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Try these to wet your appetite with a glass of sherry and some crusty bread.

Wine Suggestion: It only makes sense to drink a sherry with this dish with our suggestion being for either a good Fino or Amontillado. Fortunately our friends brought over Tio Pepe’s Fino En Rama. A savoury, minerally wine with grilled almond and iodine characters alongside some delightful lemon and apple fruitiness plus a good dollop of yeasty flor overtones.

Mushrooms with garlic & sherry vinegar – serves 4

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
  • 500g mushrooms, halve or quarter big ones
  • 2 tbsp sherry vinegar
  • a pinch of hot paprika
  • a small bunch of flatleaf parsley, chopped

Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Add the garlic and fry for 1 minutes, stirring, then add the mushrooms and cook over a high heat until just browned. If they give out liquid, keep cooking until it’s all gone.

Season well with salt and pepper, then add the sherry vinegar. Allow to sizzle until almost evaporated.

Serve the mushrooms with a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of hot paprika and the chopped parsley.

(Original recipe from The Hairy Bikers’ Mediterranean Adventure by Si King & Dave Myers, Seven Dials, 2017.)

We have lovely friends who always bring a cheese course when they come to ours for dinner, and inadvertently we have ended up with a backlog of membrillo / quince paste. This is not a big problem as it keeps for ages, however it also gave us an opportunity to make this seasonal quiche from Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi.

Wine Suggestion: This demands a big, well-balanced, but oaky Chardonnay. Splurge if you can on good Jura, or a Meursault; or like us tonight an old friend, the Rustenberg Stellenbosch Chardonnay. Full-bodied to cope with the richness, and texture and fresh acidity to also cut through this and provide a counterpoint.

Membrillo and stilton quiche – serves 6

  • 1 medium butternut squash, about 700g, peeled and cut into 2cm cubes
  • 1 ½ tbsp olive oil
  • 250g top quality shortcrust pastry
  • plain flour, for dusting
  • 200g Stilton, for dusting
  • 75g mebrillo (quince paste), cut into 1 cm dice
  • 3 eggs
  • 150ml double cream
  • 150ml crème fraîche

Preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan/Gas 7.

Toss the cubes of squash with the oil and ¼ tsp of salt and some black pepper, then spread over a baking tray. Bake for about 30 minutes, turning once, until golden-brown. Leave to cool.

Reduce the oven temperature to 190C/170C fan/Gas 5.

Roll the pastry out on a floured work service until roughly 3cm thick and big enough to line a 24cm quiche tin with some pastry hanging over the edge. Line the tin with the pastry and prick the base with a for, then put into the fridge for 20 minutes.

Line the pastry case with baking parchment, then fill with baking beans and cook in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove the beans and paper and cook for another 10 minutes or until the pastry is golden-brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

Spread the squash over the base of the pastry case, dot the Stilton between and sprinkle over the membrillo.

Put the eggs, cream and crème fraîche in a bowl with ¼ tsp of salt and some black pepper. Whisk together, then pour over the squash and cheese, leaving some of the filling exposed. Put into the oven for 40 minutes or until set, then remove from the oven and rest before removing from the tin and breaking off the over-hanging pastry. Serve warm.

(Original recipe from Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi, Ebury Press, 2014.)

We are working are way through every recipe we can find that uses black limes, having finally found some without having to resort to mail order. It is all such a hassle now that we’re not all Europeans as some of our sources are in the UK. The sauce is truly delicious and you will need flatbreads for mopping it all up. Some rice would be good too but not essential.

Wine Suggestion: Black limes have such an introverted and complex character you can’t just match it with anything, but do look for wines that have either lime flavours or a savoury, umami texture. Combine this with the pickle and we had a conundrum. We solved it with Pajzos’ Hárslevelu dry Tokaji whose lime-leaf, savoury character plus a little residual sugar (despite the dry finish) came to the rescue.

