This recipe was thrown together after I caved as I frequently do to the delights of Portobello market at lunchtime yesterday. Sometimes I leave my purse in the office just to prevent myself buying anything I don’t need. What with that and an ‘All Saints’ up the road I could be in serious trouble. I saw some fresh peas crying out (literally…how could I leave them) to be stripped and podded from their padded overheated jackets now the sun is out and with some oily and spicy chorizo in the fridge at home they were immediately planned for supper.
Serves 2 (as with many of my recipes, this is done with the ‘handful’ measurement so scale up as appropriate. I usually allow 1 handful per person for things like peas etc)
- 2 cod fillets
- 2 Large handfuls of breadcrumbs (About 30-50g)
- Bunch flat leaf parsley
- 1-2tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large garlic clove, crushed
- 4 oz Puy Lentils
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- About 500g fresh peas in their pods, 250g shelled (of two large handfuls of frozen peas)
- 50g chorizo, chopped into chunks
- Handful chopped mint
- Green beans to serve
- Begin by simmering the lentils for about 18-20 minutes until tender
- Meanwhile, whiz up the bread crumbs in a processor until fine and then add the parsley and some seasoning and blend until all chopped together. Add enough oil to bind the mixture together so it isn’t too dry.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C and line a baking try with foil. Place the cod fillets skin side down on top and pat a large handful of the breadcrumb coating onto the top. (add more oil to the mixture if it looks a bit dry and won’t hold together).
- When the lentils are cooked, drain and set aside. Fry the crushed garlic in a little oil to soften on a low heat. Once soft, turn up the heat and add the balsamic and let it simmer for a few seconds before tipping in the lentils and seasoning to taste. Keep warm while you cook the fish.
- Bake the cod for about 6 minutes until just cooked and flaky and the breadcrumbs have started to brown and crisp on top.
- Lastly while the cod is cooking fry the diced chorizo in a hot pan until the oils begin to release. Add the peas (which you can par- boil first if you like but I love them raw and green) and coat in the lovely orange oil.
- When ready to serve, place the cod on top of the warm lentils and spoon the pea and chorizo around the edge. Drizzle with any remaining oil from the pan and scatter with mint.
- Serve with buttered and minty green beans if you like!
Mackerel isn’t everyone’s first choice when choosing fish from the supermarket counter. A brownish muddy coloured complexion doesn’t exactly win any beauty competitions and ball your over with a sense of freshness and health. Although popular these days as being cheap people often give it grief for being a ‘dirty fish’. However…its full of excellent healthy oils, is reasonably priced and can importantly handle bold flavours such as Thai marinades, soya sauce and curried spices. Crusted in dukka and served on some nutty lentils here made a satisfactory Friday night supper.
- 2 mackerel fillets, scored on the skin side
- 1 tbsp dukka (see here, leave out the mint)
- 4 oz Puy lentils
- 1-2 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped
- Very large bunch flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
- 1/2 lemon
- 25g hazelnuts
- Mint leaves for garnish
- Coconut/light olive oil
- If large, cut your fillets in half and season in a shallow bowl. Scatter over the dukka and add a slash of olive oil and massage the spices over the fish. Set aside until ready to cook.
- Simmer the lentils for about 18-20 minutes until tender but still with a bite/texture and the drain.
- Meanwhile, roast the hazelnuts in a very hot oven for about 8 minutes until toasted and the skins are beginning to peel off. When cool enough to handle rub off the skins and chop roughly into halves and set aside.
- Saute the crushed garlic in a little oil in the pan you cooked the lentils in until soft. Return the lentils to the pan and season generously. Add the parsley and lemon juice and mix to combine the flavours. Cover the pan to keep warm and set aside while you cook the fish.
- Heat a frying pan with a little coconut or olive oil until hot. Fry the fillets scored (to prevent them curling up) skin side for about 3 minutes until crisp. Turn for the final minute or so to finish the cooking and add the chopped hazelnuts to the pan at this stage also. (The mackerel will take a matter of minutes so don’t overcook of they will dry out)
- Serve the lentils topped with the mackerel fillets and scattered with the toasted hazelnuts and a few sprigs of mint. Could do with a dollop of lemony homemade mayo and some wilted greens.
