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Sometimes you want some delicious and healthy but without having to spend hours in the kitchen. I often use those lovely, flavoursome salmon fillets that have been lightly smoked, adding another layer of interest to a weekday favourite. Always buy the best salmon you can afford – organic if possible but at the very least from a quality supplier. Check the skin has been properly scaled. Many supermarkets these days don’t bother to scale their fish which I find deeply irritating – no one wants a mouthful of scales and it is really very easy to do, if a little messy! The pesky little things seem to fly all over the place but if you want to eat the skin I do feel that it must be scale free.
This recipe involves roasting the veg in a spiced oil and anything will work well, particularly root vegetables and cauliflower. I love beetroot with this for the colour but you could use potato, celeriac, squash, sweet potato, carrots, cauliflower etc. A little cooking spinach wilted in at the end adds colour and an ironey burst of green leaf but is not essential. Make your tahini dressing how you like it – maybe more or less yoghurt depending on how much you live sesame (a lot, in my case).

For Two

2 lightly smoked salmon fillets
1 large or 2 small beetroot
Six florets cauliflower
3 medium carrot
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon rapeseed oil plus a little extra for the salmon
Spinach (optional) a handful
Sea salt & black pepper
2 tablespoons tahini
1 tablespoon natural yoghurt (I use yeo valley green)
1 lemon

Pre heat the oven to 200c

Make the dressing. Combine the tahini, yoghurt and a squeeze of lemon juice. Add about two tablespoons of cold water and whisk well together. Season. It should be about the consistency of double cream.

Grind the fennel and cumin in a pestle and mortar. Put all the vegetables that you have chopped into even pieces, about 2cm diameter into a roasting pan. Sprinkle with the ground spices and the turmeric. Add one tablespoon of the oil and toss to coat. Season well and then roast in the hot oven for about twenty minutes, tossing occasionally until very tender.

Take a frying pan that can go in the oven and drizzle with a little rapeseed oil. Heat gently and then season the salmon fillets. Put skin side down in the pan and cook for about three minutes, without moving the fish. Put the pan in the oven for a further two minutes and then remove an leave to sit in the pan while you take the vegetables out.

Stir a handful of spinach through the hot vegetables. Divide between two plates an sit the salmon on top, skin side up. Drizzle the tahini dressing around and serve.

Serves eight

500ml double cream
1 tin condensed milk
Stem ginger preserve
Stem ginger in syrup

Whip the cream until thick but not too stiff. Whisk in about 200g of the condensed milk. Stir in three tablespoons of the ginger preserve. Chop up three balls of stem ginger and add these along with some of the syrup to taste.

Grate in the rind of a lime and add the juice of half.

Churn in an ice cream machine or put straight into a tun and put in the freezer, whisking occasionally until frozen.

Delicious with the spiced apple cake.

Serves Eight

3 cooking apples
2 lemons
50g dark brown soft sugar
150g light muscovado sugar
150g softened butter
2 large eggs
85g plain flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 heaped teaspoon mixed spice
100g ground almonds
30g butter
25g dark brown sugar
50g flaked almonds

Pre heat oven to 180c

Line a 23cm springform tin with baking parchment.

Peel, core and chop the apples. Put into an oven proof dish,grate over the zest of one lemon and add the juice of two. Sprinkle over 50g of dark brown sugar and cover with baking parchment. Bake for 20 minutes until the fruit is soft. Leave to cool.

Cream the butter with the light brown sugar. Add the beaten eggs a little at a time until well mixed in. Whisk the flour and baking powder together with the mixed spice and ground almonds. Fold into the butter mix and then lightly mix in the apple.

Spoon into the prepared tin and bake for thirty minutes. Five minutes before this time is up melt the 30g butter with the 25g dark brown sugar and mix in the flaked almonds. Spread over the top of the cake and bake for a further fifteen to twenty minutes until springy to the touch. Cool in the tin or serve warm, but not hot.

Ginger ice cream is good with this or double cream.

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It’s quite handy to have the odd recipe up your sleeve that looks a lot more complicated than it actually is. This is just one of those and has the added advantage of being made with filo pastry, always handy to have in the freezer and is one the few ingredients that you can actually defrost and re-freeze without dire consequences.

I love this pea and pumpkin seed pesto and it is what makes this tart, arguably a loose version of a spanakopita rather special. Frozen peas are perfect for this and I use a supermarket own petit pois which are lovely and tender without breaking the bank. The pesto provides a soft and highly flavoursome blanket on which to stack your medley of veg and tangy upper layer of sharp feta cheese. A great lunch dish and one that you could easily make the day before and just pop into the oven when you are ready. I’m using a mix of leeks, fennel, chard and spinach here but you could layer up roasted butternut and sweet potato as well. Die hard meat eaters could add in some left over roast chicken.

