Black beans cakes with quinoa and avocado salad

This past week, I’ve been organising. I’m going to be moving from my current house *into an as of yet undecided location* in about a month, so I’ve decided to get a head start on things and start sorting through what I wanted to keep and what I couldn’t be bothered to lug around with me.

Most people will think I’m a bit loopy – I mean, come on, I’ve got a month to do all of this. Where’s the rush?

However, while I completely understand the validity of such a comment, I can’t help it. I’m organised. So sue me.

First to go were the beauty products – you just can’t imagine how many out of date bottles I had in my room and bathroom! I threw away an entire bag of creams and pills and such I couldn’t use anymore and I’m pretty sure I’ve kept some things I’ll never use either.

Second came the papers – you really do accumulate so many useless pieces of paper as a teacher, it’s unbelievable! Those went straight to recycling.

Lastly came my favourite and most hated part of the spring cleaning – getting rid of my old Olive magazines. Because, seriously, those things weigh a ton and I just can’t bring them with me everywhere.

It sucked throwing them away, but it did come to some good – before tossing them, I went through each and every single one to find recipes I’d earmarked and never gotten around to making, cut them all out and put them in a recipe folder. I have now got a BILLION recipes to try.

The first one to catch my eye was from Olive’s latest edition – black bean cakes with quinoa and avocado salad. I love trying new vegetarian options and black beans are one of my favourite beans as well!

They were amazingly easy to make, zingy and tasty, and the quinoa salad had me at the first bite. Can’t say my picture is very flattering, but believe me, you won’t regret this simple, summery vegetarian dinner option!

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Serves 2

Ingredients:

FOR BLACK BEANS CAKES:

400g tin black beans, drained and rinsed

5 spring onion, chopped

1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped

1 tsp ground cumin

Small bunch of coriander, stalks chopped and leaves set aside

5 tbsp breadcrumbs

1 egg, beaten

Coconut oil

FOR SALAD:

1 pack ready cooked quinoa

1/2 avocado, diced

1/4 cucumber, diced

1/2 red pepper, diced

1/2 red onion, diced

1 lemon, 1/2 juiced, 1/2 cut into wedges

1. Heat some coconut oil in a pan over medium heat. Cook spring onion and red chilli until softened, then add cumin and chopped coriander stalks. Cook for a further minute.

2. Put the red chilli and spring onion mix into a bowl with the rinsed black beans, salt and pepper. Using a hand blender, pulse together. Alternatively, you can use a blender. Stir in 5 tbsp of breadcrumbs. Form into 6 small cakes and chill for 20 minutes in the refrigerator.

3. Mix the quinoa with the diced vegetables, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste and set aside to serve.

4. To cook the black bean cakes, heat some coconut oil in a pan. Dip the cakes in the beaten egg then roll in some more breadcrumbs. Fry until golden and heated through.

5. Serve with the quinoa and avocado salad, some coriander leaves and lemon wedges.

6. Enjoy!

PS. The quinoa salad is also delicious on its own!

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Spicy red lentil stew

Think comfort.

Spicy, warm comfort.

This dish is simply perfect for those cold nights where you just want to wrap up in a warm blanket and cosy up inside.

I know I was trying to will the summer on by eating salads, but when it pours outside all day, sometimes you just want to have something to heat up your insides.

One of the best things about this stew? You can make a big batch, freeze a few portions – and presto! A fuss free, healthy meal for one (or two) without having to spend hours in the kitchen waiting for it to cook. Just take it out of the freezer in the morning and heat up in a saucepan (or microwave).

Anyway, try it, savour it, thank me later!

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 onion, chopped

1 carrot, peeled and diced

1 stick of celery, diced

1 clove of garlic, crushed and chopped

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tbsp tomato purée

400g tin chopped tomatoes

200g red split lentils, soaked overnight, rinsed and drained

Salt and pepper, to taste

Coconut oil

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1. Heat some coconut oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot and celery and fry for 5 minutes.

