Archives for category: Dinner

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.

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A friend brought round a lovely big bunch of lovage the other day. It is apparently very easy to grow and further investigation taught me that it has a wonderful flavour reminiscent of celery with a hint of parsley and aniseed thrown in for good measure. It does in fact make a good substitute for flat leaf parsley and I particularly like the tender, hollow stems which mean you can chop the whole lot up and use it all, especially if it is going in a casserole or soup. I use a kallo gel stock cube if I don’t have any fresh stock available and find it excellent, as is the marigold bouillon powder. That needs to be added with care though as it can be very salty.
I’m told that lovage makes a wonderful addition to a cheese soufflé but things have been rather more basic in our house this week. Some of the leaves were put to good use over a roast sweet potato and orange salad but the rest made a delicious soup and I have since ordered a plant so that I can make this again. Just right for a spring lunch and made a little be more special with a quenelle of creamed feta garnishing the centre, although that is certainly a very optional extra. Worth doing though, if you happen to have feta or goats cheese available.

Serves Four

1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon rapeseed oil
1 walnut sized knob of butter
3 stalks celery, stripped of any tough strings and finely chopped
1 large or 2 small leeks (about 250g) chopped
1 medium potato (about 125g), peeled and chopped
125g washed lovage, stalks included
1 litre chicken or vegetable stock
1 – 2 tablespoons double cream (don’t worry if none available)
Sea salt & black pepper

Melt the oil and butter together and add the onion and garlic. Sauté very gently until beginning to soften and add the celery. Continue cooking until soft and then add the leeks and potato. Stir around a bit and then add the chicken or vegetable stock.
Simmer for about fifteen minutes or until everything is very soft. Add the lovage and simmer for a couple more minutes before blending everything together until very smooth.
Add the double cream, if using and check the seasoning.

Creamed feta

4” piece feta cheese
2 tablespoons double cream
Black pepper

Mash everything together until very smooth and creamy. If you like you could add some chives. Check seasoning and use teaspoons to make quenelles of this to put on top of the soup.

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Soup is very quick to make and very forgiving. Cooking can be a precise art but not here – a few hundred grams or millilitres here and there won’t make much difference and it is so easy to adjust the thickness, creaminess, flavour etc. The only absolute cast iron requirement is some sort of onion; at a pinch you could probably get away with using a leek or two but there really is no substitute for a common brown or white onion unless making a bright and fresh summer soup in which case a spring onion or shallot will be an excellent choice.

Otherwise, play with what vegetables you use to your hearts content. There are, of course the tried and tested recipes that have stood the test of time. But you really can’t go wrong with any combination; just stick to common sense – fennel seed and coconut milk for example is never going to work but use a little Thai curry paste in the base of a butternut squash soup and the coconut milk suddenly makes perfect sense.

A tablespoon or two of double cream can add a wonderful silkiness to soup but here I am using a spiced butter and it is just so delicious swirled on top the fragrant combination of root vegetables, fennel and cumin seed. A touch of luxury to an otherwise everyday staple but worth its weight in gold in terms of nutrition, taste and culinary contentment. This soup freezes well.

Serves 8

2 tablespoons rapeseed or light olive oil
2 onions, chopped
1 large leek, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large stick celery, chopped
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped
1/2 butternut squash, chopped (no need to peel)
2 medium beetroot, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds, crushed
Pinch chilli flakes (optional)
2/3 good quality chicken or vegetable gel stock cubes
11/2 to 2 litres boiling water
Salt & black pepper

Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the onion, leek, garlic and celery. Cook until beginning to soften over a low heat. Add the fennel and cumin (chilli if using) and cook for a minute or two, then add the sweet potato, squash, beetroot and red pepper. Stir around for a bit and then add the stock to cover. You may not need it all. Season and then cover with a lid. Simmer for about thirty minutes until the vegetables are completely soft.

Blitz either in a liquidiser or use a hand held blender. Check seasoning and adjust thickness with any remaining stock. Serve with the spiced butter swirled over.

SPICED BUTTER

50g butter
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
Cinnamon stick
Black pepper

Crush the cumin and coriander seed in a pestle and mortar. Melt the butter and add with the cinnamon stick, pepper and mustard seeds. Heat until foaming and drizzle over the soup.
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Serves Four

Four pieces of boneless cod (about 150g each)
50g butter
Four tomatoes
One red pepper, chopped.
Olive oil
Thyme
Two tablespoons good quality black olives, pitted and chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
A little balsamic vinegar (white if possible, or sherry vinegar)
Fresh basil
Two tins cannellini beans
1 large shallot, finely chopped
Clove garlic (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil
100ml chicken/veg stock
Lemon juice
Salt & pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 220C (top aga)

Cut the tomatoes in half and remove the core. Sit on a baking sheet with the peppers, drizzle over olive oil, season and sprinkle with thyme. Roast for about 30 minutes.

