Seeing red

I’m an impatient bugger. It’s mid-September and there’s still no sign of those ravishingly red leaves. Get a move on, autumn; these grey skies are making me grumpy. Admittedly, I’m not too excited about the approaching drop in temperature (I’ve been told that the heating doesn’t come on until October – we’ll see about that…) but I do hope those colours come out soon. If not, an Indian summer would suit me just fine but this in-between stage is rather getting on my nerves.

Luckily, I don’t have that much time to be distracted by the weather. Work is picking up and I have the not so small task of writing a cookery book – when I’m not testing recipes, that is. It’s a good thing I’ve joined a gym because at the moment, I feel like I’m eating for two (sometimes three or four), minus the pregnancy bit. When I’m not making cauliflower cheese, crumble, and tofish and chips (heavenly on the lips and the hips) I’m rusting up some healthy but hearty meals – just for a bit of balance, you know?

This sweet little salad is light but warming and the orange and tomato (British toms are still around so grab ‘em while you can) are a match made in heaven. I’ve used white kale, which I found at Swansea Market, but any sort of green leaves will do. When it gets colder (or if you’re really hungry) you can bulk it up with autumnal squash or pumpkin – or sweet potato. It would also be nice with rice.

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Indian summer salad

Serves 2

 

Ingredients

Head of cauliflower, broken into florets

1 leek or two spring onions, finely sliced

1 punnet cherry or plum tomatoes, whole

2 tbsp olive oil

3 big handfuls of kale or spinach, roughly chopped

1 tsp ground cumin

1 orange, peeled and in segments

Juice from 1 lemon

2 tsp capers

2 tbsp ground almonds

Flatleaf parsley or coriander to garnish (optional)

 

Method

Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the leeks, cauliflower, cumin and lemon juice and cook for five minutes, stirring frequently. Stir through the kale and tomatoes and cook for two minutes then add the orange segments and the capers, plus a little of brine from the jar, if you like. Season with salt and pepper and cook for another two minutes.

Serve with the almonds scattered over, plus the parsley or coriander if using.

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Autumn almanac

September’s crept up on me this year. Perhaps it’s because I’ve recently moved to a new city (an ugly, lovely town, said Dylan Thomas, and I’m not going to disagree) but I’m not really digging autumn just yet. I’m sure that’ll change soon enough – after all, this is my favourite time of year. I’ll never understand why people try to ‘reinvent’ themselves in joyless January when September with its back-to-school freshness and kaleidoscope of colours is a much easier time to do it – armed with a shiny new pencil case, of course.

Now that the long summer days are over, I’m looking forward to getting my teeth into some new projects and I have something very exciting up my sleeve. If you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed that I’ve been posting more food photos than usual (if that’s even possible) and that’s because I’m testing recipes for my book. Yes, I’m writing my first cookery book! I still can’t quite believe that it’s happening (it definitely is as I’ve signed the contract) and I can’t wait to share some of my favourite recipes with you when the book’s published in March.

I’ve neglected the blog a bit because of the book stuff so I’m going to make it up to you with a recipe for this magnificent muhammarra.  According to the internet, this Middle Eastern dip is overtaking houmous in the popularity stakes. I’ll take this with a generous pinch of salt (it may be a thing in London but I haven’t seen it in Cardiff, let alone Swansea) but one thing’s for sure: it’s absolutely delicious – and pretty easy to make as well.

This stuff is pretty versatile, too. You can spoon it onto pasta, bread (obviously), baked potatoes and salads, and it’s a great addition to brunch – it goes really well with tomatoes and avocado, and I hear that it’s excellent with eggs.

Brunch is ooooon. #nofilter

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The traditional recipe for muhammara uses Aleppo pepper but chilli flakes (or even powder) is just fine – and if you can’t find pomegranate molasses, you can substitute it with maple syrup and balsamic vinegar. Lots of people remove the skins from the peppers but I don’t think you really need to.

One final tip: if you’re trying to save money (and who isn’t?) buy your walnuts from a pound shop or discount store – the same goes for other nuts, seeds, quinoa, sundried tomatoes and more – as they’re significantly cheaper than at the supermarket.

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Muhammarra

Serves 2-3

 

Ingredients

3 red peppers, cut into half and seeds removed

60g walnuts

1 tbsp pomegranate molasses (or 1 tsp maple syrup and 2 tsps balsamic vinegar)

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

½ tsp chilli flakes

1 tsp ground cumin

½ tsp salt

The juice of 1 lemon

1 clove garlic, peeled

1 tsp tomato puree

 

Method

Preheat the oven to 200C and roast the peppers for 35-40 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool. While the peppers are cooking, take a dry pan and gently roast the walnuts for a few minutes, being careful not to let them burn. Once they’re cool, blitz in a food processor until they have a coarse consistency and then add the peppers and all the other ingredients and whizz until you have a smooth paste.

Serve with an extra drizzle of olive oil and pomegranate molasses, if you like.