2. Add the garlic, tomato purée, cumin, coriander and cayenne pepper and fry for a further two minutes, while stirring.

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3. Add chopped tomatoes, red lentils and 500ml of water. Season to taste, then simmer over low heat for 30 minutes until sauce has thickened and lentils are cooked.

4. Serve with warm, crusty bread.

5. Enjoy!

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Quick and easy tomato and mascarpone spaghetti

Some days, you just don’t feel like cooking.

I mean, be honest: it happens to the best of us! And, despite my love of cooking (and my best intentions), it happens to me ALL. THE. TIME.

And I have found my easy solution to those lazy days – tomato and mascarpone pasta.

It’s easy: boil water. Add spaghetti. Fry half a chopped onion. Add tomato purée and mascarpone. Mix in with pasta when cooked and drained. Sprinkle over some parmesan. EAT.

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If you’re feeling up for it, dice a cherry tomato or two  to throw into the mix. Adds a bit of freshness.

The great part about this dish: it only takes as long to make as your pasta takes to cook, and it’s still healthy!

I also used wholemeal spaghetti to make it a little healthier – although I must say, I personally really enjoy the taste and extra crunch of wholemeal spaghetti.

Serves 1

Ingredients:

75-100g wholemeal spaghetti

1/2 roughly chopped onion

5-6 cherry tomatoes, diced

1/2 tbsp tomato purée

1 tbsp mascarpone

Salt and pepper to taste

Coconut oil

Parmesan

1. Boil some water in a large pot. When bubbling, add spaghetti.

2. While spaghetti cooks, heat some coconut oil in a small pan over medium heat. When hot, add the chopped onion and cook for a few minutes until soft. Add tomato purée and mascarpone, mixing thoroughly.

3. Drain the spaghetti, then place back in pot. Mix tomato mascarpone sauce in with the spaghetti. Drop in the diced tomato.

4. Plate pasta and sprinkle parmesan on top.

5. Enjoy!

Spinach and ricotta lasagna

Since I tried this dish out for the first time a few years ago, it’s become one of my go-to healthy dishes, and a bit of a comfort food: I mean, seriously, it’s full of spinach (my absolute favourite), ricotta cheese and nutmeg – how could I not love it? Spinach and ricotta are such a beautiful pairing, I love to use them in basically anything: I’ve already posted about quesadillas, a quick and easy dinner solution, but this is my ultimate favourite and a great dinner dish – lasagna.

Plus, this recipe can easily be tweaked using filo pastry to make spinach and ricotta samosas or filo pie, if and when the mood strikes you. Don’t you love two-in-one recipes? 😉

Serves 6

Ingredients:

250g spinach

1 onion, chopped

250g ricotta cheese

100g feta cheese

1/2 tsp nutmeg

6-9 lasagna sheets

Parmesan

Salt

Pepper

Coconut oil

1. Preheat oven to 200° C.

2. Heat some coconut oil in a large pot over medium heat, and fry the chopped onion until translucent and soft. Add the spinach and cook for 5 minutes, until soft. Tip into a sieve and press to remove excess liquid, then put into a bowl and let cool.

3. Mix nutmeg, crumbled feta and ricotta, then stir in with the spinach and onion. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

4. In an ovenproof dish, layer the spinach and ricotta mixture with lasagna sheets, finishing with a ricotta layer. Sprinkle a little parmesan over the top.

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5. Put some aluminium over the dish and put in the oven for 40 minutes. Remove aluminium and bake for a further  10 minutes.

6. Take out of the oven and let cool before serving.

7. Enjoy!

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Roasted sweet potato fajitas

It’s been such a busy weekend with my family visiting me from France so this recipe is a little bit late, but I simply couldn’t deprive you of it.

I LOVE sweet potatoes and this is one of my favorite to-go lunch recipes ever: roasted sweet potato, red onion and red pepper wedges with Mexican spice, crème fraiche, feta cheese and crunchy iceberg lettuce.