Black lime tofu with spinach and pink pickled onions – serves 4

  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp caster sugar
  • 1 small red onion, very thinly sliced into rounds
  • 600ml sunflower oil, for deep-frying
  • 2 blocks of extra-firm tofu (560g), patted dry and cut into 2cm cubes
  • 2 tbsp cornflour
  • 2 onions, roughly chopped
  • 6 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 60ml olive oil
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds, roughly crushed in a pestle and mortar
  • 2-3 dried black limes, grind to a powder using a spice grinder you need about 2 tbsp (if you don’t have a spice grinder you can whizz in a food processor, then sieve)
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 20g flatleaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • 250g baby spinach

Make the pink pickled onions first by mixing the vinegar, 1 tsp of sugar, the red onion and tsp of salt in a small bowl. Set aside while you make everything else.

Heat the sunflower oil in a sauté pan or wok. Toss the tofu in a bowl with the cornflour until coated. When the oil is hot, fry the tofu in two batches until crispy and lightly browned, about 6 minutes, then transfer to a paper-lined plate.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Put the onions and garlic in a food processor and pulse until finely minced but not puréed. Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over a medium-high heat. Add the onion mixture and cook for about 10 minutes, until softened and lightly browned. Add the cumin, black limes and tomato purée and cook for another minute. Add 400ml water, 1tsp of sugar, 1 1/4 tsp of salt and lots of black pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook for 6 minutes, until rich and thick. Add the crispy tofu, parsley and more black pepper and stir. Gradually stir in the spinach until just wilted.

Serve in a shallow dish with the pink pickled onions spooned over.

(Original recipe from Ottolenghi Flavour by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ixta Belfrage, Ebury Press, 2020.)

A dish cooked in just one pan. The fish flavours all the veg below and the end result is really tasty, for very little effort.

Wine Suggestion: We had a notion for an Italian red so pulled out a bottle of Selvapiana’s Chianti Rufina from the rack. The bright red fruits and crunchy acidity made a great balance to any oiliness from the fish and is such a natural partner for tomatoes and olives. Who says fish has to go with white wine!

Baked bream on potatoes, tomatoes & olives – serves 4

  • 400g waxy potaotes (we used Cyprus), scrubbed and sliced into ½ cm rounds
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 large tomatoes, sliced into ½ cm rounds
  • 20 pitted black olives
  • 4 large cloves of garlic, leave the skin on and give them a bash
  • 2-4 whole bream (depending on size), gutted but left whole and fins and spikey bits cut off
  • 1 lemon
  • ½ tsp peppermix (see below)

FOR THE PEPPERMIX (blitz the following in a spice grinder and use to season meat or fish):

  • 1 chipotle chilli, seeds removed
  • 1 pasilla chilli, seeds removed
  • 2 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 2 tbsp white peppercorns
  • 2 tsp Szechuan peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp salt

Heat the oven to 190C/Fan 170.

Toss the potatoes with 2 tbsp of the olive oil in a roasting tin that will hold them in a single layer. Season and bake for 15 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, olives and garlic, then lay the fish on top. Drizzle with another 2 tbsp of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice, then season with peppermix. Bake for another 25 minutes, then drizzle with some more oil and lemon juice if you like.

Serve with a green salad.

(Original recipe from Rick Stein’s Secret France, BBC Books, 2019.)

Coleslaw

Coleslaw is a bit divisive, people tend to love it or hate it, and not helped by that gloopy stuff you buy in plastic tubs. This version is much superior!

Coleslaw – serves 4 or more

  • 50g crème fraîche or sour cream
  • 50g mayonnasie
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • ¼ small white cabbage, finely shredded
  • 1-2 carrots, peeled and coarsely grated
  • ½ white onion, very finely sliced
  • juice of ½ a lemon, or 1 tbsp cider or white wine vinegar

Mix the crème fraîche or sour cream with the mayonnaise and mustard, and season to taste.

Put everything else into a large bowl, then add the mayonnaise mixture and mix to combine. Keep in the fridge until ready to serve.

