Getting down your greens is a very important step of keeping healthy during winter! Kale is a member of the brassica family and has great nutritional value. From high levels of iron, vitamin K, C and A, to anti inflammatory benefits it’s a food both accessible, locally grown and often organic.
Kale can help you increase your greens intake in easy and tasty ways. Make a pledge now to eat more veg any time of the year. Follow the #vegpower campaign for inspiration.
Here’s an easy recipe to get you started – Kale with spaghetti. When Zöe Rozellar walked into our kitchen with this idea of cooking kale it opened so many possibilities! You can also enjoy the kale as a side, for breakfast with egg (Zöe’s favourite) or with rice/couscous/quinoa. You may also add raw or cooked mushrooms to this dish – the red elf cup mushrooms from Blaencamel market stalls were a treat with this dish.
Ingredients (2-4 portions depending on starter or main size)
- 300g organic kale
- 1Tbsp. Sesame seeds
- 250g spaghetti
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1/2 tsp. Paprika
- 1/2 tsp. Ground nutmeg or more
- Olive oil
- 250g goats cheese or feta cheese
Preparation (up to 30min)
- Wash the kale, pull leaves off the harder stalk (if not tender) and drain.
- In a big baking tray dress in 1/2 tsp salt, the sesame and a couple of generous lugs of olive oil. Massage well so that oil and salt dress all leaves.
- Bring water to the boil for pasta adding salt and oil. And preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
- At the same time you start boiling the pasta, add the kale in the oven after you cover the tray tightly with aluminum foil.
- The kale should bake at least for the duration of your pasta preparation.
- Once the pasta boils and is in the colander, return the pot to heat, cover its base with olive oil and add the two cloves of garlic roughly chopped.
- Lower the heat and stir fry the garlic till softer – a couple of minutes – taking care not to burn.
- Add the paprika, nutmeg and 1/2 tsp of pepper and stir fry for about half a minute or so.
- Add the spaghetti and a pinch of salt. Toss well to dress in spices.
- Remove the kale from oven, add to pot and stir well.
- Remove dish from heat and add the crumbled cheese.
- For a vegan version add Dukkah or roasted and crushed hazelnuts instead of cheese.
On 14 October 2017 the first and pilot WasteLess dinner took place in the heart of Cardiff at LittleMan Coffee Company Café. It was fun, it was epic, it was inspiring and most importantly it was tasty! But what is WasteLess and why am I telling you about it?
WasteLess is a collaborative pop-up event which involves more than one food businesses in the delivery of a feast using food surplus, food that would have been wasted and food that is produced in a less wasteful manner. The pilot WasteLess feast collected over forty kilos of food that would have been wasted in the week leading up to the event. The food was then safely handled, stored, distributed and cooked by the participating chefs/businesses and volunteers to offer a five-course feast presenting eleven dishes. All participating chefs and cooks contributed ideas to the menu as collections went along. WasteLess tapped into their culinary culture, business practices and the creativity of their teams to bring a wonderful menu together .
I co-run WasteLess with Rebecca Clark from Green City Events. And after years of working together on food waste reduction projects through community cook ups with food destined for the bin, roadshows, school lunch clubs and pop up street food stalls, we wanted to set up a platform that helps local businesses tap into their creative and sustainable practices and to showcase elements of Cardiff’s existing and emerging ‘wasteless’ food movement. There are many fantastic businesses already doing great things and many more who could be supported to do more. We want to bring new businesses to the table and to inspire and assist them in taking a wasteless approach.
The fantastic businesses which contributed to the first WasteLess event include Penylan Pantry, a sustainable café and grocery store which implements the low-waste approach in its practices; Mezza Luna, an award winning, independent, Middle Eastern restaurant; the Little Man Coffee company, an ethical coffee shop which is a hub of community activity and of course, moi, Lia’s Kitchen. Many more were involved in other ways. The Cheese Pantry donated cheese close to its use by date. TOAST Ale provided the event with beers and ales brewed from bread that would have been wasted, The Bottle Shop Cardiff advised on the sourcing of ethical wines and Get Wonky Juices, donated their delicious juices made from ‘scrap’ fruit and veg.
‘Food waste is bad business practice- akin to throwing money in the bin. It’s unsustainable for future generations, and breeds bad habits in an already throwaway society’, says Melissa from the Penylan Pantry. ‘Being part of Cardiff’s first Wasteless dinner was a huge honour and a very exciting prospect, working with others to help raise awareness, offer support and encourage businesses, and the public to think differently about food waste.’
