It was my birthday a while back and when my mum asked me what I'd like I told her I'd like the new Nigel Slater book. We agreed that I'd order it on the internet (I know I should be supporting my local book sellers, but when it's over 50% cheaper on the internet - what's a girl to do) and she would pay for it.

I finally got round to ordering it last week and today the parcel arrived on my desk at work. What can I say, I am well and truely smitten! It is a collection of his "recipes" (the quote marks are because quite a few of them are, by his own admission, simply putting together the contents of a few tins) and jottings over three years. The book has got fabulous photos in it, and right now I can't decide whether it is going to live in the kitchen or on my bedside table.

Just opening it randomly I've found recipes for:

chickpeas with tomatoes and harissa
A little brown stew of mushrooms and spelt
Spiced bread and butter pudding with fried bananas

I think I've died and gone to heaven!

I can't wai

Even though it is officially spring we still only have one hen laying: which means that we only get an egg every other day. Most of the time that is enough to keep us going, but occasionally I need a few extra eggs and so, as well as my veg box, I sometimes get half a dozen wonderful Whitmuir eggs. This weekend was one such occasion: I made a meringue for our visitors on Friday night – which meant that I was left with some egg yolks which needed using up. I didn’t fancy custard, but wanted something sweet because, as usual by this point in the weekend, the cake tin was empty. So imagine my delight when I found a recipe to make a sponge cake using only egg yolks!

Egg yolk sponge cake

3 egg yolk(s)
2 tablespoon(s) water (hot)
125 ml caster sugar - yes it really is ml not grams or ounces!
125 ml self-raising flour
1 pinch of salt
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp milk

Preheat oven to 180 deg C/ fan 160 deg C

Beat egg yolks and hot water till creamy then gradually add the sugar and beat till thick and pale. Add salt and vanilla.

Fold in the flour and milk alternately till combined. Pour into two greased and lined 18 cm round tin and bake for 15-20 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.

As you can see I sandwiched them together with jam, but you could use cream or buttercream or ...........

Oops! The Moroccan meal went even better than expected (a long story involving a very nice bottle of wine from a French ex-colleague) so the recipes will have to wait for another day. It also meant that we wanted comfort food that didn’t take too much thought today. But there was a slight matter of the celeriac looking at me from the veg rack. I had some salmon that needed using up, so there was only one thing for it............fish and chips: but not as we know it!

Celeriac oven chips

Pre-heat the oven to 220 deg C/fan oven 200 Deg C

Cast aside all thoughts of the celeriac looking like something out of Alien (be afraid John Hurt) and wash and peel it. Then cut it into chunky chip sized chunks, put them into a pan of cold water, bring to the boil and par-boil for 2 minutes.

Now drain the chips and put them back in the pan with 1 tbsp of veg oil, a dash of sea-salt and 1 tbsp cumin. Toss the chips in the pan so they end up coated in the seasoning and oil.

Spread the chips out on a baking tray, and then put them into the oven to bake for 30 – 35 minutes.

I served them with some pan-fried salmon and some beetroot and carrot salad, see here, and very nice it was too!

I’m hoping we’ll get another celeriac in the veg bag soon, as I have quite a few plans for other celeriac recipes (we’re talking curry, gratin and other such yummy dishes).

How can it be Thursday already? A quick dash across campus in the rain took me to the Hearty Squirrels where I picked up our bags for the week. And what a great bag it was:

5 onions
3 medium potatoes
3 large carrots
3 Jerusalem artichokes
3 beetroot
1 enormous celeriac

I have to admit I’ve not cooked artichokes very often and I’ve never cooked celeriac so this week promises to be exciting.  I also have slightly off-beat plans for the beetroot.

Tomorrow we’ve got friends coming round: I’m planning a Moroccan style menu so I’ll post some of the recipes tomorrow.

Husband looked at the weather forecast yesterday evening and saw that today was going to be the last sunny and dry day for quite some time. So he took the day off. The good news is that we now have a couple of the veg patches dug over reading for planting later in the Spring. The other news is that the cake tin is empty – again!

