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Haloumi & Aubergine Kebabs on a bulgur & pea salad

We’re much keener on nutty bulgur than quinoa that seems so popular at the moment. Bulgur makes for a much more interesting salad in our opinion and these aubergine and halloumi kebabs are a great veggie option for the barbecue. Leftovers taste nice for lunch the next day too.

Aubergine and Halloumi Kebabs with Garlic & Herb Bulgur Wheat 

  • 2 aubergines, sliced into strips
  • 200g pack of halloumi cheese, cut into cubes
  • 2 tbsp olive oil plus more for brushing
  • 1 tbsp capers, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp chopped mint

FOR THE GARLIC & HERB BULGUR WHEAT

  • 200g bulgur wheat
  • 175g frozen peas
  • 6 tbsp garlic oil (to make garlic oil just gently simmer a couple of peeled and smashed garlic cloves in oil for about 10 minutes, then discard the garlic and let the oil cool before using)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • handful of herbs (such as mint, parsley, chives or a mixture) roughly chopped

Brush the aubergine strips with olive oil and barbecue until softened. Thread onto skewers with the halloumi cubes.

Mix the remaining olive oil with the chopped capers and mint.

Barbecue the kebabs until the cheese is golden and drizzle over the dressing to serve.

Meanwhile, cook the bulgar wheat in boiling salted water for 15 minutes or until tender, adding the peas for the last few minutes.

Make the dressing with the oil, lemon juice and seasoning. Fold the herbs through the drained bulgur wheat and peas and gently stir in the dressing.

(Original recipe for kebabs from BBC Olive Magazine July 2014 and bulgur wheat from BBC Good Food.)

Hake and scallion mash with a soy butter sauce

The soy butter sauce here is absolutely delicious and we were perhaps a bit over-generous with it when plating up. You can do some sort of drizzly thing if you want it look a bit fancier. Either way your guests will be impressed!

Wine Suggestion: We went off-piste and served a light bodied, Loire Valley red from Saumur-Champigny, the Chateau Hureau “Tuffe” 2010. As it was a warm evening we’d chilled the bottle for 30 minutes in the fridge and it was charming and a delightful match proving that red wine can go with fish. We think the depth of flavour in the soy butter sauce helped too.

Hake on Scallion Mash with a Soy Butter Sauce – serves 4

  • 4 x 200g pieces of thick hake fillet, with skin on
  • melted butter for brushing
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • sea salt flakes and coarsely crushed black pepper

FOR THE SCALLION MASH:

  • 1.25kg floury potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 50g butter
  • 1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
  • a little milk
  • salt and freshly ground white pepper

FOR THE SOY BUTTER SAUCE:

  • 600ml chicken stock (preferably home-made)
  • 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 75g unsalted butter
  • 1 tomato, skinned, seeded and diced (plunge into hot water for 1 minute to make peeling easier)
  • 1 heaped tsp chopped coriander

Lay the fish in a shallow dish with the skin-side down and sprinkle with the sea salt flakes, then set aside for 30 minutes. Rinse the salt off and dry the fish with kitchen paper. Brush the fish pieces with the melted butter and put skin-side up on a greased baking tray. Sprinkle the skin with a few sea salt flakes and some black pepper.

Cook the potatoes in boiling unsalted water for 20 minutes or until tender.

Start the sauce by putting the stock and soy sauce into another pan and boiling rapidly until reduced by half.

Preheat the grill to high and grill the hake for 8 minutes on one side only.

When the fish is almost done, add the butter to the sauce and whisk it in. Take off the heat and add the tomato and coriander.

Drain the potatoes and return to the pan, then mash until smooth. Heat the butter in another pan and toss the scallions in the hot butter briefly. Beat scallions and butter into the potato with a little bit of milk and some salt and white pepper. Spoon the scallions mash into the centre of warm plates. Rest the hake on top and spoon the sauce around the outside.

(Original recipe from Rick Stein Fish & Shellfish, Random House, 2014.)

Rosemary & garlic spatchcock chicken with bulgur wheat salad

This tastes just as good as a cold chicken and bulgur salad the following day – great for lunchboxes!

