Sounds dreamy doesn’t it? And it was. Perfect for a sunny afternoon. It comes together quickly and it is as pretty as a picture. Any edible flowers will do and there are many. If you don’t already have a nasturtium plant I heartily suggest that you procure one. They grow easily, need little space and they are productive. Flowers and leaves taste and look great (a little peppery), and there are lots of different colours, mainly cheerful shades of orange, yellow and red. When they go to seed, you can treat the seed pods as capers, and pickle them. Here I use nasturtium, both flowers and leaves, but also cucumber flowers (a real garden treat, gentle and tasting of cucumber) and joyful chicory flowers.
Socca is a wonderful thing. So easy to make, and very delicious. Using chickpea flour it is also gluten free. This recipe whisks me back to Nice, to a summer there when I was 19. It was only my second summer away from Ireland, my first trip abroad ever I had spent on a farm outside an idyllic looking English village outside Canterbury picking apples. I say summer, it was 3 weeks and a brief trip to London after, but it allowed me to peek at the possibilities available to me and dream of a travel filled future. The following year, after 1 year in university, I headed to Nice for the summer.
Nice was a whole different thing. I lived in a small studio apartment not far off the Promenade des Anglais (a boulevard bridging the city and the bright blue sea). I worked in a market in the evening, wandering during the days, loitering in bookshops and anywhere I found interesting. I read biology texts in French to try and develop my language skills (I was studying for my degree in Biology at the time). I read and I walked and I swam in the salty Mediterranean Sea. I burned my feet on the stones on the beach and I jumped from one stone to another to reach the sea before discovering that I would be spectacularly out of my depth after a couple of feet. I worked from 5 until midnight every day, every week, and then I went for pizza most days with friends that I had made there after we finished. I discovered jugs of rosé, pizza with thin gorgeous ham and bottles of chilli oil hiding sprigs of rosemary and dried chillies.
Have you been worried about your blue cheese? Lonely there on your Christmas cheeseboard. Every other cheese has a partner, and blue cheese does love a date (literally, especially medjool ones). Manchego has membrillo, cheddar has apple, there will likely be grapes, lots of crackers, and this year you want something different for your blue.
I adore a brash blue cheese, as strong as you can. Hello English Stichelton! The original stilton recipe, still raw and untempered. I especially love a sweet soft and strong sheep’s blue, like French roquefort and Irish crozier blue. A good blue deserves a bold relish. Nothing ordinary, something bright, something tangy, something that can stand up to the intensity.
Courgette flowers continue to be a joy. Cheering my mornings with their generous wide open petals reaching for the sky with happy abundance. Greeting bees and then once the bees have had their turn, they come into the kitchen for me. Such a versatile ingredient, cooked until wilted just so and still retaining texture, they taste a little of courgette and mostly of themselves.
The food inspired by hunger, a lack of time and what is available is often the best. Sometimes that is how I come up with my most interesting recipes. Like today.
There is something about a crispy egg with a runny yolk. And what is the point of a runny yolk if you don’t have something gorgeous to drag through it? Something that will grab on to it and greedily try and entice some of that yolk and pull is with it as it is dragged through. The crispy egg was the first thing I craved as I was at my desk this morning.
Pasta. Good pasta. In this case fusillo, a spiral noodle extricated using a bronze die so it has a firm grip and superb texture. It has great texture when cooked al dente and I just know that the bends in it will show that egg yolk who is boss, but what to have with the pasta?
I thought herbs, and contemplated sage. Something fragrant and light. But then I remembered the fiesty ‘nduja lurking in my fridge waiting for its moment. Firey and rich, a Calabrrian spreadable sausage made with pork, hot Calabrian chillies and lard. So good. And perfect for this dish. ‘Nduja makes an instant sauce, is wonderful to boost a tomato sauce, and is perfect just on bread, or fried with some seafood like scallops or prawns.
This is easy and speedy and the best reward for 15 minutes work. Make it and enjoy it. And be prepared to make more immediately after.
Note: feel free to substitute spaghetti or linguine for the fusillo. I used Iberico lard as a cooking fat because I had it and I love it, I encourage you to seek it out. But also feel free to substitute with any other fat (butter, oil). Lard is misunderstood and is not unhealthy when used in small amounts. It is a real food, it isn’t processed, and it is a wonderful base oil for cooking. The best savoury pastries are made with lard too. If you can’t find ‘nduja (you should be able to source it online), substitute with chorizo, and chop it small.
