I don’t know where the first week of March has gone but I can surely say that it officially feels like spring! The suns been out and daffodils are starting to infiltrate their way onto desks and kitchen tables. Time for spring clean of the same old lunch time menu (i.e. soup) and a refreshing recipe….
Serves 2 (for a good lunch)
- 1 mango, cut into 2cm cubes
- About 8 cherry tomatoes, diced
- 1/2 red chilli, chopped finely
- 1/2 small red onion, chopped finely
- Bunch coriander, chopped
- Bunch mint, chopped
- Bunch basil, chopped
- 1/2 pomegranate, seeds
- 1 lime
- 6 slices halloumi
- Runny honey
- Handful sesame seeds
- Combine the first 8 ingredients in a large bowl and muddle together with the juice of the lime. Season with salt and pepper. Add a splash of extra virgin olive oil
- Heat a frying pan until hot and add a small drizzle of oil. Fry the halloumi until golden on both sides. Turn the heat off and add a tsp of runny honey and the sesame seeds and coat the halloumi for about 30 seconds before removing from the heat.
- Serve the salsa topped with the warm halloumi slices.
The weather recently (with the odd exception) has been quite frankly horrendous that even the wine samples I bought home from work last week have resorted to their own wetsuits. (Some new Armit wine carriers which were enthusiastically handed out at work). If new to Armit Wines see here….we have a healthy collection of vino.
After a long week, some juicy samples were a welcome bounty to whisk home accompanied with the new sly advertising to an unshameful Friday evening in. Yes, I stayed in. It was bliss.
The wine. This Seresin Estate (Organic) Sauvignon Blanc is a definite crowd pleaser for those who love this NZ favourite. Flawlessly zesty with fresh, acidic and noteworthy mouthwatering and sharp gooseberry flavours. I immediately knew it would please my mum’s taste so off home I went the following day with sample and an extra shiny halo. Its a nice punchy wine but confirms my appreciation for more classic French wines which I’m growing to love more….
In addition to this white I also bought home a downright delicious and luxurious Marsala. My mind instantly went to my favourite wild mushroom, pancetta and marsala baked chicken recipe but I felt the harvest of my kitchen creations should be shared with the office so a baked creation was in order. Rich, moist and deep dark chocolate brownies with plump sweet prunes drunk and bloated on this boozy Marsala…
It is also ‘Fairtrade’ week so as a nod to the chaps at Green & Blacks and a toast to the founding of the Fairtrade Foundation I urge you to use their Fairtrade chocolate here or another equally good natured product. This basic brownie recipe (minus the prunes) is courtesy of Bill Granger and is one I’ve been meaning to attempt. Warming - they are very rich!
Marsala soaked Prune and Chocolate Chunk Brownies
Makes about 18-20 large ones
- 350g caster sugar
- 80g Green & Blacks Cocoa powder
- 60g plain flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 4 eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 200g unsalted butter, melted
- 200g Green & Blacks dark cooking chocolate, chopped
- 140g pitted prunes
- 4 tbsp marsala
- Begin by soaking the prunes in the marsala for about 6 hours of overnight - the longer you do this the more they will absorb the booze so the less you will have to waste!
- Preheat the oven to 160°C and grease and line a brownie tin (mine was)
- Sieve the flour, baking powder and cocoa and mix with the sugar.
- Add the melted butter, eggs, vanilla and stir to combine.
- Chop the prunes into big chunks and add with the chopped chocolate and mix.
- Spoon into the lined brownie tin and bake for 40 minutes or less for an molten centre.
- Leave to cool in the tin before removing to a wire rack and slicing into decadent chunks.
You don’t have to use a Coquine squash here - butternut or any other meaty variety will do- but the animated colour was just so bright and vibrant to resist. The sun was finally glowing today to mark the 1st March (already! where has time gone?) so it seemed appropriate to reflect this.
This soup is like a bowl of spicy chilli flecked lava with wonderful flavours. Butternut squash is the king of soup ingredients I think as it creates such a wonderful silky texture. Feel free to use half stock and half coconut milk here for a deeper coconut flavour and an even creamier texture. I didn’t purely as I didn’t have enough to hand.
NOTE: For both garnish and if using in addition to stock, use a thick good quality coconut milk. The cheap varieties in the ethnic sections of many supermarkets are always better value and are thicker and creamier.
- 1 large squash
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
- 1 red chilli (medium hot or half a hot one…depends on taste), chopped
- 3-4cm piece ginger, grated
- 1 tbsp black mustard seeds
- 1 fresh Kaffir lime leaf
- 700ml hot chicken stock
- 1 lime
- Bunch coriander
- Coconut milk (to garnish or use 350ml stock and 350ml coconut milk. and half coconut milk for a creamier soup)
- 2 tbsp desiccated coconut
- Heat a splash of oil in a saucepan and gently soften the onion for about 5 minutes.
- Once soft, add the garlic, ginger, chilli and mustard seeds and fry for a few more minutes until the flavours have combined.
- Meanwhile, peel and deseed the squash reserving the seeds. Chop into chunks and add to the pan and combine with the onion mix.
- Add the stock (if you like you can use half stock half coconut milk) and the lime leaf and some seasoning and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 15minutes until the squash is soft.
- Remove from the heat and discard the lime leaf. Blend until fine and smooth with a hand blender. Add the juice from the lime and all but a handful of coriander and bend again.Taste to check the seasoning and keep warm.
