Archives for category: Quick and Easy Suppers

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

It’s fair to say that the autumnal weather has been unseasonably mild of late and now that the hazy days of summer, such as they were are really well and truly over I find myself hankering after some of the more comforting recipes. Soup is a staple in our household throughout the colder months and much as I lovely the summery gazpachos and chilled offerings that befit a heatwave, there is nothing that can quite beat a bowl of the steaming hearty goodness that a beautifully balanced, flavoursome soup provides.

Stock is everything in a soup – a good one will make the difference between the mundane and the special. There are many excellent ready made ones available to buy but if you can make your own, especially if you have a carcass left from a good free range chicken then you will be rewarded.

This combination of broccoli, pear and blue cheese is a tried and tested favourite. The flavours work brilliantly together and is simplicity itself to make, as long as you have a good stick blender or liquidiser. It freezes well too, so make extra and you will be very glad as the season goes on to find a tub or two on standby in the freezer.

Serves Four

Rapeseed oil
1 onion
1 large potato
2 pears (any variety, slightly unripe)
Fresh oregano and sage, both or just one
1 medium head of broccoli
800 ml or so of chicken stock
Min 50 grams blue cheese (eg St Agur/roquefort)
Spoonful of creme fraiche
A few tiny leaves of fresh sage
Maldon salt & black pepper

Chop the onion and potato. Heat a couple of tablespoons of rapeseed oil in a large saucepan and saute them for a few minutes until beginning to soften but not colour. Add a tablespoon of the herbs.

Peel, core and chop the pears and add those into the pan. Cook for a few more minutes before adding 300ml of chicken stock. Simmer for ten minutes and then add the chopped broccoli and another 300ml of stock. Cover the pan and simmer until the broccoli is tender. This will be about five minutes.

Add the blue cheese and creme fraiche and a good helping of maldon sea salt and pepper and blend the whole lot together, adding a bit more stock until you have reached the right consistency (about the same as double cream). If you like, add more blue cheese until you feel you have the right balance of flavour.

Quickly fry the sage leaves in some rapeseed oil (cover the base of a small saucepan) and then serve the soup in warmed bowls with a garnish of sage leaves and a drizzle of the oil that the sage was fried in.

Perfect with some good crusty bread.

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It has been said many times that in order to stay healthy you should eat colour – lots of it. This easy salad is a great way to get a vitamin hit with maximum taste. Not only is it the prettiest plateful for your summer or autumn table, it also packs a punch with the harissa annointed vegetables and these, combined with the cooling minty dressing are seriously delicious. Serve it on it’s own, the veg warm from the oven or as a hearty but healthy side with grilled chicken or lamb. It makes a great starter or pack it into a tortilla wrap or pitta if you want lunch on the go.

The puy lentils could be left out but they add a lovely bite and make the whole thing a little more substantial. Add as many or as few as you like. The walnuts add a wonderful earthy crunch but you could just use pine nuts instead if you prefer. Add a tablespoon or two of tahini to the yoghurt dressing for a suggestion of sesame. This is a salad that you can play around with and make your own. Mint, yoghurt, harissa, root veg – it’s a marriage made in culinary heaven.

Use whatever beetroot you can find – the classic dark red are easily available in every supermarket but golden beetroot would work well here in combination with the red. Buy the smaller, more tender bulbs if you can.

Serves 4 for lunch, 6 as a starter250g small carrots (e.g. chantenay)

Four beetroot (or eight very small)
1 dessertspoon of harissa paste
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Squeeze honey
A little lemon juice
Salt and pepper
1 tsp. fennel, toasted and crushed
50g toasted chopped walnuts
Fresh Rocket
4 tablespoons cooked puy lentils, tossed in a little oil and lemon juice
Handful of fresh mint
1 lemon
Four tablespoons natural yoghurt

Pre-heat the oven to 220c (200c fan oven)

Cut the carrots into small lengths. Peel the beetroot and cut into small chunks.

Take a shallow roasting tin. Mix the harissa, oil, lemon juice and honey. Toss through the beetroot and carrot and turn into the roasting tin. Add seasoning and roast for 30 – 40 minutes until well roasted.

Remove from the oven. Allow to cool a bit for a few minutes. Toss into a bowl and mix with the lentils, walnuts and rocket. Check the seasoning.

Mix the yoghurt with lots of mint and lemon juice. Season to taste.

Pile onto plates and drizzle over the minted yoghurt or serve that separately.

carrot and beetroot salad

Everyone has their own favourite spaghetti recipe. It is the go to dish for those evenings when you are feeling a little bit jaded and in need of some food love without too much effort involved. This is one of ours – it is eminently adaptable to whatever you have lying around in the vegetable drawer or in the garden but the thing is that it isn’t too heavy – no rich cream or too much cheese and so you can really enjoy it without too much guilt. If you really want to make it a dish worthy of a health halo then make half the amount of pasta and top that up with some courgetti or sweet potatotti or similar. But personally, I find that a bit of pasta now and then never did anyone any harm and it is a sure fire way to ensure a good nights sleep. Apparently carbohydrates do that.

