I am unapologetically, unashamedly, unabashedly obsessed with the River Cottage phenomenon and the “real food” philosophy of back-to-basics tour de force Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall! This one-sided love affair began when we (my husband, L and I) were invited to afternoon tea by a friend sometime during the early summer last year. Upon the bookshelf behind me sat a copy of River Cottage Veg Every Day and, flicking through its inspirational pages, I became smitten. Upon returning home, we immediately ordered the book online and now, almost a year later, it has become somewhat of a food bible in our home and definitely my go-to cook book when it comes to savoury inspiration. Recently I stumbled across some youtube playlists featuring episodes of the various River Cottage series, one of which happened to be dedicated to veg and Hugh’s 4 month commitment to go meat-free. One episode began with this great intro:

“I think it’s increasingly obvious that, here in the West, we are producing and consuming too much meat; too much for our health, too much for the planet to cope with and way too much for the welfare of the animals that we kill for meat to be anything like what it should be. So for one summer, I’m casting off my carnivorous ways to live off the goodness of the garden. And I can honestly say that rather than a limitation, it’s been a liberation. I’m enjoying my vegetables more than ever. I’m relishing them more than ever before. And I guess that’s because I am just paying them so much more attention. I mean, they’re all that I’m eating and I like my food, therefore the vegetables that I’m eating get a lot of attention.”

I couldn’t agree more with Hugh’s sentiments. It worries me that I am raising two children in a world where bananas can be bought ready-peeled (!) and where people are disgusted by the thought of where meat comes from or handling it themselves, but will happily gorge themselves on 3 meals a day containing processed and insanely unhealthy meat products produced in the most unethical of manners. My family is omnivorous, but I am determined that my children are raised to make informed and healthy conscious decisions regarding the food they consume. I want them to be exposed to a variety of cuisines, to be able to handle and cook food themselves, to know how food is produced and where it comes from, to grow some of their own food and to develop a palette for a wide range of healthy flavours. I want them to have a respect for food, for the environment and for their own little growing bodies.

Living in an urban environment, I feel I need to be a little more creative and vigilant when it comes to my own consumer choices at times. After all, even though it’s known that convenience doesn’t always/often equal “healthy”, a busy schedule can easily lead one astray in the food department. L attends a nursery school where the menu is varied. He’ll eat Swedish meatballs one day and leek and potato soup the next. I have little to no say in what is served there (and can only be grateful that they have a chef on premises who prepares fresh, balanced meals for the children daily), but I do have a say in the choices we make at home. So when my little boy requests quinoa/almond milk/broccoli/tomatoes or when he points out loudly that something is “organic!” or exclaims that he “likes vitamins”, my heart sings and I feel like we are doing something right. We are not really a “crunchy” family (although we are no doubt crunchy-sympathetic), and I bake sweet treats, buy takeaway meals sometimes and like my comfort foods, but I do try to opt for the healthier choices available within certain parameters. Hugh’s approach to food appeals to me for the same reason as Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution Day does; because it doesn’t exclude, it is common sense, inspiring and accessible… even for those of us who dwell in cities. And so, in lieu of being able to convince my husband to pack up and move to Dorset to start our own smallholding, I content myself with starting an urban kitchen garden, tweaking recipes and recreating dishes from River Cottage… and I plan to share my Hugh-inspired culinary adventures in a series of posts, the first of which you are reading now… 😉



As a “traditional hummus” fan, I was keen to give this unusual version a go and, to be honest, I am not sure which version of hummus I now prefer! The beetroot imparts a lovely, subtle sweetness and the walnuts add fabulous texture and depth of flavour. Combined with the usual hummus suspects (tahini, garlic, lemon, cumin), this gorgeous, brightly coloured and delicious dip is sure to please.


