Chickpea and tomato bake


I’m having a good few days for finding ways to flavour ingredients I normally struggle with. My solution with today’s ingredient, chickpeas, was to make the sauce by roasting rather than frying and keeping the chickpeas in it the whole way through. Normally I add them towards the end to stop them from overcooking, but this time I just bunged everything in a roasting pan and I liked the result. The aubergine almost melts into the sauce, becoming buttery. The brown rice (and I think it’s pretty important to use brown rice, but it’s your call) provides chew, complementing the softness of the chickpeas and tomatoes. All in all, this dish is comforting and warm, good for when it has literally not stopped raining all day and you haven’t slept the night before.


400g tin of chickpeas
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
1 white onion
1 clove garlic
1 aubergine
200g cherry tomatoes
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp mild chilli powder
1 tbsp olive oil
300g brown rice

Serves 4
Calories: 450
Takes 50 minutes to make

Stage one: Preheat the oven to 190C/fan170C. Get out a roasting tin. Drain the chickpeas and tip them in. Add the chopped tomatoes. Thinly slice and onion and finely chop the garlic and bung them in too, along with the cherry tomatoes. Chop the aubergine into cubes of about an inch and add. Drizzle in the oil, chilli and oregano and season really well – chickpeas aren’t salty, so you’ll need to add some extra tang. Give everything a mix around, and then try not to look at it too hard. It won’t look promising. It looks like it will never come together. It looks bad. Don’t worry, it will be alright. Put it in the oven and cook for 40 minutes, giving it a mix around every 10-15 minutes so it doesn’t catch.


Stage two: Cook the brown rice according to the instructions on the packet. Brown rice usually takes ages to cook – mine took about 35 minutes. If it takes longer than you’d expect, that’s ok because the vegetables won’t suffer for an extra 5 or 10 minutes in the oven.


Stage three: Drain the rice (if necessary) and dish it out, and then serve the chickpea bake on top.


Tangy tofu noodles


Something weird happened. I made tofu and I liked it. I don’t like tofu. It’s always seemed to me like a punishment for not eating meat, a banishment from taste and texture. But not this time! It’s all very exciting.

Some context: my fridge-freezer has started humming loudly, every so often pausing to make a loud bang as if it’s trying to escape from the wall. I thought it was haunted before, when it did this to a far lesser degree, but if there is indeed a haunting that ghost is now very angry. Apparently the first stage in exorcising it is to defrost the whole thing, which means eating all that stuff I bought well-meaningly and then never used. Thus tofu. But don’t run away! It’s tasty.

For the tofu:
396g pack of firm tofu
4 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp dried powdered ginger
1 tsp granulated sugar
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tbsp vegetable oil

For the noodles:
3 packets of fine noodles (4 for a big meal)
1 red pepper
250g fine beans
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Serves 4
Calories: 380
Takes 30 minutes to make, plus 30+ minutes for marinating

Stage one: Drain the tofu and cut it into bite-size pieces. Mix the soy sauce, vinegar, ginger, sugar and garlic until the sugar has dissolved, then put it in a bowl with the tofu and marinate for at least 30 minutes, giving it a stir half way through so all the tofu absorbs the flavour.

Stage two: Heat the vegetable oil in a large frying pan then remove the tofu from the marinade with a slotted spoon and fry for 10 minutes, flipping the tofu so that each side is browned. It won’t go particularly crispy, but it will be very tasty. When the tofu is done, remove it from the heat and set aside. Meanwhile, cook the noodles according to the instructions on the packet and drain.


Stage three: In a saucepan, fry the beans, pepper and 1 clove of garlic in the vegetable oil and 1 tbsp soy sauce for 5-10 minutes until they go soft. I left mine unattended for a couple of minutes and they caught slightly, but that’s okay, it gave them a hint of smokiness that I actually liked. What I’m getting at here is that this may all seem a bit complicated but if a bit goes wrong it doesn’t matter.


Stage four: Combine the vegetables and noodles in the pan and mix with the leftover marinade and the soy sauce, sesame oil and rice wine vinegar and mix well. Dish up into bowls and then serve the tofu on top. This works just as well cold as hot!


Pizza bread


Pizza, but with less effort and easier ingredients! Big, bold flavours that aren’t really traditional pizza ingredients but work anyway! No effort to make a tomato sauce! Rectangular so it’s easy to cut! And rosemary! I love rosemary! I’m using a lot of exclamation marks, but that’s because I’m happy and this pizza is delicious! You’re on board, right?

pizza bread

300g bread flour
7g sachet instant yeast
200ml warm water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp olive oil
1 red onion
300g cherry tomatoes
100g cheddar
40g sun dried tomatoes
1 tbsp fresh rosemary

Serves 4
Calories: 430
60 minutes for the base, 15-20 minutes to bake

Stage one: Base first. If you’re doing this by hand, put the flour, yeast, water, salt and olive oil in a bowl and knead for about 5 minutes, then cover with a damp tea towel and leave in a warm place for an hour. If you’re doing this by bread maker, switch the bread maker to the dough setting and leave it to do its thing.

Stage two: An hour after you’ve left the dough to rise, preheat the oven to 220C/fan200C. Time to prep all the other ingredients. Cut the red onion into segments and then separate them out into slices. Halve the cherry tomatoes. Grate the cheddar. Roughly chop the sun dried tomatoes. Wash the rosemary and roughly chop. Get out a rectangular roasting tin to put the pizza in.

Stage three: Lightly flour a surface and your hands, then take out the dough and give it a quick knead. Roll it out into a rectangle the size of your roasting tin, then put it in the tin. Sprinkle the cheese over the base, then add the onion, rosemary and sun dried tomatoes.


