Absurdly addictive asparagus

You must try this, as it’s the most wonderful melange of flavors.

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Serves 4

4 oz pancetta, cut into 3/8 inch to 1/4 inch dice
1 tbsp butter
1 lb asparagus, woody ends trimmed and sliced into 2 inch pieces on the bias
1 1/4 cups leek, thinly sliced crosswise (white and pale green parts only)
2 cloves garlic, minced
Zest of one lemon
1 teaspoon orange zest
2 tbsp toasted pine nuts
1-2 tbsp Italian parsley, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a large non-stick pan, sauté the pancetta, stirring frequently, over medium heat, until crisp and lightly golden.
Add 1 tbsp of butter to pan. Add the asparagus pieces and leeks and sauté until the asparagus is tender crisp, about 3-4 minutes.
Add the garlic, lemon and orange zest, toasted pine nuts and parsley and sauté for about 1 minute, until fragrant.
Season to taste with freshly ground pepper and salt and serve immediately.

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Absurdly addictive asparagus

This recipe combines so many of my favorite flavors and is going to be a firm favorite. Such a heady combination of leeks, pancetta, orange zest, pine nuts and parsley added to the asparagus is without doubt the best asparagus recipe I’ve encountered.

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Serves 4

4 oz pancetta, cut into 3/8 inch to 1/4 inch dice
1 tbsp butter
1 lb asparagus, woody ends trimmed and sliced into 2 inch pieces on the bias
1 1/4 cups leek, thinly sliced crosswise (white and pale green parts only)
2 cloves garlic, minced
Zest of one lemon
1 teaspoon orange zest
2 tbsp toasted pine nuts
1-2 tbsp Italian parsley, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a large non-stick pan, sauté the pancetta, stirring frequently, over medium heat, until crisp and lightly golden.
Add 1 tbsp of butter to pan. Add the asparagus pieces and leeks and sauté until the asparagus is tender crisp, about 3-4 minutes.
Add the garlic, lemon and orange zest, toasted pine nuts and parsley and sauté for about 1 minute, until fragrant.
Season to taste with freshly ground pepper and salt and serve immediately.

Eggplant bake with spicy coconut milk and tomatoes

A lovely vegan comfort food with warming spices and creamy coconut milk.

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4 eggplants cut into 1/4″ slices
3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp coconut oil
2 large onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp black mustard seeds
1/2 tbsp fenugreek seeds
1 tbsp garam masala
1/4 tsp hot chilli powder
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
2 x 14oz cans chopped tomatoes
8 fl oz coconut milk
sugar, to taste
2 tbsp flaked almonds
small bunch cilantro, roughly chopped (optional)

Heat oven to 425 F. Generously brush each eggplant slice with vegetable oil and place in a single layer on a baking tray, or two if they don’t fit on one. Cook on the low shelves for 10 mins, then turn over and cook for a further 5-10 mins until they are golden. Reduce the oven to 350 F.

Heat the coconut oil in a large, heavy-based frying pan and add the onions. Cover and sweat on a low heat for about 5 mins until softened. Add the garlic, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, garam masala, chilli powder, cinnamon stick, cumin and ground coriander. Cook for a few secs until it starts to smell beautiful and aromatic.

Pour the chopped tomatoes and coconut milk into the spiced onions and stir well. Check the seasoning and add a little sugar, salt or pepper to taste.

Spoon a third of the tomato sauce on the bottom of a 4 pint ovenproof dish. Layer with half the eggplant slices. Spoon over a further third of tomato sauce, then the remaining eggplant slices, and finish with the rest of the sauce. Sprinkle over the flaked almonds and cilantro (if using), reserving some to serve, and bake for 25-30 mins. Serve garnished with more cilantro.

Asian sweet potato gratin.

If you like dairy-free food and Asian flavors, this is a great twist on a heavier, creamier potato gratin.
Sweet potato and peanut butter might sound like a bonkers pairing, but combined with the flavor powerhouses of chili, ginger and lime, the result is magical.

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Serves 2, but easily can be augmented

3 sweet potatoes
8 fl oz of coconut milk
1 tbsp peanut butter
A stem of lemon grass
A thumb of ginger
1 chili
1 lime
1 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat your oven to 350 F
Scrub 3 sweet potatoes, then slice as thinly as you can.
Place the slices in a medium sized baking dish.

Finely chop a chili. Peel a thumb of ginger with a teaspoon and roughly chop. Take 1 lemon grass stem and remove the tough outer leaves.

Zest the lime and juice half. Tip in 1 tbsp peanut butter, the lemon grass, chili, ginger, lime zest and the juice into a food processor.

