Today I have two very economical dishes that are easy to make and full of flavour. January follows the most expensive month of the year when many of us might have eaten more than we should. That said, I love each of these recipes all year round.

The black bean chilli is delicious with some shredded chicken or with a grilled piece of fish. Indeed, it is ideal with almost any leftovers in the fridge and keeps well. If you soak the lentils overnight then it will cook quicker.

There is a beautiful spicy pepper and herb seasoning in the Simply Better range and their San Marzano tomatoes are the best. You might like to try a dollop of hummus instead of the yoghurt.

I am a great fan of risottos. They are just brilliant. Any root vegetable on its own works well, as does a mixture like this one. I love the flavour of celeriac. It is not expensive and is very versatile.

Sweet potatoes or butternut squash also work well in this recipe.

Happy cooking,



Throw-it-all-in root vegetable risotto

Serves four to six

2 litres (3½ pints) chicken or vegetable stock (from a cube is fine)

2 tbsp rapeseed oil

50g (2oz) butter, diced

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, plus extra to garnish

675g (1½lb) any root vegetable or use a mixture, such as carrots, parsnips and celeriac, peeled and diced

450g (1lb) Arborio (risotto) rice

150ml (¼ pint) dry white wine

5 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra to garnish

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 Pour the stock into a pan and bring up to a gentle simmer.
  • 2 Heat the oil and half of the butter in a separate large pan. Add the onion, garlic and thyme and cook over a medium heat for two to three minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened but not coloured.
  • 3 Stir in the root vegetables and cook for another six to eight minutes until the vegetables are almost, but not quite, cooked through and just beginning to pick up a bit of colour.
  • 4 Increase the heat, then add the rice and cook for one minute, stirring continuously, until all the grains are evenly coated and the rice is opaque. Pour in the wine and allow it to reduce for one to two minutes, stirring.
  • 5 Reduce the heat to medium, then add a ladleful of stock, stirring until it is completely absorbed.
  • 6 Continue to add the simmering stock a ladleful at a time, stirring frequently. Allow each addition of stock to be almost completely absorbed before adding the next ladleful, until the rice is al dente (just tender but with a slight bite). This should take about 20 minutes and you might have a little stock left, depending on the rice you use.
  • 7 Just before serving, stir in the remaining butter along with the Parmesan and season to taste. Ladle the risotto into warmed bowls and garnish with the extra Parmesan cheese and thyme leaves to serve.
  • Red lentil and black bean chilli with yoghurt

    Serves four to six

    1 × 290g (10¼oz) jar of roasted peppers in olive oil

    1 onion, finely chopped

    1 large carrot, finely chopped

    1 celery stick, finely chopped

    1 tbsp spicy pepper and herb seasoning

    1 heaped tbsp tomato purée

    1 tbsp harissa chilli paste

    1 × 400g (14oz) tin of chopped tomatoes

    350ml (12fl oz) vegetable stock (cube is fine)

    225g (8oz) red lentils, well rinsed

    1× 400g (14oz) tin of black beans, drained and rinsed

    Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

    To garnish:

    Lime wedges

    4-6 tbsp thick Greek yoghurt

    Spring onion, chopped

    To serve:

    Corn and wheat tortillas

  • 1 Drain the oil from the peppers and reserve, then finely chop the peppers.
  • 2 Put 2 tbsp of the oil in a large deep pan over a medium heat, then add all the vegetables, including the peppers, and sauté for 8-10 minutes until softened and lightly golden.
  • 3 Sprinkle over the spicy pepper and herb seasoning and stir to combine, then stir in the tomato purée and harissa and cook for another minute. Stir the in the tomatoes and stock, then add the lentils.
  • 4 Give everything a good stir and cover with a lid. Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for 30 minutes until the lentils and vegetables are completely tender.
  • 5 Stir in the black beans, season with salt and pepper and simmer gently, uncovered, for another five minutes.
  • 6 To serve, ladle the chilli onto plates and garnish with lime wedges, dollops of yoghurt and some corriander and chopped spring onion. Serve the tortillas on the side.