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You should try this the next time you have some leftover roast chicken. In fact, it’s even worth cooking some chicken specially. Great for lunch with some fresh bread and butter.

Chopped Chicken Salad – serves 4 (generously)

  • 2 cooked chicken breasts, diced (or just use some leftover roast chicken which is what we did)
  • 3 celery sticks, diced
  • 4 scallions, sliced into rounds
  • ½ cucumber, deseeded and diced
  • 100g radishes, thinly sliced
  • 200g cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 tarragon sprigs, leaves finely chopped
  • 2 thyme springs, leaves only
  • 1 heart of romaine lettuce or Little Gem lettuce, finely chopped
  • 50g watercress, stems finely chopped and leaves left whole
  • 50g rocket, roughly chopped
  • 50g Parmesan, finely grated

FOR THE DRESSING:

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • ½ tsp runny honey
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed

You need to start with a very large bowl, big enough to toss all of the salad ingredients together in.

Make the salad dressing in the bowl by whisking all of the ingredients together with some salt and black pepper.

Add the chicken to the dressing in the bowl and toss to coat. Fold in the chopped celery, scallions, cucumber, radishes and cherry tomatoes, then the herbs. Stir it all together and season with salt and black pepper.

When you are ready to serve, add the lettuce, watercress, rocket and Parmesan to the bowl. Toss everything together and serve as it is or tip out onto a large serving dish.

(Original recipe from The Hairy Bikers’ One Pot Wonders by Si King & Dave Myers, Seven Dials, 2019.)

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For our wedding anniversary this year we barbecued a whole rib of beef on the bone: consider it a super-rib eye steak. With the bone attached this is much harder to do completely on the barbecue (but not impossible). There is also an easier way if you finish the steak in the oven, which helps to to control the doneness while still getting the lovely barbecue char and flavours.

Wine Suggestion: Given the occasion we opened a bottle of Domaine de Chevalier Rouge 2009 from Pessac Leognan. A great vintage with fleshy fruit that at 12 years of age was singing very expressively. Super elegant and refined fruits, perfumed with that slight pencil edge that characterises the appellation and silky tannins that were both powerful and gentle in equal measure. Definitely powerful enough to stand next to the robust steak and then elevate the sum to another level. Well worth cellaring.

Rib of beef with wild mushroom butter – serves 2

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 50g mixed wild mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 1 shallot, finely diced
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbsp Madeira
  • 1 tbsp cream
  • 1 tsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • ½ tsp chopped thyme
  • 1 tsp white truffle oil (optional)
  • 100g butter, diced and softened
  • 1 rib of beef on the bone

First, make the butter. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and add the mushrooms with the shallots and garlic. Cook gently for 5 minutes or until cooked through but not coloured.

Add the Madeira, cream and herbs to the pan and cook for 3 minutes or until the liquid has evaporated. Season to taste and stir in the truffle oil if using. Leave to cool completely.

Put the butter and cooled mushroom mixture into a food processor and purée until smooth. Scrape out onto a piece of non-stick baking paper, then roll into a cylinder, twisting the ends to secure. Chill for at least 2 hours, until hardened.

Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F.

Take your steak out of the fridge for at least 30 minutes to come up to room temperature. Season at this stage too.

Cook over the direct heat on your barbecue for 8-10 minutes, turning to make sure all sides are well browned with a little charring.

Place the barbecued steak onto a preheated ovenproof pan, and put it in the oven for 15-20 minutes and until done to your liking.

We used a meat thermometer to judge doneness and removed the steak at 55C. While we like our steaks on the rare side we find that medium-rare to medium works best when cooking a rib on the bone. This ensures all the juicy fats are rendered properly. If you’d like it a little rarer cook to 52C. Remember that the steak keeps on cooking while resting too.

When your steak is cooked to your liking, remove it from the oven and sit it on a rack set over a tray. Cut the butter into slices and arrange on top of the steak. Set aside to rest for 15-20 minutes before carving the steak from the bone and slicing. Serve with the buttery mushrooms spooned over.

(Original recipe from Neven Maguire’s Complete Family Cookbook, Gill Books, 2016.)

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This isn’t a whole lot different from the chicken soup you get in a tin, though definitely not as salty. It also makes heaps and you can freeze it. 

Creamy chicken soup – serves 8

  • 1kg chicken thighs with skin removed but bones in
  • 300ml dry white wine
  • 2 large onions, cut into large wedges
  • 4 celery sticks, quartered into short lengths
  • 2 sprigs of thyme, plus some extra to sprinkle over at the end if you like
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ tsp ground white pepper (or black if you prefer)
  • 40g plain flour
  • 300ml double cream

Put the chicken thighs into a very large, heavy-based pan and fry until coloured on all sides. If you keep the heat low they should cook in their own fat but we find it easier to add a little bit of oil to get them started.

