Frozen raw prawns are a freezer staple for me. They defrost quickly, cook in minutes and are super versatile. I love them in a curry (my Goan prawn curry is one of my most popular recipes, still, after 11 years on the site). They are fantastic with noodles (like these spicy peanut butter noodles). Brilliant in a soup (this prawn tom yum kung recipe from my trip to Bangkok is gorgeous)and who doesn’t love a laksa? (Prawn Laksa recipe right here!). I love them in a meatball (prawn and chorizo meatballs in broth, anyone?). Cook them whole, mince them, put them on a stick and grill them. There are endless possibilities with the humble prawn (which some of you North American friends which may call shrimp) and they are wonderful in these speedy and bright lemongrass prawn patties.
Simplicity is the key for me in cooking at home. Good ingredients, cooked well, often quickly. I have lots of store cupboard ingredients. There is always chorizo, a cupboard full of a variety of pasta shapes, noodles and rice. Lets call it the carb cave (and I LOVE my carbs). But often on a hot day I want simple seafood flavoured with fresh herbs and other bright ingredients.
My original plan was to make the squid stuffed with beef and chorizo that I told you about in my last post. I am so keen to share that one with you soon. But, alas, there was no squid to be had. There was a bounty of cod cheeks, gorgeous delicate morsels of cod meat. There are many reasons to love these, they are delicious, and there isn’t even any chopping to do, they are all bite size. They are usually cheaper too, in this case they were half the price of the clams.
A Perfect Healthy Speedy Supper
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. Continue reading
Wild garlic pesto does feel a cliché but when it is so delicious, why shouldn’t it be? Wild garlic, if you haven’t cooked with it yet, is a broad garlic flavoured leaf, slightly sour, and fantastic with anything creamy, cheesy and it is the best pal for the humble spud. It grows abundantly in the shade, white flours sprouting out in clusters on elegant stems, leaping towards the sunshine.
It is wild garlic season here, but near me we mainly have three cornered leek (often confused for wild garlic), which is too grassy for pesto. I tried to source some proper wild garlic, I cried out for secret sources – I WON’T TELL ANYONE, I SWEAR! – but no joy, I failed. I am deeply impatient, and I had a visceral need for the stuff. Praise the internet for intervening and saving my brain and wild garlic free larder, a very kind twitter friend sent me some in the post, and I have been playing with it ever since.
Wild garlic pesto is made in many ways. I chose almonds for body, 36 month aged parmesan for that perfect cheesy umami hit, a lovely fruity extra virgin olive oil with a hint of bitterness and some wild garlic. I played with the volumes, and while they suspiciously come to the same amount in grams, the volumes are different, and they work very well, with just the right garlic punch and shade of green. The oil may seem a lot, but it needs this as a minimum or it is too dry. It also helps keep it fresh, protecting it from the air. Hey, it is healthy too, particularly as unheated and retaining all of the goodness. When using this pesto, I sometimes add more to thin it out or help it spread. Use your own judgement for yours.
As lovely as this is used in the traditional pesto sense as a dressing for pasta, it is great as a condiment elsewhere. This was lovely as a dressing for a crisp potato hash with bacon and eggs for brunch today, and beautiful on toast with some radishes.
Wild Garlic Pesto
- 75 grams wild garlic (fresh)
- 75 grams parmesan cheese (grated)
- 75 grams almonds (blanched)
- 200 ml extra-virgin olive oil
- sea salt (to taste)
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.
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
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.
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: Continue reading
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.
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. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
My lovely local Italian deli had more chanterelles and I couldn’t leave them there. They’re like a little golden treasure and with their subtle flavour are delicious. I was tempted to make the tagliatelle again but we’ve been eating alot of pasta lately. One thing we haven’t had for an age is a Frittata, so I decided on one of those.
So, where from here? A frittata is an Italian omelette with fillings. These vary and unlike the Spanish Omelette, you can really put anything you like in there. A brunch favourite of mine, I often make a leek and mushroom omelette so I thought that I would replicate it with the chanterelles. The leek is very sweet and the chanterelles very delicate so it works well with a bold flavour like rocket on the side. Often frittata recipes have milk in but as I’m lactose intolerant I don’t bother. If you’re not please feel free to add a few tablespoons of milk to the egg. Sometimes there’s cheese on top but I didn’t want to distract from the deliacte chanterelle flavour. This is very easy and very quick! Continue reading
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! Continue reading
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. Continue reading
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