Save it for a grainy day

Comfort food but without the stodge, for the way we eat today. Snuggle up with our soulful bowlfuls and modern earthy delights.

Chunky spelt with chia & crab

SERVES 4

100g pearled spelt

300g fine asparagus

300g leeks (trimmed weight see method)

3 tbsp good olive oil

1 garlic clove peeled and finely chopped

100ml white wine

2 level tbsp chia seeds

finely grated zest of 1 lemon plus 1 tbsp lemon juice

500ml vegetable stock

sea salt and black pepper

10g unsalted butter

200g mixed brown and white crab meat

● Bring a small pan of salted water to the boil, add the spelt and simmer for 20 minutes or until just tender. Drain in a sieve and set aside.

● Cut off and reserve the asparagus tips. Finely slice the asparagus stalks, discarding the ends. Trim the leeks, halve them lengthways and slice finely.

● Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large saucepan and fry the leeks and garlic for about 5 minutes until softened and glossy, without colouring, stirring occasionally. Stir in the sliced asparagus, add the wine and simmer to reduce by half. Stir in the chia seeds and lemon zest, add the stock and some seasoning, bring to the boil and simmer for 5-8 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Stir in the cooked spelt and season if wished. You will have a light and soupy spelt ‘risotto’.

● Meanwhile bring a small pan of salted water to the boil, add the asparagus tips and simmer for 3-4 minutes or until just tender. Drain in a sieve, return to the pan and toss with the butter. Dress the crab with a tablespoon each of olive oil and lemon juice and lightly season. Serve the spelt in bowls with the crab spooned on top and the asparagus tips scattered over.

Pumpkin soup with potato bread

SERVES 6

FOR THE SOUP 

Peel and chop a large onion. Prepare and dice 400g pumpkin flesh and slice 500g leeks (both trimmed weights). Coarsely chop a handful of flat-leaf parsley leaves. Melt 50g unsalted butter in a large pan over a medium-low heat and fry the leeks and onion for 8-10 minutes until silky and soft, without colouring, stirring occasionally. Add 200ml white wine and reduce until syrupy. Add the pumpkin and stir through for a minute, then add 1.2 litres good quality chicken or vegetable stock, season, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Whiz the soup in batches in a food processor with the parsley until smooth. Pass through a sieve, return to a clean pan, check the seasoning and gently reheat. Serve (in hollowed mini pumpkins as in the picture if you like) with a dollop of crème fraiche, some slivers of chilli and more chopped parsley scattered over.

FOR THE BREAD

MAKES 8 WEDGES

Have ready 75g chilled and diced unsalted butter and 300g (peeled weight) cooked and cooled maincrop potatoes, cut into chunks. Preheat the oven to 200C/180 C fan/gas 6 and dust a baking sheet with flour. In a food processor whiz together 350g self-raising flour, the butter, 30g golden caster sugar, 2 tsp baking powder and a pinch of sea salt to fine crumbs. Add the cooked potatoes and briefly whiz again to finely chop. Add 3-4 tbsp milk and bring the dough together. Knead this on a lightly floured work surface for a minute or two. Shape into a ball, flatten into a disc about 18cm across and 2.5 cm thick and place on the baking sheet. Beat an egg with 1 tbsp milk and brush the top of the bread with this, smoothing out any small imperfections with the brush. Mark out 8 wedges, scoring the top about ½ cm deep. Bake for about 40 minutes until golden, risen and crusty. The top should feel firm when pressed in the centre, and the bottom sound hollow if tapped. Transfer to a wire rack, and eat warm or at room temperature. This will be good for a couple of days in an airtight container, and can also be rewarmed.

Double mushroom bowl with buckwheat & fromage frais

 SERVES 4

15g dried wild mushrooms

350ml chicken or vegetable stock

150g buckwheat

1 tbsp good olive oil

10g unsalted butter

2 banana shallots peeled and finely chopped

400g mixed mushrooms trimmed and torn or sliced as necessary

1 garlic clove peeled and finely chopped

100ml white wine

sea salt and black pepper

150g fromage frais

TO SERVE

coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley

olive oil for drizzling

freshly grated parmesan

● Cover the wild mushrooms with 150ml boiling water and leave to soak for 15 minutes. Remove and coarsely chop the mushrooms, then add the soaking liquor to the stock, discarding the last gritty bit.

● Bring a medium pan of salted water to the boil, add the buckwheat and simmer for 15 minutes or until just tender, then drain in a colander.

● At the same time heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan over a medium-high heat and fry the shallots for a few minutes until soft, stirring occasionally. Add the fresh mushrooms and fry for about 5 minutes longer until lightly coloured, stirring frequently and allowing any liquid given out to evaporate, and adding the garlic shortly before the end.

● Add the soaked mushrooms and the wine and simmer for a couple of minutes until well reduced. Add the stock and some seasoning, bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes.

● Remove half the mushrooms with a slotted spoon to a bowl and set aside. Purée the remaining mushrooms and liquid with the fromage frais in a blender until smooth. Return this to the pan and stir in the reserved mushrooms and buckwheat. It is fine to reheat briefly, but avoid simmering. Serve scattered with parsley and a drizzle of oil, and accompanied by parmesan.

Spiced millet with spinach & minty yoghurt

SERVES 4

MINTY YOGHURT

150g full-fat greek yoghurt

2 tsp finely chopped mint

1 tsp lemon juice

sea salt to taste

SPICED MILLET

150g millet

500g spinach washed see method

2 tbsp good olive oil

10g unsalted butter

3 banana shallots peeled halved and thinly sliced

1 celery heart trimmed and thinly sliced

3 garlic cloves peeled and finely sliced

¼ tsp allspice

¼ tsp ground cinnamon

125ml white wine

black pepper

freshly grated nutmeg

sumac for dusting

4 tbsp roasted cashews coarsely crushed

● Combine the ingredients for the minty yoghurt and set aside.