- Heat a frying pan until hot. Remove any pith from the reserved seeds and fry in a tsp of oil for a few minutes. Add the desiccated coconut and fry until toasted. Remove from the heat.
- To serve, fill warm soup bowls with the soup, drizzle with some coconut milk and garnish with the toasted seeds and extra coriander.
I served mine with some warm charred flatbreads (see here) spiked with Nigella seeds and smothered in butter.
I’ve done it. I’ve finally narrowed down my favourite type of cuisine (well nearly). After a recent dinner time conversation with a friend it remained mutually concluded that choosing your death row dish is too ambitious a commitment. Top contenders include a creamy and decadent risotto or a homely fish pie but its still a hard call. However, cuisine and flavour I can conclude on. While I adore classic french food, on the opposite side is my love of Moroccan and middle Eastern style foods and ingredients. Think Ottelenghi. The use of spice adds so much flavour to satisfy any demanding taste buds. The dishes are filling and hearty but in a way that retains a light, fresh and (importantly for me) healthy style. Exciting spices and fresh ingredients keep my recipes quirky and the mix of hot and cold make it perfect for all seasons.
I still haven’t made it to Morocco however….yet…
Chilli and Coriander Roasted Sweet Potatoes
- 1 giant or 2 normal sweet potatoes
- 1/2 hot red chilli (seeds retained if you dare)
- Bunch of coriander
- 1 tsp black mustard seeds
- 2 top quality lamb leg steaks
- 1 tbsp spice mix (see here)
- Generous pinch smoked paprika
- 1-2 tbsp olive oil
- Lime yoghurt (see here)
Green Nigella seed salad
- 1/2 cucumber
- 1 bag rocket
- Handful of mangetout
- 1 avocado
- 1/2 lemon, juice
- 1 tbsp Nigella seeds
- Preheat the oven to 200°C. For the potatoes, par boil until just tender but don’t water log (about 3-4 minutes). Drain and leave to steam a little. Season and drizzle with a little light oil and sprinkle with the mustard seeds. Roast for about 30-35 minutes until crispy.
- Marinade the lamb in the spices and oil for as long as possible but remove from the fridge and leave a room temperature at least 30 minutes before cooking.
- For the salad, peel the cucumber in thin strips. Sprinkle with a little salt and leave to drain in a colander for about 5-10 minutes. Then rinse lightly under cold water and leave to dry.
- Blanch the mange tout in boiling water and refresh in cold water and drain.
- Slice the avocado and sprinkle with a little lemon juice.
- To make the salad, combine the rocket, avocado, cucumber and mange tout. Sprinkle with the nigella seeds and only when ready to serve, squeeze over the lemon juice.
- To cook the steaks, heat a frying pan until hot. Add about 1 tsp olive oil (not extra virgin - the burning temperature is much lower and it will burn!). If a thick layer of fat on your steaks, cook this out with the steak on its side for a few minutes first before cooking the steaks to your liking. I usually do about 2-2 1/2 minutes per side for a 2cm thick steak. Leave to rest for about 5 minutes in foil to keep in the juices.
- Chop the chilli finely with the fresh coriander. When ready to serve, combine roasted potatoes, chilli, coriander. Serve with the dressed salad.
- Slice the steaks in thick finger like strips and pour over the resting juices. Serve alongside the salad and potatoes with some cooling lime yoghurt. Garnish with extra coriander if you like.
I completely understand that black pudding is not for everyone’s palate or psychological well being. However I loose my reluctant understanding for the folk that have never sampled this fine delicacy but screw up their faces with such sincere disapproval as if instead I had announced my chosen career path as a stripper! (Case #1, my sister. And we’ll soon know if she’s actually been reading my blog if I hear her wining tones at this comment). If you’ve never tried black pudding then who knows- you could have wasted years rejecting something delicious so this recipe is a fine way to start.
I usually default away from making cliche recipes in my desperate need to experiment at any occasion that calls for food but sometimes I must admit you can’t beat the satisfaction and comfort of a classic. And, lets face it, they exist for a reason and black pudding and pea really is a classic example of two deliciously matched soul partners of the food world. Peas are sweet and fresh which is the perfect harmony for the fatty and rich black pudding. What could be more unfussy and simple than a pile of minted pea puree with a crispy fried slice of black pudding resting lazily on top….
- A bowl of peas (a good handful per person)
- Small bunch of mint, leaves picked
- Knob of butter
- Black pudding slices (1-2 slices per person)
- 1 apple (serves 2 people)
- Lemon juice
- Boil the peas for a few minutes and then drain.
- Place in a food processor with some generous seasoning the knob of butter and the mint leaves and blend to a puree adding a little warm stock or boiling water to loosen to the desired consistency. Alternatively, without a processor you could eat this as a coarse pea mash which would be equally as delicious.
- Cut your apple into matchsticks with a sharp knife and set aside in a bowl with a little squeeze of lemon juice to prevent it turning brown and a little seasoning.
- Heat a frying pan until hot and add a tiny drop of oil if you wish. Fry the black pudding for a few minutes on each side until crispy and cooked through.
- Serve on top of your warm pea puree and top with a handful of the crunchy apple matchsticks.
- Drizzle with a little oil and a scattering of mint leaves and serve.
