Archives for category: Dinner

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.

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.

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.

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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

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Duck is so versatile. The rich, sweet, tender meat pairs wonderfully with a myriad of flavours. Just as great with red wine and rosemary as it is with this stunningly delicious sauce of orange, soy and ginger. Citrus flavours are lovely with duck, with honey enhancing its natural sweetness and providing a natural foil to the fiery ginger and deeply savoury soy. All marry perfectly to make a fragrant sauce that brings a little of the exotic to the duck whilst pairing rather beautifully with some crispy little potatoes and red cabbage. Fusion at its best!

It is important to remember that the deep layer of fat that lies under the duck skin needs to be rendered out. This can then be used to roast your little potatoes, so no waste there and you will be rewarded with a crisp, burnished blanket of duck skin with pink, tender meat beneath. A treat for two.

Any winter brassica is great with this but I particularly love the deeply purple red cabbage that has the added advantage of being all the better for early prepping.

FOR TWO

2 duck breasts
1/2 an orange (blush or normal) (use the other half for the cabbage)
Runny honey
100ml fresh chicken stock
Half a teaspoon fennel, freshly ground
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1/2 inch piece fresh ginger
knob of butter

Three medium sized king edward potatoes.

RED CABBAGE

1/4 small red cabbage, finely sliced
knob butter and a teaspoon of rapeseed oil
1/2 an orange
a small star anise
A little water
Sea salt and black papper

Pre-heat the oven to 200c

Take a small frying pan. Slash the skin of the duck breasts in three or four long lines taking care not to go through to the flesh underneath. Season the duck well and rub some fennel into the skin.

Put the breast skin side down in the cold pan and put onto a gentle heat. Leave to render for about fifteen minutes or until all the fat has run out into the pan and the skin is golden and crispy underneath.

Meanwhile peel and cut the potatoes into small pieces. Put into a baking tray and pour all the hot duck fat over. Season well and put into a hot oven for about half an hour, turning every ten minutes.

Remove the duck from the pan and put skin side up on a plate. Drizzle some honey over the duck skin. Leave to one side while you get on with the red cabbage and the sauce.

Slice the cabbage very finely. Heat the butter and oil in a saucepan and add in the cabbage. Stir around and season well. Add the rind of half an orange, the star anise and a splash of water. Put the lid on and simmer, stirring occasionally for about ten to fifteen minutes until the cabbage is very soft and glossy. Add in the orange juice and adjust the seasoning.

When the potatoes are half way through their cooking time sit the duck breasts on top of them and put back in the hot oven for about five minutes. Then take the breasts out and leave to rest in a warm place (not in any oven, even a cool one!!). Make sure they are on something that can catch any excess juices.

Put the duck frying pan back on the heat and add in the chicken stock. Simmer hard to reduce and then add the soy sauce, orange juice and rind, freshly grated ginger and seasoning. Add a teaspoon of honey or more to taste. Whisk in a knob of butter to give the sauce a shine. Pour any duck juices on the sauce.

Carve the duck lengthways (it looks so much better this way) and serve on the potatoes and cabbage. Drizzle the jus over and around.

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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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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