Like many of my dishes this one came about from a fridge of leftovers and a willing pantry. With a craving for a side dish with a little extra added effort I knocked out this gratin. In an almost ‘mystery box’ Masterchef challenge, some simply simmered lentils, a dousing of deep creamy Dijon dressing, speckles of parsley liberally blanketed in some cheesy breadcrumbs and butter and baked could only taste delicious.
- 4oz Puy Lentils
- 1 tbsp Dijon Mustard
- 4 tbsp creme fraiche
- Handful chopped flat leaf parsley
- 2 large handfuls breadcrumbs
- 1 large handful grated parmesan
- Knob of butter
- Salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 200°C.
- Simmer the lentils in boiling water for about 20 minutes or until soft but with a slight bite and not mushy
- Drain and return to the pan. Stir in the parsley, creme fraiche, mustard and plenty of cracked black pepper and salt.
- Spoon into an oven proof dish.
- Mix the breadcrumbs and cheese in a bowl and season. Scatter over the lentils and top with a few knobs of butter.
- Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes until golden and crispy on top.
This is my go-to banana loaf recipe for when those bruising and sweetly turning bananas are slowing deteriorating in the fruit bowl, unaware of their potential. This loaf is easy to knock out and can be kept for a while in the cake tin. Here I’ve added the beautifully pungent ground cardamon but this can be left out or substituted.
I love banana loaf as its one of those ‘cakes’ that is less restricted by Paul and Mary’s dreaded ‘science’ of baking. This recipe for example only has one egg in the entire mixture but still manages to set with a lovely rich texture. The recipe is therefore hugely open to adaptation and I change mine practically every time. Try these little additions which I’ve done in the past:
- Ground cardamon, cinnamon or ginger
- Replace hazelnuts for your classic walnut
- Add chunks of chocolate chips
- Add a handful or desiccated coconut
- Add a decadent molten layer of peanut butter/salted caramel/Nutella inside
- Top the mixture with a crumble mixture before baking
- Soak the bananas in rum for a bit…
Makes 1 loaf (Taken from Delia Smith’s ‘All in one Banana Loaf’ with a few adaptations)
- 75g butter, softened
- 110g caster sugar
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 225g plain flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp ground cardamon (or other spice of choice)
- 4 ripe bananas, mashed
- 70g hazelnuts, toasted and chopped roughly.
- Handful demerara sugar
- Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a loaf tin with parchment.
- Place the butter, sugar and egg in a food processor and combine (or use an electric hand whisk)
- Sieve over the flour, spices and baking powder and combine (don’t worry if it looks dry!)
- Add the bananas to the processor and combine until you have a smooth and creamy batter.
- Stir through the nuts (or any chocolate chips, coconuts additions etc)
- Pour into the loaf tin and sprinkle generously with the demerara sugar (or crumble) to create a nice crunchy topping. (If adding a layer of peanut butter/caramel etc, add half the batter to the tin, dot with the chosen filling and then spoon on the remaining batter to cover before baking)
- Bake for 50-55 minutes until cooked.
- Leave to cool in the tin before removing and slicing
Gorgeous sliced, toasted and layered with cinnamon butter
I can’t believe my birthday has come and gone yet again. With another year under my ageing belt it only seemed natural to add another cookbook to my ‘library’. It really is expanding at such a rate that I may have to develop some sort of filing system soon. I currently have them stored in a few tame and humble 6 bottle old wooden wine cases but with each eager book spilling out over the edge, oozing its glossy (some more oil splattered) pictures in front of me it may be time to move out to a magnum case…?
To cut a long story short, my birthday granted me with Bill Granger’s Everyday Asian cookbook. I love this quick and flavourful cooking but with more of a traditional palate I needed a helping hand and a point in the right direction or orientation should I say. East. And to help me along the way not only did I get this vibrant drool-worthy book that I literally want to cook every recipe of (rare I assure you) I also received a few of Bill’s Asian ‘Pantry staples’ to add to my other collection (again, yet to have its own filing system) and some beautiful serving bowls. After all presentation can be half the battle!
NOTE: for those into this style of food I really recommend Bill’s book. There may be some alien ingredients but nothing a quick trip down the ethnic aisle of Tesco can’t solve. A simply written, helpful book. And you really will want to cook everything…there just aren’t enough mealtimes in the day or days in the week unless I start replacing my morning tea with miso soup? Unlikely.
- 4 tbsp mirin
- 4tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp brown soft sugar
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 4 salmon fillets
- Combine all the marinade ingredients together in a shallow bowl with the salmon fillets and pop in the fridge for 5-10 minutes.
