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Carrot, Coriander & Lemon Soup

Summer is here! At long last! Sun, sandals, walks along the South Bank, maybe even some picnics. And last night a bright summery soup. This soup is so bright and cheerful, a twist on my usual carrot & orange inspired by an indian dal. I toyed with the idea of adding a tarka (spices tempered in oil added to a dal before serving) but decided the simpler and lighter the better. Lemon and coriander work so well together, as do carrots & coriander so I thought this should work, and it did. I like lemon, but I don’t like it to overpower so I added just a couple of tablespoons, you may want to add more or less – I suggest you do to taste.

Ingredients:

300g carrots, peeled & sliced
100g split red lentils
1 leek, halved and sliced
1l vegetable stock
a handful of coriander
juice of half a lemon

Method:

Sauté the leeks for a good ten minutes or so over a low heat.
Add the carrots, I like to sauté these for as long as possible to intensify the flavour, 10 minutes would do but I left them there for 30, sweating away with an occasional stir.
Add your stock and lentils, bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes.
Add the coriander and púree. Season to taste with S&P and add the lemon juice to taste.

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Broad bean, leek, bacon & roquefort potato skins

Broad bean, leek, bacon & roquefort potato skins

I had a bit of a culinary disaster the other night. I had planned to make a lactose free macaroni cheese and had gone to great pains to get my ingredients. Buffalo milk, goats butter & sheeps cheese, all ready to go. I had planned to make a bechamel and sink the macaroni in it with some manchego & blue cheese throughout and panko breadcrumbs and manchego on top. Alas, it wasn’t to be, my buffalo milk was unpasteurised and was already sour having bought it on Sunday. I was devastated! I had been building up to it for a few days buying my ingredients. So, stranded in my kitchen, with the makings of a bad macaroni cheese and so annoyed I was ready to give up and sulk and watch trash tv with a glass of wine, I reviewed my options. We had had braised sausages and mash the night before and had baked potatoes for the mash in order to get a better texture for our mash. We still had the skins. I had a kilo of broad beans from the farmers market. I had goats cream from St Helens Farm for the dish that shall not be spoken of. Some leeks and a nice big block of roquefort. I started to feel better. In the end, waste of food aside, I was almost happyto have failed as I was so pleased with the outcome of the stuffed potato skins. They were delicious! I served them with grated raw beetroot dressed with balsamic and some redcurrants and washed it all down with a glass of robust red wine.

It was all a bit slap dash given my frustration with preceding events, and while I had a kilo of broad beans, they actually weren’t the best and I had to bin some, so this recipe is approximate. I don’t think changes in the ingredients will compromise this dish though, it’s very rustic and the flavours work well so a little more of one and less than the other should be fine, so feel free to play. It’s the flavour combinations that work well here.

As with all dishes, you’ll get a better result with the best ingredients but I would particularly encourage using a good bacon for this. We get ours in our farmers market from Grassmere Farm and it’s so good! It retains its moisture and the flavour is really distinct, even alongside the strong blue cheese, it really stood up to it. Roquefort is one of my favourite blue cheeses, it’s made from sheeps milk so is great for lactose free dinners.

We were hungry and our potato skins were small so we had three each but two might suffice per person if they were large enough.

Here’s the recipe:[Read more]

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Parsley & thyme potato salad with homemade mayonnaise

Parsley & Thyme Potato Salad

My animal instincts have kicked in, all I seem to want to do is eat high fat foods and go hibernate, I blame this weather! Half the country is flooded and the rest seems to think it’s November. What’s the answer to this misery? Potato salad. Proper homemade potato salad with a homemade mayonnaise packed full of tasty herbs. Mayonnaise is a tricky one. I’ve made it by hand and have had some heart breaking moments when it has split, once in desperation when it had I added the leftover egg white and discovered that it was a rescue remedy (and could be done in the blender!) and so I have this quick mayonnaise recipe, which, while it isn’t a traditional french mayo will fool you into thinking it is with it’s concocted french tones. My aching hand was delighted to dispose of the wooden spoon. I still make the real one when I am feeling purist but I wasn’t this day, I was happy with my speedy compromise and wanted my potato salad and wanted it fast, so here it is. It’s worth making the extra effort to make your mayonnaise, especially in a blender as it takes such little time and you get a much better result than that gloop you buy in jars. Although (French people look away!), I do use that too on occasion…

I used small new charlotte potatoes for this but you could use any potatoes atall. I left the skins on mine as they’re new and the skins are thin and delicious, if yours aren’t new probably best to peel them. Lots of herbs go well with potatoes but I used parsley and thyme. You could use rosemary, sage, mint or maybe even oregano. For the mayonnaise, I like to use half extra virgin olive oil as I love the flavour but you can use just vegetable oil if you like. The mayonnaise recipe will make more than you need and will keep for a week in your fridge. Make sure your egg is at room temperature if you keep them in the fridge. I prefer not to as eggs don’t need to be in there and they’re best used at room temperature. Also, as eggs are porous they can, and have, absorbed the smells of strong cheeses or other strong smells from your fridge. They are best kept in their little boxes away from strong smells in a cool spot, not necessarily a fridge. I buy mine weekly from the farmers market and rarely have them for more than a week so it’s fine.