Anna and Zac from Mezza Luna said, ‘As a food business, we at Mezza Luna believe it is our social responsibility to be at the forefront of the fight against food waste.And by doing so encourage people to have better awareness of food and the environment. Middle Eastern cuisine is a great example of the WasteLess approach. For example, all parts of an animal are used for cooking in different dishes. We strongly believe in this approach and we aim to encourage greater respect for food.’
It is not just the businesses that we worked with that really believe in what we do.
Celine Anouilh from the Chartered Institute of Waste Management in Wales said, ‘ I much enjoyed this first WasteLess dinner raising awareness of food waste. Lia and Rebecca used of the right ingredients to produce a taste meal and an inspiring event: a partnership between enthusiastic and ethical businesses, forgotten food from super markets shelves, great cooking skills, creativity and passion! I ate a delicious meal, met wonderful people. CIWM Cymru wishes every success to this fantastic project and look forward to attending the next dinner’.
The October event was just a test to see if our WasteLess vision is truly possible. We are now ready for the next step. Partly supported by Sainsbury’s Waste Less Save More fund Green City Events and Lia’s Kitchen will help deliver more WasteLess events in 2018.
The first WasteLess dinner entertained thirty guests and raised over £600 for Cystic Fibrosis in memory of Tom Woollam (Better Life Appeal Llandough Hospital).
We would like to thank all businesses who donated prizes to a charity raffle: John Lewis, Snact, Get Wonky, HangFire Southern Kitchen, Milgi Cardiff, Penylan Preserves, Colourfiled, Twin Made, Nelly’s Treasures, Ellicopter Hoops and Sustainable Studio.
Lia Moutselou, Lia’s Kitchen and Rebecca Clark from Green City Events co-design and co-run WasteLess. Our partnership on food waste and ethical ventures is well established. Over the three years we joined forces to deliver a series of food waste projects and initiatives in Cardiff, in collaboration with Love Food Hate Waste campaigns and other local organisations and businesses. From community cook ups with food destined for the bin, to roadshows, school lunch clubs and pop up street food stalls, we have inspired, engaged and educated to encourage action and behaviour change relating to food waste.
Lia’s Kitchen is an ethical food venture inspired by sustainability, Greek cuisine and world flavours: www.liaskitchen.com. Green City is a not-for-profit Community Interest Company based in Cardiff, hosting a range of exciting and inspiring environmental and sustainability events and workshops: www.greencityevent.co.uk
Sign up to our mailing list for future WasteLess events or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last week our box from Blaencamel Farm looked like a picture of autumn itself. Whilst new crops like squashes are being harvested some of the summer crops like the last of the tomatoes and chillies are still going. The greens, such as Cavolo Nero, are a darker shade. My seasonal compass is navigated towards deeper flavours, with spice combinations that help us transition seasons comforting us during the first frosts.
This dish I cooked and loved a lot last year. It grew from my fascination with how spices and ingredients fuse and connect culinary cultures. And it uses some of my most loved ingredients. Dill as herb much loved in Northern Greece where I am from but also prolific in Iranian and Ukrainian cuisines. Cumin for us Greeks of the eastern side (just a pinch mind). Caraway, a key spice for the soothing borscht and much Ukrainian cooking. Sour grape powder typical in Iranian cooking. Goji berries instead of the Iranian barberry. Turmeric, ginger, beetroot, pomegranates, tomatoes, parsley… You can see where this is going. It’s a tasty cure on a plate. You can replace some of the fresh turmeric and ginger with powder although I think it is much nicer when fresh is used. I serve this dish with brown rice.
Order your seasonal Blaencamel veg box online www.blanecamelbox.com or by email to Tom Frost (Tom@blaencamelbox.com). Find out more about Lia’s Kitchen and subscribe on Lia’s newsletters here www.liaskitchen.com
Ingredients (Feeds 6 people)
- 1 Hokkaido or other squash, 700g
- 250g beetroot (raw grated or small cubes)
- 300g cherry tomatoes halved or whole or 1 tin whole organic tomatoes
- 1 onion, sliced
- 4 cloves garlic roughly chopped
- 200g of autumn greens, roughly chopped (kale, Cavolo nero or Japanese greens will do as) (optional)
- 1/2 Hungarian wax chilli (optional)
- 5cm turmeric chunk grated OR 1tsp. turmeric powder
- 3cm ginger chunk grated OR ½ tsp ginger powder
- 1 tsp sweet paprika powder
- 1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
- 1 tsp. caraway seeds
- 1 Tbsp. fresh dill finely chopped OR 1 tsp dried dill (both heaped)
- 30g fresh parsley chopped
- 1 tsp sour grape powder (optional – available at middle eastern shops)
- Pinch of oregano
- 1 small handful of dried goji berries
- Juice of one lemon or half an orange
- 1 can pre-cooked beans (recommend borlotti or cannellini but use what you have)
- Up to 2 cups hot water or vegetable stock(500ml)
- Pomegranate seeds (optional)
- 2tsp sea salt
Preparation (approximately one hour)
- Place the goji berries in citrus juice for the duration of the preparation.