- Preheat your grill or BBQ. Grill for about 7minutes or so until charred on the outside but still pink and very most in the middle. Don’t be tempted to cook too long. The residual heat will carry on cooking it once removed from the grill and it is better served a little pink in the middle.
- 1 tbsp mirin
- 1 tbsp ride vinegar
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 cucumber
- Use a mandolin/speed peeler to peel thin strips of cucumber into a bowl.
- Combine the dressing ingredients and drizzle over the cucumber
- 1 head broccoli, cut into florets
- 1 red chilli, sliced finely
- 1 shallot, chopped
- 1 garlic clove, sliced finely
- Boil your broccoli for a matter of minutes until still al dente and bright green. Drain and set aside.
- Heat a thin layer of oil in a frying pan until hot. Flash fry your chilli and shallots until crispy. Add the garlic slices at the end as they will burn easily and fry until golden and crispy. Scoop out from the oil and drain and allow to crisp.
- Serve the broccoli, warm and scattered with the crispy garnish and a little drizzle of the infused oil
Beautiful serving dish courtesy of my sister and the Portobello markets
Sometimes an English roast can be boring (shoot me now)…especially in summer. I’ve experimented with a Spanish roast (see here) but it was time for a Mexican Roast chicken over the weekend as my craving for dark creamy black beans took over. This chicken recipe is a great BBQ favourite of mine…and Jamie’s. You know a good marinade when you make it in the morning, refrain from eating there and then and think about it all day until that charcoal is ready! The sweetcorn puree adds a lovely sweetness to this to counteract the savoury beans and spicy chicken and greens.
Mexican Roast Chicken Feast - Serves 4
- Marinade the chicken the night before if you can. Massage over the chicken making sure you get it into all the cracks.
- When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 180°C.
- Line a roasting tray with foil and place the chicken on top with the excess marinade. Wrap in foil and roast for about 1hr and 20 minutes depending on the size. For the final 15 minutes or so, turn up the heat to 200°C and remove the foil to allow the skin to crisp up and brown. (This recipe is actually best cooked in the oven first to keep it moist and then finished on the BBQ so you get that charred outer crust and moist meat).
- When cooked remove from the oven and leave to rest for at least 15 minutes wrapped in foil while you finish the side dishes.
- When ready to serve, carve rustically, scatter with fresh mint and give everyone a wedge of lime for squeezing over.
- 2 x tins black beans, drained (retain the juice only if not salted)
- 2 large spring onions, chopped
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- 1/2 red chilli
- Bunch coriander chopped
- Lime juice
- Fry the spring onion in a little oil to soften for a few minutes then add the garlic and chilli and soften for a few minutes.
- Add the beans and top up with a little hot water or the bean can juice (as long as it is not salted). Add enough to cover them gently and allow to simmer.
- Simmer gently for about 15 minutes until the sauce has thickened slightly. The consistency you want will depend on how you like them so simmer longer for a thicker texture. I like mine to be quite loose but still sit on the plate.
- Use a masher to lightly crush and mash some of the beans. This will help thicken the mixture and add texture but leave most of the beans whole.
- Taste and season. Add the coriander and a squeeze of fresh lime before serving.
- 1 x tin sweetcorn, drained.
- Milk to cover
- 1 knob butter
- Salt and pepper
- Drain the sweetcorn and add to a saucepan. Add enough milk to just cover and bring to the simmer making sure the milk doesn’t boil over (not speaking from experience at all…..).
- Simmer for about 5 minutes then drain reserving the cooking milk.
- Add to a food processor with some salt and pepper and a large knob of butter. Puree for a good few minutes until really soft and creamy. Add a few tablespoons of the reserved milk as it blends to thin it out until you have the consistency you’re after.
- Sieve the mixture into the pan to remove the tough shells and produce a really creamy velvety puree (this is optional, just as good left non sieved). Set aside to keep warm.
- 1/2 red chilli, sliced thinly
- 2 large cloves garlic, sliced very thinly
- Sunflower oil for frying
- Heat a good glug of oil in a frying pan until hot. Fry the chilli and garlic for a few minutes until beginning to turn golden and crispy but make sure you don’t burn it. It can turn very quickly so remove from the heat and pour into a serving dish just before it looks ready, as it just turns golden as it will keep cooking a little after.
