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QUICK ONION, CHORIZO, CHARD AND MOZZARELLA TART

A useful thing to have in the freezer, all butter puff pastry makes an excellent base for a quick pizza style tart. Top with anything you have available – pesto, tomato sauce, braised leeks, olives, cheese…..

Here I have caramelised some onions with chorizo to make a flavoursome base and topped with wilted chard. Use any cheese you have available to finish.

For Four people

One pack all butter puff pastry (jus rol) (ready rolled)

About three medium onions

Large piece of chorizo (about three inches long)

Fresh thyme if you have it

Six black olives, chopped

Jar of red pesto (optional)

About six to eight large leaves of Swiss chard, stalks removed

Chunk of feta cheese

Ball of good quality mozzarella

Basil to finish

Extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt & pepper

Pre-heat oven to 180c

Finely slice the onions and chop the chorizo into little chunks. Put both into a saucepan and cook with a little rapeseed oil so that the chorizo oil is released and the onions cook slowly until very soft and caramelised. Season well and add some thyme if you have it.

Unpack the pastry and lay in a board. Roll out a little more so it is thinner, and fills and large baking tray, approx 12″ x 16″. Score around the edge, about half a centimetre in and prick over the whole thing with a fork.

Slice the chard leaves and wilt in a little oil/water until cooked. Squeeze out any excess liquid. Season.

Spread the onions all over the tart base. Top with the chard and then dollop pesto all over in any gaps. Chop the olives and scatter over and if you have a tomato handy you could add that as well.

Bake in the oven for about half an hour, preferable on a hot base so that the underside of the pastry is perfectly crisp. If not leave a little longer.

Scatter over crumbled feta and the mozzarella. Top with shredded basil (Greek basil works well here) and drizzle with extra virgin oil. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Uncategorized

Wild Garlic Pasta Dough

The appearance of wild garlic in spring brings a promise of good things to come in the kitchen. The vibrant leaf, heavy with garlic flavour is a lovely ingredient for risottos or pestos and turns a pasta dough a wonderful bright green. If used for ravioli, it is best to cook as soon as you can as these don’t last as well as ravioli made with regular pasta – they somehow soften more quickly and become less easy to handle but you could just make fettuccini or tagliatelle. These keeps well in a sealed bag, tossed with a little semolina to ensure it doesn’t clump together. It can also be frozen, or dried and stored in an airtight container.

I have used it to make ricotta stuffed ravioli and served them with a tomato sauce and some pea shoots.

PASTA DOUGH

This amount will make enough for four people.

40g washed wild garlic leaves, finely chopped

1 large egg and one egg yolk

200g Italian OO flour

Put the finely chopped garlic leaves and eggs into a food processor and blend until the leaves have disappeared into the eggs. Add the flour, gradually until you have a rough, breadcrumbs dough.

Turn out onto a board, knead it together and it will start to form a dough. Knead for ten minutes and then wrap in clingfilm and rest for an hour.

Roll out using a pasta machine. You may need to use a little flour to help stop it from sticking. Start on the largest setting, cutting the lengths in half if they get too long. Have semolina ready to keep the finished sheets on so they don’t stick. Make into whatever sort of pasta you like. If using for ravioli the sheets will need to be nice and thin.

RAVIOLI FILLING

150g ricotta cheese

Rind of one lemon

30g parmesan cheese, finely grated, plus more for serving

Fresh herbs (mint, tarragon, chives, parsley or basil). About 10 – 15g

Sea salt and black pepper

Mash all the ingredients together. You will need to chop the herbs finely. Use any combination you like. Season.

Use to fill the ravioli. Stamp out rounds of pasta with a biscuit cutter (about 2″) and put a little heap of ricotta mix in the centre. Dampen the edge of the pasta and top with another circle, ensuring all the air is pinched out and the edges well sealed. Keep each ravioli from sticking to each other using semolina.

Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and drop the ravioli in. It will be ready within a couple of minutes when it rises to the top. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a j cloth before serving on top of a tomato sauce and garnishing with basil, pea shoots, olive oil and more parmesan shavings.

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Pear baked with Orange & Spices with Nutty pan granola

Approx 225 calories per serving, including a tablespoon of greek yoghurt.

For two people

1 large firm pear (I used conference)

Cinnamon Stick

Star Anise

4 cardamon pods

1 orange, rind and juice

15g coconut sugar

1 teaspoon maple syrup

Granola:

10g oats (gluten free if necessary)

10g shelled pistachio nuts (unsalted)

10g skin on almonds (not to worry if you only have blanched)

Large pinch cinnamon

10g coconut sugar

2 teaspoons maple syrup

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Greek or coconut yoghurt to serve

First pre-heat the oven to 180c fan.

