I have been aware of this fiery paste from Calabria, intriguingly named nduja for a while but only recently took the plunge and tried it. It certainly lives up to it’s spicy reputation; those who don’t like a fierce punch of red pepper might want to approach with caution but I have really enjoyed it. I find a little does go quite a long way and this recipe is a good place to start – the nduja is tempered beautifully by the soft, mild burrata (use a good mozzarella if you prefer) and diluting it further in a dressing just slightly lessens the heat. Of course, there is nothing at all to stop you from adding as much as you like.
For four as a starter or two for a light lunch
About 300g cherry tomatoes or a mix
30ml olive oil (or an oil of your preference)
30ml extra virgin olive oil
1 small shallot, finely diced
20g nduja (fresh if possible)
30ml sherry or red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon caster sugar
Handful of fresh basil
Slice the tomatoes thinly and lay on a platter or individual plates. Season well.
Heat the olive oil in a small pan and gently fry the shallots until softened but not coloured. Remove from the heat and add the nduja, whisking it in with the vinegar and sugar.
Add the rest of the oil.
Tear the burrata over the tomatoes and then spoon over the dressing. Cover with torn basil leaves and serve.
This is a good way to use those incredibly useful packs of chicken thighs. I find I often reach for the in the supermarket, particularly when I lack inspiration and just want to know that there will be something for supper. They are easier to deal with than breasts, really. So much more forgiving as they don’t really overcook and dry out despite being off the bone so you can be a little more laissez-faire with your timings and not be punished for it.
This marinade is just a suggestion and a classic one at that. Yoghurt is a wonderful tenderiser for all sorts of meat and a great vehicle for flavour. Harissa, the classic North African fiery paste works beautifully here as the yoghurt calms it all down and the chicken loves the chilli heat and spicy flavour. Add in more garlic, herbs, any citrus you like. Or leave out the harissa and use toasted coriander, fennel or cumin seed, ground up in pestle and mortar and perhaps with some tumeric in there as well. Just remember to season well – the chicken will be so much the better for that.
The preserved lemon dressing is easy to make as you just buy some good quality preserved lemons (belazu are the ones to look out for) and just use the rind. Some people save the flesh for other things but I tend not to keep it. The fennel and orange salad is on this site if you put it in search. The olives work well or just leave them out. Also if you don’t have the pomegranate molasses just add a squeeze of lemon or lime juice instead and adjust with a little honey.
4 – 8 chicken thighs, skinless or boneless (depends on hunger level)
4 tablespoons natural yoghurt
2 – 4 tablespoons harissa paste (start with less, add according to taste)
1 lime, rind and juice
Sea salt and black pepper
Fresh mint, coriander, parsley and/or fennel herb
Olive or rapeseed oil for cooking
2 preserved lemons, rind only
1 tablespoon cider or white balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons runny honey
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons liquid from the preserved lemon jar
1 heaped teaspoon za’atar
Sea salt and black pepper
Mix the marinade ingredients together and taste. Adjust the seasoning and add more harissa if you think you need it. Trim the chicken of any fat and bash to flatten any very fat bits. Put them into the yoghurt and leave to marinade for at least an hour or overnight.
Make the dressing by finely chopping the lemon rind. Put it into a bowl and whisk in the vinegar, a pinch of salt, the honey, za’atar and then the oil. Finally whisk in the lemon liquid and taste, adjusting the seasoning. Leave to let the flavours develop and the za’atar to soften.
Have your fennel and orange salad ready on each plate or on one big serving platter.
Heat a griddle pan and add a little olive or rapeseed oil. Once the oil has heated up add each piece of chicken and leave until a crust has formed. You may need to do this in two batches. You can finish the chicken in the oven or cook them on top of the stove. If cooking in the oven have it heated to 180c (fan) and have a baking tray ready to receive the chicken. Sear it on both sides so well marked and move to the tray, then bake for a further fifteen minutes or until cooked through. or just turn the chicken over and move the pan to a lower heat so that the chicken can cook through without scorching.
Once the juices are running clear, let the chicken rest for five minutes before serving with the salad and the dressing drizzled around it. Add lots of extra fresh mint/coriander/parsley/fennel. A scattering of sumac is a nice addition.
Of all the summer soups, this leek and potato classic has to be one of the best loved. It is a little ironic that leeks are in fact at their best from November through to April, not really months in which a chilled soup is going to be of much appeal. Still, they are readily available all year round and none the worse for that. I’ve added celery to this as well as an onion; purists may well frown on these additions but I think they add great flavour. You could of course just add an extra leek or two and leave them out – entirely up to you.
This makes enough for four
1 tablespoon rapeseed oil
small knob of butter
3 large leeks
1 large stick celery, stringy bits removed
About 3 medium new potatoes (you want about half the weight of the leeks)
750ml chicken stock
200ml double or whipping cream
lots of chopped chives
olive oil (if making the chive oil)
Sea salt and black pepper
Chop all the vegetables, (having peeled the potatoes). Heat the oil and butter together in a saucepan. Add the leeks, celery and onion and sweat gently over a low heat until beginning to soften. Do not allow them to colour.
