Archives for the month of: May, 2017

As the weather warms up things change in the kitchen too. At this time of year its all about lighter, fresh flavours that refresh and revive rather than comfort and warm. Recipes need to be easy too. There is so much to do outside and no one wants to spent hours in the kitchen with the sun (hopefully) beaming down in the garden. This is a lovely salad for a weekend lunch or supper on a warm evening and will satisfy even the biggest appetites if you are generous with the beef. I often buy tail cuts of beef fillet from the butcher for this. They are much cheaper than the perfect centre cut and just as good. Sirloin is more flavoursome and a very good alternative, just slightly less tender but no less the worse for that. I have used rump steak to great effect here too – just make sure you rest it properly and you will have lovely tender pieces. You can ring the changes to fit whatever veg/salad you have to hand. I like to make it as colourful as I can – red radish is useful here, but green beans, sugar snaps, yellow peppers, cucumber etc etc or even a few bean sprouts wouldn’t go amiss at all. Mint is essential.

Serves four to six

1 red pepper
1 small red onion
A few radishes
1 small punnet of cherry tomatoes
2 handfuls each of fresh mint and coriander
110g roasted, unsalted peanuts
Bag of green leaves
4 asparagus spears (optional)
2 Spring onions
800g beef fillet/sirloin
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt & Pepper

Dressing

2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 red chillies, de-seeded and finely chopped
3 tablespoons light soy sauce
3 tablespoons lime juice
1 generous tablespoon fish sauce
30g palm sugar (or soft light brown)

Pound the garlic and chillies together in a pestle and mortar. Put into a bowl and add the rest of the dressing ingredients. Mix well. Check how it tastes and adjust with more chilli/fish sauce if necessary. Set aside.

Quarter the peppers. Slice thinly. Slice the red onions thinly and the spring onions. Halve or quarter the cherry tomatoes. Toss in a bowl with the peanuts and herbs.

Heat a grill pan. Cut the beef into thick slices. Sprinkle with a little olive oil and sear until just medium rare.

Rest for a few minutes before thinly slicing. Add to the other ingredients. Spoon the dressing over the salad and serve immediately, on a bed of green leaves if liked. Sprinkle the spring onions over the top with extra herbs.
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There is absolutely nothing elegant about a sausage roll. However, it is pure comfort picnic food, has stood the test of time and needs make no apologies for the fact that it is exactly what it says in the title – sausage, rolled. But it is a beloved and essential part of our family picnics, particularly those spent on a blowy beach or windy hillside. And there have been many of those over the years. We have changed and grown up, this recipe hasn’t and I hope you will agree that it is perfection the way it is. Make them small, medium or large and enjoy either on their own or with a good dollop of a fruity chutney. They freeze brilliantly either before or after cooking and I guarantee that you will be making these again. Just make sure you use an excellent quality free range sausagemeat and a pure butter puff pastry. These sausage rolls will be only as good as your ingredients. The gold jus-rol packet is the best,

Makes six – ten depending on how large you cut them

450g free range pork sausagemeat
1 egg (free range)
1 tablespoon tomato puree
1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
Good handful of fresh white breadcrumbs (quantity can be quite approximate)
Salt & pepper
Sesame seeds (optional
1 pack of jus roll all butter puff pastry

Pre-heat oven to 180c

Take the sausagemeat and put into a bowl. Beat the egg and pour in most of it, leaving a tablespoon to brush over the finished rolls later. Add the breadcrumbs, tomato puree and worcestershire sauce and a good grinding of seasalt and black pepper. Squish it all together until well mixed. Your hands are the best tool for this.

Cut your pastry in half. You will only need half for this quantity. Keep the rest as you will be making more very soon. Roll out (do not turn the pastry over and use minimum of flour) into a long strip about 4 inches wide and 18 inches long. The pastry should be thin. Put the sausagemeat mix down the centre. You will think there is too much sausagemeat to pastry but this is important. Put as high a roll of sausage as you dare. Roll the pastry over using the side of your hand to help it all the way over to meet and seal with a little water. Use a fork to squish the edges together.

Brush the whole roll with beaten egg and then cut into however many sausage rolls you want. Put two diagonal slits in the top of each one and if you like sprinkle each with some sesame seeds.

Put onto a baking sheet and into the oven for fifteen minutes for small rolls up to thirty minutes if they are very long. Check after fifteen minutes and see how golden they are going. Once they are dark golden and piping hot in the centre remove from the oven and use a palette knife to put them onto a wire rack to cool.

Store in an airtight tin, not a plastic container.

Eat on a windy British beach in the driving rain huddled under a rock.

