Sorrel Love

Sorrel is marvellous stuff. A sharp and lemony spinach type leaf, that thrives in my rubbley, London clay garden and survives neglect, slug attack, drought and flooding. It is probably the best value food plant I have ever bought.

I use it a lot in cooking – spring leaves in salads and the bigger leaves right the way through the winter in soups, stews and pretty much everything else.

Sorrel recipes from me:

Pink and purple speckled beans

Poached eggs and sorrel on toast

Potato and sorrel gratin

Some lovely sorrel recipes from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and some more from Two Small Farms.

I’ll be at West Norwood Feast’s gardeners’ market tomorrow, and I’ve potted up some sorrel to sell. Happy sorreling.


Lentil and bean thick soup


Given up on summer recipes as having been in the garden for 5 minutes, my fingers have gone numb. Need to warn them on a bowl of this.

Vegan. Serves 4.

The Italians have a whole category of thick soups which are thickened with bread, pulses or potatoes. In my house they are called soup when they are served (by me) and stew when they are eaten (by my boyfriend). Whatever. This one is soft, squishy and comforting with plenty of green bits.


  • I onion, chopped
  • 2 medium leeks, chopped
  • 1 green chilli, chopped
  • 250g red lentils
  • water
  • 3 tablespoons white miso paste
  • 100g cooked soya beans (or other white beans)
  • 2 handfuls fresh spinach
  • 1 handful chopped parsley


  • Fry the vegetables starting with the onion, then leek, then the chill; they don’t need to be soft so about 5 minutes in all. Do not let them brown. This soup is better all soft and pale and smooth.
  • Add a mug of water and the lentils
  • Cook until the lentils are soft (you may need to add more water), about 10 minutes
  • Add the miso paste and stir in well, adjust the seasoning
  • Add the beans then the spinach and heat through until the spinach until it has wilted, then stir in the parsley
  • Serve in big bowls with a dollop of yogurt on top and if you fancy it. A wedge of lemon or lime on the side is also good

4 loathesome and/or tiresome ‘vegetarian options’ in pubs

1) Pasta.

Come on pubs, if I wanted pasta I would have gone to an Italian restaurant, not a pub.  Unless you are a proper gastro pub, with hand-made and utterly delicious pasta, I DO NOT want this to be my sole dinner option. It also harks rather sadly back to the days when veggie lasagne with chips was the only available fare for the boozing herbivore. And on one occasion in Galway, veggie lasagne served with two watery scoops of mashed potato, peas and carrots.

2) Portobello Burger*.

Dears it’s a mushroom sandwich, it’s not a burger. I do as it happens like mushroom sandwiches, though I’d much rather have  mushrooms (touch of garlic and cream please) on sour dough toast than a large mushroom in a bun. And I DO NOT want to pay £8:50 for a mushroom sandwich, especially if that’s what the carnivores are paying for a fat beef burger. Not on. Worse is a Findus-type ‘burger’ filled with what taste like tinned peas. I applaud those pubs that do try to make their own, even if it results in a rather dry lentil & spinach concoction that leads me to down several ciders to wash it all down (that’s you the Dulwich Plough).

3) The Veggie Stack.

Oh good lord. For the uninitiated, this is a pile of greasy grilled ‘Mediterranean’ vegetables which may have been taken from the counter of a sandwich shop. By making the veg vertiginous, the pub seems to be hoping to give them gravitas. No. In the case of the Railway in Tulse Hill they create a sort of vegetable folly by using hummous as a mortar to stick the vegetables together in a bowl shape, with cooked new potatoes inserted here and there. Now I adore the Railway so have forgiven them, but shall be sticking to their admirable £5 pizzas in future.

4) Fake meat products.

This happens less and less thankfully. I remember once trawling through Weymouth for somewhere to eat, and the only options I could find were veg lasagne and chips in one pub and a vegetarian mixed grill in another i.e. a TVP (textured vegetable protein) chicken drumstick, steak, bacon etc. I thought this shit had died a death and then I discovered TVP prawns in a Thai Veg place on Upper Street, Islington. In 2011.

*The exception to this rule is Fort’s café in Margate who make a lovely Portobello Sandwich (they probably do call it a burger but I forgive them because it’s delicious and they are my friends). Also it’s a café not a pub and a mushroom sandwich is exactly right for a café.