- Peel and grate or cube the beetroot. If using cooked beetroot cook an hour before prep starts.
- Halve the squash and remove seeds with a tablespoon. Peel, slice and cube in 5 cm chunks (not too small).
- Stir fry the onion, 1 tsp salt and spices (cumin, caraway, paprika, turmeric, ginger and sour cherry &chilly if using) for five minutes on low heat to soften and release aromas.
- Add the garlic and oregano stir fry for a couple more minutes.
- Add the squash, beetroot and beans and stir well.
- Add the softened goji berries with the citrus juice, the chopped dill and parsley. Stir well.
- Add the hot water or stock with another tsp of salt.
- Stir well, cover and simmer for thirty minutes. Then add the greens and simmer for another fifteen minutes.
- Enjoy with a dollop of Greek yoghurt, walnuts and honey and pomegranate seed or apple if you fancy a fruity taste.
On 21 May 2017 Melissa (Penylan Pantry), Sam and Shauna (Hangfire), Bettina (Brød-The Danish Bakery), Goldie (Samosaco), Ericka Duffy (cocktail and taste expert), Ashli (Spillers Records) and I worked together to deliver a unique night of food, drink and music. What united us, apart from our extremely worthy cause to raise money for Action Against Hunger, is our passion about women leading the way in food business and good, ethical, tasty food. We delivered this event under the banner of Meal Squared, a format that delivers collaborative events and which Melissa set up last year to strengthen Cardiff’s growing independent business community.
The inspiration for Cooking From the Heartland came from the ‘Severn Sisters’ Bristol dinner organised by Romy Gill MBE and Kim Somauroo in autumn 2016. It involved women from different food cultures to create a female feast. ‘We were so inspired by our experience [of attending the event] that we decided to have our own version in Wales. Our feast, ‘Cooking from our heartland’ is inspired by the international drinks, food and music makers we know and love’, say Sam and Shauna. For me and the other women who were approached to participate in this evening there was no doubt that this was going to be our kind of fun.
This is the story of our coming together. It tells you why we chose Action Against Hunger, what ‘Cooking from the Heartland’ means to us and why we think it is so important that women work together…
I would particularly like to thank Oliveology, Blaencamel Farm, Cig Lodor Meat, All Greek Delicatessen, CocoCaravanCocoCaravan for donating ingredients for the mezze platter and dessert I prepared for the event. A massive thanks to all the other women who volunteered and worked hard on the night . And to Kas of Waterloo Tea who gave us access to his amazing restaurant/coffee house in Wyndham Arcade to run the event.
We chose Action Against Hunger because …
‘165 million people suffer from childhood malnutrition. If they joined hands, they could form a complete circle around the earth. I think this says it all.’ (Mel, Penylan Pantry)
‘When we started Hang Fire, we sofa surfed for the first year, ploughing every penny from the last pop-up back into next. Now that we have a roof over our heads, we think if you have two quid, you have a quid to share. It’s important to always give a something back. Action Against Hunger does amazing work all year round, both at home and further afield. It is our chosen partner charity this year. With everything happening in the world right now, we need to keep looking out for each other and help those who aren’t as fortunate as us.’ (Sam & Shauna, Hangfire)
‘We’re told that we’re living in exciting times of such progress and achievements in the sphere of technological development and medical advancements, yet so many children are going hungry and die of malnutrition. That isn’t right. Thank goodness for Action Against Hunger for making it their business to help those who are less fortunate.’ (Ashli, Spillers Records)
‘Nobody is immune to misfortune. People’s lives change overnight through war, unemployment, illness. People go hungry in Wales. Refugees walk thousands of miles to safety, water and food. In Greece people like us bin-dive to find food. Recently, at food community project in Uganda I often drove past international relief lorries transporting food to South Sudan and Yemen on a massive scale. I support Action Against Hunger with all my heart’. (Lia, Lia’s Kitchen)
Cooking from our heartland means ….