A word on the use of swiss chard – you can replace this with spinach but the advantage of the chard is that it doesn’t contain nearly as much water as spinach and consequently what you put in the pan does cook down, but stays more intense and doesn’t release very much liquid.

If you do want to use spinach then put a lot of it in a colander, pour over a kettle full of boiling water and squeeze out a lot of excess liquid with the back of a wooden spoon. Then add it as per the recipe.

Serves 2

1 tablespoon rapeseed or light olive oil
1 leek
1 small stick celery
Finely chopped oregano or a large pinch of dried provencal herbs
1 clove garlic
2 slices of unsmoked back bacon or streaky bacon
2 giant handfuls of swiss chard
1 small courgette or whatever you have lying around
a green pesto or any sort
1 ripe tomato, chopped, core removed
Parmesan to grate
Salt & pepper
150g dried spaghetti or other pasta
Extra virgin olive oil

Have a large pan of salted water on to boil while you get on with the sauce.

Finely chop the leek and celery. Heat the oil in a shallow frying pan and gently fry for a few minutes until soft, along with the herbs. I add a little water at this point to sort of fry/steam. This stops the veg colouring too much and once the water evaporates you are left with softened leeks and celery that haven’t absorbed so much oil. Now add the bacon and garlic and stir around until nicely browned and cooked.

Put the pasta on to boil for however long it says on the packet (normally around ten minutes). Chop up all the chard and put in the pan, stalks first if you can but it’s not crucial. Cook for a few minutes until well softened. Drain your pasta and reserve a little of the cooking liquid. Add a couple of tablespoons of this to the pan with the chard etc in it and stir around. Add the pasta and then grate in the courgette using a coarse grater. Then add the tomato, as much pesto as you like and season well. Soften off with a bit more cooking liquid and pile into big warmed bowls, drizzle with extra virgin oil and eat with a good grating of parmesan.

A green salad made from leaves and avocado is good with this.

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As the weather warms up things change in the kitchen too. At this time of year its all about lighter, fresh flavours that refresh and revive rather than comfort and warm. Recipes need to be easy too. There is so much to do outside and no one wants to spent hours in the kitchen with the sun (hopefully) beaming down in the garden. This is a lovely salad for a weekend lunch or supper on a warm evening and will satisfy even the biggest appetites if you are generous with the beef. I often buy tail cuts of beef fillet from the butcher for this. They are much cheaper than the perfect centre cut and just as good. Sirloin is more flavoursome and a very good alternative, just slightly less tender but no less the worse for that. I have used rump steak to great effect here too – just make sure you rest it properly and you will have lovely tender pieces. You can ring the changes to fit whatever veg/salad you have to hand. I like to make it as colourful as I can – red radish is useful here, but green beans, sugar snaps, yellow peppers, cucumber etc etc or even a few bean sprouts wouldn’t go amiss at all. Mint is essential.

Serves four to six

1 red pepper
1 small red onion
A few radishes
1 small punnet of cherry tomatoes
2 handfuls each of fresh mint and coriander
110g roasted, unsalted peanuts
Bag of green leaves
4 asparagus spears (optional)
2 Spring onions
800g beef fillet/sirloin
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt & Pepper

Dressing

2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 red chillies, de-seeded and finely chopped
3 tablespoons light soy sauce
3 tablespoons lime juice
1 generous tablespoon fish sauce
30g palm sugar (or soft light brown)

Pound the garlic and chillies together in a pestle and mortar. Put into a bowl and add the rest of the dressing ingredients. Mix well. Check how it tastes and adjust with more chilli/fish sauce if necessary. Set aside.

Quarter the peppers. Slice thinly. Slice the red onions thinly and the spring onions. Halve or quarter the cherry tomatoes. Toss in a bowl with the peanuts and herbs.

Heat a grill pan. Cut the beef into thick slices. Sprinkle with a little olive oil and sear until just medium rare.

Rest for a few minutes before thinly slicing. Add to the other ingredients. Spoon the dressing over the salad and serve immediately, on a bed of green leaves if liked. Sprinkle the spring onions over the top with extra herbs.
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Quite often, an awful lot of time and effort needs to be spent in the kitchen to create something rather beautiful, extremely delicious and very elegant. For those of you who simply do not have the time, inclination or energy to spare then look no further than this gorgeous recipe. I am using a fillet of salmon here but any fish will work well. The sauce is a simple warm dressing that originates in France – perfectly diced tomato concasse combine with the best olive oil and piquant shallots that bring the fish and vegetables to life and looks so pretty against the green courgette and pale pink salmon. If you can find fresh chervil then that is lovely here, either on its own or with the basil but it isn’t that easily available.