SERVES FOUR

for the pesto:

250g frozen petit pois peas
10g basil leaves
5g fresh mint leaves
3 tablespoons rapeseed or olive oil
1 – 2 teaspoons sea salt
Black pepper
25g parmesan cheese, finely grated
25g toasted pumpkin seeds
Squeeze of lemon juice

Cook the peas in boiling salted water, drain and refresh under cold running water.

Put the well drained peas into a food processor and add the herbs, oil and one teaspoon of sea salt. Blitz until blended and then add the parmesan and pumpkin seeds with a good grinding of black pepper. Check the seasoning and add more salt if you think it needs it.

FOR THE TART

The pesto
2 large leeks, sliced finely into half moons
1 small bulb fennel or 1/2 large, core removed and finely sliced
1 or 2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 large handful of fresh spinach
4 stalks and leaves of swiss chard, sliced
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
1 tablespoon rapeseed oil,
Sea salt and black pepper
1 pack filo pastry
25g butter, melted
125g feta cheese, chopped
Sumac

One fluted tin, about 22cm diameter and 3cm deep.

Wilt the spinach and squeeze out any excess water. Put the leeks, garlic and fennel into a saucepan with the oil and cook until tender. Add the chard and cook for a few more minutes, seasoning with salt and pepper. Add the chives and spinach and stir together.

Take a sheet of filo and brush all over with the butter. Use to line the tin, letting the sides of the filo hang over the sides. Do the same with a second sheet and then spread your pesto over the base. Top with the vegetables and then scatter the feta over the top. Fold the filo over to start to cover the top of the pie and brush with more butter. Take a final sheet of pastry and cut into four. Brush each piece with butter and the scrumple each up and sit on top of the pie, covering the centre. Give it all a final brush with any remaining butter, dust the whole thing with sumac and bake for about half an hour until golden brown all over. Serve hot or warm with a green salad and crusty bread.

This is just the most delicious, rich, fragrant fish stew imaginable. It takes a bit of effort, especially if you make your own stock but it really is worth it and once you sit down to enjoy your bowlful of piscatorial goodness all your hard labour will be forgotten.
Just adding even a few prawn shells will make a difference to this so it is worth using what bits of shellfish you can, even if you can’t get hold of the crab and it does make flaming the Pernod (essential!) a lot easier. If you haven’t that many crustacean shells then buy some ready made shellfish stock to add along with the fish stock. As long as you keep roughly to about 800ml of liquid.
Crusty bread and a good bottle of wine are all you will need with this; perhaps just a green salad to follow but I find the soup alone is enough

Serves Eight

FOR THE SHELLFISH REDUCTION

Olive oil
A few crab bodies (underside)
A few prawns/any white fish bones or heads you have
One onion or two shallots
One bulb fennel or one leek
Piece of celeriac if you have it
400g passata
Handful parsley stalks
Two celery stalks
Pinch saffron
A couple of anchovy fillets
Pinch chilli flakes (optional)
Two bay leaves
200ml pernod
800ml fresh fish stock or water
Two tablespoons Arborio rice
Sea salt & black pepper

Four large tomatoes, halved and roasted
Two shallots, finely chopped
Two large cloves garlic, crushed
Fresh thyme
Olive oil
Pinch saffron
250ml white wine
Mixture of white fish eg gurnard, pollock, cod, bream, monkfish, sea bass
About 40 mussels
About 24 clams
Eight large raw prawns
Handful finely chopped fresh parsley

First make your reduction. Saute the onion, saffron and chilli with all the crab, prawns and any fish bones you have. It doesn’t matter if it singes a bit. Add the vegetables and anchovy and then pour over the pernod. Set alight and once the flame has gone simmer for a couple of minutes before adding the bayleaves and stock. Add the rice and the passata and leave to simmer gently for about half an hour. Pass through a conical sieve and press to get all the juices through. Season to taste and set aside.

Using the pan in which you will be serving your stew, heat a couple of tablespoons or so of olive oil. Gently cook the shallot, adding the garlic after a few minutes. Add the chopped, roasted tomatoes and a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme and then pour over the wine. Reduce the wine until almost no liquid is left in the pan. Add the reserved reduction and simmer for a few minutes. Check the seasoning. Just before you are ready to serve, bring the pan up to a simmer and add all the fish and seafood. Cover and simmer very gently (hardly bubbling) until the mussels and clams have opened and the fish is cooked through.

Serve in shallow bowls scattered with parsley with toasted ciabatta or sourdough spread with a generous helping of aioli.

