Low Sugar Strawberry Jam

It has taken me a long time to get sufficient strawberries on the plot to start to wonder what I could do with all the excess. This year with a combination of another 30 strawberry plants and some bird protection I finally had enough to make a couple of kilos of jam and could start using up my strawberry glut.

Garlic Scapes

  If you grow garlic you will notice that some varieties will try to flower. In most cases what eventually forms in garlic are not true flowers but little tiny garlic bulbils as garlic has to all intents and purposes lost the ability to sexually reproduce centuries if not millennium ago. There have been some…

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.

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.

Vegetable Spring rolls

Today is my final day of asian inspired plant based canapé for the run up to Christmas. Vegetable spring rolls are often seen at parties and you can buy them in bulk from oriental supermarkets and many supermarkets party party selection. If you are serving vegan guests make sure that you check the packaging as they may sometimes contain egg. To make them stand out from the crowd, serve with a homemade dipping sauce and cut them with a pair of scissors on the diagonal. If you do want to have a go at making them yourself then follow the recipe below. 

Pineapple Chilli Salt (Muối ớt)

This is a play on the ubiquitous cheese and tinned pineapple hedgehogs that graced our tables in the 1970’s and 80’s. Secretly it is still one of my favourites!

In this case you are bringing the pineapple canapé bang up to date and adding a little heat to your party by swapping the cheese for sugar, salt and chilli in the Vietnamese style where if you have dessert after the meal it will generally be fruit with this dip (Muối ớt)

Spring Vegetable Gyoza

Gyoza are the Japanese version of Chinese pot sticker dumplings and both make ideal canapes or appetisers.

In supermarkets now you can buy a variety of ready made gyoza, both meat, prawn or vegetable based to keep in the freezer until cooking.  Itsu  is a brand that you will often see. In oriental supermarkets you will get a much wider choice and you can also buy gyoza wrappers to make you own.

Summer Rolls

For todays canapé I’m going back to Vietnam and although these are served all over Vietnam, rather specifically in this case I’m thinking of the Mekong Delta. We stayed in a wooden homestead on the delta and were served on our first night, make your own summer rolls with pineapple and a fish which looked a little like a piranha! I’m not going to show you that but suffice to say the addition of pineapple to the rolls is now something I always do as it brings a lovely sharp, sweet tang.

Vietnamese Salad Cups

Some of you might be quite surprised by my day job which has nothing whatsoever to do with gardening or food other than I work for one of the UK’s largest supermarkets. One of the perks of my job however is to get to see the food that is going to hit the shelves before it comes out. In our food cascade this year the trend is going to be vegetarian and vegan party and Christmas food. This wasn’t much of a surprise but what was a surprise was that the food developers were having difficulty developing plant based party food that didn’t look generally brown. I suppose that when canapés are meat or cheese based we expect them to be brown, but are expecting a little more from a plant based canapé.

Gnudi with pumpkin and panchetta

The biggest difference you will see between the UK and the USA/Canada at this time of year are the halloween decorations. Even though the UK was the home of the pagan Samhain which is the father of halloween, it generally passes most people by. In contrast in the US and Canada there were streets of…

Coconut & Whole Fruit Ice Lollies

It seemed a little like summer was drawing to a close with mist in the morning and lengthening evening  but unusually for the bank holiday an Indian summer seems to have come across us with weather forecast to be a respectable 26 – 30°C. I suspect there will be a few BBQ’s on the go.

Scallops With Blue Corn Tortillas

One of my favourite activities is browsing through recipe books. Not necessarily because I’m going to cook anything in them, in fact I have a French Laundry recipe book which, as each recipe is about 5 pages long has never been anything other than a coffee table aspirational decoration. Why I like recipe books is for ideas and inspiration and to find out about new and unusual ingredients or food history and is where I first saw a photograph of  blue tortillas. They looked amazing, a rich blue green colour and I thought I really had to have a go at that.

Chargrilled Asparagus with Parmesan

It’s time to put my asparagus to bed for the year but there is still time for one last meal and to take advantage of the box of free range eggs given to me by a friend from his own chickens so what could be better than asparagus dipped in to a a freshly boiled Legbar or Plymouth brown rock egg?

Crispy “Fried Seaweed”

When is crispy fried seaweed not crispy fried seaweed?

Go to any Chinese restaurant in the UK and you will find crispy fried seaweed on the menu but in my travels around China where we ate many weird and wonderful things, including hot pots, Beijing duck, tofu shaped to look like tripe, apples grown in the shape of Buddha, shrimp paste fermenting in vats and dumplings that looked like goldfish but not once did we see crispy seaweed.

