Archives for the month of: January, 2018

This soup offers a splash of colour in these cold winter months. Tomatoes are not at their best in January, but roasting in a hot oven for half an hour or so does have a marvellous effect on their flavour. This soup is lovely as it is but to ring the changes add a little cumin to the onion base. Some finely chopped preserved lemon is lovely in the salsa for more Middle Eastern vibe – this is one you can play around with but just make sure you use top quality olives and certainly nothing out of a tin. You could add a few basil leaves to the soup before blending. Basil, crushed into a paste with oil and salt will also make a lovely garnish.

Serves Four

500g tomatoes
2 red peppers
Rapeseed oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Fresh thyme
1 large onion
1 small potato
2 sticks of celery
Sea salt and black pepper
1 litre chicken or vegetable stock

Pre heat the oven to 200c

Halve the tomatoes and remove their cores. Halve the red peppers and de-seed. Put them all in a roasting pan and drizzle over rapeseed oil and the balsamic and lots of fresh thyme. Season well and then roast in the oven for about thirty to forty minutes or until very soft and beginning to caramelise.

Meanwhile, chop the onion, celery and peeled potato. Heat a couple more tablespoons of rapeseed oil in a saucepan and add the onion and celery. Saute for a few minutes until softened. Add half the stock and simmer for a few minutes. Once the tomato and pepper are roasted tip all the contents of that pan into the soup, skins and all and then cover with more stock. Simmer for about five minutes and then blend well, using a hand held blender. If you want a perfectly smooth soup you could sieve it but I find that the skins blend in very well. Adjust the consistency with the rest of the stock and check the seasoning.

Serve with a spoonful of salsa stirred through.

OLIVE, CAPER AND PARSLEY SALSA

50g good quality black olives, stoned
2 teaspoons of small capers
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
Juice half a lemon
Extra virgin olive oil
Handful of freshly chopped flat leaf parsley
Sea salt & black pepper

Use a pestle and mortar, or if you don’t have that a mini chopper will do, or just a good sharp knife.

Put everything into the mortar and cover with oil. Add a little salt and pound together until all the ingredients are broken down and well blended. Add lemon juice to taste and adjust the seasoning. The capers can be quite salty so bear in mind when adding salt.

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This fresh tasting, vibrantly colourful salad is wonderful in January, when oranges and pomegranates are at their best. It is lovely served alongside my chard, spinach and feta pie or you could serve it as a light starter. I love it with some of those tiny black olives tossed through it and if you want to add in some leaves then red chicory or radiccio work well.

Serves Four

2 oranges
1 pomegranate
1 bulb fennel
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
Sea salt & black pepper
A few tiny stoned black olives (optional)
Pinch sumac
1 handful fresh mint

Take a nice serving bowl. Cut the fennel in half and then slice very finely. Add to the bowl.
Cut the ends of the oranges and then slice all around the sides to remove the pith and skin. Holding the orange over the bowl, remove each segment, allowing the juice to fall in as well. Bash the seeds of of the pomegranate and add those and the juice. Add the olive oil and the pomegranate molasses as well as a good pinch of sumac. Season well and toss all together.

Finely chop a good handful of fresh mint and add this together with your little olives. Taste and adjust with a little more pomegranate molasses if you think it needs it. Serve fairly soon, although it will happily wait for an hour.

Few people won’t find their spirits lifted at the sight of a good pie. This one has the advantage in that the cook is spared the task of making any pastry; filo is best bought and no less excellent for that. This combination of chard, spinach, cheeses and spice is my version of that well known Greek favourite, spanakopita. It is brilliantly forgiving – as long as your seasoning is spot on and you remember to squeeze all possible water out of the chard and spinach you can’t go far wrong. It’s great as a leftover as well. Even better, somehow the next day. We prefer it warm, rather than very hot from the oven so timings can be relaxed. What you put in is entirely up to you – vary the herbs and spices according to what you have available. Leave out the leek if you don’t have any and if you prefer you could make it with all chard or all spinach. Just make sure you use enough to end up with a vibrant green filling. You may like to add in some finely chopped preserved lemon or some toasted, crushed fennel seed and while the sumac is pretty dusted over the top, a final flourish of nigella seeds would look lovely as well. Take care that the top of the pie doesn’t burn in the oven. Check after ten minutes and if it is getting too dark just cover the whole thing with foil while the pie finishes cooking. You could make mini ones too, in muffin tins.