The recipe follows.

[Read more]

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Peyton & Byrne, Bake-a-boo & Cupcakes

Peyton & Byrne Cupcakes

Peyton & Byrne is a treasure trove of cupcakes and other sweet & savoury delights nestled between Heals & Habitat on Tottenham Court Rd, London. Owned by Oliver Peyton, a Mayo born London based restaurateur, it opened in September 2006 along with Meals in Heals next door. This is not Peyton’s first venture, far from it, he started with nightclubs which he proclaimed a means to an end, dallied with the import/export of Japanese beer & absolut vodka and then moved into restaurants with the opening of the critically acclaimed Atlantic Bar & Grill in Picadilly. Since then he has opened Mash, Isola, the Admirality restaurant at Somerset House, Inn the Park at St James Park, The Wallace Restaurant, Peyton & Byrne, Meals, The National Dining Rooms & finally The National Café.

Peyton has always championed the use of quality ingredients and British cooking and this is obvious in his establishments. He is well known as one of the judges on the Great British Menu, a BBC show where top UK & Irish chefs compete to cook part of the banquet for the Queens 80th birthday in the first series and to the British Ambassador to France at the British Embassy in Paris for the second series.

At Peyton & Byrne, the intent is to reproduce old favourites the way our mothers used to make them, specifically Peytons mother whose maiden name was Byrne – hence, Peyton & Byrne. Her recipes are, in fact, the inspirations for the produce at the bakery. Award winning chef Roger Pizey aims to put a modern twist on old classics and I think he does this quite well. These include savoury staples like tarts, pies, scotch eggs & fresh sandwiches (done well – lancashire cheese & picallili anyone?) and sweet treats like bakewell tart, victoria sponge, chocolate cake and amazing cupcakes, my personal favourite is the frou frou cupcake (raspberry & coconut), but there are 5 flavours in total to try and you should!

Peyton & Byrne Cupcakes

It’s done so well, it’s difficult to fault them. The design of the shop itself is lovely, fronted by a large window with gold lettering displaying their wares with the cakes on charming cake stands, it’s all so pretty and inviting. The packaging is also fantastic, pretty pastel cake boxes with bold lettering. It shouldn’t matter, but it does.

[Read more]

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Butter bean, red lentil & rosemary soup

Another quick lunch was required and I fancied some wholesome soup. I wanted something healthy so lentils and beans sounded good. I had also recently pilfered some rosemary from a friends garden so wanted to put that in. I toyed with the idea of making a chorizo, tomato, red pepper & butter bean soup but I’ve been eating so much chorizo lately that I thought that I should give those poor Spanish pigs a break, they’re probably having nightmares about me. I did use Spanish beans though, the giant Spanish butter beans – Judion de la Granja. These are huge white butter beans, quite creamy in texture. They can be hard to get and pricey so feel free to replace with butter beans, it will still be very nice, I just like using different ingredients and the drama of the large beans. If you do want them El Navarrico do them in jars and you can get them in most Spanish deli’s. You can also get them dry at Brindisa in Borough or Exmouth Market in London. Garcia’s in Notting Hill sell the jarred ones as do most Spanish deli’s, this just happens to be the one I know well.

Back to the soup. It’s important to use a good stock here. The soup is quite brothy and the stock delivers much of the flavour. You can use chicken or vegetable and preferably homemade. Mine was vegetable made by boiling some carrots, garlic, cloves, celery, leek, rosemary, just bits I had in the fridge really. As long as you think the veg will complement the veg in your soup it will work well. Stock requires alot of veg so make sure you use plenty. Alternatively, just be sure to use a good shop bought stock. The recipe follows. [Read more]

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Wild salmon with samphire, broad bean & tomato salad and crisp sauté new potatoes

Samphire is the ingredient of the moment. It’s on TV (e.g. Great British Menu), in the newspaper food sections (Independent last week, Guardian last month) and on the web (Clotilde at Chocolate & Zucchini for example). Samphire has many names, sea asparagus, sea beans & salicornia. There are two types of samphire – Marsh Samphire & Rock Samphire, the one you’ve been seeing everywhere is marsh samphire, found growing in the tidal zone and found all along the coast. The Norfolk coastline is particularly rich in it. You can buy it from most fishmongers and farmer’s markets. It’s not cheap, mine cost £1.50 per 100g, 100g works out at approximately a handful so I bought a couple. If you’re having it on it’s own with fish you’ll need about 100g-150g a person, maybe a bit more.

