We’re low-carbing/low GIing at the moment, so I had these with smoked salmon, salad and a chilli mayo/creme fraiche dip. However they would be lovely served in trad burger style on a warm wholemeal roll with a bit of lettuce and the dip.

veggie burgers

1 can chickpeas, drained and processed until more or less ground/chopped/squashed
75g quinoa, cooked in just enough water to prevent it sticking but leave no excess – roughly the same volume as the dry quinoa
200g spinach, steamed, squeezed dry and chopped if there are any stalky bits
1 onion, quartered and thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, crushed or finely chopped
1 carrot, grated
100g feta cheese, chopped or crumbled coarsely
1 egg
1 or 2 tbsp wholemeal flour
1tsp ground coriander
1tsp ground cumin
Salt and pepper
Olive and/or groundnut oil for frying

Mix everything except the oil together in a large bowl. It should hold together readily when squeezed but not feel too damp – add more flour if it seems too wet. Form into burger-sized patties and refrigerate for an hour or so to make them less liable to fall apart in the oil (mine showed no signs of doing this, but it’s always worth making sure, and the resting time allows to cook to neck a couple of glasses of wine).

Heat about half a centimetre of oil in a pan (non-stick for preference – again, better safe than sorry; a recipe like this goes from “piece of piss” to “utter nightmare” if it sticks), and cook the burgers until they’re well browned. They’ll keep warm quite happily in the oven while you finish cooking them.

So delicious, and so worthy-feeling!


This has serious afterburn.

bloody mary reslish

1 onion, chopped
1 mild red chilli, chopped
1 hot red chilli, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tin chopped tomatoes
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp chipotle powder
1/2 tsp naga chilli powder
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp celery and black pepper vodka (or use regular vodka and a teaspoon of celery salt)

Saute the onion, chillies and garlic in the olive oil. Add the tomatoes, sugar, vinegar and seasoning and simmer until reduced – you want it to be quite dry. Cool, add the vodka and puree. Serve the resulting incendiary red sauce with burgers, or add to chilli, sandwiches, sausage sandwiches, cheese on toast, pizza – anything that needs a proper chilli kick. It will keep for a week or so in the fridge.

The second in what may become an occasional series. Several months ago I wrote about my abortive attempt to make the Ottolenghi black pepper tofu, and it got rather a lot of comments, from “sister, I feel your pain” all the way through to “well, if you will dick around with the recipes of proper cooks, what do you expect”, via “well, I make it all the time and it takes five minutes and is always perfect”.

Since then, I have rather shunned Ottolenghi recipes, on the basis that I am destined to fail when I attempt them. But the trouble is, they all look so damn good. My resolve was finally shattered by the baked meatballs recipe in Saturday’s Guardian. It’s only meatballs, I said to myself, just follow the recipe this time. Look how delicious they sound, I cajoled my inner Ottolenghiphobe. What could possibly go wrong, I thought merrily.

I stocked up on parsley and pinenuts, and when the time came to start cooking I felt positively invincible. Then I took another look at the instructions. “Line the stove top with foil, then turn on all four rings to moderate. Lay the aubergines over the flames and roast for 15-18 minutes, turning occasionally, until the skin is burnt and the flesh soft.” And I looked at my lovely sparkling hob, cleaned just that morning, and I thought, “Srsly, Yotam? Srsly?” and turned on the oven. And I suppose that’s where the rot set in.

What follows is my version of the Ottolenghi baked meatballs. This is still quite time consuming to make, but at least you won’t be getting the fire brigade out to extinguish blazing aubergines.

Serves 4.

4 aubergines
450g minced beef
1 egg
75g bulgar wheat
1 onion, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
Small bunch parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper
Vegetable oil for frying
100ml chicken stock (I used Kallo)
1tsp allspice
30g pine nuts, toasted

Preheat the oven to 240°C. Put the aubergines on a foil-lined baking tray and cook until soft – about 15 minutes. Finish them off under the grill to blacken the skins, then set aside to cool.Reduce the oven to 160°C.

Cook the bulgar wheat in boiling water until soft – about 8 minutes – then drain well and cool slightly. Mix together the mince, egg, onion, and half the garlic and parsley, add the bulgar wheat and season. Roll into balls the size of ping-pong balls, and put in the fridge to firm up.

Using your fingers, peel the aubergines and pull apart the flesh. Put it into a colander to drain while you fry the meatballs in the vegetable oil, browning them as well as you can all over, over a high heat – it doesn’t matter if they are not cooked through. (If anyone knows of a way to fry meatballs without either squashing them or not browning them evenly, I’d love to hear it.)

Squeeze any excess moisture from the aubergine, mix with the remaining garlic and season. Put half the aubergine into an ovenproof dish (I used a round soufflee dish and made two layers; the original recipe uses a larger, rectangular dish and one layer). Place half the meatballs on top, then the remaining aubergine, then the remaining meatballs, tucking them in to fill any gaps. Add the stock and allspice to the pan in which the meatballs were cooked, give it a good stir and pour over the meatballs. (If you are going to serve this with rice, bread or any other carb, you might want to add more stock or water – we were just having salad with it so I wanted it to be quite dry.)

Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes, then remove the foil and return to the oven for a further 15 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining parsley and the pine nuts over the dish and serve.

