Kale Cavolo Nero

Kale used to be one of the only fresh green vegetables that could be grown in the UK over winter and tough little numbers like Hungry Gap would brave out the winter frosts, snow and wind. The trouble is that toughness to survive a winter storm lead to toughness on the plate and once supermarkets started flying in vegetables from around the world people turned away from their less palatable staples. Kale was gradually abandoned and started to sink out of peoples memory.

It took  The River Cafe  which opened in the late 1908’s to bring kale back in to the spotlight but not any kale……..This was a kale of which we’d never seen in the UK before or if we had it had long gone out of production. The kale was Cavolo Nero

Tomato – Sweet Aperitif

On New Years day I planted my first seeds of the year which were mainly chillies. It’s a bit early to sow tomatoes unless you have a frost free conservatory/greenhouse but it is definitely time to start thinking about what you are going to grow this year.

For many the choice of cherry tomatoes is either Sungold or gardeners delight but now there are a few red varieties of tomato that are rivalling the original gardeners delight for its crown now that the RHS removed its award of garden merit . One of the new kids on the block which has been awarded the hotly contested award is Sweet Aperitif.

Beetroot – Boltardy

Christmas is over and there are only a few things still on the plot; kale, parsnips and beetroot. In the autumn you can lift beetroot to store in sand to see you over the winter but as our winters are getting milder and milder I generally take the risk and let them stand, only taking what I can eat in a week at a time.

It’s Christmas!

Today is Christmas Day. It’s definitely too late to be shopping so no Christmas Advent Calendar from me today. Instead a few photographs of Christmas past My local church in the snow. This is a 16th century grade 2 listed building built by the local landowner so his tenants didn’t have to cross a dangerous…

Mincepuffs

In the run up to Christmas things can be a bit challenging. This recipe didn’t quite go to plan as the puff pasty was a little more puffy than I was expected so instead of getting mini mince pies, I got mince puffs…but I didn’t have enough ingredients or time to remake them. But they still tasted good and so the mincepuff was born

Camembert and Cranberry Toasts

Do you want a tasty canapé that you can make in 15 minutes using items which at Christmas you probably have tucked away in your fridge? If so this is a great little canapé to use

Shallot Tart Tatin Roses

These look desperately impressive and taste fantastic but are actually very easy to do if you are buying your own pastry.

Southern Fried Cauliflower bites

I’ve covered these cauliflower florets in a southern spiced mix. The cauliflower is marinade overnight to extract some of the moisture from the cauliflower and add flavour. The marinade then helps to make the spice mix stick and I’ve added panko  (a very light dry breadcrumb) to ensure it is crispy.

Crispy Sweet Potato Fries with Chilli Mayo

  This year I have bought some purple sweet potatoes to grow in the allotment.  I will probably grow them in the poly tunnel as they need a slightly better climate than the UK can offer, originally coming from central/South America. The purple sweet potato is one of the staples of the Okinawan diet in…

Quesadillas with refried beans

I found out today that quesadilla means little cheesy thing which I rather like. I like these too! Serves: 6-8 as an appetiser, 4 as a light lunch, 32 canapé 5 a day: 1 per quesadilla Time: 20 minutes Ingredients 8 medium corn tortilla Olive oil 1/2 onion, finely chopped 1 clove garlic, crushed 400g…

Not quite a Nacho Canapé

What do you call cheese that isn’t yours? Nacho cheese!

In this case though this a cheese-less nacho (except for the joke)!  Just one week until the big day! To celebrate we are swapping continents again and this time over to the America’s and specifically in this case to Mexico.

Kale Bhajias

I’m turning to another staple of the UK Indian restaurant for this canape/appetiser. We consume vast quantities of Bhaji in the UK but did you know that we’ve been spelling them wrong. The closest snack that they resemble is the bajji from the South West of India or the pakoda/pakora (still with me??)  from the North where apparently it is eaten during monsoon so what better way to cheer you up in the drizzly autumn and winter here.

Chilli Paneer

You could have knocked me down with a feather when I found out that one of my favourite Indian dishes was actually Indochinese, an Indian homage to China, found in many Chinese restaurants in India. The Chinese equivalent I suppose or chips with curry sauce, the chow mien or the UK’s favourite dish, chicken tikka masala.

Papadam Bites

I bought a pot of  Coconut Collaborative natural yogurt the other day and loved it’s coconut flavour so was looking out for a recipe to use it in. This non cook canapé idea, inspired by the papadam you are served in nearly every Indian restaurant in the UK is perfect. If you don’t like coconut you could use normal yogurt or Oatly Oat Fraiche.

Polenta and Rosemary Fries

Polenta is one of those things that has definitely fallen out of fashion but I love it, not as a mashed potato style side but made firm and then fried and served with a variety of sauced from tomatoes to creamed fungi…..and maybe a shaving of truffles. Yum!

The secret to cook polenta is plenty of seasoning. Parmesan helps but if you are vegan you can substitute this for nutritional yeast which has a cheese flavour but is totally vegan.

Brave Potatoes

Having been a bit sniffy about deconstruct foods like deconstructed apple pie being blobs of apple, crumble and custard on a plate I’m going to give you today a deconstructed patatas bravas only so that you can use it as a canape. Pop a cocktail stick in to the potato to save your guests sticky fingers and use the tomato sauce as a relish, for this reason I’ve made it a bit more chunky than the traditional Madrid recipe which is more like a pouring sauce. For that reason I don’t think you can really call this Patatas Bravas but it’s really good,  trust me! 

Pea and Mint Bruschetta

oday I’m continuing on with the bruschetta theme, this time topped with peas and mint. The bonus of this is as long as you have some good quality bread, some frozen peas in the freezer and some sprigs of mint in the garden or in a pot then you can make this. Very useful if some unexpected guest turn up. If you are not needing to keep this vegan then you can include some Parmesan in the mix for added flavour and if you are not a big fan of mint then do not include it and top with some lightly toasted pine nuts instead.

Tomato Bruschetta

The origins of bruschetta are ancient, dating back probably to Roman times if not before and was either a way to revitalise stale bread or in it’s most basic form, bread, fire toasted with olive oil, a method to test the quality of olive oil. In London it, along with sun-dried tomatoes became super fashionable in the late 1980’s and early 90’s soon after the River Cafe (a famous Italian restaurant in London) shot to fame.

Pepper, Red Onion & Halloumi Skewers

  I’m cheating with this canapé a bit as it isn’t 100% vegan so doesn’t quite fit in with the advent plant based canapé theme for but you could swap the halloumi for firm tofu if you prefer. Again this is really simple to make and most can be prepared well in advance so all…

Falafel and Hummus Canapé

Normally at Christmas people would be cutting biscuits in to stars but I wondered whether you could do it to flat breads to give these canapés a bit more of a festive feel. I certainly had fun making them and they tasted great if I do say so myself. You can use pre bought hummus and falafel in which case this recipe should only take about 15 minutes to knock up.