(Original recipe from Camper Van Cooking by Claire Thompson & Matt Williamson, Quadrille: Hardie Grant Publishing, 2021.)

Plums are in season and we’ve been trying to find ways to cook them. This plum sauce is really rich with warm spices and it would be good with many things. We stashed the leftovers in the freezer for another night. Save the leftover duck fat in the fridge for roast potatoes, you won’t regret it.

Wine Suggestion: Whenever we’re in the southern part of France we can’t escape duck. Tonight’s wine match followed suit with a Grenache, Syrah, Carignan blend, the Roc des Anges Sega de Cor. Smooth and silky plums, sloes and raspberry flavours grounded in a seductive stony character.

Duck breasts with plum sauce and stir-fry veg – serves 4

  • 4 duck breasts, with skin on
  • 25ml sunflower oil
  • 4 carrots, finely sliced on an angle
  • 400g of cavolo nero or half a green cabbage, remove the core and shred the leaves
  • a bunch of scallions, sliced on an angle
  • 2 cloves of garlic, grated
  • 1 tsp finely grated ginger
  • 2-4 tbsp soy sauce

FOR THE PLUM SAUCE:

  • 400g plums, remove the stones and quarter
  • 2 shallots, sliced
  • 50g brown sugar
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • ¼ tsp Chinese five spice
  • 25ml red wine vinegar
  • 200ml red wine
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce

Make the plum sauce first. Put all of the ingredients into a small saucepan and place over a medium heat. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes or until the plums are very soft. Whizz using a stick blender or food processor until smooth. Taste and season with more soy sauce if needed.

Use a sharp knife to score the duck skin and fat in a diamond pattern, but don’t cut the meat. Season and place in a frying pan, skin-side down. Put the pan over a medium heat and cook for about 10 minutes or until the skin is golden and the fat rendered. Leave to rest for 5 minutes, then cut into slices. Pour off the duck fat and keep for potatoes another day.

While the duck rests, stir-fry the veg. Put a wok over a high heat until smoking, then pour in the oil and add the carrots. Stir fry for 2 minutes, then add the cabbage, scallions, garlic, ginger and 2 tbsp of soy sauce. Cook for another couple of minutes or until the veg is softening but still with some crunch. Tip into a serving dish and add more soy sauce if needed. Serve with the duck and plum sauce.

(Original recipe from Rachel’s Everyday Kitchen by Rachel Allen, Harper Collins Publishers, 2013.)

This side-dish from Ottolenghi Flavour is an absolute winner. You can make it up in advance as well and it will sit happily at room temperature, just add the basil before serving. We served with a roast chicken but it will sit happily alongside many other dishes.

Super-soft courgettes with harissa and lemon – serves 4

  • 85ml olive oil
  • 6 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
  • 1 tbsp rose harissa
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped
  • ½ preserved lemon, finely chopped
  • 1 ½ tbsp lemon juice
  • 1kg courgettes, finely sliced
  • 10g basil leaves, roughly torn

Warm the oil and garlic in a large, deep frying pan. Gently fry for 4 minutes, stirring, until soft and golden but not turning brown.

Scoop out 3 tbsp of the olive oil and half the garlic and put into a small bowl. Add the harissa, chilli, preserved lemon and lemon juice. Stir together and set aside.

Return the pan to the heat and add the courgettes with 1 ¼ tsp of salt. Cook for 18 minutes, stirring often, until very soft but still holding their shape, don’t let them brown. We had to keep cooking for a few minutes extra to get them really soft but it will depend on how finely you have sliced your courgettes. Stir through half the basil and transfer to a platter. Spoon the harissa mixture over the top and leave for 15 minutes (or longer), then sprinkle with salt and the remaining basil before serving.

(Original recipe from Ottolenghi Flavour by Yotam Ottolenghi & Ixta Belfrage, Ebury Press, 2020.)

Truly original and truly delicious. Try them while we’ve got fresh corn cobs in the shops. Black limes are trendy at the moment but if you can’t find them you can use grated lime zest instead.