Add the wine, then turn up the heat and boil rapidly to evaporate the alcohol. When it has bubbled for a few minutes, add the veg, herbs, 1 tsp salt and the white pepper. Pour in 2 litres of boiling water, then cover and simmer for 45 minutes or until the chicken and veg are tender. Remove the bay leaves and thyme sprigs and discard them, then leave to cool for about 30 minutes. 

Take the chicken out of the soup with a slotted spoon, then strip the meat from the bones. Reserve 140g of the chicken but add the rest back into the soup pot. Blitz the soup with a stick blender or in a food processor until very smooth, then return to the pan. 

Blend the flour and cream together with a couple of ladles of the soup, then stir this mixture into the rest of the soup and heat, stirring all the time, until thickened and hot. You shouldn’t get any lumps if you keep stirring but if you do just give it another blitz. Chop the reserved chicken and stir into the soup. Check the seasoning, you might need more salt, then serve with some thyme leaves over the top if you like. 

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

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This dish was inspired by the prettiest striped baby aubergines in our local grocers. The recipe is from a new book of ours, Australian Food by Bill Granger. We all loved this dish, jam-packed with Asian flavours and truly delicious. You need to marinade the salmon the day before. Serve with rice.

Wine Suggestion: A friend had given us a bottle of Albert Pic Chablis which we found a surprising match for this dish as we’d thought the aromatics, chilli and spices might fight the wine, but no! A relatively rich and full-flavoured Chablis, the dryness inherent in the wine just accentuating and complimenting the umami savouriness through the dish. We like surprises.

Chilli miso salmon with hot & sour aubergine – serves 4

  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • 4 tbsp mirin
  • 2 tbsp sake
  • 6 tbsp white miso paste
  • 2 tbsp gochujang paste
  • 4 x 250g pieces skinless salmon fillet
  • 100g frozen edamame beans
  • a small handful of pea shoots (if you can find them, don’t worry if not)
  • a handful of coriander leaves
  • lime wedges, to serve

FOR THE HOT & SOUR AUBERGINE:

  • 125ml light flavoured oil, for frying
  • 4 baby aubergines, thickly sliced
  • 100ml tamari soy sauce (if you don’t have this use dark soy instead)
  • 100ml mirin
  • 50ml rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp runny honey
  • 1 small chilli, finely sliced
  • 4cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into matchsticks
  • 2 scallions, finely sliced

You need to marinade the salmon fillets the day before. Make the marinade by mixing the sugar, mirin and sake together in a small pan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 2-3 minutes, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Take off the heat and whisk in the miso, then stir in the gochujang paste and leave to cool.

Put the salmon into a dish, cover with the marinade, then cover and leave overnight in the fridge.

To make the hot & sour aubergine, heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Shallow-fry the aubergine in batches, turning after 1 minute, until golden and tender. Drain on kitchen paper.

To make the dressing for the aubergine, whisk together the tamari, mirin, rice vinegar and honey in a large bowl. Whisk in the chilli, ginger and scallions. Add the cooked aubergine and toss gently to coat. Set aside.

Cook the edamame beans according to the instructions on the pack, then drain.

Lift the salmon pieces out of the marinade. Heat a large frying pan over a medium-high heat and cook the salmon for 6-8 minutes, turning once.

Serve the aubergine and salmon with the edamame, pea shoots and coriander sprinkled over and with lime wedges on the side.

(Original recipe from Australian Food by Bill Granger, Murdoch Books, 2020.)

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This is the ultimate weekday dinner as it cooks in one roasting tray, and with excellent results. We made it as we had left-over chorizo and potatoes from the previous weekend and some chipotle paste in the fridge.

Wine Suggestion: The robust flavours of smoky chipotle and the chorizo beg for a Spanish red like the Cantos de Valpiedra from Rioja. Smooth and elegant, but with a deep aromatic core of dark fruits and layered spices, and a long, refined finish.

Chipotle chicken with leeks & chorizo – serves 2 (easily doubled)

  • 4 skin-on chicken thighs
  • 1 tsp chipotle paste
  • 1 large leek, cut into thick slices
  • 250g baby new potatoes
  • olive oil
  • 100g diced chorizo

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

Put the chicken thighs into a large baking tray, then brush with the chipotle paste and season with some salt and pepper.

Spread the leeks and potatoes between the chicken. Drizzle the veg with a little bit of oil and toss but don’t be tempted to add too much as there will be plenty of fat released from the chicken and chorizo as they cook.

Roast for 30 minutes, tossing the veg halfway through.

Add the chorizo, then season the veg and roast for another 20 minutes until the potatoes are browned and the chicken cooked through.

