Black bean soup and chilli baked feta

baked feta with black bean soup

Sadly I’ve never been to Mexico but it’s right up there near the top of my bucket list. When I make it there, this is the kind of food I picture myself eating, washed down of course with a bottle of ice cold cerveza.

This black bean soup and chilli baked feta were two of the recipes I discovered through Kitchen Nomad, which unfortunately is no longer operating. I really rather liked this food box scheme, where each month ingredients from another mystery location would arrive on your doorstep along with recipe cards created by a well-known chef.

Thomasina Miers provided the recipes for the Mexican month and these two dishes were our favourites, although my husband and I enjoyed them sin niños as the chilli would undoubtedly have proven a little two much for them both, even with their adventurous palates.

The baked cheese should really feature a Mexican queso fresco but Miers recommends feta as a good alternative for this classic dish. The feta tastes amazing melted into the olive oil and is brought alive by the flavours of garlic, lime, chilli and oregano.

The black bean soup is sumptuously comforting, with a subtle and smoky warmth from the chipotle and ancho chillies, and it tastes extremely good with a dollop of soured cream and some of the chilli baked feta on top. Comer con gusto!

chilli baked feta

Chilli baked feta

Serves 6

500g feta cheese
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
half tsp dried oregano
10 sprigs fresh thyme
2 chillies de arbol, chopped
juice and zest of 1 lime
120ml extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 180 C / gas mark 4.

Drain and slice the feta and place in an earthenware dish large enough to take the cheese in a single layer.

Sprinkle the garlic, herbs and chillies over the top of the feta, together with the lime juice and zest. Then pour over the olive oil.

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until the cheese is soft and squishy and smelling heavenly. Serve with crusty bread and black bean soup.

black bean soup

Black bean soup

Serves 6

25g butter
1 tbsp olive oil
half an onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
2 bay leaves
2 plum tomatoes, chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
3 tsp chipotle sauce
500g tin cooked black beans
salt and pepper
1 litre vegetable stock
juice of 1 lime
3 tbsp ancho chillies, crumbled
small bunch of coriander,  chopped
150ml sour cream

Heat the butter and oil in a heavy-bottomed pan and when it starts to foam add the onion and herbs. Sweat gently for 10 minutes until the onion is soft.

Add the tomatoes,  garlic and chipotle sauce and cook gently for 5 minutes before adding the black beans. Cook for a few minutes before adding the stock and lime juice. Then simmer gently for 10 to 15 minutes.

When cooked, whiz it up with a stick blender. Don’t go at it for too long as you want this soup to have a bit of texture.

In a small frying pan, dry roast the ancho chillies for a few minutes until they start to smoke and then remove from the heat.

Pour the soup into six warmed bowls and scatter over a little of your chilli baked feta with some chopped coriander, crumbled ancho chillies and a spoonful of soured cream.

cooking with herbsspice trail badge square

I’m entering these dishes into my Spice Trail challenge, which this month is heading to Mexico in search of delicious delights, and also into Cooking With Herbs hosted by Karen at Lavender & Lovage as they feature fresh coriander and dried oregano.

Nettle soup

nettle soup

Usually when I take my children out foraging with me, they like to muck in and tend to eat half our booty before we get anywhere near home.woods

But not this time. No, the idea of harvesting stinging nettles from the woods near our home last weekend really did not appeal to my little ones, who preferred instead to build a den and climb trees. Quite sensible really. So their eccentric mother was left on her own to gather the nettles, protected of course by a pair of thick gloves.

nettles

This was the first time I’ve attempted nettle soup. The idea of making a meal from a free and plentiful plant, almost as abundant in the town as it is in the country and generally considered a weed, has always appealed. And this is the time of year to bag your nettles, early spring. The fresh, young growth is the crop you want. By the end of April, nettles start to get a bit tough and are definitely best eaten before they flower in May. Aim for the young shoots and tips of the plants.

As I was harvesting my nettles, with the welcome and much-needed rays of spring sunshine on my back, I was surprised at just how fragrant the plant is, quite floral and herb-like. If it weren’t for that pesky sting, I’m sure nettles would be insanely popular.

