FAVOURITE SEASONAL RECIPE OF THE MONTH

If you buy The More Veg cookbook, Grown in Britain, A Taste for All Seasons, or, even, Slow Cooking Through the Seasons you’ll discover loads more about when to buy produce at its best and great ways of serving it. But on this page I’ll share with you a favourite monthly seasonal recipe to get you in the mood. I’ve also supplied the recipes to go with pics on other pages of my website for you to enjoy.

JANUARY

VENISON

Pavé of Venison with Port and Cranberries

It’s the season for wild female red deer but different species are now farmed organically, roaming in free-range herds, too. Venison is very low in saturated fat with a delicious rich flavour and nothing like as strong as you would imagine. The trick is not to overcook or it will be tough as old boots!

Serves 4
For the sauce
100g fresh or dried cranberries
4 tbsp redcurrant jelly
250ml beef stock
1 large bay leaf
4 tbsp port
Large knob of butter
For the venison
4 thick venison loin steaks
2 tbsp olive oil
To garnish
Flat-leaf parsley
To serve
Celeriac and sweet potato gratin or fluffy mash and purple sprouting broccoli

1 Preheat the oven to 150°C/gas 2. If using dried cranberries, soak in 4 tbsp boiling water to plump up for 10 minutes. Dissolve the redcurrant jelly in half the stock in a small pan over a gentle heat. Add the bay leaf. Boil rapidly for 2 minutes until reduced by half and syrupy. Add the cranberries, reduce the heat and simmer for 2 minutes until soft but still holding their shape. Remove from the heat.
2 Wipe the meat , using your hands, smear all over with the oil, then season well with pepper. Heat a griddle pan or non-stick frying pan. Cook the steaks quickly for 1 minute on each side to brown (if you don’t like your meat too rare, then cook for 2 minutes each side but no more). Wrap the meat side by side in foil and stand the parcel on an ovenproof plate or baking sheet. Keep the pan for finishing the sauce. Cook the steaks in the oven for 10 minutes then remove immediately.
3 Add the remaining stock and port to the venison pan and boil, stirring and scraping up any sediment, for a minute or two until reduced by half. Add to the cranberry sauce. Add the butter, and cook over low heat, gently stirring until the butter is incorporated (take care not to completely break up the cranberries). Taste and season as necessary. Discard the bay leaf.
4 Unwrap the venison and pour the juices into the sauce. Carve the steaks in thick slices and arrange on warm plates. Spoon the sauce over. Garnish with flat leaf parsley and serve with the gratin (see below) or fluffy mash, and purple sprouting broccoli.

Celeriac and Sweet Potato Gratin

Celeriac, sweet potato and maincrop potatoes are all in season now. You can make this using just one variety of tuber but I like using all three for real depth of flavour. If serving with the venison, turn down the oven to 150°C/gas 2 at end of cooking and cover with foil. At this stage you should be ready to pop the steaks in the oven to finish cooking.

Serves 4
1 small celeriac
1 small sweet potato
1 large potato
1 tbsp lemon juice
A large knob of butter for greasing
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
100g (21/2oz) Gruyère cheese, grated
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
400ml crème fraîche
2 eggs, beaten

1 Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas 4.Peel, quarter and slice the celeriac and place immediately in cold water with the lemon juice added. Peel and slice the sweet potato and potato. Par-boil the potato slices for 2 minutes. Add the sweet potato and celeriac slices and boil a further 2 minutes. Drain well.
2 Liberally butter an 18x28cm shallow baking tin. Lay half the vegetable slices in the tin, mixing them up. Season and sprinkle with half the garlic and cheese. Repeat the layers. Whisk the crème fraîche and eggs together. Pour over the vegetables. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes or until tender, set and lightly golden on top. Cut in quarters and serve hot or cold.

FEBRUARY

LEEKS

Sauteed Leeks on Black Pudding with Eggs

Leeks are in season throughout the winter and spring. They compliment black pudding and eggs in this deliciously simple dish, suitable fore breakfast lunch or a substantial starter (but halve the black pudding in that case!). British Cox apples are stored – and still sold – though winter and spring and are ideal for cooking, particularly when they’ve ripened and turned a little yellow so are softer than when first picked.