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This is much lighter than your average pasta bake and therefore perfect for midweek. It’s packed full of flavour and you can freeze the leftovers too. Serve with a salad.

Wine Suggestion: Perfect with an easy, mid-weight red like the Umani Ronchi Rosso Conero Serrano, a joyful blend of Montepulciano and Sangiovese. Food friendly and also easy sipping on its own.

Spinach & Ricotta Pasta Bake – serves 6

  • 400g wholewheat penne pasta
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
  • 250g roasted peppers from a jar, diced
  • 700g jar passata
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 100ml water
  • 200g ricotta cheese
  • a small handful of sage leaves, finely chopped
  • 150g baby spinach
  • a handful of basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • 125g mozzarella ball, diced
  • 15g Parmesan, finely grated

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

Bring a large pan of salty water to the boil and cook the pasta for the shortest time indicated on the pack, then drain and run under cold water until completely cooled. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in another large saucepan, then cook the onion for about 5 minutes or until softened. Then add the garlic and continue cooking for another 2 minutes. Stir in the paprika and cook for a further minute.

Add the roasted peppers, passata, tomatoes and oregano. Pour the 100ml of water into the passata jar, give it a shake, then add this too. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix the ricotta and chopped sage together and season with salt and black pepper.

Stir the spinach and basil into the tomato sauce until wilted, then season the sauce with salt and black pepper. Add the pasta and stir to coat in the sauce, then tip it all into a large roasting tray or lasagne dish.

Scatter over the mozzarella, dot with the ricotta mixture and sprinkle with the Parmesan. Bake on a high shelf in the oven for 20-25 minutes.

(Original recipe from Lose Weight & Get Fit by Tom Kerridge, BLOOMSBURY ABSOLUTE, 2018.)

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Try this for a tasty weeknight dish, particularly if you have lots of herbs in the garden. We loved the anchovies in this but you can easily give it a go without. With gnocchi the trick is to definitely fry it at the end as this gives you both a crispy outside and a pillowy-soft centre.

Wine Suggestion: This needs a characterful white with a bit of acidity. Domaine Gueguen’s old-vine Aligote was our choice, but a good Gavi or top-notch Vermentino would work too.

Gnocchi with herb sauce – serves 2

  • 1 tbsp capers
  • 4 anchovies (optional)
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 lemon, juiced and zest of half
  • 50g herbs – we used parsley, chives & basil
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 500g gnocchi

Blitz the capers, anchovies, garlic, lemon juice and herbs with 3 tbsp of the olive oil to make a sauce. Season and set aside.

Cook the gnocchi in salty water according to the pack – it takes hardly any time at all and don’t be tempted to leave it in longer, really as soon as it floats to the top it’s done. Drain the gnocchi, then heat the last tbsp of olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan over a high heat.

Fry the gnocchi for about 3 minute or until crispy on the outside and piping hot. Drain on kitchen paper, then tip into a bowl and toss with the sauce. Divide between warm bowls and top with lemon zest and lots of black pepper.

(Original recipe by Elena Silcock in BBC Good Food Magazine, April 2018.)

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These curried noodles have a sourness that we particularly like and the whole dish is power-charged with flavour.

Leave the chicken thighs whole, or cut them in half if they’re big, they’ll stay nice and tender. The curry paste also makes much more that you need but will keep in the fridge for a month, or longer in the freezer. You can of course just buy a paste either.

Wine Suggestion: Despite all the powerful flavours in this dish there is a wine match that works superbly – Dry Tokaji, particularly if the wine is a blend of Furmint and Hárslevelu. Ch. Dereszla Tokaij Dry was at hand, and despite the title is actually off-dry. The Furmint being crisp and creamy with hints of mango and the Hárslevelu, which translates as lime-leaf, bringing a complimentary aromatic lime and peach character. These grapes on their own also work really well with the food so don’t worry if you find a wine with just one of these varietals.

Chiang Mai curried noodles – serves 4

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 75g red curry paste (you can use a bought one, or make the recipe below)
  • 2 tsp mild curry powder
  • 50ml tamarind purée (we make this up using a block of tamarind – put 30g in a small bowl then pour over a little boiling water. Mash with a fork then push through a sieve. You will be left with the seeds which you can discard)
  • 1 tbsp palm sugar or soft brown sugar
  • 400ml tin coconut milk
  • 100ml chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 700g boneless skinless chicken thighs (cut them in half if they’re huge but otherwise leave whole)
  • 300g egg noodles
  • coriander leaves, shredded scallions and chopped red chillies to garnish

FOR THE PASTE:

  • 2 Mexican dried chillies e.g. ancho/pasilla/gaujilo
  • 4 lemongrass stalks, inner part only, finely chopped
  • 75g small shallots
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 20g ginger, chopped
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 Thai red chillies, seeded
  • 1 tbsp coriander root or stems
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin

TO MAKE THE PASTE:

Remove the stems and seeds from the dried chillies, cover with boiling water and leave to soak for 15 minutes until very soft, then drain.

