Springtime roast with braised celery and paprika butternut squash mash

Sunday, Sunday here again! A few notes from a spring-time roast last week.

Celery is one of my all-time favourite flavours, and yet it sometimes feels a little side-lined, just one stick needed for each recipe, a few sticks garnishing a jug of bloody mary, left in the sieve from gravy, reduced down beyond any recognition in rich sauces. And all of those components are better with celery, but on it's own, it's strikingly salty flavour and texture can also be delicious. I lightly roasted a few sticks along with some carrots and onions last Sunday, so it came out juicy and almost the same taste as celeriac, (the bulb of the plant of which celery makes up the stalk), but without the aniseed flavour, which I can sometimes find overwhelming. One thing to bear in mind when seasoning the celery is that it does seem to absorb any salt it goes anywhere near.

With the braised celery I made a paprika butternut squash mash, adding some chili flakes and chili oil. The squash seemed to release a lot of liquid so I let it reduce on a low heat for about 20 minutes. You could also add a potato to the mash to absorb some of the excess liquid. This paired up well with some flash-cooked greens and leeks, barely boiled and left with a clean, light flavour to counter everything else going on. 

Roast potatoes, vegan haggis uncovered from the depths of the freezer and rosemary onion gravy completed a pretty huge Sunday roast line-up.

Nut roast alternatives: Vegan haggis

Mark: Mmmm. Why toast when you can roast?
Jeremy: Another roast? That's the third today.
Mark: What's nicer than a roast?
Jeremy: Yeah, but, chain-eating roasts?

I'm not quite at chain-eating status yet, but with sooooo much amazing autumnal produce from Growing Communities, there seems to be enough food for at least three ginormous roast dinners every week. I'm not complaining, after all what's nicer than a roast? 

At the start of Autumn my friend Jenny suggested I tracked down some vegan haggis to try with a roast dinner. I haven't come across any in a shop yet, so instead, I've been working on my own recipe. Despite not having any of the traditional meat products in it, this haggis recipe is perfect when a nut roast just won't quite cut it, and I can confirm it also tastes amazing alongside tatties and neeps.

It's essential to watch The Life Aquatic while cooking Sunday lunch.

n.b. the ingredients list does look almost Ottolenghi in length, but most of these things will be hiding in your kitchen supplies- feel free to change the nuts or beans to ones you have in- the Vegetarian Society recipe I based this on asked for hazel nuts instead.

Makes enough for four


1 onion, chopped 
Few glugs of sunflower or vegetable oil 

4 carrots, very finely chopped

Handful of mushrooms, finely chopped

50g red lentils

600ml vegetable stock

25g mashed, tinned red or white kidney beans

35g ground peanuts

35g ground cashew nuts

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp lemon juice

2 tsp dried thyme

2 tsp dried rosemary

1 tsp dried curry mix

200g fine oatmeal

Salt and pepper

Decide how you are going to cook and serve the haggis- I greased with oil four pie tins, a bread tin, and also some muffin tins, I'd say the pie tins were the perfect size portion. 

Preheat the oven to 190C. In a large pan sweat the onion in the oil for 5 minutes, then add the carrot and mushrooms and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add the lentils and about three quarters of the stock.

With the remaining stock, blend in the kidney beans and add this to the pan, along with the nuts, soy sauce, lemon juice and seasoning. Mix well and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes.

Now add the oatmeal and reduce the heat to a simmer, cooking for 15 to 20 minutes. Keep an eye on the mixture as the oats tend to stick to the bottom of the pan, so add more stock or water if needed. 

Garlic roasted beetroot to go along with the haggis

Spoon the mixture into your chosen tins and bake in the centre of the oven for around 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops go crispy.

The haggis freezes really well and just takes half a day to defrost in the fridge, so if you make extra you can store away for another roast- a perfect excuse!

Work in progress: Chocolate and cherry Bundt cake

Last Sunday I got up at the crack of dawn to get this little blighter in the oven. Eating cake for breakfast is certainly a decadent pursuit, but unlike most involves getting up very early! A bowl of leftover cherries from the vegetable box became the perfect excuse to try the Bundt tin my Mum gave me- they are so much fun!!

I added some glace chocolate icing and cherries to finish it off. No recipe this time as there's still some parts to the ingredients and method I want to tweak- but here's a visual taster...

Easy peasy biryani

So the sunshine caught me a little off guard with my bowl of spicy biryani on the rooftop... but I'm not complaining.

This vegetable biryani was the first recipe I tried from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage Veg Everyday! cookbook. I didn't have all the ingredients to hand, so instead just used whatever was left from the Growing Communities vegetable bag. It's a little re-jigged, and A LOT amazing. The new potatoes add a creamy taste that counteracts with the chili and curry powder, while I love the texture of the almonds, chickpeas and rice mixed together. It might not be the most traditional recipe, but when it comes to biryani, I think the only rule you need is to always make double. I was so upset when I finished eating this.

Makes enough for four meals

2 cups of rice
2 onions, one diced small, the other left in larger chunks
2 cloves of garlic, diced
2 carrots, sliced
2 handfuls of new potatoes, sliced
1 handful of toasted, sliced almonds
1 handful of parsley or coriander
1 tin (drained) of chickpeas
3 tbsp of your favourite curry powder
1 chili, chopped small
1 juice of lemon
2 tbsp vegetable or sunflower oil

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, and add the onions and garlic, and cook for a few minutes making sure they don't crisp. Boil the kettle with about 300ml of water and add the carrots and onions to the pan, pouring in the boiling water to just about over the vegetables. Put a lid on the pan and allow this to simmer away for about 5 minutes, until everything is coming up to parboiled.

Remove the lid and add in the curry powder and chili. You want the biryani mix to begin reducing now, so add in the chickpeas and stir occasionally, making sure it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan. In another saucepan, prepare the rice, as there's about ten minutes until the sauce is ready.

Once the vegetable curry mix has reduced, add in the almonds, lemon juice and fresh herbs, and any seasoning if you think it needs it. When the rice is ready, drain and stir into the curry mix. This will keep for two days but be sure to reheat the rice properly for leftovers- even if the temperatures outside are soaring!

The London sky. For real.