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Thoughts On Dry January, Diets and a Recipe for Salmon Tacos

Homemade Salmon Tacos (Recipe)

Homemade Salmon Tacos

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.[Read more]

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Chorizo, tomato, cannellini bean & coriander brunch

I’m all about the brunch at weekends, and at the moment as I am not working during the week, I am all about the brunch all the time. It’s got to stop, my waistline is not so forgiving of my brunch whims, but what’s one week of indulgence? 2 inches you say?

A recent trip to Brindisa means I have lots of their gorgeous cooking chorizo. I like the hot one, and this is the one I have today. A recent trip to Celia Brooks Brown‘s allotment affords me some really delicious and juicy tomatoes, which diced and fried with the chorizo, create the most wonderful sauce. I had a pot of home cooked cannelini beans, soaked overnight and boiled for just over an hour, scooping the white scum from the top as soon as it gets to the boil. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, home soaked and cooked beans are infinitely superior to tinned ones. They have a firmer texture and don’t have the oversweet flavour that most tinned beans have. A cupful of these with the tomatoes and chorizo, and this looks like a very robust and delicious brunch. It needs something else though. It’s tasty but needs something to blend with the strong flavours and give it a bit of a lift. I have fresh coriander, and it’s the missing jigsaw piece. The citrus notes pair perfectly with the juicy sweet tomato base.

I liked it so much I made it again for dinner. Easy-peasy. If you want to recreate, I used two chorizo sausages per person, one big and very good tomato, a handful of beans and a tablespoon of fresh coriander added at the end. Fry the chorizo in some oil for about 5 minutes, add the tomato and beans, and cook for a further 5 before adding the coriander at the end.  Really great with some good bread to scoop up the sauce. 10 minutes, one delicious brunch.

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Orzo with Butternut Squash, Spinach and Buffalo Ricotta

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!

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Chorizo & Kale Carbonara

Chorizo & Kale Carbobanara

Carbonara is a dish I eat really frequently, usually the original pancetta one, as, purist as I tend to be, I want to do it the right way. Today I varied, as I had a bag of kale and some nice chorizo and some friends that I wanted to cook lunch for. Chorizo and kale are lovely together and I wanted to veer away from my usual chorizo & tomato sauce, which, while delicious, I make too often and I need some variety in my food.

So, after I came upon the idea of making a carbonara, I wondered, as it’s not just for me, wouldn’t it be nice to make it a little luxurious with a touch of cream? Purists, forgive me, carbonara should not have cream I know, but this has kale in anyway, so, surely, I can push it further? I added just a couple of tablespoons to the eggs and smothered the penne in it before adding the chorizo & kale. It was lovely, but feel free to exclude it, it should still be good.

This recipe was for 3 comfortable portions. The sauce takes only as long as the pasta so it’s a really quick meal. Forgive the photos, it was a bit of a battle taking the photo with a half working camera in low light, whilst catching up with old friends I rarely see, and (!)… without the pasta going cold. I am such a soldier, working in these conditions ;-)

Kale & Chorizo Carbonara

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