Remove from the oven and roughly chop. Put into a small saucepan with the olives and add enough extra virgin oil to make a sauce. Add a few drops of balsamic vinegar to taste and stir through some shredded basil. Set aside while you cook the fish.

Rub a baking sheet with some of the butter and sit the cod on it. Season the fish and dot with the remaining butter. Add a tablespoon of water to the pan and put into the oven for six to ten minutes. The cod is cooked when the tip of a knife that you have pierced through to the centre feels warm. It will continue cooking after you have removed it from the oven.

Meanwhile, fry the shallot for the mash. Add the garlic if using and cook for a couple more minutes. Add the drained beans and half the stock. Heat through and then season and mash with a hand held blender or potato masher. Add the rest of the stock if you need it.

Remove the fish from the oven and rest for a couple of minutes. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon over it. Heat the tomato and olive mixture. Serve the cod on the mash with some of the sauce spooned over.

What a relief that the days of mayonnaise laden, traditional coleslaws are largely a thing of the past. A 21st century slaw is far more likely to be made with the merest hint of a dressing, relying instead on herbs, spices, nuts etc to provide interest and contrast to the vegetables. Cabbage and carrot may well still feature but are more likely these days to be partnered with arguably more interesting vegetables such as fennel, mangetouts, broccoli or whatever it is that fires your enthusiasm.
Gorgeous with anything from pulled pork, salmon fillets, chicken or just a bowlful on its own, I love making this fennel and snow pea version and although a few hours in a cool place will improve it enormously it rarely lasts long in our house – guilt free pleasure that those on a strict diet can make even more virtuous by reducing the olive oil content and leaving out the dates and pecans.
This is a recipe to play around with according to whatever you have available in the vegetable drawer. Or add in some finely shredded crisp apple. The dressing can be adjusted – a little buttermilk whisked in will render it a little more creamy or even a couple of teaspoons of double cream. I like this simple lemon and olive oil version but if you prefer, use cider vinegar. I discovered the other day that if you dissolve a little sea salt (never table salt) in the vinegar before adding the rest of the dressing ingredients it takes away a lot of the harshness and mellows it nicely.
Add the herbs to taste the amount doesn’t really matter. Just chop and add until to your liking. Seasoning is very important!

Serves 4 (or 2 greedy people)

1 medium bulb of fennel
1 chunk of Savoy cabbage, freshest and greenest bit about size of the fennel
12 snow peas (sugar snaps)
1/2 to 1 shallot, depending on how big it is
1 or 2 pitted medjool dates
30g pecan nuts
Sea salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Very small squeeze honey
1 lemon
2 teaspoons sumac
Fresh mint (Small handful, chopped)
Fresh dill, finely chopped
Fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

Remove the tough outer layer of the fennel and remove the core. Save any fronds. Using a sharp knife or a mandolin finely shred and put into a bowl. Squeeze over the juice of half a lemon.
Finely shred the shallot, snow peas and cabbage. Add these to the fennel with a good amount of sea salt and black pepper. Toss well.
Finely chop the dates and toast the pecans. Chop these and then toss these into the slaw.
Add the olive oil, a tiny squeeze of honey, all the herbs and the sumac. Add any fennel fronds, chopped. Toss all together well and then adjust with more lemon juice, olive oil, herbs, seasoning. Finish with an extra sprinkling of sumac.
Leave for an hour for all the flavours to make friends although that is not entirely necessary. It will keep well for a day or two.

Serve as a side dish with chicken, salmon or pork. Or just have on its own.

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GRATIN DAUPHINOISE
Serves six to eight

1.2 kg potatoes (maris piper, desiree or saxon)
300ml whole milk
400ml double cream
Clove garlic
Good grating fresh nutmeg
Knob butter
Salt & pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4.

Peel the potatoes and slice very thinly. A mandolin is useful for this. Heat the cream and milk in a pan and add the potatoes, seasoning very well. Add a grating of nutmeg and a clove of garlic made into a paste or very finely chopped. Simmer very gently for about ten minutes. Meanwhile, rub butter around the base and sides of a gratin dish (about 9” square or equivalent).

