Delicious 2 Course Meal in Under 15 Minutes!


IMG_7399Instant Smoked Salmon Blinis followed by Penne with Artichokes

This is seriously fast food! Ideal for when you have big hunger and little time.  The penne cooks while you are eating the Instant Blinis  (which aren’t really Blinis)

200g penne
jar artichokes in olive oil
1tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
4tbsp grated Parmesan
1tbsp chopped parsley (or other fresh herbs – coriander also works well)

1 pack Melba toasts
100g smoked salmon
50g crème fraîche
sprig fresh dill
smoked paprika

1. Add the oil and garlic to a frying pan and heat gently – do not brown the garlic.
2. Drain the artichokes, chop in half, and add to the pan.
3. Boil a full kettle of water, and pour into a large pan.
4. Salt the water, add the penne and bring back to the boil.
5. Add a piece of smoked salmon to each Melba toast.
6. Add a small tsp of crème fraîche, a sprig of dill and a dusting of smoked paprika.
7. Eat and enjoy the Melba toasts.
8. When the penne is al dente, drain and add to the pan with the artichokes.
9. Stir in the Parmesan and chopped parsley, and serve in warmed pasta bowls.

And there you have it!

Note: It you do not eat smoked salmon, substitute good cream cheese, topped with half a cherry tomato (a magical combination, believe me) a good grind of black pepper and a pinch of chipotle.

© DAVEggie

Samosas with Spliced Lentil Soup and Vegetable Biryani

Samosas – the traditional ones with a spiced potato and pea filling – were an absolute favourite of my children when they were little (and still are.)

They are somewhat time-consuming to make, but fun and worth the effort.

I find the traditional pastry too heavy, so I substitute a leavened dough that I also use for Empanadas.

I like to serve the Samosas with Spiced Lentil Soup and a Vegetable Biryani. I also include a recipe for my own Madras Curry Paste.





225g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
1tsp salt
60g butter, chilled and cut in small dice
2-4tbsp cold water


1. Mix the flour, salt and baking powder in a large bowl.
2. Add the butter, and rub in until the texture of breadcrumbs.
3. Add the water, a teaspoon at a time, until the mixture forms a soft dough.
4. Allow to rest for 1 hour in the fridge



2tbsp sunflower oil
1 medium onion, chopped
500g waxy potatoes
100g frozen peas
1tbsp fresh ginger, grated
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 mild green chilli, de-seeded and finely sliced
2tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
2tbsp lemon juice
1tsp garam masala
1tsp ground coriander
1tsp roasted cumin seeds, ground


1. Boil the potatoes in their skins until just cooked.
2. Allow to cool, peel, and cut into 1cm dice.
3. Fry the onion in the oil until slightly browned (about 10 minutes.)
4. Add the peas, ginger, garlic, chilli and a good splash of water.
5. Cover and simmer until the peas are cooked (about 5 minutes.)
6. Add the potatoes and remaining ingredients and cook for another 3 minutes.
7. Allow to cool.
8. Divide the pastry into 12.
9. Roll out to coin thickness. The disk should be about 10cm.
10. Add a tablespoon of vegetable mixture, moisten the outside of the pastry disk with water, and fold in half.
11. Crimp the edge to form a pasty.
12. To cook, add sunflower oil to a large frying pan to a depth of 1cm.
13. When the oil is hot, add the Samosas (you may need to cook them in two batches, depending on the size of the frying pan), and cook until golden on all sides.

Spiced Lentil Soup

150g red split lentils
4 slices fresh ginger
1/2tsp ground turmeric
1l vegetable stock
100g floury potatoes, diced
1tbsp lemon juice
1tbsp coconut cream
1tbsp sunflower oil
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
1tsp whole cumin seeds
2tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
1 mild red chilli, de-seeded and finely sliced

1. Add the lentils, ginger, turmeric and stock to a large pan, bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes.
2. Add the potatoes, and simmer for a further 30 minutes.
3. Remove the ginger slices and liquidize the soup.
4. Add the lemon juice and adjust the seasoning.
5. When ready to serve, heat the oil in a small heavy saucepan.
6. Add the cumin seeds and garlic, and fry until the garlic turns light brown.
7. Tip the contents (including oil) into the soup and stir.
8. Ladle into bowls and garnish with chopped coriander and red chilli.