Other ‘nduja recipes:
Potato & Tomato Hash with an Egg & ‘Nduja Onions
‘Nduja Ragu with Eggs for a Perfect Brunch
Pimp My Piri Piri Poussin
Naughty But Nice ‘Nduja Devilled Eggs
Love at First Sight: My Gorgeous ‘Nduja Pig
Recipe: Fusillo with ‘Nduja, Oregano and a Crispy Egg
serves one hungry person
takes 15 minutes
prepare to make more immediately after
100g fusillo pasta (or spaghetti / linguine)
1 tsp dried oregano leaves (Italian or Greek wild oregano are best)
one good egg
some light oil or – do it! – Iberico lard or normal pork lard
Cook the pasta according to packet instructions.
While the pasta is cooking, heat 1 tsp of oil or lard and add the ‘nduja and oregano. Cook until melted down and fluid, and reduce the heat to the lowest.
When the pasta is almost al dente with just a couple of minutes to go, heat 1 tablespoon of oil or lard in a frying pan over a high heat. When very hot, crack the egg into it, and step back as it may splatter. Sprinkle a little sea salt over the egg and leave to cook.
When the pasta is al dente, drain and add to the ‘nduja. When the egg white is set and crisp and the yolk is still runny serve it on top of the pasta.
Eat immediately and enjoy every bite. So good, right?!
Photography: Louise Hagger for The Guardian
For 4 more new Mexican recipes from me, head over to The Guardian to see some recipes that I developed for their Old El Paso Restaurante feature. Frijoles (Mexican beans), Elotes (the best cheesy corn on the cob), Spicy Slaw & a Chorizo, Red Pepper and Kale Quesadilla. Enjoy!
Yes, feta dip. All your problems solved. Salty and sweet. The perfect weekend indulgence for when the weather is just being a pain outside. Crackers, feta dip, juicy pop-sweet tomatoes. Are you ready?
This is so very easy. All it is is a little single cream (or heavy cream if you are stateside), some cream cheese, and then the bulk of it is feta, proper feta from Greece. None of that fetta or anything that looks like feta but isn’t. Real feta is protected and nothing else can be called feta, that is f-e-t-a.
Feta is made from sheep’s milk, or sheep and goat’s. Never with cows. If there is cow milk in there, it is not the real deal. You want real feta for the sweetness and richness of the sheep’s milk which is brilliant with the salty brine. I thought I didn’t like feta until I went to Greece when I was a student, all I had had before then was the weird inferior stuff with the odd taste.
You can of course just shovel whipped feta into your carcass but it is a little better and nicer with gorgeous lightly roasted tomatoes. Staying Greek, I roasted them with oregano, a small pinch of salt (the feta is salty enough) and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Some crackers as a delivery vehicle work perfectly, as does toast. Anything really, but try to get something that isn’t flavoured or salty if you can. There is enough salt and flavour here and you want to focus on that.
Recipe: Whipped Feta with Roast Tomatoes, Oregano & Mint
75g cream cheese
50ml single cream (heavy cream)
a handful of gorgeous small tomatoes
1 tsp good dried oregano
1 tsp fresh mint
extra virgin olive oil
freshly cracked black pepper
crackers or similar to serve with
Preheat your oven to 18 deg C. Put the tomatoes, oregano and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil in an oven proof tray. Roast for about 10 minutes until just squishy.
While the tomatoes are roasting prepare your dip. Whip the cream first, then combine the feta and cream cheese separately in a blender, then fold the cream in with a spoon.
Serve with the tomatoes on top and a little fresh mint and black pepper.
I adore a spiced breakfast. I indulged as much as I could in Malaysia recently, from curries to laksa to curry mee to nasi lemak to roti canai with dal. When I am in Asia, breakfast is my favourite meal. It has so much flavour, so much variety and is always an adventure.
I love a good dal, an Indian spiced lentil soup, cooked until tender but still with texture, just so. Mostly lentils, sometimes beans, my favourite is made with the small moong dal. A bowl of sunshine, dal is bright and cheerful with turmeric, a culinary equivalent of the best duvet on a cold night. On top, spice dancing on tip toes, some herbs, whatever I have got. This is called the tarka (or tadka), the spice mixture that gives dal character and zing. And in my experience, while it is great to be authentic, variety is very interesting here, the dal can take any flavour.
I sometimes add ginger and garlic to my spices for an extra flavour punch, I sometimes add an egg for more body and sustenance (usually boiled until soft, halved and served on top). Today I kept it very simple, some nice dried chillies with just enough heat and rehydrated a touch, some brown mustard seeds, some small tomatoes, fried quickly, just enough to absorb the spice flavour and soften a bit and curry leaves, cooked until just starting to crisp and so fragrant.
There is lots of mixed advice as to when you salt a dal and as to whether you should soak it first. Soaking isn’t essential but it does save on cooking time and results in a speedy soft dal. I salt a little at the start, and add turmeric then too, but I season to taste properly at the end. Some say that salt can toughen the pulses, but this hasn’t been my experience, and I like the dal to take up a little seasoning as it cooks.