I must admit though, their smell does alter a little on cooking. As I dished up, my husband frowned and sniffed, and asked whether there was anything fishy in the soup. I shook my head and told him he must be imagining things; I didn’t want to put him off more than he already was. But I must admit there was the slightest fishy whiff. Please don’t let that put you off. The soup is delicious, with a deep flavour similar to spinach, but more earthy and greener somehow. And there is not the slightest hint of a sting, I promise. As soon as the spinach hits hot liquid, the sting disappears.

I was pleasantly surprised my lot took to nettle soup so well; definitely one to make again.

nettle soup2 web

Nettle Soup

half a carrier bag of nettle tops
1 tbsp olive oil
knob of butter
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 leeks, washed and sliced
1 large potato, peeled and diced
2 celery sticks, sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 litre vegetable stock
salt and pepper
yoghurt or double cream to serve

Fill your sink with water and, wearing rubber gloves, thoroughly wash the nettles and get rid of any tougher stalks and unwanted creepy crawlies.

Gently heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan and add the onion, leeks, potato and celery. Cook for around 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, to soften the vegetables.

Add the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes before pouring in the stock. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 to 15 minutes until the potato is tender.

Add the nettles to the pan and stir into the soup as they wilt. Simmer for a few minutes and then blend in a food processor or with a hand blender.

Season with salt and pepper and serve in bowls topped with a dollop of yoghurt of a drizzle of cream.

no+croutons+required

I’m entering my nettle soup into No Croutons Required, the monthly vegetarian soup and salad challenge hosted jointly between Jacqueline from Tinned Tomatoes and Lisa from Lisa’s Kitchen.

SimpleinSeason

And as it’s very much a springtime soup, I’m also entering it into Ren Behan’s Simple and in Season challenge, which this month is being guest hosted by Michelle at Utterly Scrummy.

Roast garlic and butter bean soup

butterbean and garlic soup2 web

Working as I do in an office with others, I wonder sometimes whether I should eat as much garlic as I do. Don’t get me wrong. Nobody’s actually said, or hinted at, anything to do with garlicky aromas. Not unless their hints have been far too subtle for me to pick up.

But, considering the amount of garlic I cook with and eat, some scent of last night’s dinner must surely remain the next morning? A friend told me a while back not to worry about it. Her theory was that if you eat garlic all the time, your body is accustomed to it and so then you won’t smell of it. If you don’t eat it all that often though, on the occasions when you do, the scent tends to linger.

I have no idea if that theory is true or not but I was happy to go with it until a friend told me this week of her personal concerns about eating garlic. The other kids at school wouldn’t sit next to her, you see, because she smelled of garlic, and yet her mum apparently cooked with garlic all the time.

Perhaps it was simply because garlic was so much more unusual back then? Everyone cooks with garlic today, don’t they? And so here we all are, happily munching on garlic and smelling of garlic together, while the exceptions among us are much too polite to mention the stench.

Even if someone did say something though, I’m not sure I could ever give up my garlic habit. That would mean no more roasted garlic, a staple whenever we make a roast dinner, and also the star of this fantastically simple soup.

Made in a matter of minutes and with just a handful of ingredients, the garlic shines through as the star of the show and, because it is roasted, the garlic is much less pungent and instead takes on a much milder and beautifully sweet and earthy flavour.

garlic butterbean soup

Roast garlic and butter bean soup

Serves 6

1 head of garlic
olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
2 x 400g tins of butter beans, drained
1 litre vegetable stock
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 / 200° Celsius.

Place the garlic head on a large piece of tin foil and drizzle with a little olive oil. Wrap loosely and place on a tray in the oven. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes until the garlic cloves are squishy. Allow to cool a little.

In a large saucepan, heat a little more olive oil over a gentle heat and fry the onion until soft and translucent.

Simply add the butter beans and stock. Squeeze the gorgeously gooey garlic from the skins into the pan and puree it all into a soup with a hand blender or in a processor. Taste and season with salt and pepper if required.

That’s all there is to it. Serve with fresh bread and cheese or cold meats for a super easy lunch or light supper. And maybe take a packet of mints out with you tomorrow.

But if you’re like me, I really wouldn’t worry about it.

This article was first published in the Wells Journal on 13 March 2014.

Chicken soup with rice

I started writing this post about a week ago. Then it got put on hold as life, or rather death, got in the way.