Corn ribs with black lime and pumpkin seed butter – serves 4 as a starter

  • 3 corn cobs, husks removed
  • 1.3 litres sunflower oil, for deep-frying
  • 1½ tsp runny honey

FOR THE BUTTER

  • 25g pumpkin seeds
  • 60g unsalted butter, softened
  • 1-2 dried black limes, roughly broken, then whizzed to a powder using spice grainder to get 2¼ tsp (if you don’t have black limes you can substitute grated lime zest)

Preheat the oven to 160C fan.

Spread the pumpkin seeds over a small baking tray and toast in the oven until golden-brown and starting to split, about 10 minutes. Coarsely blitz in a spice grinder (or finely chop) and allow to cool for 10 minutes.

Mix the butter with 2 tsp of the ground black lime, the chopped pumpkin seeds and 1 tsp flaked sea salt to combine. You can make this ahead but remove from the fridge half an hour before you need it.

Cut the corn cobs in half widthways, then cut each half lengthways into quarters.

Heat the oil in a medium, high-sided saucepan on a medium heat. When very hot (about 180C if you have a probe), test by lowering in the end of a piece of corn; it should sizzle but not turn brown immediatley.

Fry the corn in batches for 6-7 minutes, turning a few times until they have curled and turned golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Transfer the cooked corn to a bowl and toss with the honey and 1½ tsp of sea salt flakes.

Serve the corn on a platter with the butter on the side and sprinkle with the rest of the ground lime.

(Original recipe from Ottolenghi Flavour by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ixta Belfrage, Ebury Press, 2020.)

We came across this Joe Trivelli recipe at the weekend when trying to find a lunch dish that would use up half a tub of ricotta. It’s definitely worth buying a tub of ricotta for too.

Wine Suggestion: This dish needs a wine that has a bit of acidity and freshness, so taking inspiration from the grated Pecorino on top we went for the similarly named Pecorino grape from the Marche. The crunchy, characterful Vellodoro Pecorino from Umani Ronchi well met the mark and reminded us of summer too, which was a bonus.

Pasta with pine nuts and ricotta – serves 4

  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • a pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • 60g pine nuts
  • 300g tomatoes, peeled and chopped (Joe recommends yellow tomatoes but we had red)
  • 3 sprigs of basil
  • 400g short pasta, we used fusilli
  • 200g ricotta
  • 50g grated pecorino
  • extra virgin olive oil

Put the garlic into a wide pan with 3 tablespoons of oil and place over a medium heat. When the garlic starts to turn golden, add the chilli. Turn the heat down low, remove the garlic and add the pine nuts. Allow them to colour but watch carefully or they could burn.

Add the tomatoes and basil sprigs and season. When the sauce starts to boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in lots of boiling salty water until al dente. Scoop out a mug of cooking water before draining.

Toss the pasta with the tomatoes and pine nuts, then add the ricotta, half the pecornio and a few spoons of cooking water. Keep turning the pasta over until you have a nice consistency, adding more water if it looks dry. Serve in warm bowls with the rest of the cheese and a drizzle of your best olive oil.

(Original recipe from The Modern Italian Cook by Joe Trivelli, Seven Dials, 2018.)

An excellent recipe for figs from Ottolenghi Flavour with the hot dressing perfectly complementing the cool ricotta. You can have the figs and the dressing made well in advance, making this dish simple to plate up.

Wine Suggestion: a complex and challenging dish to match with wine but if you can find a good, dry-ish Marsala, aged Tawny Port, or an Oloroso sherry with a hint a sweetness you’ll find the oxidative characteristics, hints of sweetness and tertiary, developed aromas and flavours really work a treat.

