I have been aware of this fiery paste from Calabria, intriguingly named nduja for a while but only recently took the plunge and tried it. It certainly lives up to it’s spicy reputation; those who don’t like a fierce punch of red pepper might want to approach with caution but I have really enjoyed it. I find a little does go quite a long way and this recipe is a good place to start – the nduja is tempered beautifully by the soft, mild burrata (use a good mozzarella if you prefer) and diluting it further in a dressing just slightly lessens the heat. Of course, there is nothing at all to stop you from adding as much as you like.
For four as a starter or two for a light lunch
About 300g cherry tomatoes or a mix
30ml olive oil (or an oil of your preference)
30ml extra virgin olive oil
1 small shallot, finely diced
20g nduja (fresh if possible)
30ml sherry or red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon caster sugar
Handful of fresh basil
Slice the tomatoes thinly and lay on a platter or individual plates. Season well.
Heat the olive oil in a small pan and gently fry the shallots until softened but not coloured. Remove from the heat and add the nduja, whisking it in with the vinegar and sugar.
Add the rest of the oil.
Tear the burrata over the tomatoes and then spoon over the dressing. Cover with torn basil leaves and serve.
I adore a risotto. For me if is the ultimate in comfort eating and beats a bowl of pasta hands down. And I love pasta….but somehow the tiny swollen grains, infused with all the goodness of stock and aromatics; cooked until just yielding but with a little bite (we don’t want baby food here!) offers just the right amount of solace with a sophistication that is yours to add as you will. Once you have mastered the basic method the risotto world really is your oyster and as long as you always bear in mind flavour pairings you can indulge or not as you please. Vegetarians and vegans need never be left out – a good vegetable stock works just as well as chicken. Cheese can be replaced with a vegan version and no one will ever object to a final flourish of an excellent, grass green olive oil anointing the finished dish. Otherwise I find just a tablespoon of double cream can transform a risotto into something truly special. It is, after all meant to be a creamy dish – achieved by the fat grains of risotto rice bumping slowly into each other whilst being stirred over a gentle heat. Baked risotto will never achieve quite the same as the grains won’t move around if just left in the oven.
This radicchio and Gorgonzola risotto is, for me a sophisticated and thoroughly delicious partnership. I do, often, add in a coarsely grated courgette. It is just a way of keeping the calorie count down but not everyone will want or need this option. I just use a little less rice to make way for the courgette and I think here it goes well. Fennel herb is lovely if you happen to have any in the garden or have bought a particularly frondy fennel bulb but finely chopped parsley will do perfectly.
For Four people
1 tablespoon rapeseed or olive oil and small knob butter
1 large or 2 smaller sticks celery
1 clove garlic (optional)
Fresh thyme, picked off the stalk, about 1 tablespoon
4 handfuls of risotto rice (I use carnaroli)
75ml white vermouth (approx) or white wine
One head of radicchio, shredded
750ml (you may need more) proper chicken or vegetable stock (in desperation you could use a gel cube or combine the two)
1 courgette, optional, grated coarsely
100g creamy Gorgonzola dolce
2 tablespoons double cream
Freshly chopped fennel or parsley
Sea salt and black pepper
Heat a large shallow pan. Add the oil and the butter and then gently sauté the onion and celery over a low heat until beginning to soften. Do not let them colour. Add the finely chopped garlic and stir around for a minute or two. Add the rice and stir that so that it is coated in everything.
Have your stock simmering in a separate pan. Pour the vermouth or wine into your rice and stir, simmering until almost all has disappeared. Then add the thyme and a third of the radicchio. Stirring all the time over a gentle heat add ladles of stock. Keep bubbling very gently, it should be just rippling. Stir as much as you have time for, adding stock as soon as the last ladleful is absorbed. After ten minutes add another third of the radicchio. Keep adding stock until the rice is cooked but still with a tiny bit of bite to it. It will take 20 – 30 minutes. Near the end of the rice cooking time, add the cream and chopped Gorgonzola. Stir through with the rest of the radicchio and the herbs. Also the courgette if using. Cook until the radicchio has wilted. Adjust with a little more stock to loosen. Season well with sea salt and black pepper.
Take off the heat and stir through a couple of tablespoons of freshly grated parmesan. Serve with more parmesan offered separately.
This is a good way to use those incredibly useful packs of chicken thighs. I find I often reach for the in the supermarket, particularly when I lack inspiration and just want to know that there will be something for supper. They are easier to deal with than breasts, really. So much more forgiving as they don’t really overcook and dry out despite being off the bone so you can be a little more laissez-faire with your timings and not be punished for it.
