Archives for category: Quick and Easy Suppers

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

Serves Four

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

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

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

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

Serves Four (or two greedy people with leftovers)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Serves Four

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

Heat the oven to 180C.

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

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

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

Serves Four

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

Heat the oven to 200c

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

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

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

Serve with quinoa and steamed courgette. Toss your quinoa (or you could use a bulgar/quinoa mix) with olive oil, lemon juice and lots of freshly chopped herbs.
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Fishcakes can hardly be described as cutting edge in the culinary world. But they are a versatile and useful way of using any sort of fish, smoked or otherwise and a wonderful alternative to a more pie.

With a little imagination, a good fishcake can rival even the most sophisticated of dishes if presented well and with a delicious sauce or dressing to complement the harmonious mix within a golden crumb. This recipe is a little different and uses celeriac alongside a smaller amount of potato. Celeriac goes beautifully with the punchy flavour of the smoked cod and is arguably lighter in texture. A little potato is essential to ensure the fishcake has enough body to hold it’s shape but it is the celeriac that shines here and is a star player in the autumn kitchen. Mash it, blend it, puree it, use it raw – it is wonderfully versatile and this is a great way of bringing new life to an old favourite.

I never fry my fishcakes. It is so much easier and much less messy to simply toast your crumbs in oil first and then bake the finished fishcake in the oven before serving. You also get a much more even colour and no burnt bottoms! I like this cannonball shape – it looks lovely on the plate, especially propped atop a pile of vibrant spinach but kale or chard would work well too. If you prefer a creamy sauce, then just use whatever your favourite is or whisk creme fraiche, stock and lots of chopped dill and parsley together over a gentle heat.

Serves Six

700g celeriac (peeled weight)
300g potatoes (eg maris piper, king edward)
500g smoked cod
whole milk
Six spring onions
Grated zest of one lemon
Flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
Dill, finely chopped
150g white breadcrumbs
Rapeseed oil
2 small eggs
Plain flour for dusting

One big spinach leaves, washed
1 large shallot
4 tomatoes, skinned and cored.
50ml Extra virgin or rapeseed oil
Juice of a lemon
tablespoon capers, chopped
Finely chopped flat leaf parsley and dill
Salt & pepper

Heat the oven to 180c. Put the breadcrumbs into a baking dish and drizzle over a couple of tablespoons of rapeseed oil. Toss well and bake, stirring occasionally for about ten minutes until golden brown. Season.

Cut the celeriac into pieces and also the potato. Simmer both separately in salted water until tender. Drain well and put into a bowl.

Cover the cod with milk and add seasoning and a bayleaf. Bring to a simmer and then immediately remove from the heat and leave to cool with a lid on. The cod will cook as the liquid cools down. Flake the fish into the celeriac and potato. Finely chop the spring onions and add these in with seasoning, the grated lemon rind and lots of finely chopped herbs. Check the seasoning and adjust.

Whisk the eggs and have the breadcrumbs ready. Take a big spoonful of the mix and roll in your (clean!) hands into a cannonball shape. Do this until you have used it all up. You can chill the mixture at this stage or even put in the freezer for a few minutes to make it easier to handle. Dust with plain flour and then dip first in the egg and then the breadcrumbs, making sure they are well covered. Put onto a baking sheet. You can freeze them at this stage or keep ready in the fridge.

When ready to cook, heat the oven to 180c. Put the fishcakes in the oven for about twenty minutes to heat through. Check they are piping hot using a skewer and if not leave them for longer. Meanwhile, roughly chop the tomatoes. Put the shallot into a pan with the oil and gently saute without colouring until the shallot is softened. Add the tomato and capers, the lemon juice and seasoning. Add a splash of water and swirl around to heat the sauce through. Add in the finely chopped herbs.

Heat a little more rapeseed oil in another pan and add in the spinach. Quickly wilt over a high heat and squeeze off any excess water.

Have heated plates ready. Sit the fishcake on top of a pile of spinach and surround with the tomato dressing. Garnish with a little rocket or watercress.

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Basically a spicy Asian noodle soup, this easy recipe for laksa is big on simplicity without compromising on flavour. Sometimes you just crave those spicy citrus flavours of Asia and if time is short then a bought jar of Thai red curry paste is a great shortcut. Everyone will have their favourites but I have always found Barts to be reliably good. It keeps for ages in the fridge, I always have coconut and noodles to hand leaving only the chicken and fresh herbs to buy. If you have fresh chicken stock then so much the better – like any soup it is only every really as good as the stock it is made with but in this case, there are so many other intense flavourings that you can get away with one of those knorr gel pots if you really haven’t any fresh stock available.

Make sure you are careful how you use the thai fish sauce – it is your salt here and like any seasoning not enough is disappointing and too much is a big mistake! Add a bit at a time and you won’t go too far wrong. Fresh coriander is a must here, as is the fresh lime and it is a wonderful thing that supermarkets are at last stocking fresh kaffir lime leaves. Their exotic, heady flavour is almost irreplaceable but if desperate then the grated rind of a lime could go in instead. Shred fresh lime leaves up finely and they will soften sufficiently.

Chicken is just a suggestion here. Prawns are great as well, either combined with the chicken or on their own. Pork fillet would also work well, as would some lightly seared rump/sirloin steak. Vegetarians could add chopped up tofu or just increase the vegetables. I have used a red pepper but fine french beans, mangetout or beansprouts would also work well.

Lastly, if you are having people round that you want to impress with your beautiful table manners then perhaps this not something for that occasion. Noodle soup is almost impossible to eat in any way other than greedily, messily and probably wearing a washable boiler suit.

Serves Two

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced
100g rice vermicelle noodles
2 teaspoons rapeseed oil/sunflower oil
1 tablespoon thai red curry paste
2 kaffir lime leaves, shredded
1 red pepper, sliced finely
250ml fresh chicken stock
1 can full fat coconut milk
Thai fish sauce
Dark soy sauce
Juice of a lime
Fresh coriander
Fresh basil/thai basil
Fresh mint
Sesame oil to finish

Cook the noodles according to the packet instruction. Drain and refresh under cold running water. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a wide shallow pan. Add the thai red curry paste and cook for a minute or two. Add the red pepper, the chicken stock and the shredded lime leaves and simmer for a few minutes. Add the coconut milk and a tablespoon of thai fish sauce. Add a couple of handfuls of shredded coriander, including the stalks. Reserve the top part of the coriander for garnishing.

Simmer for about fifteen minutes and then add in a tablespoon of soy sauce. Taste and adjust the flavour with thai fish sauce and a bit of the lime juice. Throw in the chicken and simmer very gently for literally just a minute or two until cooked through. Add the noodles and warm the whole thing up, stirring through more coriander, basil and mint if you have it. Serve in shallow bowls with lots of herbs over the top and a drizzle of sesame oil.

chicken laksa