Serves 4
2 leeks, thinly sliced
Freshly ground black pepper
2 Cox’s eating apples, peeled, halved cored and sliced
30g (1 oz) butter
2 tsp demerara sugar
A ittle freshly grated nutmeg
sunflower oil, for frying
8 thin slices of pancetta
8 large slices of black pudding
4 eggs
Sourdough bread to serve

1 Melt half the butter in a small saucepan pan, add the leeks and fry, stirring, for 2 minutes. Cover the pan and sweat over medium-low heat for 5 minutes until soft but not brown. Season with black pepper. Remove from the heat and keep warm.
2 Meanwhile, melt the remaining butter in a large non-stick frying pan, add the apple slices, sugar and a grating of nutmeg and cook over medium heat, turning occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until tender and slightly caramelized. Remove from the pan and keep warm. Wipe out the pan.
3 Heat a little oil in the cleaned pan and fry the pancetta for 2 minutes, or until browned and fairly crispy, turning once. Remove from the pan, drain on kitchen paper and keep warm. Fry the black pudding slices, in the pan for 2 minutes on each side, or until beginning to crisp on the surface and hot through.
4 Meanwhile heat a little oil in a separate pan and fry the eggs until cooked to your liking. To serve, place 2 slices of black pudding side by side on four plates, add a layer of apples, then leeks. Add an egg to each and top with the pancetta. Serve straight away with sourdough bread.

MARCH

SPROUTING BROCCOLI

Bucatiini with Sprouting Broccoli, Chilli,Tomatoes and Soft-cooked Eggs

Sprouting broccoli is wonderful right now. If you have any cooked, leftover broccoli, it works just as well. If you prefer, you can poach the eggs separately or fry them in a little olive oil instead of boiling them with the broccoli.

Serves 4
400g bucatini or spaghetti
200g sprouting broccoli, bases trimmed
4 eggs (optional), scrubbed and wrapped in foil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A good knob of butter
2 tbsp olive oil
4 spring onions
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
4-6 pieces sun-dried or semi-dried tomato, chopped
1/2-1 tsp dried chilli flakes
A handful of coriander, chopped
Lime or lemon juice
Handful of Parmesan shavings

1 Bring a large pan of water with a good pinch of salt to the boil. Add the pasta, when submerged, bring back to the boil and cook for 10 minutes or according to the packet directions. Drain, return to the pan, add the knob of butter and toss gently.
2 Meanwhile, either steam the broccoli over a pan of simmering water or cook it in the boiling water for 4-5 minutes until tender and bright green, adding the eggs to the boiling water at the same time as the vegetable, if using. Have a basin of cold water ready. As soon as the broccoli is cooked, lift out the eggs first and place in the bowl of cold water. Drain the broccoli and cut into bite-sized pieces with scissors or a sharp knife. Set aside.
3 Heat the oil in the broccoli pan. Add the spring onions and fry for 1-2 minutes, stirring, to soften but not brown.
Add the two types of tomatoes, the chilli flakes, coriander and broccoli and toss for 2 minutes until the tomatoes start to soften slightly and everything is hot through. Add a little salt, plenty of black pepper and a splash of lime juice.
4 Gently shell the eggs (they should be slightly soft inside so treat them gently). Tip the broccoli mixture into the pasta and toss gently but thoroughly over a low heat. Pile into pasta bowls and sprinkle with the Parmesan shavings. Top each with an egg, if using, and split it so the yolk gently runs. Serve straight away.

APRIL

ASPARAGUS

Asparagus Cream Cheese Quiche

The British Asparagus season is very short so its worth enjoying it any which way you can. I love it simply griddled with a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic glaze and some Parmesan shavings but this quiche is a wonderful way to make a few spears go that extra mile. I first created it for the Grown in Britain Cookbook. Here I’ve used spelt flour in place of ordinary plain flour and crème fraîche mixed with a splash of milk instead of single cream for the filling. I use low-fat dairy (except for the butter) but you can use all full-fat if you prefer.