Pour in 8 oz coconut milk. Blitz to combine all the ingredients.
Taste and season.

Pour the coconut sauce over the potato. Mix with your hands then flatten.
Cover the dish with foil and seal the edges tightly. Cook for 30 mins.

Remove the foil and cook for a further 20 mins till golden.

Check the sweet potatoes are cooked and soft by piercing with a knife. If still firm, place back in the oven and cook for a further 5-10 mins.

Butternut squash, mustard and Gruyere gratin

I love anything that has cream, cheese and vegetables in it and you might want to think about changing up your Thanksgiving meal by adding this to the repertoire.I highly recommend it.

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A small knob of butter (1 tbsp)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, halved and thinly sliced
2 or 3 garlic cloves, peeled and squashed
10 decent sized-sage leaves
10 fl oz pot double cream
6 fl oz whole milk (or use cream instead for an extra luxurious dish)
2 tbsp wholegrain mustard
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, quartered and thinly sliced (about 2lb 2oz prepared weight)
1/4 tsp hand grated nutmeg
8 oz Gruyère, grated

Heat the butter and oil in a large frying pan. Add the onions and cook slowly over a low-medium heat, stirring every now and then, for 10-15 mins until golden and soft.

Meanwhile, put the garlic and half the sage in a saucepan, add the cream and milk, and heat gently, not allowing the mixture to boil, for 5 mins. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool for 10 mins, then fish out the sage and garlic. Stir in the mustard and season well.

If cooking straight away, heat oven to 350 F.
Layer the squash slices, (sprinkling a little grated nutmeg on each layer)the onions, most of the cheese and the infused cream into a large baking dish, finishing with a layer of cream. Once you’ve used the ingredients up, scatter with the remaining cheese and put the remaining sage leaves on top. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 45 mins.

Uncover the dish and increase the heat to 400 F. Cook for a further 20-30 mins until golden brown and tender all the way through. Leave to cool for 10 mins before serving.

“Vaghareli Makai” (Spicy corn with peanuts, lime, cilantro and mustard seeds)

This is a real gem from Heidi Swanson’s new book “Near and Far” What a stunning array of flavors!

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The original recipe called for “2 small red chiles” so you can use whatever kind of chile pepper you want, depending on how hot and spicy you like things. If you are avoiding nuts then use pumpkin seeds. To make it vegan, Heidi recommends using sunflower oil in place of the butter.

2 small red chiles, stemmed, seeded (if desired), and sliced
2 medium garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
One 1-inch (3cm) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
¾ teaspoon sea or kosher salt
2 tablespoon clarified butter (ghee)
1 ½ teaspoons yellow or brown mustard seeds
3 cups (450g, about 3 large ears) fresh corn kernels
½ cup (60g) roasted peanuts
1 cup (30g) chopped cilantro
lemon or lime wedges
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

1. In a mortar and pestle, or with a mini food processor, grind the chiles, garlic, ginger, turmeric, and salt to a paste.

2. Heat the clarified butter in a wide skillet. Add the mustard seeds and cook, stirring until they pop, which will take a minute or two. Stir in the corn kernels and cook a few minutes, stirring frequently, until they just start to feel tender, which will take a couple of minutes.

3. Stir in the peanuts, half of the cilantro and half of the red chile paste. Cook for another minute then taste. If desired, for additional heat, add more of the chile paste and perhaps a bit of salt. Remove from heat and add a squeeze of lemon or lime juice.

Serve the spiced corn over rice, or as a side dish, topped with the remaining cilantro and sesame seeds.

Have lemon or lime wedges handy for guests to add as they wish. Any leftovers can be reheated in a skillet with a little more clarified butter.

Pumpkin Turtle Cheesecake Parfait

Sometimes you need to have a recipe like this that you can whip up fast. This is a lovely fall-like twist on a pumpkin cheesecake except it’s no-cook and a lot more chiffon-like. The recipe belongs to “The Midnight Baker”

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Serves: 4

8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1 pkg (size that serves 4) vanilla instant pudding
1/2 cup milk/cream/half and half, divided
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
8 oz (1 regular tub) whipped topping
chopped pecans for garnish
Store bought caramel sauce for drizzle

The instant pudding mix is used dry–DO NOT MAKE PER PACKAGE DIRECTIONS
Beat the cream cheese and 1/4 cup of the milk/cream in a large bowl until it’s smooth and silky
Add the pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, the remaining milk and the dry pudding mix
Beat for 1 minute
Fold in the whipped topping
Divide evenly into small dessert dishes
Garnish with chopped pecans and drizzle with caramel sauce