Categories
Lunch Quick and Easy Suppers Uncategorized

SPAGHETTI with BACON, LEEK, CHARD & PESTO

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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Categories
Lunch Meat Quick and Easy Suppers Starters and Salads Uncategorized

ASIAN BEEF SALAD

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

Serves four to six

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

Dressing

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

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

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

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

Rest for a few minutes before thinly slicing. Add to the other ingredients. Spoon the dressing over the salad and serve immediately, on a bed of green leaves if liked. Sprinkle the spring onions over the top with extra herbs.
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Categories
Lunch Meat Uncategorized

THE ULTIMATE SAUSAGE ROLL

There is absolutely nothing elegant about a sausage roll. However, it is pure comfort picnic food, has stood the test of time and needs make no apologies for the fact that it is exactly what it says in the title – sausage, rolled. But it is a beloved and essential part of our family picnics, particularly those spent on a blowy beach or windy hillside. And there have been many of those over the years. We have changed and grown up, this recipe hasn’t and I hope you will agree that it is perfection the way it is. Make them small, medium or large and enjoy either on their own or with a good dollop of a fruity chutney. They freeze brilliantly either before or after cooking and I guarantee that you will be making these again. Just make sure you use an excellent quality free range sausagemeat and a pure butter puff pastry. These sausage rolls will be only as good as your ingredients. The gold jus-rol packet is the best,

Makes six – ten depending on how large you cut them

450g free range pork sausagemeat
1 egg (free range)
1 tablespoon tomato puree
1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
Good handful of fresh white breadcrumbs (quantity can be quite approximate)
Salt & pepper
Sesame seeds (optional
1 pack of jus roll all butter puff pastry

Pre-heat oven to 180c

Take the sausagemeat and put into a bowl. Beat the egg and pour in most of it, leaving a tablespoon to brush over the finished rolls later. Add the breadcrumbs, tomato puree and worcestershire sauce and a good grinding of seasalt and black pepper. Squish it all together until well mixed. Your hands are the best tool for this.

Cut your pastry in half. You will only need half for this quantity. Keep the rest as you will be making more very soon. Roll out (do not turn the pastry over and use minimum of flour) into a long strip about 4 inches wide and 18 inches long. The pastry should be thin. Put the sausagemeat mix down the centre. You will think there is too much sausagemeat to pastry but this is important. Put as high a roll of sausage as you dare. Roll the pastry over using the side of your hand to help it all the way over to meet and seal with a little water. Use a fork to squish the edges together.

Brush the whole roll with beaten egg and then cut into however many sausage rolls you want. Put two diagonal slits in the top of each one and if you like sprinkle each with some sesame seeds.

Put onto a baking sheet and into the oven for fifteen minutes for small rolls up to thirty minutes if they are very long. Check after fifteen minutes and see how golden they are going. Once they are dark golden and piping hot in the centre remove from the oven and use a palette knife to put them onto a wire rack to cool.

Store in an airtight tin, not a plastic container.

Eat on a windy British beach in the driving rain huddled under a rock.

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Categories
Dinner Fish and Seafood Lunch Quick and Easy Suppers Uncategorized

SEARED FILLET OF SALMON with a TOMATO SAUCE VIERGE and COURGETTI

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

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

Serves Four

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

Pre-heat the oven to 200c

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

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

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

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

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

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Categories
Dinner Lunch Quick and Easy Starters Starters and Salads Uncategorized

GRIDDLED COURGETTE, POMEGRANATE, FETA and MINT with SUMAC

If you are after a quick lunch or easy starter that delivers on flavour, is big on nutrition and looks beautiful into the bargain then look no further than this easy and delicious courgette salad. It is also very useful as a side dish – try with some simple chicken or lamb and it will turn the mundane into something special. Pomegranates combine brilliantly with the salty feta and the ruby jewel seeds bring this simple salad alive. To remove the seeds simply slice the fruit in half and bash hard with a rolling pin over a bowl. The seeds will just fall out (up to a point!). Try and pick the firmest courgette you can – the bigger they are the more water they contain and you will lose both texture and flavour.

There are lots of different feta cheeses to buy out there. My favourite is the Greek barrel aged feta made from ewe’s and goat’s milk and stored in brine. It is worth paying that little bit extra as it will make all the difference to your finished dish.