Grilled figs with Shaoxing dressing – serves 4 as a starter

  • 8 ripe purple figs, halved
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 ½ maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine (or you can use pale dry sherry)
  • 2 ½ tsp Chinkiang vinegar (or half this quantity of balsamic)
  • 60ml olive oil
  • 2 red chillies, finely sliced into rounds
  • 1 lemon, finely shave the skin to get 5 strips (a vegetable peeler works well)
  • 60g rocket
  • 140g ricotta

Preheat the grill to its highest setting.

Toss the figs in a bowl with the soy sauce and 1 ½ tbsp of maple syrup, then set them cut side up on a parchment lined baking tray. Don’t leave any paper hanging over the edges as it could burn.

Roast the figs close to the grill until soft and caramelised but still holding their shape. It’s fine if they blacken a bit in places. Return the figs and any juices to the same bowl, then add the Shaoxing rice wine, Chinkiang vinegar and another tbsp of maple syrup. Toss together very gently and set aside for at least 1 hour (or overnight).

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a small saucepan over a medium heat, then fry the chillies for 3 minutes. Add the lemon strips and fry for 30 seconds more then immediately pour into a heatproof bowl and set aside to infuse for at least 30 minutes (or overnight).

Arrange the rocket on a platter and top with the figs and dressing. Dot with ricotta and finish with the oil, chillies and lemon.

(Original recipe from Ottolenghi Flavour by Yotam Ottolenghi & Ixta Belfrage, Ebury Press, 2020.)

We regular base our dinner on packets of fresh gnocchi. They’re perfect for when you haven’t much time.

Gnocchi with peas, pesto and spinach – serves 2

  • 50g baby spinach
  • 100g frozen peas, defrosted
  • 4 tbsp fresh pesto
  • 3 tbsp crème fraîche
  • 300g pack gnocchi (you can use a plain variety or one with spinach)

Put the defrosted peas, the spinach and a splash of water into a large frying pan. Season, then heat, stirring, until the spinach has wilted.

Add the pesto and crème fraîche, and gently heat through.

Meanwhile, cook the gnocchi in lots of boiling salty water. As they rise to the surface, scoop them out with a slotted spoon and add to the spinach pan.

Toss it all together, then serve.

(Original recipe by Janine Ratcliffe in Olive Magazine, August 2018.)

Tzatziki

This is such a handy yoghurt number. Serve with barbecues, roasts, with flatbreads, as a side, for a starter – it’s an all rounder and it keeps for a couple of days in the fridge.

  • 250g full fat Greek-style yoghurt
  • 30g scallions, green parts only, finely chopped (keep the white parts for something else)
  • about 10g of dill, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and grated
  • zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 200g cucumber, coarsely grated
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp sea salt flakes, crumbled

Put the grated cucumber into a clean tea towel and squeeze tightly to get rid of the excess liquid.

Tip the cucumber into a bowl and mix with all of the other ingredients.

(Original recipe from Chasing Smoke: Cooking over Fire Around the Levant by Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich, Pavilion, 2021)

Here’s what to make if you are gifted a big bunch of rhubarb or you could even go buy some, it’s delicious!

Rhubarb & ginger jam – makes 4 jars

  • 1kg rhubarb, trimmed weight
  • 1kg jam sugar (the one with pectin added)
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 50g stem ginger, finely chopped
  • 4cm piece root ginger, peeled

Wash the rhubarb in lots of cold running water, then chop into 2cm pieces. Tip into a large non-metallic bowl and add the sugar, lemon zest and juice, and chopped stem ginger. Finely grate the peeled ginger over the top.

Stir the mixture, then cover loosely with cling film and leave aside for a couple of hours to allow the sugar to dissolve. It will help to give it a stir now and then.

Put a few saucers into the freezer for testing the jam later.

Transfer the contents of the bowl into a large saucepan or preserving pan and place over a medium heat. Stir until the sugar has completely dissolved and bring to the boil. Cook until the rhubarb is very tender and the jam has reached setting point – this takes about 10-15 minutes.

To test if the jam is at setting point, drop half a teaspoon of jam onto one of the cold saucers, leave for 30 seconds, then push with the tip of your finger. If the jam wrinkles it’s ready. If not, continue cooking for a couple more minutes and test again.