If you’ve been converted to black pudding then here are a few more of my favourite delicious ingredients that go well with it:
- Butternut squash
- Blue cheese
- Pear, apple
- Roast pork, belly is good
- Thyme, rosemary
- Eggs (especially little fried quails eggs)
- Chicken, rabbit, monkfish (stuffed with black pudding)
- Oh and of course, a fry up…..
Black pudding stuffed chicken in a mushroom and red wine sauce, wet polenta and garlic kale (Serves 4)
- 4 free range chicken thighs, skin on, bone removed
- 4 chicken drumsticks.
- 2-3 large thick slices of black pudding
- A few rosemary sticks, leaves picked and chopped
- Thyme, leave picked
- 1 red onion, chopped
- 1 large glass red wine
- Stock - beef for a rich sauce, chicken for a lighter one
- 1 handful of dried wild mushrooms
- 150g quick cook polenta
- 400ml milk
- Knob of butter
- 20g grated parmesan
- 1 garlic clove, chopped finely
- Preheat the oven to 180°C. To start, heat the milk and the same amount of water in a sauce pan and add a few peppercorns and a bay leaf. Just before it comes to the simmer remove from the heat and leave to infuse to use in the polenta later.
- Crumble the black pudding into a bowl and add the thyme. Mash until paste-like. Open up the chicken thighs and stuff a spoonful of the black pudding inside and roll up. You can secure these with the rosemary sticks if you wish. Season the skin well. Stuff this black pudding mix under the skin of the drumsticks too and season.
- Fry the red onion in a little oil until soft and then add the rosemary leaves. Add the red wine and simmer briefly before adding the mushrooms which will soften in the liquid and remove from the heat
- Place in a casserole dish and add the chicken pieces so they fit tightly. Add enough stock to come most of the way up the sides of the chicken so that the chicken can poach and roast gently as it cooks being careful not to pour it over the skin or you won’t get a crispy skin (we can’t have that!)
- Place in the oven and cook for about 30-40 minutes until the chicken is golden, cooked through and the sauce is bubbling away nicely.
- Meanwhile, tip the kale into boiling water for a matter of 30 seconds to wilt but drain it quickly while still bright green, soft and full or nutrients. Leave to drain the excess moisture. Heat a little oil in your frying pan from before and gently fry your garlic over a very low heat being careful not to burn it. Add the kale and a knob of butter and stir to combine. Set aside to keep warm.
- I suggest leaving the polenta until last minute as it won’t wait so see to the kale first and then the chicken. Once the chicken is cooked remove from the sauce and leave to rest in a warm place. The sauces thickness with vary depending on how much stock you added but to thicken (which is what I needed to do) mix a tbsp of butter and flour in a mug until you have a paste. Whisk this paste into the red wine sauce until smooth and the sauce will begin to thicken without being lumpy. Set aside to keep warm.
- Before you cook the polenta, make sure you’re ready to go -plates warming, guests hungry, wine open and aerating!
- Drain the milk from earlier and bring to the simmer. Whisk the polenta in a steady stream into the milk and stir continuously as it will thicken immediately. Let it bubble for a minute until smooth and creamy. Stir in the butter and cheese and some generous seasoning (it will need salt) and taste.
- Spoon into bowls immediately and top with a chicken thigh and drumstick each and a generous spoonful of the mushroom sauce.
- Sit aside some warm garlicky kale and serve on a wild and windy evening with a bold punchy glass of red.
WINE RECOMMENDATION: This weekend I tried Waitrose’s Vina Valdivieso Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon from the Maipo Valley. It was bold and had lovely dark berry and fruit flavours and some menthol notes to it. Delicious with the rich black pudding.
I can’t actually decide if leftover risotto turned morphed in arancini is actually better than risotto…? See what you think
- Leftover pea and mint risotto, chilled (or any other risotto)
- 1 egg, beaten
- Plain flour
- Grated parmesan
- Good melting cheese e.g. mozzarella, tallegio etc
- Sunflower oil for frying
- 1 large ripe avocado
- Handful of chopped mint leaves
- 1 lemon
- Get 2 clean shallow bowls ready. Place the egg in one, the flour in another and the breadcrumbs, parmesan and some seasoning in the other.
- Roll your chilled risotto into balls (mine were about golf ball size) placing a small piece of your melting cheese in the middle if you like.
- Roll each in first the flour, then the egg and finally coat in the cheesy breadcrumbs. If you want a thicker coating repeat in the egg and breadcrumbs. If not, place aside on a plate and repeat with the rest before chilling (the arancini that is…feel free to chill too).
- Preheat the oven to 180°C for later. I fried my arancini in shallow oil but they are delicate (unless you made a very stodgy dry risotto to start with- to avoid this see tips here). If you have a deep fryer fry each arancini until golden. If not, fry in shallow oil until crisp. Place in a the oven to warm through to the middle while you make the puree.
- Scoop out the ripe flesh from your avocado and place in a food processor with some seasoning and a splash of lemon juice. Blend until thick, glossy and smooth - feel free to add flavours here you like. I added some mint leaves but lime, coriander, chilli all work well depending on what flavour your arancini are.
- Once ready, serve your crispy and melt in the middle arancini on top of your silky puree with a scattering of fresh mint.
