This is a delicious way to liven up a tender little lamb cutlet and turn it into something special for summer. Peas and mint are a dreamy combination and the vivid green, minty purée, sort of both sweet and savoury all at the same time is a heavenly blanket for the lamb. Add a zing of freshness with the easy bean salad, brightened up with shavings of fresh radish and summer is on the plate. Marinate the lamb in a fragrant bowl of crushed rosemary, lemon rind and olive oil and cook either on a barbeque or under a grill.

Serves Four

4 – 8 tender lamb loin chops
Handful Rosemary, crushed
1 or 2 cloves garlic, pounded to a paste
Rind of a lemon
Sea salt and black pepper

PEA PURÉE

200g petit pois peas
Tablespoon finely chopped mint
Sea salt and black pepper
Knob of butter or tablespoon olive oil
Dash of hot water

SALAD
250g stringless runner beans
4 radishes
100g baby broad beans, defrosted
Juice half a lemon
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt & black pepper
Fresh mint and oregano, finely chopped
30g barrel aged feta cheese

First put the rosemary lemon, oil, seasoning and lamb in a bowl and toss together. Leave to marinate for anything from an hour to overnight.

Finely shred the beans. Slip the broad beans out of their skins and put into a bowl. Put the runner beans into a dry saucepan with a,little salt and cook without any water over a gentle heat until hot, tender and cooked through. Put into the bowl with the broad beans. Add the finely sliced radish, lemon juice, olive oil and season. Finely add lots of freshly chopped mint and oregano and crumble in the feta.

Heat the grill or have the barbeque ready. Grill the chops for a few minutes on each side until just cooked but still pink in the centre. Rest for five or ten minutes in a warm place. Whilst cooking boil the peas until tender, drain and then using a hand held blender blitz to a purée with the mint and the oil or butter. Season well.

Serve the chops on the pea purée and salad with some buttered new potatoes. A drizzle of olive oil enhanced with some crushed oregano and a squeeze of lemon, seasoned with sea salt and black pepper finishes this off nicely.

image

SERVES SIX

500g pack good quality Scottish Smoked Salmon
1 heaped tablespoon fine capers
75g kalamata olives, stoned and chopped
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds, toasted
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 bag washed rocket
2 handfuls fresh basil
2 preserved lemons, finely chopped, discarding the flesh
extra virgin olive oil
Sumac
Black pepper

Make the pesto by blending the preserved lemon, garlic, half the bag of rocket, the basil, pumpkin seeds, seasoning and enough olive oil to make it slack. Check the seasoning and set aside.

Lay the salmon out artfully on a serving platter. Scatter over the capers, olives, pesto and finish with the rest of the rocket and a good dusting of sumac.

Serve as a starter or light lunch with some crusty bread.

image

Much as I love a pudding I try not to indulge too often for obvious reasons! But there are times when one is called for the as most of us have rather busy lives it can be unrealistic to expect to have the time to spend hours in the kitchen.

Puff pastry is a great friend of the busy cook. It is one of the few things that really is worth buying, rather than making yourself. Just be sure to buy an all butter one, it truly is a time when you get what you pay for.

These little tarts can be made with or without the frangipane but I adore this soft, almond treat that whizzes up quickly in a food processor and partners so well with any sort of fruit and is brilliant with the pastry. It will spread out a bit whilst cooking but that really doesn’t matter. It adds a rather lovely home made, rustic effect and those cruncy edges are so delicious!

Use any good eating apple but I like ones with a red skin as they look very pretty. You want a good, crisp one with a sharp flavour. And in season a good English variety is a must.

Makes Six Tarts

One packet of all butter puff pastry
about 4 red skinned apples
100g softened unsalted butter
100g caster sugar
100g ground almonds
1 large egg, beaten
Vanilla extract or powder
A little melted butter
Extra sugar for dusting

First make your frangipane. Easiest in a small food processor. Put the butter and sugar in and whizz until well blended. Add the egg, whizz again and finally the ground almonds. You could if you like add the rind of a lemon or a dash of vanilla extract.

Take your apples and cut into quarters. Remove the core and slice thinly into half moons. Put in a bowl and squeeze over some lemon juice. Toss so all the apple slices have had lemon juice on them to stop discolouration.

Have ready a large baking sheet and pre-heat the oven to 180c.

Roll out the pastry very thinly and then cut into six even rectangles. Put on the baking tray BEFORE you top them. The length is up to you but the width should be just wider than your apple slices.
Spread a good dollop of frangipane onto each rectangle of pastry and cover with overlapping slices of apple. Brush melted butter over each one and sprinkle with caster sugar.