I first had samphire two years ago when we went to the Salusbury Pub & Dining Room in Queens Park for my birthday. It was served with sea bream and roast potatoes and was absolutely delicious. I have been a fan ever since. My samphire that night was absolutely soaked in butter, it works really well with it, but as a lactose intolerant that generally isn’t an option for me. Besides, I wanted to make something light & summery that paired well with the rich wild salmon that I had bought on my way home from work. Salty samphire pairs extremely well with fish but is also beautiful in salads. I tried both with my 200g batch, for today I’ll talk about the fish dish.

I went to Marylebone Farmers Market at the weekend and bought beautiful Isle of Wight tomatoes and a large bag of broad beans. I was keen to use them in this dish so decided on a samphire salad to go with the salmon.

Recipe notes: Samphire is very easy to cook but it is very salty so I would advise soaking in several changes of water over a few hours. If this isn’t possible, at least wash it in a few changes of water. Early season samphire can be eaten raw, however, it’s no longer early season and besides I like it blanched briefly before eating – 2 minutes or so does it. Take care to remove the woody bits from the end of the samphire stems and any bad bits. Be warned that samphire doesn’t keep very long as I found out last time I bought it! While double podding the broad beans is painful, it really is worth it, otherwise the rubbery broad bean skin overpowers the sweetness of the actual bean. [Read more]

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Chargrilled peach & speck salad

This is a spectacular summer salad devised by Yotam Ottolenghi of Ottolenghi’s in London and published in the Summer BBQ series in the Guardian on Saturdays. I had wanted to make it since it was published (2 weeks ago?) but I didn’t have the orange blossom water required nor had I the time to go source it. I spotted it on a trip to Borough Market on Saturday and with that purchase was all set. I went to the farmers market in Queen’s Park on Sunday to get the leaves but the leaves specified in the recipe weren’t available so I bought mizuna & mustard leaves instead of baby chard, endives & watercress. These worked really well and I think, really, you could use rocket, it would counter the sweetness of the peach nicely and is readily available.

Speck is a meat that I only discovered 4 years ago when I started working in the Kings Cross area and started shopping in the italian deli, KC Continental Stores on Caledonian Rd. It’s a dry-cured smoked Italian ham from the Alto Adige region of Italy. We use it in the place of prosciutto regularly, it has a really strong smoky flavour and works well in dishes like carbonara, or wrapped around asparagus. The combination with peach is inspired and it’s one I plan to experiment with a bit more. The orange blossom water isvery sweet but is countered by the balsamic vinegar and works well with the richness of the speck.

The recipe doesn’t appear to be published on the Guardian website so I’ll reproduce it here. I haven’t tried any of the other Ottolenghi recipes but plan to try more and await his cookbook which will be published in Spring 2008. The Guardian Weekend Magazine publishes a vegetarian Ottolenghi recipe every Saturday. For now, I’ll continue to eat at one of his café’s in Islington or Notting Hill, one handy for work & the other handy for home :)

For more info on Ottolenghi visit their site.

Chargrilled peaches

I’ll write the recipe as it was in the Guardian as the only changes I made are to the leaves. [Read more]

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Prawn Laksa – an interpretation

Laksa is food for the soul. It’s delicious – spicy and fragrant and packed full of goodness. I always feel so good after eating it! It’s messy, it’s true, but I think that adds to the value. Although, I did have to suffer through an afternoon at work recently with laksa all over my top having treated myself to one for lunch. My lunch partner, who shall remain nameless, was also drenched in laksa. I think we pulled it off. Looked like it should have been there! Erm, maybe not.

There are several types of laksa originating from Malaysia and Singapore. It’s essentially a spicy noodle soup, usually containing seafood, sometimes chicken. It’s hugely popular in Sydney which is where I came across it. There are many types, the ones I normally make (and haven’t blogged yet) are penang & singapore laksas – I’ll blog these soon. This one is a little different, fruity with the addition of tomatoes with a lovely sourness provided by the tamarind.

Laksa recipes seem fiddly and time consuming but they’re really worth it and not all that bad. The laksa spice pastes that are available in oriental shops are never the same as a homemade paste. I usually make double the amount so that I can make two meals from that one effort.

