Archives for category: Quick and Easy Suppers

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

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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