I adore this Asian-flavoured dressing! Its originally from ‘Jamie At Home’ (with a little adaptation) to dress his winter roast squash and duck salad which I must admit is one of my foodie downfalls. I just cannot CANNOT resist seconds, thirds and usually fourths. Much of its moreish teasing comes from this powerful killer dressing. Here I used it to coat some warm and obligingly absorbant noodles, mixed with some crunchy peanuts for texture and topped with a hearty piece of moist fish and crispy ginger strips. Shamefully I devoured mine with a fork. However- after a recent outing for a sushi lunch, I must admit my chop stick skills are progressing. Slowly.
- 1-2 large limes
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- 1 red chilli, finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, grated/finely crushed
- Bunch coriander
- 2 spring onions
- Large knob of ginger
Fish and noodles
- 2 seabass fillets (or anything white fish e.g. seabream, cod, haddock)
- 2 dried noodles nests/ rice noodles
- 6 raw king prawns
- Handful of mange tout
- Handful roasted salted peanuts
- Knob ginger
- Sunflower oil for frying
- Start with the ginger so it has time to dry out as much as possible before frying. Finely slice the ginger into thin strips or matchsticks. Dry out between two sheets of kitchen roll and set aside.
- Make the dressing. Squeeze the lime juice and zest of 1 lime into a jam jar. Add just under the same amount of extra virgin olive oil. Add the sesame oil, soy, sugar, chilli and garlic. Grate in the ginger and finely chop the green tops of the spring onions and add these. Add a small handful of chopped coriander leaves and then place the lid on the jar and shake to mix. Adjust the taste to your liking, adding more soy for seasoning and more lime for that kick.
- Chop the remaining spring onions and coriander and set aside in a bowl with the peanuts to garnish later.
- For the crispy ginger, heat a shallow layer of sunflower oil in a pan. Shallow fry the ginger for about 30 seconds or so until golden brown. Spoon out onto kitchen to drain and season with salt. Leave aside to crisp.
- Bring a saucepan of light stock to the simmer and get a frying pan over a highish heat. Simmer and cook the noodles for about 5 minutes throwing in your mange tout towards the end.
- Meanwhile, cook your seasoned sea bass fillets, skin side down, for about 3 minutes until a crispy skin forms. Turn for the remaining minute to cook through and add the prawns and cook, for a matter of a minute, until pink.
- Once the noodle are cooked drain them quickly while retaining a little of the starchy cooking water and return to the pan. Add the dressing and mix until it is coated and absorbed.
- Add a handful of the coriander, peanut and spring onion mix, saving a handful for the top.
- Spoon the noodles into large bowls, top with the fish and prawns. Scatter with the remaining peanuts, coriander and spring onion garnish and top with the crispy ginger.
This was a last minute creation with the leftover lime curd and egg whites from my Mojito Cake. The lime curd was criminally moreish to waste and after smothering it liberally on warm toasted sourdough for breakfast I still had a healthy jar of this nectar to use up. With the leftover egg whites from the recipe and an orphaned sheet of buttery puff pastry mingling in the fridge, I thought I’d put a tweak on this usual culprit recipe that always seems to remind me of Nigel Slater’s ‘Toast’. Pre-bake your puff pastry case, fill it with lime curd, whisk you egg whites and smother on top and….(naturally…in the voice of Sue Perkins) BAKE!
Makes 1 pie
- 1/2 quantity of lime curd (see here)
- 3 egg whites
- 170g caster sugar
- 1 sheet puff pastry
- Preheat the oven to 200°C. Line a greased tart tin with the sheet of puff pastry and press the pastry into the mould. Prick all over with a fork and line with greaseproof paper. Now fill with baking beans.
- Bake blind for 20 minutes then remove the beans and cook for a further 5 until lightly golden and the base is cooked.
- Whisk the egg whites in a large, very clean bowl until soft peaks form. Add the caster sugar, spoon by spoon, whisking in between until stiff, glossy and velvety peaks form.
- Fill the tart shell with the lime curd and spoon over the meringue. Spread out evening and then use a fork to create some height and textured peaks to the meringue which will crisp up on cooking.
- Bake at 180°C for about 15-20 minutes until set and browned.
Over the weekend I rather indulged in a culinary sense and selfishly used the excuse of a work birthday to make a cocktail inspired cake. After all, I do work at a wine company and it was only natural that booze should appear (albeit subtly) in any birthday creation to grace the office for the prying eyes and hopeful stomachs of the hungry workers. The rum I used was subtle but by all means spoon a few generous splashes over the warm cooked cakes once baked and allow to soak willingly into the sponge whilst cooling….
I have been wanting to try my hand at homemade curd for a while so now seemed like the perfect time! This cake recipe is loosely based on the one by John Whaite (from GBBO 2012) where I borrowed the curd measurements. However, the rest of the cake recipe I altered to my own tastes. But thanks John- the idea was yours.
NOTE: The quantities for the lime curd make double the amount you’ll need for this cake - unless of course you make 4 sponges and make it an extortionate 4 layered number. But making this quantity is easier than halving egg yolks and for me, extra curd and 3 spare egg whites equals one thing- ‘Lime Meringue Pie’.
Serves 1 small office of hungry workers
- 220g self raising flour
- 220g caster sugar
- 220g butter
- 4 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1-2 tbsp rum (I used honey rum)
- Pinch baking powder
- 250ml lime juice
- 125g unsalted butter, cubed
- 3 egg yolks
- Zest 1 lime
- 175g caster sugar
- 25g cornflour
- 300ml double cream
- 100g icing sugar, sieved
- 1 tbsp rum
- Bunch mint leaves
- Start with the lime curd. Place the lime juice, zest and butter in a saucepan and melt over a low heat until combined.