‘Seasonal, free thinking, creative cooking inspires me. I love nutritious, wholesome ingredients, that are good for your health, soul and mind. My heartland is wherever I happen to fall. I like to cook with local produce from the surrounding area. I feel strongly that the best way to know a new place, is to get stuck into the local food culture.’ (Mel, Penylan Pantry)
‘We are Celts and experts in the art of slow cooking and smoking. Cooking from our heartland brings those two things together to create our own version of Southern Wales style BBQ using great local produce. We take the best that the UK has to offer and couple it with the cooking techniques we learned in the States all to a soundtrack by Dolly Parton!’ (Sam & Shauna, Hangfire)
‘Baking is an important connection to my birthland. Moving to Wales in 1998, I quickly felt at home but always missed Danish bread. The rubbish Danish Pastries in the UK meant I had to set the record straight. My heartland is with my grandfather (FarFar) who was a baker in central København. My mother, grandmother and I baked to his tales of making bread (brød), pastries and cake. I’ve kept going and now I can do the same for you through Brød.’ (Bettina, Brød)
‘We live in an age where access to “stuff” in unlimited. Every thing’s a commodity. You can hear music from a culture a million miles removed from your own. You have access to ingredients from lands far and wide. Anything goes. This creates an exciting palette for a music fan or food lover. But if something is made with passion, with heart and soul oozing out of it, it hits you in the solar plexus and resonates. That sort of passion is the difference between wholesale, mass produced for the highest margin return and the real deal. I think that the unifying thing about the team bringing this event together is that we are only interested in the real deal. It’s all about passion.’ (Ashli, Spillers Records)
‘The Heartland theme meant exploring my connection to Wales which for me revolves around art and literature. My cocktails are inspired by the Davies sisters who contributed much to the artwork and culture that enthrals me about Wales. They bought whole galleries of artwork (Monets, Manets, Rodins). They established Gregynog Hall as a centre of excellence for the arts, crafts and music. Most importantly, the Davies Sisters took in Belgian refugees including the sculptor George Minne, and the painters Valerius de Saedeleer and Gustave van de Woestyne. All three artists were to spend the rest of World War I largely dependent on the Davies family for support. You can visit the Davies Galleries at National Museum of Wales, Cardiff.’ (Ericka Duffy, Cocktail and taste expert)
‘Cooking from the heartland brings you the taste of my Greece whilst mixing it with world food influences, and good Welsh/UK produce I discovered in the past twenty years living away from the birth land. My platter is about ingredients from some of the businesses involved in the collaboration, whilst I introduce you to some of my favourite Greek and Welsh, UK- based businesses. And every dish reminds me of someone I love. My Yaya (Grandma) for the boozy tzatziki, my Mana (Mom) for the meatballs and my Aderfo (brother) for the fava dip.’ (Lia, Lia’s Kitchen)
Women should work together …
‘Women make up 43% of the agricultural labor force in developing countries, and account for about two-thirds of the world’s 600 million livestock keepers. Still to this day millions of women and girls around the world are discriminated against simply because they are born female. Events like International women’s day send a message of unity, solidarity and compassion. I hope MealSq Menywod sends out the same message on a smaller scale. Gender discrimination should not be accepted in this day and age.’ (Mel, Penylan Pantry)
‘We have always championed the idea of bridging the gender gap in any industry, and the hospitality industry is no different. We’re surrounded by talented, courageous women who are a daily inspiration to us. It’s a great privilege to come together and produce an event that is not only authentic but heartfelt from some incredible women truly passionate about what they do.’ (Sam & Shauna, Hangfire)
‘In the words of Poly Styrene “Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard. But I think “oh bondage, up yours!”. Being a go-getting female with a lot of knowledge in your field, you often have to play down your expertise and shrink below your ambitions. With politics at the forefront of many people’s minds at the moment, it’s important to remember that not so long ago women were denied the basic human right to have our say. But let’s not forget we are the lucky ones. Many women worldwide still do not have the right to exercise their own choice. In the face of regressive steps the world has taken lately we must continue to fight for our rights and demand equality.’ (Ashli, Spillers Records)
‘I like working with inspirational people, both men and women. But I think this is an event that shows how we women can support each other in business.’ (Bettina, Brød)
‘This meal presents females who work in flavour and taste – each of us in traditionally male-dominated fields. Between our different skillsets, point-of-view, and aesthetics there is a collaboration occurring – from baking, Greek cuisine, smoking, cheese pairing, cocktail mixing, and the music selection by the World’s Oldest Record shop.’ (Ericka Duffy, Cocktail and taste expert)
‘I have had fun and struggles being a female immigrant claiming my place in Britain! As a Greek girl, I was often stereotyped to suit the service industry just fine but some people were shocked I was also a law graduate, a young lecturer or that I chose to start my own food venture. I have had many lives. I refuse to be pigeonholed. And women should fight together against prejudice. Antagonism is not a female trait so it’s time to resist being turned into alpha-males. Our global village relies on running it together. There is space for everyone. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.’ (Lia, Lia’s Kitchen)
A recipe inspired by the way Iranians make their open omelette or frittata, known as Kuku. It uses March’s seasonal vegetable like carrots and spinach still abundant at Blaencamel farm and in their weekly organic vegetable boxes. This type of frittata uses a generous quantity of ingredients so don’t be surprised when you see how much vegetable goes in it – it is what sets it apart from other open omelettes.