Roast Vegetable Biryani


½ aubergine, cut in 2cm dice
½ courgette, cut in 2 cm dice
½ yellow pepper, cut in 2cm pieces
1 large onion, cut in 2cm chunks
2tbsp sunflower oil
1-2tsp madras curry paste (or good curry powder)

1. Mix the oil and curry paste.
2. Place the vegetables in a baking dish (about 3cm deep.)
3. Pour the oil over the vegetables and mix well.
4. Bake at 190° for about 30 minutes. The vegetables should be slightly caramelized, but not burned.


150g basmati rice
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small garlic clove, finely chopped
1 mild green pepper, de-seeded and finely sliced
½ mushroom stock cube
Boiling water

1. Wash the rice in several changes of cold water, and then allow to soak for 30 minutes.
2. Drain in a sieve for 15 minutes.
3. In a small heavy saucepan, cook the onion gently in the oil until slightly browned (about 5 minutes.)
4. Add the rice and remaining dry ingredients, and cook over a lowish heat for a further 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
5. Add enough water to cover the rice to a depth of about 1/2cm.
6. Cover with silver foil and bring to the boil. Cover with a tight fitting lid, and over the lowest possible heat, allow to cook for 20 minutes. One technique is to put the saucepan in a heavy (pre-warmed) frying pan to diffuse the heat.
7. Allow the rice to stand covered for a further 5 minutes.
8. Fluff the rice gently with a fork.


1dsp sunflower oil
1tbsp cashew nuts
1tbsp sultanas
1tbsp flaked almonds
1tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
1tbsp fresh mint, chopped
1. In a small heavy saucepan, add all the ingredients except the herbs, and cook over a medium heat until the nuts have slightly browned, and the raisins have plumped.
2. In a pre-heated serving dish, add the rice, vegetables, nuts and raisins, and herbs and mix.

Madras Curry Paste

1tsp ground black pepper
1tbsp chilli powder
1/2tsp ground cinnamon
2tsp garam masala
2tsp ground turmeric
8tbsp ground coriander
2tsp black mustard seeds
4tbsp ground cumin
3 crushed cloves of garlic
2.5cm cube fresh ginger root, grated
125ml brown vinegar
75ml vegetable oil

Put all ingredients except for the vinegar and oil into a bowl
Mix well
Stir in the vinegar and mix to a smooth paste
Heat oil in medium saucepan
Stir in the mixture over low heat until mixture boils and oil begins to separate from the spices
Remove saucepan from heat and allow to cool
Store in airtight jar and add to curries as required

© DAVEggie

Borscht with Pierogi


Normally at this time of year I would be looking forward to spring, and such seasonal delights as Soupe au Pistou, Spring Vegetable Frittata and Pasta Primavera.


But because the weather is so cold an miserable, I present this week a wholesome winter recipe: Borscht with Pierogi.

Borscht, I hardly need tell you, is a beetroot based soup from Eastern Europe. There are literally hundreds of variations, from a delicate beetroot consommé (more of which later), to my robust kitchen-sink variation. The addition of smoked paprika or Chipotle powder gives it extra warmth and depth, a splodge of sour cream gives it richness, and sprinkling of fresh herbs adds a touch of freshness.

Pierogi are actually Polish dumplings of unleavened dough, stuffed with a variety of fillings (meat, cheese, sauerkraut or fruit), and boiled. The filling I favour is sauerkraut with dried Porcini mushrooms. The dumplings resemble Chinese Potsticker Dumplings in size and shape, but because the dough contains egg it is more stable. You can make the dumplings in advance and store them in the fridge for a couple of days; indeed, I think they taste better for it. Potsticker Dumpling dough is made from flour and boiling water, and the dumplings need to be eaten immediately. If you try to store them in the fridge they gradually absorb moisture and amalgamate together into a grey puddle.

