Delia Smith's Winter Collection
JUNE 01 2012


It's a very strange thing to lose one's mojo. Mine has been elusive for a few months now and, although I know why it has now departed, I'm not sure exactly how to get it back. It lurks around corners, almost within reach, but as soon as I catch it's eye my mind drifts off and I lose focus. "Oh well", I shrug. It has become so much easier these days to think of nothing rather than that which occupies my mind entirely. So I sit in the backyard, avoiding all thought, and instead watch the little finches gorge themselves on thistle seed.

But as spring swings into summer and my garden offers up the first few radishes, I'm reminded again of what I'm missing. So how best to lure it back? The answer is pretty clear. Start doing again what I love to do... garden, cook and share it all with my friends.

Even though I don't really feel like it and my appetite is weird and I can't quite seem to care, I am throwing myself back into it. But a new start requires fresh and exciting motivation which poor old Delia cannot offer. I want to really embrace the season and revel in the glory of an Oregon summer.

So Delia will be going on hiatus, to be replace with Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes.  This is a cookbook full of fun and freshness that loves it's ingredients and allows them to fully shine. My intent is to highlight and celebrate what in each dish came from only a few feet away, our garden plot. So our bellies will at first be filled with recipes featuring radishes or fava beans or snap peas and transition in step with the garden to those with eggplant and tomatoes and corn. I sincerely hope this works because I am tired of being tired.

But I'm not done with Delia quite yet. Ever the planner and organizer, I knew we would appreciate the ease and convenience of some frozen meals. The two recipes featured here today were actually prepared over a month ago. I dutifully took photos but then lacked interest in posting them so have kinda forgotten the details of making them so this will be brief.

First the Black Bean Chilli which benefited again from my pre-soaking of the beans. I also appreciate the use of cilantro stems which are just as flavorful as the leaves and usually discarded. Overall, tasted pretty much like chili. Good, but not too exciting.

dicing cilantro stems

sauteed cilantro stems, onions, garlic and diced green chili

adding bell pepper to the simmering chilli

avocado salsa topping adds nice freshness to the finished chilli

Now we eat!

Next the Vegetarian Moussaka featuring eggplant and lentils which I found to be a nice combination. The cinnamon really shines and gives the finished dish some extra interest. We both really enjoyed this dish and I would make it again.

salting and draining the eggplant

sauteing all the veggies

all done. into the freezer at this point to be eaten later.


The now familiar chilli con carne has suffered from its fair share of convenience shortcut versions but when it's made properly, with the right ingredients, it is still a wonderful concept. I think this version is even better than the original, using black beans and introducing the subtle flavouring of lime and coriander – and adding a contrasting cold garnish at the end.

Serves 4 - 6

8 oz dried black beans
1 oz fresh coriander
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 green chillies, de-seeded and chopped small
1 lb braising steak, cut into very small pieces
1 rounded tablespoon plain flour
14 oz chopped tomatoes
1 large red pepper
Juice ½ lime
For the avocado salsa:
1 ripe, firm avocado
2 large, firm tomatoes
½ small red onion, finely chopped
Juice ½ lime
A few drops Tabasco sauce
Salt and freshly milled black pepper
To serve:
4 tablespoons crème fraîche


Either pre-soak the beans overnight or start this recipe 3 hours ahead of time and begin by placing the beans in a large saucepan, covering them with cold water and bringing them up to boiling point and boiling for 10 minutes. Then turn the heat off and let them soak for 3 hours. Towards the end of the soaking time, pre-heat the oven to 300°F. Strip the leaves off the coriander stalks into a bowl, cover with clingfilm and place them in the fridge. Then chop the coriander stalks very finely indeed.

After that, take the casserole, heat half the oil in it and cook the onions, garlic, coriander stalks and chillies gently for about 5 minutes. Then transfer them to a plate, spoon in the rest of the oil, turn the heat up high, add about a third of the beef and brown it well, keeping it on the move. Then remove it and brown the rest in 2 batches. Now return everything to the casserole and sprinkle in the flour, stir it in to soak up the juices, then add the drained beans, followed by the tomatoes. Stir well and bring it up to simmering point. Don't add any salt at this stage – just put the lid on and transfer the casserole to the oven to cook for an initial 1½ hours.