Put the soaked chillies into the small bowl of a food processor with all the remaining ingredients and 90ml water. Blend for a few minutes until very fine – you can add a little more water if needed. Scrape into a sterilised jar and keep in the fridge for up to a month or freeze.

TO MAKE THE CURRY:

Heat the vegetable oil in a large saucepan. Add the curry paste and fry for 5 minutes. Add the curry powder, tamarind and sugar. When the sugar has melted, add the coconut milk, stock, fish sauce, soy and lime juice. Bring to a gentle simmer and add the chicken pieces. Simmer for 20 minutes or until the chicken is tender.

Meanwhile, boil the noodles for about 4 minutes or until al dente. Drain the noodles and divide between deep bowls. Ladle the curry over the noodles and top with the coriander, scallions and some chopped red chilli.

(Original recipe from My Asian Kitchen by Jennifer Joyce, Murdoch Books, 2018.)

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This is so simple for mid-week and the colours are just fab! Healthy too and generous portions.

Roast onion, chickpea & halloumi salad – serves 2

  • 2 red onions, peeled and each cut into 8 wedges
  • 400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tsp ras el hanout
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 250g cooked Puy lentils – we used a tin but you can of course cook them yourself or buy one of those pouches
  • 100g roasted red peppers, cut into strips
  • a large handful of mint leaves, finely chopped
  • a large handful of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp pomegranate molasses
  • 250g packet of halloumi, sliced
  • 2 tbsp pomegranate seeds

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

Line a baking tray with baking paper. Spread the onion wedges and chickpeas over the tray, then sprinkle with the ras el hanout and some salt and rub gently to coat, then drizzle with oil. Cook in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the chickpeas or golden and crunchy.

Meanwhile, mix the lentils, roast peppers, mint and half the chopped parsley in a bowl. Drizzle over 1 tbsp of oil and the pomegranate molasses and season well with salt and pepper. Mix well and divide between serving plates.

Heat a large non-stick frying pan over a medium-high heat. When hot, add a little oil, then fry the halloumi slices for a couple of minutes on each side or until golden brown.

Spoon the onions and chickpeas over the lentils, then top with the halloumi and scatter over the pomegranate seeds and parsley to serve.

(Original recipe from Lose Weight & Get Fit by Tom Kerridge, Bloomsbury Absolute, 2019.)

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Given it’s sharp-sour character it can sometimes be tricky to think of what to do with sorrel – so this is a quick and easy recipe for sorrel butter. Delicious with pasta or on fish or chicken. You can make the butter and stash it in the freezer if you happen to have some leftover sorrel from another dish.

Wine Suggestion: This works really well with the Gulfi Valcanzjria. A blend of Chardonnay and Carricante from the slopes of Mt Etna, this fresh and Spring-like as well as having the stuffing to work with the sharp/sour sorrel.

Tagliatelle with sorrel butter & pine nuts – serves 4

  • 2 large handfuls of sorrel leaves, remove the stalks and roughly chop
  • 100g butter, softened
  • ½ a lemon, juiced
  • 300g tagliatelle or pappardelle pasta
  • 75g toasted pine nuts, to serve
  • Parmesan, shaved or grated to serve

Tip the sorrel into a food processor with the butter and lemon juice, then whizz to a paste. Season with salt and pepper.

Scrape the butter out onto a piece of cling film then roll into a log and chill in the fridge. It will be fine there for a few days or you can freeze for a month.

Cook the pasta in very salty water until al dente.

Meanwhile, melt the sorrel butter in a large frying pan. Use tongs to transfer the cooked pasta from the cooking water into the frying pan with the butter. Toss the pasta in the butter, then add most of the pine nuts and mix well.

Divide the buttery pasta and pine nuts between warm bowls and scatter with Parmesan and extra pine nuts to serve.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

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We don’t make a roast dinner every week but we do like one occasionally, especially in the brighter months when you can lighten them up a bit with some spring veg. Ask your butcher to score the pork skin for you, then leave it uncovered in the fridge overnight to dry out the skin, which will help with the crispy crackling.

Wine suggestion: Quite often we have an oaky white with roast pork but tonight we had a notion for red and a 6 year old Olga Raffault Chinon Les Pucasses which was just hitting it’s stride and will be drinking nicely for another 10 years we think. Deep , complex and brooding and yet the limestone soils give it an immediate freshness and vivacity.