Serves Four (or two greedy people with leftovers)

1 red onion, finely sliced
2 tablespoons rapeseed oil
1 clove garlic
Small piece of leek, very finely sliced
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
200g swiss chard, stalks and leaves separated
200g spinach
Rind of one lemon
1 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
25g fresh herbs eg mint, dill, basil, chives, parsley, coriander (any or all)
3 large eggs
150g ricotta cheese
100g good quality feta (I use Waitrose barrel aged in the black tub)
4 sheets filo pastry
30g unsalted butter, melted
Sumac
Sea salt & black pepper

1 9″ square baking tin Pre-heat oven to 200c

Heat the rapeseed oil in a shallow pan and add the onion. Fry for a few minutes and then grate in the clove of garlic and add the leeks. Cook a little longer until everything is good and soft. Add the chopped stalks of the chard and then add the spices. Season well and remove from the heat. Tip the whole lot into a mixing bowl. Add in the rind of a lemon.

Shred the chard leaves and cook briefly in a tablespoon of two of boiling water until the leaves are wilted. Drain well and tip onto a chopping board. Wilt the spinach in the same pan with a little more boiling water and drain. Squeeze out all the water you possible can and add to the chard. Mix together well and then stir into the onion spice mixture in the bowl.

Roughly chop the feta and crumble into the bowl. Mix well. Whisk the eggs and ricotta cheese together and add seasoning. Stir this in and then check the seasoning, remember that the feta can be quite salty. Finely chop all the herbs and stir these in with a good pinch of sumac. Finally, stir in the pine nuts. To be honest, it doesn’t really matter what order you do all this in as long as it all ends up in the same bowl!

Now melt your butter. Remove from the heat brush a little around the base of your baking dish. I prefer to use a tin one as I think it conducts the heat better around the base of the pastry but if you are serving it at the table then you may like to use a ceramic one. Or enamel may be a good compromise. Take your first sheet of filo, brush melted butter over the whole thing (I do this quite sparingly) and lay it across the base of the dish, allowing the edges to hang over the sides. Butter side should be upwards. Repeat with the other two sheets, alternating the direction of the pastry so you have an even overhang.

Take your filling and put into the dish, spreading it out evenly. Scrunch the filo over the edges, folding it in on itself. Brush these with butter. You will have a gap left in the middle. Use the last sheet of filo, cut into four pieces. Each piece can be scrumpled up and placed on top. Brush any remaining butter over any pastry that doesn’t have a good coating and sprinkle on some sumac.

Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes until golden brown and cooked through. You will probably need to cover the pie with some foil to stop it browning too much but this will depend on your oven. So check after ten minutes to see the progress.

Take out of the oven and leave to sit for a few minutes. This pie is lovely warm or at room temperature. Serve with the orange, fennel and pomegranate salad.

The top of the pie will soften fairly quickly. It is a good idea to refresh it for ten minutes in a hot oven just to crisp it up, although I still think it delicious even if the pastry has lost a bit of crunch so good to take a piece to work instead of a sandwich.

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Holiday season aside, I spend a fair few nights each week on my own. I have never felt that a solitary supper need necessarily be any less enjoyable than one spent in company – in fact, the beauty of being entirely bereft of company is the total freedom to eat exactly what I like, when I like. Certainly I want it to be easy, reasonably quick and healthy without being puritan about it. This recipe (if you can call it that) for a veg laden risotto enhanced with just a little chorizo is typical of something I might cook for myself midweek. Comforting but not fattening, easy without resorting to anything pre-prepared or processed (okay, the chorizo is borderline but there must be exceptions!) and with bags of flavour.

I seem to be buying a lot of kale at the moment. It is, of course one of the new superfoods and right up there in food fashion but it deserves it’s new status as more than just fodder for cattle. Cooked properly it is delicious; tender, flavoursome and adaptable. It works well with the leek; the chorizo and mozzarella are particularly delicious with it but not esssentil if you want to make this vegetarian or even vegan. Make this for one or six, just multiply the recipe depending on how many people you are cooking for, but I particularly like this when I’m on my own. Fire, dog, telly and this….perfect!!