Enjoy and let me know how it works out for you. I am curious![Read more]

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Homemade Pesto

I love pesto. The first time I tasted it, my young irish palette was taken by surprise. I had never had such a flavour combination and wasn’t sure what to make of it. I grew to love it and it’s been a firm favourite ever since. I’ve read that there’s no pesto that can compare with Genovese Pesto in Liguria, that the basil grown in the slightly alkaline soil of the Genovese district of Pra is the best. I really need to go to try this out but for the moment I have to make do with what’s available to me in London.

It’s been a while since I made homemade pesto so I thought I’d make some last weekend. It’s always good to have some to hand and homemade pesto is infinitely superior to that bought in a jar. If you look at the ingredients in some shop bought pestos they often replace pine nuts with cashew nuts, replace parmesan with random cheese and the oil is low grade. There’s also usually a myriad list of ingredients which have no place there. It’s so good for quick pasta dishes, dips, dressings, whatever takes your fancy. It can be expensive to make in the UK but I think it’s worth it. If only I was in Naples growing the basil in my back garden and collecting pine kernels from under the trees. Must make do with being in London and gathering my crop from deli’s ;)

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Chorizo, Rocket & New Potato Hash with a fried egg

Hash is one fo my favourite things to eat. It’s a popular dish in the US and is said to have originated from Ireland, travelling to the US with the migrants around the time of the great Irish Famine in the 19th century, particularly to Boston where hash houses became commonplace. It’s particularly associated with Cork where it was a principal export in the 17th & 18th centuries. All that history stuff aside, it’s a dish I grew up with, well, without the corn beef as I wouldn’t touch the stuff as a child.

Hash to me is leftover potatoes fried with whatever’s in the fridge, whether that’s sausages, peppers, beef – whatever you have, it’s leftovers. Left over potatoes always taste amazing the next day, especially when fried. I just love them! They’re great for weekend brunches or quick dinners. I grew up in quite a rural part of Ireland surrounded by farm land. The predominant crops were potatoes, cabbage and sugar beet. We loved when potatoes were in season. It was before baby new potatoes were popular so they used to be left behind the field to be collected by us for food-play. I remember one particular day cutting them in half and carving faces in, the faces never survived the deep fat fryer much to my disappointment. We would do whatever we could with them. I remember trying to make crisps and being very disappointed when they all stuck together. That didn’t stop me trying again though.

This particular hash, like most of my recent dishes, has a Spanish flavour, chorizo being the spanish flavour of choice. I had hoped to use Morcilla (Spanish black pudding) but the one I brought from Spain didn’t survive the journey. It’s a shame as I think it would have worked really well here. For veggies, you could substitute red pepper for the chorizo, I frequently do, in fact it works really well with the chorizo too so feel free to add it. The recipe doesn’t absolutely require onion, but I love the sweetness of the onion with the sharpness of the chorizo. If you want to exclude it for whatever reason it will still taste good.[Read more]

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Rice paper rolls

Or, for me, they’re pretend it’s summer rolls. It’s Saturday and I am sitting in my flat looking at the pouring rain. I can’t bring myself to go outside, it’s too grim. I need to make something to lift my spirits that doesn’t require leaving the house. Something vietnamese would be nice, it’s been a while since I’ve made any vietnamese food and it reminds me of a lovely holiday I spent in Sydney last year with two old friends. A quick stocktake reveals rice paper, bean sprouts, rice vermicelli, chillis, a green pepper, a very big avocado and some fresh herbs. So, vietnamese rice paper rolls it is. Or a twist on them at least.

These look really tricky, but really they’re very simple. Rolling them is a little fiddly and you may lose the first couple through practice but once you get the hang of it you’ll wonder what all the fuss was about! I usually make these with prawns. They’re perfect for lunch and great for a light evening snack. I don’t have prawns however, so I’m making a vegetarian version. I want to make a dip using the avocado so I’ve dug out a recipe from one of my favourite cookbooks – one of the Moosewood Cookbooks – Moosewood Restaurant New Classics. I bought my first Moosewood Cookbook (The Moosewood Cookbook) over 10 years ago now. I spent the summer in Dingle on the West Coast of Ireland and this was my culinary bible for the summer. It’s a vegetarian cookbook with very creative dishes which are quick, healthy & usually very easy. I have many of their cookbooks but the Moosewood Restaurant New Classics is one of my favourites. In it, the author, Mollie Katzen concentrates on vegetarian and seafood dishes cooked in their restaurant in Ithaca, NY. For this I chose the firey & healthy avocado and wasabi dressing.

This recipe is lactose free and coeliacs can eat this too as there’s no wheat. I didn’t add cucumber or carrot but if they were in my fridge I would have chopped them into matchstick shapes and added them. If you are inexperienced at rolling these use 2 rice paper wraps at a time as they won’t tear as easily. Otherwise use one. With one they look nicer and taste a little better I think. The dip is firey, I am a big wasabi fan.[Read more]