Roast pork belly with herbs & new potatoes – serves 4

  • 3-4 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1.5kg thick end of pork belly, bone in, skin completely dry (see above)
  • 300g new potatoes
  • a few sprigs of mint, leaves picked and finely chopped, stalks reserved
  • a knob of butter
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • a small bunch of parsley, leaves picked and finely chopped
  • a small bunch of chives, finely chopped
  • 2 handfuls of peas or broad bean tops if available (we didn’t have these but we served with some double podded broad beans instead)
  • juice of ½ lemon

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

Toast the fennel seeds in a small pan until fragrant, then tip into a pestle and mortar and coarsely grind. Score the skin and fat (but not the flesh) of the pork with a sharp knife if your butcher hasn’t done this for you already.

Put the pork into a roasting tray and rub allover with the crushed fennel seeds and some salt.

Put the pork into the oven for 30 minutes to crisp up the skin, then reduce the heat to 160C/315F/Gas 2-3. Add half a glass of water to the tray and roast for a further 2 hours, until crispy and tender. You will need to keep checking the water and ensuring that the pan doesn’t dry out.

While the pork is roasting, halve the potatoes if they’re big and put into a saucepan with the mint stalks. Cover with salty water and simmer until just tender, then drain and return to the pan, discarding the mint stalks. Add the butter and 1 tbsp of the olive oil, season with salt and pepper, then set aside.

Remove the cooked pork from the oven and allow to rest for 15-20 minutes. Add the chopped herbs to the potatoes and stir gently to coat, then spoon onto a warm platter. Slice the pork and arrange on the platter with the potatoes, then skim the fat from the juices in the roasting tin and spoon the juices over the pork and potatoes,.

If you have pea or bean tops, put them into a bowl and dress with the 1 tbsp of olive oil and the lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper. Scatter these over the pork and serve. (We dressed our broad beans with some olive oil and lemon and served these alongside instead).

(Original recipe from Gather by Gill Meller, Quadrille, 2016.)

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Who says you can’t have broccoli for breakfast? It’s purple sprouting broccoli season and we can’t resist buying when we see it. Also good on a slice of toasted sourdough.

Crispy PSB with poached eggs – serves 2

  • 300g purple sprouting broccoli
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds
  • poached eggs, to serve

Heat the grill to high.

Meanwhile, steam the broccoli until tender, about 5 minutes, then dry well with kitchen paper.

Put the soy sauce, honey and vegetable oil in a bowl and whisk to combine.

Put the broccoli into a roasting tin, pour over the marinade and toss gently, then sprinkle over the sesame seeds. Put the tin under the grill for 5-8 minutes or until the broccoli is crispy.

Divide the broccoli between warm plates and top with a poached egg. Serve with some toast if you like.

(Original recipe by Rosie Birkett in BBC Good Food Magazine, April 2019.)

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We’re getting very impatient for spring veg. Ideally this would be made with locally grown asparagus and freshly podded peas and broad beans. In reality we had to settle for purple sprouting broccoli and frozen peas and beans. Still a delicious spring dish. This makes enough to serve 6 for lunch or a generous side dish. Cook the veg at the last minute if you can as it nice served slightly warm. 

Spring Panzanella – serves 6

  • 350g ciabatta, torn into bite-size chunks
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 3 tbsp olive oil,
  • 300g fresh pea or frozen peas
  • 300g fresh broad beans (podded weight) or use frozen broad beans
  • 400g asparagus, trimmed (we used purple sprouting broccoli)
  • leaves from a large bunch of basil
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 35ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar (ideally white balsamic)
  • 75g Pecorino or Parmesan, shaved

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.

Toss the bread in a roasting tin with the shallot, seasoning and oil. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until golden and crunchy.

Cook the peas and broad beans in salted boiling water in separate pans, then drain. Slip the skins from the broad beans. 

Meanwhile, cook the asparagus in salted water for 3-4 minute or until tender. Drain in a sieve and refresh briefly under cold water, just long enough to stop cooking but not cool down completely. 

Put the crunchy bread into a large, shallow bowl. Add the asparagus, peas, broad beans, basil & garlic. Season well. Pour on the extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar and add the cheese. Toss gently and serve.

(Original recipe from Food from Plenty by Diana Henry, Mitchell Beazley, 2012.)

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We don’t cook with sorrel very often, perhaps once or twice a year when we see it and grab a bag. It has an unusual sour and citrussy flavour that always reminds us of holidays in France. Sorrel sauce is an excellent match for fish and goes particularly well with brill as expertly suggested by Gill Meller. A few crispy potatoes on the side would be a good addition.

Wine Suggestion: This goes great with a dry Chenin Blanc, like one of our favourites the Chateau du Hureau Argile which always has great depth of flavour alongside a crisp zestiness and dry texture, bound together with a lemony, citrus zing – very complimentary to the sorrel and able to match the rich cream and fish.