For One

Handful of carnaroli rice (or arborio if you prefer)
1″ piece chorizo, chopped into small pieces
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 small clove garlic
1 dessertspoon rapeseed oil
Fresh thyme
1 leek, in half moon pieces, 1cm
350ml chicken stock (a knorr gel pack is fine)
Big double handful kale, heavy stalks removed
Small piece mozzarella, chopped
Fresh parmesan and olive oil to serve

Heat a shallow saucepan and add the chorizo. Do not add any oil at this stage. Heat the chorizo until it is starting to release its oil and once nice and crisp remove and set aside.

Put the kale in a separate pan with a dash of water and steam until the kale is wilted and tender. Remove and set aside. Use the same pan to heat the stock.

Add the remaining oil to the pan you cooked the chorizo in and throw in the shallots. Cook for a couple of minutes and then grate in most of the clove of garlic. If very large you will only need half. Add the leeks and cook for a couple of minutes before adding the rice. Stir well and then add ladlefuls of stock at a time, stirring and letting the risotto just bubble very very gently. I add stock, stir and then leave it for a few minutes whilst I get on with other things but for the best result you should really stir constantly. Carry on, adding the stock until the rice is just al dente. You may not need all of the stock. Taste after twenty minutes and it should be nearly ready.

Add the kale (you can chop it smaller if you like) and season. Make sure the rice isn’t too dry; adjust with the stock. Stir through the mozarella and chorizo and then serve in a warm bowl with parmesan grated over the top and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil.

Of course, you could add some white wine or vermouth to the rice at the start if you have a bottle open. Just pour in half a glassful and simmer it away before adding your stock.

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Citrus is at it’s fabulous best in January and if you add a netful to your shopping bag along with some good black olives and a pack of free-range chicken thighs you have the makings of  a delicious and quick supper.  Orange and chicken go together well, the savoury saltiness of the olives providing a delightful contrast to the acid sweetness of the orange and the mild, plump chicken.   For absolute speed, a green salad and some good bread to mop up the juices is really all you need but if you have a little more time to spare, then rice, creamy mash or some puy lentils all work well with this.   I like to add a side dressing of tahini mixed with some lemon or orange juice and a little natural yoghurt.

Serves Four

4 – 8 free range chicken thighs
Fresh thyme
2 oranges
About 20 good black olives, stoned
A little water or chicken stock
Splash of white wine if you have it (or sherry)
Rapeseed oil
Sea salt & black pepper
Fresh mint, finely chopped

Heat the oven to 180C.

Trim the thighs of excess fat and make a couple of slashes in the top of each. Put into a roasting tin. Season well and sprinkle with fresh thyme. Slice the oranges thickly into half moon shapes and tuck around the chicken. Scatter over the olives and then pour around a glass of chicken stock and/or wine. Water will be fine if that is all you have. You just want a little around the bottom of the chicken.

Drizzle the whole thing with rapeseed oil. Bake in the top of the oven for about half an hour or until the chicken is golden brown and cooked through. Squash a few of the oranges to release the citrussy juice into the resulting juices and then serve the chicken with a few of the orange pieces and olives. Scatter fresh mint over the top.

 
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Poor old January. Not only does it have to compete with its arguably more glamorous neighbour, December but is also the month of resolutions, serious denial and short dark days. Best look upon it as a time of renewal and to help that thought along, try this delicious marriage of spiced up cauliflower and salmon. It goes marvellously well with some lightly dressed, herby quinoa and for your halo to shine even more brightly some steamed courgette adds a pleasing green finish with barely another calorie to worry about.

Serves Four

4 fillets of salmon (skinned)
1 small cauliflower
2 heaped teaspoons ground turmeric
1 heaped teaspoon freshly ground cumin
Rapeseed oil
Sea salt and black pepper

Heat the oven to 200c

Break the cauliflower into florets and put into a roasting pan, big enough so that they are all in one layer.

Sprinkle over the turmeric and cumin. Drizzle over two or three tablespoons of rapeseed oil and toss well so that the cauliflower is well and truly coated. Season very well with sea salt and black pepper.

Roast in the hot oven for ten to fifteen minutes until the cauliflower is beginning to feel tender when pierced with a knife. Then take the salmon fillets and roll them in the resulting spicy oil before sitting on top of the cauliflower. Season. Return to the oven for five minutes until just cooked through, but slightly rare in the centre.

Serve with quinoa and steamed courgette. Toss your quinoa (or you could use a bulgar/quinoa mix) with olive oil, lemon juice and lots of freshly chopped herbs.
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