The Fake Sausage Wrangle

I generally don’t eat pretend meat (apart from as a student when I was utterly addicted to Meatless Streaky Strips, a microwavable bacon that resulted in something like a hot frazzle sandwich, I digress…) but I do lean rather heavily on the veggie sausage on work nights. They (and a glass of red) are my life support after a tough-ish day when I’m too weary to cook from scratch.

While I bristle and take plenty of umbrage when sneery meat eaters complain about the BBQd cardboard in their hot dog bun, they unfortunately do have a point. Veggie sausages are not very good. However, they are for the time being something of a necessity, convenience-wise. I’ve tried making my own with lentils, using a breadcrumb base, and using a gnocchi base. The bread crumb ones were the most successful but don’t do the job as convenience food. Then I found this recipe from Vegan Dad that he had adapted from veg blogging guru Isa Chandra Moskowitz.

It uses gluten flour (expect several trips to health food shops and delis in which you ask for gluten flour and they give you gluten free flour, before finally tracking it down on the internet).

This recipe is great. You steam the ‘sausages’ before grilling or frying or BBQing them, so can steam a whole batch and freeze for another time. I don’t use the nutritional yeast because I don’t trust those strange ingredients you see all the time in vegan blogs that purport to give a ‘cheesey’ flavour. I’ve made them loads, kind of planning to come up with my own definitive favourite flavours, but in the end I evolved a more pragmatic approach.

Now I start with a bowl with the gluten flour and add the beans (or chick peas) which are a necessity for the right texture. The beans must be lightly mashed, not pureed or the bangers come out too rubbery. Then add whatever you fancy; VERY finely diced veg, loads of herbs and spices, grated cheese, nuts, touch of Marmite…

I also made these with my niece and nephew, giving them a bowl of gluten flour each and lots of little piles of other ingredients so they could add what they fancied. (And followed by EXTREME segregation in the steamer so we couldn’t mix their sausages up). You shape the mix into rough sausage shapes and wrap in foil. The sausages magically expand in the steamer to make a perfect, dense sausage shape.

Spicy chickpea salad

Serves 2

Serve by itself or with a green salad. This is very good for you but doesn’t taste in the least bit worthy. Great for a quick lunch, its full of zingy flavours which wake you up after a morning’s work – it also makes an ideal packed lunch.



  • 1 tin of chickpeas, drained (or 250g cooked chickpeas if you prefer to boil your own)
  • 2 large carrots, very thinly sliced (see method)
  • 1 courgette, , very thinly sliced (see method)
  • 1 stick of celery, diced or ½ a kohlrabi, peeled and diced
  • A handful of cherry tomatoes, cut in to halves
  • Chili sauce to taste. This salad should be flavoursome rather than hot. I use 1 tsp of Cap Bon Harissa (beautiful packaging and easily available) or 1 tbsp chilli tomato ketchup – use whatever you have in the fridge or a little bit of chopped fresh chilli if you prefer.
  • Splash of olive oil
  • 1 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped


  • Heat the oven to 220 °c.
  • Peel and trim the carrots, trim the courgette. Using a vegetable peeler, peel thin, long strips of the carrots and courgette. This gets tricky towards the end, so finish up by using a knife if its easier.
  • Put the carrot and courgette strips in a tin, toss with a splash of olive oil and spread out. They should be very lightly coated in oil so use very little. Roast in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes. They should be soft but still with a bit of bite, and slightly charred in a few places.
  • While the vegetables are cooking, mix the chickpeas with the diced celery or kohlrabi, the chilli sauce and the halved tomatoes.
  • When the carrots and courgette strips are cooked, put the chickpea mixture in the tin with them and mix. Season with salt and pepper. Pop back in the oven for a couple of minutes to warm through.
  • When ready to serve, stir in the fresh herbs.
Harissa Le Phare du Cap Bon

Harissa Le Phare du Cap Bon

Getting ready for West Norwood Feast

I’ll be at West Norwood Feast, Sunday 1st July…

I’m moving sometime soon (subject to not getting gazumped, damp in the floors not proving un-mortgageable, not dying before completing, all that jazz).

Given that I currently have the hugest garden in London, and I’m moving to a normal sized garden i.e. tiny (some days it does feel like I’m moving garden, the flat itself immaterial) that means a whole lot of plants to re-home.

