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Archive for the ‘Gluten-free’ Category

We’re a bit salad-obsessed these days. This one is huge and will feed a crowd when you have them over to your garden. Perfect with a piece of barbecued lamb.

Minted pea and spinach salad with bacon – serves 4-6

  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 slices streaky bacon or pancetta, cut into lardons
  • 200g frozen peas, defrosted (only Birds Eye will do in our opinion)
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed with a little salt
  • a bunch of mint, finely chopped
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 200g baby spinach
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 50g feta cheese, crumbled

Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and cook the bacon over a medium heat until starting to crisp up.

Mix the defrosted peas with the garlic, mint, red onion and baby spinach.

Dress the salad with 4 tbsp of olive oil and season with salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste. Toss in the bacon and scatter the feta on top.

(Original recipe from Avoca Salads, edited by Hugo Arnold, Avoca Ltd, 2007.)

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Barbecue season is coming (hopefully!) and potato salad is the perfect accompaniment. The dressing will make far more than you need but you can keep it in the fridge for a couple of weeks and dress all your salads with it, so worth making.

Potato Salad – serves 4

  • 900g small new potatoes
  • 2 tbsp French dressing (see below)
  • 6 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp natural yoghurt
  • a large bunch of mint, chopped

FOR THE FRENCH DRESSING:

  • 100ml red or white wine vinegar
  • 100ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 200ml sunflower oil
  • ½ a clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 ½ tbsp wholegrain mustard
  • 1 tbsp honey

To make the French dressing, put all the ingredients into a food processor, season with salt and pepper, and whizz to combine (or you can do like us and shove it all in a jar and give it a good shake!).

Put the potatoes into a pan of salty water and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 15 minutes or until completely tender, then drain and put into a bowl. Mix in 2 tbsp of French dressing and leave to cool.

Mix the mayonnaise, yoghurt and mint together and toss with the potatoes. Season with salt and pepper to serve.

(Original recipe from Avoca Salads, edited by Hugo Arnold, Avoca Ltd, 2007.)

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It just wouldn’t be spring without asparagus soup would it? Though the weather is far from spring-like in Dublin. This is from Roast Chicken and Other Stories by Simon Hopkinson, though I suspect Simon may not approve of our half-whizzed texture. You can of course whizz until smooth and pass through a fine sieve if you’re equally fussy.

Asparagus soup – serves 4

  • 100g butter
  • 4 small leeks, white parts only, trimmed and chopped
  • 750ml water
  • 1 potato, peeled and chopped
  • 450g fresh asparagus, snap off the woody ends and peel the thicker ends a little
  • 250ml double cream

Melt the butter in a large saucepan, then sweat the leeks until soft.

Add the water and potato, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 15 minutes.

Chop the asparagus and add to the soup, then boil rapidly for 5 minutes.

Whizz the soup in a blender or food processor, then pass through a fine sieve (or if you’re lazy like us you can just roughly whizz with a stick blender).

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

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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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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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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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We loved this creamy coconut fish stew from Equador. We went for big chunks of swordfish and prawns but you can substitute other types of fish, like tuna or pollock. Serve with rice.

Wine Suggestion: try to find a light, earthy red with low tannins for this dish, and not too much acidity like a Gamay, riper Pinot Noir or a light Grenache. Tonight’s choice was Domaine Bellier’s Cheverny rouge, a Pinot Noir-Gamay blend from the warm 2018 vintage in the Loire. An under-rated wine region and a good accompaniment to the fish, spices and flavours of this dish.

Encocado – serves 4

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red pepper, finely chopped
  • 3 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 4 tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 400ml tin coconut milk
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • ½ orange, juiced
  • 600g skinless boneless fish cut into 5 cm pieces (you can use snapper, prawns, tuna, swordfish or pollock – we used swordfish and prawns).
  • a thumb-sized piece of ginger
  • a small handful of coriander leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 red chilli, finely sliced

Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat.

Cook the onion and pepper for 7 to 8 minutes or until soft and golden, then add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.

Add the spices and some salt, mix well, then add the tomatoes, tomato purée and 100ml of water. Mix well and cook for about 5 minutes or until the tomatoes start to break down.

Add the coconut milk, lime juice and orange juice, then bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the fish and stir, then grate in the ginger. Cover and cook gently for 10-12 minutes or until the fish is cooked through. If you are using prawns they won’t take so long to cook so just add them for the last couple of minutes. Scatter over the coriander and chilli to serve.

(Original recipe by John Gregory-Smith in Olive Magazine, April 2018.)

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This is a Romanian version of moussaka and much easier than the Greek version we usually make. The aubergines are replaced with layers of potatoes and the cheese sauce is a mixture of yoghurt, cheese and egg yolks. Makes a great family meal with a salad on the side.