Put the potatoes into the prepared dish, pouring over any remaining cream. Bake in the oven for about an hour or until cooked and golden.

Either serve immediately or allow to cool. Then stamp out rounds of potato with a pastry cutter or cut into squares. Put onto a baking tray to heat up when required or put into a freezer container and freeze to use at a later date.

Heat at 180C for about 20 minutes or longer from frozen (about half an hour or so).

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This is a great way to use up some of that Stilton that lingers in the fridge after all the festivities. Celeriac, with its wonderful, subtlety celery flavour and velvet texture pairs wonderfully well with any blue cheese that you may need to use up. Sourdough croutons provide an indulgent crunch, somewhat reminiscent of cheese on toast and unfortunately with all of the guilt. But these grey days that seem so short and dark need a bit of a comfort blanket and a delicious soup is as good a place to start as any.
This will keep well in the freezer.

Serves four

1 tablespoon olive or rapeseed oil
Small knob of butter
1 onion
2 sticks celery
1 small potato, peeled and chopped
1 small celeriac, peeled and chopped
1 litre chicken or veg stock
Sea salt and black pepper
50g blue cheese (e.g Stilton or similar)

CROUTONS

100g sourdough bread, cut into small cubes
2 tablespoons olive or rapeseed oil
40g Stilton, (or similar) grated
Sea salt and pepper
Fresh thyme leaves (optional)

Start the soup. Cut the opinion finely and chop the celery. Heat the oil and butter in a pan and add the onion and celery. Sweat gently for a few minutes to soften. Add the potato and celeriac and stir to coat well with the rest of the veg. Cook for a minute or two and then add the hot stock. It should just cover the vegetables, reserve the rest for later. Sinner for about twenty minutes until everything is very soft.

Heat the oven to 200c. Toss the bread cubes with the oil and grate over 30g of the Stilton. Mx well and spread out onto a baking tray. Sprinkle with fresh thyme if using. Bake for about ten minutes until golden and then grate over the remaining cheese. Toss again and return to the oven for another two or three minutes.

Blend the soup with a hand held blender or in a liquidiser and add the crumbled cheese. Blend again until smooth. Adjust the thickness of your soup with the remaining stock and season well.

Heat through and serve with the croutons and a little more fresh thyme leaves. Extra cheese crumbled over the top of the soup is an extra indulgence and rather good.

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Sometimes you want some delicious and healthy but without having to spend hours in the kitchen. I often use those lovely, flavoursome salmon fillets that have been lightly smoked, adding another layer of interest to a weekday favourite. Always buy the best salmon you can afford – organic if possible but at the very least from a quality supplier. Check the skin has been properly scaled. Many supermarkets these days don’t bother to scale their fish which I find deeply irritating – no one wants a mouthful of scales and it is really very easy to do, if a little messy! The pesky little things seem to fly all over the place but if you want to eat the skin I do feel that it must be scale free.
This recipe involves roasting the veg in a spiced oil and anything will work well, particularly root vegetables and cauliflower. I love beetroot with this for the colour but you could use potato, celeriac, squash, sweet potato, carrots, cauliflower etc. A little cooking spinach wilted in at the end adds colour and an ironey burst of green leaf but is not essential. Make your tahini dressing how you like it – maybe more or less yoghurt depending on how much you live sesame (a lot, in my case).

For Two

2 lightly smoked salmon fillets
1 large or 2 small beetroot
Six florets cauliflower
3 medium carrot
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon rapeseed oil plus a little extra for the salmon
Spinach (optional) a handful
Sea salt & black pepper
2 tablespoons tahini
1 tablespoon natural yoghurt (I use yeo valley green)
1 lemon

Pre heat the oven to 200c

Make the dressing. Combine the tahini, yoghurt and a squeeze of lemon juice. Add about two tablespoons of cold water and whisk well together. Season. It should be about the consistency of double cream.

Grind the fennel and cumin in a pestle and mortar. Put all the vegetables that you have chopped into even pieces, about 2cm diameter into a roasting pan. Sprinkle with the ground spices and the turmeric. Add one tablespoon of the oil and toss to coat. Season well and then roast in the hot oven for about twenty minutes, tossing occasionally until very tender.

Take a frying pan that can go in the oven and drizzle with a little rapeseed oil. Heat gently and then season the salmon fillets. Put skin side down in the pan and cook for about three minutes, without moving the fish. Put the pan in the oven for a further two minutes and then remove an leave to sit in the pan while you take the vegetables out.