I often finish this with a little spoonful of fresh pesto but it looks lovely unadorned. For those with heartier appetites, some crushed new potatoes under the courgetti will make it more substantial but for a summer lunch or supper I find this carb free version is enough.

Serves Four

4 fillets of salmon (approx 160 – 180g) skinless
4 small firm courgette
2 handfuls swiss chard
2 shallots (approx 50g)
A couple of sprigs of fresh thyme
Four medium tomatoes, very good quality
1 large clove garlic
100ml good extra virgin olive oil
2 lemons
2 tablespoons of shredded fresh basil/chervil
Rapeseed/light olive oil
Sea salt & black pepper
Fresh pesto (optional)

Pre-heat the oven to 200c

First finely shred the chard, leaves only and either use a spiralizer to create your courgetti or finely shred them with a julienne peeler. Set aside.

Make the sauce vierge. Finely chop the shallots and garlic. Skin and deseed the tomatoes. Finely chop the flesh into small dice. Heat the extra virgin oil in a small saucepan and add the shallot, thyme and garlic. Cook for a couple of minutes over a gentle heat and then remove and keep to one side. Stir in the tomato and season well with salt and pepper.

Heat a medium sized saucepan and also a frying pan for your salmon. Season the salmon. Pour a little rapeseed or olive oil into each and once hot put the salmon, presentation side down into the frying pan and the chard into the saucepan. Cook both for a couple of minutes, then flip the salmon over (it should be a pale golden colour) and put the pan into the oven for a further three minutes (maybe four if it is very thick). Add the courgetti to the chard, season and stir over a high heat for a minute or two. Remove from the heat and add a squeeze of lemon. Check the seasoning. Remove the salmon from the oven and leave to rest for a minute or two. The tip of a sharp knife should feel warm when pushed right into the centre. Squeeze a little lemon over each piece.

Have ready four warm plates. Divide the courgette and chard between the plates sit the salmon on top. Add juice of a lemon and the basil to the sauce vierge and warm it through gently. Check and adjust the seasoning. Spoon the sauce around the fish and courgette. If you like and have some fresh pesto to hand, a little teaspoonful on top looks pretty and goes well. Alternatively you could stir a little through the sauce.

Serve as soon as you can, although it is not a dish to be served piping hot and therefore quite useful if your guests are slow in coming through to the table!

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Homemade ice cream is one of life’s great pleasures and it is very easy to make.
Of course, there are some great ice creams nowadays that you can buy in the supermarket but nothing quite comes close to your own and this recipe is so much easier to make than the classic method as you don’t need to go to all the bother of making a home-made custard.  This is really a matter of stirring some rather wonderful ingredients together and then sitting back and accepting the inevitable compliments, safe in the knowledge that it really wasn’t an entirely taxing experience in the first place.  But no less delicious for that and not necessarily a detail that you have to share.

I made this ice cream the other day for a Friday night supper party.  I was rather short of time and had one of those tubs of peaches rapidly ripening in the larder.   The ginger ice cream made  a lovely accompaniment to them which I braised in a marsala syrup, stuffed with amaretti and dark sugar and spiced up with some cinnamon and vanilla.

STEM GINGER ICE CREAM
Serves Six to Eight

1 tub mascarpone
250ml double cream
Four pieces of stem ginger, finely chopped plus syrup from the jar
2 tablespoons ginger preserve (I use Waitrose own)
2 egg whites
50g caster sugar
Lightly whip the cream and whisk in the mascarpone.  Add the ginger preserve, the finely chopped stem ginger and about three tablespoons of the syrup.  Whisk the egg whites until stiff and then gradually add the caster sugar until you have a glossy meringue.  Add to the ice cream mixture and fold in.

Pour the whole lot into an ice cream machine and churn.  If you don’t have a machine then put in the freezer in a plastic tub and whisk with a  fork every half an hour to break up the ice crystals that will be forming.  You will have to do this about four or five times.

Keep in the freezer but take out and put in the fridge for about 45 minutes before serving if you are not using it immediately.

PEACHES IN MARSALA with AMARETTI
Serves Eight

Eight fairly ripe peaches
Eight amaretti biscuits (crunchy ones)
Dark muscovado sugar
400ml sweet marsala
100g caster sugar
One fresh vanilla pod
2 sticks of cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 180c
Remove the skin from the peaches by sitting them in boiling water for a minute or two.  The skins will slip off easily.

Cut in half and remove the stone.  Put in an ovenproof dish and fill the centre of each peach half with some crumbled biscuit and a teaspoon of sugar.  Heat the marsala with the caster sugar and pour around the peaches.  Bake in the oven for forty minutes, basting the peaches occasionally.

Serve warm or at room temperature, with the ice cream or softly whipped double cream.