Towards the end of that time, de-seed and chop the pepper into smallish pieces. Then, when the time is up, stir the pepper in to join the meat and beans. Put the lid back on and give it a further 30 minutes' cooking. While the meat finishes cooking, make the salsa. Skin the tomatoes by pouring boiling water over them, then leaving for exactly 1 minute before draining and slipping the skins off when they're cool enough to handle. Then cut each tomato in half and, holding each half over a saucer, squeeze gently to extract the seeds. Now chop the tomato flesh as finely as possible.

Next, halve the avocado, remove the stone, cut each half into 4 and peel off the skin. Chop the avocado into minutely small dice, and do the same with the onion. Finally, combine everything together in a bowl, adding seasoning, the juice of half the lime, half the reserved coriander, chopped, and a few drops of Tabasco. Before serving the chilli, add salt, tasting as you add. Then stir in the rest of the coriander leaves and the juice of half the lime. I like to serve this chilli with some plain brown basmati rice and let people help themselves to the crème fraîche.


Yes, it is possible to make an extremely good Greek-style moussaka without meat, and even non-vegetarians will admit it tastes every bit as good. Serve it with a large bowl of crunchy salad along with some warm pitta bread.  

Serves 4 - 6

1 lb aubergine
10 fl oz vegetable stock
2 oz Puy lentils
2 oz green lentils
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large red pepper, de-seeded and chopped into ¼ inch dice
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

14 oz chopped tomatoes, drained
7 fl oz red wine
2 level tablespoons tomato purée or sun-dried tomato paste
1 level teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 level tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Salt and freshly milled black pepper
2 medium onions, finely chopped

For the topping:
1 x 9 oz tub ricotta

10 fl oz whole milk
1 oz plain flour
1 oz butter
¼ whole nutmeg, grated
1 large egg
1 oz Parmesan (Parmigiano Reggiano), freshly grated

Salt and freshly milled black pepper


Pre-heat the oven to 350°F.

Begin by preparing the aubergines: to do this cut them into ½ inch dice leaving the skins on. Place them in a colander, sprinkling with salt between each layer, then put a small plate with a heavy weight on top – this will draw out any excess juices.

Meanwhile, pour the stock into a saucepan together with the Puy lentils (but no salt), cover and simmer for 15 minutes before adding the green lentils. Cover again and cook for a further 15 minutes, by which time most of the liquid will have been absorbed and the lentils will be soft. While they're cooking, heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large solid frying pan and fry the onions until they're soft and tinged brown at the edges (about 5 minutes), then add the chopped pepper and soften and brown that too for about another 4 minutes. Next add the garlic, cook for 1 minute more, then transfer the whole lot to a plate.

Next transfer the aubergines to a clean tea cloth to squeeze them dry, then add a further 2 tablespoons of oil to the frying pan, turn the heat up to high and toss the aubergines in it so they get evenly cooked. When they're starting to brown a little, add the drained tomatoes and the onion and pepper mixture to the pan. In a bowl mix the wine, tomato purée and cinnamon together, then pour it over the vegetables. Add the lentils and the chopped parsley, season well and let everything simmer gently while you make the topping.

All you do is place the milk, flour, butter and nutmeg in a saucepan and, using a balloon whisk, whisk until it comes to simmering point and becomes a smooth glossy sauce. Season with salt and pepper, remove it from the heat and let it cool a little before whisking in the ricotta followed by the beaten egg.

Finally, transfer the vegetable and lentil mixture to the dish and spoon the cheese sauce over the top, using the back of a spoon to take it right up to the edges. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and transfer the dish to the pre-heated oven and bake on the middle shelf for 1 hour. Then allow the moussaka to rest for 15 minutes before serving. 

These recipes are taken from Delia Smith’s Winter Collection.

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