Brill with sorrel sauce – serves 4

  • 4 brill fillets (120-150g each), skin on
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 2-4 thyme sprigs
  • 2 garlic cloves, skin on and bashed
  • a small knob of butter

FOR THE SAUCE:

  • a large knob of butter
  • 1 shallot, very finely diced
  • 100ml fish stock if you have it though water will be fine
  • a large bunch of sorrel (about 150g), stalks removed and cut into rough ribbons
  • 150ml double cream

Make the sauce first. Melt the butter in a small saucepan, then add the chopped shallot and cook until soft but not coloured. Pour in the stock/water and simmer until the liquid has almost evaporated.

Add the sorrel leaves and stir a few times until wilted. Add the cream, stir, and bring the sauce to a simmer. Cook for a couple of minutes to thicken it slightly. Season with salt and pepper, then cover with a lid and set aside.

Season the fish all over. Heat the oil with the bay leaves, thyme and garlic, in a large non-stick frying pan on a medium-high heat. Put the brill into the hot pan, skin-side down and cook for 5-6 minutes, until the fish is cooked at least three-quarters of the way up its edge. Turn the fish with a spatula and cook for a minute more on the other side, then add a small knob of butter and remove from the heat. Rest for a minute as the butter belts.

Serve the brill with the sauce on the side.

(Original recipe from Gather by Gill Meller, Quadrille, 2017.)

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This is nice soup for Spring. It’s filling and definitely tastes better by the second or third day. Ham hocks are still cheap, despite becoming a bit trendy, and they make a great stock. 

Ham hock, pea & scallion soup – serves 6

  • 800g uncooked ham hock
  • 2 bay leaves, scrunched
  • 8 peppercorns
  • 200g frozen peas (or fresh if you have them)
  • 100g small pasta shapes, cooked as per timings on the pack
  • a knob of unsalted butter
  • 1 bunch of scallions, trimmed and finely sliced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • a small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and finely chopped
  • juice of ½ lemon (optional)

Put the ham into a large, deep saucepan and cover with enough cold water to just cover, then bring to the boil. Drain, then refill the pan with fresh water, adding the bay and peppercorns. Bring the pan up to the boil again, skim off any froth, then reduce the heat and simmer for about an hour, or until the ham is tender the whole way through when pierced with a skewer. 

Remove the ham from the liquid and set aside. Add the peas to the stock and cook for a minute until tender (5 minutes if using fresh peas). Add the cooked pasta and leave on the heat. 

While the peas are cooking, heat the butter in a small pan over a medium heat and fry the scallions and garlic for about 5 minutes, until soft. Add to the stock along with the parsley. 

Shred the cooked ham from the bone, removing any skin and excess fat, then add to the soup. Season generously with salt and pepper and add a spritz of lemon juice if you like. 

(Original recipe from Home Cookery Year by Claire Thompson, Quadrille, 2020.)

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We loved this mussel dish from Gill Meller’s book, Gather. Mussels, watercress and bacon are a truly fabulous combination, but not one we’d thought of before. Our farm shop had landcress rather than watercress available so that’s what we used, but it’s very similar, just not grown in running water. Cleaning mussels is a job I love and hate in equal measure, same with cleaning mushrooms. 

Wine Suggestion: A new find – the Quinta de Chocapalha Arinto from near Lisbon in Portugal; zesty citrus and hints of saltiness. So fresh and tasting of days at beachside restaurants eating mussels, helpful when travel is restricted.

Mussels with watercress and bacon – serves 2

  • 2-4 rashers streaky bacon
  • a small knob of butter
  • ½ a small onion, sliced
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 1kg mussels, cleaned
  • 150g watercress, plus extra to serve

Heat a splash of olive oil in a frying pan, then cook the bacon for 6-8 minutes, or until crispy. Keep warm.

Put a knob of butter and a spoon of bacon fat from the pan into a large sauce pan. Heat until bubbling, then add the onions and garlic and season with a little salt and pepper. Cook for a few minutes or until the onion is soft but not coloured, then add the mussels with 2 tbsp of water. Bring to the boil, then cover the pan with a lid and shake gently. Cook the mussels for a couple of minutes or until the shells are just open. Throw away any that don’t open.

Use a slotted spoon to remove the mussels from the pan into a warm bowl, leave the onion and cooking liquor behind on the heat. Cover the mussels with a tea towel and put somewhere warm. You need to work quickly now to make the sauce while the mussels stay warm.

Put the watercress into the pan and cook for a minute or two until wilted, then tip into a  food processor and purée until smooth. This should be quite thick so if it’s too liquid, put it back into the pan and boil off the excess liquid over a high heat.