Wine Suggestion: This suits a light, earthy red and a recent find, the Jeunes Vignes de Xinomavro by Thymiopoulos was yet again a delight.

Musaca de cartofi – serves 6

FOR THE FILLING:

  • 1 tbsp vegetable or sunflower oil
  • 2 onions, finely diced
  • 1 carrot, finely diced
  • 500g pork mince (or you can use a mixture of pork and beef mince)
  • 1 tbsp sweet paprika
  • 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 300ml passata
  • 4 medium potatoes, waxy ones work best
  • 15g butter

FOR THE CHEESE SAUCE:

  • 100g Cheddar cheese, grated
  • 150g natural yoghurt
  • 2 egg yolks

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onions and carrot and sauté for 6-7 minutes. Add the pork mince, paprika, tomatoes and passata, then cook for 25 minutes, until reduced and thickened. Give it a stir now and then as it cooks.

Meanwhile, peel the potatoes and slice into thin discs (a mandoline works best for this job). Bring a large pot of water to the boil, add some salt, then blanch the potatoes for about 5 minutes or until just softened. Drain and set aside.

To make the cheese sauce, mix the cheese with the yoghurt and egg yolks.

Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas4.

Grease a 6-person lasagne dish with a little of the butter and arrange a layer of potatoes over the bottom, they can overlap slightly. Dot with a little butter and season with salt and pepper. Spread half of the meat filling on top, then cover with another layer of potatoes, dot with butter and season, then spread the rest of the filling on top. Finish with a layer of potatoes and top with the cheese sauce.

Bake for 30-35 minutes until nicely browned on top.

(Original recipe from Carpathia: Food from the heart of Romania by Irina Georgescu, Frances Lincoln Publishing, 2020.)

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Daffodils, warmer weather (occasionally … ), longer days, and spring vegetables arriving in the shops. Things are definitely looking up, at least in our kitchen if nowhere else.

Wine Suggestion: The asparagus cried out for the Höpler Grüner Veltliner lurking in the fridge waiting for spring to arrive. GV is one of the few varieties to work with asparagus and this dish isn’t shy of their flavours so a good match. Crisp pear and zesty lemon flavours overlay the hints of characteristic white pepper umami savouriness; this is so clean and vibrant it shouts the beginning of the season.

Asparagus, wild garlic & Gorgonzola risotto – serves 3

  • a bunch of asparagus, snap off and discard the woody ends
  • 1.5 litres of vegetable stock
  • 40g butter and 25g of cold diced butter
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 250g superfino carnaroli rice
  • 60ml dry white wine
  • 40g Parmesan, grated
  • 60g Gorgonzola
  • a small handful of wild garlic leaves, finely chopped

Remove the tips from the asparagus and chop the stems into 3cm pieces.

Blanch the tips in a pan of salty boiling water for 2 minutes, then drain and set aside.

Bring the stock the boil, then turn down and keep it at a bare simmer.

Melt 40g butter in a heavy-based pan, add the onion and asparagus stalks, then cook gently until the onion is soft and translucent, but not coloured.

Turn the heat up a little and add the rice. Stir for a couple of minutes until warm and coated with the butter and onion.

Add the wine and allow it to bubble up and almost disappear, then start adding the stock a ladle at a time. Keep stirring and only add more stock when the previous ladleful has been absorbed. Start tasting the rice after about 15 minutes, you want it to be soft but still with a little bite in the centre.

Remove the pan from the heat and beat in the cold butter, Parmesan, 20g of the Gorgonzola and the wild garlic. Season to taste, then ladle into warm bowls and garnish with the asparagus tips and the rest of the Gorgonzola.

(Original recipe from Made at Home by Giorgio Locatelli, 4th Estate, 2017.)

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This is barely a recipe but it is an excellent way to serve turnip, which you may refer to as a swede. For clarity, we’re talking about the large orange-fleshed variety. We served this on St Patrick’s Day with some Irish stew but it’s lovely with sausages or on the side of a roast dinner. We’ve posted this before but it’s definitely worth mentioning again. 

Turnip with Crispy Bacon & Onion – serves 4 to 6

  • 900g turnip, peeled and cut into 2.5 cm chunks
  • 1 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 50g rindless piece of smoked bacon, diced
  • butter

Cook the turnip in lots of salt water until tender when pierced with a knife. 

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and sauté the onion and bacon until crisp and golden. 

When the turnip is tender, drain and allow to dry, then roughly mash with a generous lump of butter. Season with salt and lots of black pepper. 

Serve in a warm bowl with the crispy bacon and onion on top. 