Peel the pear and cut in half. Remove the core. Slice each half into a fan shape and put both into a baking dish that is just big enough to hold them. Bash the cardamon pods in a pestle and mortar and take out the seeds, discarding the outer husk. Grind up and dust the seeds over the pear. Pour over the juice of an orange and add the cinnamon stick, star anise, coconut sugar and maple syrup. Cover tightly with foil and bake for about half an hour or until the pear is tender. Baste two or three times during the cooking process. Remove the foil about five minutes before the cooking time is up so that the juices can start to reduce.

While the pear is cooking make your granola. This isn’t proper granola, of course but it makes a lovely crunchy addition to the pear and is very quick to make. Just roughly chop the nuts and put them into a non stick frying pan with the oats. Add the coconut sugar and maple syrup and a dash of vanilla extract. Melt very very gently over a low heat so that the sugars start to melt, whilst the nuts and oats toast and then are coated by the melting sugar. You want it to look glossy. You can add a pinch of cinnamon if you like as well. I find you don’t want too much cardamon as it is quite a powerful spice.

Allow the granola to cool and then serve the pears with their juices either warm or cold, with the granola alongside. Scatter some very finely grated orange rind over the whole thing. Also it is lovely to put some cinnamon and orange rind over the yoghurt, as well as some chopped mint if you have any to hand.

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Puddings Tea time Uncategorized

Chocolate Brownies with Tahini & Date

These came about as I have seen more and more recipes for brownies made with tahini. I love tahini and use it all the time in dressings for salads and roasted vegetables, quite apart from the obvious hummus. A little experimenting resulted in this recipe which I think is delicious, really very foolproof and open to interpretation in that you could replace the chocolate chunks with nuts and vary the vanilla flavouring – orange rind would work well, for example.

Makes about 16. You will need a shallow 9″ square tin, lined with baking parchment.

60g dark chocolate chunks (no more than 60% cocoa solids)

175g unsalted butter

100g dark muscovado sugar

175g granulated sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 large eggs

2 tablespoons date syrup

2 tablespoons tahini paste (I use belazu)

80g cocoa powder (I use bournville)

75g ground almonds

50g plain flour (sieved)

Good pinch maldon salt

50g chopped chocolate (White and dark mix is good) or toasted nuts/chopped dates

Pre-heat the oven to about 160c (or aga baking oven)

Melt the chocolate and butter together in a large bowl. Whisk in the sugar until really well blended. Add the vanilla extract. Whisk the eggs well and then blend them into the chocolate mixture. Then whisk in the date syrup and the tahini paste.

Sieve the flour and cocoa powder together and fold into the chocolate mix along with the almonds and salt. Then stir in the chopped chocolate.

Pour the thick batter into your prepared cake tin. Bake for about 25 – 30 minutes until just set. It should be fairly soft but definitely not liquid!

Cool in the tin and then cut into square. Or serve warm with ice cream.

Categories
Lunch Quick and Easy Starters Starters and Salads Uncategorized

BURRATA & TOMATO SALAD with NDUJA DRESSING

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

Sea salt

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

1 burrata

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.

Adapted from a recipe in Olive Magazine.

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Dinner Lunch Quick and Easy Suppers Uncategorized Vegetarian

RADICCHIO & GORGONZOLA RISOTTO

I adore a risotto. For me if is the ultimate in comfort eating and beats a bowl of pasta hands down. And I love pasta….but somehow the tiny swollen grains, infused with all the goodness of stock and aromatics; cooked until just yielding but with a little bite (we don’t want baby food here!) offers just the right amount of solace with a sophistication that is yours to add as you will. Once you have mastered the basic method the risotto world really is your oyster and as long as you always bear in mind flavour pairings you can indulge or not as you please. Vegetarians and vegans need never be left out – a good vegetable stock works just as well as chicken. Cheese can be replaced with a vegan version and no one will ever object to a final flourish of an excellent, grass green olive oil anointing the finished dish. Otherwise I find just a tablespoon of double cream can transform a risotto into something truly special. It is, after all meant to be a creamy dish – achieved by the fat grains of risotto rice bumping slowly into each other whilst being stirred over a gentle heat. Baked risotto will never achieve quite the same as the grains won’t move around if just left in the oven.