Normally I wouldn’t write about very personal things on this blog; it’s a food blog after all, and people come here for food. But it just felt wrong to publish a new post without marking or acknowledging in some way the passing of my mother-in-law Judith who taught me so much about food.

Judith died last Wednesday and will leave a huge hole in our family in so many ways. She’s the one who taught me the trick to Aga rice, and showed me how easy it is to make soup – I recall the revelatory feeling when during one of our family holidays in France she took one look at what I thought was a sad collection of leftover vegetables and transformed them, with the ease which comes from family cooking for many years, into a truly delicious soup. So this is what proper cooking is really about, I remember thinking.

After my first Sunday lunch at Judith’s house, meat and two veg were never the same again. It is from eating well at Judith’s table that my own values around food developed – the importance of eating as a family, buying the best ingredients you can afford and eating seasonal and locally produced or reared produce whenever you can.

The last time I saw Judith in hospital I told her about having just seen Claudia Roden at the Bath Literature Festival. I was as excited as a school girl. Of course, it turned out that Judith and her husband Tom are actually old friends of hers. I wasn’t surprised.

There is so much more to tell you about Judith. Her family, her career, her art, her love of the countryside and of walking. But this isn’t the right place for a eulogy, people come here to hear about food. So here is the post I started last week.

* * *

chicken soup with rice

There’s been a fair bit of illness in our house in recent months. The girls still have stubborn coughs they can’t shake off. It’s easy to tell when my daughters are genuinely unwell, as they normally have such insatiable appetites, my oldest daughter Jessie in particular. When they say they’re not hungry, you know something’s wrong.

This chicken soup with rice though was one of the few things that did go down well with both girls. My aunt shared some of her tips with me for feeding poorly babies over on Facebook and her suggestion of adding soy sauce and fish sauce to a simple chicken broth provided just the savoury combination of flavours to appeal to wonky tastebuds.

It might also have helped that Jessie has been on at me for ages to make chicken soup with rice. One of our favourite albums to play on car journeys is Really Rosie, Carole King’s brilliant soundtrack from 1975 for an animated short film based on stories by Maurice Sendak, including the fantastic The Sign on Rosie’s Door. There are so many great tracks on this album from the alphabet song Alligators All Around and the counting tune One Was Johnny to the deliciously comical cautionary tale of Pierre, a little boy who finally learns to care when he is eaten by a lion.

Not surprisingly, with our family fascination with food, Chicken Soup with Rice, a song to teach the months of the year, is the one we all love most.

Catchy, hey?

Ideal for using up Sunday lunch leftovers, this simple soup can be made in a matter of minutes from cold roast chicken and homemade stock. And if you don’t have homemade stock, use a really good quality chicken stock cube.

chicken soup with rice

Chicken soup with rice

Serves 4

1 tbsp sunflower oil
4 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced
150g basmati rice
1.5 litres chicken stock
½ tbsp light soy sauce
½ tbsp fish sauce
120g cooked chicken, shredded
2 handfuls frozen peas

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and gently fry the spring onions for a couple of minutes to soften.

Stir in the rice and cover with the chicken stock. Add the soy sauce, fish sauce and shredded chicken and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook for 10 minutes until the rice is soft.

Add the frozen peas, bring back to a simmer and cook for a couple more minutes. Serve with love.

chicken soup with rice

This is such a quick and easy dish to prepare, I’m entering it into this month’s Family Foodies challenge which I host with Louisa at Eat Your Veg. The theme this month is Fab Fast Food.

family-foodies

Beef broth with rice and vegetables

beef broth

While we all love to experiment in the kitchen, every cook has their favourite ingredients they use again and again in their meals. My usual suspects include garlic, chilli sauce, cream cheese and that Great British favourite, Worcestershire sauce.

I love the way Worcestershire sauce gives a comfortingly rich yet suitably spicy note to all your family staples. It makes a regular appearance in our cottage pies, casseroles and Bolognese sauces. But this is the first time I’ve tried it in a broth and it didn’t disappoint. Together with the soy sauce and beef stock, it creates a gorgeous, deeply meaty broth, just perfect with the tender slices of beef steak, crunchy vegetables and soft rice.

beef broth

This dish was a winner with all the family, although I suspect my husband felt it would benefit from the addition of a little sliced chilli, but then he thinks that about most things I serve up. And it also tasted very good the next day when I heated up a pot in the office microwave for my lunch.

