The bare bones of the plants we eat

Category Archive: Vegetables

Flying pans and pancakes!

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Well, I never thought Saimir would take some of what we discuss about food on board, but he did. One day last week he wanted to know what he could have for his dinner so I suggested savoury pancakes with some filling. He said he had all the ingredients to make the pancakes and would like to use his new frying pan. So I gave him some options as to the filling and he said he could get some onions, peppers and cheese. Back he came the next day and boy oh boy. Here was this young lad with puffed out chest and heels rising off the carpet, proudly announcing that he had made the most delicious pancakes he had ever eaten.

So, I thought I could share this for all those hungry students out there as this is very simple and easy to make. The ingredients are as in my previous blog for pancakes made by Yeliz and Suzy but without the sugar. He sautéed the onions and peppers in a little bit of butter and said he added some dried parsley and oregano, salt and pepper to taste. He only made 5 pancakes but he said the 2 first ones did not even hit the plate but went straight down his gullet. Greed satisfied to some degree, he then layered the onion and pepper mixture onto the pancakes in layers with some sliced cheddar cheese.

We are so glad that we have set him well on the path to cook for himself with his flying or is it frying ceramic pan.

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Broccoli and quinoa bake

Posted by t4ni4 2 Comments

Here I am again … with another quinoa recipe. Despite what some of you might think, I do have other ingredients in my kitchen and not just quinoa but I was trying to come up with a different version of the spinach and quinoa bake. So, as soon as I felt that ray of inspiration coming I put my Marimekko apron and armed with the digital camera in one hand and the knife on the other I ‘invented’ the following recipe with a cabbage cousin (cabbage and broccoli are both from the Brassicaceae family). As usual, feel free to replace some of the ingredients, for example change the broccoli by another vegetable or the smoked salmon by another fish or any other source of protein (cheese is the first one that comes to my mind … mmhhh pieces of halloumi or feta!). As I learnt from my mother: you have to think about the colours when choosing your ingredients … the eyes are the first ones ‘tasting’ the food!

Easy peasy tricolour quinoa bake to be eaten hot or cold, as main dish or pic nic snack, for two or more people.

Broccoli and quinoa bake


  • 120 g smoked salmon trimmings
  • 1 small broccoli head
  • 1 tbsp capers
  • 80 g or ½ cup quinoa
  • ½ fresh chilli
  • 2 eggs


Wash and drain the quinoa, place it in the pan with 1 1/3 cup of water, bring to the boil and then lower the heat and cook for about 15 minutes until all the water is absorbed. In the meantime, cut the broccoli into small florets, place in a small pan, add boiling water and cook at a medium heat for about 3 minutes, drain the little green trees. Finely chop half of a fresh chilli (or a whole one if you like to spice things up!). Mix all the ingredients, add salt and pepper to taste. Place in a loaf tin and bake for approximately 40 minutes at 180 ºC / Gas 4. Eat hot or cold. Serves 2 small stomachs like mine or maybe just one if you like big portions (like my friend Elena does!)

The humble cabbage

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White, red or the crinkly leaved Savoy, this humble vegetable is used by almost all people around the world and eaten raw, cooked or pickled. This is the way my Mum cooked cabbage and is very easy to make.


  • 1 pointed cabbage or Savoy cabbage.
  • 1 teaspoon of ghee or oil of your choice
  • 1/2 a teaspoon of Urid dhal
  • 1/4 teaspoon of mustard seeds
  • Pinch of turmeric
  • 1 – 2 green chillies slit lengthwise (optional)
  • Salt to taste

If you don’t have Urid dhal or mustard seeds use a handful of pine nuts or sesame seeds to give that extra crunch and taste.

Shred the cabbage very finely, the finer the better. Heat the oil or ghee and place the Urid dhal in it and shake the pan until it turns pale brown. Then add the mustard seeds and when it pops add the cabbage, turmeric, chillies and salt and just stir fry for a few minutes. I like it still slightly crunchy, but cook for a longer time to suit your palate. This dish goes well with lentils rice, a dollop of yoghurt and maybe the odd papadum.

Like the cabbage , mustard seeds are also Brassicas so a very close relative. Urid Dhal is used extensively in South Indian cooking to make idlis, dosais, or papadums to name just a few dishes.

Rendezvous in a soup pot

Posted by vilb 2 Comments

It is still winter and that time of the week we call the weekend. The snow is still on the grass and the sun bright but the air is sharp and very cold. Mmm… I think to myself, what about a nice bowl of steaming hot soup, and I do have a few left over vegetables languishing in the kitchen cupboard. Why not give them a rendezvous in a soup pot and this is what I found.
Add or subtract and tailor make it to what is available in your cupboards and experiment. The quantity I made was enough to serve 6 people, but just multiply or divide the quantity according to your needs.


  • 1 fat potato with its jacket on
  • 2 carrots (these were slightly wrinkled)
  • 2 sticks of celery (more like 2 wilting sticks)
  • 2 leeks
  • 3 – 4 tablespoons of oil (I used sunflower, but you use olive or any other single oils)
  • 1 teaspoon of ghee or butter (this just adds a wonderful caramel flavour)
  • ½ cup of red lentils (wash a few times)
  • 7 unsalted cashew nuts (found in a bottle)
  • 8 whole almonds (lying in a packet)
  • ¼ teaspoon of dried rosemary (you can use mixed herbs or any other combination that suits your palette)
  • ¼ teaspoon of dried basil
  • 1 desert spoon of desiccated coconut (optional)
  • Salt to taste


In a heavy bottomed saucepan, add 3 tablespoons of oil and 1 teaspoon of ghee. Finely slice the leeks, dice the potatoes, carrots and celery and once the oil is medium hot, sauté all these vegetables until transparent but not brown. Then add the washed lentils and enough water to cover the vegetables so that the level stands about a centimetre above the vegetables and bring to the boil. Now add the nuts, roughly chopped so they are easier to blend, herbs and salt and lower the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes. When the vegetables are soft I puréed all this with a hand held blender until nearly smooth. Add more water if you want a thinner consistency and simmer for a few more minutes.