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Quite often, an awful lot of time and effort needs to be spent in the kitchen to create something rather beautiful, extremely delicious and very elegant. For those of you who simply do not have the time, inclination or energy to spare then look no further than this gorgeous recipe. I am using a fillet of salmon here but any fish will work well. The sauce is a simple warm dressing that originates in France – perfectly diced tomato concasse combine with the best olive oil and piquant shallots that bring the fish and vegetables to life and looks so pretty against the green courgette and pale pink salmon. If you can find fresh chervil then that is lovely here, either on its own or with the basil but it isn’t that easily available.

I often finish this with a little spoonful of fresh pesto but it looks lovely unadorned. For those with heartier appetites, some crushed new potatoes under the courgetti will make it more substantial but for a summer lunch or supper I find this carb free version is enough.

Serves Four

4 fillets of salmon (approx 160 – 180g) skinless
4 small firm courgette
2 handfuls swiss chard
2 shallots (approx 50g)
A couple of sprigs of fresh thyme
Four medium tomatoes, very good quality
1 large clove garlic
100ml good extra virgin olive oil
2 lemons
2 tablespoons of shredded fresh basil/chervil
Rapeseed/light olive oil
Sea salt & black pepper
Fresh pesto (optional)

Pre-heat the oven to 200c

First finely shred the chard, leaves only and either use a spiralizer to create your courgetti or finely shred them with a julienne peeler. Set aside.

Make the sauce vierge. Finely chop the shallots and garlic. Skin and deseed the tomatoes. Finely chop the flesh into small dice. Heat the extra virgin oil in a small saucepan and add the shallot, thyme and garlic. Cook for a couple of minutes over a gentle heat and then remove and keep to one side. Stir in the tomato and season well with salt and pepper.

Heat a medium sized saucepan and also a frying pan for your salmon. Season the salmon. Pour a little rapeseed or olive oil into each and once hot put the salmon, presentation side down into the frying pan and the chard into the saucepan. Cook both for a couple of minutes, then flip the salmon over (it should be a pale golden colour) and put the pan into the oven for a further three minutes (maybe four if it is very thick). Add the courgetti to the chard, season and stir over a high heat for a minute or two. Remove from the heat and add a squeeze of lemon. Check the seasoning. Remove the salmon from the oven and leave to rest for a minute or two. The tip of a sharp knife should feel warm when pushed right into the centre. Squeeze a little lemon over each piece.

Have ready four warm plates. Divide the courgette and chard between the plates sit the salmon on top. Add juice of a lemon and the basil to the sauce vierge and warm it through gently. Check and adjust the seasoning. Spoon the sauce around the fish and courgette. If you like and have some fresh pesto to hand, a little teaspoonful on top looks pretty and goes well. Alternatively you could stir a little through the sauce.

Serve as soon as you can, although it is not a dish to be served piping hot and therefore quite useful if your guests are slow in coming through to the table!

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If you are after a quick lunch or easy starter that delivers on flavour, is big on nutrition and looks beautiful into the bargain then look no further than this easy and delicious courgette salad. It is also very useful as a side dish – try with some simple chicken or lamb and it will turn the mundane into something special. Pomegranates combine brilliantly with the salty feta and the ruby jewel seeds bring this simple salad alive. To remove the seeds simply slice the fruit in half and bash hard with a rolling pin over a bowl. The seeds will just fall out (up to a point!). Try and pick the firmest courgette you can – the bigger they are the more water they contain and you will lose both texture and flavour.

There are lots of different feta cheeses to buy out there. My favourite is the Greek barrel aged feta made from ewe’s and goat’s milk and stored in brine. It is worth paying that little bit extra as it will make all the difference to your finished dish.

Sumac is a dried and ground berry from a bush grown mainly in the Middle East and is an essential ingredient in many recipes from that region. Slightly acidic and reminiscent of lemon, it not only adds a lovely flavour but looks very pretty as well with its deep red colour.

If you want a truly healthy salad then just make courgette ‘carpaccio’ but slicing very fresh and firm courgette with a potato peeler into ribbons. Leave to sit in the lemon & oil for a few minutes before eating.

Serves Four

Four small or two medium courgette
200g good quality feta
Large handful of washed fresh mint leaves
One lemon
Rapeseed or light olive oil for griddling
One pomegranate or a handy pack of ready done seeds
Sea salt & black pepper
Sumac
Extra virgin olive oil

For this recipe you will ideally have a ridged grill pan, nice and shallow.

Cut the courgettes on the diagonal into long pieces about 2mm thick.

Heat a little oil in your grill pan and once hot lay on the courgette slices, a few at a time. Sear on each side so that they have pretty brown marks and remove to a plate lined with kitchen towel while you cook the rest. Finely chop the mint, crumble the feta and remove the seeds from the pomegranate.

Take either one large plate or four smallish. Layer up the courgette, feta, mint and pomegranate, seasoning as you go and sprinkling each layer with lemon juice. Finish with a final flurry of mint and pomegranate and drizzle over extra virgin olive oil. Finally, sprinkle over some sumac and serve with flatbread.

courgette and pomegranate salad