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Lunch Quick and Easy Starters Quick and Easy Suppers Soups Uncategorized

Parsnip, Fennel & Apple Soup

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

creme fraiche

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.

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Dinner Lunch Quick and Easy Starters Quick and Easy Suppers Soups Starters and Salads Uncategorized

Spiced Root Vegetable Soup with a spicy foaming butter

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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Categories
Dinner Fish and Seafood Quick and Easy Suppers Uncategorized

Cod with Tomato & Black olive Dressing and a Cannellini Mash

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.

Categories
Dinner Quick and Easy Suppers Starters and Salads Uncategorized Vegetarian

FENNEL & SNOW PEA SLAW

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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Categories
Lunch Quick and Easy Starters Quick and Easy Suppers Starters and Salads Uncategorized Vegetarian

ALMOND BUTTER DRESSING with TAMARI

I have always loved soy based dressings and have recently been using the Japanese tamari in place of the Chinese soy. Tamari is a little richer yet less salty than the traditional soy, adding that elusive ‘umami’ to stir fries and dressings. It is a by-product of miso paste and owing to the absence of wheat is gluten free.
A pot of almond butter has been lurking in the back of my cupboard for ages and I have finally found a most excellent use for it. Combined with the tamari, a little citrus and thinned with cold water (excellent for lowering the calorie content!) this makes a dressing/dip that is quite delicious served over steamed and cooled green vegetables and here I have used purple sprouting broccoli, drizzled with the dressing and finished with a sprinkling of toasted almonds just to add a bit of crunch. It is extremely moreish (that’s the umami for you!) and I hope you like it as much as I do.

Serves Four

4 tablespoons almond butter
1 tablespoon tamari
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 – 4 tablespoons cold water
1 teaspoon maple syrup
Sea salt and black pepper

Using a small whisk, sound and stir the almond butter, lemon juice, tamari and 3 tablespoons of water together until well blended and about the consistency of double cream. Add water to adjust the thickness if need be and a little maple syrup to taste. Season. Adjust according to taste.

One idea is to serve the dressing over steamed/boiled sprouting broccoli and top with crunch toasted almonds. Or use as a dip for crudités.

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Categories
Lunch Quick and Easy Suppers Uncategorized Vegetarian

SHAKSHUKA

This is a great breakfast or lunch dish that you can make your own, changing the spices, vegetables and herbs to suit what you have in the larder. Shakshuka means ‘shaken up’ and is traditionally made with tomatoes and onion, gently spiced with cumin and harissa. You could use coriander, ground fennel seed, fresh chillies, chipotle paste, fresh ginger…..
Some recipes cut the onion and peppers quite finely but I rather like them a little chunky. Just make sure that they are properly cooked and softened. You certainly don’t want a slightly raw piece of onion first thing in the morning or at any time of day for that matter!d
I use tinned tomatoes here and I do recommmend that you avoid the chopped ones and buy the whole ones. They are much better quality and it is also worth forking out on a good quality brand – it is a matter of a few more pence and really does make a difference. Likewise with the tomato purée – I use an organic one (duchy originals) and the flavour is excellent.

Serves 2

1 onion, roughly chopped
1 red pepper (or mix with yellow & orange) roughly chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves fresh garlic
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 to 1 teaspoon harissa (or to taste)
400g tin good quality plum tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato purée
Sea salt and black pepper
Big handful spinach leaves
4 organic free range eggs
50g feta, crumbled
Small bunch coriander, roughly chopped
Sumac (optional)

Heat the oil in a shallow frying pan. Add the onion and peppers and cook gently for about ten to fifteen minutes until soft. Try not to colour them too much. Add the garlic, cumin, harissa and paprika and cook for a further two or so minutes.
Add the tinned tomatoes, breaking them up with a wooden spoon. Swill the tin out with a little more water and add that too (about 1/4 tin full). Add the tomato puree. Simmer, uncovered for a further five minutes. Season well.
Add the spinach to the pan and stir until wilted. Then make a well in one side of the pan and break in one of the eggs. Repeat with the other three, cover with a lid and cook very gently for about five minutes or until the eggs are just cooked, with set whites and soft yolks.
Sprinkle over the feta and coriander and serve. A sprinkling of sumac works well as extra seasoning if you have some. Some strained yoghurt (soft labneh) is good on this as well.
Serve in warmed bowls or straight out of the pan! Crusty bread and olive oil is all you need with this.

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Categories
Lunch Quick and Easy Suppers Soups Uncategorized

WINTER SOUP

Great as a meal in itself – healthy comfort food for winter. Use any root veg you feel like. Below is just a suggestion!

