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bank holiday recipes to feed a crowd

Feeding a crowd this weekend? Then how about trying one or more of these recipes from Jo Pratt's delicious new cookbook, In the Mood for Healthy Food?

fried sesame tofu with soba noodle salad (pictured above)

I have to admit, tofu wasn’t ever really a favourite of mine, but I am aware of how healthy it is and it’s a brilliant blank canvas that will absorb all sorts of flavour combinations. Powerful ones work the best, which is one of the reasons why it’s used in many Asian dishes. This spicy sesame crust works brilliantly giving a delicious full-flavoured crunch to the silky smooth tofu. For the salad, it’s well worth getting hold of a serrated peeler as it will not only speed up cutting the carrot and cucumber into matchstick pieces but will give you a far prettier end result.

preparation time: 25 mins
cooking time: 15 mins

For the soba noodle salad:
200g/7oz soba (buckwheat) noodles
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks
½ cucumber, halved, deseeded and cut into matchsticks
100g/3½oz radishes, thinly sliced
4 spring onions/scallions, finely sliced on an angle
2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
4 tbsp rice vinegar
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2.5cm/1in piece of root ginger, peeled and grated

For the sesame tofu:
3 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp cornflour/cornstarch
2 tsp Chinese 5-spice
½tsp salt
¼tsp dried chilli/hot pepper flakes
450g/1lb firm tofu
sunflower oil, for frying

Cook the noodles in a pan of boiling water, according to the packet instructions. Drain well and refresh under cold running water. Put in a large mixing bowl and add the carrot, cucumber, radishes and spring onions/scallions.
In a separate bowl, mix together the sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, garlic and ginger. Pour over the noodle salad and toss together to combine, then set aside.
Drain the tofu and pat dry. Cut the block into 8 slices, 1cm/.in thick.
Combine the sesame seeds, cornflour/cornstarch, Chinese 5-spice, salt and chilli/hot pepper flakes on a plate. Press the tofu slices into the spice mix to evenly coat.
Heat 5mm/.in sunflower oil in a frying pan over a low–medium heat. Cook the tofu slices for 2–3 minutes on each side (in batches if necessary) until golden. Drain on paper towels and serve hot with the noodle salad.

baked root vegetable falafel with green yogurt

Unlike traditional falafel, I bake these rather than deep-fry them, which is a much healthier way of cooking. They’re a great starter with the green yogurt to dip into, or you can make a bigger meal of them with wholemeal flatbread or pitta, baby spinach leaves, pickled chillies and juicy pomegranate seeds scattered over.

preparation time: 25 mins, plus 10 mins cooling
cooking time: 45 mins

For the falafel:
1 large parsnip, peeled (about 200g/7oz peeled weight)
1 sweet potato, peeled (about 375g/13oz peeled weight)
½butternut squash, peeled (about 600g/1lb 5oz peeled weight)
4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
4 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp hot chilli powder
3 tbsp sesame seeds
2 tbsp finely chopped parsley leaves
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp salt
4–6 tbsp gram (chickpea) flour

For the green yogurt:
185ml/6fl oz/¾ cup low fat Greek yogurt
1 small bunch of coriander/cilantro, leaves and stalks
1 garlic clove, crushed

Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/gas 6. Remove the core from the parsnip if it seems tough and cut the peeled sweet potato, parsnip and butternut squash into 3cm/ chunks. Put in a roasting pan along with the garlic cloves and toss in half of the olive oil and dried spices. Cover with foil and roast for about 30 minutes until they are tender and just starting to take on some colour.
Transfer the vegetables to a bowl. Squeeze the soft roasted garlic out of the skins and add to the bowl. Mash well with a potato masher, then mix in the sesame seeds, parsley, lemon zest, salt and enough gram flour for the mixture to become sticky and be able to hold it’s shape when spooned out. Ideally, leave to cool for about 10–15 minutes before shaping.
If you have turned the oven off after baking the vegetables, preheat it again to 200ºC/400ºF/gas 6. Line a baking sheet with kitchen foil. Taking a spoonful at a time, roll the mixture into walnut-size balls with your hands and sit them on the prepared baking sheet. When you have used up all the mixture, drizzle the falafels with the remaining olive oil and roll around to coat. Bake for 20–25 minutes, turning a couple of times throughout, until lightly golden.
To make the green yogurt, put all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and blitz until smooth. Spoon into small bowls and serve with the falafel for dipping.

roast carrot and feta salad with tahini dressing

Carrots feature quite a few times on this book, and all for good reason. They are rich in vitamins C and E, calcium, beta-carotene (which converts to vitamin A), magnesium and potassium. All of which benefit your body by cleansing your liver, encouraging detoxing and can protect your vision against degenerative conditions. I will never tire of this salad. It has a vibrant colour, mouthwatering flavours and is far more substantial than a plateful of salad leaves. Serve as a sharing platter for four or as a main course for two.

preparation time:  20 mins,
plus cooling
cooking time:  30 mins

1kg/2lb 4oz carrots
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp honey
400g/14oz tinnedchickpeas, drained
75g/2½ oz/1½  cups spinach, watercress or rocket/arugula leaves
seeds from 1 largepomegranate or 150g/5½ oz ready-prepared pomegranate seeds
150g/5½ oz feta cheese
2 tbsp toasted pumpkin
seeds or roughly chopped pistachio nuts
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the tahini dressing:
 2 tbsp tahini
juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 small garlic clove, crushed

Preheat the oven to 190ºC/375ºF/gas 5. Peel the carrots and cut into thick batons. Put in a roasting pan and toss together with the olive oil, cumin
and cayenne pepper and season with salt. Roast for 20 minutes, turning a couple of times during cooking.
Drizzle the honey over the carrots and toss to coat. Stir in the chickpeas and return to the oven for a further 10 minutes until the carrots are tender and becoming golden. Leave to cool to room temperature.
To make the dressing, mix together all the ingredients in a small bowl and add a little water to give a looser pouring consistency, if necessary. Season with salt and pepper.
Toss the cooled roasted carrots and chickpeas with the salad leaves.

In the Mood for Healthy Food by Jo Pratt is published by Nourish Books.

What to wear...

The last thing you want to be worrying about when you have a crowd over at the weekend, is what to wear! There's something about a weekend lunch that calls for simplicity - team our Stella Jumper with a reliable pair of boyfriend jeans for a winning weekend combination.

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