Super Breakfast Porridge

Late winter to early spring can be a funny time for weather in the UK. In February we enjoyed record temperatures in the UK and for one day were hotter than the Caribbean. The same time last year we were under blankets of snow and had a howling storm nicknamed “The Beast from the East”….

Falafels

Falafel can easily be bought from the supermarket and you seem to be able to buy them in an increasing array of flavours from sweet potato to beetroot. Interesting as they may be, nothing beat the taste of freshly cooked hand-made falafel.

Slow cooked BBQ pork belly

Kung Hei Fat Choi everybody! Today is Chinese New Year. This year is the year of the pig so it is an ideal time to do a BBQ pork recipe.

Traveling around China and Vietnam we’ve eaten many pork related dishes. One of my favourites in Char Sui Bao which are a sweet steamed bun filled with char Sui pork. In Suzhou outside the “Humble Administrators” Garden we found some piggy shaped buns (helpful when you don’t speak the language) alongside some apples grown in the shape of Buddha.

Sweetcorn fritters with mango salsa

You may have heard of “Stoptober” and “Movember” but the buzz word this month is “Veganuary” where many people are become vegan for a month as a New Years resolution. I’m not a vegan or a vegetarian but I am trying to eat a mainly plant-based diet for most of the week, partly because I…

Cumin and Pumpkin Soda bread

Unless you have a large family if you are cooking a large pumpkin like Crown prince you will have a lot of left overs. A wonderful way to use them up is in baking and if you’ve cooked the squash for dinner the night before this soda bread recipe is quick enough to be served fresh with some butter the next morning for breakfast.

Roasted Pumpkin and Chorizo Soup

The weather is definitely on the turn.  We had our first hard frost a few days ago and I’m typing this up in front of a roaring fire. On nights like this there is nothing as warming to body and soul as soup and crusty bread with lashings of butter.

Now is the season for British squashes and the allotment supplies plenty which are slowly ripening in the cool shed to be used over the next few months so Autumn and winter is an ideal time to use this seasonal vegatble.

Singapore Noodles With Crispy Tofu

Over the last few months the chef Jamie Oliver has been the centre of a “cultural appropriation” twitter storm over his Jerk Rice. Slammed, firstly because the spices he uses are not traditional jerk seasoning and secondly no one in Jamaica would consider jerking rice at all. But Jamie is not the first.

Singapore noodles, spicy stir fried rice noodles, available in nearly every Chinese restaurant and take away in the UK Singaporeans would regard you with horror if you even suggested it.

Chilli and Lime Sweetcorn

In August and September the fields around here are filled with maize. It’s perfectly possible to get disoriented walking through the giant stalks of ripening maize, rustling in the breeze. On the allotment you can’t get lost in my sweetcorn patch but the ripening sweetcorn is stunningly sweet, better than any you will buy in the shop and if you use it in this recipe you will find it a-maize-ing!

Cucumber Granita

One of the joys of summer is Pimms or gin and tonic with slices of cucumber and limes.  The cucumbers are doing really well in the allotment, so much so that I’ve been wondering what to do with the excess. so I began to play around with the idea of cucumber as a drink or…

Roasted Vegetable Chilli

I first started playing around with a recipie for vegetable chilli when I found a tin of jackfruit in our local supermarket. Jackfruit is all the rage at the moment as a meat substitute as it has a texture similar to pulled pork and a mild taste so cit an be used in vegan pulled…

Tapas Padron Peppers

We first tried padron peppers over twenty years ago in a small restaurant on a keyside in Mallorca.  I still remember my mothers excitement the first time she saw the peppers for sale in the UK nearly fifteen years later which goes to show just how much this very simple dish had stuck in our…

Asparagus with hollandaise

 “Most cookbooks assume that if the reader follows the recipe to the letter, they’ll get a dish right first time. This is so wrong. If you’re making hollandaise for the first time, you will, of course, screw it up” Or so said Anthony Bourdain who was Gordon Ramsey before Gordon Ramsey and much much worse. Making…

Gigantes Plaki

Brits reading this site will remember the famous slogan “Beans means Heinz” and for over a hundred years we’ve been sitting down to baked beans on toast for breakfast or lunch, so much so we seem to have almost forgotten that baked beans are an American introduction.

Mujaddara

I’ve seen almost as many ways to spell this dish as recipes. Mujaddara is a middle eastern grain and lentil dish with fried onions. It is an ancient dish dating back to at least 1,226 although folk law says that this is the dish that Jacob used to buy Esau’s birth right in Genesis.