This coincided with me checking out the remains of my veg bag and finding that I had the innards of a savoy cabbage plus a large parsnip left. The cabbage is easy – that’s going in a risotto with some smoked fish tomorrow, which meant that the parsnip was going to get pretty lonely unless........

Parsnip and fruit loaf

100g mixed dried fruit
2 tbsp orange juice
1 tbsp honey 
2 medium eggs 
85ml sunflower oil  
100g light muscovado sugar 
115g self-raising flour 
1/4 tsp baking powder 
1/4 tsp bicarb of soda
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp mixed spice 
115g parsnips, grated (I just peeled mine, chopped it into chunks and blitzed it in the minichopper)

Preheat the oven to 180 deg C/160 deg F

Line a 2 lb loaf tin with greaseproof paper

Put the dried fruit in a pan with the orange juice and honey and bring to a boil. Simmer for a couple of minutes until the juice has been absorbed

Put the eggs, oil and sugar into a large bowl and whisk until creamy.

Sift over the flour, baking powder, bicarb of soda, ground ginger and mixed spice

Fold the sifted flour mixture into the mix with the parsnips and the dried fruit mixture.

Spoon into the tin and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.  Transfer the cake to a wire rack to cool.

You could always ice it – but it’s getting late and I need the cake to cool down, so somehow I reckon we’ll go without!

I pretty much always take a packed lunch to work – I find it’s much tastier and much cheaper than getting a sandwich or something similar when I’m there. But it can be a bit of a hassle organizing a lunch each day so I also like to make things that will do for several days and these little things certainly did the job. They are halfway between an omelette and a quiche and are great for using up those little bits of veg at the bottom of the veg basket.

Quichlettes (makes about 8)

250g cottage cheese
3 eggs
50 ml milk
1 onion
Whatever else needs using up: mushrooms, peppers, sweet corn, cooked potatoes

Pre-heat the oven to 180 deg C/ fan oven 160 deg C

Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a small frying pan and gently fry the onion and other veg until they are softened.

Meanwhile put the eggs, cottage cheese and milk in a bowl and either beat with a fork or, if you prefer it smoother, blitz with a stick blender. Gently mix in the veg and then spoon the mixture into greased muffin tins. Cook for 30 – 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and let them cool before removing them from the tins.

How sad is it to say that I’ve been hoping for a savoy cabbage in my veg bag for a few weeks now? The reason was I wanted to try stuffed cabbage leaves: so I was a very happy bunny when not only did I get a cabbage, but some chestnut mushrooms too – which were perfect for the stuffing. The best bit about this recipe is that you use the big outside leaves that you might otherwise be tempted to throw away. And I’ve still got the inner heart of the cabbage left to use in another recipe.

Stuffed cabbage leaves

8 cabbage leaves (or fewer if they are enormous)
1 onion, finely chopped
4 mushrooms finely chopped
1 stick celery finely chopped
a few dried apricots or dates or sultanas chopped into small chunks
100 g basmati rice (or long grain rice would work ok too)

250 ml veg stock
1 tsp honey
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

First blanch the cabbage leaves by putting them in boiling water for 2 minutes. Then rinse them in cold water (to stop them from carrying on cooking), drain thoroughly and pat dry with kitchen towel.

Heat the oven to 180 deg C/ fan 160 deg C and whilst it’s heating make the stuffing.

Gently fry the onion, mushrooms and celery in some olive oil for about 10 minutes until soft. Then add the basmati rice and cook for another minute. Remove from the heat, transfer everything into a bowl  and add the dried fruit.

Now the fun starts. Put a couple of teaspoons full into the middle of a cabbage leaf, now attempt to roll it up, tucking the sides in to stop the filling falling out. Then place the cabbage leaf into a baking dish with the open bit of the cabbage leaf at the bottom. Carry on until you’ve stuffed all the leaves and you have all the parcels snugly in a single layer in the baking dish. Now mix together the stock, honey and balsamic vinegar and pour it carefully over the cabbage parcels. Put foil over the dish and bake for 1 hour, then remove the foil and bake for another 15 minutes. We had it with some tomato salad, but next time I’d make a hot tomato sauce instead. Either way – it was very good.