Sumac is a dried and ground berry from a bush grown mainly in the Middle East and is an essential ingredient in many recipes from that region. Slightly acidic and reminiscent of lemon, it not only adds a lovely flavour but looks very pretty as well with its deep red colour.

If you want a truly healthy salad then just make courgette ‘carpaccio’ but slicing very fresh and firm courgette with a potato peeler into ribbons. Leave to sit in the lemon & oil for a few minutes before eating.

Serves Four

Four small or two medium courgette
200g good quality feta
Large handful of washed fresh mint leaves
One lemon
Rapeseed or light olive oil for griddling
One pomegranate or a handy pack of ready done seeds
Sea salt & black pepper
Sumac
Extra virgin olive oil

For this recipe you will ideally have a ridged grill pan, nice and shallow.

Cut the courgettes on the diagonal into long pieces about 2mm thick.

Heat a little oil in your grill pan and once hot lay on the courgette slices, a few at a time. Sear on each side so that they have pretty brown marks and remove to a plate lined with kitchen towel while you cook the rest. Finely chop the mint, crumble the feta and remove the seeds from the pomegranate.

Take either one large plate or four smallish. Layer up the courgette, feta, mint and pomegranate, seasoning as you go and sprinkling each layer with lemon juice. Finish with a final flurry of mint and pomegranate and drizzle over extra virgin olive oil. Finally, sprinkle over some sumac and serve with flatbread.

courgette and pomegranate salad

Categories
Dinner Meat Uncategorized

SLOW ROAST FILLET OF BEEF with a RED WINE JUS Serves Four

For years we have been cooking beef fillet to precise timings and nervously standing by the oven waiting for precisely the right moment to take it out of the oven.

This recipe provides a wonderfully relaxed approach to cooking what for many is a special occasion piece of beef and produces a beautifully even, perfectly pink piece of beef that cannot overcook and is almost trouble free.

One fillet of beef, about 800g to 1kg (centre cut if possible)
Two cloves garlic
Fresh thyme
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and Pepper

For the jus

One onion
One stick celery
One carrot
One clove garlic
A little oil (olive or sunflower)
One bay leaf
Fresh thyme
500ml red wine
400ml fresh beef stock/consomme
50g unsalted butter
Salt & pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 75C or similar.

Crush the garlic up with the thyme and salt and rub into the beef with the oil. Cover with a good grinding of black pepper and dust over a little more sea salt. Sear in a hot pan to colour all over. Put into a roasting tin (best have it ready warming) and put in the oven for about 1 ¼ – 1 ½ hours. Take out of the oven and cover with foil. Leave for about half an hour or so in a warm place. It should be soft and very pink all the way through.

Chop the vegetables and sauté gently in a little oil until beginning to soften and caramelise. Add the red wine and reduce by half. Add the stock, the herbs and seasoning. Simmer for about half an hour or until very well reduced.

When you are ready to serve, strain the liquid into a clean pan. Bring up to a simmer and make sure the jus is well seasoned. Add any juices that have come out of the beef whilst resting. Whisk in cubes of chilled butter and serve with the beef.

Or

Serve with a delicious salsa verde and roast or boiled new potatoes.
beef & salsa verde

Categories
Lunch Starters and Salads Uncategorized

Asparagus

The new season for British Asparagus arrives in late April; a highlight of the foodie calendar and one greeted with greedy anticipation by everyone in this household.

A perfect fat bunch of those tender green spears needs little more than a gentle boil or steam for a couple of minutes and is best served as simply as possible. Salt, pepper and a drizzle of melted butter is perfect, but if you want to go a step further and serve up something truly special, worthy of the freshest fat bunch you can find then try this lime and mint hollandaise. It’s a gorgeous lunch for a warm day or an elegant, simple starter. You can keep the hollandaise warm over a pan of hot(ish) water or an easier way is just to put it into a thermos flask (you will have heated it first with boiling water). It will keep well in there for a couple of hours.

A useful tip when preparing your asparagus is to take the stem, holding it at each end and snap in half. It will break perfectly at the point where the stem is no longer tender.