You can find Blaencamel farm vegetables at both Farmers’ markets in Cardiff, Roath and Riverside, on Saturday and Sunday respectively, but also in Aberystwyth and their own farm shop. Order their boxes here.
Ingredients (4 portions)
- 250g (3 medium) carrots, coarsely grated
- 150g spinach, finely chopped
- 15g (half a small bunch) parsley, finely chopped
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 50g sundried tomatoes or mixed antipasti e.g. peppers and artichokes, finely chopped
- 30g cashews, chopped
- 3 Tbsp. Goji berries (optional)
- Fresh mandarin or orange juice
- 100g (half a pack) feta cheese, crumbled
- ½ tsp. ground cumin
- A generous pinch of smoked or regular sweet paprika
- ½ tsp oregano
- 1 generous pinch of saffron strands
- 2 Tbsp. flour
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 6 eggs
- 2 generous pinches of salt
- ½ tsp. sugar
- Olive oil
Preparation (30 minutes)
- Add enough fresh mandarin or orange juice to cover the goji berries in a small bowl or mug. Infuse whilst prepping.
- Add a tablespoon (or two) of olive oil to a 20 to 25cm non-stick pan, and sauté the onion on low heat with a pinch of salt and the sugar until it caramelises (5-10 min).
- Pound the saffron in a bowl with a rolling pin, beat in the eggs and allow time for the saffron to infuse in them.
- Remove the onions from the pan, add another tablespoon of oil, add the carrots and cumin. Sauté until soft (5 min).
- Return the onions to the frying pan, add the goji berries, cashews, sundried tomatoes and antipasti. Mix well.
- Add the spinach and parsley little by little so that it slightly wilts. You don’t need to cook your spinach much or at all but you might choose to wilt it a bit of you are using a smaller pan.
- Add the flour, pinch of salt, baking powder, paprika and oregano to the eggs and beat until the flour is mixed well and to give the eggs some volume and softness.
- Mix into the pan gradually and carefully making sure the beaten egg goes to the bottom of the pan and mixes in well between the abundant ingredients to hold them together. The pan should remain on low heat all this time.
- Make sure that the ingredients are spread evenly on the pan and sprinkle the feta cheese on top.
- After firming up the frittata on the hob for a couple of minutes, you can cook the frittata in two ways: a) If your pan is heat resistant place it in a preheated oven for about 10-15 minutes at 180-200 degrees –cover with a lid or aluminium foil for half the time, or b) Cover the pan with a lid or plate. Continue cooking on the hob on low heat for 8 to 10 minutes. Then place under a preheated grill for a couple of minutes or until golden and risen.
- If using a 20cm pan it should be at least 5cm dip to make a cake like frittata that will rise.
- You can choose to omit or include ingredients on this list. It is also very easy to replace them. For example goji berries can be replaced with cranberries or even barberries if you prefer an authentic Iranian taste.
Last week the amazing We Are Cardiff blog asked me to develop a recipe for them! And here it is together with the full blog.
Remember to find out more about Greek food join one of Lia’s Kitchen intimate cooking classes on 3 and 10 February. I will be introducing participants to Greek Kitchen basics but will also be sharing Greek flavours and recipes that are not yet widely known in the UK. You can book online here www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/lias-kitchen-7901836356.
Or contact Lia for more information at email@example.com.
Rosemary Baron is keeping me company with her book about Greece and its food. I love reading others’ take on Greek food and this lady being an archaeologist is a very credible, unbiased source of information. She says, ‘the ancient Greeks regarded cooking as both an art and a science and throughput the ancient world Greek chefs were accorded the status and reputation that French chefs now enjoy. The principles and practice of fine cooking and gastronomy as we know it today were first established in the abundantly stocked and highly creative kitchens of Ancient Greece, and modern Greeks still enjoy the foods and tastes that inspired the chefs of antiquity’.
