Spiced lentils, kale and sweet potato pie

It’s Autumn once again and this is the time of year when I get drawn back to both writing and cooking. I’ve been searching for new vegetarian recipes suitable for the cold weather. Yesterday I made this wonderful and hearty spiced lentils, kale and sweet potato pie, which conjures up the fare of the half-gone 1970s wholefood restaurant, woefully replaced, more often than not, with the trendy healthy eaterie of quite another stripe.  Pie is no more photogenic than porridge and so be it.  I care not.

I made two pies, replacing the lentils in one with black beans for my son who is allergic to lentils. It’s also vegan, unless you brush the pastry wtih some milk as I did (to glaze it). I found the recipe for the pies as parcels on The Kitchn and the original recipe would work well if you want to transport them.  I’ve altered it slightly, using instant yeast rather than active dried.

IMG_3183 IMG_3184 IMG_3187 IMG_3190

Spiced Lentil, Sweet Potato & Kale Whole Wheat Pies

Makes two pies, serves 4-6.

For the dough:
1 cup warm water (not hot or boiling)
1 teaspoons instant yeast
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

For the filling:
3 small sweet potatoes, scrubbed clean
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more for brushing
1 medium yellow onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
250g cup French green (Puy) lentils, picked over and rinsed
2 cups water
1/2 bunch kale, tough ribs and stems removed
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine the warm water , yeast and salt and add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil with the warm water. Knead for 7 to 10 minutes until dough is smooth. Lightly grease a large bowl with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Place the dough in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for 1 to 2 hours, or until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Prick the sweet potatoes in several places with a fork and place on a baking sheet. Bake 45 minutes to an hour, or until very soft to the touch. Set aside to cool and then mash.

Cut the onion in half. Thinly slice one half and set aside. Dice the other half. Warm 1 tablespoon of oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat and sauté the diced onion and garlic until onion is translucent. Add the cumin, cinnamon, and allspice and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the lentils, kale, water and salt.  Cover and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes more, until kale is half cooked but still a beautiful emerald green. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the lentil and kale mixture to a bowl, leaving most of the cooking liquid in the pot.

Meanwhile, warm 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy skillet over low heat. Add the thinly sliced onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are caramelized, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Increase the oven heat to 450°F. Divide the dough into 6 pieces and let rest for 20 minutes, loosely covered with plastic wrap. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into 1-inch chunks. Mash with a fork until smooth and add a sprinkle of salt, if needed.

Take two ceramic or glass dishes. Spread the  mashed sweet potato over bottom, then the lentils and kale mix, then the caramelised onions and, finally, the dough.  Glaze.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until browned. Let cool for at least 5 minutes if serving immediately.


Simple fish casserole

IMG_2887Despite the cider, this is a comforting, simple fish supper reminiscent of the nursery food of yesteryear. This supper seemed perfect for an cold January evening when the nights are still long.  I used 4.5% alcohol cider and you can decrease the amount of cider, if you like and increase the stock.  Serve with rice and green vegetables of your choice.  I adapted this recipe from the one in A Year Full of Recipes (Parragon Books, 2014) fighting shy of monkfish and sorrel.


Serves 4

2 tsp butter

2 sticks celery, sliced

2 shallotts, finely chopped

300 ml fish or vegetable stock

125ml cry cider

250g new potatoes

1 bay leaf

4 tbs plain flour

200 ml milk

100 ml single cream

salt and white pepper

parsley to garnish

1) Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a medium-low heat.  Add the celery and the shallots and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until they start to soften,

2) Stir in the stock, potatoes and bay leaf with a large pinch of salt (unless the stock is salty) and return to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.

3) Put the flour in a small bowl and very slowly whisk in a few tablespoons of the milk to make a thick paste.  Stir in a little more milk to make a smooth liquid.

4) Adjust the heat so the stew bubbles gently.  Stir in the flour mixture and cook, stirring frequently for 10 minutes.  Add the remaining milk and the cream.  Continue cooking for about 10 minutes until the potatoes are tender.  Remove and discard the bay leaf.

5) Continue cooking for 3 minutes until the cod stiffens.  Taste the stew and adjust the seasoning adding plenty of white pepper. Garnish with parsley and serve with white rice and green vegetables of your choice.

