Archive for March, 2011

March 16, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Courgette and Feta Fritters

Tuesday 15 March

We got this recipe here – and swapped the manouri cheese for feta. I reckon this would be great for breakfast, as recommended (and if you had the time), but it made for a tasty, light, late dinner on a Tuesday night.

We often get courgettes in our weekly veg box and grating them then combining them with a couple of other sharp tasting flavours to make some fritters means they now never go to waste. We served the fritters with the lime-infused sauce, plus a quick tomato and herb salsa and some peppery watercress.

March 14, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Chickpea, Greens and Coconut Soup

Monday 14 March

Is there any limit to how many ways you can combine chickpeas and green veg? Last night’s dinner was a spicy soup made with an onion, chopped spring greens, a tin of chickpeas and a tin of coconut milk. To make it, lightly fry a medium, finely sliced onion in sunflower oil in a large, deep pan. Add a clove of garlic, crushed, some chopped chilli (to your liking), a finely sliced red pepper and two inches of fresh ginger, grated. Roughly chop the leaves of a small cabbage head (we used spring greens but any leafy greens will do, really) and add to the pan. Then add the chickpeas and the coconut milk. Add in a teaspoon of turmeric and half a teaspoon of ground cumin. Season with a little salt and pepper. Add just under a litre of water (or thereabouts) and simmer for 15 minutes. To serve, add a little chopped spring/salad onion, some fresh coriander leaves and squeeze the juice of half a lime into each bowl. Should serve four – or two very hungry people. Sssshhh!

March 14, 2011

Recipes: Nigel Slater’s cheap and cheerful supper recipes

In the weekend’s Observer newspaper were a couple of tasty vegetarian supper recipes “that won’t blow a huge hole in your budget”, as the page strapline noted. Noodles and greens looks just the type of thing we’d knock up in a flash at ETP Towers, while the quick squash stew is something of an old-school, hearty veggie favourite.

Click here for the recipes.

March 14, 2011

Restaurant review: Galvin at Windows

It was Ella’s birthday on Friday and we’d booked a table at Galvin at Windows, which sits rather spectacularly on the 28th floor of the Park Lane Hilton, London. I like the Galvin brothers’ restaurants, especially their Galvin La Chapelle. There’s something about the way you feel fussed over while dining, without them being overly fussy. Plus, they have a keen eye for a space. Windows is no different. Tables overlook Hyde Park and Buckingham Palace Gardens – from on high. You can see Crystal Palace in one direction and over to Alexandra Palace in the other. Try and get a seat by a window if you book, as we did, otherwise you may leave wondering what the fuss was about.

When meat eaters tell me about restaurants, they often utter the words, “You’d like it at [insert restaurant name here] because there’s lots of choice for veggies.” Well, let’s get one thing straight, I don’t really care that much about choice – I’m used to not having any: what I want, primarily, is good food. A ropey but fully vegetarian restaurant gives me choice, yet somehow I don’t want to take my wife there for her special birthday meal, do I? So no, as with many fine dining joints, you won’t find much that constitutes choice at Galvin at Windows, but you can take advantage of the vegetarian offering on their set lunch menu, which currently comes in at £45 for three courses, half a bottle of wine and coffee.

We asked about the vegetarian options. On booking they’d said there always was one. The menu seemed to have other ideas though – the most non-meat starter was almost veggie, apart from some snails. No matter, however, as not only could they refine this choice in the kitchen for us, but we could also choose from the vegetarian a la carte options as well.

From the latter list we chose a starter of salad of root vegetables, deep-fried organic egg, truffle dressing, baby leaves and fresh chestnut. The salad was nutty and, yes, fresh, well seasoned and pleasingly textured – from the soft warm yolk to the crunch of the chestnut and yellow beets. Highlight of the meal.

The main was a risotto (Must Try Harder!) of pumpkin and sage, made more Michelin-y by the presence of a slightly foamy sage cream, toasted chopped hazelnuts and a slick of a deep green vegetal jus. It worked – just. Last, for me, came a buttermilk pannacotta with rhubarb. The rhubarb came as a sorbet, a jelly and a confit. Ella had a Manjari chocolate ganache, hazelnut and salted caramel. Both disappeared pretty much without trace.

The Galvin brothers’ London restaurants, I remarked (and as I probably have done before – sorry Ella), are really fine dining restaurants as they, basically, should be done. Basically. Yes, with an extra star or two you’d get more refinement. Yes, the quality occasionally drops. But, but… if you hadn’t ever been to a fine dining restaurant before, go to one of them and you’d know, basically, what it was all about. A primer. Entry level. Could be better. Could be a lot worse. But I can always relax in them and enjoy a meal – which we did. And you can’t always say that about restaurants.

March 9, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Purple Sprouting Broccoli and Shiitake Mushrooms in a Ginger Broth

Wednesday 8 March

The main reason I made this was to use up some of the week’s remnants of veg by making a stock for a soup or broth. Plus, the star of this week’s veg box was some fine purple sprouting broccoli.

So I made a quick stock with an onion, a couple of carrots, a leek and a tomato from the bottom of the fridge. For an Asian-influenced stock I add to this general base garlic, a chilli, some Szechuan pepper corns, stalks from a bunch of fresh coriander and lots of fresh ginger. After simmering for 20 minutes I strain it through a sieve and then add a fair bit of soy sauce and a good dessert spoon of tamarind paste (one of our new ‘secret’ ingredients). Anyway, this stock recipe always varies slightly but never too much. If it’s too bitter add a teaspoon of sugar.