Notes on the recipe: Moong dal is widely available in supermarkets, Indian food shops and online too. Curry leaves are widely available in London, I can get them in my local supermarket. If you can’t get them, you could try dried online, which still have great flavour. Or substitute and entirely different but suitable flavour, fresh coriander. This is incredibly good value and a great comfort eat. Enjoy!
Recipe: Dal with Curry Leaves, Mustard, Chilli & Tomato
Serves 2 generous portions or 1 person on repeat for a day (yup – that was me!)
200g moong dal (small yellow lentils, larger chana dal will work fine too)
1 heaped tsp turmeric powder
sea salt to taste
2 tbsp brown mustard seeds
12 good small tomatoes halved or quartered depending on how small they are
a handful of curry leaves, removed from the stem
chilli of your choice, finely chopped (seeds in or our, up to you, depending on how hot you like it)
ghee or butter or coconut oil (coconut oil is a great substitute for lactose intolerants and vegans, I quite like the flavour)
If you have time, soak the moong dal with the turmeric and a little salt in about twice their volume of water. If you don’t, don’t worry, it will just take a little longer to cook.
Bring the dal to a boil over a medium heat. Reduce to a simmer and cook until tender and soft. Season to taste.
Melt your fat of choice for the tarka and add the mustard seeds, chilli and curry leaves and cook over a medium heat for a couple of minutes. Add the tomatoes for a final couple of minutes and serve on top of the dal, which should still be nice and hot.
I love me some beans, I can’t get enough of them. It shocks people often to discover that I used to be vegetarian (WHAT?!), but you know, I was worried about industrial farming (I still am), and my degree studies were in physiology, including anatomy, which involved human dissection. Yes, HUMAN dissection. I went home one evening after an anatomy dissection, cooked some chicken and thought that it all looked too similar, the flesh and the fibres (sorry, but it is true), my stomach turned and that was that, for a long while. Then as the farmers market movement took hold properly, and people and even supermarkets started to become more concerned about meat and meat sourcing, I came back on board.
These years of vegetarianism taught me a lot. I explored pulses, vegetables, herbs and spice. I learned how to add flavour without adding meat, and I resurrected my university nutrition studies to ensure that I was eating nutritionally balanced meals. I studied more, I learned about new and exciting ways that I could eat. I devoured cookbooks, I obsessively read online. I fell in love with pulses, completely. All sorts of beans and lentils, I would fill my suitcase with bean shaped curiosities from everywhere that I travelled and bring them home.
One place I have yet to travel to is Egypt, but I have explored the food in London and in my own kitchen. One of my favourite discoveries when I first moved to London was the wonder of a bowl of ful medames (always spelled in a myriad of ways like dal|dahl|dhal!), a beautiful breakfast dish of small ful beans (dried baby broad beans), gently spiced and cooked for hours with garlic and eggs boiled within, which are served on top. I used to eat it all the time and made it my mission to perfect it at home. I think I feel a post coming on!
Dried broad beans are a superb ingredient. I loved how they cook them in Puglia, until soft and served as a gorgeous dip rich with local olive oil and mountain oregano, ripe for you to drag some crusty bread through. I brought lots home, but I buy them in local Turkish shops too. Jane Baxter, the originator of this falafel recipe, highly recommends British grown organic beans from Hodmedods, who sell them online too. You need these unassuming beans in your life, I promise you.
Which leads me on to what exactly an Egyptian falafel is. It is a falafel shaped from broad beans with spices, herbs and other joy, coated with sesame seeds. A lovely alternative to the chickpea falafel we all know so well. The falafel recipe is adapted from Jane Baxter & Henry Dimbleby, and it has a lovely story associated too (see after the recipe).
Have you got a favourite falafel recipe or story? I have many! I used to live on them when I was fresh out of university and living in Amsterdam. Another day for those, but tell me yours!
Recipe adapted from Jane Baxter and Henry Dimbleby on The Guardian. Jane serves it with different sides, and there is a lovely story attached to how they sourced it too.
