Sri Lankan style cauliflower, potato and pea curry

Sri Lanka has an abundance of ingredients and spices that lend themselves to a flavourful experience. With its historical links with trade you can imagine the range of influences that it brings to the cuisine. I have kept this curry recipe simple, using limited spices to ensure that each of the flavours speak for themselves so read on and get cooking!

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Ingredients- serves 4 as a main or 6 as a side 
1 medium cauliflower
200g potato
100g fresh or frozen shelled peas
300ml coconut milk
Fresh curry leaves
1 large white onion- chopped
1-2 garlic cloves- finely chopped or crushed
1 green chilli- left whole and pricked with a knife
Strands of angel hair chilli to finish (optional)

For the paste
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp black mustard seeds
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp black onion seeds
1 green chilli- finely chopped
1 garlic clove

1. Get going by separating the cauliflower into small florets and cutting the potatoes into bite size chunks. At this stage you can steam or boil the cauliflower and potatoes until part cooked and set aside. In the meantime make the paste by adding all the ingredients together and giving it a quick whizz in a processor or using a pestle and mortar which I prefer so you have greater control over how coarse or how smooth the paste is.

2. Take a large frying pan and heat a glug of vegetable oil over a medium heat. Add in the onion and garlic and cook until softening. Throw in a few curry leaves and the whole green chilli; cook for a further couple of minutes.

3. Add the curry paste to the pan and fry off for a further minute until is begins to release its flavour. Next up the cauliflower and potato needs to go in and cook for another couple of minutes; toss the vegetables in the spice mix and try and get a bit of colour on the potatoes as they cook. Add in the coconut milk and bring to a simmer. Cook until the cauliflower and potatoes are tender and the coconut has reduced down; this should take around half an hour.

Just a couple of minutes before the vegetables are ready you need to add the peas and cook these in; if using fresh you may like to quickly blanch before adding. If you prefer a more moist curry then either add a little more coconut milk and simmer it for a while longer but make sure that the vegetables don’t go soggy and overcooked. You could always lightly steam them before they get to the parboiled stage to enable this. I added a few strands of angel hair chilli which looks like saffron and gives another hit of colour to a dish rather than bringing heat so time to pretty it up!
Serve in deep bowls with flatbread on the side if you like.

Cauliflower, potato and pea curry laced with spice and the sweetness of coconut- the perfect balance!

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Indulgent lobster and saffron cream garganelli

Most people would reach for the perennial classic, linguine, when they are making a seafood based pasta however this recipe uses garganelli instead. Garganelli are small quills with delicate ridges which hold a rich creamy pasta sauce beautifully.  I bought mine from my local Italian deli, Buongiorno Italia, which is a must visit if you ever find yourselves in St Albans- www.buongiornoitalia.co.uk. I challenge you to only buy what you intended in there and nothing more!

To make this recipe accessible I used one lobster tail per person however two would be fabulous if you have a few extra pennies going spare or of course a whole lobster. This lobster tail pasta is indulgent and extravagant but worth the effort so read on…

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Ingredients- serves 2
200g garganelli pasta
2 lobster tails- shell removed and kept whole
1 garlic clove- crushed
100ml white wine (or champagne!)
100ml double cream
Pinch of saffron
Small handful of flat leaf parsley- finely chopped
Olive oil
Knob of unsalted butter
Salt and pepper to season

1. Start off by bringing a pan of water up to the boil and cooking the garganelli until al dente; drain well.

2. Whilst that is cooking away, take a large frying pan, heat to medium and add a glug of oil plus a knob of butter. Pop in the lobster tails, cover the pan with a lid and cook for a few minutes until tender. I like to baste the lobster with the butter whilst it is cooking from time to time too. Remove the lobster from the pan, allow to cool until you can handle it and chop the meat into pieces.

3. Using the same frying pan, add in the garlic and cook for a minute before adding the wine. Simmer and reduce the wine by half before adding the cream and saffron. Stir well to ensure the saffron colours the cream evenly. Season to taste before adding the lobster pieces back into the pan. Gently warm through and toss with the garganelli before adding a sprinkle of parsley.

Lobster and delicate saffron cream garganelli- treat yourself to a little luxury!

Sweet roasted garlic and spinach risotto with pancetta curls

Sweet roasted garlic and spinach risotto was born after being given a huge bag full of homegrown spinach which would be sacrilegious to waste! Don’t think that if you make this you’ll be walking around the next day sending people running and fending off vampires as roasting the garlic makes for a sweet finish. Use the freshest garlic you can for the best flavour.