Wine Suggestion: we drank a delicious Fiano made in Puglia by Michele Biancardi. It had delightful layers of fruit, texture from spice and minerality and a dancing freshness that worked well with the roasted chicken and still allowed the freshness of the salad to shine through. We suspect the depth and personality of this wine is helped by the biodynamic viticulture as it just had “something” extra without being weighty and forceful. If you can’t find this one do look out for Fiano, an interesting Italian white that you might not have tried.

Rosemary and Garlic Spatchcock Chicken with Bulgur Wheat Salad – serves 4 

  • 1 x 1.5kg chicken

FOR THE MARINADE:

  • 50ml olive oil
  • 1 lemon, juiced and zest finely grated
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 2 tbsp chopped rosemary leaves

FOR THE SALAD:

  • 200g bulgur wheat
  • 1 lemon , juiced and zest finely grated
  • seeds and juice of 1 pomegranate
  • 1 tbsp chopped mint
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 50ml olive oil

To spatchcock the chicken you need to first remove the backbone by cutting through the chicken on both side of the bone (use poultry shears if you have them or really sharp scissors). Remove the backbone and open the chicken out, then put the chicken, breast side up, onto a worktop and use your palms to flatten it. Make a few slashes in the legs with a sharp knife.

Make the marinade by mixing all of the ingredients in a bowl and seasoning well with sea salt and black pepper.

Put the chicken into a wide, shallow dish, pour over the marinade and rub in well with your hands. Cover with cling film and chill for at least 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7.

Put the chicken into a roasting tin along with all the marinade and bake for about 1 hour or until cooked through (the juices need to be totally clear when pierced with a skewer and the legs should feel loose).

Meanwhile, cover the bulgur wheat with boiling water and leave to soak for 10-15 minutes or until just soft, then drain.

Mix the lemon juice and zest with the pomegranate seeds and juice, herbs and olive oil. Stir in the bulgur and season well with sea salt and black pepper.

When the chicken is cooked, cover with foil and leave to rest in the tin and leave in the switched off oven for a few minutes, then carve in to pieces and serve with the salad.

(Original recipe from Rachel Allen’s Rachel’s Everyday Kitchen, HarperCollins, 2013.)

Pasta Primavera

Pasta Primavera

This was tasty. We were a bit concerned about the boiled onion at first but it gives a nice onion flavour without any fried taste which isn’t required here with the light creamy sauce. Good for a weeknight or weekend lunch.

Pasta Primavera – serves 4-6

  • 1 red pepper, halved and deseeded
  • 1 large onion, roughly chopped
  • 225g asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2.5cm lengths
  • 100g sugarsnap peas, sliced in half lengthways
  • 300g dried penne
  • 100ml double cream
  • 60g Parmesan cheese, coarsely grated
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • 25g toasted pine nuts
  • 1 tbsp torn fresh basil leaves

Put the pepper halves under a hot grill, skin side up, for around 10 minutes or until the skin is completely charred. Seal in a plastic bag and leave to cool, then peel and discard the skin. Slice the flesh into large pieces.

Cook the chopped onion in a pan of salted boiling water for 9 minutes, then add the asparagus. Cook for another minute before adding the sugarsnaps and continue to boil for another 2 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water.

Cook the penne in a large pan of salted boiling water for the recommended time on the pack, then return to the pan with the cooled vegetables. Add the roasted pepper, cream and cheese and stir over a gentle heat to warm through. Season well with sea salt and black pepper.

Squeeze over the lemon and scatter over the pine nuts and basil to serve.

(Original recipe from Mary Berry’s Cookery Course, DK, 2013.)

Charentais Melon Salad

We’re just back from a camping trip to the Loire Valley and this is one of the many delicious things we prepared at our tent. We brought Rick Stein’s French Odyssey along for inspiration and have him to thank for this fabulous summer salad. Make it for a starter or light lunch with some French bread to mop the plate.  A glass of white wine is also obligatory.

Wine Suggestion: We’d found a gem of a wine in the Chateau Moncontour Vouvray Sec which hit the spot with this dish. A lively and dry Chenin Blanc which had fresh appley fruit, and a crispness and minerality that worked with the Chèvre and sweetness of the melon. Summer in a glass as well as on the plate.