- 250g dried split fava beans, covered in cold water and soaked overnight
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed
- ½ leek, finely chopped
- 5 spring onions, finely chopped
- ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1 tsp flour (I used normal wheat flour, Jane recommends gram flour)
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
- 1 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
- 1 tbsp whole cumin, toasted in a dry fryin pan and ground to a powder in a pestle and mortar
- A pinch of cayenne pepper
- ½ tsp aromatic chilli like pul biber if you can get it (a lovely fruity Turkish chili), or a mild fruity red chilli
- Salt and black pepper
- Sesame seeds
- Oil, for frying (rapeseed, rice bran or sunflower)
- 6 tbsp tahini
- juice of 2 lemons
- 4 tbsp water
- half a head of cauliflower, sliced or cut into small florets (sliced looks good like carpaccio)
- 1 tbsp cumin seed, toasted in a dry frying pan and ground fine
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp mild chilli powder or pul biber (see above)
- Carrot & Sesame
- 2 carrots, finely grated (I use my food processor but a cheese grater will do)
- 2 tbsp sesame seeds
- fresh coriander
- radishes, finely sliced
- sea salt for seasoning
Sometimes the world is with you, and sometimes it is not. Equally sometimes your fridge is with you, and sometimes it is not. Sometimes your fridge can be a nasty twisted beast. Last week when I came home from France to discover that my fridge had been off all weekend, well that was a moment where my fridge was being a poison troll. Today, when I shuffled through it and put together the makings of lunch, it was definitely trying to make amends.
In university a friend used to call me MacGyver, not because I sported an awesome mullet or because I had impressive skills where I could construct something brilliant, unexpected and absolutely required at that instant in time with just a piece of chewing gum and any-other-thing, but because she believed that I could tackle a kitchen with hardly anything in it and make something good to eat. I have always loved a cupboard forage and it is exactly this MacGyver skill level that brought lunch to my door this lunchtime.
This post is the second in a sponsored series that I am working on with BRITA as part of their Better with BRITA campaign. I explore recipes that use BRITA filtered water as a key ingredient, in this instance a healthy and nutritious one pot dish based on cauliflower cous cous.
Not only is this a healthy and nutritious one pot dish, it is also speedy and very flexible. It is a frugal dish also, a perfect dish for using up the ends of veg that are lurking in your fridge. Combining lots of different flavours and textures makes this dish even better.
The base of it is a cous cous, well, kind of. It is a cauliflower cous cous, fond of dieters of all descriptions. I love cauliflower, it is so good raw, unbeatable with cheese and perfect with spice. It is great roasted whole, steamed in florets, and superb when blitzed in a food processor into a rice or cous cous. I am not generally a fan of veg a sa substitute for carbs, but this works so well, and the taste of cauliflower adds a lot to this vegetable packed powerhouse.
I woke this morning feeling so tired but quite chirpy. I want to start the week well. It could be that spring is coming and I can feel it in my bones, and see it in the sky. Maybe it is the lovely weekend that I just spent in Lapland, the people I met, and the huskies, reindeer and general gorgeousness. Lately, I am increasingly aware of time, how precious it is, and how much I want to do. Our lives are in our hands, right? It sounds so simple, but like all simple things, it can be difficult to realise and implement.
The last 18 months have presented many challenges and I have felt overwhelmed and swept away at times. My Dad passing away, of course, this takes time to absorb and heal. The mammoth project that Project: Bacon turned out to be (my bacon opus is nearly there now, I am very pleased to reveal), and my responsibilities to my wonderful backers has been a huge part of this. I feel each disappointment keenly as they wait and I am further delayed. Life can kick and tease but it can also take your hand and dance with you. I want to do more dancing, and in colour.
This post is part of a sponsored series that I am working on with BRITA as part of their Better with BRITA campaign. I explored recipes that use BRITA filtered water as a key ingredient, in this instance a lovely water based chocolate ganache or chantilly.
We are all familiar with chocolate ganache, the cream and chocolate based gorgeousness that forms the basis of truffles, amongst other things. Did you ever think about making a ganache with water? Hervé This, a physical chemist with a passion for food did in his book Molecular Gastronomy, Exploring the Science of Flavour. He named it chocolate chantilly, but it is equally a ganache or a mousse. Magic!
Adding water to chocolate can make it seize and make it very unpleasant, however, This discovered a technique where you can emulsify chocolate with water, and shared the quantities that can make this work. Now, many chocolatiers use this technique to make water ganaches and vegan chocolate truffles.
I love a bit of kitchen geekery, and so I enjoyed played around with this. Using the correct quantities, a good chocolate rich with cocoa butter emulsified with water (cheap chocolate with vegetable oils will not work here), reveals a chocolate chantilly that is smooth and rich and a little light. Very healthy too, good dark chocolate is a delicious and healthy thing for your body, adding water instead of cream lightens the calorie load and gives a more direct chocolate flavour hit.
Expecting it to be complicated and requiring a lot of attention, I was thrilled to discover that this is speedy and very easy, and it sets quickly too (ten minutes versus at least an hour for the cream ganache equivalent), if you want it to be a chocolate mousse or to make truffles. This mentions that orange juice works well in addition with the water, and so I made a spritely chocolate orange chantilly, which was perfect with my pancakes.