- Whisk the egg yolks and the sugar in a bowl and then whisk in the cornflour until thick and creamy.
- Now, making sure you whisk continuously so you don’t get lime flavoured scrambled eggs, pour the hot lime and butter over the egg yolks whisking all the time until combined.
- Return the mixture to the pan and over a low heat, whisk continuously until it thickens (5-10mins). Keep whisking so the bottom doesn’t catch and scramble. Once thickened enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, spoon into a shallow dish. Cover with clingfilm and chill.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C and grease and line two 20cm cake tins. For the cake, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in 2 of the eggs and the vanilla and them sift in half the flour and combine.
- Add the remaining eggs and the rest of the flour and the baking powder. Mix in the rum and divide the mixture between the baking tins.
- Bake for 30 minutes until cooked. If soaking in rum, once cooked prick all over and spoon over a little rum and allow them to cool in their tins before removing.
- Meanwhile, whisk the double cream with the icing sugar until thickened but still floppy and light- don’t overmix. Chop the mint leaves and fold in with the rum.
- Once ready to assemble, place one sponge halve on your serving board. Spoon over a generous spoonful of lime curd. Layer on top half the cream and place the other sponge half on top.
- Mix the remaining cream with 2-3 tbsp of the lime curd and spoon into a piping bag (optional). Pipe a neat decoration of your choosing on top and scatter with the small pretty mint leaves from your bunch of mint!
An archived recipe I should have posted back in Autumn…pretend its Autumn and read on…
Slow cooked to perfection - plums are fashionably in season at the moment and duck is frankly deliciously tasty. It was a cold Autumnal evening. Need I say more….?
(Adapted from Jamie O)
- 4 duck legs
- 4 tbsp soy sauce
- 3 tsp five spice
- 2-3 star anise
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 red chilli, chopped
- 16 plums, halved and stoned
- 1 tbsp demerara sugar
- 2 spring onions, sliced
- Handful coriander, chopped
- 8 oz wild/brown rice
- 1 lime
- Marinade the duck legs in the soy, five spice, oil, star anise and cinnamon for as long as you can.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C and get a roasting tray ready.
- Place the chopped chillis, plums and sugar in the tray and drizzle over the marinade and mix well. Top with the duck legs, skin side up.
- Roast for 1-1/2 hours, turning the heat down after about 20-30 minutes once the skin is crisp and the fat has rendered a little. Alternatively, roast at a low 160-170°C for about 2 hours until the meat comes away from the bone and is tender.
- Meanwhile cook the rice. This is also lovely made with coconut milk (see here).
- Once the duck is ready, taste the sauce and adjust with soy to season and remove the cinnamon and star anise. Serve the rice topped with a duck leg and the roasted plums. Scatter with the sliced spring onions and coriander and a generous squeeze of lime.
A weekend of much need experimental cookery and kitchen therapy. I was craving an experiment in the kitchen and with the flat to myself, Julie & Julia playing away on repeat and the sun shining, this is what I churned out.When coming up with new recipe ideas and dishes I seem to find myself just thinking of my favourite flavours and seeing how I can wind them selfishly into the final product. This was wonderfully indulgent whilst being relatively healthy and undeniably tasty. The various textures keep it interesting and the strong flavours keep the healthy aspect well hidden.
I recently ventured to the ‘Wild Food Cafe’ (see here) tucked snuggly away in the Bohemian Neal’s Yard in Covent Garden. Located above the renound Neal’s Yard Remedies and around the corner from the infamous Neal’s Yard Diary it was sure to combine many of the local gems of the area that make Borough Market what it is. Oh and not to mention Monmouth Coffee tucked around the bend. As a ‘raw’ food cafe serving raw and healthy dishes the nutritious menu was right up my street. A menu that would have even the most devoted vegan speechless at the lack of opportunity for stereotypical complaining, I tried some interesting new delights (see below). So, I was inspired to do something back home in the raw style. I can see the attraction of having a raw food element in your diet. Gentle or little cooking maintains the important nutrients, but living a life on raw is unrealistic and downright boring if I’m honest. I was surprised not to have seen this ‘of-the-moment’ and stylish cauliflower couscous on the menu but its been on my ‘to cook’ list for long enough and now seemed like an opportune time to add texture to this lovely dish.
- 1 small shoulder lamb
- 1 sprig rosemary, leaves picked
- 1 sprig thyme, leave picked
- 2 garlic gloves, chopped
- 1 tbsp Ras el Hanout
- Olive oil
- 1 small glass white wine
- 1 red onion. quartered
- 400g peas
- Generous knob butter
- Bunch mint, leaves picked
- Vegetable stock
- Salt and pepper
- 300g cauliflower florets
- Large bunch mint, leave picked
- Large bunch coriander,
- 1 lemon/orange zest and juice
- 60g flaked almonds
- Salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 160°C. Place the red onion in the bottom of a roasting tin or a large casserole dish.
- Chop the rosemary, thyme and garlic finely together. Sprinkle the ras el hanout over the lamb with a few glugs of olive oil. Massage the spices into the meat and then add the herbs and garlic and coat the lamb.
