When I first moved to England, I was mystified by the presence of watercress on the shelves alongside more common salad greens like spinach, “baby leaves” and arugula (“rocket”, that is). It’s available all year round, though it’s at its best April through September.
Still, even when watercress is at its prime, I have a hard time dealing with it raw – it’s flavour is bitter, slightly peppery, which I often find overpowering when served in a salad or as a garnish. So I’ve been exploring watercress’s other uses, treating it more as an herb, and in the process have discovered some great ways to use this pungent green outside of the salad bowl.
The sweet peas and refreshing mint in this recipe balance the peppery watercress, and it’s super delicious garnished with croutons, toasted seeds, or a hard boiled egg (or all of the above!).
This soup requires a blender – I use a Froothie power blender which blitzes even the toughest of pea membranes and watercress stems into a fine puree. If you are working with a stick blender or something less powerful, you can strain out any stray solids after blend it to get a silky smooth and luxurious soup. Enjoy!
Minted Pea and Watercress Soup
1 bunch of watercress, large (washed)
800ml of vegetable stock
30ml of sunflower oil or olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 potato, cubed
1 bunch of fresh mint, roughly chopped
400g of shelled peas, fresh or frozen
Coarsely chop the watercress, stalks and all, and place in a small saucepan with the stock. Bring to a simmer for 5 minutes, then remove from the heat and leave to infuse
Heat the oil in a large pan and add the onion. Cook on a low heat until softened but not coloured. Add the potato, stir, cover and cook until soft. Add the mint, peas and infused stock and watercress. Season and simmer for 2 minutes
Place the soup in a blender and purée, then return the soup to the saucepan (you can strain the soup through a sieve if you like, to get rid of any tough-to-blend stalky bits, but if you have a powerful blender like a Froothie, it should be able to purée everything into a silky smooth soup)
Serve warm garnished with boiled eggs, toasted seeds, a swirl of sour cream, croutons, or whatever you like – meat eaters might enjoy a sprinkling of crispy bacon
Just a heads up: this post contains affiliate links to the Froothie website – I’m a ambassador for their brand because, well, their blenders rule!
There was a long period in my life when I lived on omelets and frittatas. It was the mid-2000’s and I had just moved back to Austin and was cooking for myself most nights. It was around this time that I also decided that I needed to seriously change the way I ate. Prior to this I had been a “cheese and bread” vegetarian, and it showed. So when I started looking for healthy delicious easy alternatives to my usual quesadillas and veggie burgers, the frittata became my go-to.
Frittatas are really perfect if you’re cooking solo, and you can easily scale it up if you’ve got friends around. You can cram them full of delicious vegetables and the options are boundless.
I’m not as excessively reliant on frittatas as I once was, but I still go back to them from time to time and this pea and pepper frittata is one I stumbled upon the other day. Peas are a frittata’s best friend because it’s the kind of food you almost always have in the freezer which makes the frittata process as simple as whisking a few eggs and sprinkling on some peas. If you have a little extra time, add some chopped mint and sauteed bell peppers, and the end result is something full of colour, fresh flavour and lots of protein.
I don’t always add the feta; sometimes I go for parmesan, or a sprinkle of pine nuts. Like I said: versatile.
Minty Pea and Pepper Frittata
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup peas
1 cup of red, yellow and orange bell peppers, diced
a small handful of mint, chopped
1/2 cup cubed feta
salt and pepper
Turn on your oven’s grill.
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs.
Meanwhile, heat an oven-safe pan on medium heat. Add the bell peppers and cook for a few minutes, until they start to soften but are still crisp.
Add the peas – if frozen, cook them for a bit in the pan until they thaw. Stir in the mint.
Add the eggs and swirl them around the pan so you get an even layer of eggs over the vegetables. Add the feta, either as whole cubes or crumbled. Cook until the eggs start bubbling on top.
Take your pan off the hob and put it under the grill for a minute or two, until the top is puffy and golden.
Last weekend I hosted a Mexican dinner party here at Orchard Cottage. I called it Tamale 2.0 as it was a follow up to my first Tamale party last Easter. But this was more than a party; this was a Tamale Sleepover. On Friday night we feasted on all manners of Mexican goodies, from homemade corn chips and guacamole to the best black beans ever, salsa macha to go with flatbread and Homewood’s pickled ewe cheese, salads and, of course, the main event: butternut squash tamales with mole sauce, all the while enjoying some amazing beer and wine. We even had queso fresco thanks to Gringa Dairy and proper corn tortillas from the Cool Chile Company (it’s a joy and a relief that Mexican ingredients are becoming easier and easier to buy in the UK).
But as much as the Mexican feast was the main event, I found equal bliss in the “morning after”. A good handful of party-goers stayed the night and for breakfast I served up a few of my specialties: a healthy vegan breakfast salad, of course, one of my recent favourite combos with cucumber, tomato, red onion, carrots, tahini, lemon juice and lots of Tim Clinch‘s dukkah. Plus sourdough bread, some of Sharon’s exquisite homemade hummus and moutabal, and the centrepiece: braised eggs with potato, onion, sumac and tahini.