- Cook the broccoli al dente and drain well. While still warm, toss in the garlic-chilli infused oil and serve.
Aside from the fact that this cake tastes undeniably devine, one of the things I like about it the most is the subtle way you can pick off the sticky caramel almonds from the top when no one is looking with fairly unnoticeable consequences. Its not the done thing to swipe a greedy finger through the icing on a cake but you can get away with it here. Be warned, once you start you may end up with a topless and naked sponge cake and some unimpressed guests. If there was ever an award for moreish-ness (excuse the made up word) this cake would triump.
Its a super light sponge base which I decided to spike with cinnamon and vanilla, basted and topped with a crunchy caramel almond praline which is left to set and encase the pillowey cake. This recipe is from ‘Scandilicious Baking’ and is therefore (I’m told) a classic Scandi treat which quite frankly just makes me want to visit the region even more. I took the recipes advice and added a tsp of coffee to the praline topping which adds a really deep and intense flavour.
- 150g caster sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped
- 150g plain flour
- Pinch cinnamon
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp fine salt
- 75g melted butter
- 75ml buttermilk (or add a tsp of lemon juice added to normal milk)
- 150g flaked almonds
- 125g soft light brown muscovado sugar
- 125g butter
- 50ml milk
- Pinch fine salt
- 1 tsp instant coffee
- Preheat the oven to 160°C and line a loose bottomed tin (8cm of so wide) with parchement. If making your buttermilk add the lemon juice to the milk now and set aside for a few minutes.
- Whisk the eggs, vanilla and caster sugar on a high speed for at least 5 minutes until really thick and creamy to get in as much air as possible. It really will pay to do this for a good length of time.
- Combine the flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt. Sieve over half this dry mixture into the eggs and extremely gently using a metal spoon fold in making sure retain the air.
- Add half the buttermilk and fold in. Add the remaining flour, fold in and finally the rest of the buttermilk.
- Finally fold in the melted butter.
- Spoon the mixture into the tin and bake for 35-40 minutes until golden and set. It is important it is set so that it doesn’t collapse when you coat it in praline!
- While that bakes, toast the almonds in a dry frying pan or hot oven for a few minutes until golden and fragrant.
- Add to a saucepan with the butter, sugar, milk, salt and coffee.
- Heat until all melted together and then bubble for a few minutes until thick.
- When the cake is ready remove from the oven and increase the heat to 200°C. Pour the praline over the cake, smooth out and bake for 8-10 minutes at this higher temperature until the top is golden and gooey.
- Leave to cool before cutting to allow the caramel to set and encase the cake.
This can be enjoyed on its own or with healthy lashings of custard
I adore devouring big bowls of French and simply cooked mussels. Albeit shamefully with a dainty bowl (large bucket) of lightly salted (heavily salted) crispy French fires (never chips….its got to be fries. Like the ones McDonalds do). I have many happy memories of enjoying this meal with my best friend in our local Wiltshire gastro pub with a side order of gossip after a relaxing ride. Seeing as she’s embarked on an adventure to Abu Dhabi to conquer the world of financial advising and make us our millions I could only experiment with the classic moules mariniere and wish she was here to enjoy it with me.
After following the ever dramatic and addictive Masterchef final this week, one of my favourite chefs Tom Kerridge showcased one of his signature dishes. His take on the classic moules served with a creamy topped stoat foam. Whilst I love mussels I often finish the meal still feeling hungry, dissatisfied and with sticky garlicky fingers. So, picked from the protective homes of their shells and tossed in a creamy sauce Tom’s method seemed like a much more relaxing eat. This is certainly a cheap eat (£1.50 for a bag of mussels!) that boasts rich expensive flavour that looks and tastes luxurious. My take on moules mariniere with crushed new potatoes and crispy skinned seabass.
(By the way, the reason I always use seabass is I LOVE IT! But feel free to use another white fish here such as bream, cod of haddock.)
- 2 seabass fillets
- 1kg mussels,
- About 8 small new potatoes
- Handful flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
- 1-2 shallots, finely chopped
- 1 large or 2 small cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 small carrot, finely diced
- 1 glass dry white wine
- Large knob butter (about 30g)
- 4 tbsp creme fraiche
- To serve - lemon, green beans/samphire
- Start by cleaning and de-bearding the mussels. Chuck away any with cracked shells or that are open and don’t shut quickly when tamped sharply on the kitchen surface (Only cook closed mussels; only eat open ones).