Put a generous spoon of purée on each plate with the mussels, crispy bacon and a little fresh watercress.

(Original recipe from Gather by Gill Meller, Quadrille, 2017.)

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This is a bit like sweet chilli sauce, but nicer and not as sickly sweet. It’s great with chicken, in a sandwich or drizzled over some rice. 

Hot Pepper Jam – makes 8 small jars

  • 8 red peppers
  • 4 scotch bonnet chillies
  • 1kg jam sugar
  • 700ml cider vinegar

Put a few saucers in the freezer to test the jam later.

Heat the oven to 150C/fan 130C/Gas 2. 

Wash 8 small jars (about 230ml each) in hot soapy water. Rinse well then put in the oven for 20 minutes, until completely dry. This will sterilise them. 

Remove the seeds, stalk and white membranes from the peppers and chillies and roughly chop. 

Put in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped (careful not to blitz to a puree). Heat the sugar and vinegar gently in a pan until the sugar dissolves. Add the pepper mix and boil for 15 minutes. Drop a spoon onto a frozen plate, wait for 30 seconds then run your finger through it. If it wrinkles you have setting point, if not cook for another 5 minutes and test again. 

Pour the jam into the sterilised jars and leave to cool before adding the lids. 

(Original recipe by Janine Ratcliffe & Anna Glover in Olive Magazine, October 2016.)

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This pasta bake from the Falastin book would make a great party dish. We’re still a good way off holding a party in terms of restrictions but we’re very happy to have heaps of leftovers. It’s full of warm spices and the feta on the top makes it a bit different from the more familiar pasta bakes. If you make the ragu the day before it’s pretty straightforward to assemble and bake when you need it. If you do this, warm the ragu slowly first before adding the pasta.

Wine Suggestion: this goes great with a warmly, spiced southern French or Spanish red. Our choice tonight is a rarity, a wine from the Southern part of Aragon near the provincial city of Teruel. An ancient inland region of Spain that was de-populated during the civil war and is being rejuvinated by some young winemakers replanting the vineyard terraces of their grandparents. The Jesus Romero Rubus is a Garnacha Tempranillo organically grown and made without intervention, but with a lot of love and care to avoid any bacterial issues. Joyful red and black fruits, warm spices and refined tannins.

Spicy pasta bake – serves 6 generously

FOR THE RAGU:

  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 celery sticks, roughly chopped
  • 2 green peppers, roughly chopped
  • 25g unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 5 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 2 tbsp oregano leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1¼ tsp chilli flakes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 500g beef mince (not too lean, about 20% fat if possible)
  • 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 5-6 plum tomatoes, coarsely grate and discard the skins – if you have a mouli you could use this
  • 2 red peppers, cut into rough 3cm dice
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 20g parsley, roughly chopped, plus a bit extra to serve

FOR THE BÉCHAMEL:

  • 45g unsalted butter
  • 60g plain flour
  • 500ml full cream milk
  • a pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 130g Greek-style yoghurt
  • 2 egg yolks

OTHER INGREDIENTS:

  • 350g macaroni pasta or similar
  • 180g feta, roughly crumbled
  • ¾ tsp Aleppo chilli flakes, to serve

First make the bolognese. Put the onion, celery and green peppers into a food processor and pulse briefly, until finely chopped.

Put the butter and oil into a large, heavy saucepan and put over a medium-high heat. Add the onion mixture and cook for 7 minutes, stirring, until softened. Add the garlic, tomato purée, oregano, spices and bay leaves and cook for a minute.

Add the beef mince and cook for a few minutes, breaking it up with a wooden spoon and cooking until no pink bits remain.

Add the tinned and fresh tomatoes, red peppers, sugar, 100ml of water, 2¼ tsp of salt and plenty of black pepper. Bring to a simmer, then cover the pan, reduce the heat to medium-low and leave to simmer very gently for 2½ hours, stirring roughly every 30 minutes, until the sauce is thick and rich. We took the lid off for the last half an hour as our ragu was very liquid. Discard the bay leaves, stir in the parsley and set aside until needed.

To make the béchamel, put the butter into a medium saucepan and place on a medium-high heat. When the butter has melted, stir or whisk in the flour and cook for a minute or two. Gradually pour in the milk, whisking or stirring continuously. Reduce the heat to medium, add the nutmeg and 1 tsp of salt, and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring all the time. Remove from the heat and set aside for 10 minutes, then stir in the yoghurt and egg yolks until mixed in.

Heat the oven to 200C fan.

Bring a large pan of salty water to the boil and cook the pasta until al dente (use the minimum time on the pack). Reserve 3 tbsp of the cooking water, then drain the pasta and add to the ragu with the reserved cooking water. Mix well then pour into a large baking dish (about 30 x 22cm and 8cm deep).