Charentais Melon Salad – serves 4

  • 1/2 a ripe, orange-fleshed melon (Charentais or Cantaloup)
  • 1/2 cucumber
  • 225g vine ripened tomatoes (skinned if you like – we didn’t bother)
  • 100g firm, crumbly goat’s cheese
  • 1 tbsp finely shredded mint

For the dressing:

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • Pinch caster sugar

Whisk the oil, vinegar, sugar and some salt and pepper together to make the dressing (a fork in a mug will do the trick if you’re short on utensils).

Cut the melon into four wedges and scoop out the seeds. Remove the skin and slice each wedge into long thin slices.

Peel the cucumber and slice into 3mm thick wedges. Slice the tomatoes.

Arrange the sliced melon on a large serving platter and cover with the cucumber and tomatoes. Crumble the goat’s cheese over the top and scatter over the mint. Spoon over the dressing and serve.

(Original recipe from Rick Steins’s French Odyssey, BBC Books, 2005).

Kofte kebab

This Turkish kebab dish, from Claudia Roden’s wonderful book Arabesque, is very simple to make but you need to be organised and assemble the dish at the last minute so the layer of crunchy pitta bread at the bottom of the dish stays crisp. Claudia’s tips are to serve the tomato sauce and meat very hot but the yoghurt at room temperature.

Yogurtlu Köfte Kebabi or Turkish Kofte Kebab with Tomato Sauce & Yoghurt – serves 4

  • 2 pitta breads
  • 750g minced beef or lamb
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 50g flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp sumac plus an extra pinch
  • 500g full-fat natural yogurt
  • 2 tbsp butter or extra virgin olive oil
  • 2-3 tbsp pine nuts

FOR THE TOMATO SAUCE:

  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 chilli pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 750g tomatoes, peeled and chopped (if it’s not tomato season use the equivalent of good quality tinned tomatoes instead)
  • 1-2 tsp sugar

Start with the tomato sauce. Fry the onion in the oil until soft. Add the garlic and chilli pepper, and stir for a couple of minutes. Add the tomatoes, season with salt, pepper and sugar, and cook over a medium heat for 10 minutes until they soften.

Open out the pitta breads, toast until crisp, then break into small pieces with your hands.

Next make the kofte kebabs. Season the mince with salt and pepper, and use your hands to work into a soft dough. Add the onion and parsley and work into the meat. Shape into sausages, about 2cm thick and 7cm long. Arrange on an oiled sheet of foil on a baking sheet and cook for about 8 minutes under a pre-heated grill, turning once, until well browned but still pink and moist on the inside. Or if you prefer (as we do) you can grill on a barbecue.

Spread the toasted pitta pieces over the bottom of your serving dish and sprinkle over a pinch of sumac. Pour the hot tomato sauce all over and top with a layer of yoghurt beaten with a fork.

Heat the butter or oil with the pine nuts and stir in the teaspoon of sumac. When the butter or oil sizzles, sprinkle all over the yoghurt, arrange the meat on top and serve immediately.

(Original recipe from Claudia Roden’s Arabesque, Michael Joseph, 2005.)

River Café tomato sauce

 

We have two tomato sauces in our repertoire that we rely on; both are delicious but have a slightly different character. This is the one we have adopted from the River Café in London which is quicker (though we wouldn’t describe it as quick exactly) and incorporates a rich onion base. We keep a stack of takeaway tubs full of tomato sauce in the freezer for whenever pizza, pasta, or any other tomato-flavoured dish calls. Top quality tinned tomatoes are essential and we find the Italian brands are best.

Sugo di Pomodoro a Fuoco Lento or Slow-Cooked Tomato Sauce

  • 2 x 800g tins plum tomatoes, drained of their juices
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 medium red onions, peeled and sliced very thinly
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and cut into slivers

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, then add the onions. Reduce the heat and cook until very soft, at least 40 minutes. Add the garlic about 5 minutes before the end.

Add the tomatoes and stir to break up. Season with salt and pepper and cook slowly for at least 90 minutes, giving it a stir every now and again. The oil will eventually come to the surface and the sauce will be dark red and very thick with no remaining juice.

(Original recipe from The River Cafe Cookbook by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers, Ebury Press, 1995.)

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