- Preheat the oven to 180°C. For the potatoes, par-boil until soft but make sure they are not waterlogged and falling apart and drain. Crush lightly with the back of a fork, season well and toss with olive oil.
- Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes until crispy.
- For the mussels and sauce heat the butter in a large saucepan over a low heat until it beings to foam adding a little oil to stop it burning. Add the garlic, carrot and shallot and gently soften for about ten minutes.
- Turn up the heat and add the wine. Reduce slightly. Add the mussels to the pan, place the lid on and allow to simmer for about 3-4 minutes. The mussels are ready as soon as they open.
- Once open remove the pan from the heat. Carefully pick the mussel meat from the shells (discard these) and return the meat to the wine sauce. Place back on the heat and simmer gently to reduce slightly. Add the creme fraiche and season to taste. Finally stir in the parsley and a little lemon juice and keep warm while you fry the fish.
- Get a pan on a medium high heat. Season the fish and score the skin to prevent it curling in the pan.
- Fry skin side down for about 3 minutes, finishing for the finish minute on the flesh side.
- Serve the creamy sauce with the potatoes and fish. Serve with green beans or samphire and a squeeze of lemon juice.
There’s something about slow cooking which quickly prepared meals (regardless if wholesome and homemade) just cannot replace. Depth of flavour, love and attention and a melt in the mouth texture. Slow cooking allows so much time for the flavours to develop and infuse. I was skeptical at the extent to which just a small star of wooden star anise and a cigar coil of cinnamon could impart but it really is amazing at the subtle but very evident punch a pinwheel of spice can offer. Don’t worry, the chocolate cannot be tasted in an offensive way just a rich silky background to a beautiful sauce. Although I will warn you….don’t think about adding your favourite Cadburys bar. Keep it dark.
- 1kg beef shin (allow a little more if feeding hungry chaps or leftovers)
- 2 large onions, sliced
- 1 pint red wine
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2 star anise
- 5 black peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 pint beef stock
- 25g dark chocolate (85%+)
- Flat leaf parsley
- To serve - roasted cumin carrots, savoy cabbage, creamy mash
- If you can, soak the cuts of beef in the red wine with the cinnamon and star anise over night.
- When ready to cook preheat the oven to 120°C. Heat a large heavy bottomed casserole dish with a splash of light oil, pat dry the beef and season well. Brown in the oil on all sides until golden and then set aside.
- Add the chopped onion and gently cook until soft for about 15 minutes making sure they don’t catch on the bottom.
- Add the beef back to the pan and turn up the heat. Add the wine, the cinnamon, star anise, pepper and bay leaf.
- Bring to a simmer and simmer gently for a few minutes until the wine has reduced a little. Top up the pan with enough beef stock to cover the meat and prevent it from drying out on cooking.
- Place in the oven and cook for 3 hours with the lid on by which time it should be deliciously tender and falling apart.
- After 3 hours, remove from the oven and take out the beef and as many onions as you can and set aside.
- Drain the sauce (adding a little more stock if it has reduced too much) and discard the spices. Place the sauce in a saucepan and simmer gently to thicken slightly spooning off any fat. Season to taste.
- Add the chocolate and stir in until melted.
- Return the beef to the pan and heat through.
Serve with a sprinkling of chopped parsley with some deliciously creamy mash potato. Soften some chopped garlic in a knob of butter before adding some shredded savoy cabbage and braising until soft. Cumin roasted carrots with a charred edge are also a delicious pairing.
Comfort food. Creamy, hearty, deeply flavoured and undeniably satisfying. I really love Mexican inspired food such as this. It also seems to be on trend on the foodie scene at the moment with variations on the ‘Pulled Pork’ brioche bun carving their across gastro chalks boards from Chiswick to Stratford with varying degrees of authenticity and quality.
You can actually add anything to these beans. Keep simple as in my below recipe with plenty of seasoning or go wild with the spices adding cumin, coriander or dried soaked chipotle or habaneros. Make this to suit your tastes but the black garlic will give it real depth and a sweetness that will add another dimension. The longer and slower you cook and simmer the beans to infuse the flavours the more depth you’ll get as a result but these are equally as delicious boshed out in 10 minutes.
