Summer Eating and Beautiful Vegetables

This summer has been an unusually hot one, and I’ve sort of lost my appetite for anything that needs time to cook, even the barbecue has lost its appeal, there’s only so much charred food that I can take. I fluctuate between wanting to eat food with gentle flavours, a little something poached in a flavoursome broth, or perhaps a spiced dish that will tickle my taste buds and wake up my palate, but without fiery heat – there’s enough of that happening outside.

I’m finding we’ve been eating more vegetable based dishes, accompanied by some sort of grain. They fit the mood right now, and the vegetables around have been gorgeous, particularly from organic Moonacres Farm.

The two recipes below reflect the mood I’m in at the moment. The poached leeks and baby fennel are gentle and nourishing, cooking in broth tends to have that effect on food. And I just wanted to do as little as possible to these perfect ingredients, because they need very little enhancing.

My Tandoori carrots gave my palate the wake up call it needed, with out an explosion of heat. With a bowlful of rice, extra yoghurt and pickles on the side, I needed nothing more. With the leftover mixture, try marinating cauliflower florets, or the stalks of rainbow chard; also delicious.

If the thought of going without protein for a night or two bothers you, a piece of grilled salmon, or a roast chicken works well with both these dishes, just keep it simple, and let the vegetables be the star.

Poached Pencil Leeks and Baby Fennel, Soft Boiled Eggs, and Walnut Oil Vinaigrette

Serves 2 as a light lunch

Pencil leeks may be a problem to obtain, if so, buy the smallest leeks possible, and cut them lengthways through the centre.

  • 1 bunch pencil leeks, about 10, trimmed
  • 6 baby fennel, trimmed and cut in half
  • 2 cups great chicken or duck broth
  • 2 large organic, free-range eggs
  • Fennel fronds and tarragon leaves
  • Pickled red onion and baby capers to serve

Walnut Oil Vinaigrette

  • 1 heaped teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1tbsp tarragon vinegar
  • 3tbsp walnut oil
  • 1tbsp baby capers
  • Sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

Firstly prepare the vinaigrette. Whisk together mustard, tarragon vinegar and walnut oil until you have a lovely thick emulsion. Season with salt and pepper, add capers, and put aside.

Boil your eggs to your liking, peel, and set aside.

Put leeks and fennel into a shallow saucepan, pour in broth just to cover and bring to a simmer. Cook gently until you can just pierce vegetables with a sharp knife.

Let cool in broth, and when ready to serve, place vegetables beautifully on a platter, (reserve broth for another dish), cut eggs in half and place around the vegetables, drizzle with the vinaigrette, and scatter the red onion, fennel fronds, tarragon and a spoonful of capers around and over the dish.

Tandoori Carrots

Serves 4-6 people

This makes more than enough for two bunches of carrots. Store the excess paste in the fridge for a week, or in the freezer for a month.

  • 2 bunches of small carrots
  • Thumb-sized piece of ginger, grated
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 1.5tsps cumin
  • 1tsp coriander
  • 1/2tsp smoked paprika
  • 1tbsp red curry paste
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 200g natural goat milk yoghurt
  • Groundnut or grapeseed oil
  • 1 fresh lime and a hanful of Thai basil leaves to serve
  • Peel and trim carrots and put aside.

In a large bowl, combine ginger, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, paprika, and curry paste. Stir in yoghurt, season with salt and pepper, and pour a large slurp of oil into the mixture.

Fold carrots through, and set aside for half an hour.

Preheat oven to 200C, and line a baking sheet with baking paper.

Place carrots in an even layer, making sure they are well coated with the yoghurt mixture, drizzle with a little more oil, and put into the oven for 20-30 minutes. After 20 minutes pierce carrots with a sharp knife, they should be just tender, and charred in places. Give them another 10 minutes if necessary.

Remove from oven when ready, place on a platter, scatter with Thai basil leaves, and squeeze the lime over all.