Beef broth with rice and vegetables

1 large sirloin or rump steak
vegetable oil
black pepper
1 litre beef stock
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce, and a little more for frying the steak
1 tbsp light soy sauce
4 spring onions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 carrots, peeled and cut into thin batons
half a butternut squash, peeled and cut into thin batons
120g basmati rice, rinsed
large bunch of fresh parsley, roughly chopped

Heat a large frying pan. Brush the steak with a little vegetable oil and season with black pepper. Fry over a high heat for around 3 minutes on each side, shaking over a few drops of Worcestershire sauce as it cooks. Leave to rest on a warm plate.

Pour the stock into a large saucepan and heat. Add 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce and one of soy sauce, and throw in the spring onions, garlic, carrot, butternut squash and rice. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook gently for around 10 minutes.

Divide the broth between 4 bowls. Thinly slice the steak and place on top of the broth.  Garnish with chopped parsley and serve immediately.

beef broth

If you’d like some more ideas on how to use Worcestershire sauce in your cookery, you should take a look at Lea & Perrins’ YouTube channel. They have created a series of recipe videos with British YouTubers Sorted Food, bringing all kinds of twists to classic family dishes, such as spaghetti Bolognese and cheese on toast.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Lea & Perrins.

Winter minestrone with pancetta

minestrone

This article was first published in my Eat the Season column in the Wells Journal on 16 January 2014.

I am rather partial to a big bowl of minestrone. It’s such a versatile soup and lends itself brilliantly to whatever vegetables are in season.

During the summer months I like to make minestrone using produce straight from our small veg patch – ingredients like peas, beans, asparagus and lots of lovely fresh herbs, such as basil, oregano or mint. It makes for a wonderfully light and crunchy dish, especially when you serve with a spoonful of pesto on top. And there’s something rather virtuous and wholesome about cooking up a pot of soup from things you’ve grown yourself. I come over all Barbara from The Good Life.

But winter minestrone is quite a different affair; much more comforting and satisfying. It transforms what can seem quite dreary winter vegetables into a fine meal, and succeeds in persuading my youngest daughter to actually enjoy leafy greens.

Everyone tends to have their own way of making minestrone. Some add rice or pasta, others don’t. Common ingredients usually include beans, onion, celery, carrot and tomato.

Minestrone of course hails originally from Italy. Almost every Italian region has its own version, which varies from a thick, mushy soup to something more like a broth with lightly cooked vegetables and sometimes meat too, such as sausage or bacon.

This is my recipe for winter minestrone, featuring pancetta for a rich, smoky flavour. I’ve also used the tiny, rice-shaped pasta, orzo, but feel free to substitute with rice or any other small pasta or even broken spaghetti.

winter minestrone

Winter minestrone with pancetta

Serves 6

2 tbsp olive oil
260g pancetta, diced
1 onion, peeled and diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
2 sticks of celery, diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
250g root vegetables, diced (I used swede and celeriac)
400g tin plum tomatoes, chopped
250g winter greens, finely shredded (I used Swiss chard and curly kale)
handful fresh thyme, picked from the stem
1 litre hot chicken or vegetable stock
2 large handfuls orzo
salt and pepper
Parmesan to serve

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and slowly fry the pancetta, onion, carrot and celery until soft.

Add the garlic and root vegetables and continue to cook while stirring to prevent sticking.

Stir in the chopped tomatoes and cook for about 5 minutes until they have reduced a little.

Add the winter greens, thyme and the hot stock, and bring to the boil. Simmer gently for 20 minutes.

Add the orzo and cook for another 10 minutes or so until the pasta is tender. Season to taste.

Serve hot with freshly grated Parmesan.

fsf-winter

 

As the soup is packed full of healthy vegetables, I’m entering it into January’s Four Seasons Food challenge, hosted by Eat Your Veg and Delicieux, where the theme this month is Virtuous Food. I reckon you can eat a bowlful of this minestrone and feel very virtuous indeed!