This radicchio and Gorgonzola risotto is, for me a sophisticated and thoroughly delicious partnership. I do, often, add in a coarsely grated courgette. It is just a way of keeping the calorie count down but not everyone will want or need this option. I just use a little less rice to make way for the courgette and I think here it goes well. Fennel herb is lovely if you happen to have any in the garden or have bought a particularly frondy fennel bulb but finely chopped parsley will do perfectly.

For Four people

1 tablespoon rapeseed or olive oil and small knob butter

1 onion

1 large or 2 smaller sticks celery

1 clove garlic (optional)

Fresh thyme, picked off the stalk, about 1 tablespoon

4 handfuls of risotto rice (I use carnaroli)

75ml white vermouth (approx) or white wine

One head of radicchio, shredded

750ml (you may need more) proper chicken or vegetable stock (in desperation you could use a gel cube or combine the two)

1 courgette, optional, grated coarsely

100g creamy Gorgonzola dolce

2 tablespoons double cream

Parmesan cheese

Freshly chopped fennel or parsley

Sea salt and black pepper

Heat a large shallow pan. Add the oil and the butter and then gently sauté the onion and celery over a low heat until beginning to soften. Do not let them colour. Add the finely chopped garlic and stir around for a minute or two. Add the rice and stir that so that it is coated in everything.

Have your stock simmering in a separate pan. Pour the vermouth or wine into your rice and stir, simmering until almost all has disappeared. Then add the thyme and a third of the radicchio. Stirring all the time over a gentle heat add ladles of stock. Keep bubbling very gently, it should be just rippling. Stir as much as you have time for, adding stock as soon as the last ladleful is absorbed. After ten minutes add another third of the radicchio. Keep adding stock until the rice is cooked but still with a tiny bit of bite to it. It will take 20 – 30 minutes. Near the end of the rice cooking time, add the cream and chopped Gorgonzola. Stir through with the rest of the radicchio and the herbs. Also the courgette if using. Cook until the radicchio has wilted. Adjust with a little more stock to loosen. Season well with sea salt and black pepper.

Take off the heat and stir through a couple of tablespoons of freshly grated parmesan. Serve with more parmesan offered separately.

Categories
Lunch Poultry and Game Starters and Salads Uncategorized

CHICKEN THIGH MARINATED IN HARISSA AND YOGHURT with PRESERVED LEMON DRESSING

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.

For Four

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

Sumac (optional)

DRESSING

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.

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SCALLOPS with CAULIFLOWER

This is such a treat but actually, very affordable, especially if you local fish counter has scallops on offer. It makes a very luxurious and special starter but we enjoy it occasionally as a special lunch dish, in which case you might want to serve five scallops per person instead of three. It is very important that the scallops are not overcooked – they become tough and rubbery very easily but if you use a timer and turn them over as soon as golden and caramelised you can’t go far wrong. The pan must be hot enough for the scallop to form a crust but not so hot that they will burn before it is time to turn them over. I find a minute and a half on one side and then a minute on the other is about perfect, but if they are small then reduce the time to thirty seconds after you have turned them over.

The cauliflower is a delicious and very traditional partner to the luscious scallop – it makes such a smooth and flavourful purée. It is really worth frying the little cauliflower wafers as these add texture to the plate and gives the cauliflower a wonderful caramelisation. If you want to push the boat out a bit further you could add a rasher of crispy pancetta or perhaps fry up some crumbled black pudding and scatter some of that around for the ultimate surf and turf.

Serves Two

6 – 10 fat king scallops (depending on whether a starter or lunch)

1 cauliflower

25g unsalted butter

Whole milk

Rapeseed or olive oil

Extra virgin olive oil (two tablespoons)

Mixed fine herbs (eg chives, parsley, fennel)

1 unwaxed lemon

Sea salt & black pepper

First take your scallops out of the fridge so they can come up to room temperature. Dry them off with some kitchen towel and cut off the row, making sure you remove any tough bits that link the roe to the scallop. You could keep the roes to cook separately if you like. Season the scallops with sea salt and black pepper. Do this just before you are going to cook them.

Take a pestle and mortar and put in a tablespoon or two of finely chopped herbs. Add the extra virgin olive oil, lightly season and add a squeeze of lemon juice. Set aside.

You won’t need all of the cauliflower. Take about 1/4 of it and divide into florets. Reserve a couple. Cut the others into four pieces and place in a small saucepan with a small piece of butter (taken from the 25g) and toss around over a medium heat until the butter has melted and coated the cauliflower. Pour over some whole milk; you want it to almost but not quite cover the florets. Season with sea salt and simmer very gently or about fifteen minutes (covered with a lid) or until the cauliflower is completely soft. Drain the excess milk away. Take a hand held blender and purée the cauliflower. Add seasoning to taste and set aside to keep warm while you prepare everything else. You can make this purée in advance; it will keep well in the fridge for a day or two.