Convenience isn’t always about using your store cupboard bits and bobs. Convenience, for me, is often about avoiding leaving the house. I know. I live in a big city about 10 minutes walk away from a supermarket and 2 minutes from a reasonably stocked corner shop, but some days I am so deep in cabin fever / cosy / lazy / attached to my pjs, I will do anything to just stay indoors.
So, if I want a sandwich I may delay it so that I can bake the bread. Yes, I do that. Not often, but I do. That is also because I can’t stand the really processed stuff and the bakery is, well, 10 minutes away, but you know, I don’t want to leave the house (and I like baking). Or, if I need peanut butter to cook someone else’s store cupboard supper, I will make it at home rather than walk 2 minutes to the corner shop. The result is a much better peanut butter and the effort is not too great.
If you work from home (all the time, not just occasional days), you will understand this sophisticated form of cabin fever. When working from home I hold myself captive, until it spirals out of control and then I become a little weird and try to arrange everything so that it happens within a few metres of my living room. I need to get an office, with a kitchen, can someone arrange that, please?
Some days demand chicken wings. Today is one. The best bit of the chicken for snacking on, the skin to flesh ratio being somewhere in the region of can-solve-most-of-lifes-problems, chicken wings are also very reasonable. Even in my local posh butcher, a kilo of lovely free range wings costs just over £5.
Everyone should have a recipe for hot wings in their repertoire. So easy and so gorgeous, spiked hot crisp wings dipped into a soothing cool blue cheese dip is all that you have ever wanted after a bad day. Or any day. Frank’s Louisiana Hot Sauce is what makes the wings sing, you could make your own, and it is the kind of thing that I often do, but in this case, truly, Frank’s have done all the work and made a great sauce. So, like every other hot wing fanatic on the planet, I use that.
They take little work. I roast the wings until the skin is just crisp, prepare the hot sauce which takes, oh, 2 minutes, then douse the wings in the sauce before returning to the oven for a little bit. Then I prepare the dip, which again is
very complicated, ridiculously easy, a mish mash of strong blue cheese with natural yogurt, blended until they yield, and embrace each other.
Easy, and perfect for January blues, right? Enjoy.
It won’t surprise you, but I don’t do dry January. Nor do I do diets. I reign myself in, become a little more pragmatic and try and restore balance by eating a little lighter but still in normal amounts. Or rather, I start eating normal amounts. Replacing sour cream with yogurt. Eating more fish and less meat. A bit more salad. Lots of avocados. Frying less, although still a little. Lighter Brighter cooking is what I shall call it. It is all about being aware that every little bit makes a difference but not killing the enjoyment of it. Food is sustenance and a source of great pleasure. The key to health is home cooking, moderation and exercise. And good sleep.
With diets, I think a lot of people feel better not because they have cut out a food group (don’t get me started), but because they have started paying attention to what they eat, and what they cook. One very big thing is cutting out processed food. Some go from not cooking at all to eating predominantly home cooked food. I bet that if you speak to a lot of very successful dieters, you will discover that they transitioned from not really thinking about what they ate to being a lot more considerate about what they cooked, and eating less processed food. They almost certainly exercised a lot more.
The reality (certainly for me) is that even when you think about what you cook (and I do a lot), it doesn’t mean that you are necessarily eating well. But when you do think about it from a health perspective, and start to feel the benefits of Lighter Brighter cooking, when you can see exactly what you are eating, not through a film in a plastic tray spinning around in a microwave, but because you have cooked it and see just how much of everything has gone in, that is empowering. When you cook, you can also adapt your recipes to make them lighter and no less delicious.
Enter salmon tacos. I am lucky that I live near a great fishmonger (and I have a great butcher too). Last Saturday I went late and there was not much left, but there was some lovely salmon. I did two things with it it, a teriyaki (a simple combination of 50ml soy sauce & 50 ml mirin with 1 tsp of honey, reduced by half over a medium heat, and then used to glaze a just-cooked piece of salmon, delicious) and also some lovely light salmon tacos.
I have a confession to make! I published this post last weekend, and a few hours later a trusted friend queried my photograph, thinking that it didn’t do the dish justice. I took a look, and sure enough, they were right. It was like going out to work hungover and slightly frazzled wearing something that you think looks ok, and realising slowly that it was a horrible choice, ill fitting, and irritating for the rest of the day. So I took it down. I made the dish again today, same recipe, and here’s the post. In my defence, I made this dish for a friend and drank lots of wine as I was cooking (as did they!). So, lesson learned, don’t take food photographs drunk, and don’t rush blog posts!
One of my indulgences is cookbooks, I love them, and I have a ridiculous amount. Some are very well thumbed with weakening spines, others are neglected, bought out of curiosity and never properly investigated. I love concocting my own food and creating recipes, but I also love to cook from cookbooks, entering the culinary head of another, and seeing how they do things.