- Place the lamb on top of the onion and pour the wine around the bottom. Cover the pan with a lid or cover with foil and roast for 3 hours. Top up with a little water now and again if drying to prevent the bottom catching. After this remove the lid/foil and turn the heat up to 180°C to brown the lamb.
- Once cooked, remove from the oven and leave to rest while you make the side dishes.
- For the ‘couscous’, toast the flaked almonds in a dry frying pan until lightly brown. Pulse in a food processor until fine and the texture of couscous and place in a large bowl.
- Pulse the cauliflower florets in the processor similarly until you form a couscous like texture. Tip into the bowl with the almonds.
- Chop the herbs finely and add with the citrus zest to the bowl. Add a squeeze of the citrus juice, season and stir to combine and set aside at room temperature.
- Once ready to serve, boil the peas for a few minutes in the stock. Transfer them to the food processor (reserving the stock) with the mint leaves and the butter. Season and add a little of the cooking stock to loosen and puree until smooth.
- Carve or pull the slow cooked lamb into chunks and serve on top of the warm pea puree with the couscous on the side.
Tomorrows leftovers fried until crispy in the warm hands of a soft flatbread topped with some lime yoghurt and salad is nearly as good as the main event!
A brief review…..The Wild Food Cafe, Neal’s Yard, Covent Garden
On entering the Bohemian cafe we were met with long, packed communal tables with happy chatting diners. The odd tyedye t-shirt, flowery head band and a more than average number of dreadlocked men mirrored the my initial expectations. After a helpful and sincere welcome from the team, we sat positioned next to some whirring suspect machines that we soon learned were churning away the homemade chocolate and nut butters of which I am a fan of and have made in the past- a good start. The menu was really interesting and original. We dined on a superfood salad containing a handful of delights. Courgette noodles coated provocatively in a punchy mango dressing and some powerful fresh pesto eagerly wrapped around some grainy quinoa were just a few of the surprises in this supersalad. Their devine sprouted wheat bread, toasted, was hearty, malt-like and dense whilst their pumpkin seed ‘cheese’ was on par with the flavours of my pumpkin seed butter but with a cheesy and characteristic tang. Goodness knows how that was created but their raw cookery courses run in house during the week are a good place to start. But don’t be deterred by salad…the hearty falafel burger or the generously portioned ‘raw’ chocolate torte made with avocado and cocoa will satisfy any sceptic. And folks…if you have a taste card like myself then its 2-4-1! It was a mere steal at £13 for the two of us for lunch.
Some relaxing blogging always starts the weekend off well. After a long week, it was nice to slow down and take my time over lunch instead of dashing home from work and being caped in my apron and up to my eyes in ingredients before I could even take off my coat! I love to constantly use different flavours and it really is the easiest thing to inspire a standard recipe by adding a few flavourful touches. If you haven’t got a stocked pantry of store cupboard ingredients then I highly recommend investing in a few essentials to be at hand and add to your cooking (see here). My store cupboard is by no means complete…storage space and budget don’t allow my dream pantry so for now I stick to the most useful ingredients.
This warming soup is smooth, creamy and cinnamon scented. Sweet potatoes have natural sweetness which goes really well with cinnamon and ingredients like maple syrup so the lime and cardamon yoghurt is a lovely fresh addition to top it off. Coconut flatbreads (just because) are heavenly.
- 800g sweet potato, peeled, chopped into chunks
- 2-3 garlic cloves
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 onion, chopped finely
- 2 pints of good, hot chicken or vegetable stock
Lime Cardamon Yoghurt
- 150g plain natural yoghurt
- 1/2 lime - zest and juice
- Few mint/coriander leaves
- 3-4 cardamon pods
- 15g dessicated coconut
- 75-80ml coconut milk/water
- 125g flour
- Salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 200°C. Peel and chop you sweet potatoes into chunky pieces and add to a large roasting tray. Throw in your garlic cloves, whole and unpeeled.
- Drizzle with a couple of generous tablespoons of olive oil or sunflower oil and scatter over the cumin seeds, cinnamon and some generous seasoning. Mix until coated in the spices and roast for 30 minutes. Toss half way through cooking.
- Meanwhile, sweat and soften the onion in a little oil in a saucepan over the hob and prepare your stock.
- Make the flatbreads by combining the flour, seasoning and coconut in a large bowl. Add in your liquid and mix with a fork until combined. Bring together to form a smooth dough, adding a little more liquid if needed. Knead for a few minutes and then set aside to rest.
- For the yoghurt, combine in a bowl with the lime juice, zest, finely chopped mint and some salt and pepper. Bash the cardamon pods to remove the seeds inside. Grind these as fine as you can in a pestle and mortar and add to the yoghurt. Stir to combine then set aside.
- Once the potatoes are ready remove from the oven and pick out the garlic cloves. Add the potatoes to the sweating onion. Squeeze the roasted and sweet garlic pulp from their skins and add with the potatoes.
- Add the stock and simmer for 5-10 minutes until the flavours are combined and the potatoes are really tender.
- Puree with a hand blender until silky and smooth. Add a little more stock to thin the soup if you like.
- Keep warm while you cook the flatbreads. Heat a frying pan over a high heat. Divide the dough into four equal pieces and roll each out thinly on a floured surface. Fry each in a the dry hot pan for a few minutes each side until a lightly charred and they begin to puff up slightly.
- Serve warm immediately (or keep warm in the oven) with a generous warming bowl of spiced soup drizzled with the fresh yoghurt.