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Ingredients- serves 2
Bulb of garlic- cut in half
Olive oil
1 small white onion- finely chopped
50g pancetta- cubed
200g arborio rice
600ml chicken or vegetable stock
100g spinach- washed, patted dry and shredded
2 tbsp creme fraiche or ricotta
Lemon juice
Pancetta slices
Salt and pepper
Fresh grated parmesan to serve

1. First thing’s first! Preheat the oven to 200c/ 180fan and place the halved garlic bulb cut side up on a baking try. Drizzle over some olive oil and roast for around 25-30 minutes until the garlic is sweet and tender. Remove from the oven and set aside.

2. When you’re ready to cook the risotto, take a large pan and add a knob of butter over a medium heat. Cook the chopped onion and pancetta cubes for a few minutes until softening and the pancetta is turning golden. Add in the arborio rice and make sure that the buter coats each grain. Take a ladle and add in the first lot of stock and lower the heat to a simmer. Squeeze out the garlic cloves, mash down lightly with the back of a fork and add to the rice.

3. As each ladle of stock is absorbed you need to add in another until all the stock has been used. When the last ladle has been added pop in in the shredded spinach and stir well to combine. Take the pan off the heat and add in the creme fraiche, a squeeze of lemon to taste and some parmesan cheese. Taste and adjust the seasoning as required.

Serve the risotto is warmed bowls with a final grate of parmesan and a pancetta curl or two (make more than you need in case one jumps into your mouth whilst cooking!). To make the curls take thin slices of pancetta and cut a slice into thirds. Wrap them loosely around a skewer, remove gently and place on a baking tray. Cook for a couple of minutes at 180c/ 160fan. Simple!

Sweet roasted garlic and spinach risotto with pancetta curls- treat yourself to a little luxury!

Shashlik style spiced paneer

Shashlik is a takeaway and restaurant classic that never fails to please. I have made this recipe easier to file at home by cooking the paneer in a large roasting dish to save time however if you want to thread the paneer and vegetables on skewers then it will work just as well. You can also use chicken for this recipe if you prefer but if you’re not familiar with paneer then now is your chance to try it. Paneer is a firm cottage style cheese which loves spice!

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Ingredients- serves 2-3
1 1/2 tsp of the following spices: Ground cumin, ground coriander, turmeric, mango powder, chilli powder, garam masala, ajwain seeds
1 tbsp garlic ginger puree
2 packs of paneer
100ml natural yogurt
Lemon juice
1 large red and 1 large green bell pepper
2 small red onions
Handful of baby plum tomatoes

1. Plan ahead so you have plenty of time for the marinade to work its magic with the paneer. Start off by cutting the paneer blocks into large, even chunks. Make the spice mix by combining all the spices and stir through the yogurt. Toss the paneer chunks and vegetables in the marinade, cover the bowl and chill for at least 2 hours but overnight if you can.

2. When you’re ready to cook, preheat the oven to 200c/ 170fan. Take a large roasting tray and add the paneer mixture and give a good squeeze of lemon over the top to bring the flavours alive. Cook for around half an hour until the paneer is golden and vegetables are tender. Give the tray a jiggle halfway through cooking. Serve with beads such as paratha or chapatis.

Shashlik style paneer- a simple twist on a classic that’ll wake up your tastebuds!

Spicy Chinese XO prawns

Chinese XO sauce is made using a blend of dried shrimp, scallop and pork as well as a host of spicy additions. I was bought a jar of it and it kept looking at me saying ‘use me, use me’ in the cupboard so use it I did. XO packs a punch so keep the rest of the ingredients simple as I have in this recipe.

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Ingredients- serves 2
200g raw king prawns- peeled and deveined
1 small red bell pepper and 1 small green bell pepper- cut into chunks
1 garlic clove- finely sliced
2 cm piece of fresh ginger- finely sliced
1/2 red chilli- finely sliced (optional)
1 tbsp dark soy
1 tsp rice wine
1- 1 1/2 tsp XO sauce

1. Start off by making sure all the ingredients are prepped as once you get going this is super quick. Mix the rice wine, soy and XO sauce in a small dish and set aside.

2. Heat a glug of groundnut or vegetable oil over a medium/ high heat in a wok. Throw in the ginger, chilli and garlic and fry off for a minute or so being careful that the garlic does not start to burn. Pop in XO sauce mixture and cook for a further minute before adding the peppers for a further minute. Make sure the peppers are well coated in the sauce and then in go the prawns. Cook until the prawns are cooked through and a gorgeous blush pink. Serve in warmed bowls with rice and get munching! You can also stir through some shredded spring onion at the end if you like which is also delicious.