Rosemary Baron goes on to talk about the height of the Minoan civilization and trade with North Africa, which helped create a small garden of Eden in Crete that influenced Hellenistic cooking. At the height of the Roman civilization Greek chefs and teachers were sought after and employed in the Roman homes and kitchens, and according to Baron it seems under their tutelage the amazing, distinct Italian cuisine developed. Then the Byzantine empire helped the influence of Greek cooking influence travel further. And then during the occupation of the Franks, Venetians, Ottomans eastern and other influences arrived, and tribes like the Vlachs brought spices like my beloved paprika.
I am certain Greek chefs embraced new ingredients and influences from other cultures. The early Greek diet of olives, wheat, figs, grapes, wild greens, fish and a little meat was enriched with ingredients such as lemons, potatoes, aubergines, tomatoes, spinach, okra introduced by trade, but also war and occupation.
The silver lining is that even dark times of occupation were still characterized by culinary and cultural diversity. In her book Baron clearly asserts that the hybridity between Greek, eastern and even Balkan cuisine was mostly nurtured during the more peaceful Byzantine times rather than the Ottoman Empire. But I am sure that the Ottomans have helped many dishes travel through Greek chefs to new parts of their Empire where other cultures also embraced and adapted them.
What fascinates me is Baron’s explanation that during Ottoman times Greeks, who were forbidden to speak their own language, were forced to use Turkish names for dishes such as the now famous moussaka, boureki, dolmades, losing the connection of the dishes to their origins. As children we were taught about secret Greek schools during the Ottoman occupation. They were the underground hubs of language that kept Greek alive but I didn’t know that Greek chefs also took refuge in monasteries for their safety and to safeguard centuries of culinary knowledge!!! Apparently there they wore tall white toques which distinguished them from the monks – the toque is now the chef hat and symbol throughout the world.
Food and its love travel well even at the worse of times. It is a beacon of hope and should connect rather than divide. What I know as traditional and modern Greek cuisine is a real testament to that, and it is a lot more diverse than just the delicious feta and tzatziki.
You can now join my 2017 cooking classes telling you the story of my Greek kitchen. Classes include an Introduction to Greek Kitchen Basics; The Greek Flavours no one is telling you about; The Art of Greek Pie; The Magical Art of spice mixing.
Watch Rick Stein’s programme about Thessaloniki, Greece and its food to find out more about my city of birth and what you might get during our courses: http://bbc.in/2gnRaMQ.
It is finally pumpkin and winter quash season! The sweetness of this fantastic vegetable is ideal for moreish, savoury dishes and their salty flavours, which is exactly what I have developed for you this month. The recipes at the end of this blog are inspired by the seasonal ingredients of the November’s Riverside Market Garden vegetable box, such as leeks, fresh onions, sweet and chili peppers, and squash. But also the flavours of sage, mushrooms – currently still popping up in the Welsh forests – and chestnuts, the season of which is beginning. I really hope you enjoy the recipes, one of which is a quicker stir fry, for days when time is precious, whilst the other allows all you skilful foodies to explore making shortcrust pastry with pumpkin flesh instead of butter!
The trickiest part of cooking pumpkin or winter squash is peeling its tougher skin. Other than this the versatile vegetable cooks easily and quickly. Its flesh roasts in about half an hour (you can leave the skin on), it stir fries in around twenty minutes when diced and much quicker than that when grated. And finally it boils in about fifteen minutes.
The most obvious dish for pumpkin or squash, apart from pie, is soup. The easiest one you can make (and my favourite) does not even really need a recipe. Just roast a medium pumpkin, sliced with the skin, in a bit of olive oil, salt, thyme and 3-4 unpeeled cloves of garlic for half an hour in the oven. When baked place the flesh of the garlic and pumpkin in a pot, add at least 700ml of hot stock (say for 500g squash) and blend with a hand mixed or mash. Your soup is ready and you don’t even need to boil it!
Another idea if you don’t have much time is to scrub the skin of the pumpkin clean, cut it in half, scoop the seeds and stringy bits out with a spoon, drizzle it with olive oil and bake for forty minutes. When baked you can scoop out the flesh, mash it with a generous amount of grated cheese and herbs, and if you like some cooked lentils. Refill the pumpkin or squash halves and grill for another 10 minutes until golden!
I literally could go on forever about the numerous savoury bakes and sweet pies you can make with pumpkin but why not start by trying the two recipes below first. And if you need more inspiration come back to me. We are definitely not done with the squash season just yet.