ASPARAGUS with a LIME AND MINT HOLLANDAISE
Serves 4

Two bunches of fresh British asparagus
2 free range egg yolks
Water
110g unsalted butter
A little boiling water
1 lime
Handful of fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
Sea salt and black pepper

First make the hollandaise.

Take a bowl and put in the egg yolks. Cut the butter into small chunks. Add a couple of teaspoons of cold water and whisk well. Sit the pan over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk the yolks for a couple of minutes. Then slowly add the butter, a piece of two at a time. The sauce will start to form, thin at first and then thickening up as the yolks start to cook. As you add the butter just be sure that the pan doesn’t get too hot. You should always be able to touch the bottom of the bowl with your hand with.

Keep whisking, adding the butter. As it starts to get very thick add a teaspoon or two of boiling water and whisk that in. Add salt and pepper and squeeze in the juice of half a lime. Taste and add more until you have the right balance. Keep whisking until you have a smooth, glossy and thick hollandaise. Put to one side while you cook your asparagus.

Bring a pan of salted water to the boil. Add the asparagus and cook for two to three minutes depending on the thickness of your stems. Put the thickest in first.

Drain well (keep a little of the asparagus water if you can) and season. Shake in a few drops of extra virgin olive oil and toss through.

Back to your hollandaise. If it is still quite thick you can add in a little of the asparagus water. Stir through your finely chopped mint leaves and serve with the warm asparagus and some crusty bread. Delicious!

Asparagus and mint hollandaise

Categories
Dinner Fish and Seafood Uncategorized

SCALLOP & PRAWN SKEWERS with SPICED PUY LENTIL, CHARRED BROCCOLI and TAHINI YOGURT SAUCE

Sometimes it’s nice to make something a little bit special when there are just two of you for an evening in and this certainly hits the spot for us. Scallops are, undeniably a bit of a treat ingredient and this is a lovely way of cooking them. They look so pretty with their pink corals still attached but if you prefer not to eat these then just leave them out. Prawns are a natural partner and the whole thing is enhanced with some gentle spicing. Make the lentils and dressing in advance (up to two days ahead but no more) and skewer the seafood in the morning, leaving a not particularly onerous task later of some quick cooking and heating up. Tahini is a favourite ingredient of mine and it is put to good use here to make a speedy sauce that is big on flavour and a lovely enhancement of this recipe. I hope you enjoy it.

SERVES 2
 
8 scallops with roe
12 prawns king raw
teaspoon cumin
teaspoon coriander
rind half lemon
olive oil

50g puy lentils, rinsed
1 large shallot, finely chopped
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
250 ml boiling water
1 heaped teaspoon marigold stock powder or similar
bayleaf
Half a small broccoli, the florets sliced.
Two tablespoons natural yoghurt
One tablespoon tahini paste
Lemon juice
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper
Freshly chopped coriander
Freshly chopped flatleaf parsley
Half a lemon or lime
Four wooden skewers, soaked in cold water

Stir the tahini and yoghurt together and add a squeeze of lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste and let the whole thing down with some ice cold water until like thick double cream. Add a teaspoon of extra virgin oil. Set aside.

Clean and devein the prawns. Put into a bowl with the scallops (I leave the roe attached) and add the marinade ingredients. Leave for about half an hour while you get on with the lentils.

Finely chop the shallot. Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the shallot. Soften for a minute or two and then add the grated ginger, garlic, cumin and coriander. Cook for a few more minutes and then stir in the lentils. Add the boiling water and stock. Simmer for around twenty to twenty five minutes until the lentils are tender and all the water has been absorbed. If the lentils are cooked and you have too much liquid simply drain any excess away. Add some seasalt and black pepper, a little olive oil and lots of freshly chopped parsley and coriander.

Put the scallops and prawns on the skewers. You will have more prawns than scallops so double up occasionally. Heat a griddle pan until smoking hot. Sear the skewers on all sides until the scallops are cooked through and the prawns pink.

Heat more oil in a frying pan and quickly sauté the broccoli slices with some finely sliced garlic until tender and a bit charred.

Heap the lentils up on a plate. Top with the broccoli and the skewers. Drizzle around the tahini dressing and scatter over more coriander. Serve with a wedge of lemon or lime.

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