Tuesday 24 September 2013


Usually the necessity of having to work for a living is nothing but a distraction for getting on with my blog. Recently however, I have been doing recipe testing and photography for Riverford, for their soon to be launched "Recipe Boxes".This is a new craze sweeping the nation when you receive, delivered to your door, three easy to follow recipes plus all the ingredients to cook your evening meals. 

I have to admit that I wasn't overwhelmed by the idea until I put them to the test. I like to think I am not the sort of girl who is not short on ideas or creativity when putting together a dinner for two, but I cannot tell you how pleasant it is, just sometime to not have to think about it. To know that everything I need is there at home waiting for me, no shopping, no planning and what turned out to be an even greater plus is that even Hugh, the other half, can cook them too. For the first time in years he actually managed to cook dinner on his own, not once but twice in a week. He found the recipe cards easy to follow and what with the unavoidable convenience of having all the ingredients weighed out, to hand, managed to knock up dinner with practically no fuss at all!  And you would not believe how pleased he was with himself.

In the meantime I needed to deal with my latest allotment glut. Due to my failure to sew few and often, to stagger my crops and in my total over enthusiasm to grow anything at all, I now am reaping the excess crops to mirror my initial excess impatience. I failed to thin my crops sufficiently and I am weighed down with Fennel, Chard and Spinach, all ready at the same time.

Lucky for me, guess what recipes I have been testing this week. Being seasonal, the recipes I am testing exactly match what I am harvesting and these two recipes for Indian Spiced Spinach & Chickpeas and Fennel & Chard Gratin could not have been more perfect for using up my surplus vegetables.  Now I can start dealing with the tomatoes!

Indian Spiced Spinach & Chickpeas with Coconut & Coriander Rice
prep & cook 40 mins, 
serves 2
1 onion (150g)
1 garlic clove (5g)
piece of ginger (25g)
fresh coriander (20g)
20g butter
150g long grain white rice
1 x 400ml tin coconut milk
oil for frying eg sunflower or vegetable
200g spinach (or change to 150g chard)
1 x 400g tin chickpeas
½ teaspoon brown mustard seeds (2g)
½ teaspoon ground cumin (2g)
½ teaspoon garam masala (2g)
¼ teaspoon chilli powder (1g)
¼ teaspoon turmeric (1g)
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon (1g)
400g chopped tomatoes
1 lemon (150g)

Put the rice in a sieve and rinse well under the tap. Peel and chop the onion. Peel and finely chop the garlic. Peel the ginger and finely grate it. Wash the coriander leaves and leave them to dry. Melt the butter in a heavy-based saucepan. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains. Stir the coconut milk so it’s smooth and add to the rice with 150ml water. Season with a good pinch of salt. Bring to the boil, the lower the heat, cover and leave it cook on a bare simmer. Keep an eye on the pan, stirring it every now and then to stop it catching on the bottom. Add a little water or more of the coconut milk if it’s getting too dry. While the rice is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and gently fry without colouring for 6 minutes. While the onion is cooking, rinse the chickpeas well and leave to drain. Wash the spinach and remove any tough stalks. Roughly chop the leaves. Add the garlic, ginger, mustard seeds, cumin, garam masala, chilli powder, turmeric and cinnamon to the onion. Fry gently for 1 minute. Add the chopped tomatoes and a good pinch of salt to the onion. Bring up to a simmer. After the tomatoes have been simmering for 10 minutes, remove the rice from the heat and leave to steam, still covered. Continue cooking the tomatoes for another 5 minutes. Finely chop the coriander leaves. Uncover the tomatoes and add the drained chickpeas and spinach. Stir together and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Taste and add more salt if needed. (It does look like a lot of spinach to start with, but it wilts down). Fluff up the rice with a fork. Squeeze in the juice from ½ the lemon and stir in the chopped coriander leaves. Serve with the chickpeas and spinach.

Fennel & Chard Gratin
prep & cook 45 mins
serves 2
2 fennel bulbs (500g)
olive Oil
salt & pepper
300g chard
2 garlic cloves
100ml white wine
1 whole nutmeg
125ml crème fraîche
fresh thyme
salt & pepper
25g wholemeal breadcrumbs
40g parmesan
1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 190C/180C fan assisted/gas mark 5. Put on a large pan of salted water to boil. While the oven is heating up, trim any large spiky tops of the fennel and remove any tough outer leaves. Cut the bulbs into thin wedges, still with the core intact to keep them together. If a few odd bits fall apart, don’t worry. If you have any feathery fronds on your fennel, keep those and add them when you stir in the cream. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large pan. Add the fennel and cook it very slowly, stirring every now and then. It will take about 20 minutes, until it’s starting to caramelizeStrip the chard leaves from their stalks. Wash both, then chop the stalks very finely. Peel and finely chop or crush the garlic. Once the water is boiling, plunge the chard leaves in and boil for 3 minutes. Get a large bowl of cold water ready. Drain the leaves and plunge into the bowl to refresh, then drain again. When cool enough to handle, roughly chop the leaves. After about 20 minutes or so, when the fennel starts to look a golden brown colour, add the chard stalks and garlic. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add the wine and use a fine grater to grate a little of the nutmeg into the pan. Cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the cream, chard leaves and the thyme leaves. Season well with salt and pepper. Transfer to the baking/gratin dish. Put the breadcrumbs in a small bowl. Finely grate enough of the lemon zest over the bowl so you have approximately 1 teaspoon in there. Grate in the cheese too. Mix together then scatter over the fennel mixture. Transfer the dish to the oven (ideally keep the sweet potatoes on the same shelf but move them onto a lower shelf if you need to make room – you might just need to cook them a little longer) and bake for approximately 20-25 minutes, depending on your oven, until the gratin is golden on top.

1 comment:

  1. That fennel and chard gratin looks delicious, I must try that while there is still some chard around!


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