Coconut is definitely up there in my top 5 favourite ingredients…go ahead and strand me on a dessert island with nothing but this hairy white fleshed treat (FYI..coconut oil also makes a great hair conditioner….I diverge). Keralan curries are notoriously flavoured with coconut along with the stereotypical scents of whole and ground spices. The curries here are different from the Northern region and much fresher for my tastes anyway. This fish curry is spicy but feels light and cleansing. Not stodgy and firey like some can often be.
As for my lime discovery. Once n a while I’ll have a foodie discovery and find an ingredient or cooking tool that just makes me smile and feel inspired. To name a handful off the top of my head…my first taste of black pudding, my first chai tea latte and perhaps (weirdly) my first devils-on-horseback one Christmas eve. I’m unsure whether its the low expectations of a food that make it all the more magical or the moment in which you eat it when you are desperately hungry which make it all the more enjoyable but everyone can name a few times they’ve eaten something memorable. So, fresh Kaffir lime leaves. I’ve only ever used the dried variety as often specified in recipes. After forking out my hard earned pennies for a tiny pot of these dried and parched leaves packaged pretentiously in fancy packaging, I pleasingly discovered the fresh type. Oh my. What a difference one green and chlorophyll packed leaf can make to a dish. I bought a packet of fresh lime leaves from my local Sainsburys (not cheaply when you think you’re buying leaves?) But WELL worth it. Popping just one (be gentle, their powerful) into my simmering and creamy coconut curry sauce for a matter of 15-20 minutes infused it with a fragrant, fresh and amazing flavour. After cutting up a lime for garnish, I aptly threw it aside- not needed here!
So my foodie followers. Find fresh leaves where you can and don’t skimp on them if you want the amazing flavour.
- 1 large onion
- 1 small red chilli, chopped finely
- 2cm piece of ginger, grated finely
- 2 tsp mustard seeds
- 2 tsp fenugreek seeds
- 1 tsp coriander seed
- 1 tsp chilli powder
- 1 tsp tumeric
- Bunch coriander, chopped
- 400ml coconut milk
- 200ml water (or see tip below for a light stock*)
- 1 Kaffir lime leaf OR 1/2 juice of a lime
- Handful of desiccated coconut
- 400gor about 2 white fish fillets, chopped into large 2inch chunks
- 12 raw tiger prawns (if bought in their shells- see tip below*)
- 1 tsp tamarind paste
- Handful of sugar snaps/mange tout/green beans enough for (3-4 people)
- Heat a little oil in a heavy based pan. Add the mustard, fenugreek and coriander seed and fry until beginning to pop and smell fragrant.
- Add the chopped onion and fry on a lowish heat for about 5 minutes until really soft and infused with the spicy flavour.
- Once soft, add the chilli and cook for a few more minutes before adding the ginger and doing the same.
- Add the dry spices and cook out for 1 minute or so.
- Add the coconut milk, the stock and that magic lime leaf.
- Simmer gently for about 10-15 minutes. You want to allow enough time to infuse the flavours of the spices and the lime but reduce the sauce until thicker and creamy.
- Once nearly at the desired consistency, add a handful or two of dessicated coconut and a handful or chopped coriander, saving most for garnish. Add the tamarind paste for sweetness.
- Throw in your vege but don’t overcook- keep it crisp.
- Add the fish and turn the heat down to a low simmer so you don’t boil it. Poach the fish gently in the sauce for about 3-4 minutes (don’t be tempted to overdo it- fish will cook so easily, you could even take it off the heat and leave it and it would cook). Add the prawns for the final few minutes until the fish turns opaque and just begins to flake. (If not using a Kaffir lime leaf, squeeze in 1/2 the juice of your lime here)
- Serve warm in large bowls with rice or naan bread. Garnish with extra chopped coriander and sliced spring onions if you like. A handful or two of cashew nuts wouldn’t go amiss here either.
A few tips
- Keep the fish chunky as you don’t want it to break up too much. Please don’t be tempted to cook the fish for too long. You want it just flaking but still moist.
- Similarly, don’t cook the hell out of the prawns. Overcooking can turn the juiciest and biggest of prawns into tiny, shrived and dry mouthfuls. They only need a minute or so until just turned pink
- ***If you buy your prawns shelled, don’t throw the shells away! Use that amazing flavour. Feel the shell (and heads if you’re lucky) from the prawns and set them aside. Fry the shells in a little oil until turning pink. Add a splash or white wine and simmer. Add some boiling water and simmer for about 5-10 minutes until fragrant. The amazing flavour from the shells will really make a difference. Sieve and discard the shells and use 200ml of this stock for your curry.
- Buy fresh Kaffir lime leaves- see above for reasons
- Use whole spices- they’ll really make a difference
- Use full fat coconut milk- it will be creamier and more indulgent. Light will work too but it may need further reduction.
And finally, enjoy…and don’t rub chili in your eye like I’ve just done.
I can never pin down my favourite cuisine when asked. However….one which I always seem to default to if I feel like a speedy, tasty meal which requires enough attention and time to satisfy my creative kitchen energy but not enough to have me slaving after a long day at work is Moroccan. I love this style of food. I nearly ventured to Marrakesh for a long weekend last year but sadly without success I cannot say this is totally authentic based on experience but the flavours are along the lines of those used.