Potato croquettes with bacon and sprouts

IMG_2841Today, seeing the leftover mashed potato in my fridge I was pining for চপ (chops) which are an Indian version of the European croquette, but with minced meat or vegetables and green chilli in the middle.

I ended up going full circle and making a European chop, basically going back to the original croquette, I guess!

Probably because I did not put the 200g of other vegetables, 8 rashers of bacon just made it too salty, so I’d suggest cutting to 4 rashers. I used olive oil not butter for initial frying, and rice bran oil, not sunflower for deep frying.  I’m not sure how much flour I actually used, so I’ve put 100g not 200g.

I also missed out the final stage of coating in egg and breadcrumbs, so this version here is what I did, and I based mine on the BBC Good Food recipe entitled Bubble and Squeak Croquettes.


  • olive oil
  • 200g onions, sliced
  • 4 rashers back or streaky bacon, chopped
  • 2 handfuls sprouts, shredded
  • 500g leftover roast or boiled potatoes, mashed
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 100g plain flour, well seasoned, plus a little extra for shaping
  • rice bran, sunflower or vegetable oil, for frying

Makes 26


  1. Melt the butter in a pan, then fry the onions and bacon together for 10 mins until the onions are soft and bacon has started to colour. Add the cabbage or sprouts to the pan with a good grinding of black pepper. Stir well, then add a splash of water and cook, covered, for 5 mins more until tender.
  2. Tip the potatoes and cooked veg into the pan, then mash really well. Mix in the eggs, then season to taste. Turn onto a floured surface, flatten out, then cut into squares about the size of a scone. Roll each piece into long pieces and cut each into three.
  3. Heat oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5. Heat a 5mm depth of oil in a large frying pan; then, once a crumb turns golden within a few secs, shallow-fry the croquettes in 2 batches for 2 mins each side, turning carefully. (Or keep frying if yours are small enough to cook this way, as mine were).  Drain on kitchen paper and transfer to a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Bake for 15 mins or, if making ahead, cover and chill for up to 2 days. To reheat, give them 15 mins in the oven at 190C/fan 170C/gas 5 until hot through and crisp on the outside.


Chicken Caesar Salad

IMG_2395A great classic.  I buy thigh fillets and grill them with a little olive oil. I found a Caesar salad dressing without anchovies so my son could have this as it was fish-free.


400g chicken thigh fillets (or chicken breast), cut into pieces and grilled

1 large Romain lettuce or two hearts of Romaine, cut up

200g bought croutons (or homemade)

Caesar salad dressing (Tesco Finest is fish free)

Gran Padano or Parmesan, shavings

Black pepper

For homemade croutons, I use half a French stick diced. I put a garlic clove in olive oil and add salt, pepper and dried basil. Toss the bread in flavoured oil and bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes on a moderate heat (160C).


Spaghetti alla carbonara

IMG_2391I was very pleased with this carbonara as I used to find I felt a bit ill after carbonara and hence rarely made it. This is Rick Stein’s recipe and I chose his because he is associated with wonderful fresh fish dishes so I thought he’s not going to make this too heavy!

Although, as with his recipe, it’s not traditional to add cream to carbonara (any more than it is with a chocolate mousse), I added just 1 tbsp double cream into the egg mixture and I only used 2 eggs as I did not have 3. Perhaps it is the parsley too which balances this rich dish out a little. This recipe is recommended! If you are a carbonara novice, make sure you warm the bowls, keep some of the liquid the pasta is cooked in and work quickly at the last stage, or you will get scrambled egg instead of a creamy sauce.


400g/14oz dried spaghetti

175g/6¼oz piece smoked pancetta, rind removed

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

handful flatleaf parsley leaves, finely chopped

2 large free-range eggs, beaten

1 tbs cream

50g/1¾oz pecorino sardo maturo (mature Sardinian pecorino), finely grated

salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Bring 4.5 litres/8 pints water to the boil in a large saucepan with eight teaspoons salt (I used one tsp! but probably less water). Add the spaghetti and cook for nine minutes, or until al dente.

Meanwhile, cut the pancetta into lardons (short little strips), about 6mm/1¼in wide.
Heat a large, deep frying pan over a medium-high heat, add the oil and the pancetta and fry until lightly golden. Add the garlic and parsley and cook for a few seconds, then remove from the heat and set aside.
Drain the spaghetti well, tip into the frying pan with the pancetta, garlic and parsley, add the  beaten eggs and cream and half the grated pecorino cheese and toss together well.

