Fresh Borlotti Bean Cassoulet


Does anyone know where to get Fresh Borlotti Beans? I don’t so I couldn’t really make this as per the recipe. If I’m honest I only chose this recipe because I found a couple of tins of them whilst packing up our food as part of our house move and figured I could swap them out without much fuss.

This dish is also from Maria Ella’s ‘The Modern Vegetarian’ – and was pretty easy – and is really just one of those ‘throw it all in a pan’ affairs. The end result is ‘posh beans on toast’ (if you serve it with toast!).

This was nice and quick and took me less than 30 minutes to make – although the recipe suggests that the longer you leave this to infuse the more tasty it will become! We ate really late last Sunday (when I made this) so the flavours didn’t have a chance to infuse. That said the leftovers were definitely more tasty when we had them at work the following day.

To make this you simply fry celery, onion, carrot and garlic (all diced very small) into some olive oil. Once soft add bay leave, sage and oregano, the beans (I used two 400g tins), chopped fresh plum tomatoes (I had a lot of Heritage ones that were very very ripe so I favoured these) and cook.

Now ordinarily in the recipe you would add water to cover the beans and cook for 50 mins or so. But my beans were already cooked so I didn’t bother with this step. I just added enough water to keep the consistency of my beans similar to that of a tin of baked beans.

When it’s all ready you remove from the heat – add lemon zest and lemon juice and some basil and serve with some toasted bread.

As quick dishes go – this was very quick. But I did cheat. This would take far longer if you used fresh beans.

This is quite a nice go to dish if you’re short of time. And it is far better than a tin of baked beans!



Butternut Squash Barley Risotto


It seems like ages since I posted something. I’ve been cooking – I just haven’t had the time to post the reviews!

Moving house and moving onto a boat all at the same time is a recipe for disaster. Especially challenging when you still have to go to work, and your new mooring is a very long way away from where you live. That said, only two weeks left and all these issues should be over!

Anyway – back to the cooking. This is another recipe from ‘The Modern Vegetarian’ by Maria Ella. I’ve made this before. I think in November last year and my memory of it made me want to make it again.

It’s not quite as spectacularly bright and colourful like the Spinach Pearl Barley Risotto I made some time ago – but it is as tasty.

One thing I noticed this time round is butternut squashes all look the same don’t they! But do they taste the same? To me, this risotto didn’t taste as ‘squashy’ as the one I made before. Maybe squashes aren’t really in season in May/June – and lack the taste of an autumn one.

One thing I’ve taken away from this recipe is ‘why use rice’. I’ve never found rice particularly fulfilling. You eat it – you get full – bloated in fact – you go do something and half an hour later you’re hungry again.  Barley is a super substitute. It has three times the carbs, five times the protein, three times the calories and a whopping ten times the fibre. Basically you’ll get more energy from it – and you it’s better for you !

There are many steps to this recipe – and it seems very long winded – but it isn’t – and it is worth it.

To make this you peel a butternut squash, and put the peelings with some onions (peel and all), garlic, carrot and water in a big pan and boil it up to a stock.


Obviously you could cheat here and just use Bouillon or a vegetable stock – but for the effort, and the fact that you have the waste product anyway it seems silly not to. I think in hindsight here you could pep up your stock (if your squash isn’t that flavoursome) with something like that Knorr vegetable stock concentrate.

While that’s reducing down from something like 2 litres to 1 litre, you prep your squash. Dice and roast the end with the pulp with lots of olive oil. I did mine in a halogen oven (hence the round ring).


Next, fry off the other end of the squash in a pan. I messed this up last time I made it by not reading the recipe properly – I ended up roasting the whole squash. To be honest I don’t think it makes the blindest bit of difference. You fry the squash with shallots (I used some left over spring onions) and some spices.



Once you’ve done that – the prep is done.

From here on it’s all plain stirring. Fry the barley, some onion (I used red onions for added colour and the fried diced butternut squash and add some wine to get it going.


Once the wine is absorbed, gradually add your butternut squash stock – risotto style – ladle at a time until each ladle is absorbed. This took around 30 minutes for me.