Bake in the oven for about fifteen minutes or until golden brown and serve hot, warm or cold with some creme anglaise, ice cream or cream.

For the creme anglaise, see my recipe for lemon verbena creme anglaise and replace the lemon verbena with vanilla.

image

Pork tenderloin is a brilliant cut for a quick but special supper. So versatile – it spices up wonderfully in a hot asian curry, is a great friend of the stir fry but is equally good with European flavours. Use it as you would a chicken breast. Cook all the way through but only just. It will toughen up if overcooked and should be just very slightly pink in the centre but never rare.

Trim your fillet of any sinew – this will shrink on cooking and is tough so you want to get rid of that with a sharp knife. I love this easy recipe that calls on the very British combination of parsley, sage and lemon, all mashed into some butter that melts in the centre of the pork. I’ve used marsala here (a little Italian coming into the mix) but cider would work beautifully as well.

Serves Four

2 x 350 – 400g pieces of free-range pork tenderloin, trimmed of any sinew
60g unsalted butter, slightly softened
2 tablespoons finely chopped sage
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
Rind of two lemons
Sea salt and black pepper
A little rapeseed oil
200ml fresh chicken stock
100ml marsala (dry)
100ml soured cream or creme fraiche
2 teaspoons clear honey
Some more finely chopped sage and parsley

Pre-heat the oven to 180c

Mash the butter and herbs together and add the lemon rind. Season well.

Take your pork and make a slit down the centre. Go about three quarters of the way through. Bat out slightly to even it out. Divide the butter down the centre of each pork tenderloin and then roll the pork around it, securing with a couple of cocktail sticks.

Have a baking tray heating in the oven. Heat a shallow pan with a little rapeseed oil and seal the pork on all sides. Remove and season well. Put into the oven for fifteen to twenty minutes or until slightly pink in the centre. It will carry on cooking whilst it rests in a warm place out of the oven.

While the pork is cooking, clean out the shallow pan if need be with some kitchen roll (only if there are any bits that look burnt) and add the marsala.

Bubble for a few minutes until well reduced and then add the chicken stock. Simmer hard again until reduced and looking syrupy. Make sure you stir in any bits that stick to the side of the pan. Add in the cream/creme fraiche and add the herbs and seasoning. Add the honey and taste to check the seasoning. If the sauce is a little thick you can let it down with a dash of boiling water.

Once the pork has rested for about ten minutes serve with crushed new potatoes or a nice mash. Swiss chard or green beans goes well with this.

Serves Six

30g watercress leaves (removed from the thicker stalks)
10g flat leaf parsley
10g fresh basil
5 – 10g fresh mint
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1 heaped teaspoon sea salt
Black pepper
5 cornichons
2 teaspoons small capers
100ml rapeseed oil (or extra virgin or half and half)
Good squeeze lemon juice

You need a mini chopper for this or the smallest bowl in our food processor. Or you can do it by hand in a big pestle and mortar but you will have to finely chop everything first.

Put all the ingredients except the oil and lemon into your chopper. Add a quarter of the oil and whizz to blend. Add more oil and blitz together until you have a good consistency. Check the seasoning and add lemon juice to taste. Finally add the rest of the oil, depending on how thick you like your salsa verde.

Keeps in the fridge in a jar for just under a week as long as you cover the top with a fine layer of oil.

Serve with baked or pan fried trout or salmon. Wonderful with new potatoes, puy lentils or dunk some sourdough in it.

If serving with beef then some sharp little finely chopped shallot would make a nice addition.

image

The kitchen can be witness to some miraculous tricks of cookery alchemy. Any souffle, savoury or sweet is one of those dishes that undergoes a magical process once in the oven. As long as you follow a few basic rules and make sure that there is minimal time from oven to plate you shouldn’t go too far wrong.

Souffles should, ideally rise beautifully straight with a traditional ‘top hat’ effect. If it doesn’t exactly work like that it really doesn’t matter. The important thing is that it rises, is gossamer light and packed with flavour. Be generous with the seasoning and hold your nerve. The oven door must remain firmly shut until the pinger goes off. A lovely clean, clear glass door is an asset here as it is useful to be able to see how your golden miracles are progressing.

I am using a good, mature cheddar cheese here. It works beautifully and is wonderful with the addition of the herbs but you could use gruyere, parmesan or even blue cheese.

