To mark the end of a brilliant summer, the whole team donned their fancy chef hats and contributed to our indulgent Verve picnic.
The food was so delicious that we almost forgot about the competition, but after some lively debates and tough decisions, we had our Cook Off winners.
Fancy recreating one of the winning dishes yourself? Keep reading below.
Starter: Vegetable Samosas (Ami Desai)
Ingredients for 6 samosas:
- 7 medium-sized potatoes, peeled, boiled and roughly smashed
- 250g coarsely crushed boiled green peas
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 medium-sized finely chopped onions
- 1.5 tbsp ginger paste
- 1 tbsp green chilli paste
- Pinch of sugar (to taste)
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- Salt to taste
- 1 tbsp chopped coriander
- 3 tbsp plain flour dissolved in 1 tbsp water (glue-like consistency)
- Vegetable oil for deep frying
- 6 ready-made filo pastry/spring roll pastry wrappers
Top Tip: When folding the samosa pastry, ensure it’s tightly wrapped and ‘glued’ so none of the filling falls out when frying. Enjoy with a sweet chilli dip, or tamarind and date dip.
For the filling:
- Heat the oil in a pan, add and sauté the onions till they turn a golden-brown colour
- Add the ginger and green chilli paste and cook for a minute
- Add the potatoes and green peas and cook on medium heat until everything is mixed. Add a little water, if needed
- Add sugar, lemon and salt. Mix well
- Cook on low heat for 5 mins or until the vegetables are cooked
- Remove from the heat and add the coriander
- Once cooled, divide into 6 portions.
For the covering and adding the filling:
- Make a cone with the ready-made pastry and add a portion of the filling
- Seal the edges carefully with the help of the flour-water paste (this will act like edible glue)
- Repeat for all the samosas
- Heat the vegetable oil for deep frying (approx. 190°C)
- Add the prepared samosas into the oil. Cook them for a total of 5 mins, turning them once the pastry is a golden colour.
Main: Aubergine Bake (Campbell Robinson)
- 2 tbsp rose harissa paste (add more if you want it spicier)
- 3 tbsp olive oil (add more if you want to stretch your harissa further)
- 1 large aubergine (eggplant), sliced into wedges
- 500g (2 cups) passata (sieved tomatoes)
- 1 x 400g can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- ½ large red onion sliced into strips
- 8 – 10 sundried tomato halves (roughly chopped)
- 6 tbsp dried orzo pasta (ensure egg-free)
- 2 tbsp capers (you can use olives if you prefer)
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- Orange slices to cover
- Small handful of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
Optional ingredients (for serving):
- Juice of 1/2 unwaxed lemon, have also used lime which adds a great zing (use rind as well)
- Seeds of 1 pomegranate
- 2 tbsp unsweetened soya yogurt (I didn’t add this but it does make it a little creamier – I do think crème fraîche would work well though)
- Generous pinch each of sea salt and black pepper
Top Tip: Serve leftovers as a cold salad the following day: simply toss through some peppery rocket leaves and refresh with a squeeze of lemon juice.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6
- In a bowl, whisk together the harissa and olive oil. Toss the eggplant wedges through the mixture and place onto a large, deep roasting tray. Roast uncovered for 15 minutes. Whilst this is baking, mix passata with the herbs, spices, sundried tomato pieces, orzo, garlic and onion
- Carefully remove the tray from the oven, then pour the passata mix around the aubergine wedges, without covering them. Stir in the chickpeas, capers and loosely cover with the orange slices. Cover with foil and return the tray to the oven for 30 minutes
- Remove the tray from the oven, scatter over the flat-leaf parsley and serve. If adding the optional ingredients then, squeeze over the lemon juice, season with a little sea salt and black pepper, sprinkle over pomegranate seeds and spoon over the soya yogurt just before serving.
Bread: Focaccia (Daniel Robinson)
- 500g strong bread flour, plus extra for dusting
- 7g dried fast action yeast
- 2 tsp fine sea salt
- 5 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for the tin and to serve
- 1 tsp flaky sea salt
- ¼ small bunch of rosemary, sprigs picked
- Tip the flour into a large mixing bowl. Mix the yeast into one side of the flour, and the fine salt into the other side. Then mix everything together. This initial separation prevents the salt from killing the yeast
- Make a well in the middle of the flour and add 2 tbsp oil and 350-400 ml lukewarm water, adding it gradually until you have a slightly sticky dough (you may not need all the water). Sprinkle the work surface with flour and tip the dough onto it, scraping around the sides of the bowl. Knead for 5-10 mins until your dough is soft and less sticky. Put the dough into a clean bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to prove for 1 hr until doubled in size
- Oil a rectangle, shallow tin (25 x 35 cm). Tip the dough onto the work surface, then stretch it to fill the tin. Cover with a tea towel and leave to prove for another 35-45 mins
- Heat the oven to 220°C/fan 200°C/gas mark 7. Press your fingers into the dough to make dimples. Mix together 1½ tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp water and the flaky salt and drizzle over the bread. Push sprigs of rosemary into the dimples in the dough
- Bake for 20 mins until golden. Whilst the bread is still hot, drizzle over 1-2 tbsp olive oil. Cut into squares and serve warm or cold with extra olive oil, if you like.
Dessert: Tarte Tatin (Ariane Le Brun)
- 6 – 8 apples
- 150g butter
- 150g sugar
- 200g shortcrust pastry
- Cinnamon (as much as you want!)
- Peel and core the apples, then cut them into thin slices
- Melt the butter in a frying pan and add the sugar little by little to caramelise. Mix gently with a spatula until the caramel becomes brown
- Pour the caramel into a round tin, then add apple slices, cinnamon, and the shortcrust pastry on top
- Tuck the edges of the pastry that are sticking out inside the tin
- Bake in a hot oven (180-200°C), for 20 to 25 minutes, until the pastry is completely cooked.
Well done to all our chefs and special congratulations to the winners. We hope you enjoy the recipes, drop us a line if you give one a try!