Sunny autumn Cretan stir fry
Ingredients (4-6 portions)
- 500g diced pumpkin or squash (up to)
- 4 spring onions or 3 leeks or 1 dry onion
- 2 peppers (red or green)
- Half a garlic bulb
- ½ chilli pepper finely chopped
- 1 tbsp sundried tomato paste (optional)
- 200g pre-cooked chestnuts
- 100g pitted black olives
- 2 bay leaves (optional)
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 100g couscous
- 1 cup white wine or vegetable stock
- One small bunch of parsley (30 gr)
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
Preparation (45 minutes)
- Peel and dice the pumpkin or squash in small cubes (2cm).
- Chop the spring onion (or leek/onion) and peppers.
- Stir fry in 3 tablespoons of olive oil, the bay leaves and thyme with a pinch of salt for 3 minutes.
- Stir in the sundried tomato paste, pumpkin, chestnuts, olives, garlic with the skin on, a pinch of salt and some more olive oil.
- Stir fry, cover and cook for up to 30 minutes until the pumpkin is (no need to add water).
- Once the pumpkin is soft, add the wine or stock and bring to the boil.
- Remove from heat, add the couscous, cover and set aside for 5 minutes.
- Season to taste, sprinkle with chopped parsley and drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil.
- If you don’t have access to chestnuts why not use 200g of mushrooms instead, dice and stir fry at the same time as the squash.
- You can use plain tomato paste if you don’t have access to sundried tomato paste.
- If the pumpkin is particularly tough you could add a couple of tablespoons of water to help it cook quicker
Savoury pumpkin and mushroom pie
Ingredients (4-6 portions)
For the dough
- 200g pumpkin (diced)
- 300g plain flour
- 1 eggs +1 egg yolk beaten
For the filling
- 200g pumpkin (diced)
- 50g dried mushrooms
- 4 spring onions or 3 leeks or 1 dry onion
- 2 bay leaves (optional)
- 1 small bunch sage (leaves only)
- 50g of butter
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 30g grated parmesan
- 100g grated cheddar
- 100ml double cream or Greek yoghurt
- 1 egg beaten
- Melted butter for the pastry
- 1 tsp of the beaten egg for the glazing
- Salt and pepper to season
- Some olive oil to cook the pumpkin
- Peel and dice the pumpkin or squash (all 400g for both the dough and the filling) in 2cm cubes.
- Bake or stir fry for 30 minutes or until soft after dressing in olive oil and adding a pinch of salt.
- Soak the dried mushrooms in hot water for 30 minutes to reconstitute. Alternatively use 300g fresh mushrooms stir fried in butter with a pinch of salt.
- Slice the spring onions and fry in half the butter (25g) with the bay leaves and thyme.
- Add the mushrooms, a pinch of salt and pepper, and stir fry until coated in the buttery glaze.
- Melt the rest of the butter in a separate frying pan and fry the sage leaves until crispy (set aside).
- Separate the pumpkin in half, add 200g to the mushroom filling and mash the rest.
- Add the cream, egg and parmesan to the cooled mushroom filling, remove the bay leaves and season to taste.
- Mix the mashed pumpkin, the beaten egg and yolk, a pinch of salt and the flour. Knead for five minutes into a shortcrust dough.
- Separate the dough into two equal balls.
- Roll out two dough sheets (3cm) on a lightly floured surface in the shape of your baking tray (20cm round).
- Line the baking tray with some melted butter and the one dough sheet.
- Sprinkle with the grated cheddar and the fried sage leaves.
- Add the filling and spread evenly.
- Add the second dough sheet, pressing the corners with your finger tips to bind the two dough sheets together and to create a nice finish for the rim of the pie.
- Brush with some melted butter and a teaspoon of beaten egg you have kept aside.
- Bake for 30 – 40 minutes until the top is golden.
- If you don’t have some of the ingredients feel free to improvise. For example, use yoghurt if you don’t have cream, an extra pinch of salt if you don’t have parmesan which you can replace with other cheese.
- If the dough is too crumbly to roll you can press it down flat with your fingers. And you can crumble the top sheet for a savoury crumble dish. If you do this add some crushed nuts or seeds.
- This pie is delicious with gluten free flour too.
This morning I thought I had missed call from someone I have worked during the last two very intense years of my water related job (which takes up most of my time during the week). He has accepted a job in a faraway warm rich place and I had sent him a farewell card. I called him back to wish him well, thinking it was his last day at work. At this stage of our testing professional relationship, having been through intense challenges, trials and tribulations, we could just be human, and focus on the person immigrating to a different country, leaving their home behind, regardless of whether this is done happily or sadly. So it was to my surprise that at the end of the conversation he chose to say something awkward. It aimed to question the role of the hard working organisation I spend almost all of my working week at to protect the interests of the public in a private UK water industry. Still I obliged him. It was not personal, he’s a good guy, it was probably his way of joking and he was making small talk whilst I was calling to wish him good luck from the bottom of my heart.