Serves 4 – 6

Olive Oil (for frying)
110g smoked bacon
2 onions, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 large leek, washed & sliced
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
2 parsnips
1/2 a celeriac, chopped into small pieces
250 – 350g cavolo nero, savoy cabbage or curly kale, washed and shredded
1.8 litres chicken/vegetable stock
400g tin flageolet beans, drained and rinsed
250g chorizo sausage (more if you like it)
2 large handfuls chopped parsley
Bowl of freshly grated parmesan
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper

Cut the bacon into small pieces. Heat a little oil in a large pan and sauté the bacon until golden. Add the onions and cook until transparent. Add the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes before adding all the vegetables except the kale/cabbage. Pour over the stock and simmer until all the vegetables are tender.

Meanwhile, slice up the chorizo and fry in a dry pan until golden on each side. Drain off the oil.

Add the kale and simmer for five minutes.

Add the beans and chorizo to the soup and check the seasoning. Heat through and serve in big bowls with a good sprinkling of parsley and a drizzle of olive oil.

Hand the parmesan round separately. Serve with warm bread.

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Categories
Dinner Fish and Seafood Lunch Quick and Easy Suppers Uncategorized

LIGHTLY SMOKED SALMON FILLET with SPICED ROAST VEGETABLES & TAHINI YOGHURT DRESSING

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.

Categories
Lunch Quick and Easy Suppers Starters and Salads Uncategorized Vegetarian

CHEDDAR, THYME & CHIVE SOUFFLES with FENNEL & APPLE SALAD

The kitchen can be witness to some miraculous tricks of cookery alchemy. Any souffle, savoury or sweet is one of those dishes that undergoes a magical process once in the oven. As long as you follow a few basic rules and make sure that there is minimal time from oven to plate you shouldn’t go too far wrong.

Souffles should, ideally rise beautifully straight with a traditional ‘top hat’ effect. If it doesn’t exactly work like that it really doesn’t matter. The important thing is that it rises, is gossamer light and packed with flavour. Be generous with the seasoning and hold your nerve. The oven door must remain firmly shut until the pinger goes off. A lovely clean, clear glass door is an asset here as it is useful to be able to see how your golden miracles are progressing.

I am using a good, mature cheddar cheese here. It works beautifully and is wonderful with the addition of the herbs but you could use gruyere, parmesan or even blue cheese.

Serves Four

Four ramekin dishes
Butter
Handful of white breadcrumbs

20g unsalted butter
20g plain flour
150ml whole milk
50g mature cheddar cheese, grated
2 large eggs, separated
1 teaspoon dijon or english mustard
Tablespoon of finely chopped chives
Tablespoon of fresh thyme leaves, stripped from their stalks
Sea salt & black pepper

1 small bulb of fennel
1 small red skinned crisp apple
Fennel fronds (from the fennel bulb)
Flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Lemon juice
Rapeseed oil
Sea salt & black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 200c and put a baking sheet in it.
Butter the ramekins and toss the breadcrumbs around to stick to the sides.

Make the sauce first. Take a small saucepan and put in the milk, flour and cubed butter. Put on the heat and using a whisk stir constantly until thick and bubbling. Cook for another minute or two and add a good amount of seasoning and the mustard.

Remove from the heat and add in the cheddar cheese and the mustard. Stir until melted and as it all starts to cool add the egg yolks and the herbs, whisking well until you have a very thick and smooth sauce. Transfer this to a bowl and allow to cool.

Whisk the egg whites until the soft peak stage. Once the sauce is not longer hot (it doesn’t have to be very cold). Roughly fold a quarter of the egg whites to loosen it all up and then gently fold in the rest of the egg white. A metal tablespoon is best for this. Once the egg whites are all folded in check the seasoning.

Divide between the ramekin dishes. Run your thumb around the edge to create the ‘top hat’ effect and to help the souffle rise evenly.

Put into the oven and set the timer to 10 minutes.

Make the fennel and apple salad by finely shredding the fennel and slicing the apple very finely and if the pieces are big, cutting in half lengthways. Toss immediately in lemon juice to prevent oxidisation and then add rapeseed or extra virgin olive oil to taste. Season well and add roughly chopped flat leaf parsley and the fennel fronds. Divide between your plates, that you will have ready and waiting.

Once the souffles are well risen and golden brown (they may need an extra couple of minutes but judge through the glass window of the oven) remove from the oven and serve immediately. The will sink fast so speed is of the essence.

If you have some chopped walnuts it would be nice to toast some and add them to the salad.

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Dinner Fish and Seafood Lunch Quick and Easy Suppers Soups Uncategorized

CRAB CHOWDER

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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