Or, as per the message I sent to my vegetarian friend, “come round for dinner? I’ve made cauliflower pizza dough, so we can eat like hipsters”.
It might not quite be hipster pizza, because I forgot to put the kale on top, but I consider this relatively healthy pizza – with a thin wholewheat crust, half made up of vegetables, topped with reduced fat cheese and more vegetables (spoiler alert: heaps of vegetable ribbons, instead of tomato sauce), it doesn’t seem entirely unreasonable for a weeknight dinner.
Traditional pizza with asparagus, mozzarella and fresh basil
Healthier version: thin crust courgette pizza with aubergine, salami and reduced fat cheese
Posted in Baking, Budget, Healthy, Make ahead, Vegetarian, Weeknight dinner
Tagged cauliflower pizza, courgette pizza, food, healthy pizza, pizza, recipes, sourdough pizza, zucchini pizza
Cost: £1 or so. Serves 6 as a side dish.
Ten years ago when I was in the Sixth Form, I remember looking in the common room fridge and being terribly impressed by our collective healthiness. It was filled with fruit, individually packaged salads, and low-fat yoghurt. I felt a few calories lighter from even looking inside. This lasted until I glanced at the bin, which contained only chocolate bar wrappers, crisp packets and fizzy drink cans.
Generally, I find it relatively easy to make good food choices in the supermarket. My husband is especially good at saying “no” to processed foods when standing in front of the chocolate aisle. I buy from the “bowl shops” at least twice a week – the temporary stands that sell fruit and vegetables in £1 bowls, the choice and quantities varying slightly according to whatever happens to be available at this time of year. It’s pretty good, because it sort-of encourages seasonal eating, and there are no non-fruit-or-vegetable items to provide temptation.
However, come the weekend, and the pantry/fridge is still full of vegetables, getting slightly past their best – and it’s a situation that does not tend to resolve itself with extended avoidance (my go-to method for problem solving). This happened the other day with some leeks which had been bought when they were squeaky-fresh, bursting with vitamins and flavour, and were languishing reproachfully on the vegetable shelf *cough* two *cough* weeks later.
Roasting is a great way of bringing out the flavour left in slightly tired vegetables. With leeks, they can easily dry out though, so they need a quick boil first before a blast in the oven to add a tinge of char and caramel, flavours brought out with olive oil, salt, balsamic vinegar and garlic.
Cost: well, hard to say – this recipe was created to make use of the courgettes which are sprouting in the garden on an almost-daily basis, and other than that uses a scoop of flour, some butter/lard, an egg and a handful of cheese, so it would cost a pound or two at most, I think.
Another variation of the vegetable tart I’ve been making in one form or another throughout the year – a springtime version with the season’s new leeks and peas, a summer tart with perfect tomatoes (and another with imperfect tomatoes given a bit of help with other ingredients), and in its latest incarnation, a fresh-but-satisfying filling of courgettes sliced paper thin with flashes of gold from their delicate flowers.
Cost: minimal, around 40p for a two-person serving
The courgette plants we grew from seed are now sprawling triffids that dominate the vegetable patch. A couple of courgettes reach frankfurter-size on a daily basis now, and I try to pick them before they get too big. A month or so ago we only had flowers, which are rather lovely stuffed with ricotta and herbs, brushed with olive oil and grilled until they crisp up, and these alone would be worth growing the plants for, but now it is almost August and we have a full on glut.
With such excess, it is easy to get into slightly dangerous habits. Courgettes sautéed in butter with caramelised onions and crispy nuggets of bacon was an early favourite, served with pasta and topped with cheese. The pasta was wholewheat but let’s be fair, if this was a nod towards healthy eating, healthy eating’s response would have been an almighty blanking. “Um, I think not!”
This recipe, however, is satisfying on all sorts of levels. It is quick, cheap and easy – but it is also extremely healthy and utterly delicious. Courgette fries are a mainstay of some fancy burger restaurants such as Byron; the tinge of green hints at a virtue their potato counterparts could never attain. But most recipes call for deep frying – this method does produce crisply perfect fries, but they are greaseless and retain a depth of flavour, a certain sweetness of the courgette, and a moistness as well. The courgette inside is moist but not mushy, the burnished carapace breaking apart to yield a velvety interior. They really seem like an indulgence – a luxury even, but are so quick and easy (30 mins from start to finish) and very healthy, chips that make you feel better, not worse after eating them.
Posted in Budget, Easy, Healthy, Quick, Side dish, Vegetarian, Weeknight dinner
Tagged chips, Courgette, food, fries, recipes, vegetables, zucchini
Cost: about 80p, or £1.60 with mozzarella to serve. Serves 2 as a main course or more as a side dish.
A summery version of the Savoury Spring Tart – or really, for this almost-summer that we find ourselves in now, when we’re still willing the good weather to fully take hold, but meanwhile ingredients need a bit of helping along. We made two versions of this tomato tart, one with gorgeous, pungent vine cherry tomatoes (from Lidl!) and one with those watery supermarket tomatoes that cost almost nothing but taste of exactly nothing. For tomatoes like these, which don’t really stand up to eating on their own, the flavour is encouraged along with a slick of tomato puree and a tangle of caramelised onions, as well as a grinding of flaky Maldon salt before the heat and extra time in the oven reminds them of what tomatoes are supposed to taste like and burnishes the pastry to a deeper gold. The onions in this version also protect the pastry from sogginess, but with really good cherry tomatoes they aren’t really needed to help the flavours sing.
Pale Tomato Tart (good cherry tomatoes)
Golden Tomato Tart (with watery tomatoes that need a bit of help)
Both of these are very enjoyable – the paler tart with cherry tomatoes is more delicate and the tomatoes aren’t cooked as much as they are warmed, the oven heat just ripening them a little more, and the tart really just shows them off. The darker tart is more complex, with punchier flavours – more umami, salt and sugar, a symphony rather than a solo.
Posted in Baking, Budget, Healthy, Main course, Pastry, Side dish, Sunday lunch, Vegetarian
Tagged food, recipes, seasonal, summer, tart, tomato
Cost: £2, including the basil, but living basil is quite happy in a sunny spot indoors, so hopefully you would only need to buy this once!
Roasted aubergines, slightly charred without, silk and velvet within, are topped with a rough but fragrant pesto whizzed up in the food processor. This quick vegetarian side dish is nut-, gluten- and dairy-free. We served it as part of a buffet lunch on Easter Sunday, where everyone helped themselves – served alongside slow roast lamb, jewelled couscous, roasted sesame cauliflower, halloumi salad, garlic and coriander hearthbreads, homemade hummus and cherry tomato salsa. A few people very kindly and politely asked for the recipe – and I am delighted to give it out!
Posted in Budget, Healthy, Make ahead, Side dish, Sunday lunch, Vegetarian
Tagged aubergine, basil, food, garlic, pesto, recipes, summer, vegetarian
Cost: £2 per generous serving, based on using the £6 frozen cooked lobsters from Lidl.
Chopped salad – all the healthy, virtuous charm of uncooked vegetables but without the ungainly challenge of wrestling leaves onto cutlery and into mouth. This salad is a crunchy confetti that carries the flavour of fancy schmancy lobster and fresh prawns, and served over wholewheat pasta or on toast, it’s an economical way to make special ingredients go further.
Posted in Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Healthy, Main course, Make ahead, Seafood, Vegetarian
Tagged healthy, lobster, prawns, salad, seafood, seasonal, summer