Autumn 2011


There is still time to enjoy the bounty from the vegetable garden, or farmer's market, before the first frosts. Fresh tomatoes and late summer salads and, as the nights begin to draw in, a comforting cake for teatime. Happy Cooking! E.L.

SPAGHETTI WITH FRESH TOMATO & ROCKET SERVED WITH CRISPY BREADCRUMBS (Serves 4)

Tomatoes are plentiful now and together with a handful of rocket they combine to make this quick and easy Italian pasta dish. It may sound odd to serve pasta with breadcrumbs rather than grated Parmesan cheese, but this was traditional in some of the poorer parts of southern Italy. Of course, you could mix some Parmesan cheese with the crumbs if you wish!

350g / 12oz spaghetti
350g / 12oz cherry tomatoes or 4 large home-grown or vine-ripened tomatoesa
1 large clove garlic, peeled
a pinch or two of chilli flakes
approx. 12 small black olives
salt and black pepper
a generous handful of rocket
olive oil
For the crispy breadcrumbs:
1 thick slice of stale ciabiata bread or similar
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
2-3 tblsps olive oil
2 tsps finely chopped parsley


Halve the cherry tomatoes or chop the large tomatoes into rough chunks and place in a large bowl. Crush the garlic with a little salt and add to the tomatoes, together with the chilli flakes and olives. Season with black pepper and drizzle with about 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Stir to combine and set aside.

Blitz the bread in a food processor to make into crumbs. Gently heat the oil in a frying pan and add the crushed garlic, frying for only a few moments, as you do not want it to brown. Add the bread crumbs and fry over a low heat, turning them frequently, until they are golden and crisp. Stir in the parsley and fry for a moment longer. Set aside.

Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Add the spaghetti and cook for 9-10 minutes or until al dente. Drain well then add the hot pasta to the tomato mixture. Add the rocket and stir to combine all the ingredients. Check the seasoning, adding a little more olive oil, salt and pepper if needed. Serve in warm pasta bowls and sprinkle with the crispy breadcrumbs just before serving.

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BEETROOT AND ORANGE CAKE (makes 2 1lb cakes)

When I tested this cake I didn't tell anyone what was in it. Nobody guessed that it was beetroot and the whole cake disappeared in a very short time! Believe it or not, beetroot adds sweetness and moisture to this attractive and moreish teatime cake, in much the same way that carrot does in the more usual carrot cake. This cake is quick and easy to prepare especially now that I have discovered non-stick loaf tin liners from Lakeland (which fit either 1lb or 2lb loaf tins).

300g / 10oz self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
175g / 6oz soft brown sugar
200ml / 7 fl oz vegetable oil
3 eggs
finely grated zest of one large orange
juice of one large orange
125g / 4oz sultanas or raisins
225g / 8oz raw beetroot, peeled and finely grated


Preheat the oven to 200°C / Gas 4. Grease and line two 1lb loaf tins (see quick tip above).

Sift the flour and the baking powder into a large mixing bowl and stir in the brown sugar, breaking up any lumps in the sugar.

Beat the oil and the eggs together and add to the bowl with the orange zest and juice. Beat will with a balloon whisk or electric mixer. Fold in the sultanas or raisins and the grated beetroot.

Divide the mixture between the two lined loaf tins and bake for 40 - 50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

BEETROOT, LENTIL AND FETA SALAD (Serves 4)

Quick Tip for cooking beetroot: Wrap each beetroot in foil and bake (200°C / Gas 6) for approximately 40 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the size of the beetroot. Test that the beets are cooked - they should be tender when pierced with a knife tip. Allow to cool before slipping off the beetroot skins.

Cut four beetroots into chunks and place in a shallow serving bowl. Stir through about 125g / 4oz cooked Puy lentils (the vacuum packed 'Merchant Gourmet' ones are good) together with 3 - 4 tablespoons of French dressing, several generous handfuls of rocket and some chopped parsley or coriander. Finally roughly crumble over a block of feta cheese and season with some black pepper before serving.