Blogger Izy Hossack is studying food science and nutrition at Leeds University and her debut cookbook promises maximum flavour for minimum effort. Why not try one of her recipes?
Lentil and yogurt pitta dip
I based this on a Middle Eastern dish called fatteh, of which there are many versions. Some include cooked chicken or minced lamb, chickpeas, aubergine and pine nuts, but this is my own version with roasted pepper, lentils and sesame seeds. If you serve this as a main with a side of cooked vegetables or a simple dressed salad, you should be content. Conversely, you could make a big batch to serve at a dinner party as a fun, shared starter.
90g Puy or green lentils, rinsed or 110g cooked
2 peppers, deseeded and cut into wide strips
1tsp olive oil
2 wholemeal pitta breads
150g natural yogurt
1 garlic clove, crushed
1tbsp tahini (optional but really good)
Handful of mint leaves, finely chopped
1tbsp sesame seeds
½tsp sweet smoked paprika
Preheat the oven to 180C fan, 200C, Gas Mark 6. If starting with uncooked lentils, place them in a small pan and pour in enough water to cover. Bring to the boil and cook for 20-25 minutes until soft. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, toss the peppers in the oil on a baking tray. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes.
Cut the pitta bread in half as if you were going to fill it, then split each half into two thin pieces. Cut each thin piece into around six strips.
Once the peppers have been roasting for 20 minutes, add the pitta bread pieces to the tray and toss to coat the bread in some of the oil. Return to the oven and bake for a further 5-8 minutes until the pitta pieces are crisp.
Mix the yogurt, garlic, tahini and a pinch of salt together in a small bowl. Place the pitta pieces and peppers in a serving bowl. Spoon the yogurt mixture and lentils over the top (I like to leave some pitta chips exposed around the edges for some crunch). Sprinkle over the chopped mint, sesame seeds and smoked paprika and serve immediately.
Tip: Extra lentils can be kept for five days in the fridge and are great cold in salads or stirred into a pasta sauce or soup. Roast extra vegetables, such as sweet potato or some cauliflower florets, for another meal. For a vegan option use unsweetened soya yogurt instead of the yogurt.
Squash, cauliflower and roasted garlic gratin
Classic comfort food right here – caramelized, roasted veg snuggled into a bubbling sauce with a crispy breadcrumb topping. There’s a whole head of garlic in there too which is roasted so it mellows into a soft, sticky, sweet pulp. This is great as a main dish with crusty bread and some steamed vegetables.
450g butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into 3cm chunks
½ large head of cauliflower (about 250g, once outer leaves are removed), outer leaves removed and cut into florets
1 head of garlic, pointy tip sliced off
2tbsp olive oil or rapeseed oil
For the sauce
1½tbsp olive oil
3tbsp plain white flour
300ml vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
4 sprigs of thyme, leaves picked
For the topping
1tbsp olive oil
30g dried breadcrumbs
10g grated Parmesan*
Preheat the oven to 180C fan, 200C, Gas Mark 6. Toss together the squash, cauliflower, garlic head, oil and a pinch of salt in a large, deep baking dish and roast for 30 minutes, flipping halfway through.
Once cooked leave to cool a little, then squeeze the cooked garlic cloves out of their papery casing and into the roasted vegetables. Leave the oven on.
To make the sauce, heat the oil and flour in a medium pan over a medium heat and stir into a paste, cooking for one minute. Reduce the heat and gradually drizzle in the stock, stirring until smooth between additions, until it’s all added. Add the bay leaf and reduce the heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Pour the sauce over the cooked vegetables and squeezed garlic in the baking dish and sprinkle over the thyme leaves.
To make the topping, heat the oil in a small frying pan over a medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs and stir for one minute. Mix in the Parmesan and remove the pan from the heat. Sprinkle over the saucy veg in the baking dish and bake for 20 minutes.
Tips: Add half a can of cooked cannellini beans after the veg is roasted or serve with wholemeal bread for a more substantial meal. Replace the butternut squash with an equal weight of peeled and cubed sweet potato. If you want to make it vegetarian, chose a hard alternative to Parmesan, and for vegans just leave off the topping.
The Savvy Cook by Izy Hossack is published by Mitchell Beazley, £14.99, octopusbooks.co.uk