Roast cauliflower cheese soup

Roast Cauliflower Cheese Soup Collage

Everyone seems to be roasting their cauliflowers at the moment, so here I am getting in on the act. Roasting cauliflower gives it the most beautifully deep flavour, which works a treat with the smoky paprika and tasty cheeses I’ve used in this soup. I opted for a couple of different cheeses; a mature Cheddar and a tangy Lancashire cheese – two of my favourites, but you can experiment with any strong, hard cheese.

It might not be the prettiest bowlful, but all my family love this soup. The ingredients are simple yet it tastes rich and luxurious. And it’s an ideal way of encouraging people who don’t usually appreciate cauliflower to give it a try.

roast cauliflower cheese soup

Roast cauliflower cheese soup

1 small onion, peeled and quartered
1 cauliflower, trimmed and broken into florets
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp smoked paprika
500ml hot vegetable stock
200g hard cheese (I used Cheddar and Lancashire), grated
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 200°C / gas mark 6

Place the onion quarters and cauliflower florets into a roasting tin. Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle over the paprika. Mix with your hands to make sure the onion and cauliflower are well covered. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes, until the cauliflower is browned.

Pour the hot stock into a large pan and add the cauliflower and onion. Bring to a simmer and cook for around 10 minutes.

Take the pan off the heat and stir in the grated cheese. Use a hand blender to puree until smooth. Taste and season if required.

spice trail badge squarefamily-foodiesno+croutons+requiredssbadge300cheesepleaseI am entering this soup into the following challenges: The Spice Trail (hosted by me), where the theme this month is paprika; Family Foodies (hosted by me and Eat Your Veg) where the theme is hidden goodies; No Croutons Required (hosted by Lisa’s Kitchen and Tinned Tomatoes);  Cheese Please! (hosted by Fromage Homage) where it’s all about Comfort Food & Winter Warmers; and Simple and in Season (hosted by Ren Behan).

Virgin Bloody Mary soup – a recipe for Live Below the Line

virgin bloody mary soup

When Save the Children first invited me to contribute some frugal recipes for the Live Below the Line challenge, I knew immediately I had to get involved. Trying to eat good food on a budget is what I’m all about after all. But as soon as I started pulling together possible recipe ideas, it dawned on me this was going to be really rather difficult.

People taking part in Live Below the Line are getting sponsored to live below the poverty line on a measly £1 a day for five days from Monday 29 April to Friday 3 May. That’s just £1 for all their food and drink. No foraging or gifts allowed. £1 wouldn’t buy you a cup of coffee in your average cafe. It’s harsh, but it’s also the reality 1.4 billion people around the world wake up to each and every day.

Everyone taking part in Live Below the Line for Save the Children will be doing their bit to raise awareness of the plight of people facing extreme food poverty, while raising vital funds to help change the lives of vulnerable children everywhere.

Save the Children has challenged food bloggers to devise dishes that cost less than 40p to make from scratch. Every single ingredient has to be costed; every grind of salt and every splash of oil.

As I was thinking up ideas, it quickly became painfully clear just how difficult it is to eat well on such a low budget. Fresh vegetables and meat are practically out of reach, making tinned and frozen foods so much more attractive. While sliced, white bread might offer virtually no nutritional value, it does has the advantage of being cheap, and fills you up for a short time at least.

If you’re going to try to eat anything vaguely tasty or interesting while on the Live Below the Line challenge, as opposed to surviving solely on beans on toast, it pays to cook in bulk to get your money’s worth. Team up with others as it’s pretty much impossible to cook cheaply for one. And plan your meals. For instance, to get the cheapest onions you need to buy a big bag of them. So then you need to plan a whole list of meals to make sure you get your money’s worth. That’s why the three dishes I’ve come up with for Live Below the Line all revolve around onions, oil, garlic and spices to make sure I made the most of them.

Coming in at just under 34p a serving, the first of my dishes is a spicy tomato and red pepper soup, flavoured with celery, Worcester sauce and hot pepper sauce rather like a Bloody Mary, but alas without the Vodka. You really couldn’t sneak that in on this budget! I did intend to use Tabasco but found I couldn’t afford that either, so had to find a cheaper alternative. The soup is served with crispy garlic croutons, which I reckon is a pretty good use of cheap white bread, and helps bulk it out.