50 g organic walnuts
1/2 tbsp ground cumin (or more if you like)
15 g gluten-free bread crumbs
200 g cooked organic beetroot, cut into cubes
1 tbsp organic tahini (smooth nut butter works too)
1 large organic garlic clove, crushed
Juice of 1 lemon
A dash of organic olive or rapeseed oil
Salt and black pepper to season


  1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Toast walnuts on a baking tray in the oven for around 5 minutes. Leave to cool.
  2. Put the walnuts in a food processor and blitz. Add the beetroot, breadcrumbs, tahini, 1/2 a tablespoon of oil plus most of the garlic, cumin and lemon. Season with salt and pepper. Blend to a thick paste. Taste and adjust seasonings accordingly by adding more cumin/garlic/salt/pepper/lemon juice if necessary. Add a little more oil if needed.
  3. Refrigerate until needed. It will keep for a few days. Serve at room temperature.


*Original recipe from River Cottage Veg Every Day, by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
*I made my version with gluten-free breadcrumbs as I had some on hand, but by all means, blitz your own stale bread to make some if you prefer.
*The original recipe calls for fresh cumin seeds, which I did not have so ground cumin had to suffice.



I think of baba ganoush as being a “gateway dish” to exposure to aubergine ;). Flavourful, simple and a touch exotic, Hugh’s version is a fab dip or sandwich addition.


4 medium aubergines (approx. 1 kg)
1 clove organic garlic, crushed
2 tbsp organic tahini (smooth nut butter works too)
Juice of half a lemon
Salt and black pepper to season


A handful of fresh, organic parsley, chopped
Organic rapeseed or olive oil to drizzle over
1-2 tsp ground cumin


  1. Preheat grill (high). Prick aubergines a couple of times with a fork then lay them on a tray lined with foil and grill, turning regularly, until the skin is blackened all over and the flesh is soft (this takes around 10 minutes). Let rest until cool enough to handle, then peel off the skin.
  2. Place the flesh into a colander, roughly chop up with a small knife and allow to drain and cool completely.
  3. In a food processor, blitz the aubergine, garlic, tahini, lemon juice and a good amount of salt and pepper until puréed. Taste and add more lemon juice and seasoning if you wish.
  4. Serve drizzled with oil, scattered with parsley and dusted with cumin.


*Recipe from River Cottage Veg Every Day, by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall



Two delicious dips require an equally yummy partner, and a warm, tasty slice of garlic flatbread is just the ticket! This recipe should make 8 flatbreads and is based around Hugh’s amazing and aptly named recipe for “Magic Bread Dough”.


250 g plain organic white flour
250 g strong organic white flour
1 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp instant dried yeast
1 tbsp organic rapeseed/olive oil, plus a little extra


  1. Combine flours into a large bowl with salt and yeast. Mix well. Add the oil and 325 ml warm water and mix to form a rough dough.
  2. Flour your hands. Tip out the dough out onto a clean work surface and knead for 5–10 minutes, until smooth. This should be quite sticky dough, so try not to add too much flour. Kneading will make it less sticky and easier to work with.
  3. Trickle a little oil into a clean bowl, place the kneaded dough in it and turn it in the oil to cover with a light film. Cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm place to rise until doubled in size (1-2 hours).



Approx. 100 ml organic olive oil
1 large organic garlic clove, finely chopped


  1. Make the garlic oil by combining oil and garlic in a pan over a medium heat. Do not fry the garlic! As soon as you note any sizzling, pour the oil and garlic into a small bowl and leave to cool.
  2. Punch down the risen dough and divide into balls of about 125 g each (or the size of a lemon), roll out into rough circle shapes of a 2 mm thickness. Let rest for 5 minutes.
  3. Heat a non-stick pan over a very high heat until smoking hot. Cook flatbreads one at a time by laying each in the pan for about 2 minutes until they bubble on top and are browned/blackened in patches underneath, then flip and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes.
  4. Remove, trickle with garlic-infused oil and crush over a little flaky sea salt. I also added a sprinkling of fresh parsley which was lovely. Cut flatbreads into wedges to serve.


