herbs, spices and salt and pepper to taste. Spoon this mixture into the buttered baking dish.
  6. Arrange the slices of tomato over this mixture.
  7. Mash the cooked potato with the butter, milk and goats cheese and season with salt and pepper (you can use an electric hand held whisk to do this). Spread the potato over the top of the ingredients in the dish.
  8. Finally sprinkle over the Pecorino and bake the pie in a preheated oven, 190’c fan, for 20-25 minutes, until the top is lightly browned.

Tagliatelle with Butternut Squash, Hazelnuts and Crispy Sage (Serves 4)

This is a relatively quick pasta dish, comforting and tasty. The crispy sage leaves really lift the dish. This recipe is from Marcus Wareing’s Cookbook, ‘New Classics’.

1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed (about 600g)

2 bay leaves

4 sprigs of thyme

½ nutmeg, grated

75g butter

80g blanched hazelnuts, roughly chopped

20 sage leaves

350g tagliatelle pasta

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Put the diced butternut squash in a saucepan and cover with cold water, add a generous pinch of salt, the bay leaves and thyme. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20-25 minutes until the squash is tender. Strain off the water and remove the herbs.
  2. Add the nutmeg and 25g of the butter and lightly mash the squash, seasoning to taste.
  3. Heat the remaining 50g of butter in a large frying pan. When foaming add the hazelnuts and sage. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 5-8 minutes until golden and crispy, and the butter has browned.
  4. Cook the tagliatelle according to the packet instructions, until al dente. Drain and mix with most of the hazelnut and sage butter.
  5. Gently stir through the mashed squash and serve, topped with the remaining hazelnut and sage butter.

Tagliatelle with Mushrooms & Chestnuts (Serves 4)

This is a beautiful pasta recipe with lovely earthy flavours. It is particularly comforting during the winter months, however I cook it all year round as we like it so much. Unusually this pasta dish calls for Comté cheese to be grated over it, it really is a delicious addition, complementing the sweetness of the chestnuts. I use the vacuum packed bags of cooked and peeled chestnuts – ‘Merchant Gourmet’ is a good brand. It is worth investing in a quality bottle of truffle oil for this recipe, as it really does enhance the flavour.

This recipe is from one of my favourite cookbooks ‘Nina St Tropez’ by Nina Parker.

4 tablespoons olive oil

500g chestnut mushrooms, sliced

400g tagliatelle (gluten free if required)

4 cloves garlic, finely diced

150g cooked chestnuts chopped (see note above)

4 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped

2 tablespoons crème fraiche

4 tablespoons truffle oil

Comté cheese, grated to serve

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan, add the mushrooms and cook until they have shrunk in size by about a half.
  2. Add the garlic to the mushrooms and let it cook for a few minutes before adding the chestnuts and seasoning generously.
  3. Meanwhile cook the tagliatelle according to the instructions on the packet until al dente.
  4. Before draining the pasta, add about three or four spoonfuls of pasta cooking water to the mushroom mixture to loosen it.
  5. Finally add the drained tagliatelle to the mushrooms along with the chives, crème fraiche and truffle oil, taste to check the seasoning.
  6. Sprinkle with cheese and serve!

Simple Butternut Squash Soup (Serves 4)

Simple Butternut Squash Soup

This really is a straightforward recipe, no ‘bells or whistles’, it simply focuses on the lovely flavour of the butternut squash. You can use either vegetable stock (I use Marigold Swiss Vegetable Boullion Powder) or water. To serve, stir through a spoonful of créme fraiche and sprinkle with some chilli flakes and, if you fancy, as I often do, some freshly chopped sage. This is great served with either fresh crusty bread or gluten free ‘Oat Bread’ (recipe here).

1 butternut squash, about 700g when peeled and cubed

2 banana shallots, chopped

2 large cloves garlic, chopped

25g unsalted butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

About 600ml vegetable stock or water (see note above)

Salt and pepper

To Serve:

Créme Frâiche

Chilli flakes

4 -6 sage leaves, finely chopped

  1. Peel, halve and deseed the butternut squash, cut into 3cm cubes.
  2. Melt the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan, add the onion and garlic. Cook gently until softened but not coloured.
  3. Add the butternut squash, stir and pour over enough stock or water to just cover the squash. Bring to the boil, then simmer for about 30 minutes until completely cooked  and very tender – a knife should pass through easily.
  4. To blend place in a food processor or use a hand blender (if you want a ‘looser’ soup add a little milk). Check the seasoning.
  5. Serve in bowls with a dollop of crème frâiche swirled through and a sprinkling of chilli flakes and freshly chopped sage.