Remove from the heat and carefully transfer into steralised jars, then seal immediately.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

We don’t often cook classic French dishes at home, preferring to sit in a bistro in blissful ignorance (or denial) of the copious amounts of butter we’re consuming … there’s a reason why those dishes are so tasty. However we’ve been revisiting “Roast Chicken and Other Stories” by Simon Hopkinson and decided to give this simple dish a go. Yes, lots of butter, but so very worth it for the tender chicken and delicious sauce. Serve with potatoes and some green beans.

Wine Suggestion: This particular dish works really well with red Burgundy or Beaujolais.

Poulet sauté au vinaigre – serves 4

  • 8 chicken pieces (we used thighs but you could also joint a whole chicken)
  • 100g butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 very ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped (cut a little cross in the bottom of each and cover with boiling water, leave for 1 minute, then drain and the skins will peel off easily)
  • 250ml top-quality red wine vinegar
  • 250ml chicken stock
  • 2 heaped tbsp chopped parsley

Season the chicken pieces well with salt and black pepper.

Heat 4 tbsp of the butter and the olive oil in a shallow casserole or deep frying pan until just turning brown.

Add the chicken pieces and fry gently, turning, until golden brown all over.

Add the chopped tomatoes and continue cooking until the tomato has lost its moisture and turned dark red and sticky. This will take a while so don’t be tempted to rush it.

Add the vinegar and simmer until almost evaporated, then add the stock and simmer again to reduce by half.

Remove the chicken pieces to a warm serving dish and keep warm. Whisk the rest of the butter into the sauce to make it nice and glossy. Add half the parsley, then pour over the chicken and sprinkle with the rest of the parsley.

(Original recipe from Roast Chicken and Other Stories by Simon Hopkinson, Ebury Press, 1994.)

We love squid and are not sure why people don’t cook it more often. It’s cheap and sustainable, and this sweet and sour version is delicious! We served with some plain couscous.

Wine Suggestion: This is excellent with a youthful and medium bodied Sangiovese with its bright acidity. Instead of looking to Tuscany tonight, we had a Corsican Niellucio which is the same grape

Slow-cooked squid with peperonata and butter beans – serves 4 to 6

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 red, yellow or orange peppers, a mixture ideally, deseeded and sliced
  • 1 red onion, finely sliced
  • 100g soft cooking chorizo, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp chilli flakes
  • 4 sprigs thymes
  • 4 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 50ml red wine vinegar
  • 25g caster sugar
  • 500ml passata
  • 400g squid, cleaned and sliced (we used a packet of frozen squid tubes, defrosted)
  • 1 x 400g tin butter beans, drained and rinsed
  • a handful of chopped flat-leaf parsley

Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the peppers and onions over a medium heat for 20-25 minutes or until very soft, stir now and then and add a splash of water if they start to catch.

Add the chorizo and chilli flakes and cook for another 5 minutes or until the chorizo has released its oil. Add the thyme, garlic, and bay, and simmer for another couple of minutes, then add the vinegar and sugar and stir until the sugar has dissolved.

Add the passata, then swirl a splash of water round the jar and add that too. Season and bring to a simmer.

Stir the squid into the simmering sauce, then cover with a lid and cook over a low heat for 1 hour. If the liquid doesn’t cover the squid you can add a splash of water. Check after the hour to see if the squid is tender but don’t let it go to mush.

Stir in the butter beans and check the seasoning, then simmer, uncovered, to thicken the sauce a little. Cook for another 10 minutes, then stir in the parsley and serve with couscous or crusty bread.

(Original recipe by Anna Glover in Olive Magazine, September 2021.)

Piperade

We started a new habit in lock down of cooking a nice breakfast or brunch dish on the weekends. Something we never did much before as we we always had to be somewhere. Now we love a weekend day when there’s no morning plans. This is a Southern French egg dish and it’s a great way to start the day.