virgin bloody mary soup

Virgin Bloody Mary soup with garlic croutons

Serves 4

1 tbsp vegetable oil (15ml)
ASDA sunflower oil £3 for 3 litres = 1.5p

1 onion, chopped (around 100g)
ASDA Smartprice brown onions £1.16 for 2kg = 5.8p

1 celery stick, sliced (around 35g)
ASDA celery sticks £1 for 350g = 10p

1 red pepper, chopped
ASDA red pepper = 40p

1 400g tin chopped tomatoes
ASDA Smartprice chopped tomatoes 400g = 31p

500ml vegetable stock (made from one stock cube)
ASDA Chosen By You vegetable stock cubes 12 for 78p = 6.5p

Dash Worcester sauce (5ml)
ASDA Lea & Perrins £2.16 for 290ml = 3.72p

Dash hot pepper sauce (5ml)
Tesco Frank’s Red Hot Cayenne Pepper Sauce Original 148ml for £1.00 = 3.37p

Salt (2g)
ASDA Table Salt 29p for 750g = 0.07p

Pepper (1g)
ASDA Smartprice Ground Black Pepper 25g for 20p = 0.8p

2 tbsp olive / vegetable oil (30ml)
ASDA olive oil £1.98 for 500ml = 11.88p

4 slices white bread, cubed
ASDA Smartprice medium sliced white bread 50p for 22 slices = 9.09p

3 cloves garlic, crushed
ASDA loose garlic 30p for approx. 8 cloves = 11.25p

Total cost = £1.35. Cost per serving = 34p.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large pan and cook the onion, celery and red pepper until soft. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and vegetable stock. Add a dash of Worcester sauce and hot pepper sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste. Leave to simmer gently for 10 to 15 minutes while you get on with the croutons.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive or vegetable oil in a frying pan and gently fry the garlic until it has just turned golden. Throw in the cubed bread and stir well so all the pieces are coated in oil. Turn the bread out onto a baking tray and cook in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes. When the croutons are looking crispy on the top, use a spatula to turn them over and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes depending on how just how dry and crunchy you like them.

When the soup is cooked, blend in a liquidiser until you achieve a fairly smooth consistency but not completely – it’s good to have a little texture. Serve in bowls and sprinkle a handful of garlic croutons on each. Grub’s up!

virgin bloody mary soup

As this dish is so utterly cheap and cheerful, I’m entering it into April’s Credit Crunch Munch, a wonderful blog challenge celebrating the very best in fantastically frugal food. This month it is co-hosted by Helen from Fuss Free Flavours and Camilla from Fab Food 4 All.

Credit-Crunch-Munch-Just-Pic

Round Up: March’s Recipes for Life Challenge

Beetroot, carrots and cheese. Those were the three ingredients selected by the cookery club at SWALLOW for this month’s Recipes for Life challenge. And they did indeed present quite a challenge.

But I should have known I could rely on you food bloggers to deliver the goods. We received a surprisingly diverse range of recipes this month, showing just how versatile these humble ingredients can be…

Sarah from The Garden Deli got the ball rolling with this sumptuous Carrot and Beetroot Soup with Cheesy Croutons. Featuring garlic and cumin, this beautiful soup is a proper winter warmer and I love the croutons for dunking topped with one of my favourite cheeses, Wensleydale.

I experimented with some Beetroot and Carrot Pancakes for my first entry and, while they tasted pretty good – particularly with the herby mascarpone on the side – I was a bit disappointed the pancakes didn’t turn out pink like the batter!

Last month’s challenge winner, Chez Foti came up with this fantastic Roasted Roots and an Easy Roasted Roots Pizza. Louisa’s dish brings together sensational seasonal roasted root vegetables on top of a quick and easy wholemeal scone pizza base, not forgetting lots of lovely mozzarella. Yum!

Helen from The Crazy Kitchen really did go crazy with not one, not two, but three entries for Recipes for Life. Anyone who was stumped by the three set ingredients this month – look and learn! First up were these incredible Baked Cheesy Meatballs with Beetroot Sauce. Now don’t they look good? And a crafty way to sneak vegetables into unsuspecting children…

Another fiendishly clever way of disguising veggies comes in this gorgeous Two-of-your-five-a-day Chocolate Cake – the second entry from Helen at The Crazy Kitchen. “It’s sooooo good!” was the verdict of Helen’s 10-year-old, beetroot-hating daughter! Say no more!


