March

The beginning of Spring, warmer weather, longer days, daffodils, rhubarb, lambs, Mother’s Day and sometimes Easter.

I always think of March as a windy, showery month, but if you can find a sheltered spot, there’s a lovely warmth to the sun. We can still have snow in March, but it doesn’t tend to lay for very long. Seeing new lambs skipping in the fields are a joy and it’s good to know that winter is mainly past.

The clocks change at the end of March giving lighter evenings, my food choices also become lighter, more salads, less casseroles and fresher flavours.

When I was creating the recipes for this month in 2020, the world was struck down with Coronavirus pandemic, so I ended up doing a lot of batch cooking.

Here’s what I’ve been making in March. Click on the recipe title links for a downloadable or printable with hints, tips and adaptations.

A dish of roast sweet potato, quinoa, lentils and herbs.

Warm Salad of Sweet Potato, Quinoa and Lentils

This is a delicious dish, full of protein from the quinoa and lentils. It doesn’t feel like salad as it’s served warm.

Serves 4

800g sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2cm cubes

150g quinoa

150g green lentils

  1. Heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas6.
  2. Spread out the sweet potato on a baking sheet, sprinkle with salt & pepper, drizzle with oil and roast for 20 mins.
  3. Measure the lentils into a mug, tip into a pan and cook with an equal quantity of vegetable stock for 20 mins. Drain any excess liquid away.
  4. Measure the quinoa into a mug, tip into a pan and cook with an equal quantity of vegetable stock for 10 mins. Allow to sit and absorb any excess liquid.

½ red onion finely chopped

Seeds of 1 pomegranate

2 tbsp preserved lemon, finely diced

3 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil

Juice of ½ lemon

Large handful of herbs, I used parsley, tarragon and mint, chopped

4 handfuls spicy salad leaves, I used watercress (optional).

  1. Mix the chopped red onion, pomegranate seeds, preserved lemon, oil, lemon juice and herbs together.
  2. Add the warm lentils, quinoa and sweet potato, toss together well and serve while still warm either as it is on a bed of spicy leaves.
An image of sausage, lentil and bacon casserole

Sausage, Bacon & Lentil Cassoulet

Cassoulet is a French peasant dish, a one pot meal to nourish and sustain. Dark green lentils soak up all the tasty juices, serve with a green salad and some crusty bread.

Serves 4

8 good quality pork sausages

4 rashers smoked back bacon, cubed

1 tbsp oil

2 small onions, sliced

2 small carrots, sliced

1 stick celery, diced

2 cloves garlic (or to taste)

500ml approx. water

¾ mug green lentils

1 chicken stock cube

2 bay leaves

1 tbsp rosemary, chopped

  1. Twist the sausages in half to make chipolatas, fry with the bacon over a medium high heat to brown. Add the onion, carrots, celery & garlic and fry for a few minutes.
  2. Add enough water to almost cover the sausages, crumble in the stock cube, add the bay leaves and stir in the lentils.
  3. Bring to the boil, cover the pan and simmer gently for 45 mins. The lentils should be soft and there should still be a little liquid in the pan. Add more if the cassoulet is too dry.
  4. Taste for seasoning and serve with a green salad and crusty bread.
An image of a pasty being eaten on a picnic

Sausage & Bacon Pasties

Makes 6

Pastry

300g flour (I used ½ & ½ plain and wholemeal)

150g butter

Salt & pepper

Water to bind

  1. Rub the butter into the flour with a pinch of salt and a grind of black pepper.
  2. Add cold water a little at a time, mixing with a knife until the pastry comes together and forms a dough.
  3. Form into a flat disk and refrigerate for 20 mins.

Filling

4 pork sausages

2 rashers streaky bacon

1 onion

1 potato

½ small fennel bulb

2 small carrots

½ stick celery

Handful of mixed herbs (I used parsley & thyme), chopped

2 tbsp milk

Sprinkle of sesame seeds (optional)

  1. Pre heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas6
  2. Chop the onion, potato, fennel, carrots & celery into approx. 5mm dice
  3. Chop the bacon into small pieces, remove the skins from the sausages and pinch into small pieces
  4. Mix everything together with a goo grinding of black pepper and a little salt.
  5. Divide the pastry into 6 pieces and roll out thinly. Cut into 19cm rounds & re roll the scraps into the next circle.
  6. Divide the filling between each piece of pastry, use a little water to dab around the edges of the circles, then fold the pastry over the filling to make a half moon parcel. Press the edges of the pastry together, then fold the edge over to make a rope like seam.
  7. Brush with milk and sprinkle over the sesame seeds if using.
  8. Bake in the oven for 15 mins at 200C, then reduce the oven to 180C/350F/Gas4 and cook for a further 40 mins.
  9. Eat warm or cold.
A dish of Black Bean Chilli with a garnish of tomato & avocado salsa

Black Bean Chilli

This has quite a kick, use less chilli if you like it milder.

Serves 4

1 tin black beans or ½ mugful dried beans, soaked and cooked, cooking liquid reserved.