*Recipe from River Cottage Veg Every Day, by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
*I have actually frozen quantities of dough for rolling out/baking later on. It still works and is a real time-saver if you find you have dough left over!


48 thoughts on “BEETROOT & WALNUT HUMMUS, BABA GANOUSH & GARLIC FLATBREADS (a journey to River Cottage, part 1)

  1. I love his Veg Everyday, had it for over a year now and made quite a lot from it. His magic dough is my favourite, the flatbreads were my first blog post! {they still are!}. I sometimes add an egg yolk to the dough to enrich it, yum!
    I made the baba ganoush last summer for a vegan middle eastern mezze for a Hen Party, delish!
    I find the book, and wonderful Hugh, really inspiring.

    • Isn’t it a great book?! And Hugh is brilliant. I love his magic bread dough too (must check out your first post). So far I have only used it to make pizza bases and flatbreads, but I’d love to try bread sticks, rolls, etc. I imagine the baba ganoush would be perfect party food 🙂 So happy to know you’re a River Cottage fan too 🙂 x

  2. I adore Baba Ganoush. Last night we had a small steak each and the meat was delicious. But most of the time, we eat vegetarian type meals because I think vegetables are so much more interesting and tastier than meat. And grains are many and tasty too, and lentils,also. I didn’t make a conscious choice to eat less meat; it seems to be the way my taste buds have evolved with age! Your children and your family will certainly benefit from your care with food choices.

    • I am so glad that I know how to make something with eggplant 😉 I am trying to familiarise myself more with different kinds of veg… it’s really fun 🙂 And I agree with you that veggies are interesting… so much variety! x

  3. Great recipes and great praise for River Cottage (which I had never heard of before you started talking about it and now I’m so keen to check their books out!). We are more and more switching everything that we consume into a preservative-free zone. I already make so much of what we eat from scratch, and all of our meats come from a small little butcher a mile from us that raises everything on their little farm. But it is inspiring to look at the entire picture and not just certain elements of our culinary consumption.
    I am especially excited about the Baba Ganoush recipe since I just got done planting eggplant in our garden yesterday. 🙂

    • Kenley, I think you’d love all that River Cottage stands for. You are someone who puts so much thought and consideration into every meal and every detail of your home life… it’s what makes you such a fab hostess and makes your home and all your events so warm and welcoming. It doesn’t surprise me that you care about where your food is sourced 🙂 You must let me know how your eggplants get on… are they hard to grow?

  4. Great post! I make hummus every week for snacking, and can’t wait to try out the beetroot walnut recipe. That magenta color is stellar. Thanks for sharing these recipes 🙂

  5. I could not agree more! Somehow as a society we have moved away from REAL food! But it makes it so happy to see that a revolution has finally started and things are starting to change. Thank you for spreading the word!

  6. The beetroot and walnut hummus sounds very intriguing! I agree with your sentiments about encouraging our kids to seek out and make real foods. We have a small garden in the summer and the girls enjoy that — but I’m afraid there’s still room for improvement as I buy premade meals to take to work on the days I don’t have time to make my own. I’d like to reduce the amount of packaging we use as well…

  7. Are you serious about ready-peeled bananas?! I have the River Cottage Veg Everyday cookbook but am not very good at planning meals to have the right ingredients at the right time.

    • I know what you mean about recipe planning. I sometimes check my fridge and if, for example, I have sweet potatoes, I’ll look up a recipe containing them and check to see if I have the rest of the ingredients. We live next door to a small supermarket so it’s easy to pick up extra things. If I can get more organized I’d like to do weekly meal plans… But it doesn’t happen like that now 😉 And yes- the ready-peeled bananas blow my mind. Ridiculous!! :p

  8. Pingback: Edamame Dip | hearthomemade

  9. Pingback: east coast organics | kilts & kale

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