Slice the remaining cauliflower florets into slices about the thickness of a pound coin. You want about three per person. Heat a frying pan and add a little rapeseed or olive oil. (About a scant tablespoonful). Add a little butter and when foaming pop the slices in and fry gently until golden brown on each side. Drain on kitchen paper and keep warm in a low oven.

Warm a couple of plates. Clean out the frying pan and put back onto the heat. Add a couple more tablespoons of rapeseed or olive oil and another knob of butter. Once melted and the fat is medium hot, add the scallops. Work quickly starting at 12.00 and putting them in a circle around the pan. Fry for a minute and a half and then turn them over, starting with the one you put in first (if you put it in using the clockface method it makes it much easier to remember the order!).

Add the remaining butter and cook for another minute. Take off the heat and squeeze over the juice of half a lemon. Put the scallops onto a plate lined with kitchen paper.

Take you plates out of the oven. Put a large spoonful of the cauliflower purée on each one and spread out a bit. Arrange the scallops around and add three cauliflower wafers to each plate. Drizzle the herb oil over and around and season the whole thing with a bit more sea salt (eg maldon) and a grind of black pepper. Squeeze over a little more lemon juice and serve immediately while it is still warm.

Categories
Lunch Quick and Easy Starters Quick and Easy Suppers Soups Uncategorized

Parsnip, Fennel & Apple Soup

Autumn is a beautiful season and despite the prospect of chillier days and darker evenings approaching, there is always something rather appealing at the thought of cosying up a bit. This is a lovely soup to welcome in the new season and makes good use of the parsnips and fennel that have thrived in my vegetable patch. We have apples, too and the three go together so well, although a little of the apple will go a long way so be sparing with it. I have used rosemary and sage here – thyme would be perfect too or just parsley if you prefer.

Finish the soup with a scattering of toasted seeds, chopped herbs, sauteed cubes of red skinned eating apple, any or all above a swirl of creme fraiche or soured cream.

50g butter (or 2 tablespoons rapeseed oil)

1 large or 2 small onions

2 teaspoons fennel seeds, crushed in a pestle & mortar

3 or 4 large parsnips (about 400g)

1 small bulb fennel

1 piece of cooking apple (about 75g)

3 sprigs rosemary

3 sprigs sage

1 litre of chicken/veg stock

Sea salt & black pepper

creme fraiche

Mixed seeds, red skinned apple and/or chopped fine herbs to finish

Peel and chop all the vegetables. Heat the butter in a saucepan and then add the onion. Saute gently for a few minutes before adding the fennel seeds and cook for a minute or two longer. Then add the parsnips, fennel and apple. Season with salt and pepper. Crush the rosemary and put it and the sage into a spice bag (this makes it easier to remove). Add to the vegetables and then pour over the stock, just to cover reserving the rest for later. Simmer for about half an hour or until the parsnip and fennel and very tender.

Blend the soup, then add one or two tablespoons of creme fraiche, depending on how creamy you like it. Adjust the thickness with the rest of the stock. Season again.

Serve with the garnishes if using. You will need to cook the chopped apple in a little butter just to soften it.

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Uncategorized

Quick Pickled Beetroot

Beetroot deserves it’s current reputation as a superfood. Those days of heavily vinegared slices leaching into salads are hopefully long gone and it is much more likely to be found roasted and tossed in to a risotto, baked and partnered with a sharp goats cheese or popped in to a pickling liquor.

This recipe works with any kind of beetroot. Just peel, make sure the slice are lovely and thin and then enjoy with salads, ham, cheese or just on it’s own when you have a craving for something sweet, sharp and super healthy. Use any spices you think might work; this is just a suggestion.

Makes enough to pickle a couple of good sized beets

200ml white wine vinegar

100ml filtered water

1 teaspoon coriander seed, toasted

150g granulated or caster sugar

1 teaspoon black pepper corns

1 bay leaf

Good pinch of sea salt

One or two good sized beetroot, any type

Peel the beetroot and finely slice using a mandolin or sharp knife. You could cut into half moon shapes if you prefer. Put into a sterilised jam jar.

Dissolve the sugar in the vinegar and water. Add the spices, bay leaf and salt and bring up to a simmer for a minute or two.

Pour the hot pickling liquid over the beetroot and seal. Leave to marinade for a few hours before using. Store in the fridge and use as required.