Straight after that I went to Oasis, a refugee charity in Cardiff, where hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers, migrants or immigrants, receive support and food every week. I found myself in the kitchen with women from Ghana, India, Uganda, Zambia, Albania whilst they were cooking a meal for ninety odd people who will have lunch at Oasis today. I met them for the first time. They all probably have interesting stories, perhaps some of these stories are harrowing. Some of them have their children at their home country whilst they work here. Still they opened their mind and their arms to me as soon as I walked in. You know that sense of that we are all in it together? That’s what I felt.
This morning I felt relieved as I was putting the phone down, being thankful for the bad signal that interrupted the awkward final bit of my discussion with a newly appointed ex-pat . And as I was leaving Oasis I felt grateful to Reynette and the women in the Oasis kitchen for opening their door to me, to cook, to share & record their recipes and listen to their experiences. As a human.
I think I know for good which conversation I’d rather be in.
This is a recipe I have been playing with for years and I finalised it recently whilst delivering the Love Food Hate Waste campaign in Roath. I was looking for recipes in my notebook that can help people use their leftovers and what they have in the fridge/freezer. The savoury cake was one our roadshow freebies and was sampled at our last Love Food Haste Waste event on 10 Mach at Cardiff Students’ Union in return for pledges to take action to reduce waste.
It is a delicious recipe that can be adapted to help you use greens and smaller quantities of leftover vegetable. The batter can remain the same and you can be as creative and daring as you like with what flavours you create. You end up with an amazing tasty snack on its own or with some relish or chutney on top and a (gluten-free) substitute to bread which is fantastic with soups or a tin of baked beans.
Cornmeal is a basic ingredient for one of my favourite Greek breads called Bobota. Grated pumpkin and marrow with cornmeal and feta cheese has always been one of my most favourite bakes that my southern Greek Granma Vasiliki used to make for us. And five years ago the lovely Zoe English, of Bird to Market, handed over Nenneh Cherry’s cornbread recipe to me after my excited squeals on tasting it for the first time in my life. So this savoury cake recipe is born from all these influences and is fast becoming one my favourite things to make this spring. I have adapted it to be gluten free – through the use of gluten free plain flour. And with courgette and tomato season approaching and rainbow chard already on the tables at our Farmers’ markets I am very excited for the many versions of the savoury cakes you could be imagining. Enjoy!
Ingredients (1 Bundt or other round 23-25cm baking tin)
- 350g Plain flour, preferably gluten free mix
- 250g Cornmeal (coarse or medium)
- 4 tsp Baking powder
- 80g Sugar (caster)
- 100g Butter melted
- 2 Eggs
- 450-480ml Milk
- 1-2 pinches of salt
- Some extra butter and flour for lining the baking tin
- 1 Small bunch fresh basil or other mixed or frozen herbs, including stems (around 30g)
- 225g Cherry or mini plum tomatoes (up to 300g)
- 1 Onion
- 2 medium or 1 large courgette diced OR
- 1 aubergine diced
- 1 Medium courgette coarsely grated
- 150g grated cheese, parmesan and cheddar mixed (or whatever you have available)
- salt & paper to season
Olive oil for the frying
Preparation (1hr and 15 minutes)
- Prepare your vegetable mixture first to allow enough time to cool.
- Fry the sliced onion with a pinch of salt, cover and let to nearly caramelise whilst you prepare the rest.
- Dice the courgettes or aubergine and halve the cherry or plum tomatoes.
- Add the courgette or aubergine with another pinch of salt and fry for 5 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes and basil, stir and cover until all ingredients soften- for around 5 minutes.
- Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed. Remove from heat to cool down.
- Grate the last courgette and the cheese.
- Mix the flour, cornmeal and baking powder.
- Add the rest of the dough ingredients and mix well so that there are no lumps.
- Add your fried ingredients, raw courgette and cheese.
- Pour into a lined baking tin and bake on 180 Celsius for 40-50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
- The batter should be moist but not too runny. You can add 450ml of the milk first and see if you need to add more after you add the tomatoes and vegetable.
- You can use spinach and other greens such as Kale. Feel free to experiment with various herbs ad ingredients. Use what you have in the fridge and for inspiration on flavours look up focaccia recipes.
- This is a great recipe for using those herbs that you have in the freezer or the ones that are about to go off in the fridge!
- For a bread tin and smaller quantity of the cake halve the recipe ingredient.
- The cake rises quite a lot and it keeps well in the fridge for about a week.