(Original recipe from Neven Maguire’s Complete Family Cookbook)

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For no particular reason we tend to eat mostly meat and fish dominant dishes on the weekend, and mostly veg during the week. This has been unsettled recently as we have no one to share our dishes with, so there is inevitably lots of leftovers from the weekend, and fewer opportunities to cook vegetables. This weekend we made sure to include a veggie dish in the line up and we’re looking forward to the leftovers already. Lots of lovely warm spices in this one. Serve with steamed rice.

Wine Suggestion: a nice accomaniment to this was from a young turk in Chateauneuf du Pape, Jean-Paul Daumen’s Méditerannée. From Southern France this contains the usual Rhone varieties alongside Cab Sauv and Merlot for a very pleasurable taste of sunshine. A well thought out biodynamic and organic blend that demonstrates why we shouldn’t always insist on what was grown traditionally in the area; this expands the range of taste on offer in a good way.

Red kidney bean & sweet potato stew with yoghurt & hot mint oil – serves 4

  • vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 big garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 690g jar of passata
  • 500g sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1cm chunks
  • 400g tin red kidney beans, drained
  • 30g flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp dried mint
  • Greek yoghurt

Put a large saucepan over a medium heat and pour in enough vegetable oil to coat the bottom. Add the onion and cook for a few minutes, then add the garlic and stir until both have softened but not coloured.

Stir in the spices and cook for a minutes, then season generously with Maldon salt and black pepper, then stir in the passata. Reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered for about 25 minutes. Add a splash of water now and then if needed to prevent it sticking.

Stir in the sweet potato and cook for a further 30-40 minutes, or until tender, then add the beans and most of the parsley and heat through.

Meanwhile, put a small pan over a medium heat. Add 1 tbsp of vegetable oil and heat before stirring in the dried mint. Stir for a minute or two then remove from the heat.

Serve the stew with some yoghurt, the extra parsley and a drizzle of the hot mint oil.

(Original recipe from Simply by Sabrina Ghayour, Mitchell Beazley, 2020.)

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Not much to look at perhaps but this is genuinely one of our favourite soup recipes. It makes a big potful and it’s really tasty, perfect for weekday lunches. 

Red lentil and bacon soup – serves 6

  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 75g smoked back bacon, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 small sweet potato, finely diced
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 200g red lentils, rinsed
  • 1.5 litres hot chicken or vegetable stock
  • a large sprig of thyme
  • 1 bay leaf

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the bacon, onion and red pepper. Cook on a low heat for 5 minutes or until the veg has started to soften. Add the sweet potato, garlic and lentils and stir for another couple of minutes. 

Pour the hot stock into the pan, add the herbs and season well with salt and pepper. 

Turn the heat up and bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the lentils are soft. 

(Original recipe from The Hairy Bikers’ British Classics by Si King & Dave Myers, Seven Dials, 2018.)

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Do we need to provide another recipe for Italian roast potatoes with rosemary? Probably not, but this version uses regular potatoes, rather than the baby waxy variety. So perhaps it will come in handy, as it did for us. 

Roast Potatoes with Rosemary – serves 4 to 6

  • 2kg potatoes e.g. Maris Piper or Roosters
  • a large handful of rosemary sprigs, leaves picked
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • Maldon salt and black pepper

Peel and cut the potatoes into chunks, then boil in salted water until just cooked through. Drain in a colander and leave for 10 minutes to cool slightly and lose some mixture. 

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

Heat a roasting tray in the oven with most of the rosemary leaves and a good few glugs of olive oil, salt and pepper. 

Remove the tray from the oven and add the potatoes, turning to coat well in the oil and rosemary .

Roast for about 45 minutes, turning every 15 minutes or so. 

(Original recipe from Polpo by Russell Norman, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2012.)

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We make soup most weeks during the cooler months and we really loved this one! The streaky bacon garnish is nice but it’s also good without it.

Creamy lentil & spinach soup with bacon – serves 4

  • 2 tbsp olive oil, plus a bit extra for frying
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped
  • 2 sticks of celery, finely chopped
  • 140g green lentils
  • 1.5 litres weak vegetable stock
  • 200g baby spinach
  • 4 tbsp double cream, plus a drizzle to serve if you like
  • 6 rashers smoked streaky bacon (optional)

Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large saucepan, then add the onions, carrots and celery, and cook for about 10 minutes or until softened.

Stir in the lentils and pour in the stock. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer for 30-35 minutes or until the lentils are soft, add more water if you need too.

Add the spinach and cook for a couple of minutes to wilt.

Whizz the soup until smooth (we like it smooth-ish with a bit of texture left), then stir in the cream and season.