AIOLI

2 – 4 cloves garlic
Good pinch of salt
2 egg yolks
Squeeze lemon juice
300ml sunflower oil
75ml extra virgin olive oil
White wine vinegar

Mash the garlic to a puree with the salt. Add in the egg yolks and a squeeze of lemon and then gradually add the oil, whisking all the time until you have a thick mayonnaise. Check seasoning and adjust with salt, pepper and a little lemon juice or white wine vinegar.

If very thick you can add a little boiling water.
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Much as we love a salad the humble lettuce leaf occasionally deserves a change and this easy soup, as delicious hot as it is cold is a great way to use salad leaves and cucumber. A refreshingly iced soup can be very welcome on a hot day and has the advantage of being easily freezable if you don’t want to use it straight away, something that cannot be said of the average salad so a very useful recipe to have if faced with rows of bolting lettuce leaves and in our case, enthusiastic cucumbers.

If you happen to have some nasturtiums growing or see some at a farmers market, pop some of the leaves into the soup and use a flower as a pretty garnish. They are lovely, fantastically easy to grow; the leaves offering a wonderful peppery flavour, while the flowers add a certain style to your salad bowl or as here make a pretty garnish.

I love this with some of that wonderfully mild French goats cheese whipped up with lemon and chives. You can use it as a garnish for the soup or serve separately on toasted sourdough. Either way, it works so well with the delicate soup and makes it a bit more substantial.

This recipe serve four but add and subtract according to what you have available – fennel leaves, courgette, spinach, peas etc will all work well. Mint is surely the ubiquitous summer herb and I use it in everything I possible can during the warmer months. There are so many interesting varieties available to us now – ginger mint is a current favourite that makes a gorgeous restorative tea and I have just planted basil mint which I think is going to be a very promising addition to the kitchen garden.

Spinach is not essential but certainly helps with the colour.

Serves Four

2 medium shallots, finely chopped
1 stick celery (not essential!), finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped or grated
1 generous tablespoon olive or rapeseed oil
750ml vegetable stock (I use the non vegan marigold, green pot)
2 or 3 new potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 whole cucumber, chopped with skin
Big double handful of mixed green lettuce/spinach leaves
Handful of nasturtium leaves (optional)
Big handful of chopped garden mint
Four heaped tablespoons natural yoghurt (always green Yeo valley for me!)
Sea salt and black pepper
Lemon, rind and juice
1 tub French goats cheese
Handful of chopped chives
Four nasturtium flowers
Extra virgin olive oil

Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the shallot, garlic and celery if using. Sauté gently until softened but not brown. Add the potato and straight away 600ml of the stock. Bring up to a simmer and cook unail the potatoes are soft.

Add the cucumber, simmer for two or so minutes and then add the lettuce, spinach, herbs etc. Season well.

Allow to cool a bit and then whizz with a stick blender or in a liquidiser. Add more stock until the co sister is of a thin cream. When most of the heat has gone whisk in the yogurt and lemon juice to taste. Blitz again and if you feel it needs more yoghurt you could add that now.

Put the soup into a fridge to chill for a few hours.

When ready to serve, put the goats cheese into a,bowl and add the rind of the lemon and chopped chives. Whip together with a small whisk until smooth. Season.

Serve the soup in chilled bowls with a quenelle of goats cheese in the centre, garnish with a nasturtium flower and drizzle over some extra virgin olive oil.

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A new phenomenom has come to our house….for the first time ever we have an actual glut of something in the vegetable patch. The courgette plants are loving this glorious weather and as long as we are generous with the watering and don’t take too many evenings off we seem to be being rewarded with a constant supply of the most beautiful yellow, green and chartreuse courgettes.

This versatile vegetable is a big favourite in our kitchen – spiralled into courgetti, stir fried with garlic, grated into risotto, eaten raw or cubed in an omelette. It even makes a wonderful cake ingredient; much like carrots or beetroot, courgettes lend themselves incredible well to a bit of baking.

This is a lovely, simple salad recipe that uses the courgette to it’s full advantage in that it is both cooked and raw. It is a natural partner to a soft goats cheese and the addition of broad beans and baby fennel makes a salad that sings of summer and celebrates all that is in season now. Do try it on its own or with a piece of grilled chicken or lamb. I use baby broad beans from the frozen veg section in Waitrose. They are absolutely wonderful and all you need to do is pour some boiling water over them, drain and then spend a few minutes slipping them out of their skins. Well worth the effort. If you have access to yellow courgettes then do use one of those.

Serves Two to Three as a main course, Four as a starter

60g baby broad beans, skinned
2 baby fennel bulbs, very finely chopped
2 medium courgette (about 125g each)
8 baby new potatoes (I love pink fir apple if you have those)
Tablespoon chopped chives
125g soft french goats cheese
Handful of washed salad leaves, any mix you like
Juice of half a large lemon
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon rapeseed oil
Seasalt
Black pepper

Reserve any fennel fronds you have and finely chop those. Boil a pan of salted water and cook the potatoes until just tender. Drain and set aside.