I created these dishes as a (candidly) selfish means of using some of my favourite ingredients together in one final meal of 2013. This is all about assembly really….get all your components chopped or toasted or diced or chilled as per the ingredients list before you start and its a doddle. Simply a case of chucking everything together in a Jamie style approach at the last minute will guarantee to keep everything as fresh and crisp as possible!
- 4 lamb leg steaks
- 2 tbsp spice mix (toast 1tsp of each fennel, cumin, coriander and fenugreek seed, mustard seed with 1 cinnamon stick, 3 cardamon pods and 1 star anise in a dry frying pan until hot, fragrant and beginning to pop, remove and grind in a pestle and mortar until fine) If you don’t want to make one then use a good tbsp of Ras el Hanout which will also be delicious
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Large handful pistachio nuts (crushed finely in a pestle and mortar)
- 60g feta, crumbled
- 1/2 pomegranate- seeds picked
- 100g plain yoghurt
- 1 lime, juice and zest
Jeweled Rice Salad
- 6 oz wild or brown rice
- Handful of flaked almonds
- Handful of dried cranberries
- 1 orange, juice only
- Bunch coriander, chopped
- 3 spring onions, sliced
- 2 x red chicory
- 2 baby gems lettuces
- 1/2 cucumber, sliced thinly
- Start with the lamb. Massage with the oil, a little seasoning and the spice mix and leave to marinate at room temperature for about an hour.
- Next, start the rice salad. Cook your rice according to the instructions. Meanwhile, soak the dried cranberries in the juice from the orange for at least 20 minutes until they have plumped up a little (do this while the rice cooks and the lamb marinates). Chop your spring onions into slithers and toast your flaked almonds in a dry hot frying pan if you haven’t done so already.
- Once the rice has cooked, drain and tip back into the warm saucepan. Tip over the soaked cranberries and the remaining orange juice and keep warm with the lid on while you finish the rest of the components.
- Assemble the salad by tossing together the chicory leaves, lettuce leaves and the cucumber.
- Heat a frying pan until hot. Cook the lamb steaks for about 2 minutes on each side based on a thickness of about 2cm for medium. Once cooked, transfer to a sheet of foil, wrap tightly and leave to rest while you finish the salads.
- Mix the yoghurt with the lime juice and zest and place in a bowl on a serving platter.
- Mix the warm rice with the chopped coriander and spring onions in a serving dish and scatter over the toasted flaked almonds.
- When you are nearly ready to serve, dress the salad leaves lightly with a little fresh lemon juice and some olive oil and season lightly.
- Finally, once ready to serve, slice the lamb into finger width strips. Scatter the crushed pistachios on plate and coat the lamb strips in the nut crumbs. Arrange the lamb on a serving platter and drizzle over any resting juices. Scatter over the crumbed feta, the pomegranate seeds a few flecks of coriander and serve alongside the yoghurt.
Serve the salad, lamb and rice all together at room temperature straight away and devour immediately with a warm cup of peppermint tea if you like!
This cake is moreish, moist and had me (who has the most pathetic of sweet tooth) eyeing up my second piece as I licked the crumbs clean from my greedy fingers after my first piece. Its not as ‘coffee-ey’ as a traditional coffee and walnut sponge but the use of this Percol fine powdered espresso coffee works wonderfully to create a deep coffee background hum. Super fine and smooth and a good way to get your coffee cake hating friends to relish the joys of this treat.
Feel free to experiment a little here with the icing flavour or dried fruit. Figs or prunes would be effective for example instead of dates. Try soaking them in brandy, cognac or even rum first! Try flavourng your icing with cinnamon or cocoa for a mocha effect. However, I feel the icing needs to be coffee flavoured to really bring out the flavour in this cake!
1 small Cake
- 110g unsalted butter
- 220g caster sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 small eggs
- 75g ground almonds
- 100g self raising flour
- 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 12g cocoa powder
- 160ml strong coffee (I used Percol espresso powder), cooled slightly
- 65ml buttermilk
- 80g dates, sliced (reserve a few for decoration)
- 250g mascarpone
- 80g sieved icing sugar
- 1 tsp coffee mixed with a splash of boiling water.
- Preheat the oven to 190°C. Line and grease 2 cake tins. I used 2 small 6inch tins so the sponges were fairly thick. Make up the coffee and soak the dates in the hot liquid briefly if you like.
- Cream the butter and caster sugar together until fluffy. Whisk the eggs and vanilla and add, a bit at a time, until combined with the buttercream.
- Sieve together the bicarbonate, flour, almonds and cocoa and fold in to the egg mixture.
- Mix in the cooled coffee and the buttermilk to form a smooth batter and divide equally between the tins.
- Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes and then turn the temperature down to 180C°. Bake for a further 25-30 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
- Meanwhile, make the filling. In a large bowl beat the mascarpone with the icing sugar and add the coffee. Chill until needed.
- Make the syrup by mixing together about 1 tbsp of coffee with 50ml hot water and a tbsp of caster sugar.
- Once the cakes have cooked, remove from the oven and leave in their tins to cool for 10 minutes or so. Prick the cakes and spoon over the syrup and leave to cool completely.
- Once cooled, they are ready to ice. I could have got away with cutting each of my sponges in half horizontally to make a 4 tiered cake but do as you please. Divide the icing over the sponges.
- Decorate with some slices of dates and some crushed cocoa nibs if you like!