It’s perfect, delicious hot or cold, morning or night.

Every time I have it, that’s all I wanted to eat for the next week.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be, but this baby will most definitely be featuring on my Instagram feed regularly over the next few weeks.

Although I adore this fajita recipe as a vegetarian one, it’s also delicious with some spicy and crispy fried chorizo on top for a meaty twist.Your choice, really.

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Serves 2

Ingredients:

1 large sweet potato, washed and cut into wedges

1 red onion, chopped into wedges

1 onion, chopped into wedges

1 red pepper, deseeded and sliced into strips

1 tbsp olive oil

15g fajita or Mexican seasoning

Fresh coriander

Iceberg lettuce, shredded

50g feta cheese

Crème fraiche or sour cream, to serve

4 tortilla wraps

Optional: chorizo

1. Heat oven to 200° C. In a mixing bowl, toss sweet potato, onion, red onion and red pepper wedges with olive oil and spices. Place on a baking tray and roast for 40 minutes, turning halfway through.

2. Warm the wraps as indicated on the packet (or 8-10 minutes, wrapped in tinfoil in the oven).

3. Make fajitas once the vegetables are cooked by placing them in the wraps with a dollop of cream, some chopped coriander, iceberg lettuce and crumbled feta cheese.

IMG_3953For a meatier option, fry some chorizo slices in a pan until crisp while vegetables are baking then add to the fajitas.

4. Enjoy!

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Fancy Croque-madames

As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve had a comfort food kind of weekend, and lunch was no exception: croque-madames have been the lunchtime staple these past few days. These fancy cheese and ham toasties are simply delicious and even better than the original with an egg on top.

Eggs make my day every time.

Now, you may not have heard the term “croque-madame” before, but I’m sure you’re familiar with “croque-monsieur”, which is the French equivalent of fried or grilled cheese and ham sandwiches, often topped with béchamel sauce.

Do you know why we call these Madame (Mrs) instead of Monsieur (Mr)?

Because they have hats.

Egg hats.

I am being dead serious.

And I’m fairly certain this is reason enough to eat these bad boys. I mean, girls. Hmph. You know what I mean.

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Serves 1

Ingredients:

2 slices of wholemeal or sourdough bread

Dijon mustard

Salted butter

50g comté or gruyère cheese, grated

20ml crème fraiche

One or two slices of thinly sliced ham

1 egg

1. Spread a little Dijon mustard on each slice of bread, to taste. Make a sandwich with half the cheese and the ham.

2. Spread the outside of the sandwich with butter.

3. In a pan over medium heat, fry the sandwich on both sides until both of these are crisp and brown. Meanwhile, mix in creme fraiche with the rest of the grated cheese.

4. Turn on the grill. Spread the cheese and cream mixture on the top of your sandwich then place under the grill until the cheese bubbles. Place sandwich on a plate.

5. In the same pan you used to fry the croque-monsieur (or separate pan, as you wish), fry the egg. When it’s cooked, season and place on top of sandwich to finish your croque-madame.

6. Serve with a fresh salad.

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7. Enjoy!

Mushroom and tarragon lasagna

This weekend has been such a chilled-out couple of days.

I woke up late both days and studied Spanish and German at home in my pjs with a pot of tea and some music in the background. Worked on some lesson plans.

Did a little exercise.

Took a long walk in the sun.

IMG_3834Held an owl (literally, my friends). Say hello to Gandalf, isn’t he a beaut?

Ate some comfort food.

It was just that kind of weekend. 

I had dinner with my housemate Saturday evening. She cooked my sweet potato dauphinoise for us, which was, as always, a delight, especially with a light salad on the side and a small glass of Bordeaux wine.

IMG_3824Lunch was Croque-madames – if you’re not aware, these are simply the most delicious and elegant French alternative to a cheese and ham toastie, and a definite childhood favorite of mine. I’ll be posting the recipe tomorrow.