Pour the béchamel over the top and spread out evenly. Sprinkle over the feta and bake for 25 minutes, or until golden and bubbling.

Leave to cool for 10 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with some extra parsley, the aleppo chilli and an extra drizzle of olive oil.

(Original recipe from Falastin by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley, Ebury Press, 2020.)

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We loved this deep-filled veggie pie and it looks so bright with the broken eggs on the top. Excellent for lunch or dinner or to pack up for a picnic. Leftovers are good too. Use a 23cm round baking tin. Serve with a salad.

Wine Suggestion: Pick a white you’d be happy having on a picnic; something with a bit of body and dry, minerality. For us it was an old vine Bourgogne Aligote from Domaine Gueguen in Chablis. Full and round with apricot and apple flavours and a saline, chalky twist at the end. Tasting this we wonder why Aligote isn’t more popular as it is delicious.

Spinach, egg and filo pie – serves 8

  • 70g butter
  • 1 small packet of filo pastry

FOR THE FILLING:

  • 50g butter
  • 500g spinach
  • 1 small bunch of dill, chopped
  • 3-4 scallions, chopped
  • a few sprigs of thyme, leaves picked and chopped (about 2 tsp)
  • 2 tsp dried mint
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 160g  cup yoghurt
  • 50g plain flour
  • 8 eggs
  • 50g finely grated pecorino
  • 50g feta

Melt the 50g portion of butter for the filling in a large saucepan. Add the spinach and cover, then cook for a few minutes until wilted. Drain in a colander to drain off the excess liquid. Transfer to a large bowl and add the dill, scallions, thyme, dried mint, salt, pepper and nutmeg and mix well. Add the yoghurt, flour, 4 of the eggs, the pecorino and feta, and mix well to combine.

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

Melt the 70g portion of butter for the pastry and take the filo sheets out of the packet. Brush the first sheet with the melted butter and lay another sheet on top. Lift these 2 sheets into the round baking tin, allowing a little overhang. Repeat this process and put another layer in the tin, slightly overlapping the first. Continue this way until the tin is fully lined with pastry, with pastry over hanging on all sides. You will probably need about 4 double sheets.

Fill the pastry lined tin with the spinach mixture, then fold the filo overhang to cover the edges of the filling but don’t cover the whole surface. Scrunch the pastry to form a crunchy rim and brush with a little more butter. Place in the oven for 10 minutes.

Carefully remove the tin from the oven and crack the remaining 4 eggs over the surface. Aim to have an egg yolk in each quarter and for the egg white to be evenly distributed. Use the tip of a sharp knife to swirl the yolk into the filling but don’t push it in too much. Put the pie back in the oven and bake for another 20 minutes or until the spinach mixture and eggs are set and the pastry crispy.

(Original recipe from Honey & Co. At Home by Sarit Packer & Itamar Srulovich, Pavilion, 2018.)

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We’ve tried this Spanish pasta dish before, but with limited success, however this version was a triumph. We had the proper fideos noodles this time which we think might have helped. As we can’t go on holidays at the moment we thought we’d cook holiday dishes instead. Serve with some aïoli.

Wine Suggestion: this dish cries out for a fresh Garnacha like the Edetaria via Terra which is from Terra Alta DO in the south of Catalonia. Inland, at some altitude and on specific soils this area produces some of the best wines from this grape anywhere with a freshness and weightlessness from lovely ripe grapes.

Prawn fideua – serves 4

  • olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red pepper, finely chopped
  • 100g chorizo, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • a pinch of saffron strands
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 400g tin of plum tomatoes, lift the tomatoes out of the juice with a spoon and discard the juice left in the tin
  • 350g fideos noodles
  • 600ml freshly boiled water
  • 400g whole shell-on prawns
  • lemon wedges, to serve

Cover the base of a paella or sauté pan with olive oil, then warm over a medium heat. Add the onion, pepper, chorizo and garlic and cook for about 10 minutes or until the onions and peppers are soft.

Add the paprika, saffron and salt and stir over the heat for a minute, then add the tomatoes – squeezing them with your hands as you add them to the pan to break them up. Cook for 2 minutes to thicken.

Add the fideos noodles and stir to coat well, then add the boiled water. Cover and cook for 5 minutes, then spread the prawns over the surface and cook uncovered for another 5 minutes, or until the water has evaporated and a crust is forming on the bottom of the pan. The prawns will turn pink when cooked, you can turn them over to help them along.

Remove from the heat and rest for 5 minutes before serving with lemon wedges and aïoli.

(Original recipe from New Kitchen Basics by Claire Thomson, Quadrille, 2019.)

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