Serves 4
For the pastry
175g spelt flour
Pinch of salt
100g cold, unsalted butter, diced
2 tbsp water
For the filling
115g asparagus tips (or trimmed spears)
1 little olive oil
100g cream (or low-fat) soft cheese
2 tsp fresh chopped thyme
Freshly ground black pepper
85g Cheddar cheese, grated
2 eggs
100ml crème fraîche
50 ml milk

1 Mix the flour and salt in a bowl. Add the butter and rub in with the fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
2 Mix with enough water to form a firm dough. Knead gently on a lightly floured surface. Roll out and use to line a 20cm flan dish. Trim then chill for 30 minutes (to help r[prevent the sides shrinking when cooking).
3 Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas 6. Place the flan on a baking sheet. Fill with crumpled foil, or greaseproof paper and baking beans and bake ‘blind’ for 10 minutes. Remove the foil or paper and beans and bake a further 5 minutes to dry out. Reduce the temperature to 180°C/gas 4.
4 Toss the asparagus in a little olive oil and cook in a griddle pan or preheated electric griddle for 2 minutes each side (2 minutes in total in a closed electric griddle) until bright green, slightly striped brown and tender.
5 Spread the cream cheese over the flan case. Sprinkle with the thyme and some black pepper, then add the Cheddar cheese. Arrange the asparagus attractively on top. Beat the eggs, crème fraîche and milk together with a little salt and pepper and pour into the flan. Bake for about 35 minutes until golden and set. Serve warm or cold.

MAY

JERSEY ROYAL NEW POTATOES

Jersey Royal Salad Niçoise

Jersey Royals are only available in late spring through early summer so make the most of them. Their distinctive, earthy flavour makes them a cut above other potatoes for taste (unless you grow your own and eat them scrubbed straight from the ground! They are gorgeous served cold in this simple but oh-so-nutritious take on a classic Mediterranean salad.

Serves 4

450g Jersey royals, scraped
2 eggs, scrubbed under the cold tap
100 g thin asparagus, trimmed and cut in short lengths
1 small red onion, thinly sliced into rings
12 baby plum tomatoes, halved
A handful of stoned black olives, sliced
1/4 cucumber, diced
1 little gem lettuce, torn in pieces
A handful of watercress, trimmed and cut in small sprigs
185g can sustainably fished tuna, drained
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A good pinch of sugar
A few torn basil or flatleaf parsley leaves

1 Cut the potatoes into bite-sized pieces, if large. Boil in lightly salted water for 5 minutes. Add the eggs and boil for 7 minutes. Add the asparagus and boil a further 3 minutes. Have a bowl of cold water handy.
2 Quickly lift the eggs out of the pan with a slotted spoon and drop into the cold water. Strain the potatoes and asparagus in a colander and rinse with cold water then drain again. Tip into a large bowl.
3 Add the onion, tomatoes, olives, cucumber, lettuce and watercress. Flake the tuna in large flakes and add to the bowl.
4 Whisk the oil, vinegar, mustard, a pinch of salt, plenty of pepper and the sugar until it forms an emulsion. Drizzle over the salad and toss very gently taking care not to break up the tuna too much.
5 Transfer to 4 shallow serving bowls so everyone gets a bit of everything. Shell the eggs and cut in wedges. Arrange on top of the salads and sprinkle with a few torn fresh basil or flatleaf parsley leaves.

JUNE

STRAWBERRIES

Low-fat Strawberry Semifreddo

Tis the season for our gorgeous, home-grown strawberries that smell and taste better than any others in the world! Here’s a really simple, elegant dessert that’s a cross between a water ice and an ice cream. You don’t need any fancy equipment to make it either (except a small loaf tin or similar container). It you want a more decadent, creamy dessert, use full-fat Greek yoghurt and lightly whipped double cream in place of the crème fraîche.