I learned how to make this dish on Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookery class at The Vegetarian Cookery School last year; he made braised eggs for breakfast while talking us through the class and imparting a few nuggets of wisdom. Two memorable quotes that I’ll never forget: “You can never have too many fresh herbs” and “I’m fortunate to be a part of the vegetarian world without having to suffer the consequences of actually being a vegetarian myself.” (Priceless!)
Eggs and potatoes are common companions but this dish brought them together in a way I’d never experienced: the potatoes get cooked with lots of onion and sumac, the eggs get cooked on top of the potatoes, and the whole thing is served with lots of tahini, greek yogurt, grilled tomatoes and chopped coriander (aka cilantro).
I’ve done simpler variations on this concept many time since, using spinach or chard instead of potatoes, and often skipping the tahini (which seems like sacrilege now). It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I made the recipe properly for Karen and Kanna: then Airbnb guests, now two people who feel very much like old friends. It had been a while since I’d actually eaten this dish, and felt like I was taking a real breakfast risk (poached eggs on toast is so much more reliable). But the hooting and hollering that resulted from this breakfast told me I’d struck guest-breakfast-gold (and for Karen, a life-changing obsession with tahini).
One of the great things about this breakfast is that it scales extremely well. It also is extremely good hangover food. So for post-tamale breakfast, I decided to break out the tahini jar and see how the braised eggs went down with a wider audience. They were still a hit, and we discovered two combo that work especially well: (1) tahini and dukkah and (2) yoghurt and salsa macha. You could do all four at the same time, but one could argue that’s a little over the top (as if the rest of Tamale 2.0, wasn’t?)
It’s a very special thing to be responsible for one person’s tahini obsession, but it’s even more special knowing that you’ve created memories for people that are good enough to write about, and so I was super chuffed to read about Tamale 2.0 across the interwebs after the event: see Karen’s A Flock of Foodies, Sharon’s Tamale 2.0 with Monica et al and Fiona’s Guacamole, salsa and a citrussy pale ale on Matching Food and Wine. Colour me humbled. Roll on Tamale 3.0!
In the meantime, here’s how to make those kick-ass braised eggs – be prepared to start your first ever tahini budget.
Inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi and The Vegetarian Cookery School.
3 Tbsp olive oil
3 medium onions, thinly sliced
200g baby potatoes, cut into 5mm thick slices
½ red chilli, finely chopped
½ Tbsp sumac
½ tsp sugar
300g cherry tomatoes, on the vine
1 tbsp chopped coriander
salt and pepper
Heat the olive oil in a medium saute pan. Add the onions, potatoes, chilli, sumac and some salt and pepper. Cook on medium heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are completely soft and the potatoes are well and truly cooked. Stir in the sugar, taste, and add more salt and pepper if needed.
Meanwhile, heat up the grill /broiler and grill the tomatoes on the vine until they are charred (you can also do this on the stovetop in a cast iron skillet on high heat).
When the potatoes are cooked, spread them evenly over the base of the pan, then carefully break the eggs on top. Cover and cook until the egg whites are almost set. Drizzle a little tahini on top, avoiding the yolks, cover again and cook for another couple minutes until the egg whites are set (cook longer if you don’t want runny yolks).
Sprinkle with coriander, place the tomatoes on top and bring to the table in the pan. Serve with extra tahini and Greek yogurt.
We’re in the prime of British asparagus season, with May being Asparagus Month and a great time to explore this vegetable in all its many shapes and guises. Asparagus is, in general, a pretty awesome vegetable and happens to be extremely handy for people who do the intermittent fasting (aka 5:2 fast diet) thing. In fact, asparagus is good for anyone watching their calories – one medium spear of asparagus has just 3 calories but packs loads of flavour and can make traditional, boring “diet foods” into something quite interesting.
Case in point: salads. This is a favourite for many fasters and calorie counters because it allows one to have a big ol’ pile of food – quite nutritious food, at that – without necessarily having a big ol’ pile of calories along with it. But salads can be problematic: how many of us have eating a gargantuan salad only to find ourselves deeply unsatisfied at the end of it?
Let’s face it, there are many dimensions to food satisfaction: not only quantity, but flavour and texture, too. This is where asparagus can come to a salad’s rescue with its notable flavour and crisp bite (provided you don’t boil it to death). It also pairs extremely well with other fast-friendly foods like eggs and potatoes, plus fresh herbs like dill, tarragon and chives, which all together can make a salad so much more than a pile of leaves.
Dressing helps, too, but even a simple treatment of lemon juice and olive oil with salt and pepper can go along way (a little Parmesan helps, too, which is fairly low-calorie as far as cheeses go). But if you want to take it a little further, I can heartily recommend the tarragon vinaigrette recipe I’ve posted below, a little something I learned from The Vegetarian Cookery School that has proved infinitely versatile and especially stunning with potato, eggs and, yes, asparagus. All together it makes for an incredibly flavoursome fast day lunch or dinner dish – it clocks in at about 250 Calories, leaving you plenty of extra calories (250 if you’re a woman, 350 if you’re a man) for another asparagus session for later in the day.