Piperade – serves 4

  • 8 very thin bacon slices
  • olive oil
  • 2 slices of bread, cut into tiny cubes (we used sourdough which worked well though perhaps not very French)
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 roasted red pepper from a jar, chopped
  • 4 ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped (cut a cross in the bottom, cover with boiling water and leave for a minute, they will peel easily)
  • a small bunch of chives, finely chopped
  • 8 eggs, beaten
  • chopped coriander

Cook the bacon first until crispy then set aside to cool.

Heat a little bit of olive oil in a frying pan and cook the bread cubes until crispy.

In another pan, heat 3 tbsp of olive oil and briefly fry the garlic, red pepper and tomatoes. Add the chives and eggs and gently scramble.

Stir in the crôutons, coriander and seasoning. Serve on warm plates with a couple of slices of bacon crisscrossed on top.

(Original recipe from Roast Chicken and Other Stories by Simon Hopkinson, Ebury Press, 1994.)

Greek Chicken Kebab

We’re trying to get the most out of our barbecue while the evenings are still bright. This is based on Greek gyro chicken kebabs and it tastes great with some salad and flatbreads. We added some tzatziki too but plain yoghurt would also be good. You need to get started with the marinade the day before.

We cooked these on a charcoal barbecue with a lid, using the indirect heat method which we’ve explained below. If that’s not your thing you can cook in a hot oven (200C/180C fan/gas 6) on a wire rack over a roasting tin for 45-55 minutes.

Wine Suggestion: We recommend a white with a bit of phenolic texture and body or a mid-weight red with a fresh crispness. Thymiopoulos’ Xinomavro Jeunes Vignes is a current favourite that falls into the latter camp. From north-eastern Greece we think this grape needs to be better known.

Greek Chicken Kebabs – serves 6

  • 12 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • flat breads, salad and yoghurt or tzatziki to serve.

FOR THE MARINADE:

  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • a small bunch of parsley, finely chopped

Mix all of the marinade ingredients together in a large bowl and season. Add the chicken thighs and mix together well, then cover and chill overnight.

Light a lidded barbecue and let the flames die down. When the coals have turned ashen, mound them up on side.

Thread the chicken thighs onto 2 metal skewers – both skewers need to go through every piece of meat. Push the thighs down well to make sure the meat is well compacted.

Put the chicen kebab onto the side of the barbecue without any coals underneath. Cover with the lid and cook for 45-55 minutes, turning regularly, or until cooked through. You can pull apart a few chicken pieces in the centre to check or much easier is to check with a meat probe – a barbecue essential in our opinion.

Remove the chicken from the barbecue, cover with foil and leave to rest for 20 minutes before slicing.

Slice strips of chicken from the kebab and stuff into pittas or flatbreads, that have been warmed on the barbecue, with some salad and yoghurt or tzatziki.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

Green Spaghetti Sauce

Yummy sauce for using up leftover pesto and perfect for mid-week.

Green Spaghetti Sauce – serrves 4

  • 400g spaghetti
  • 100g baby spinach
  • 140g frozen peas
  • a small bunch of basil, leaves picked
  • 3 tbsp green pesto
  • 150ml single cream
  • 50g Parmesan, grated, plus extra to serve

Cook the spaghetti in lots of salty water for the time stated on the packet.

Meanwhile, put the spinach and peas in a bowl and pour over boiling water to cover. Leave for 3 minutes, or until the peas are tender, then drain well.

Tip the peas and spinach into a food processor, then add the basil, pesto, cream and Parmesan. Whizz to make a smooth sauce.

Drain the pasta, but reserve a mugful of the cooking water, then return to the pan. Pour over the green sauce and place over a low heat to cook for a few minutes, you want the sauce to cling to the spaghetti. Add a little pasta water if it looks dry, season to taste and serve with extra Parmesan.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

Summer’s over, back to work and back to what to have for lunch? Our lunchtime inspiration comes mainly from what’s left in the fridge after the weekend, cheese more often than not, but it’s nice to plan for at least the first couple of days. Mondays are easier with nice lunch.