Serves 4-6

200g ripe strawberries, hulled
3 tbsp clear honey
finely grated zest of 1/2 lime
250ml ow-fat Greek-style yoghurt
150ml half-fat crème fraîche
Extra strawberries and crème fraîche, to serve

1 Line a 450g small loaf tin (or similar-sized container) with cling film.
2 Mash the strawberries with a fork until pulpy then beat in the honey and lime zest.
3 Fold in the Greek-style yoghurt.
4 Whip the crème fraîche until softly peaking and fold in with a metal spoon. Tip into the tin.
5 Wrap the tin in foil (taking care it doesn’t touch the top of the mixture). Freeze until firm.
6 Unless serving the day it’s frozen, put it in the fridge 45 minutes - 1 hour before you want to serve it so it softens. Turn it out onto a plate, remove the cling film and cut into 6 or 8 slices. Serve on small plates with extra strawberries and a dollop of crème fraîche on the side.

JULY

BROAD BEANS

Linguine with Broad Beans and Baby Plum Tomatoes

This is a version of a recipe id did in my book A taste for All Seasons. For carnivores, it’s also good using fresh trofie pasta (but you’ll need 600g) instead of dried linguine, and, for non-veggies, try it topped with some crisp, fried, thin strips of pancetta or some fried diced chotizo. Make sure you use young broad beans for the best texture and flavour.

Serves 4
700g broad beans, shelled
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
400g dried linguine or other pasta strands
30g butter
1 bunch of spring onions, chopped
2 teaspoons vegetable stock concentrate
1 large sprig of thyme, leaves picked and chopped
200ml crème fraîche
100g baby plum tomatoes, halved
2 tbsp chopped parsley
30g Parmesan cheese, grated

1 Cook the broad beans in boiling, lightly salted water for about 8 minutes until tender. Drain reserving 250ml of the water. When the beans are cool enough to handle, gently squeeze them out of their skins. Set the beans aside.
2 Cook the linguine according to the packet directions. Drain and return to the pan.
3 Meanwhile, melt the butter in a separate pan. Add the spring onions and fry, stirring, over a gentle heat, for 3 minutes until softened but not browned. Add the reserved cooking water, the stock concentrate and thyme. Bring to the boil and boil rapidly for about 8 minutes until well reduced. Add the plum tomatoes and heat through gently for a minute or two but don’t allow them to soften too much.
4 Stir in the crème fraîche, parsley, half the Parmesan and the broad beans. Season to taste. Tip this mixture into the pasta and toss over a gentle heat until every strand is coated in the sauce. Pile into pasta bowls, sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan and serve.

TENDERSTEM BROCCOLI

Broccoli with Balsamic Drizzle and Parmesan Crisps

Tenderstem is a wonderful modern hybrid that is so sweet and tender that you can eat it all (bar trimming a tiny bit off the bases before cooking). It is a wonderful vegetable simply steamed or lightly bpoiled but it it also makes a delicious, simple starter now the asparagus season is over! You can buy a bottle of balsamic glaze or, if you’re feeling adventurous, make your own by simply simmering balsamic vinegar until well-reduced and syrupy then store in a clean, squeezy-type bottle. These are lovely topped with halved hard-boiled quail’s eggs too or a little crisp-fried diced pancetta.

Serves 4

115g fresh Parmesan, grated
220g tenderstem brocoli
2 tbsp good extra-virgin olive oil
3-4 tbsp balsamic glaze

1 First make the Parmesan crisps. Line a baking sheet with baking paper and preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas 6.
2 Put spoonfuls of the freshly-grated Parmesan on the sheet in 12 small piles, spacing well apart as they’ll spread when cooked. Flatten each one slightly. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes until melted. Remove from the oven and leave to cool and crisp. They an be stored in an airtight container in the fridge.
3 Trim the last 2 cm off the stalks of the broccoli. Place in a steamer in a single layer and place over a pan of simmering water. Cover and steam for about 4 minutes until they feel tender when the point of a knife is inserted in a stem. Alternatively boil in a little very lightly salted water until just tender then drain.
4 Lay the stems on serving plates. Drizzle a little good quality olive oil over then drizzle with the balsamic glaze. Arrange the Parmesan crisps to one side and serve warm.

AUGUST

DISCOVERY APPLES

Apple and Frangipane Tart with Blackberry Crème

The first British apples to ripen in the season - and still in the heart of summer. They are good cookers as well as eaters. You could team them with blackberries, as I have here, as they have ripened early this year. If you want to cheat, buy a ready-cooked pastry case from the supermarket and continue the recipe from step 4.