Dinner  yesterday was another Olive magazine recipe: mushroom and tarragon lasagna. When I saw the recipe in the magazine, I knew I had to try it. I’m always looking for healthy and delicious vegetable lasagna recipes, and tarragon is by far one of my favorite herbs, although I don’t often get the opportunity to cook with it.

The recipe is fairly easy to do, apart from the béchamel sauce, which I’d advise being careful with: I’m always tentative with these types of sauces, as they can easily split. The trick here is to incorporate the milk very slowly, little by little. My first attempt was completely botched! However, the lasagna is well worth the effort. Thanks for another delicious recipe, Olive!

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Serves 2

Ingredients:

250g chestnut mushrooms

2 shallots, finely chopped

25g tarragon, stems removed and finely chopped

Butter, unsalted

1tbsp flour

250ml milk

100g mascarpone

6 lasagna sheets

Parmesan (1 to 2 tbsp)

Salt

Pepper

1. Heat a pan over medium heat and melt some butter or coconut oil. Fry the finely chopped shallots until soft. Add the chopped mushrooms with a knob of butter and turn the gently so as to coat them all.

2. When the mushrooms are cooked, turn up the heat a little and let the liquid they’ve given out bubble out before adding the chopped tarragon. Set aside.

3. In a small pot, melt 1 tbsp of butter, being careful not to let it brown. Add 1 tbsp of flour and stir until well incorporated. Add the milk little by little, stirring continuously and letting the mixture thicken. When all the milk has been incorporated, season before stirring in the mascarpone (use a whisk if necessary to avoid any lumps). Fold sauce into the mushrooms.

4. Pre-heat your oven to 180° Celsius. In an oven-proof dish, layer the mushrooms mixture and lasagna sheets so as to form about three layers, finishing with a layer of white sauce. Sprinkle the parmesan over the top.

5. Cover the dish with a tent of foil and bake for 45 minutes in the oven. Remove the tinfoil and bake for a further ten minutes to brown the top.

6. Serve with a fresh salad.

7. Enjoy!

Baked sweet potato with feta chipotle cream and chorizo

One of my favourite moments every month is receiving my Olive magazine, a foodie magazine featuring delicious recipes as well as restaurant and travel features. I particularly love the “Healthy choices” and “Weeknight simple” recipe categories, the latter one from which I took this beautiful recipes.

Baked sweet potatoes are always a delicious choice, but these toppings absolutely blew my mind: the feta chipotle cream goes beautifully with the SP and it’s a nice change from my usual homemade sour cream and chives. The chorizo, meanwhile adds a lovely kick and smells so delicious while it fries that you’d want to eat all of it by itself – but you should definitely wait, it is so worth it!

The original recipe calls for pickled jalapeños and sour cream, but I added my own twist by using crème fraiche instead of sour cream and chipotle paste instead of the jalapeños. I absolutely LOVE chipotle paste and I happened to have some left over 😉 thought I’d be clever in using up my ingredients.

I’ve already planned all of my meals for the week but I’m pretty sure I’m going to end up having this every day for the next few days. Because mm mm mmm was this delicious.

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Serves 2

Ingredients:

2 sweet potatoes, washed

60ml crème fraiche

30g feta cheese, crumbled

1 tbsp freshly chopped coriander

1/2 tsp chipotle paste

100g chorizo, cut into thin slices

Watercress or baby spinach leaves to serve

1. Preheat oven to 200° Celsius.

2. After having washed the sweet potatoes, dry them and pierce on all sides with a fork. Place on a baking tray in the oven for approximately 40 minutes.

3. While the sweet potatoes are baking, mix together crème fraiche and feta, making as smooth a mixture as you can – if possible, use a blender. Then, add coriander and chipotle paste and set aside.

4. In a dry frying pan, fry the chorizo until crisp.

5. When the potatoes are tender, place on a plate and split in half. Divide the feta chipotle cream between both, then sprinkle on the chorizo slices. Serve with fresh salad leaves (I used a mixture of watercress, rocket and spinach).

