Rich Vegetable Cassoulet

Oh we do love beans in our house! Baked, blitzed, fried, refried, cold, marinated, stewed.... any and every possible way will do. I found this fantastic premixed bag of ten different bean varieties, including some of my favourites like kidney, sugar, mung, butter and haricots. Mixed in with these are some others I'm not that familiar with like black eyed, lima, pinto, alubia and black turtle beans. This mix is really fabulous and versatile, great for salads or as a side with vegetables, it also makes a great cassoulet. Cassoulet is a traditional slow cooked casserole containing meat and white haricot beans originating in the south of france. I took my inspiration from the cooking method and the use of beans but little else of the classic version remains in my recipe. This is a rich deeply flavoured slow cooked pot of vegetable heaven. If you want to add some meat, use spicy smoked chorizo or lardons. Any hard root vegetable can stand a long cook and some hardy winter greens to go with chopped tomatoes, beans of your choice and some lemon juice. This is a one pot wonder left to cook slowly in a low oven for a few hours, developing over time and much improved reheated for a day or two on the stove. Eat with crusty bread, any grain or soft polenta.


1 turnip
2 carrots
1 large shallot or onion
2/3 cloves of garlic, crushed
150g cavolo nero, kale or winter greens
400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 cup mixed beans or beans of your choice
Juice of half a lemon
1 bay leaf
1 Lt vegetable or chicken stock
1 tbsp tomato paste
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 150C. Heat a heavy casserole dish on the stove. Slice the shallot and saute in olive oil with two cloves of crushed garlic until soft. Peel and chop the carrots and turnip into chunks, add to the pot and heat. Roughly chop cavolo nero, mix through and allow to begin to wilt. Add bay leaf, tomatoes, stock and tomato paste and bring to the boil. The fluid should be just covering all the vegetables. Season with salt and black pepper. Before putting it in the oven, stir in the third clove of crushed garlic and juice of half a lemon. Place in the middle of the oven with the lid on and leave to cook slowly for about 2 hours until vegetables are soft and the liquid has reduced and is deep dark red in colour.


Pea and Mint Soup

This beautiful emerald bowl of vibrance is a winter staple. An all time classic, the combination of sweet peas and cool fresh mint make this soup rich and very moreish. Eaten with a swirl of cream, some freshly ground black pepper and crusty bread, its a meal that needs nothing more. If you fancy something different, use a small head of lettuce instead of mint, which is just as delicious. I like to use petit pois (baby peas) as they are younger, sweeter and blend into a smoother finish, but if you like a bit more texture garden peas work a treat. 


1 onion, sliced
1 small floury potato, cut into chunks
1 large clove garlic, whole
handful fresh mint, just the leaves
frozen petit pois
1 Lt vegetable or chicken stock
knob of butter
salt and black pepper

Saute onion, garlic and potato in butter over a medium heat until soft but not coloured. Add stock and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are soft and falling apart. Add mint and allow to steep for a few minutes. Add peas and bring to the boil for 5-10 minutes. Take off the heat and blend until smooth. The consistency should be medium or just coating the back of a spoon. The soup will thicken as it cools and may well need a little extra water when reheating to thin the starch. Season with salt and black pepper. Serve hot with a swirl of cream.


Tarte au Citron

The amazing lemon tart! Such a delight with its soft and delicate curd filling. This is a dessert to finish all meals, it brings incredible happiness and total satisfaction. It does require a bit of planning and it isn't the easiest thing to make, but you will never regret it and make it over and over again. It is best made the night before or several hours before its needed. This recipe is made with egg yolks, so if you care for extra sweetness and decadence you can always whip up the egg whites with sugar and top this base with a pillowy meringue. The recipe calls for a sweet shortcrust pastry, you can add lemon zest to it for a little extra punch or leave it as is. I absolutely love the simplicity of this french classic. Stunning.

Sweet Shortcrust Pastry (makes about 500g)

250g flour
150g butter
50g icing sugar
1 egg 

Put flour, icing sugar and butter into a food processor and blitz until it resembles bread crumbs. Add egg and pulse for a few seconds until the dough just comes together. If it still seems too dry add a tablespoon of water. Try not to over process as this makes the dough tough. Tip out onto a lightly floured surface and bring together into a dough, kneading very lightly. Shape into a disc and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Remove from the fridge about 10 minutes before needed and allow to rest.


300g sweet shortcrust pastry
juice of 2 lemons
175g castor sugar
6 large organic egg yolks
250ml double cream

To prepare the pastry case, roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface until about 3mm thick. Line a 20cm flan tin with the pastry, press well into the sides and leave a small amount (about 2-3mm) above the sides. This will shrink down slightly while baking. Prick gently all over with a fork. Cover with cling film and freeze for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 190C. Remove pastry case from the freezer. Line with baking paper and fill with baking beans. Bake for 20 minutes until lightly browned. Remove beans and paper. Return to the oven and bake for a further 5-15 minutes until the base is completely cooked through and the edges are a deep golden brown. Remove from the oven. Reduce temperature to 140C. Allow the pastry case to cool slightly. In a bowl whisk together the ingredients for the filling, being careful not to aerate the mixture too much. Return the pastry case to the oven and pull the shelf out so that the tin remains level. Pour the filling into the case right up to the top. Push the shelf back into the oven carefully. Bake for 30 minutes, just until the filling looks slightly set and there is a wobble in the centre. Turn the oven off and allow to cool and set over night or for several hours. The surface of the tart should be glossy with very few bubbles. Dust with icing sugar, leave as is or top with meringue. Serve at room temperature.