There’s been a lot of talk on Twitter and food blogs recently about the 5:2 diet. So much so, my husband and I are both giving it a go. This Beetroot, Carrot and Cottage Cheese Salad, the final entry from The Crazy Kitchen’s Helen would definitely make a delicious lunch for a 5:2 fasting day and I plan to give it a try very soon.

I love the look of this Roasted Vegetable and Goat’s Cheese Risotto from Under The Blue Gum Tree. It sounds so simple to make but you just know it’s going to be absolutely packed full of flavour, with the gorgeous creaminess of the goat’s cheese a perfect partner for the earthiness of the root vegetables.

I wish I could bring you pictures of this Beetroot, Carrot and Goat’s Cheese Tatin from Martin at The Tempest Arms as it sounds simply divine and should look stunning. But I promise to make it very, very soon and I will post photos when I do.

Meeting the lovely Choclette from Chocolate Log Blog was one of my highlights from the Bristol Blog Summit earlier this month, which also gave me the perfect opportunity to persuade her to enter Recipes for Life. She promised she’d try, and I was very pleased to see she was true to her word with these ingenious Beetroot, Carrot and Goat’s Cheese Muffins. As with all Choclette’s recipes, there’s some chocolate in there, as well as a little kick from a touch of cayenne pepper. I look forward to trying them out.

This is a dish we eat quite a lot in our house, so I just had to enter it – my Beetroot, Carrot and Feta Cheese Salad. It’s ever so simple and ever so tasty, and a great way to create a summery-feeling salad with winter vegetables.

The final entry came in at the very last minute but I was so glad to see it – a Carrot and Beetroot Cake with a Cream Cheese Topping from Lucy at The Bell Inn. Again I sadly don’t have photos of this one but when you read the recipe you just know it’s going to taste good and I absolutely adore beetroot and carrot in cakes. Another one to try very soon.

But of course, what you’re waiting to hear is who did the SWALLOW cookery club choose as this month’s winner? Well, Lucy at The Bell Inn came a very close second with her Carrot and Beetroot Cake but first place goes to… Helen from the Crazy Kitchen for her scrumptious Baked Cheesy Meatballs with Beetroot Sauce. The group said they particularly liked the sound of the oozy cheese in the middle of the meatballs. Me too!

So a huge congratulations to Helen for her well deserved win – a small prize will be arriving in the mail very soon. Thank you so much to everyone who entered their wonderful recipes this month, and watch this space for the next set of three ingredients for April’s Recipes for Life challenge.

Celeriac soup with Shropshire Blue and a hint of chilli

Celeriac isn’t the prettiest of vegetables but you should never judge a book by its cover as they say. Despite it looking like a close-up of an insect under a microscope (as someone described it recently over on my Facebook page), I tend to get very excited when I discover one in our weekly veg box.

It’s wonderful simply boiled and mashed with a little butter, in a gratin with potatoes and lots of cream and garlic, or grated raw in an Ottolenghi-style root vegetable salad. I reckon it’s one of the most versatile vegetables around.

But my personal favourite is to partner celeriac with some kind of blue cheese in a soup. The mellow earthy, nutty flavour works so well with the tang of a good blue cheese. Stilton is always popular but I prefer a Shropshire Blue, which isn’t quite so in-your-face and gives the soup a wonderful orangey colour.

For a little extra kick, I do rather like to add a little chilli too, although I generally leave this out when I’m making it for the children. But as I cooked this last week for just me and my husband, the chilli was most definitely in, helping to boost the central heating on a wet, chilly day.

Celeriac soup with Shropshire Blue and a hint of chilli

2 tbsp olive oil
knob of butter
1 onion, peeled, and chopped
500g celeriac, peeled and diced
1 small red chilli, finely chopped
1 litre hot vegetable stock
120g Blue Shropshire cheese

Heat the oil and butter in a large pan and gently sweat the onion until soft.

Add the celeriac and cook a little, making sure the pieces get a good coating of butter and oil.

Throw in the chopped chilli and fry for a couple more minutes before adding the hot stock. Allow to simmer for around 15 minutes until the celeriac is tender. Cool a little before liquidising to a smooth consistency.

Return the soup to the heat while you crumble in the Blue Shropshire cheese and warm through gently until the cheese has melted. Serve with big hunks of crusty bread. Heaven in a bowl…