And there you have it. As I say, a bit of a fiddle to make, and I couldn’t resist tweaking the recipe just a bit, but it’s delicious and worth the effort. And I suppose this means I will have to try the duck curry next…



Wooo, creepy! No, I didn’t make these, they are from Greggs and our local deli, and the boyfriend bought them for me – purely in the interests of research, of course – because I was writing an article for the Guardian about Halloween food. I can report that the jack-o-lantern doughnut was actually bloody (see what I did there?) good, with a lovely sharp apricot jam filling.
Anyway, if you’re looking for a Halloween recipe that will not only make the most of the gorgeous golden squash that abound at this time of year, but also keep the vampires away, you could do a lot worse than this garlic-roasted pumpkin.

Deseed your pumpkin and cut it into wedges, then place three or four peeled garlic cloves, or pieces thereof if they are large, in each wedge. Drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar over, sprinkle with salt, pepper and a little chilli powder if you like, and bake at about 170°C until the pumpkin is tender – about 30 to 40 minutes. Check after 20 minutes and turn the garlic cloves over if they’re becoming too brown.

Just look at that beauty. It’s half a haunch of roe deer from GG Sparks, which is the best butcher in Greenwich as far as we’re concerned. We roasted it, very simply, just to medium rare, and had it with grilled polenta, autumn greens and gravy with plenty of port in it. Perfection.

Zucca fritti

God, I love squash. As soon as the Riverford Squash Box becomes available, I’m in there, ordering away like a maniac. It drives the boyfriend mad, because he doesn’t share my passion for glorious gourds – so I’m constantly having to think of ways to cook them that will illicit more of a “yum” than a “ho hum”.

Recently we had dinner at Zucca in Bermondsey (epic website fail at the time of writing), and I was amazed when the bf not only ordered their battered pumpkin for a starter, but loved it. So I decided to have a stab at making a similar thing. The batter Zucca uses is a wonderfully ethereal, tempura-like affair, but I went for something a bit more robust, partly because I wanted to be sure that the pumpkin would be tender without burning the batter.

Deep-frying gets a lot of bad press, but I think this is to a great extent undeserved – it’s a great way of cooking food quickly, and the batter protects the food within from becoming oily. If your diet is mostly low in carbs, as ours is, the occasional fritter is a delicious treat, and I don’t feel guilty about it at all.
Recipe serves 4.

1 medium-sized squash – I used a dark green acorn variety
250g 00 flour, plus 1tbsp extra
1tsp dried yeast
1tsp sugar
1tsp salt
2tbsp natural yoghurt
Vegetable oil for frying

Mix the yeast and sugar with about 100ml of bath-hot water. Leave for a few minutes until it becomes frothy (I don’t use instant dried yeast because I find this stage reassuring; if you’re more blase, by all means just mix the instant yeast and flour and proceed as normal). Mix the flour, salt and yoghurt together and add the yeast and water, plus enough extra water to make a thickish batter – I used 250ml water in total. Cover the bowl and leave the batter to prove in a warm place for an hour or two. Give it a final mix before using.

Cut the squash in half, remove the seeds and cut into thin wedges. Place a large pan on the hob, fill it not more than a third full of oil and heat until a drop of batter turns brown within a few seconds – adding the squash will reduce its temperature considerably; raise or lower the heat as needed as you go along. Toss the squash wedges in the extra tablespoon of flour (I did this to help the batter adhere – it may not be necessary but it certainly does no harm). Dip the wedges one by one into the batter and place them carefully in the hot oil. Don’t overcrowd the pan – I cooked about four at a time. Once the fritters are puffed up and golden-brown, remove them from the pan and place on paper towels to drain. Serve with salt and lemon wedges.

We had these as part of a random meze-style Friday night supper., but they’d be great as a size veg with a venison steak or roast game bird or as a midweek veggie supper with a goat’s cheese salad. Or try them as a dessert, dusted with cinnamon sugar and served with maple syrup on the side.

Low-carb moussaka

Okay, moussaka’s quite low-carb anyway (except when people put potatoes in it – what is that about, exactly? But this is quite a fun variation, using butternut squash and courgette instead of aubergine, fromage frais instead of bechamel, and with added puy lentils. No, not really moussaka then. It’s lovely though.

Serves 4 generously

2 onions, chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
3 carrots, grated
4 sticks celery, chopped
200g mushrooms, sliced
500g minced lamb
500ml red wine
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1/2 tsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp dried thyme
200g puy lentils
1/2 a butternut squash, peeled and thinly sliced
3 courgettes, thinly sliced lengthways
3 tbsp fromage frais
1tsp cornflour
1 egg
3 tbsp fat-free natural yoghurt

Saute the onion, carrot, celery, mushrooms and garlic in a large pan with a little olive oil, while you brown the mince in another pan. Once the vegetables are translucent, add the lamb, wine, tomatoes and spices. Allow the mixture to simmer and reduce a little before you add the lentils. Cook until the lentils are tender and the mixture has reduced until it’s quite dry. Meanwhile, lightly brush the courgette and butternut slices with olive oil and place under the grill until they’re turning golden brown (the thin end of the BNS makes better slices than the end with the seeds!).

Preheat the oven to 190°C. Mix the cornflour into the fromage frais until smooth, and beat the egg and yoghurt together. In an ovenproof dish, layer the meat mixture, grilled vegetables and fromage frais (I do meat, fromage frais, veg, meat, fromage frais, veg, meat), and top with the egg mixture. Bake for about 20 minutes until it’s piping hot and the topping is brown (as you can see from the pic, mine got slightly blackened but it was none the worse for that!). Serve with a salad.