Stir a handful of spinach through the hot vegetables. Divide between two plates an sit the salmon on top, skin side up. Drizzle the tahini dressing around and serve.

Serves Eight

3 cooking apples
2 lemons
50g dark brown soft sugar
150g light muscovado sugar
150g softened butter
2 large eggs
85g plain flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 heaped teaspoon mixed spice
100g ground almonds
30g butter
25g dark brown sugar
50g flaked almonds

Pre heat oven to 180c

Line a 23cm springform tin with baking parchment.

Peel, core and chop the apples. Put into an oven proof dish,grate over the zest of one lemon and add the juice of two. Sprinkle over 50g of dark brown sugar and cover with baking parchment. Bake for 20 minutes until the fruit is soft. Leave to cool.

Cream the butter with the light brown sugar. Add the beaten eggs a little at a time until well mixed in. Whisk the flour and baking powder together with the mixed spice and ground almonds. Fold into the butter mix and then lightly mix in the apple.

Spoon into the prepared tin and bake for thirty minutes. Five minutes before this time is up melt the 30g butter with the 25g dark brown sugar and mix in the flaked almonds. Spread over the top of the cake and bake for a further fifteen to twenty minutes until springy to the touch. Cool in the tin or serve warm, but not hot.

Ginger ice cream is good with this or double cream.

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This is just the most delicious, rich, fragrant fish stew imaginable. It takes a bit of effort, especially if you make your own stock but it really is worth it and once you sit down to enjoy your bowlful of piscatorial goodness all your hard labour will be forgotten.
Just adding even a few prawn shells will make a difference to this so it is worth using what bits of shellfish you can, even if you can’t get hold of the crab and it does make flaming the Pernod (essential!) a lot easier. If you haven’t that many crustacean shells then buy some ready made shellfish stock to add along with the fish stock. As long as you keep roughly to about 800ml of liquid.
Crusty bread and a good bottle of wine are all you will need with this; perhaps just a green salad to follow but I find the soup alone is enough

Serves Eight

FOR THE SHELLFISH REDUCTION

Olive oil
A few crab bodies (underside)
A few prawns/any white fish bones or heads you have
One onion or two shallots
One bulb fennel or one leek
Piece of celeriac if you have it
400g passata
Handful parsley stalks
Two celery stalks
Pinch saffron
A couple of anchovy fillets
Pinch chilli flakes (optional)
Two bay leaves
200ml pernod
800ml fresh fish stock or water
Two tablespoons Arborio rice
Sea salt & black pepper

Four large tomatoes, halved and roasted
Two shallots, finely chopped
Two large cloves garlic, crushed
Fresh thyme
Olive oil
Pinch saffron
250ml white wine
Mixture of white fish eg gurnard, pollock, cod, bream, monkfish, sea bass
About 40 mussels
About 24 clams
Eight large raw prawns
Handful finely chopped fresh parsley

First make your reduction. Saute the onion, saffron and chilli with all the crab, prawns and any fish bones you have. It doesn’t matter if it singes a bit. Add the vegetables and anchovy and then pour over the pernod. Set alight and once the flame has gone simmer for a couple of minutes before adding the bayleaves and stock. Add the rice and the passata and leave to simmer gently for about half an hour. Pass through a conical sieve and press to get all the juices through. Season to taste and set aside.

Using the pan in which you will be serving your stew, heat a couple of tablespoons or so of olive oil. Gently cook the shallot, adding the garlic after a few minutes. Add the chopped, roasted tomatoes and a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme and then pour over the wine. Reduce the wine until almost no liquid is left in the pan. Add the reserved reduction and simmer for a few minutes. Check the seasoning. Just before you are ready to serve, bring the pan up to a simmer and add all the fish and seafood. Cover and simmer very gently (hardly bubbling) until the mussels and clams have opened and the fish is cooked through.

Serve in shallow bowls scattered with parsley with toasted ciabatta or sourdough spread with a generous helping of aioli.

AIOLI

2 – 4 cloves garlic
Good pinch of salt
2 egg yolks
Squeeze lemon juice
300ml sunflower oil
75ml extra virgin olive oil
White wine vinegar

Mash the garlic to a puree with the salt. Add in the egg yolks and a squeeze of lemon and then gradually add the oil, whisking all the time until you have a thick mayonnaise. Check seasoning and adjust with salt, pepper and a little lemon juice or white wine vinegar.

If very thick you can add a little boiling water.
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