For the crème
175g ripe blackberries
finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon or a lime
25g caster sugar
1 tbsp cornflour
1 tbsp water
300ml carton crème fraîche
For the tart
225 g rich sweet shortcrust pastry (bought or homemade with 225g flour)
15g cornflour
15g plain flour
50g caster sugar
300ml milk
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon natural vanilla extract
2 large (or 3 smaller) Discovery apples
1 tbsp lime or lemon juice
25g icing sugar, plus extra for dusting

1 First make the blackberry crème. Put the washed fruit in a saucepan with the zest, sugar and cornflour. Stir in the water then heat gently, stirring for 2-3 minutes until the juice runs and the sauce thickens but the fruit still holds its shape. Remove from the heat,leave to cool. Fold the crème fraîche into the blackberries, then chill.
2 Meanwhile, make the tart. Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas 6. Roll out the pastry and use to line a greased 23cm loose-bottomed fluted flan tin. Prick the base with a fork and fill with crumpled foil. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for a further 5 minutes to dry out.
3 Meanwhile,Blend the cornflour, flour and sugar in a saucepan with a little of the milk until smooth. Whisk the egg into the remaining milk then strain into the saucepan. Bring to the boil and cook for 2 minutes, stirring all the time until thick and smooth.
4 Spoon the mixture into the cooked flan case and level out.
5 Quarter, peel, core and slice the apples. Toss in the lemon or lime juice. Arrange attractively all over the frangipane in the flan case. Sift the icing sugar all over the surface to liberally cover. Return the flan to the oven and bake for 20 minutes until the apples are just tender and the sugar has caramelised. Remove from the oven and leave to cool until warm then remove the tin, if liked and place on a serving plate.
5 Serve warm, cut in wedges with the chilled blackberry crème.

SEPTEMBER

BLUEBERRIES

The British blueberry season now lasts (usually) well into September if not October. If you are lucky enough to go walking on the moors or hills in some parts of the country you might also find them wild (Somerset for one, where they are known as whortleberries). The cakes have no fat and to reduce the fat in the topping you could use reduced-fat whipping cream and low-fat soft cheese.

Blueberry and Pistachio Dove Cakes

For the cakes
40g shelled pistachio nuts
3 egg whites
Pinch of salt
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
115g caster sugar
40g plain flour
2 tbsp cornflour
1/2 teaspoon natural vanilla extract
100g fresh British blueberries
For the frosting
150ml double or whipping cream
4 tbsp icing sugar, sifted
150g soft white cheese, such as Philadelphia

1 Preheat the oven to 160°C/ Gas 3. Line a tartlet tin with 12 paper cake cases.

2 Put the pistachios in a bowl, cover with boiling water and leave to stand for 5 minutes. Drain then rub off the skins in a new disposable dish cloth or a tea towel. Finely chop half of the nuts. Save the whole ones for decoration.

3 Lightly whisk the egg whites until foamy then whisk in the salt and cream of tartar and continue to whisk until they stand in stiff peaks.

4 Sift the sugar, flour and cornflour together then sift again over the egg whites, add the vanilla and fold in with a metal spoon until just combined. Lastly, add half the chopped nuts and half the blueberries and, again, fold in as gently as possible with a metal spoon.

5 Spoon the mix into the cake cases, and bake for about 25 minutes, or until risen, pale golden brown and just firm to the touch. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

6 Lightly whip the cream with the icing sugar then whisk in the cream cheese until softly peaking. Pipe or spoon it on top of the cupcakes. Chop some of the reserved pistachios and sprinkle on top with the whole nuts and a few fresh blueberries.

PLUMS

Plum Toffee Brioche Pudding

I first made this for Grown in Britain, using apricots. You can use any stone fruits but if they’re quite sharp – even your plums might be if they aren’t quite ripe enough – use a tablespoon of water instead of the lime juice (but still add the zest).