This marinade is just a suggestion and a classic one at that. Yoghurt is a wonderful tenderiser for all sorts of meat and a great vehicle for flavour. Harissa, the classic North African fiery paste works beautifully here as the yoghurt calms it all down and the chicken loves the chilli heat and spicy flavour. Add in more garlic, herbs, any citrus you like. Or leave out the harissa and use toasted coriander, fennel or cumin seed, ground up in pestle and mortar and perhaps with some tumeric in there as well. Just remember to season well – the chicken will be so much the better for that.
The preserved lemon dressing is easy to make as you just buy some good quality preserved lemons (belazu are the ones to look out for) and just use the rind. Some people save the flesh for other things but I tend not to keep it. The fennel and orange salad is on this site if you put it in search. The olives work well or just leave them out. Also if you don’t have the pomegranate molasses just add a squeeze of lemon or lime juice instead and adjust with a little honey.
4 – 8 chicken thighs, skinless or boneless (depends on hunger level)
4 tablespoons natural yoghurt
2 – 4 tablespoons harissa paste (start with less, add according to taste)
1 lime, rind and juice
Sea salt and black pepper
Fresh mint, coriander, parsley and/or fennel herb
Olive or rapeseed oil for cooking
2 preserved lemons, rind only
1 tablespoon cider or white balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons runny honey
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons liquid from the preserved lemon jar
1 heaped teaspoon za’atar
Sea salt and black pepper
Mix the marinade ingredients together and taste. Adjust the seasoning and add more harissa if you think you need it. Trim the chicken of any fat and bash to flatten any very fat bits. Put them into the yoghurt and leave to marinade for at least an hour or overnight.
Make the dressing by finely chopping the lemon rind. Put it into a bowl and whisk in the vinegar, a pinch of salt, the honey, za’atar and then the oil. Finally whisk in the lemon liquid and taste, adjusting the seasoning. Leave to let the flavours develop and the za’atar to soften.
Have your fennel and orange salad ready on each plate or on one big serving platter.
Heat a griddle pan and add a little olive or rapeseed oil. Once the oil has heated up add each piece of chicken and leave until a crust has formed. You may need to do this in two batches. You can finish the chicken in the oven or cook them on top of the stove. If cooking in the oven have it heated to 180c (fan) and have a baking tray ready to receive the chicken. Sear it on both sides so well marked and move to the tray, then bake for a further fifteen minutes or until cooked through. or just turn the chicken over and move the pan to a lower heat so that the chicken can cook through without scorching.
Once the juices are running clear, let the chicken rest for five minutes before serving with the salad and the dressing drizzled around it. Add lots of extra fresh mint/coriander/parsley/fennel. A scattering of sumac is a nice addition.
This is such a treat but actually, very affordable, especially if you local fish counter has scallops on offer. It makes a very luxurious and special starter but we enjoy it occasionally as a special lunch dish, in which case you might want to serve five scallops per person instead of three. It is very important that the scallops are not overcooked – they become tough and rubbery very easily but if you use a timer and turn them over as soon as golden and caramelised you can’t go far wrong. The pan must be hot enough for the scallop to form a crust but not so hot that they will burn before it is time to turn them over. I find a minute and a half on one side and then a minute on the other is about perfect, but if they are small then reduce the time to thirty seconds after you have turned them over.
The cauliflower is a delicious and very traditional partner to the luscious scallop – it makes such a smooth and flavourful purée. It is really worth frying the little cauliflower wafers as these add texture to the plate and gives the cauliflower a wonderful caramelisation. If you want to push the boat out a bit further you could add a rasher of crispy pancetta or perhaps fry up some crumbled black pudding and scatter some of that around for the ultimate surf and turf.
6 – 10 fat king scallops (depending on whether a starter or lunch)
25g unsalted butter
Rapeseed or olive oil
Extra virgin olive oil (two tablespoons)
Mixed fine herbs (eg chives, parsley, fennel)
1 unwaxed lemon
Sea salt & black pepper
First take your scallops out of the fridge so they can come up to room temperature. Dry them off with some kitchen towel and cut off the row, making sure you remove any tough bits that link the roe to the scallop. You could keep the roes to cook separately if you like. Season the scallops with sea salt and black pepper. Do this just before you are going to cook them.
Take a pestle and mortar and put in a tablespoon or two of finely chopped herbs. Add the extra virgin olive oil, lightly season and add a squeeze of lemon juice. Set aside.
You won’t need all of the cauliflower. Take about 1/4 of it and divide into florets. Reserve a couple. Cut the others into four pieces and place in a small saucepan with a small piece of butter (taken from the 25g) and toss around over a medium heat until the butter has melted and coated the cauliflower. Pour over some whole milk; you want it to almost but not quite cover the florets. Season with sea salt and simmer very gently or about fifteen minutes (covered with a lid) or until the cauliflower is completely soft. Drain the excess milk away. Take a hand held blender and purée the cauliflower. Add seasoning to taste and set aside to keep warm while you prepare everything else. You can make this purée in advance; it will keep well in the fridge for a day or two.