Add the potatoes and stir around. Add the stock and bring up to a gentle simmer. Season well and then cook gently for about fifteen minutes or until the vegetables are very soft. Liquidise or use a stick blender so that the soup is extremely smooth. You could also pass it through a sieve for an ultra smooth finish.
Whisk in the cream and check the seasoning. Pour into a bowl and chill for at least two or three hours, longer if possible.
Serve in chilled bowls with chives, chive oil and a little more cream swirled on top.
To make the chive oil, simple put chopped chives into a pestle and mortar and add extra virgin olive oil and a little sea salt. Pound until the chives break down and the oil starts to turn green.
Make this to go with lamb, chicken or just have with bruschetta and minted yoghurt. It is best made the day before (or longer) so that the flavours can mingle and make friends but that is all to the better as so useful to have ready in advance.
Serves four to six
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 large or two small aubergine (approx 350g in weight)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 or 2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 stick celery, finely chopped
300g cherry tomatoes or ripe red tomatoes
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 dessertspoon capers, chopped
1 dessertspoon balsamic vinegar
1 dessertspoon light brown sugar
Pinch dried chilli (optional)
A few olives
Fresh basil and parsley
Salt & pepper
First brush the peppers with a little oil and put into a hot oven for about half an hour until well roasted. Put into a plastic bag and leave for ten minutes to loosen the skin.
Cut up the aubergine quite small (about 1cm pieces). Heat three tablespoons of the oil in a pan and fry the aubergine until golden and cooked through. (about 10 mins). Remove from the pan and add another tablespoon of oil. Fry the onion, garlic and celery until very soft and tinged golden and then return the aubergine to the pan. Season well and add the tomatoes, cut in half if they are cherry or skinned and chopped if they are vine tomatoes. Add the chopped capers, the vinegar and the sugar (be a bit sparing at first with these). Also the chilli. Skin and deseed the peppers in a sieve so that you can catch any juice. Chop up the flesh and add to the pan along with the saved juices. Add half the basil, chopped and simmer the whole thing for about forty minutes or until nicely reduced and rich. About half way through add some roughly chopped olives, if you are using them. Check the seasoning and stir through the rest of the basil and finely chopped parsley. Serve hot, warm or cold.
Very good on bruschetta or with a dollop of greek yoghurt and a sprinkling of mint.
1 small head of broccoli
1 large shallot
1 tablespoon cider vinegar (organic and raw if possible)
2 spring onions, chopped
3 soft dried figs, chopped
2 tablespoons mixed seeds, toasted (or a mix of pumpkin/sunflower)
2 – 3 tablespoons chopped parsley/chives/fennel/dill
20 almonds, toasted and chopped (or 50g toasted flaked almonds)
2 teaspoons of runny honey
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Large pinch dried oregano or za’atar
Squeeze lemon juice, to taste
Sea salt & black pepper
Finely slice the shallot. Put into a bowl with the vinegar and leave while you slice your broccoli.
Slice the broccoli very finely on a mandolin or using a very sharp knife. Put into a large bowl and add the shallots and the spring onions.
Add the figs, parsley, mixed seeds and almonds to the bowl. Toss together.
Whisk the buttermilk with the olive oil, honey, the oregano or za’atar and a good amount of seasoning. Add to the bowl and toss well to coat. Add a little lemon juice, adjusting that and the seasoning to taste.
Leave to sit for half an hour to an hour if you can to allow the flavours to mingle. Use it up within a day or so.
Serve on its own or with fresh figs and goats cheese, drizzled with a little honey, lemon and olive oil. Crusty bread essential!
Pre heat the oven to 190 c
Sauté the onions and pancetta in the oil, grating in the clove of garlic and half the finely chopped oregano. Season well.
Put into a bowl and cool slightly before stirring in the watercress. Whisk the eggs, buttermilk and cream together. Season.
Stir the egg mixture into the filling mix, grate in half the cheese and add the rest of the oregano. Turn into the pastry case and top with the rest of the cheese.
Bake for 18 t0 20 minutes or until just set.
Leave to rest for a couple of minutes before serving. Delicious at room temperature as well.
Funny how the word quiche conjures up something slightly dispiriting; replace with the ‘tart’ and suddenly my mouth is watering. Which is unfair, as the classic quiche Lorraine is a wonderful thing if properly made.
There are those that claim not to be able to make pastry and it is true that there are excellent ready made shortcrusts on the market which will work extremely well with this recipe. But actually, it is really incredibly easy to make your own and will always be that little bit better. Also there is the added advantage of being able to add herbs, cheese, mustard or even nuts. You can use wholemeal flour if that is your thing but the important thing is to keep everything cold and not overwork it. It also needs to be thinly rolled out and whilst I am lucky enough to have an aga, those who don’t really will need to blind bake their pastry case before adding the filling. It will otherwise remain fairly raw on the base and that is the last thing you want.