1 tbsp oil

1 red onion

1 red pepper

1 beetroot, tennis ball sized

1 red chilli (optional)

1 clove garlic

1 tin chopped tomatoes

2 tsp paprika

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp chilli flakes (optional)

2 tbsp dark soy sauce

25g 70% dark chocolate, broken into pieces

  1. Chop the onion, pepper, beetroot, chilli and garlic, fry in a large pan gently to soften.
  2. Add the paprika, smoked paprika and chilli flakes, stir and add the beans and tin of tomatoes.
  3. Bring to a simmer, if the mixture is a bit dry, add some of the reserved bean cooking liquid or water to come just under the top of the chilli. Cook with the lid on for 30 mins, then with the lid off for 15 mins to reduce the sauce a little.
  4. Stir through the soy sauce and dark chocolate, season with salt and pepper.
  5. Serve with rice and a spoonful of tomato and avocado salsa.
An image of edamame rice

Edamame Rice

Edamame beans are delicious, bright green and crispy, they make a change from frozen peas or broad beans. Find them in the freezer isle of your supermarket. This recipe uses Japanese flavours.

Serves 4

¾ mug basmati rice

¾ mug water

200g edamame beans

2 tbsp sushi ginger, chopped

4 sprigs of basil, chopped

1 spring onion, thinly sliced

2 tbsp rice wine vinegar (or wine vinegar)

1 tbsp sugar

½ tsp salt

½ tsp soy sauce

  1. Wash the rice to remove excess starch, put into a heavy based pan with the water, bring to the boil, put a lid on the pan and simmer very gently for 10 mins. Remove from the heat and allow to sit.
  2. Mix the vinegar, sugar, salt & soy sauce together.
  3. Cook the edamame beans by bringing to the boil, then draining.
  4. Stir everything together and serve.
An image of raspberry maple mascarpone dessert

Raspberry Maple Mascarpone Dessert

This is a quick and easy dessert, along the same idea as Tiramisu, but without the coffee soaked sponge. I made individual ones, but you could also use a larger bowl and make one pudding.

Serves 6

250g tub mascarpone cheese

3 eggs

1 tsp vanilla essence

60g caster sugar

360g fresh or frozen raspberries

6 tsp maple syrup

15g dark chocolate

  1. Separate the eggs, whip the whites to stiff peak.
  2. Beat the egg yolks, mascarpone, sugar and vanilla together.
  3. Fold the egg whites into the mascarpone mixture.
  4. Put a few raspberries in the bottom of 6 glasses. Drizzle over ½ tsp maple syrup per glass.
  5. Cover with a layer of mascarpone mixture, repeat another layer of raspberries, maple syrup drizzle and mascarpone mix.
  6. Grate the chocolate coarsely over the top.
  7. Allow to sit for about ½ an hour for the fruit to defrost (if using) and the mascarpone to set before serving. The puddings will sit in the fridge for a couple of days.
An image of beef cooking with red and green peppers

Beef Goulash

Goulash hails from Hungary, I like it with a bit of a kick, , miss out the chilli powder if you’re not a fan, or increase it if you like it hot!!

Serves 4

500g diced stewing steak

1 Tbsp oil

2 onions, sliced

3 cloves garlic, sliced

2 peppers, cubed (I used red and green)

2 tbsp tomato puree

½ tsp chilli powder or to taste

2 tbsp paprika

1 tsp caraway seed

1 tsp brown sugar

1 tin of chopped tomatoes

¾ tsp salt

Black pepper

Cornflour to thicken the sauce

  1. Pre heat the oven to 130C/250F/Gas1
  2. Heat a heavy based pan over a high heat, add the oil and brown the beef.
  3. Add the sliced onions, cubed peppers and garlic, fry for a few minutes to soften and brown.
  4. Add the paprika, chilli powder and caraway seed, stir everything to coat, then add the tomato puree and tinned tomatoes.
  5. Add the brown sugar, salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, transfer to a casserole and bake in the oven for 4 hours or until the beef is tender. Delicious with mash and vegetables.
An image of a dish of beef, red wine & onion casserole

Beef, Red Wine & Onion Casserole

This is a cross between beef bourguignonne and French onion soup! I didn’t have any bacon and one of my family doesn’t like mushrooms. The sweetness of the onions comes through making this a delicious casserole.

Serves 4

500g diced stewing steak

1 Tbsp oil

5 red onions, sliced

4 cloves garlic, sliced

1 tbsp chopped rosemary

500ml red wine

1 beef stock cube

Cornflour to thicken the sauce

  1. Pre heat the oven to 130C/250F/Gas1
  2. Heat a heavy based pan over a high heat, add the oil and brown the beef.
  3. Add the sliced onions, reduce the heat a little if necessary and fry for a few minutes to soften and brown.
  4. Add the wine and bring to the boil, bubble and stir to lift the browned juices from the bottom of the pan.
  5. Crumble in the beef stock cube, add the chopped rosemary and transfer to a casserole.
  6. Put into the oven and bake for 4 hours or until the meat is tender. Strain the sauce into a pan, thicken as required and stir everything back together.
an image of a stack of energy bars

Banana Energy Bars

I make these for my kids as snacks, it keeps in the fridge for about a week. It’s also a really good way to use up over-ripe bananas.

Makes 18

110g butter

85g soft brown sugar

2 – 3 bananas

225g rolled oats

50g desiccated coconut

50g flaked almonds

60g raisins

½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground ginger

  1. Heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas4
  2. Lightly grease a cm roasting tin or baking tray
  3. Melt the butter and sugar over a gentle heat.
  4. Measure the dry ingredients into a bowl and mix together
  5. Once the butter has melted, mash the bananas and stir into the butter and sugar mixture. Mix with the dry ingredients.
  6. Press the mixture into the prepared tin with the back of a spoon to level and smooth the top. Put into the oven for about 45 mins, you want a good golden brown colour.
  7. Once ready, remove from the oven, allow to cool for 10 mins, then cut into squares with a knife and allow to cool completely before removing from the tin.
  8. Layer into a lidded container and keep in the fridge.