Serves 4
60g butter
225g soft light brown sugar
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lime
4 thick slices of brioche, cut in large cubes
450g ripe plums, stoned and quartered

1 Put the butter in a non-stick wok or large frying pan. Place over a moderate heat until melted. Add the sugar, and lime zest and juice. Heat, stirring, until the sugar melts.
2 Turn down the heat, add the brioche and very gently fold in, trying to keep the brioche cubes whole.
3 Add the plums and lightly fold through the mixture. Cover with a lid and cook gently until the fruit is tender but still holds its shape a bit (about 5 minutes). Leave to cool slightly (or you’ll burn your mouth!) and serve warm, or cool completely, then chill. Great with cream, ice cream, crème fraîche or thick, Greek-style yogurt.

AUGUST

COURGETTES

Sautéed Courgettes in Garlic and Chilli Oil

Courgettes hve been in season through summer right up until now and this is a good way to cook a few that have got a little bigger.

Serves 4
6 tbsp olive oil
4 biggish courgettes, sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
Coarse sea salt
A little chopped parsley or coriander
To serve: crusty bread

1 Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Add the garlic and the courgettes, spreading them out in a single layer in the pan and fry for 2–3 minutes on each side until golden.
2 Sprinkle with the chilli and a good grinding of black pepper.
3 transfer to warm plates and drizzle the pan juices over. Sprinkle with sea salt and parsley or coriander and serve hot with crusty bread.

NOVEMBER

MAINCROP POTATOES

Bombay Potatoes

British maincrop potatoes have now been lifted and will be stored over the winter so we can have fresh potatoes every day. Bombay potatoes are a particular favourite as a snack or starter (try the pieces speared on cocktail sticks with a cucumber raita (just finely chop cucumber, mix with some dried mint, thick, plain yogurt and a little seasoning) or some mango chutney to dip into. It can also be served an accompaniment to any curry for a change from rice, or, alternatively, top it with some fried eggs.

Serves 4
700g potatoes, peeled and cut in walnut-sized pieces
Salt
2 tbsp sunflower oil
2 thin green chillies, deseeded, if liked, and finely chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
400g can of chopped tomatoes
Good pinch of caster sugar
2 tbsp chopped fresh or frozen coriander

1 Boil the potatoes in lightly salted water for about 10 minutes until just tender but still holding their shape. Drain.
2 Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large non-stick pan and fry the spices, over a moderate heat, stirring for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and sugar, stir, then fry for 2-3 minutes.
3 Add the potatoes and stir and turn gently until the potatoes are coated in the spicy tomatoes. Sprinkle with just a little salt. Cover with a lid, reduce the heat and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally so the potatoes don’t stick to the pan. Add the coriander and stir and turn one more time. Serve hot.

DECEMBER

MAINCROP CARROTS AND CAULIFLOWER

Vegetable Tempura

British carrots are a great buy through the winter months and here I’ve teamed them with little cauliflower florets and strips of turnip and leek in this easy-to-make Japanese speciality. It’s a variation from one in my book How To Cook Your Favourite Takeaways At Home. You can use whatever vegetables are in season from peppers, courgettes and mangetout in summer to these more wintry options. Try chunks of sweet potatoes or butternut squash, or little broccoli florets - anything that’s takes your fancy when in season. Always think about a variety of colour, flavour and texture when selecting your veggies - that’s true even of side dishes to accompany meat, fish or poultry too.

Serves 4
For the dipping sauce
1 tsp grated fresh root ginger
1 spring onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp clear honey
1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
4 tbsp tamari (or light soy sauce)
For the vegetables
1 small leek, trimmed and cut in short lengths
1 large carrot, quartered crossways then in quarters lengthways
1/2 small cauliflower, cut in small florets
2 small turnips, cut in small wedges
4 tbsp cornflour
For the batter:
75g self-raising flour
75g cornflour
1/2 tsp salt
200ml (7floz) ice cold sparkling mineral water
Sunflower oil for deep-frying

1 Mix the dipping sauce ingredients together in a small bowl, stirring until the honey dissolves. Set aside.
2 Blanch all the prepared vegetables in a large pan of boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain and dry thoroughly on kitchen paper. Put in large bowl. Sprinkle with the 4 tbsp cornflour and toss to coat.
3 Heat sunflower oil for deep-frying in a large pan or deep-fryer until a drop of the batter sizzles and rises to the surface immediately (or to 190°C/375°F). While it’s heating, quickly make the batter. Mix the two flours in a bowl with the salt then whisk in the cold sparkling water. Don’t overmix; a few little lumps are fine.
4 When the oil is hot, add the vegetables to the batter and toss so all are thinly coated. Cook about a quarter of the vegetables at a time, dropping each piece individually into the hot oil. Fry for about 4 minutes until the batter is crisp and pale straw-coloured. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Keep warm whilst you cook the remainder in the same way, reheating the oil between batches. Serve with the dipping sauce.