In order to keep my pastry as thin and under control as possible I roll it out between two sheets of clingfilm. It makes it so much easier to handle. If you are blind baking make sure you leave a little overhang of pastry all the way around the tin. If you don’t, the pastry may shrink in the oven and there won’t be space for your filling.
I always seem to have leeks and fennel in my fridge. They are two of my favourite vegetables and both are so versatile. They combine beautifully here in this classic tart, lovely together with the goats cheese and parmesan. I have a huge oregano bush in my garden and so use that a lot. I have learnt over the years that oregano has much more flavour dried, but you just have to use a lot of it if it is fresh; it really is delicious but any herbs would work well.
Always use a metal tin. It will conduct the heat through so much better and it also helps to have a baking tray hot in the oven ready to cook your tart on – that will ensure a properly cooked base.
We enjoy this with a fennel and grapefruit slaw.
125g plain white flour
50g butter (cold, cut into small cubes)
35g parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon English mustard powder
1 small egg
Large pinch sea salt
1 walnut sized knob butter
1 tablespoon rapeseed/light olive oil
1 medium onion
1 clove garlic
1 large leek
1 small bulb fennel
50g fresh oregano, finely chopped
75g soft goats cheese
100ml whole milk
100ml double cream
1 whole egg
2 egg yolks
Sea salt and black pepper
20g parmesan cheese
First make the pastry. I always make mine by hand but you could use a food processor.
You will need a fluted loose bottomed tart tin (metal) 23cm wide and 2 1/2 cm deep.
Put the flour into a bowl and add the salt. Whisk well to break up any lumps. Add the butter and rub in using your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs.
Add the parmesan and mustard and stir to combine. Whisk the egg and add about two thirds of it. Using a knife, cut and fold until you have clumps of pastry forming. You may need to use a little more of the egg, depending on how big it is. Keep any leftover egg as you will need it later. It will take a few minutes but this cutting with a knife will help keep the pastry light. Once it has combined (it must not be sticky) knead very briefly until it is a smooth ball. Put into a plastic bag and chill for at least half an hour in the fridge.
Make the filling. Chop the onion and finely slice the leek and the fennel, discarding any part that might be tough or fibrous. Heat the oil and butter and add the vegetables. Add half of the finely chopped oregano. Sauté very gently over a low heat until softened. Add the rest of the oregano. Season well and put into a bowl to cool.
While your filling is cooling, take your pastry out of the fridge. Roll it out thinly and line your tart tin. If you have an aga you can skip this step but if not, blind bake the pastry at 180c. You will have to line it with baking paper (easiest to scrumple this up first) and add baking beans. Prick all over with a fork. After ten minutes or so remove the baking beans and allow the base to turn a light golden. Allow to cool.
Whisk the egg, egg yolks, milk and cream together and add lots of seasoning. Grate in half the parmesan. Spread the cooked vegetables into the tart case. Add little chunks of the soft goats cheese. Pour over the cream/egg mixture and top with the rest of the parmesan and then bake in an oven at 190c for about minutes until just set and a light golden colour. It should still wobble but be cooked through.
Leave to sit for a few minutes before serving, or allow to cool and eat at room temperature.
A friend brought round a lovely big bunch of lovage the other day. It is apparently very easy to grow and further investigation taught me that it has a wonderful flavour reminiscent of celery with a hint of parsley and aniseed thrown in for good measure. It does in fact make a good substitute for flat leaf parsley and I particularly like the tender, hollow stems which mean you can chop the whole lot up and use it all, especially if it is going in a casserole or soup. I use a kallo gel stock cube if I don’t have any fresh stock available and find it excellent, as is the marigold bouillon powder. That needs to be added with care though as it can be very salty.
I’m told that lovage makes a wonderful addition to a cheese soufflé but things have been rather more basic in our house this week. Some of the leaves were put to good use over a roast sweet potato and orange salad but the rest made a delicious soup and I have since ordered a plant so that I can make this again. Just right for a spring lunch and made a little be more special with a quenelle of creamed feta garnishing the centre, although that is certainly a very optional extra. Worth doing though, if you happen to have feta or goats cheese available.
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon rapeseed oil
1 walnut sized knob of butter
3 stalks celery, stripped of any tough strings and finely chopped
1 large or 2 small leeks (about 250g) chopped
1 medium potato (about 125g), peeled and chopped
125g washed lovage, stalks included
1 litre chicken or vegetable stock
1 – 2 tablespoons double cream (don’t worry if none available)
Sea salt & black pepper
Melt the oil and butter together and add the onion and garlic. Sauté very gently until beginning to soften and add the celery. Continue cooking until soft and then add the leeks and potato. Stir around a bit and then add the chicken or vegetable stock.
Simmer for about fifteen minutes or until everything is very soft. Add the lovage and simmer for a couple more minutes before blending everything together until very smooth.
Add the double cream, if using and check the seasoning.
4” piece feta cheese
2 tablespoons double cream
Mash everything together until very smooth and creamy. If you like you could add some chives. Check seasoning and use teaspoons to make quenelles of this to put on top of the soup.
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.
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.
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
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.