● Add the millet to a medium pan of boiling water and simmer for 15 minutes until just tender, skimming off any foam that rises to the surface and stirring regularly to ensure it doesn’t stick. Drain in a sieve and rinse under the cold tap (this removes most of the starch).

● If using ready-washed spinach, rinse it under the cold tap in a colander so that just a little water clings (this helps the cooking process) and place in a large pan. Cover, place on a gentle heat and cook for 10 minutes or until it collapses, stirring halfway through. Tip into a colander, press out any excess liquid and coarsely chop.

● At the same time heat the oil and butter in another medium-large pan over a low heat and fry the shallots and celery for about 15 minutes until golden, stirring occasionally and adding the garlic, allspice and cinnamon a couple of minutes before the end. Add the wine and simmer until well reduced and syrupy.

● Stir in the millet and then the spinach. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg and heat through. Serve in bowls, dusted with a little sumac, with the cashews scattered over and the minty yoghurt for dolloping.

Speedy cauliflower rice with lentils & watercress

SERVES 4

700g trimmed cauliflower florets

2 tbsp good olive oil

2 large banana shallots peeled and finely chopped

½ trimmed celery heart thinly sliced then chopped

2 garlic cloves peeled and finely chopped

150ml dry vermouth

about 300ml chicken or vegetable stock see method

1 x 250g packet cooked ready-to-eat puy lentils

sea salt and black pepper

freshly grated nutmeg

10g unsalted butter

50g freshly grated parmesan

about 100g watercress coarsely chopped

a large handful coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley

TO SERVE

extra parsley

extra parmesan

olive oil for drizzling

● Whiz the cauliflower in batches in a food processor to finely chop to about the size of rice grains. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat and fry the shallots and celery for several minutes until glossy and softened. Stir in the garlic and fry a minute longer, then add the cauliflower and stir-fry for another 3 minutes. Add the vermouth, turn up the heat and cook until it evaporates.

● Add the stock, bring to the boil and simmer over a low heat for 3-5 minutes until the cauliflower is tender, then stir in the lentils to heat through. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir in the butter, parmesan, watercress and parsley. You can add a little more stock if you want it to be soupier. Serve in shallow bowls scattered with more parsley and parmesan and a drizzle of oil.

Quick quinoa with courgettes, avocado & lime

SERVES 4

flesh of 2 medium avocados

2-3 tsp lime juice

sea salt and black pepper

600g courgettes

4 tbsp good olive oil

2 x 4cm fresh turmeric roots peeled

3cm knob fresh ginger peeled

1 tsp finely chopped medium-hot red chilli

2 garlic cloves peeled

1 x 250g packet cooked ready-to-eat red and white quinoa

large handful coarsely chopped coriander

TO SERVE

lime wedges

30g pine nuts

extra chopped coriander

● Whiz the avocado with the lime juice to taste and some seasoning until smooth. Scoop into a small bowl, cover and chill until required. Trim and discard the ends of the courgettes, halve them lengthways and slice diagonally into thick pieces.

● Preheat the oven to 250C/230C fan/ gas 10 or to its highest setting. Arrange the courgettes in a roasting dish that just holds them in a crowded single layer. Drizzle over 2 tablespoons of the oil, season and toss to coat. Roast for 15 minutes.

● Meanwhile, whiz the turmeric, ginger, chilli and garlic to a coarse paste in a food processor. Transfer to a small bowl and add a tablespoon of oil. Loosen the courgettes with a spatula, dot with the chopped mixture and stir to coat. Return to the oven for 10-15 minutes until lightly golden.

● Crumble the ready-to-eat quinoa to separate the grains, spoon it over the courgette, drizzle over another tablespoon of the oil and stir through, then mix in the chopped coriander. Serve with the avocado on the side for dolloping and lime wedges for squeezing. Scatter over the pine nuts and extra coriander.

Brown rice pilaf with beets, feta & spring onion

125g brown rice or wholegrain basmati

1 red onion

300g tomatoes

200g beetroot

about 3 tbsp good olive oil

1 tsp finely chopped medium-hot red chilli

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

300ml chicken or vegetable stock

sea salt and black pepper

1 x 200g block of feta cheese drained on kitchen paper

TO SERVE

a handful of snipped dill

3 spring onions trimmed and thinly sliced

dressed crisp green salad of your choice

● Soak the rice in cold water while you prepare the vegetables. Peel and chop the onion; coarsely chop the tomatoes discarding the cores; trim, peel and halve the beetroot and slice thinly.

● Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a medium saucepan over a medium heat and fry the onion for 7-8 minutes until lightly golden, stirring occasionally. Stir in the chilli and tomatoes and fry for a minute or two longer until starting to soften. Stir in the beetroot, then add the balsamic vinegar and simmer to reduce it by about half. Drain the soaked rice, add to the pan, pour in the stock, season and ensure that everything is submerged. Bring to the boil, then cover and cook over a low heat for 45-50 minutes until it appears dry. Leave to stand for 20 minutes; the rice will continue to absorb liquid.

● About halfway into resting, heat a small nonstick frying pan over a medium heat, add a splash of oil and fry the block of feta for 5 minutes until golden and crusty (it turns gooey initially but then crisp). Carefully turn using a spatula, scraping the crispy bits on top, and cook for another 5 minutes.

● Scatter the dill over the pilaf and gently mix in. Break up the feta with a fork and serve dotted over the pilaf. Scatter with spring onions and serve with green salad on the side.


Recipes Annie Bell

Photographs Chris Alack

Food styling Clare Lewis

Styling Sue Radcliffe