A lot of the cookbooks that I have been buying in the last few years are from restaurants and cafes that I really like. Often they’re not as impressive as the restaurant they are associated with, but as always, there are exceptions. Ottolenghi: The Cookbook is one.
I was very excited about this one. I worked reasonably close to the Islington branch for a number of years and would occasionally treat myself to a delicious lunch. When Yotam Ottolenghi started writing recipes in the Guardian I was always enthralled with his approach and combinations. Coming from Israel with a Palestinian business partner, there are some wonderful influences from that region. The first time I used orange blossom water was when I made an Ottolenghi salad and it was a revelation. He uses colour and flavour wonderfully, I remember reading sovewhere that if a dish doesn’t look great, it doesn’t matter how great it tastes, you won’t get it at Ottolenghi.
I’ve had the cookbook since it was published and I really don’t use it enough. I frequently dip in, for inspiration or just a good read, and a flick through the gorgeous pictures. I decided I really should start, and I can safely say after just one recipe, the book is well and truly broken in with splatters and thumb prints all over the page. Ah well.
Burnt aubergine is a gorgeous, intensely savoury flavour. It’s fantastic in a vegetarian dish as it confers a depth that could otherwise be difficult to achieve. I flicked through the book and came across a lovely recipe for a salad including this, so I endeavoured to adapt and try it with the ingredients I had.
Burning an aubergine is as easy as it sounds. Rest the aubergine on a gas flame and burn it, turning it as each side is done until complete. Don’t worry if the skin splits, it happens a lot. Let it cool a little and peel the skin off, or scoop out the inside after cutting it in two. Drain in a colander for an hour or so then chop.
The rest of the salad is very straight forward, a simple dressing, some delicate spicing (cumin). This would be wonderful for a BBQ or similar summer event with the sweetness of the peppers and tartness of the tomatoes.
I altered the proportions of the recipe with two different colour peppers and a little less aubergine and tomatoes. I really liked it, and am very much looking forward to trying more of his recipes, and eating there again.
1 large aubergine, burnt as described above, drained and chopped
1 yellow pepper, diced
1 orange pepper, diced
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
a handful of small fruity cherry tomatoes or similar, halved
a handful of fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
5 tbsp sunflower oil or similar
3 tbsp cider vinegar
3 tsp fresh cumin, toasted and ground or 3 tsp ground cumin (the first option is infinitely preferable)
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
First, make the dressing and check the taste and adjust if necessary.
Mix the other ingredients and add the dressing. Season with S&P to taste and serve.
This is really nice with khobez, pittas or similar.
Life’s simple pleasures are the driving force for getting through each day with a smile on my face. Food, wine, music, friends, jokes, laughter, a good book, some occasional trashy TV, all contribute towards a day I brand a success, and one that makes me want to repeat the experience when I fall out of bed the next morning.
Some days need more than this, whether you’ve had a grim day at the office, are entertaining friends or simply require a dash of some decadence in your life, some extras are called for. When I have had a bad day I comfort shop and I comfort eat. The two are inextricably linked. I buy things that give me comfort: good food, new sheets, nice wine, something nice to wear. I am nice to myself, when for whatever reason, I feel the world is rejecting me or treating me with disdain. Bah!
This particular occasion I was in fine fettle and entertaining a good friend who happens to be a vegetarian, so no need to picture me with a cloud over my head and chocolate stains all around my mouth with a bag of crisps on my hand, running to the nearest department store with a bunch of notes in my hand. Dramatic, yes, but you’ll get used to that! I wanted to make something quick that was full of flavour and indulgent, allowing me plenty of time to catch up, drink wine and still produce a meal that I would enjoy and be proud to share.
I also had a box of goodies to explore, truffle goodies from Savitar in Italy, the most decadent box I’ve ever had in my cupboard containing a range of superb products, including, for this dish, truffle pecorino (ewe’s milk cheese). I am a big fan of traditional dishes, and generally don’t like to mess with them. I stick faithfully to Marcella Hazan’s recipe for carbonara, it’s a lovely thing, but there are some twists on this that work, and one involves asparagus. I would often have asparagus and pancetta in this, but for this evening, meat was murder and I was temporarily veggie, so to spruce it up I used truffle pecorino in the place of the usual parmesan and pecorino mix.
This worked so well. The truffle was sublime and decadent but complimented the asparagus, which fresh and in season was full flavoured. The sauce was light and creamy and licked the linguine without being cloying. I’ll be making this again, although if for me and not vegetatians, I will include pancetta.