Serves Four

Four ramekin dishes
Butter
Handful of white breadcrumbs

20g unsalted butter
20g plain flour
150ml whole milk
50g mature cheddar cheese, grated
2 large eggs, separated
1 teaspoon dijon or english mustard
Tablespoon of finely chopped chives
Tablespoon of fresh thyme leaves, stripped from their stalks
Sea salt & black pepper

1 small bulb of fennel
1 small red skinned crisp apple
Fennel fronds (from the fennel bulb)
Flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Lemon juice
Rapeseed oil
Sea salt & black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 200c and put a baking sheet in it.
Butter the ramekins and toss the breadcrumbs around to stick to the sides.

Make the sauce first. Take a small saucepan and put in the milk, flour and cubed butter. Put on the heat and using a whisk stir constantly until thick and bubbling. Cook for another minute or two and add a good amount of seasoning and the mustard.

Remove from the heat and add in the cheddar cheese and the mustard. Stir until melted and as it all starts to cool add the egg yolks and the herbs, whisking well until you have a very thick and smooth sauce. Transfer this to a bowl and allow to cool.

Whisk the egg whites until the soft peak stage. Once the sauce is not longer hot (it doesn’t have to be very cold). Roughly fold a quarter of the egg whites to loosen it all up and then gently fold in the rest of the egg white. A metal tablespoon is best for this. Once the egg whites are all folded in check the seasoning.

Divide between the ramekin dishes. Run your thumb around the edge to create the ‘top hat’ effect and to help the souffle rise evenly.

Put into the oven and set the timer to 10 minutes.

Make the fennel and apple salad by finely shredding the fennel and slicing the apple very finely and if the pieces are big, cutting in half lengthways. Toss immediately in lemon juice to prevent oxidisation and then add rapeseed or extra virgin olive oil to taste. Season well and add roughly chopped flat leaf parsley and the fennel fronds. Divide between your plates, that you will have ready and waiting.

Once the souffles are well risen and golden brown (they may need an extra couple of minutes but judge through the glass window of the oven) remove from the oven and serve immediately. The will sink fast so speed is of the essence.

If you have some chopped walnuts it would be nice to toast some and add them to the salad.

image

Makes 10

225g self-raising flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
50g unsalted butter
25g caster sugar
1 egg
Approx 100ml milk

Pre-heat the oven to 220c

Measure the flour and baking powder into a large bowl and whisk together.

Cut the cold butter into cubes and add to the flour. Rub in well using your fingertips and keeping it well aerated. The mix will eventually resemble fine breadcrumbs. Add the caster sugar.

Whisk the egg in a measuring jug and add milk until you have 150ml. Pour most of it into the flour mixture and using a knife, cut this way and that until you have a soft dough. You will have some milk and egg left over but just use enough until the dough is nice and soft but not too sticky.

Knead briefly on a very lightly floured work surface. Then gently roll out until about 2cm thick. Have a greased baking tray ready. Use a 2″ cutter and cut out rounds of the dough. Place on the tray. Keep the same way up all the time as you will get a much better rise.

Once they are all on the tray, brush the tops with some of the rest of the milk and egg. Bake for ten minutes or until they are golden and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Cool on a wire rack if you aren’t eating them straight away, warm! Top with clotted or whipped double cream and your favourite jam.

This recipe is a Mary Berry one and I have never found a better way to make scones.

image

Crab says Summer like nothing else. After the recent blistering week that lulled us all into a false sense of weather security things have gone somewhat downhill in that department, but the evenings are light, leaves are unfurling and warm days suddenly don’t seem so far off.

One summer expedition that has been a long time in the planning started on Sunday, when our great friend Julian Jackson set off from Lands End to make the epic journey all the way up the British Isles to John O’Groats. What makes this even more special and challenging is not just that he is going on foot, but that he is blind. The aim of the ‘Big Blind Walk’ as he has so aptly christened his adventure is to raise awareness of sight loss and to support research into prevention and cure.

I thought I would post a recipe for each county he travels through. Cornwall is obviously first and what better Cornish ingredient to choose than my favourite crab. Nowhere does a crab sandwich taste better than on a windswept Cornish beach but the weather being as it is, I thought a warming chowder might hit the spot and I hope you will try this delicious, luxurious but very easy recipe that is a big favourite in our house when crab is at its British best.