Serve the black beans on their own with lashings of grated cheese, spoonful of soured cream and homemade guacamole, sliced jalapenos or crunchy salty nachos for dunking.
- 1 tin black beans, juices retained
- 1 large clove black garlic/normal garlic, chopped
- 1/2 red onion or shallot very finely chopped
- 1/2 lime
- Pinch ground cumin
- Salt and pepper
- Bunch coriander, chopped
- 2 cod fillets
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/4 tsp chilli powder
- OR 1 tsp Cajuan spice mix
- Marinade the cod in the spices with a few tbsp of olive oil for as long as you like.
- Heat a little oil in a pan a very slowly and gently fry the chopped onion for about 5 minutes until soft.
- Once softened, add the normal garlic if using and fry for a few minutes before adding the spices and stirring to combine.
- Transfer to a saucepan with the beans and some generous seasoning. If using black garlic mash to a soft paste before whisking into the beans.
- Add as much of the beans drained juices to allow the beans to simmer away gently. Simmer for about 5-10 minutes, topping up with the retained juices if it starts to dry out or turning up the heat to bubble more intensely for a thicker consistency.
- Before serving taste and add more seasoning if needed. Stir in the chopped coriander and the juice of 1/2 lime.
- Cook the cod in a hot frying pan skin side down until cooked/ grilled/baked in the oven for around 8 minutes or so depending on the thickness of your fillets.
I served mine with a green beans salad garnish with slow oven roasted cherry tomatoes, chopped red onion and coriander.
Not many things beat a gift box of homemade goodies especially when they’re madeleines. Delicate, pretty, elegant and gorgeous. A sweet crusty cinnamon-sugar coated Parisian madeleine is the personification of a classy French lady. I baked a fresh batch of these the morning before visiting an old and very special friend (you know who you are) to take as a gift.
Makes about 12
- 100g unsalted butter, melted
- 100g caster sugar
- 100g plain flour
- 1 level tsp baking powder
- 2 large eggs
- Grated zest 1 lemon
- 50g blackcurrants/blueberries
- 50-100g cinnamon sugar (made with a ratio of 1 large tbsp: 300g golden granulate sugar)
- Whisk the eggs and the caster sugar together until pale and creamy.
- Add the flour, baking powder and lemon zest and lightly whisk in with the melted butter to prevent overdeveloping the gluten. Mix in the berries.
- Set aside for anywhere up to 3 hours. Apparently, the longer you leave the batter to chill the better as it chills and hydrates the flour. This helps to give you that bump on the back that is characteristic of a madeleine.
- When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 200°C. Grease your madeleine tray with a little melted butter and a dusting of flour if it is liable to sticking..
- Fill the moulds making sure you don’t overfill. The mixture will settle into place in the oven so don’t worry about smoothing them out.
- Bake for 8-12 minutes depending on how big you made them and how large your madeleine pan is.
- Once golden and cooked, remove from the oven and, while warm, coat in a generous blanket of cinnamon sugar and then leave to cool on a wire rack before eating
- Best eaten fresh on the day or the sugar will make them sticky. Try with some cream/creme friache and some slow roasted strawberries.
Free ingredients feel cheekily delicious. Whether its that buy one get one free packet of salad, that suspect lemon that apparently didn’t scan in the hands of the conveniently incompetent cashier or, in this case, the hand foraged bunch of wild garlic my sensitive foodie nose kindly led me to on a country walk this Easter. Growing in the hedgerow and just dying to be plucked and cooked these leaves are fragrant with a garlic punch.
Wild garlic should be treated more like a herb- a hardier basil. It can be sauteed in butter but not cooked as hard as a cabbage. I decided to make pesto which can be made in a pestle and mortar and I always find this satisfying and a lovely idea where you really can adjust the consistency, taste and vitally the texture to your own preference steadily and carefully. However my solid granite pestle and mortar weights a tonne and after a long day at work and a run home I wasn’t in need of a weigh session or the horrors of having to unsuccessfully scrape my delicious pesto creation into a bowl and wash up my granite weight. So….shamefully the magi mix came out to do the job for me. I bought a beautiful Godess-like pot of bushy Greek basil on the way home today and couldn’t resist adding a handful to the mix as a nod to the classic pesto but go easy as it is punchy and will overpower the beautiful garlic leaves if added too heavy handidly.