Slice the remaining cauliflower florets into slices about the thickness of a pound coin. You want about three per person. Heat a frying pan and add a little rapeseed or olive oil. (About a scant tablespoonful). Add a little butter and when foaming pop the slices in and fry gently until golden brown on each side. Drain on kitchen paper and keep warm in a low oven.
Warm a couple of plates. Clean out the frying pan and put back onto the heat. Add a couple more tablespoons of rapeseed or olive oil and another knob of butter. Once melted and the fat is medium hot, add the scallops. Work quickly starting at 12.00 and putting them in a circle around the pan. Fry for a minute and a half and then turn them over, starting with the one you put in first (if you put it in using the clockface method it makes it much easier to remember the order!).
Add the remaining butter and cook for another minute. Take off the heat and squeeze over the juice of half a lemon. Put the scallops onto a plate lined with kitchen paper.
Take you plates out of the oven. Put a large spoonful of the cauliflower purée on each one and spread out a bit. Arrange the scallops around and add three cauliflower wafers to each plate. Drizzle the herb oil over and around and season the whole thing with a bit more sea salt (eg maldon) and a grind of black pepper. Squeeze over a little more lemon juice and serve immediately while it is still warm.
Autumn is a beautiful season and despite the prospect of chillier days and darker evenings approaching, there is always something rather appealing at the thought of cosying up a bit. This is a lovely soup to welcome in the new season and makes good use of the parsnips and fennel that have thrived in my vegetable patch. We have apples, too and the three go together so well, although a little of the apple will go a long way so be sparing with it. I have used rosemary and sage here – thyme would be perfect too or just parsley if you prefer.
Finish the soup with a scattering of toasted seeds, chopped herbs, sauteed cubes of red skinned eating apple, any or all above a swirl of creme fraiche or soured cream.
50g butter (or 2 tablespoons rapeseed oil)
1 large or 2 small onions
2 teaspoons fennel seeds, crushed in a pestle & mortar
3 or 4 large parsnips (about 400g)
1 small bulb fennel
1 piece of cooking apple (about 75g)
3 sprigs rosemary
3 sprigs sage
1 litre of chicken/veg stock
Sea salt & black pepper
Mixed seeds, red skinned apple and/or chopped fine herbs to finish
Peel and chop all the vegetables. Heat the butter in a saucepan and then add the onion. Saute gently for a few minutes before adding the fennel seeds and cook for a minute or two longer. Then add the parsnips, fennel and apple. Season with salt and pepper. Crush the rosemary and put it and the sage into a spice bag (this makes it easier to remove). Add to the vegetables and then pour over the stock, just to cover reserving the rest for later. Simmer for about half an hour or until the parsnip and fennel and very tender.
Blend the soup, then add one or two tablespoons of creme fraiche, depending on how creamy you like it. Adjust the thickness with the rest of the stock. Season again.
Serve with the garnishes if using. You will need to cook the chopped apple in a little butter just to soften it.
Beetroot deserves it’s current reputation as a superfood. Those days of heavily vinegared slices leaching into salads are hopefully long gone and it is much more likely to be found roasted and tossed in to a risotto, baked and partnered with a sharp goats cheese or popped in to a pickling liquor.
This recipe works with any kind of beetroot. Just peel, make sure the slice are lovely and thin and then enjoy with salads, ham, cheese or just on it’s own when you have a craving for something sweet, sharp and super healthy. Use any spices you think might work; this is just a suggestion.
Makes enough to pickle a couple of good sized beets
200ml white wine vinegar
100ml filtered water
1 teaspoon coriander seed, toasted
150g granulated or caster sugar
1 teaspoon black pepper corns
1 bay leaf
Good pinch of sea salt
One or two good sized beetroot, any type
Peel the beetroot and finely slice using a mandolin or sharp knife. You could cut into half moon shapes if you prefer. Put into a sterilised jam jar.
Dissolve the sugar in the vinegar and water. Add the spices, bay leaf and salt and bring up to a simmer for a minute or two.
Pour the hot pickling liquid over the beetroot and seal. Leave to marinade for a few hours before using. Store in the fridge and use as required.
Of all the summer soups, this leek and potato classic has to be one of the best loved. It is a little ironic that leeks are in fact at their best from November through to April, not really months in which a chilled soup is going to be of much appeal. Still, they are readily available all year round and none the worse for that. I’ve added celery to this as well as an onion; purists may well frown on these additions but I think they add great flavour. You could of course just add an extra leek or two and leave them out – entirely up to you.