6. Enjoy!

Chickpea, kale and spinach curry

Third in my list of recent Indian-inspired dishes, and continuing in my vegetarian stride: here’s a simple version of Chana Saag, chickpea and spinach curry, inspired by Hungry Desi.

I love vegetarian dishes which use legumes (beans, lentils, peas) as one of their main ingredients and really provide a filling and nutritional alternative to meat by packing a good protein punch. I also love using spinach, my favourite leafy green and a nutritional powerhouse – 100g alone provide you with 25% of your daily needs in iron, 47% of your daily vitamin C needs and more than four times your daily needs in vitamin K!

I’ve also used a little kale, which has amazing benefits as well – it fit in perfectly with the rest of the dish and tasted, as always, delicious!

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Serves 4

Ingredients:

150g spinach, washed leaves

100g kale

1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 can of chickpeas

1/2 teaspoon dry ginger powder

1 teaspoon coriander powder

1/2 teaspoon fennel

1/4 teaspoon cumin powder

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon garam masala

1 tablespoon tomato puree

1 can chopped tomatoes

Salt

Coconut oil

1. Heat 1 tablespoon of coconut oil in a large pot. Add the spinach and kale leaves and salt. Cook for about 5 minutes, breaking down the greens until wilted and pulped but some liquid remains. Remove to a separate bowl.

2. Heat 1 more tablespoon of coconut oil in the same pot. Add the cumin seeds and fry for 1-2 minutes until they sizzle.  Add the chickpeas and a little more salt salt.

3. Remove from heat and add the ground spices.

4. Return to heat and mix in the tomato puree and canned tomatoes. Cook for 1-2 minutes and then add 1 1/2 cups water. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes.

5. Add the greens and cook for another 5-10 minutes on low heat.

6. Taste and adjust salt and chili as needed. Serve hot with naan, raita and rice.

7. Enjoy!

Roasted fennel and tomatoes

Everybody seems to be cooking fennel these days, so here I am, jumping on the bandwagon with this beautifully simple recipe from my grandmother: roasted fennel and tomatoes.

Up to a few weeks ago, I don’t believe I’d ever had roasted fennel before; I mainly remember eating fennel raw, in sandwiches or salads. I had a delicious fennel salad in Rome last summer, with black olives, orange and rocket and a tangy olive oil and orange dressing, and have fond memories of eating the most amazing homemade sandwiches on the Amalfi coast: fresh mozzarella, slices of tomato and raw fennel, fresh floury Italian rolls soaked with extra-virgin olive oil; just add a cool breeze, the sun shining on my skin & a good view and I’m in heaven.

In any case, eating cooked fennel was a revelation: this recipe is simplicity itself and tastes so good you won’t even believe it. Three ingredients are needed: fennel, tomatoes and extra-virgin olive oil. Put the lot in the oven, wait a little while and enjoy! For those of you who aren’t the biggest fans of the liquorice-like taste of fennel, you’ll be glad to know that cooking this vegetable definitely tones this flavour down, bringing out much softer tones.

A really lovely dish, tasty and so easy to make! My grandmother likes to have it as a side dish, with a piece of baked fish and some rice, but I can picture this as a vegetarian main, with some butter beans added in for good measure (and a bit of a carb and protein boost). How will you choose to eat it?

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Serves 2

Ingredients:

1 bulb fennel, fronds cut off and kept aside

1-2 tomatoes

Olive oil

Salt

Pepper

IMG_37911. Preheat oven to 190° C.

2. Cut fennel and tomatoes into halves, then into wedges.  Place vegetable wedges into an oven-proof dish. Cover in some olive oil, a little salt and pepper.

3. Cook in the oven for 35-45 minutes or until fennel is tender, turning over halfway through.

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4. Serves hot with rice and a fillet of fish, or with some beans. Sprinkle the fennel fronds on top.

5. Enjoy!