Stage four: Lay the cherry tomatoes in the gaps between the onions face up and gently push them into the dough. It’s going to look very busy and like the tomatoes won’t stay on. That’s ok. It will come together. Pop it in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes until the base has gone golden and the cheese has baked to your satisfaction.


Jammy thumbprint cookies


These cookies do many things. They are shortbread-like in texture. They have jam, which somehow makes them fancy. They melt ever so slightly around the edges to leave a crunchy rim. I like the things these cookies do.


260g plain flour
180g butter (room temp)
150g golden caster sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
your favourite jam

Makes about 25 cookies
Calories: 120
Takes 45 minutes to make, 1 hour to cool and 12-15 minutes to bake

Stage one: Cream the butter and sugar. Then add in the egg and vanilla. Finally, add in the dry ingredients until they form a stiff mixture. Put the mixture in a bowl, cover it and put it in the fridge.


Stage two: Preheat the oven to 190C/fan 170C. Line a couple of baking trays with greaseproof paper. Break off chunks of dough and roll it into balls the size of a walnut. Put them on a baking tray and press your finger into each one to form a hole about 1cm deep. Using a teaspoon, scoop in a little bit of jam to fill each hole.


Stage three: Bake for 12-15 minutes.


Gnocchi bake


Gnocchi can be tricky. On the pro side, they take only minutes to boil. On the con side, they can be a little unsatisfying, both in quantity and in flavour. They can be just a few little chewy bites and then they’re gone and you’re wondering how they went so fast. Not in this meal! This recipe retains the easiness of gnocchi to make, but then adds in bags of flavour (from the tomatoes) and texture and bulk (from the baked cheese and spinach). I’m converted to team gnocchi. I was considering actually making them from scratch myself, but you need to take a relationship like that one step at a time. Maybe soon I will be ready to take that step.

800g gnocchi
125g ball lot-fat mozzarella
40g sun dried tomatoes
100g fresh spinach
1 clove garlic

Serves 4
Calories: 370
Takes 25 minutes to make

Stage one: Preheat the oven to 190C/fan 170C. Roughly chop the sun dried tomatoes and chop or crush the clove of garlic.

Stage two: Boil the gnocchi in a big pan until they rise to the top – this will take only a couple of minutes. Meanwhile, put the spinach in a colander. When the gnocchi are cooked, pour the whole pan into the colander – this will wilt the spinach. I love how efficient that is.

Stage three: Tip the gnocchi and spinach into a roasting tin and give them a mix to evenly distribute the spinach. Stir in the tomatoes, garlic and seasoning.


Stage four: Tear up the mozzarella and lay it over the top, and pop in the oven for 20 minutes until the cheese has melted and started to crisp. Serve immediately.


Pea risotto


I post here when I’ve made food that I eat and think “yes, this is good, I’d like to eat this again”. I’ve been living (mostly) alone for the last week and a bit, and I had plans. I was going to make exciting meals, experiment, oh such things I was going to show you. And then I was lazy, and mostly made combinations of pasta, veg and cheese. I didn’t post that. You already know how to make that. But this risotto is good! It’s low effort, tasty, and relies on ingredients you (or at least I) already have in.


200g Arborio rice
100g frozen peas
1 onion
850ml hot vegetable stock
1 tbsp olive oil
50g parmesan

Serves 3
Calories: 470
Takes 30 minutes to make

Stage one: Fry the onion over a low-medium heat in the oil until it is translucent. Stir in the rice and lightly fry for 30 seconds.

Stage two: Add the vegetable stock one ladle at a time, stirring until the stock is absorbed before adding the next ladle. This will take about 20-30 minutes, depending on the heat. When you’re adding the final ladle, stir in the peas. Stir in most of the parmesan, then sprinkle the rest over the top (with a little basil if you’re fancy) and eat immediately.

Mushroom tart


That tart is exciting. It’s light and lemony and tastes of summer. And most importantly, it’s all about the mushrooms. I adapted this recipe from the one in the River Cottage Everyday cookbook, which celebrates food in way I really like. Simple ingredients, simple methods, big flavours. In this case, the central ingredient is the mushrooms. This tart would be perfectly adequate if you just used one type of mushroom, but don’t do that. There’s something wonderful about the range of textures and shapes that can occur within the category of things that are still mushrooms. The more of them you can have going on in this tart, the better. I used chestnut, button and oyster mushrooms.

150g puff pastry
200g mixed mushrooms
a pat of butter
1 clove of garlic, crushed
grated zest of 1 lemon
1 handful of fresh parsley, roughly chopped
20g parmesan, grated

Serves 2 as a light main or very substantial starter
Calories: 390
Takes 45 minutes to make

Stage one: Roll out the pastry into whatever shape you like. Make it round or square, it’s all the same to me. Fold the edges over. Pop it in the fridge while you’re cooking the mushrooms.


Stage two: Preheat the oven to 200C/fan 180C. Thickly slice the mushrooms where appropriate. By appropriate, I mean slice chestnut mushrooms, but only halve oyster mushrooms or other fiddly types.

Stage three: In a saucepan, melt the pat of butter over a medium heat and then add in the mushrooms, stirring occasionally. When the mushrooms start to reduce, stir in the garlic. Continue to cook until the water that seeps out of the mushrooms has evaporated. Remove from the heat, and then stir in the lemon zest and parsley. Season lightly – the lemon already adds a lot of flavour!


Stage four: Take the pastry out of the fridge and spread the mushrooms over the top. Sprinkle on the parmesan.


Stage five: Bake for 15-20 minutes until the pastry has gone golden. Serve hot or cold.