This makes enough for four
1 tablespoon rapeseed oil
small knob of butter
3 large leeks
1 large stick celery, stringy bits removed
About 3 medium new potatoes (you want about half the weight of the leeks)
750ml chicken stock
200ml double or whipping cream
lots of chopped chives
olive oil (if making the chive oil)
Sea salt and black pepper
Chop all the vegetables, (having peeled the potatoes). Heat the oil and butter together in a saucepan. Add the leeks, celery and onion and sweat gently over a low heat until beginning to soften. Do not allow them to colour.
Add the potatoes and stir around. Add the stock and bring up to a gentle simmer. Season well and then cook gently for about fifteen minutes or until the vegetables are very soft. Liquidise or use a stick blender so that the soup is extremely smooth. You could also pass it through a sieve for an ultra smooth finish.
Whisk in the cream and check the seasoning. Pour into a bowl and chill for at least two or three hours, longer if possible.
Serve in chilled bowls with chives, chive oil and a little more cream swirled on top.
To make the chive oil, simple put chopped chives into a pestle and mortar and add extra virgin olive oil and a little sea salt. Pound until the chives break down and the oil starts to turn green.
Make this to go with lamb, chicken or just have with bruschetta and minted yoghurt. It is best made the day before (or longer) so that the flavours can mingle and make friends but that is all to the better as so useful to have ready in advance.
Serves four to six
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 large or two small aubergine (approx 350g in weight)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 or 2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 stick celery, finely chopped
300g cherry tomatoes or ripe red tomatoes
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 dessertspoon capers, chopped
1 dessertspoon balsamic vinegar
1 dessertspoon light brown sugar
Pinch dried chilli (optional)
A few olives
Fresh basil and parsley
Salt & pepper
First brush the peppers with a little oil and put into a hot oven for about half an hour until well roasted. Put into a plastic bag and leave for ten minutes to loosen the skin.
Cut up the aubergine quite small (about 1cm pieces). Heat three tablespoons of the oil in a pan and fry the aubergine until golden and cooked through. (about 10 mins). Remove from the pan and add another tablespoon of oil. Fry the onion, garlic and celery until very soft and tinged golden and then return the aubergine to the pan. Season well and add the tomatoes, cut in half if they are cherry or skinned and chopped if they are vine tomatoes. Add the chopped capers, the vinegar and the sugar (be a bit sparing at first with these). Also the chilli. Skin and deseed the peppers in a sieve so that you can catch any juice. Chop up the flesh and add to the pan along with the saved juices. Add half the basil, chopped and simmer the whole thing for about forty minutes or until nicely reduced and rich. About half way through add some roughly chopped olives, if you are using them. Check the seasoning and stir through the rest of the basil and finely chopped parsley. Serve hot, warm or cold.
Very good on bruschetta or with a dollop of greek yoghurt and a sprinkling of mint.
1 small head of broccoli
1 large shallot
1 tablespoon cider vinegar (organic and raw if possible)
2 spring onions, chopped
3 soft dried figs, chopped
2 tablespoons mixed seeds, toasted (or a mix of pumpkin/sunflower)
2 – 3 tablespoons chopped parsley/chives/fennel/dill
20 almonds, toasted and chopped (or 50g toasted flaked almonds)
2 teaspoons of runny honey
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Large pinch dried oregano or za’atar
Squeeze lemon juice, to taste
Sea salt & black pepper
Finely slice the shallot. Put into a bowl with the vinegar and leave while you slice your broccoli.
Slice the broccoli very finely on a mandolin or using a very sharp knife. Put into a large bowl and add the shallots and the spring onions.
Add the figs, parsley, mixed seeds and almonds to the bowl. Toss together.
Whisk the buttermilk with the olive oil, honey, the oregano or za’atar and a good amount of seasoning. Add to the bowl and toss well to coat. Add a little lemon juice, adjusting that and the seasoning to taste.
Leave to sit for half an hour to an hour if you can to allow the flavours to mingle. Use it up within a day or so.
Serve on its own or with fresh figs and goats cheese, drizzled with a little honey, lemon and olive oil. Crusty bread essential!
Pre heat the oven to 190 c
Sauté the onions and pancetta in the oil, grating in the clove of garlic and half the finely chopped oregano. Season well.
Put into a bowl and cool slightly before stirring in the watercress. Whisk the eggs, buttermilk and cream together. Season.
Stir the egg mixture into the filling mix, grate in half the cheese and add the rest of the oregano. Turn into the pastry case and top with the rest of the cheese.
Bake for 18 t0 20 minutes or until just set.
Leave to rest for a couple of minutes before serving. Delicious at room temperature as well.