Ladies and Gentlemen – we have veg! And very cultured veg they are too, as they spend yesterday evening in the Royal Scottish Academy whilst their owner tried to understand some of the art.

This week’s bag contained:

2 large carrots
1 large parsnip
4 mushrooms
4 potatoes
5 onions
1 lovely savoy cabbage

I have some great plans for all of the vegetables.

Today is 1st March, which apparently is the first day of Spring. I celebrated this by sowing some trays of salad leaves that I hope will be ready in about 6 weeks’ time and by putting some potatoes out to chit. The potatoes came from the potato day at Bridgend Allotments and are sitting in egg boxes on the book case in our spare room. Hopefully they should be able to go into the ground in the middle of April. I chose three different salad varieties and the plan is they will give us some yummy salad potatoes over the summer.

All these thoughts of Spring put me in the mood for some salad and so, surveying the contents of my veg bag, I decided a carrot based salad called for. I pimped it up with some pickled ginger and plenty of poppy seeds:

Carrot and ginger salad with poppy seeds

2 large carrots, grated or chopped in a food processor
1 small onion, very finely diced
2 sticks of celery finely diced (optional)
½ small tin of sweetcorn (optional)
2 heaped tsp poppy seeds
Pickled ginger, or fresh grated fresh ginger

Dressing made from 1 tbsp sunflower oil, 1 tbsp vinegar (I used the vinegar from the pickled ginger) and 1 tsp honey.

Put the dressing ingredients into a jam jar and shake vigorously

Put all the other ingredients into a bowl and mixed thoroughly, pour the dressing over the salad and use a fork to mix everything to incorporate the dressing.

It’s the end of the veg week so I am using things up. I tried two new things today – one will definitely get done again, the jury is out on the other. The definite repeat was a coleslaw: great for using up cabbage and carrots;

Horseradish coleslaw:

2 largish carrots, peeled and grated,
½ small cabbage, finely shredded,
1 small onion, very finely diced,
2 sticks celery, finely diced
6 tbsp plain yoghurt
1 tsp horseradish
1 tbsp salad cream/mayonnaise

Mix the veg together. In a small bowl mix the yoghurt, horseradish and salad cream. Then mix the dressing into the veg and top with some pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds.

And now for the maybe....

Couscous tart

175 g couscous
200ml veg stock
50g butter
3 eggs
100 ml milk
A mixture of veg, including peppers, an onion, maybe mushrooms and courgettes
Some cheese, maybe feta, parmesan or mozzarella

Pre-heat the oven to 160 deg C/ fan 180 deg C.

Make up the couscous in a bowl with some hot stock. Cover and leave to stand for 5 minutes. Then add the butter and fluff up with a fork.

Now the fun bit: take the couscous and pack it into a 20cm diameter flan dish to make the flan case.

Next fry the veg until they are soft and when they are ready put them into the flan case. Now beat the eggs lightly and beat in the milk. Gently pour the egg mix over the veg. Finally add the cheese, cut into cubes, or grated depending what sort of cheese you’ve used.

Cook in the oven for 35 minutes.

Husband liked it, but I just wasn't that keen!

Tomorrow is veg day, but you'll have to wait until Friday to find out what's in the bag as I'm off out on the town tomorrow evening!

Time for this week’s store cupboard soup: and a very yummy one it is too:

Spiced split pea and coconut soup

1 onion chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed or finely chopped
1 l veg stock
300 g split green peas
1 heaped tsp biryianni paste (or other curry paste)
2 heaped tbsp desiccated coconut (or some coconut milk)

Fry the onion and garlic until soft, about 5 mins. Stir in the curry paste and fry for another minute. Add the split peas and stir until covered in the paste. Add the veg stock and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer gently until the peas are soft, about 50 minutes. Add the coconut, cook for another couple of minute and then blitz until desired consistency. Enjoy!