Enjoy with - roasted fish, meats, roasted sweet potato jackets, mixed into pasta sauces, stirred into soups, mixed in salad dressings. I served mine here with pan fried seabass and red camargue rice.
Makes a small bowlful (depending on the amount of oil)
- 100g wild garlic leaves, cleaned if foraged
- Optional - a small handful of basil leaves
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- 50g finely grated Parmesan
- 50g pine nuts, lightly toasted (or walnuts)
- Salt and pepper
- Lemon juice
- Olive/rapeseed oil (up to 150ml. See note*)
- First, if foraged from the bushes, carefully wash the garlic leaves in cold water and pat dry or spin dry in an old school salad leaf drier.
- Place in a food processor with the pine nuts, garlic and basil (if using). Blend until chopped finely.
- Add the cheese and season.
- Now slowly drizzle in the oil until you get the desired consistency. I think I used about 2 tbsp for mine.
- Alternatively, bash the leaves with the nuts in a pestle and mortar before adding the cheese and stirring in the oil.
- Add seasoning to taste and adjust with whatever you think it needs, a hint of lemon juice perhaps!
NOTE* - the amount of oil will depend on a few things but I personally like my pesto thick as its more concentrated and punchy in flavour and healthier as it uses less oil. It will also depend on how long you want to keep it. If you plan on storing in your fridge for a bit, pop into a sterilised jar and make sure there is enough oil to cover and seal it from exposure and oxidation.
Finally the evenings are getting longer and the evening light is perfect for photography and dining in the sun (not warmth quite yet unfortunately). Home to the countryside for Easter weekend and the warm days continued. Good Friday called for good food. Naturally. This dish seemed to personify the start of spring and a spring cleaning of the diet and lifestyle. Except if you’d given up chocolate for lent that is. You folks will probably be in a cocoa comma still….this dish may help?
- 2 seabass fillets
- 250g peas
- Handful mint leaves
- 1/2 lemon, juice
- Large knob butter
- 100g chorizo, chopped
- 2-3 parsnips, peeled and sliced
- 4 tbsp grated parmesan
- Parsnips - season well and coat in olive oil. Roast at 200°C for 25-30 minutes until tender and crisp.
- Parmesan wafer - Line a baking tray with non stick parchment and spoon the parmesan into a cookie cutter to form a circle - don’t be tempted to press the cheese down as it will melt on cooking. Bake for 5 minutes at 200°C until melted and golden. Remove from the oven and leave to cool before peeling gently from the parchment.
- Minted pea puree - boil the peas with half the mint leaves for a few minutes until soft. Drain while reserving the minty cooking water and tip into a food processor. Add a large knob of butter, salt and pepper, the fresh mint leaves, lemon juice and blend to a puree. Add some of the reserved cooking water a bit at a time to thin it down until you reach the desired consistency.
- Chorizo - heat a frying pan until hot. Fry the chorizo in the dry pan until it starts to release its oily juice and crisp up. Keep warm.
- Seabass- season the seabass fillets well making a slit in the skin side to stop it curling up on cooking. Coat in a light drizzle of olive oil. Heat a frying pan to a medium-high setting and fry the seabass fillets, skin side down, for about 3 minutes until crispy skinned and mostly cooked. Turn for the final minute to finish the cooking and squeeze with a splash of lemon juice.
- Top serve - lay the roasted parsnips on the plate and spoon on some pea puree. Top with the seabass and spoon over the chorizo and drizzle with some of the oils. Complete with the parmesan wafer!
I really think this is one of the prettiest and simplest desserts that you can have this time of year. Nothing but some old stale breadcrumbs, humble hardy grown rhubarb and some sweet tangy ginger. Cold golf balls of frozen candy floss to top a pointy slice of warm ginger spiced treacle tart after the slow roasted spring lamb shoulder we devoured for Easter lunch.
I’ve always grown my own rhubarb letting it ripen naturally around the summer time into gangly red and green fingers of sweet and sour goodness. But Portobello market is bursting with the ‘forced’ type at the moment and I couldn’t resist bagging some of the leggy, blushing pastel pink stems for this killer sorbet.
- 800g forced, pink rhubarb, chopped
- 175g caster sugar
- 100ml water
- 1 lime
- Mix the chopped rhubarb with the caster sugar and and place in a saucepan. Heat gently with the water until beginning to soften and simmer for about 5 minutes.
- When tender, remove from the heat, squeeze in the lime juice and leave to cool slightly.