Meanwhile, heat a little oil in a frying pan and fry the bacon until crispy and golden. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with some crispy bacon and a drizzle of cream.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

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For many years we didn’t buy Polpo by Russell Norman. It has a fancy binding and was always wrapped in plastic in the bookshop, so there was no way to have a flick. We can’t remember now what made us take the plunge, but we’re so glad we did. We’ve cooked many of the recipes and recently took this book off the shelf again and cooked a few more, finishing with this steak dish. You probably don’t need Italian roast potatoes with rosemary as a side but we couldn’t resist.

Wine Suggestion: A kind birthday gift from our friends Nicola and Dave was a wine we knew nothing about, the Iuli Umberta and opening it to try with this dish was a revelation. From the Monferrato hills east of Turin, this Barbera is so full of energy and layered with subtle flavours and gentle spice; so easy and refreshing.

Flank steak with portobello mushrooms – serves 4

  • 800g flank steak, about 5cm thick
  • 4 handfuls of rocket leaves
  • 8 large Portobello mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, very finely chopped
  • 1 small handful of flat parsley leaves, chopped

Season the meat with plenty of salt and pepper.

We cooked ours on a hot barbecue but if you prefer you can oil a griddle pan and heat until hot, then grill the steak on both sides. 10-12 minutes in total should give you a medium-cooked steak. Leave it to rest in a warm place for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, dress the rocket leaves in some good olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Divide the rocket between the serving plates or you can put it onto one large platter.

Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large frying pan with the garlic and most of the parsley. Add the mushrooms and fry until soft and glossy, then set aside. We like to season these a little too.

When the meat has rested, sliced it thinly. Lay the steak on top of the rocket, then scatter with the mushrooms and serve with a drizzle of good olive oil and the rest of the parsley.

(Original recipe from Polpo by Russell Norman, Bloomsbury, 2012.)

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PSB is our veg saviour early in the year when winter is lingering and spring still seems too far away. We loved this roasted version with a tangy lemon dressing.

Roasted PSB with feta & preserved lemons – serves 4 to 6 as a side

  • 500g purple sprouting broccoli
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red chilli, chopped
  • 1 preserved lemon, flesh and rind chopped, plus 1 tbsp juice from the jar
  • 80g yoghurt
  • 1 garlic cloves, grated
  • 30g feta

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

Put the PSB into large roasting tin, add the olive oil and red chilli, season with salt and pepper, then toss with your hands.

Roast for 15 minutes, turning halfway, until tender and starting to char.

Meanwhile stir the preserved lemon, juice and garlic into the yoghurt.

Crumble the feta over the roasted broccoli and drizzle with yoghurt dressing and your best olive oil.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

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A proper Venetian cichéti or wine bar snack. If you haven’t grilled fennel before we strongly suggest that you do, it becomes all caramelised and the flavour is much stronger. Here two strong flavours come together to great effect. Serve as a nibble with drinks.

Wine Suggestion: we didn’t have have any dry Venetian whites to hand but from further south in the Marches we had a bottle of Sartarelli’s Verdicchio Classico. Crisp, with hints of bitter, green almonds and pure peach and apple flavours and a saline twist that seemed to echo the anchovies. We were almost sitting in a bacaro overlooking a canal.

Grilled fennel with White Anchovies

  • 1 small fennel bulb, sliced through the root into medium-thin pieces about 5mm thick
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • flaky sea salt
  • a handful of roughly chopped dill
  • 10 white anchovy fillets

Preheat the grill to medium.

Put the fennel slices onto a baking tray, drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt. Add half the dill and toss to coat, then put the baking tray under the grill for 10-15 minutes, turning once, or until starting to brown and caramelise at the edges. Remove and set aside to cool slightly.

Spread the fennel over a platter and place an anchovy fillet on each slice, then scatter over the rest of the dill and serve.

(Original recipe from Polpo by Russell Norman, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2012.)

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This is a great little side salad to serve with Middle Eastern flavours. Here we had a chicken roasted with garlic and preserved lemon. Lots of delicious flavours on the plate. 

You need to roast chicken for 20 minutes at 190C/375F/gas 5 for each 500g, plus an extra 10 minutes.

Wine Suggestion: a red wine … with chicken … of course you can. We chose the Cantos de Valpiedra, a single estate Rioja, as we wanted hints of Moorish and Middle Eastern spices which tempranillo is good at transmitting. The Cantos is super elegant and smooth and has such a supple weight that it effortlessly matched the chicken and salad.

Herb salad with pomegranate & pistachios – serves 6

  • juice of 1 orange
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp clear honey
  • a small bunch of dill, roughly chopped
  • a small bunch of mint, leaves picked and torn
  • a bunch of scallions, finely sliced
  • 100g mixed salad leaves
  • seeds from 1 pomegranate
  • 100g pistachios, roughly chopped

Whisk the orange juice, vinegar and honey together in a small bowl with some seasoning. 

Tip rest of the ingredients into a large salad bowl, drizzle over the dressing and gently toss to serve.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

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