I put this together quite intuitively as I have made carbonara or versions many times. I cooked enough linguine for 3 people, about two thirds of a pack. Spaghetti is traditional for this dish, but linguine is a reasonable substitute should you have none, which was the case for me. As it was cooking, I snapped the woody tips from the end of some delicious English asparagus, and boiled thm for a couple of minutes until approaching tender. Place in a bowl of iced water or run under the cold tap to arrest the cooking process. I chopped these so that the stems were in centimetre chunks with the tips at full length.
The next step requires a little prep. I use one egg yolk per person from a large free range organic egg. Beat them with approx. 3 generous tablespoons of the truffle pecorino and one tablespoon of freshly grated pamesan cheese, season and leave to the side. Lightly mash a clover of garlic and fry until golden in some olive oil over a medium high heat. Remove the garlic, add the chopped asparagus and about half a glass of dry white wine. Fry off the alcohol, reducing the volume a little as you do.
When the pasta is cooked, toss in the egg and cheese mixture, and add the asparagus. Serve immediately with some freshly grated pamesan or for extra decadence a mixture of truffle pecorino and parmesan. Enjoy with a fine glass of wine and some good chatter.
Salsify is a most underrated vegetable. It’s ugly, and it’s awkward. It’s like a stroppy teenager that refuses to wash. It’s not much fun to prep and goes off colour really easily. Dark brown and holding onto every bit of dirt, I had some ground into my palms which took so much scrubbing, I think I’ve lost some layers of skin. It requires a lot of TLC. Putting it mildly.
So, why bother?
Once you crack it and this shy vegetable shows you it’s smile, you can’t help but fall in love with it. Tender and delicate, it’s often referred to as the oyster of the vegetable kingdom as it’s reported to have a similar flavour. I find it a little nutty, and so I like to pair it with roast garlic, which I think compliments it well. Once you take the beast that is garlic with some firm roasting, so that it relaxes and releases a sweetness, it holds hands with the salsify in this soup, and they become the best of friends. They don’t overpower each other, it’s a very delicate soup.
This aside, I wanted this to be a robust little soup, thick with lots of flavour, and I really wanted it to be healthy too. So, I added lentils and a carrot and a potato, along with the base shallots. I used a light chicken stock but you could substitute vegetable if you would like a vegetarian soup.
This would serve 4 very healthy portions. Nice with good crusty bread.
700g salsify, unpeeled
1 bulb garlic
2 large shallots or 4 small, finely chopped
2l light chicken stock
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 medium potato, peeled and diced
100g red lentils
2 bay leaves
a few sprigs of thyme
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Olive Oil for frying
Scrub, scrub, scrub that salsify. Peel, taking care not to strip too much of the skin. Chop into one inch sections and leave in acidulated water (water with a squeeze of lemon), so that it doesn’t discolour.
Roast the garlic. I like to roast at 180 degrees, it takes about 20 minutes. Slice the top off a bulb of garlic, exposing the top of each clove and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Roast and allow to cool, then squeeze each clove out of it’s papery jacket. I adore roast garlic. It should really have a post all of it’s own.
Saute the shallots in the olive oil until translucent. Add the carrots and potato for a couple of minutes. After, add the stock, bay leaves, thyme, garlic cloves, lentils and salsify.
Bring to the boil and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the salsify is tender. Remove the thyme sprigs and bay leaves and blitz in a blender. Season to taste with salt & pepper.
Serve with some thyme leaves as a garnish. I added a swirl of olive oil but cream would work really well too.
This food blogger cares about her health, it may not be obvious with my clear overindulgence in staples like chorizo and pork belly, but I do care about what I eat, I want to be and to feel healthy, and as a consequence, I do try to maintain a balanced diet. This is increasingly difficult in these busy times but I think I do ok.
Recently, I was invited to try GOOD Oil, a hempseed oil, at a dinner party in West London with a group of fellow bloggers (Alex from Epicurienne, Melanie from Fake Plastic Noodles, Helen from Food Stories, Lizzie from Hollow Legs, Chris from Londonist) and hosted by the lovely couple that have dedicated the last 8 years of their lives to perfecting this oil, Henry & Glynis, and their son and cook for the evening, Ben. It seemed like a really good opportunity to broaden my culinary horizons and have an all round nice evening with some of my blogger friends.
I always feel like I need to say in these posts, and I’ll say it again, that I will not tout a product because it’s been given to me or promote something that I would not run out to the shop to buy. I feel passionately about the integrity of what I do and I’ll stick by it, even if it offends, it’s important. GOOD Oil impressed me on many levels so I want to share the experience with you and a recipe from that night for you to try at home.