We had it with fresh buttered baguettes and the smell of the soup wafting up my nostrils just made my senses dance with joy.

Vegetable moilee

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Originally from Goa, the Moilee is an Indian curry made with fish, or any seafood and coconut milk. This simple dish made with vegetables and coconut milk, has been slightly adapted from Thangam Philip’s recipe book, Modern cookery for teaching and the trade.

Coconut oil is ideal for this dish but I used sunflower oil. I always add a teaspoon of ghee, which I make myself, as it adds that little twist of caramel like undertones. Add more chillies and ginger to stimulate your taste buds, and very often I add a teaspoon of freshly toasted and ground fennel seeds to the sautéed onions before adding the potatoes.

The first time I made this dish I measured everything have included the weights as a guide. But cooking is about experimenting so just mix and match and maybe just add 2 carrots instead of 3, or broccoli instead of cauliflower, or cumin seed or coriander, less or more oil and so on.

Ingredients – serves 6

  • Onions finely sliced 200 gm
  • Potatoes diced 250 gm
  • Carrots diced 100 gm
  • Cauliflower florets 100 gm
  • Peas fresh or frozen 200 gm
  • 1 tin of tomatoes or 3-4 chopped fresh tomatoes
  • Fresh ginger ½ inch piece
  • Green chillies 4 – 5
  • Lemon or lime 1
  • Coconut powder 1 cup, I use Maggi coconut milk powder
  • Turmeric ¼ teaspoon
  • Salt to taste
  • Oil 50 ml
  • Ghee – 1 teaspoon


Slice the onions and ginger and slit the green chillies lengthwise. Wash peel and dice the potatoes and carrots, separate the cauliflower into florets and shell the peas if using fresh ones. Prepare the coconut milk by dissolving 1 cup of powdered coconut milk with 2 cups of hot water.

Heat the oil and ghee and sauté the onions, ginger and green chillies until soft and transparent. Add turmeric and potatoes and fry for a few minutes and add 1 cup of the prepared coconut milk with an extra cup of hot water. Cook gently until the potatoes are a quarter done. Add the carrots, cauliflower, peas, tomatoes, the second cup of coconut milk and salt to taste. If it looks too thick then just add more hot water, just experiment until you can mix the ingredients easily. Cook gently until the vegetables are done and add the third cup of coconut milk and simmer. Add the lemon juice, taste, taste and taste and add more salt or lemon juice if needed, remove from fire and finally add the chopped coriander leaves and cover. Great served with rice, chappatis, pitta bread, quinoa or couscous.

The vegetable moilee showing how I slice my onions, ginger and slit green chillies

Fabulous quinoa!

Posted by t4ni4 5 Comments

Together with a couple of colleagues we have decided to share our food (or cooking experiments), once a week one cook for the 3 of us and brings the meal to work to have lunch together. Today was my turn, and I thought I would use the occasion to introduce a new ingredient to them: quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa). It was not a random choice, quinoa is produced in the Andes, I am Peruvian-Belgian and the mountains are very special to me. I made a delicious (yes, I have to admit it!) and very nutritious ‘bake’ with quinoa and spinach (Spinacia oleracea). See the recipe below! Did you know that those two ingredients are botanically related ? Both plants are from the Amaranthaceae family. Although quinoa leaves are edible you might only find the seeds in some supermarkets and health food shops in the UK, and those seeds come mainly from Bolivia and Peru. What is quite surprising for me is that when I was in Peru people in the coast or amazonian region would not know and eat quinoa (thought to be food for the poor?) and now that there is a whole wave of ‘Peruvian nouvelle cuisine’ more Peruvians are starting to appreciate quinoa in its different varieties (white, golden, red), forms (grain, flour, flaked, popped) and recipes (sweet or savoury). I have made with good success: chocolate cake with quinoa (ideal for coeliacs), quinoa madeleines, quinotto (like risotto but with quinoa instead of rice), quinua and courgette bake … the possibilities are endless! I forgot to take a picture of my bake, but here is the recipe …

Quinoa and spinach bake (recipe for 3-4 people)


  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 1/4 cup water
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 450 g spinach
  • 200 g feta cheese, chopped
  • 1 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg, grated
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3 eggs
  • Salt & pepper


I first tried the quinoa and spinach bake from a friend who made it for a picnic (you can eat it hot, warm or cold). I looked for the recipe on the web and then modified it to my taste. Wash, drain and cook a cup of quinoa. Put in the pan enough water to cover the grains and a bit more, put the lid on, turn the heat down as soon as it boils and turn the heat off when most of the water has been used up (the rest of it will be absorbed by the quinoa or evaporate). Meanwhile, chop 1 onion (I don’t mind if white or red) and 2-3 garlic cloves (depending how much you like garlic), gently fry them until they become nicely caramelised. Add 450 g of spinach (I’ve used packed baby spinach, if using a fresh bunch wash and chop it first), cook for a few minutes, turn off the heat and add the cooked quinoa, about 200 g feta or salad cheese chopped, 1 tsp cinnamon powder, 1 tsp cumin powder, ½ tsp grated nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste, 3 beaten eggs, 1 tsp baking powder.  Place the mixture in a cake tin or similar and put in the oven at 180⁰C/Gas  4/350⁰F for 40 minutes or until set.

Optional: add some grated parmesan to the mixture, put some strips of feta or salad cheese on top of the mixture before baking it.