The Borscht too will develop its flavour if left in the fridge for a couple of days, but it gradually loses its vibrant red colour.

Until recently, I have served the Borscht with rye bread as a starter, and then served the Pierogi with boiled potatoes and a mushroom sauce as a main. However, once when I was pushed for time I simply brought the soup to a simmer and dropped the dumplings into it to poach. The result: quicker, simpler and better, though at the expense of appearance. Indeed, far from the effete ruby delicacy of the beetroot consommé I used to favour, this variation resembles boiled guts (hence no photograph this week as I don’t want to frighten you). DO NOT LET THIS PUT YOU OFF, it tastes really awesome!

300g beetroot, peeled
50g butter
1 small onion,
1 small carrot
1 stick of celery
1 small leek
2 berries allspice
½ bay leaf
1.5l good vegetable stock (with liquor from soaked Porcini added)
2 medium floury potatoes
150g red cabbage, shredded finely
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp smoked paprika or chipotle powder
Sour cream
fresh herbs (dill, parsley and chives

1. Peel the beetroot, chop ¾ into 1 cm dice and grate the rest.
2. Chop the remaining vegetables into 1 cm dice or rings.
3. Melt the butter in a large pan, and then soften the onion over a medium heat for 5 minutes.
4. Add the carrot, leek, celery, diced beetroot, allspice, smoked paprika/chipotle and bay leaf and stir well to coat with butter. Cook for another 10 minutes (add a splash of stock if the vegetables begin to dry.)
5. Pour in the rest of the stock and the potatoes and simmer for 15 minutes
6. Add the cabbage, garlic and grated beetroot. Cook until all the vegetables are tender (about 10 minutes).
7. Add the vinegar, sugar, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 4
150g plain flour
1 egg yolk
75ml very hot water
150g Sauerkraut
15g dried porcini mushrooms
15g butter

1. Add the water to the flour and mix (the result should be really stiff and sticky)
2. Add the egg yolk ( and a little more flour if too wet0 and kneed for a couple of minutes until it forms a smooth dough (you will need to flour you hands and the kneading surface very well.)
3. Set aside for 1 hour to rest.
1. Soak the mushrooms in hot water for 30 minutes. Then squeeze dry (retaining the soaking liquid for the soup) and chop finely.
2. Melt the butter in a large frying pan, then add the drained sauerkraut. Cover and cook over a low heat for 15 minutes.
3. Stir in the mushrooms, and cook for 15 minutes longer.
4. Season to taste.

To Assemble the Pierogi
1. Roll a lump of dough out to the thickness of a coin on a well-floured surface.
2. Cut out 10 cm circles (for this I use the rim of a large jam jar).
3. Moisten the edge of each dough circle.
4. Place a heaped teaspoon of filling in the middle, and fold in half.
5. Crimp the edge to form a small pastie.
Note: you can also use a pasta machine to roll out the dough.

To Cook the Pierogi
1. Bring the Borscht to a simmer.
2. Add the dumplings, and poach for about 90 seconds. The dumplings will float.
3. Ladle into deep bowls, and serve with rye bread, sour cream, chopped fresh herbs (parsley, chives, dill.)

© DAVEggie

Growing Chillies from Seed #2 (Potting on)

When chilli seeds germinate, the first pair of leaves to emerge are the cotyledons or seed leaves. These contain a limited supply of food for the plant, and will eventually whither and drop off. The next pair of leaves are the true leaves. If you sowed your seeds in soil-less plugs like I suggested, when the first pair of true leaves have unfurled, then it is time to pot the seedlings on, because the soil-less plugs contain no nutrients.


Choose the strongest seedlings. You will need a quantity of small plastic pots, and some all purpose compost.IMG_7065

Place a little compost in the bottom of a pot, and place the plug on top.


Pour compost round the plug, pressing down gently to remove any air. until the compost is level with the plug.IMG_7067

Label the seedling, and return to a propagator. Place the full propagator in a light place away from direct sunlight for the first day, then return to a sunny windowsill.


It is important to keep them well watered; chillies hate to dry out.