Should you enjoy this recipe and would like to donate in support of Julian’s Big Blind Walk please visit bigblindwalk.com or follow the link on Instagram #bigblindwalk

Serves Four

2 tablespoons olive oil or rapeseed oil
1 fennel bulb, finely chopped
1 leek, finely chopped
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped
30ml of pernod
100g tub white crab meat
100g tub brown crab meat
OR meat from 1 medium sized crab
1 litre vegetable/chicken stock
300ml double cream
4 ripe red tomatoes, peeled, deseeded and chopped
Fresh flat leaf parsley, dill, chervil, chives, any or all finely chopped
Salt & pepper

Gently heat the oil and fry and fennel, leek, shallot, garlic and chilli until softened. Add the pernod and simmer to cook off the alcohol for a minute or two.

Add the stock and simmer for a few minutes. Add the brown crab meat, stirring until well combined. Stir in the cream, white crab meat, tomatoes and parsley. Check the seasoning and serve in warm bowls.

Crusty bread is all you need for a nice lunch, with maybe a green salad to follow.

image

I recently spent some time helping out a few of the lovely nannies from Freckles Childcare Agency with some cooking skills. This cake was one of the recipes we made and I only wish I had come across it before. It is the model of simplicity – just throw everything in a bowl, whisk well and pop in the oven. Less than half a hour later you have a scrumptious cake, light as a feather and all that remains to do is the fun of whipping up an indulgent cream cheese icing. It’s a great recipe to have up your sleeve for those times when you want a really yummy cake but don’t have a lot of time to make one.

How you finish it is up to you but I suspect that no one will burst into tears at the sight of some good old fashioned chocolate flake liberally adorning the top. Alternatively, just fill the centre and finish with a sensible dusting of icing sugar.

This recipe uses an American cup measure – if you don’t have one a medium sized mug will do.

1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1 cup caster sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup sunflower oil
1 large egg

ICING

300g icing sugar, sieved
125g cream cheese (use philadelphia as it holds up better, some go a bit soft)
50g softened unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
(If you are icing the top of the cake as well you may like to make a bit more icing, eg 400g icing sugar, 175g cream cheese and 70g butter)

Pre-heat the oven to 180c

Grease and line two 8″ sandwich tins

Measure all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Whisk well until the mix is smooth. Divide evenly between the two tins.

Bake in the oven for 20 – 25 minutes or until the cake is springy to the touch.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tins.

While the cakes are cooling, whisk the icing ingredients together. If you like you could add cocoa powder to make a chocolate icing.

Either fill just the middle of the cake or use the icing to fill both the centre and put on the top. Sprinkle over crumbled chocolate flakes (two is about right) or dust the top of the cake with icing sugar.

image

Everyone needs a go to quick supper recipe that is light, healthy, easy to make and preferably using as few pans as possible. I am currently loving using all the wild garlic that is growing rapidly in my garden. I can hardly keep up with the supply! Pesto is one obvious use for this delicious leaf but I also love to use it where I might otherwise have reached for some spinach. Here it is a natural fit with a spanking fresh piece of cod loin. Pesto over the top, wilted leaves underneath and the courgetti just adds that bit of necessary mildness that calms the who thing down. The tomatoes are something that you could leave out but I love the extra splash of colour that they give. If you need more, a side of some crispy fried potatoes is perfect.

For Four

4 pieces of cod loin (about 150g – 175g each)
Rapeseed oil for frying
3 medium sized courgettes, spiralized or shredded with a julienner
Two handfuls of washed wild garlic leaves (or use spinach)
Four heaped tablespoons of wild garlic pesto, made with dill as well
Four small tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper
Dill and extra pine nuts to garnish

Heat a frying pan with some rapeseed oil and have four plates ready warming in the oven.

Season the cod well and fry until golden on each side and only just cooked through. Remember that they will keep cooking whilst you keep them warm. How long very much depends on the thickness of the fish but approximately two to three minutes on each side should be about right.

Keep the fish warm on a plate in a VERY low oven. Quickly heat more rapeseed oil (about a tablespoonful) and add the courgette and tomatoes. Stir around fpr a minute or so and then add in the wild garlic to just wilt. Season and add a squeeze of lemon juice.

Take your plates and divide this mix between them. Sit the cod on top and then drizzle the pesto over and around. You may want to loosen it up with more extra virgin oil. Garnish with dill and squeeze more lemon over the whole thing, along with a final dusting of sea salt and black pepper. Serve at once.

If you are making this for lots of people you could of course bake or roast your fish in the oven, about 200c for six to eight minutes. Sit on a buttered baking tray, dot more butter over the top of each piece of cod. This will help get it a little bit golden. You could of course use oil but harder to get any colour on the fish.

PS This is also lovely with salmon, hake, pollock, haddock etc

image