Season to taste with a little salt and black pepper. The heat from the spaghetti will be sufficient to partly cook the egg, but still leave it moist and creamy. Take to the table and serve in warmed pasta bowls, sprinkled with the rest of the cheese and garnish with parsley.


Anglo-Indian curry

I couldn’t work out why this curry which I made on Thursday tasted so Anglo-Indian. Was it the lack of tomatoes (I put some but not enough?) Was it throwing yoghurt in at the end and eating with a commercial mango chutney? Certainly when I finished it off the next day with chapatti I added potato to it and I cooked peas as an accompaniment with kalonji, haldi, chilli powder and salt. Peas always make me feel it’s an Anglo-Indian meal especially mixed with rice.  Anyway eventually I worked it out – the first stage was rushed so that onions were not cooked enough resulting in a pleasant and comforting concoction which was half way between a curry and a casserole. The fresh ginger, however, would appear in the odd mouthful arguing against its Anglo-Indian nature.

Usually I take it as a compliment when people say this curry  – the way I make it – tastes like a quintessential Bengali curry. Anyhow, it is a classic North Indian dish, made according to the recipe. And I recommend it as such.


I’ll add on the recipe tomorrow. Sleep well!

Halloumi Kebabs

One good thing about kebabs is that you can prepare them during the day and someone else in the family can barbecue them.

I used green, red and yellow peppers, halloumi cheese and onions. I cut them into chuncks and drizzled with thyme and olive oil.

And they were done! The halloumi barbecues beautifully and keeps its shape.

Homemade beefburgers

Homemade beef burgers are very quick and easy to make and taste much fresher than shop bought ones.

If you double up, you can fridge half and freeze half. Makes: 6 burgers

Night Before (10 minutes)

500g beef mince

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 tbs fresh parsley, chopped

1/2 tsp salt crystals & 1/8 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

1 egg yolk

1) Combine all ingredients and mix well.

2) Form into 6 balls and flatten (or double the mixture and make 12, freezing half) Then chill until the next day.

The Day (25 minutes)

1) Grill burgers under a medium to high heat for 10 minutes each side or until cooked.

2) Meanwhile cook oven chips and fry 2 sliced onions.

3) Serve in white or wholemeal rolls spread with mayo with a little Dijon (for adults) ketchup (for kids), with layer of cheese on the burger, cocktail gherkins and fried onions with the oven chips and salad.

Weekend Way?

You can improve this recipe with things such as homemade mayo, tomato sauce and chips. To make homemade chips – use 6 large potatoes cut up into chips, season with a sprinkling of chips and fry according to the instructions for your fryer.

Homemade tomato ketchup

12 baby plum tomatoes, 3/4 tbs red wine vinegar, 3/4 tbs muscovado sugar, 90 ml water

Combine ingredients, bring to the boil, cover and simmer until tomatoes are soft adding more water if necessary.

Beef Tortillas

These family friendly tortillas or tacos are great with some fresh toppings – such as coriander, sour cream and grated cheddar cheese.

Makes 12 tortillas.

Night before (50 minutes)

350g beef mince

1 large onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 green and 1 red pepper, diced

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp cumin

2 tbs tomato puree

1 x 400g tin kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1. Chop onions and garlic and cook over a moderate heat for 5 minutes until softened.

2. Add mince and cook for 5 minutes until browned.

3. Add cumin and salt and stir for 20 seconds before adding peppers and cooking for further 5 minutes.

4. Add tomato puree and water to cover.

5. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer on a lower heat for 25 minutes.

6. Add kidney beans and cook for a further 10 minutes.

7. Allow to cool and refrigerate.

The Day (20 minutes)

30g fresh coriander and some shredded lettuce

100g hard cheese, grated

150 ml sour cream/yoghurt

Jalpenos for adults (optional)

1. Put tortillas/taco shells in oven to warm as per instructions.

2. Chop up toppings

3. Warm beef.

Put all on table for people to serve themselves.

Cook’s Tip: Make vegetarian by using soya mince. Experiment by adding 1 tsp of paprika or 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper or chilli powder.