Asparagus, Egg and Potato Salad with Tarragon Vinaigrette
You can adapt this recipe to use whatever salad vegetables you have on hand; the dressing is marvellously versatile, but is especially good with potatoes and light cheeses like ricotta and fresh goats curd. Calories: ~250.
5 asparagus spears, blanched and slice into 3cm pieces
2 boiled new potatoes (~1/2 cup or 80g)
1 carrot, julienned
1 tomato, sliced into wedges
1 Tbsp tarragon vinaigrette (see below)
1 boiled egg
salt and pepper
lemon to serve
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp chopped fresh tarragon
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp honey
pinch salt & pepper
Make the tarragon vinaigrette by whisking together all of the ingredients in a bowl (this makes more than you’ll need so store the rest for future salads).
Combine the asparagus, potatoes, carrots, tomato and lettuce leaves in a bowl. Toss with ~1 Tbsp of tarragon vinaigrette, plus a pinch of salt and a good grind of pepper.
Serve garnished with the boiled egg and a lemon wedge (in case it needs a little extra zing).
Ok, it’s not pasta. It’s peelings of carrots and courgette given the pasta treatment. I mostly followed this recipe for Zucchini “Pasta”, which is basically a raw mixture of zucchini, tomato, basil, garlic, oil and walnuts. I added carrots, and also cooked the garlic in the olive oil, then added the zucchini and carrots very briefly. I used pine nuts instead of walnuts, and added a poached egg and an avocado (because that seems to be what I do).
Would make again. Next time, I’d like to try the raw version with walnuts.
I’m not sure if you’ve notice but I’ve been keeping up a little Posterous micro-blog called SmarterFitter Daily containing quick pics and notes about the foods I eat in my ongoing effort to feel awesome. Earlier this year, Posterous was acquired by Twitter, and over time Posterous has become more and more unreliable. So much so that I’ve decided to start doing these “Daily” posts (not necessarily posted daily!) here on my main blog. Welcome to a window on the world of my daily eats!
What is clafoutis? My Mac’s Dictionary.app says: “a tart made of fruit, typically cherries, baked in a sweet batter.” Or in this case, think peaches baked in a sweet eggy custard. It’s pretty yummy and appeals to my love of both eggs and fruit-based desserts.
This week, Mardi has upped the clafoutis ante and turned the tables on this conventionally sweet dish. Enter her savoury ratatouille clafoutis. Once I saw this I knew I had to make it. The custard batter includes polenta, which settles to the bottom of the ramekin in a crust-like effect that I really enjoyed. Here’s the comment I left for Mardi:
“I made your recipe this afternoon with some leftover grilled vegetables (red peppers, green beans, onion and sweetcorn, plus a little raw tomato and fresh basil tossed into the mix). Mr. Neil is correct in that the polenta does pool at the bottom, but I LOVED this effect! I felt like I was eating a polenta pie – and the polenta dust on the edges [of the ramekins] gets nice and brown and is yummy when scraped off the sides of the ramekin. Also, the polenta worked VERY nicely with the sweetcorn. If anything I felt this could have used more salt (my fault entirely). This was very easy and infinitely adaptable (I’m thinking rosemary needs to be involved next time). Will make again, and I look forward to enjoying my leftover clafoutis for breakfast tomorrow.”
Indeed I did enjoy my leftover clafoutis today, and it was badass. Arguably even better the next day?
I’m not really sure what to call this. Open-faced omelet? Frittata? Chunky vegetable pancake? Whatever you call it, I’ve really been enjoying this style of “omelet” lately, and this particular combination of ingredients worked very well. I use parsley here, but I could see dill and/or mint also working very well.
Cauliflower and Broccoli Omelet with Feta and Parsley
This is an easy omelet for one, which I make in an oven-safe 20cm frying pan so that I can grill it at the very end. If you don’t have an oven-safe skillet, you could cook it for a few extra minutes on the stove top with the lid on. Adapted from this recipe for a Cauliflower and Feta Omelet.
~2 cups broccoli and cauliflower, chopped into small florets
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
small bunch of parsley, finely chopped
1 large egg, whisked (with a splash of milk if you like)
~2 Tbsp of feta or more to taste
5 cherry tomatoes (optional)
salt and pepper
Turn on the grill / broiler in your oven
In an oven-safe skillet, saute the broccoli and cauliflower on medium-high heat in some olive oil. Try not to stir too much so they take on some colour in the pan.
Turn the heat down to medium and stir in the garlic, half of the parsley and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Cook for another minute.
Pour in the egg and rotate the pan to distribute the egg evenly.
Crumble the feta over the top, then distribute the cherry tomatoes.
Place under the grill for about 5 minutes, or under the omelet is nicely coloured and the cherry tomatoes have started to burst.
Garnish with the rest of the parsley, a couple grinds of fresh black pepper if you’d like and serve.
Prep Time:5 minutes
Cook time:15-20 minutes
Per serving:212 Calories | 13.3 grams Fat | 13.2 grams Carbohydrates | 12.9 grams Protein | 4.8 grams Fiber