SITE RECIPES

Warm Beetroot Bacon and Creamy Blue Cheese Salad

(Pictured on ‘biography’ page)
This is delicious on its own as a starter or light lunch. Alternatively, use it as a topping for simply scrumptious and fast flatbread pizzas. Chop the beetroot smaller and, when hot through, use a slotted spoon to transfer them onto four khobez or other flatbreads, laid on a couple of baking sheets. Top with the crisp bacon and cheese, drizzle as much dressing over as you like, then flash them in a hot oven for 5 minutes or so just until the cheese begins to melt. Sprinkle with the herbs and serve.

Serves 4
4 rashers of rindless smoked streaky bacon or pancetta
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 small red onion, very finely chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sweet paprika
2 tbsp white balsamic condiment
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 cooked beetroot, peeled and cut in wedges
120g soft, creamy blue cheese, such as Oxford Blue, broken or cut into small chunks
1 tbsp chopped basil
1 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley

To serve:
Pumpernickel or light rye bread and unsalted butter

1 Heat a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat and dry-fry the bacon until crisp and golden. Drain the rashers on kitchen paper then snip into pieces with scissors and set aside.
2 Pour the olive oil into the pan and add the chopped onion. Toss for a minute or two to soften slightly then add the spices and balsamic condiment to the pan, whisk together well and add salt and pepper to taste. Add in the beetroot and toss for 3-4 minutes to heat through. Transfer to four serving plates.
3 Scatter the cheese and bacon over then sprinkle with the basil and parsley. Serve with pumpernickel or light rye bread and unsalted butter.

Pizza Fiorentina

(Pictured on ‘shop’ page)
If not keen on blue cheese, try it with small spoonfuls of soft goat’s cheese instead. Likewise, omit the eggs, if preferred, put all the topping on at the beginning and bake for about 20 minutes.

Makes 1 large pizza
For the base
225g strong plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp fast-action dried yeast
1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for greasing and drizzling
150ml lukewarm water
For the topping
4 tbsp passata with basil
2 tbsp tomato purée
250g fresh cooked, or thawed frozen, spinach
Freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp dried oregano
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
50g soft blue cheese, pulled into tiny pieces
100g Mozzarella cheese, grated
2 or 4 smallish eggs
1 tbsp olive oil

1 Put the flour, salt and sugar in a bowl. Add the yeast then the oil and water and mix to form a soft but not too sticky dough. Knead gently on a lightly floured surface for at least 5 minutes until smooth and elastic. Alternatively make the dough in a food processor with the dough hook fitted (or make in a bread maker on the dough setting, and ignore step 2).
2 Return the dough to the bowl, cover with oiled cling film and leave in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 50 minutes.
3 Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 220°C/Gas 7. Oil a large pizza plate or baking sheet. Knock back the dough then re-knead it briefly on a lightly floured surface. Roll out to about 30–40cm diameter. Put the dough on the prepared plate or sheet, pressing out again to the size required. (Alternatively, make a rectangular pizza in a large, shallow oiled baking tray).
4 Mix the passata with the tomato purée and spread thinly over the dough. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes.
5 Remove from the oven, squeeze out excess moisture from the spinach and scatter over in small clumps. Dust with the nutmeg and sprinkle the oregano over. Season lightly.
6 Scatter the small pieces of blue cheese and the Mozzarella over the spinach. Make 2 or 4 wells at intervals in the topping. Break an egg into each. Drizzle with a little olive oil. Return to the oven for 10 minutes or until the crust is golden and the eggs are set. Serve cut in quarters.