I was going to leave them here, a floral legacy for the new tenants. But when I moved in this 80 foot garden was also 80 foot high in brambles, and I spent the first year clearing it, by hand, and with many many scratches, bruises, aching muscles to prove it. And I just don’t want my beloved plants to succumb to the jungle.

So I’ve spent the last couple days potting them up. Some I’ll sell at West Norwood Feast’s splendid gardeners’ market, some I’ll give to friends and some I’ll plant in the new garden. The Feast part I’m pretty excited about. I set up the Retro part of the market last year, which I’ve since handed over to Caroline, another volunteer. I also had a food stall on the first ever Feast, selling (and selling out) of Lemon & Black Pepper tart,  Mocha Zuccotta, Marie’s banana cake and other sweet things. So it feels a fitting move from SE27 to sell my plants at the Feast, one of the best things about SE27. Plus I’ve proved that all the plants can cope with West Norwood’s awful mix of heavy clay and rubble soil.

Banana Muffins

Ok, so I’m not 100% sure of the quantities here as I knocked these up as an afterthought while also making a veggie chilli and waiting for jet-lagged-boy-friend to wake up. But it goes something like this…

1) In a Kenwood or similar machine with a balloon whisk fitting, mix 1 egg, 50ml sunflower oil and 100ml milk.

2) Carry on beating and steadily pour in 200g self raising flour and 100g caster sugar

3) Add the juice of 1 orange (if it’s a massively juicy orange you may need to add more flour but you do want a pretty runny cake mix)

4) Stop whisking and stir in a chopped banana and a handful or two of chopped brazil nuts

5) Dollop into 12 muffin cases in a muffin tray

6) Bake at 180 degrees for 20 mins or so

Mine look like this:

Photo of Banana Muffin

Banana Muff

Tarragon Polenta with Pumpkin stuffed Tomatoes

Serves 4


  • 175g polenta (the quick cook stuff)
  • 2 handfuls freshly picked tarragon
  • 50g grated Parmesan
  • Half a small pumpkin or butternut squash
  • Sunflower or olive oil
  • 8 ripe tomatoes
  • A teaspoon of spicy sauce (I used Quinta d’Avó Preparado Angolano)


  • Make the polenta by boiling 1 litre of water, rapidly stirring in the polenta and then continuing to stir using a wooden spoon until the polenta is thick and the granules almost gone.
  • Add the Parmesan and stir until integrated. Take off the heat.
  • Finely chop the tarragon and add to the polenta.
  • Tip the whole lot into an oiled plastic tupperware box and leave to set (once cool, put in the fridge).
  • Chop the pumpkin into large chunks (leave peel on), sprinkle with oil and bake at 220 degrees c for about 30 minutes until tender and brown in places. Leave to cool. Turn the oven down to 200 degrees c.
  • Slice lids of the tomatoes and scoop out the seeds and juice from inside. Discard, or pop in the fridge to use later if you are thrifty.
  • Scrape the pumpkin off the skins, put in a bowl with the spicy sauce (pumpkin is fairly bland so this is needed, but can leave out if using butternut squash) and mash with a fork or potato masher. Season.
  • Fill the tomatoes with the mash, pop the lids back on  and place on a baking tray. Brush with oil and bake in the oven for 30 minutes.
  • With 10 minutes to go on the tomatoes, take the polenta from the fridge and slice into 4 thick pieces.
  • Heat a drizzle of oil in a heavy frying pan (ridged is good) and once really hot, fry the polenta on both sides (turning once) so that is is nicely browned.
  • Serve a polenta slice with 2 tomatoes per person.

Pink and purple speckled beans

Last week there were still lots and lots of runner beans in the garden, but having steamed some, found them way too stringy and tough. So I picked them all, composted the plants, and was left with this lovely stash of pink and purple speckled beans.

Runner bean seeds

I boiled them and they were pretty good. The beans from the pods that had dried were too tough (these are the purple ones, the cerise pink ones are fresh) so I picked those out.

Once cooked (10 mins) I pondered what to make and ended up with this brown rice, bean and herb concoction which was thoroughly delicious and virtuous too.

There’s some grilled baby yellow courgettes and spring onions in there too. The herbs are tarragon and sorrel.
(Yes, I am still OBSESSED with sorrel).

Some grated Parmesan on top finished the thing very nicely.