Once the barley is to your liking (I like mine to have some bite) add the roasted squash (which you need to puree first) – and then some parmesan cheese (how much is up to you!).

I think this is a yummy, filling, wholesome dish which fills you up and leaves you full. I didn’t go overboard with the cheese – but you could if you wanted to – depends on how you like your risotto. I like mine to be a little sloppy and still have some of the liquid unabsorbed.

As I already said this dish is a little more labour intensive but it is worth it. Give it a go!







Smashed Pea, Dill and Feta Crostini


I love green food. I love peas. Fresh peas. And this dish from Maria Ella’s ‘The Modern Vegetarian’ caught my eye whilst I was shortlisting things to make this week.

If you leave out the bread, this is a raw dish. No cooking. Very very simple. Toasting bread isn’t cooking anyway – unless you are one of those toast burners out there. So this really is a no cook dish.

It was another quite late dinner for us as I foolishly placed an Ocado delivery for 8pm. I chose this recipe because it was the quickest and I was hungry. Very quick to make this one!

You can make this in less than 10 minutes. And here’s how:

  • smash some garlic in a pestle and mortar
  • smash some dill and salt into the garlic
  • smash some fresh peas into mix
  • add olive oil, keep smashing
  • add lemon juice keep smashing
  • add parmesan and smash a bit more
  • add crumbled feta – ease off on the smashing
  • toast some ciabatta – try not to smash it
  • serve with some pea shoots on top – if you can find them

You want a texture a bit like this – rather than a massive mush!

Smashed Peas

One thing you must be careful not to do is watch the last five minutes of Season 4 Episode 8 of Game of Thrones whilst doing all this smashing. It just doesn’t sit well !

This is a great simple easy dish – looks lovely – tastes amazing – and you can adjust the amount of parmesan (or leave it out all together) if it’s too cheesy for you.

This was supposed to be a starter for us – but it was filling enough that we didn’t need to eat anymore.

I’m sure this will be one of those go to dishes when I’m time starved or just want a quick bite.


The Modern Vegetarian – Maria Ella


After all the stresses and rushing around of last week I can now get back to doing what I like best – cooking!

Now our boat is moved (which went without a hitch) the pressure has really lifted and rather than eating crazy late every evening I can focus on getting home from work at a reasonable hour and taking my time preparing some really nice food.

My book of choice this week is ‘The Modern Vegetarian’ by Maria Ella.

I’ve cooked from this book before – and was very impressed with the general simplicity of the recipes and the impressive flavours, textures and colourful dishes that I’d selected. Sadly I hadn’t blogged or photographed any of them – but the general opinion was that everything from it was very good. So I’ve decided to cook from the book again.

The recipes I’ve selected are a mixture of those I’ve made before (and loved – especially the beetroot ones) and a few new ones that I’d missed first time round.

This week I plan to make (in no particular order)

  • Carrot pancakes with Houmous and a Feta Salad
  • Smashed Pea, Dill and Feta Crostini
  • Butternut Squash Barley Risotto
  • Spiced Swiss Chard with Butterbeans and Couscous
  • Fresh Borlotti Bean Cassoulet
  • Beetroot Tzatsiki
  • Spiced Caramelised Onion and Beetroot Bulgar Pilau
  • Beetroot Keftedes
  • Greek Beetroot Salad
  • Parmesan Polenta with Poached Eggs and Roasted Feta
  • Puy Lentil and Feta Tabouleh
  • Fennel Salad
  • Braised Broad Beans with Lemon and Dill
  • Rosemary and Butternut Squash Polenta Chips
  • Rosemary Popcorn
  • Dino’s Greek Peas

That quite a lot to make – but all the dishes are quick and easy. The four beetroot dishes are part of a ‘flavours of beetroot meze’ which is really quite special.

As always I’ve steered clear of nearly all the rice and pasta dishes and dishes with lots of cream – just because I want to keep my weight down and because I eat late most nights and don’t want to go to bed on a very full stomach.

This is definitely a book to own if you are vegetarian. You’ll certainly make most of the dishes in this book over time. The photography is really good too.