Thai Vegetable Curry (Serves 4)

You have probably noticed from the recipes that I share that I am a big meat eater, so pure vegetarian dishes are not a regular feature on Menu Mistress – however I am trying to change this! Having said that, this Thai Vegetable Curry is something that I have cooked on a number of occasions (I always feel very virtuous when I do!), it is a very comforting curry, with clean tastes; the water chestnuts really give it a lovely crisp texture. I use only one green chilli as I don’t like really spicy food, however you could use two to increase the heat factor.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

4 tablespoons fish sauce

15g palm sugar (you could substitute this for brown sugar or maple syrup)

400ml coconut milk

400ml vegetable stock

2 sweet potatoes (around 600g), peeled and diced into 1.5cm cubes

12 button mushrooms, quartered

8 stalks Tenderstem broccoli

100g peas

1 x 220g tin sliced water chestnuts, drained

For the Green Curry Paste:

1-2 green chillies, deseeded and chopped (see note above)

3 shallots, peeled

2 lemongrass stalks, roughly chopped

4cm piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped

1 bunch of coriander (stalks, leaves and roots – if possible)

2 garlic cloves, peeled

½ teaspoon sea salt

Grated zest and juice of 1 lime

  1. First make the curry paste by placing all the paste ingredients in a blender or food processor and blitz until smooth.
  2. Heat the vegetable oil in a pan over a medium heat. When hot add the curry paste, fry for 4-5 minutes until fragrant.
  3. Add the fish sauce and palm sugar, and cook for 3 minutes. Add the coconut milk and vegetable stock, and simmer gently for 20 minutes.
  4. Strain the sauce through a sieve into a clean saucepan, discarding the rememants in the sieve.
  5. Bring the curry sauce to a simmer, season with salt (if needed). Add the sweet potato and cook for a further 10 minutes, then add the mushrooms.
  6. Cook the broccoli in a separate pan, for 4 – 6 minutes until just cooked .
  7. Add the broccoli, peas and water chestnuts to the curry and heat through.
  8. Serve with rice.

Oven Baked Mushroom Risotto (Serves 3-4)

Oven baked risotto is more common these days, but when I found this recipe about 18 years ago in a Delia Smith cookbook, it was a revelation – it is such an easy and hands free dish. There is of course, still a time and a place for conventional risotto; I must admit that I find stove top risotto a rather relaxing, therapeutic exercise, but when you are in a hurry or simply want to enjoy the company of your family and friends instead of concentrating on the stove, this recipe is a blessing. It is also very tasty! Just two rules when cooking this dish – follow the cook times precisely and serve immediately. The portions of this recipe are quite small, so if you are very hungry I would double the recipe to make two dishes. I like to serve the risotto with a salad dressed with a sherry vinegar vinaigrette as it compliments the flavour perfectly – the recipe is on my Recipe Pages. The Maderia wine is an important element to the this recipe, although you won’t use the whole bottle, once opened it can be stored in the fridge for many months without deterioratingI always have a bottle in my fridge as a small glug can lift the flavour of many sauces!

10g dried porcini

225g  flat, dark gilled mushrooms(or Portobello mushrooms)

60 g butter

1 onion, chopped

175g Carnaroli risotto rice

150ml Dry Maderia

2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, grated; plus about 50g shaved into flakes with a potato peeler

Sea salt and black pepper

(You will need an oven proof dish with 1.5litre capacity – approx. 23cm with a 5cm depth)

  1. Begin by soaking the porcini in a bowl with 570ml boiling water, leave to soften for 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile chop the fresh mushrooms into about 1cm cubes, no smaller as they will shrink with cooking.
  3. Melt the butter in a frying pan, add the onion, gently cook to soften for about 5 minutes. Add the fresh mushrooms, stir well. Leave the pan to one side whilst you deal with the soaked porcini.
  4. After the porcini have soaked for 30 minutes, place a sieve, lined with a double layer of kitchen roll, over a bowl, and strain the mushrooms, reserving the liquid – squeeze the mushrooms out in the kitchen roll.
  5. Chop the porcini finely and add to the pan with the mushrooms and onions. Gently sweat for about 20 minutes, so that the juices are released.
  6. Meanwhile place a baking dish in a preheated oven, 150’c fan, to warm.
  7. Add the rice and stir it around to get a good coating of butter, then add the Maderia and the strained soaking liquid. Add a teaspoon of salt, some black pepper, and bring to simmering point.
  8. Transfer the risotto mix from the pan to the warmed dish, stir and place in the oven. Set the timer and give it exactly 20 minutes
  9. After 20 minutes, gently stir in the parmesan. Return to the oven for exactly 15 minutes, then remove from the oven. Serve immediately with the shavings of parmesan sprinkled over and a green salad.

Spaghetti with Sauce Vierge (Serves 4)

This is a perfect summer pasta dish, a delicious ‘no cook’ sauce for spaghetti with the added bonus of being vegetarian!