Spicy XO prawns- why stop there? Try it with chicken, pork or even tofu!

Roasted root and feta ‘panzanella’ with crispy sage

Traditionally panzanella is a Tuscan salad consisting of an abundance of tomatoes and croutons however I have given it a vegetable twist! I have used elements of the traditional method and balanced a selection of root vegetables and herbs to give a fresh finish. Although the addition of feta is not exactly in keeping with the original, I think it adds a sharpness which enhances the sweetness of the vegetables.

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Ingredients- serves 4 as a main
For the vegetables

2 beetroot- peeled and cut into wedges
Half a butternut squash- peeled and cut into chunks
2 red onions- peeled and cut into wedges
Salt and pepper
Fresh thyme and sage leaves
3 garlic cloves
3-4 small slices of day old bread- I used seeded sourdough
150g feta

For the dressing
3 tbsp olive oil

1 1/2 tbsp wholegrain mustard
1 tbsp runny honey

1. Start off by making sure all the veegtables are prepped and ready to go! Preheat the oven to 190c/ 160 fan. Take the beetroot wedges and place them in a baking tray, toss in a light coating of olive oil and season. I used smoked salt instead of normal salt as this is my latest fascination but normal is fine. Cook for around 20 minutes.

2. After the beetroot have been started off place the rest of the vegetables in a larger baking tray, mix together all the dressing ingredients and toss. Add in a good helping of fresh thyme springs and nestle the whole (not peeled) garlic cloves in amongst. Roast for around another 20-25 minutes until all the vegetables are tender. When they are ready I fished out the garlic and squeezed it from it papery coating before mixing it through the vegetables to add an extra layer of flavour.

3. While the vegetables are cooking away you can cut the bread into chunks and place of a baking sheet with a light drizzle of olive oil. In the last 5 minutes of the vegetables cooking, place onto the bottom shelf of the oven to crisp and go golden, turning half way. I finished my panzanella with a few sage leaves so this can also be prepared now; simply wash the leaves and pat dry with kitchen towel. Heat a small amount of oil in a small frynig pan and fry the leaves in batches. I used relatively large leaves which took around 30 seconds each side but watch to make sure they don’t burn or discolour. I held the leaves flat in the pan with a fork too. When fried, remove and blot onto kitchen towel.

4. Toss the croutons through the tender, sweet vegetables and pile onto a large serving plate. Finish off by sprinkling little chunks of feta over and adding the crispy sage leaves in top.

Roasted root vegetable and feta panzanella with crispy sage- fresh, vibrant and oh so delicious!

Fiorentina puntalette bake

This is a surefire winner for a midweek feast! You can pick up puntalette, also known as orzo pasta, in most supermarkets or Italian delis now so stock up as you’re sure to make this more than once. I have given you a basic recipe that you can tweak until your heart’s content. Play around with a mix of mushrooms and kale which is delicious!

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Ingredients- serves 4
300g puntalette pasta (rice grain size pasta shapes)
30g butter
30g plain flour
200ml double cream
200ml milk
40g creamy blue cheese- such as dolcelatte (optional)
40g parmesan and extra to finish
2 garlic cloves- crushed
1 large banana shallot- sliced
Small punnet of chestnut or white mushrooms
Small pack of baby spinach- washed and dried

1. Grab a large pan and cook the puntalette according to packet instructions until al dente. meanwhile you can make the creamy cheese sauce. Take a medium pan and melt the butter together with the flour and a good pinch of mustard powder (optional). Stir together the milk and cream before gradually mixing into the flour. Keep going until all the milk has been added and then keep stirring until it has thickened. Take the pan off the heat and add the cheese until it has melted through.

2. Take a frying pan and heat a glug of oil. Cook the shallot and garlic for a moment or two before turning up the heat to medium/ high and cooking the mushrooms. You need to cook them quickly so remove any excess natural moisture. When they are softening and catching a little colour, take the pan off the heat and set aside.

3. When the pasta is ready, drain well. I then add the cooked mushrooms and spinach into the cheese sauce before combining with the pasta, just allowing the spinach to wilt a little before adding more. Taste and adjust seasoning. A good crack of black pepper never goes amiss!

4. Pop the pasta into an ovenproof dish and top with more parmesan and the odd dot of blue cheese if you like. Bake for around 30 minutes in a 200c/ 180fan oven until the cheesy topping is golden and bubbly.

Fiorentina pasta bake- a decadent midweek dish that makes a delicious leftover lunch! If you have any left…