While the potatoes are cooking, shave the courgette into fine strips using a potato peeler. Put half of these in a bowl and add the lemon juice, olive oil and about a teaspoon of sea salt and grinding of black pepper. Add the fennel, toss to combine and set aside. Taste and add more lemon juice if you think it needs it.

Heat a griddle pan and drizzle it with some of the rapeseed oil. In batches, griddle the remaining courgette so that they have the grill marks on them and are just cooked. Remove these to kitchen paper as you go.

Cut the potato into small 3 cm pieces. Place into a bowl and add all the courgette, the broad beans, fennel and herbs. Toss lightly so that it is well mixed. Add a few salad leaves and finely little blobs of the goats cheese. Add the remaining fennel fronds and check the seasoning.

Pile up on a pretty plate and serve either on its own or as a side dish.

When the weather is hot but you need a little canape to enjoy with a glass of something chilled, this is a great alternative to the more traditional smoked salmon on brown bread. Certainly a little lighter, very pretty in pink with a sprinkling of green chives and quick to make. Just the thing as the temperature rises and you want to keep kitchen time to a minimum. Of course you could use green chicory if red isn’t available.

Makes about 30

200g packet of good quality smoked salmon
Rind and juice of a lemon
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large shallot, very finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
Freshly ground black pepper
pinch maldon sea salt
4 small heads of red chicory, leaves separated

Chop the salmon up into small pieces and put into a bowl. Add all the other ingredients except the chicory, reserving a few chives and mix well. Check the seasoning and adjust, adding a little more lemon or oil if you think it needs it.

Divide the chicory up into individual leaves. If they are very long then cut the wider end off. Fill with a teaspoon of salmon and place onto a nice serving plate. Sprinkle with the remaining chives.

This is a delicious way to liven up a tender little lamb cutlet and turn it into something special for summer. Peas and mint are a dreamy combination and the vivid green, minty purée, sort of both sweet and savoury all at the same time is a heavenly blanket for the lamb. Add a zing of freshness with the easy bean salad, brightened up with shavings of fresh radish and summer is on the plate. Marinate the lamb in a fragrant bowl of crushed rosemary, lemon rind and olive oil and cook either on a barbeque or under a grill.

Serves Four

4 – 8 tender lamb loin chops
Handful Rosemary, crushed
1 or 2 cloves garlic, pounded to a paste
Rind of a lemon
Sea salt and black pepper

PEA PURÉE

200g petit pois peas
Tablespoon finely chopped mint
Sea salt and black pepper
Knob of butter or tablespoon olive oil
Dash of hot water

SALAD
250g stringless runner beans
4 radishes
100g baby broad beans, defrosted
Juice half a lemon
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt & black pepper
Fresh mint and oregano, finely chopped
30g barrel aged feta cheese

First put the rosemary lemon, oil, seasoning and lamb in a bowl and toss together. Leave to marinate for anything from an hour to overnight.

Finely shred the beans. Slip the broad beans out of their skins and put into a bowl. Put the runner beans into a dry saucepan with a,little salt and cook without any water over a gentle heat until hot, tender and cooked through. Put into the bowl with the broad beans. Add the finely sliced radish, lemon juice, olive oil and season. Finely add lots of freshly chopped mint and oregano and crumble in the feta.

Heat the grill or have the barbeque ready. Grill the chops for a few minutes on each side until just cooked but still pink in the centre. Rest for five or ten minutes in a warm place. Whilst cooking boil the peas until tender, drain and then using a hand held blender blitz to a purée with the mint and the oil or butter. Season well.

Serve the chops on the pea purée and salad with some buttered new potatoes. A drizzle of olive oil enhanced with some crushed oregano and a squeeze of lemon, seasoned with sea salt and black pepper finishes this off nicely.

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SERVES SIX

500g pack good quality Scottish Smoked Salmon
1 heaped tablespoon fine capers
75g kalamata olives, stoned and chopped
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds, toasted
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 bag washed rocket
2 handfuls fresh basil
2 preserved lemons, finely chopped, discarding the flesh
extra virgin olive oil
Sumac
Black pepper

Make the pesto by blending the preserved lemon, garlic, half the bag of rocket, the basil, pumpkin seeds, seasoning and enough olive oil to make it slack. Check the seasoning and set aside.

Lay the salmon out artfully on a serving platter. Scatter over the capers, olives, pesto and finish with the rest of the rocket and a good dusting of sumac.

Serve as a starter or light lunch with some crusty bread.

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