400g Spaghetti

For the Sauce Vierge:

2 spring onions, finely sliced

2 shallots, finely chopped

Bunch of fresh chives, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

300g tomatoes, about 4 medium

4 tablespoons white wine vinegar

2 teaspoons caster sugar

Juice ½ lemon

60ml olive oil

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Cut the tomatoes into quarters, deseed, discarding any liquid – pat them dry on kitchen roll, slice into strips, then finely dice, add to a bowl along with the other sauce ingredients, mix well and season to taste.
  2. Cook the spaghetti according to the packet instructions until al dente.
  3. Drain the spaghetti and mix with the sauce vierge.

Melon, Artichoke & Walnut Salad (Serves 4)

This is a great salad a meal in itself! The vinaigrette is really tasty and worth remembering for other salads. I discovered this recipe in Gino D’Acampo’s cookbook ‘Gino’s Islands in the Sun’, which concentrates on recipes from Sardinia and Sicily, offering Italian cooking with a twist from these islands. It is a good choice for a picnic, if you are, thinking of taking this salad out and about, carry the prepared ingredients separately (the vinaigrette in a small jar, the melon, artichokes, rocket and walnuts in separate containers) and combine when ready to serve.

1 cantaloupe melon

175g chargrilled artichoke hearts in oil, drained and roughly chopped

50g walnuts, roughly chopped

70g rocket leaves

For the vinaigrette:

Juice of 1 lime

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon honey

4 tablespoons olive oil

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Whisk together the ingredients of the vinaigrette.
  2. Cut the melon into wedges and remove the seeds, cut each wedge into 2cm chunks.
  3. Place the melon in a large bowl, add the rocket leaves, artichoke pieces and walnuts.
  4. Pour over the vinaigrette and toss together to mix.

Penne with Pea and Mascarpone Sauce (Serves 4)

Another recipe from my beloved cookbook ‘A Passion for Pasta’ by the late Antonio Carluccio. You could cook this dish with your eyes closed, it really is that simple, and will be ready to eat in 15 minutes! The original recipe uses smoked bacon, so I have substituted it for chopped onion and a generous pinch of paprika for a tasty vegetarian supper.

50g butter

1 onion, finely chopped

a generous pinch of smoked paprika

450g tomato passata

200g frozen peas

8 basil leaves

150g mascarpone cheese

375g penne pasta

75g freshly grated parmesan cheese

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Melt the butter in a frying pan, add the chopped onion and a pinch of paprika, fry to soften.
  2. Add the tomato passata and the peas, cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile cook the penne according to the instructions on the packet, until al dente.
  4. Add the mascarpone cheese and the basil leaves to the sauce, stir until warmed through. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Drain the penne, add to the sauce, finally mix in the parmesan cheese.

Cashew Nut Stir Fry with Basil, Chilli and Lime (Serves 4)

Originally I published this recipe as a prawn stir fry, however for a vegetarian option I have substituted the prawns for cashew nuts, baby corn and /or cauliflower florets. This recipe is super easy to cook, just prepare all the ingredients so they can be quickly thrown in the pan, ready to cook in minutes. The cucumber salad is an important accompaniment as its subtle spice gives the whole dish more depth. Start by preparing the rice, I like long grain white rice with this stir fry. Whilst the rice is cooking prepare the cucumber salad and all of the ingredients for the stir fry, then start cooking it just as the rice is cooked. If you are gluten free, use gluten free soy sauce for the cucumber salad. 

*You can see the video of this dish being made by clicking on this link to my instagram page

Cashew Nut Stir Fry with Basil, Chilli & Lime

A couple of handfuls of cashew nuts

250g baby corn or cauliflower florets (or a mixture)

200g sugar snap peas

1 tablespoon groundnut oil

2 red chillies and 1 green chilli, deseeded and finely sliced (use less according to taste)

4 cloves garlic, finely sliced

1 tablespoon fish sauce

2 tablespoons caster sugar

Juice of lime

20g basil leaves, picked

  1. Halve the sugar snap peas along their lengths, so that the peas peep out.
  2. Heat the oil in a frying pan or wok, when hot, add the sugar snaps, fry for about 30 seconds.
  3. Add the cashew nuts, baby corn/cauliflower florets, chillies and garlic, reduce the heat a little and cook for a couple of minutes.
  4. Add the fish sauce, sugar and lime, stir it all around until the sugar has dissolved, finally throw in the basil leaves.
  5. Serve straight away with rice and the spiced cucumber salad.

Spiced Cucumber Salad

1 cucumber

2 tablespoons soy sauce

4 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 teaspoon of caster sugar

1-2 teaspoons mild chilli powder (according to your taste)

4 spring onions, finely sliced

2 teaspoons of sesame oil (optional)

Black sesame seeds (optional)

  1. Cut the cucumber into wafer thin slices
  2. Mix together the soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and chilli powder in a bowl (depending on how spicy you would like it, you can add more or less chilli)
  3. Toss the cucumber into the bowl along with the spring onions, and if using, also add the sesame oil and seeds.