Mexican charred sweetcorn soup – serves 4

  • 1 dried ancho chilli
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil, plus an extra bit for brushing on the corn cobs
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 celery sticks, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 4 roasted red peppers from a jar, chopped
  • 1 litre veg stock (we use Swiss Marigold Bouillon powder made up to a litre)
  • 2 corn cobs
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • a small bunch of coriander, to garnish

Put the dried chilli into a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave to soak for 10 minutes, then pour off the water and remove the stalk and seeds from the chilli.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large pot and gently cook the onion and celery with a pinch of salt for 10 minutes or until soft. Add the garlic and cook for another minute, then add the spices and cook for a minute. Add the ancho chilli, roasted peppers and veg stock, then simmer for 15 minutes. Season, then whizz until smooth and keep warm.

Meanwhile, remove the husks from the corn cobs, brush them with oil and season. Now you can cook them on a griddle pan until well-charred or if you have one this is very easy to do on a gas barbecue. It should take about 10 minutes. When the corn cobs have cooled a bit you can use a sharp knife to remove the corn kernels.

Add the charred corn and lime juice to the soup , then serve with some coriander on top.

(Original recipe by Adam Bush in Olive Magazine, August 2019.)

Give these a go for a super tasty mid-week and meat-free meal. The aubergines and beans really fill you up and the extras are non-negotiable as they all come together to make these tacos taste great. If you have too many pickled onions they will keep in the fridge for a few days and are great on the side of all sorts of things or in toasted sandwiches.

Wine Suggestion: The pickles need to be matched with a touch of residual sugar in the wine, or else the vinegar gets accentuated. The aubergine and black beans also need a touch of rich, earthiness but not too much weight. We found our match in Finca Bacara’s Crazy Grapes, a Monastrell from Jumilla in Spain. Superbly balanced juicy fruits, all brambles, black plums and berries, with a hint of earthy tannins and so easy to drink.

Aubergine and Black Bean Tacos with Feta & Pickled Red Onions

FOR THE QUICK PICKLED ONIONS:

  • 1 large red onion, halved and very thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar

FOR THE AUBERGINE & BLACK BEAN FILLING:

  • 2 aubergines
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 400g fresh tomatoes, chopped
  • a pinch of dried oregano
  • ½ tsp chilli powder
  • a pinch of chilli flakes
  • 2 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 x 400g tins black beans, 1 drained and rinsed
  • ½ lime, juiced, plus extra wedges to serve

TO SERVE:

  • 8 small tortillas, warmed
  • a handful of coriander leaves
  • 50g feta cheese, crumbled
  • ½ an iceberg lettuce, shredded

Start by making the pickled onions. Combine all of the ingredients with a generous sprinkle of sea salt flakes in a plastic container with a lid. Close the lid and shake hard for a couple of minutes or until the onions soften.

Next, you need to burn your aubergines. Prick them all over with a fork, then either place them directly over a gas flame, on the barbecue, or under a hot grill. Turn them until they are blackened and burnt all over and starting to collapse, then aside on a plate to cool.

When the aubergines are cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh with a spoon and discard the blackened skins.

Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/Gas 6.

For the aubergine and black bean filling, you need to heat the oil in a large ovenproof frying pan with the bay leaf and cumin seeds. When they start sizzling, you can add the onions and garlic. Fry for about 5 minutes or until soft but not coloured, then stir in the tomato purée and cook for a few minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes and dried oregano and cook for another few minutes or until they have collapsed into the sauce. Add the aubergine flesh, chilli powder, chilli flakes and vinegar and stir for a minutes, then tip in the drained and undrained beans. Squeeze in the juice of half a lime and cook for about 5 minutes until reduced, then transfer to the oven for 15-20 minutes until rich and thick.

Fill the warm tortillas with shredded lettuce and the aubergine and black bean filling. Top with feta, coriander, pickled onions and a squeeze of lime.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)