Thursday 26 April 2012

Eat Your Veg

As I may have mentioned, one of my many jobs is trying to inspire people how to use up a weekly organic veg box. I go to peoples houses and in two hours cook up a lunch for up to 10 people, from a medium veg box. None of the recipes are complicated, but I have to admit that when I get home from work, often the last thing I feel like doing is cooking. So I am going to share with you the ultimate easy, quick recipe for using up lots of veg, which also keeps kids and adults happy alike and it is none other than "a bake".

A "bake" really doesn't conjure up a good image for me - vegetable bake, tuna bake, cheesy bake - just the names fill me with repulsion. But there is no reason why a bake should not be a beautiful thing and happily it is always all baked in one pan, which saves on washing up.

I don't know about you, but when it comes to it my kids, aged 5 and 7, they are happiest eating nothing more complicated that some meat or fish, some potatoes and some vegetables. But it is so important to keep it varied, interesting and full of flavour. So this first recipe is just very simply a selection of all your families favourite vegetables, baked all together with a lovely piece of fresh wild salmon.. Choose a selection of seasonal vegetables which compliment rather than overpower the fish. This dish also makes a great alternative to a roast at the week-end especially when entertaining. If you want to impress, make a lovely Salsa Verde , some Salmoriglio or even a delicious Anchovy and Rosemary Sauce to drizzle over your fish.

The second recipe is similar but involves sausages instead of fish. I choose a selection of sausages. Some plain ones for the kids, some spicy ones for the adults. Chorizo style sausages work particularly well and add a smoky note. The sausages stand up to stronger flavoured vegetables - onions, shallots, swede, celeriac or parnips. This is a really good way of using up vegetables at the end of the week from your veg box. And, if you have got a lot of veg to use up, you can always leave out the fish or meat and just have the baked veg. It is just delicious on it's own.

Fillet of Wild Salmon and Vegetable Bake 
I only eat wild salmon, when in season, as I find farmed salmon is too fatty for me. There seems to be a good supply of sustainable Alaskan Wild Salmon available, very reasonable and full of flavour. ObviousIy I would prefer to shop more locally than Alaska so If you are worried about your carbon footprint then at least make sure that the vegetables are locally sourced. The selection of vegetables is up to you but the is my favourite. Beetroot or bitter leaves such as Radicchio or Trevise are also lovely with salmon.  One last tip about salmon: don't over cook it.  As soon as you see white liquid coming out of the salmon, that is albumin and it’s a protein, and is a sign that you salmon is done. Remove immediately from the oven and your fish should be still pink and juicy inside.

2 generous slices of wild salmon, with or without skin
2 bulbs fennel, trimmed of excess outer leaves, save fronds 

2 baby courgettes, cut in half
Large handful of cherry tomatoes
Couple of handfuls of New Potatoes, boiled in salted water until cooked
1 Bunch of Asparagus, woody stem snapped off
Extra Virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C.
Cut the fennel into 4 or 6 pieces lengthways, depending on size.  Cut the potatoes in half or if very small leave whole. In a large baking dish toss all of the vegetables with 3-5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Make sure the tin is big enough.  If the vegetables are too crowded they will sweat instead of bake. Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Try and make sure that the potatoes are facing down and that the fennel is also flat side down.  The more surface area that comes into contact with the bottom of the pan, the easier the vegetables will brown. Bake for 20 minutes, stirring once halfway through. Remove the pan from the oven and push the vegetables to one side. Season the salmon with salt and pepper and place it in empty space you made in the baking dish. Return the dish to the oven and bake
for another 10 minutes, based on thickness of the salmon. Scatter with the chopped fennel

All sauce recipes are adapted from The River Cafe.

Salsa Verde
I vary this recipe according to what I am serving it with.  I prefer to go easy on the mint as it can end up tasting a bit toothpasty and instead I opt for basil, dill, chives or the fronds from the fennel tops.  Just get a good tasting balance.
1 large bunch Flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/2 bunch Mint leaves
Very good extra-virgin olive oil
3 Garlic cloves
100g Capers
50g Anchovy fillets
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons Red-wine vinegar

In a food processor chop the garlic, capers and anchovies. Add the mustard and vinegar, season and add some olive oil and purée until well amalgamated.  Add all the herbs and whiz and more olive oil to achieve desired consistency.

In a pestle and mortar, pound 4 level tablespoons fresh Thyme or Marjoram or a very good quality dried Oregano with 1 teaspoon sea salt until completely crushed. Add 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Pour 8 tablespoons of very good, peppery extra virgin olive oil slowly into the mixture. Add a little freshly ground black pepper. 

Anchovy and Rosemary Sauce
2 tbsp. fresh young rosemary leaves, very finely chopped
12 anchovy fillets
Juice of 1 lemon
150mls very good extra-virgin olive oil

Place rosemary leaves in a mortar and grind as finely as possible. Add anchovy fillets and grind to a paste. Add lemon juice, mix well, and then, stirring constantly, add oil, a few drops at a time. Transfer sauce to a small bowl.

Sausage Bake with Vegetables
You can use all sorts of vegetables in this dish. I like to use up whatever I have left in the fridge.

Some good quality sausages

1 Red Pepper, cut into largish chuncks
A handful or two of cherry tomatoes
1/2 a butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 2 cms chunks
2 parsnips, cut in 4 or 6 lengthways, depending on size
4 small shallots, pealed
1 or 2 Red onions cut into 8 wedges
A handful of New Potatoes, cooked in pleanty of salted water, cut in half
1 Bunch of Asparagus, woody stem snapped off
Extra Virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

A bunch of thyme

Preheat your oven to 200°C. Toss all the vegetables in plenty of olive oil, salt and pepper. Place in a large roasting tray with the sausages.  Make sure they are not overcrowded or they will sweat rather than bake.  Cook for about 30 minutes, stirring well half-way through.


  1. I never have any problems with vegetables, even as a kid. I loved them. but coming from a chinee family, we don't roast vegetables, and I came into it pretty late in life but it's one of my favourite ways with vegetables now. the orasting just intensifies their flavour and sweetness, and is a no fail way to make a vegetable taste good, imo. nice one! love all the colours in both dishes (:

  2. All of these recipes look so inviting. But I agree with you about the word "bake" - I always make the assumption that it is something overly cheesy or fatty and a little soggy!

    BTW, nice tip on cooking salmon, I had never realised that!


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