So, hempseed oil, what’s that? Well, it’s oil that’s made from hempseed…simple really! Henry Braham and Glynis Murray, cinematographer and film producer respectively, bought a farm in Devon almost a decade ago with a view to producing a sustainable crop, and settled on hemp. We all know that hemp is used for fibre (e.g. clothing) but it’s also highly nutritious and contains Omega 3, 6 and 9. Scientific studies have shown that it’s good for arthritis, cardiovascular disease, ADHD, skin, hair and for us ladies, PMT. The only hemp oil available at the time tasted unpleasant, so Henry & Glynis decided to press it like an olive oil with a view to producing something healthy and tasty using traditional methods to get the best from the seed.
They’ve struggled and persevered and I admire them for that. They believed in sustainable agriculture and chose hemp for that reason, they could have gone the traditional route and used hemp for fibre but they felt passionately in the oil, and spent many years perfecting it. They could have used modern less expensive pressing techniques but they wanted the best quality and strove for it. They wanted GOOD Oil. They survived the foot & mouth crisis and even fended off some trips from the police wondering what exactly was this hemp that they were growing! That particular bit, I found very funny!
What’s the result of all this struggle? Was it worth it? YES! GOOD Oil is nutty and rich and healthy, a really pleasant flavour that works well with different foods like mash and ice cream (yes, really, it’s lovely drizzled on vanilla ice cream – I am told it was Jamie Oliver’s idea). In fact, I would substitute it anywhere I would use extra virgin oil and I’ve a few things I want to experiment with using this oil. I want to use it to make nice and healthy winter soups, I really want to try some nice and different salad dressings, and, to use it in super healthy spelt and pearl barley salads. That’s just the start, a new ingredient is always so exciting.
So, GOOD Oil, is good! Give it a go. For now, I’ll leave you with the recipe for the starter that we had that night – pea and pecorino crostini – give it a go, and let me know what you think! I thought it was fresh and lively, and the GOOD Oil worked really well with the nutty pecorino. This recipe serves 4.
150g shelled peas
75g grated pecorino
Juice of half a lemon
4 slices of sourdough bread
Drizzle of GOOD Oil
Sea salt & freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 150 degrees celsius.
Cook the peas until bright green and tender by boiling in water, only a few minutes. Refresh with ice cold water to stop the cooking process and preserve that lovely colour.
Mash the peas with the pecorino and some of the oil, aiming for a guacamole like texture.
Brush the sourdough on both sides with the oil and bake in the oven until crisp. Shouldn’t take anymore than 5 minutes.
Spoon the pea and pecorino mix on top. Shaving of pecorino make a nice garnish.
More info and recipes at http://www.goodwebsite.co.uk/
I wasn’t going to blog this dish. As I keep saying, and I am sure it’s getting dull by now, my cooking lately has been haphazard, last minute and subject to me destroying pots and sustaining injuries. This is fairly normal behaviour, certainly on the injury front, but you know you’re cooking too late when you put some rice and lentils on the hob and then walk away like it never happened, wondering 10 minutes later, what is that burning smell? Sheesh.
Worry not, I have been eating well, and I am certainly not fading away. I am completely spoiled for choice at lunchtime, from Brindisa stews and sandwiches, to Moro’s spiced lamb, Sporeboys risotto, Gujarati Rasoi’s wonderful veggie curries and Ginnan’s chicken katsu curry. That’s but the tip of what’s available in Exmouth Market. The evenings are another story, they have been busy, and I am not complaining, it’s good to be busy, but I have been missing those stolen kitchen hours here and there poking in cupboards and making something new.
So, to rectify, and also in an attempt to fight the descent of a cold, I did some cooking last week, a little not a lot. Just some quick lunches and salads with some very fresh colourful food in. Salads with peashoots and enormous heirloom tomatoes, pumpkins for tis the season, and some random dishes created from what I’ve been stashing in the fridge and cupboard over the last few weeks. Last night I made one such dish and it was really nice. I decided not to post it though as I took a photo in passing, and it was crap, and I wasn’t much in the mood for styling.
MY! What a long rambling story. I am gettting there, promise!
So, I sat down to eat it, and I thought, this tastes nice! The creamy orzo played nicely with the sweet and caramelised butternut squash and the crispy sage taunted all of it with it’s butteriness. It was lovely! And I ate lots.
So, how do you create this wonder of a random dish? The quantities are flexible and I would encourage you to experiment. I fried an eschalion shallot and one clove of garlic, finely chopped, 2 slices of pancetta and 200g peeled and diced butternut squash for about 7-8 minutes until the butternut squash is cooked. Add 2 tablespoons of ricotta, I used buffalo but cows is fine. Then add a few handfuls of washed and chopped spinach and 100g of cooked orzo (cooked according to packet instructions) and cook until the orzo is warmed through and the spinach cooked but still bright green. To crown it, shred and fry some sage in butter, and when crispy, stir through and serve.If I had them toasted pine nuts would have been a lovely addition.
This eats well hot or cold. Enjoy!