- Puree until smooth, taste and adjust with sugar or lime (it should be a little sweeter than you like as the freezing with dampen this) and then churn in an ice cream maker for about 30 minutes. Alternatively, pour into a container and freeze, mixing every 30mins-1hr to break up the ice crystals until set.
Ginger Treacle Tart
- 125g chilled butter
- 250g flour
- Zest 1/2 orange
- Cold water
- 200g white breadcrumbs (the staler the better)
- 400g golden syrup
- 2 eggs, beaten
- Pinch ground ginger
- 2-3 balls of preserved stem ginger, chopped finely
- 1/2 lemon, zest and juice
- Start with the pastry. Mix the butter into the flour in a processor or with your hands until you form a breadcrumb like texture. Mix in the orange zest. Add a spoonful of cold water, a small bit at a time and mix into the flour and butter until you can form a smooth dough. Shape into a disc, wrap in cling film and leave to chill for about 30 minutes or so in the fridge.
- Grease and line a 20-22cm tart tin and preheat the oven to 180°C. Remove the pastry from the fridge and leave to adjust to room temperature before rolling out on a floured surface to about the thickness of a pound coin. Line the greased tin pressing the pastry into the case. Chill the casing for about 10 minutes if you can.
- Prick the base with a fork to stop it rising up when cooking and place a sheet of parchment on top followed by some heavy baking beans or dry raw rice. Push it right up to the edges to keep the parchment down.
- Bake blind for 20-25 minutes until the casing if lightly golden and cooked. Remove the beans and baking sheet for the final 5 minutes to brown and cook the base.
- Remove from the oven and reduce the heat to 160°C.
- Now, warm the golden syrup in a saucepan until molten. Remove from the heat and add the ginger, lemon, breadcrumbs and stir to combine. Mix in the eggs making sure the mixture if not too hot first or these will scramble.
- Pour into the pre-baked tart tin and bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes until golden and set.
- Serve warm with the rhubarb sorbet and some slow roasted vanilla speckled rhubarb on the side or a good quality vanilla ice cream.
Today the sun was shining contently so I took the opportunity to make the most of my lunch hour and wonder (as I now do familiarly and regularly) around the buzzing streets of Nottinghill and Portobello Road. I love this street and I have huge appreciation for it. Stalls boasting crumpled and soft leather bags, waterfalls of scarfs draped like the limbs of a weaping willow from shop fronts and humble freshly prepared street food. But my favourite sellers are by far the fruit and vegetable stalls. They’re packed and bursting with ripe delights that spill out onto the road as if they too are eager to escape and explore, some not so successfully as tomato seeds and orange pith splatter the tarmac and imprinted into someones car tread.The prices are cheap and the produce is infinitely better quality than the local supermarket. Hands down the biggest and best avocados in town can be found here.
However, on my lunch break today my greedy eyes caught sight of a proudly glowing basket of blood oranges with a cheeky ‘4 for £1’ written confidently in bold. I don’t know what it is about that sign but it undoubtedly screams ‘bargain’! Even if advertising old teeth it would still seems a steal am I wrong? With a brown paper bag of these juicy golf balls and some blushingly pink leggy rhubarb that I just couldn’t leave alone I returned to work and to a state of recipe planning turmoil in my mind….
With Easter Sunday approaching, guests to cook for and plans for a pre-lunch cocktail I decided on using them to accompany a chilled glass of gin, lime and ginger. I needed it too after a sticky commute home knocking out many poor souls with the ends of my lanky giant rhubarb. I made up this recipe adding what I felt it needed and ingredients I liked but feel free to experiment too and add more or less of anything you like to adjust to taste. I image this would also be devine with ginger beer thrown in there somewhere!
The Blood Orange ‘Gin’-ger
- 1oz good London Gin
- 2oz freshly squeezed blood orange juice
- 1/2 small lime
- Small knob root ginger
- Squeeze the juice from your oranges and add to a tall chilled tumbler with the gin.
- Squeeze in as much lime juice to taste just to add a sharp sour hum and a pinch of sugar if it all tastes a little bitter.
- Now you can either mash the ginger and muddle in and then strain, infuse with a few slices or finely chop some ginger matchstick and add to the glass.
- Coat the rim of your glass with lime juice and dip in a VERY light coating of salt. Fill the glass with your cocktail and sip happily in the sunshine!