That’s the bulk of it done. Reheat the stock, add the sliced shiitake mushrooms, then the broccoli a minute later and wait until the broccoli is just tender. Leave to simmer for 4 minutes. To serve, I add some chopped red chilli and some coriander leaves.

March 9, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Tuesday 8 March

Last night’s dinner really was last night’s dinner. We had plenty of our Savoy Cabbage, Chickpea and Fennel stew left over from Monday… so, what to do with it? Slice some new/salad potatoes into 5mm discs and sautee in olive oil until tender – you might need to put a lid on the pan so they half fry, half steam (BTW, potatoes and olive oil? Yes please!) Then add yesterday’s stew. The result was less loose than the previous day’s as the potatoes soak up the juices nicely. We’ve not tried this before but will do it again. A success.

March 8, 2011

Tom Aikens exclusive recipe

Sometimes the ‘work’ inbox here at Earth To Plate fills up with press releases from all kinds of things we’re not expecting. Today, for example, we’ve had (among many) an invite to a ‘Street Art’ gallery show opening, information about palm oil, an invitation to take tea at the German Historical Institute in Lower Saxony, and a press release regarding a ‘revolutionary new skin care system called SQOOM’.

We also received an exclusive recipe from Stilton cheesemakers Clawson and Michelin-starred chef Tom Aikens – for Broccoli and Blue Stilton Soup. It seems the collaboration between Aikens and Clawson comes in celebration of the cheesemaker’s centenary year. In fact, Long Clawson Dairy has created a recipe book, ‘Cooking Creatively with Cheese’ in collaboration with the star chef. The book takes you through the decades of the dairy’s history, starting from the 1910s – from which this recipe is selected. The book is available to buy on Amazon priced at £7.95.

Anyway, we thought we’d share the recipe with you (because we’re here to cook and eat, not to plug products!) We have some broccoli in the cupboard, so maybe we’ll give this a go later in the week. Watch this space!


(Serves 4 as a starter)

400g broccoli florets and stalks cut into small pieces

500ml white chicken stock or water simmering

50g butter

1 onion thinly sliced

6 spring onions thinly sliced

4 cloves garlic finely chopped

100g Blue Stilton

100ml double cream

2g salt

12 turns of freshly ground black pepper

1 pinch freshly grated nutmeg

Extra Stilton for the garnish


Place a medium pan onto a low to medium heat, then add the onion and garlic, salt, nutmeg and pepper with the butter, cover with a lid and cook slowly so they sweat in the steam until they soften.

This will take approximately 5 minutes, then add the pieces of broccoli and spring onions, cover with a lid again and cook for a further 3-4 minutes, then pour over the hot stock.

Cover with a lid and bring to the simmer, then remove the lid. Add the cream and cook for five minutes until the broccoli is tender. Add the Stilton and then place into a blender and puree coarsely. Serve straight away, placing some extra pieces of cheese into the soup.

March 7, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Monday 7 March

We had an onion, a lovely Savoy cabbage, a large tomato and some tins of chickpeas in the cupboard, so I popped to the shop for a red pepper and a couple of small fennel bulbs. This Denis Cotter-inspired stew is always a winner and a lovely balance of flavours. It’s one-pot cooking of the simplest variety and in no way bland. And there’s always a lovely olive oil-scented broth at the bottom of the bowl. This being us, we added a spoonful of some rather hot homemade chilli sauce to serve. Nice. As for Denis Cotter… his name will be cropping up regularly. Just wait and see. Or Google him. And buy his cook books.

March 7, 2011

Spring greens

At ETP Towers we usually prefer the crinkles of a Savoy cabbage to the slightly drearier, flat old leaves of ‘spring greens’. But there is a lovely – somehow sweet and bitter – sharpness to their leaves. The Savoy is more earthy, don’t you think?

Anyway, while harvesting some greens recipes today I came across this old ‘East Seasonably’ website, which still provides an easy tip off for seasonally adjusted menus and places to eat locally etc. March really is all about spring greens. Think soups, stews, stir fries and, of course, bubble and squeak.

Eat Seasonably

March 7, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Mushroom Egg Foo Yung

So, what do vegetarians eat? Well, last night we made a rather comforting bowl of Mushroom Egg Foo Yung with Fried Rice.

It’s perhaps fitting that it should be the first of our ‘Last Night’s Dinner’ entries as I’ve long been a lover of this dish – except I only used to have it in takeaway form with that signature taste of nasty MSG. Ella is a convert to the home-cooked version.

Basically, of course, it’s a mushroom omelette with rice. For the omelette we stir fried chestnut mushrooms with a split of sunflower and sesame oil before adding the beaten eggs. This is done after making the rice though. And the trick to good fred rice is to boil the rice well in advance and leave to cool completely. Trying to fry hot, just-boiled rice is self-defeating as it steams and becomes puddingy. While frying we added a clove of garlic, some chopped spring (salad) onions and some peas – a little greenery is always good. And, of course, soy sauce. When the rice looks slightly glistening and crackles a bit in the pan, then you’re getting there. Then make the omelette, chop it up slightly once it’s set and golden – and bowl it up. Comfort food for a Sunday night.