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We definitely have a bit of a thing for Asian-style greens and rice. And while it may seem like you need another dish on the side, you really don’t, it’s just a bowl of healthy, delicious things. Having said that, this would also be great on the side of some white fish.

Wine Suggestion: Anthony Girard’s La Clef du Recit Menetou Salon is a star here. A Sauvignon Blanc grown on Kimmergian clay-limestone, this has a depth, texture and body that belies the grape a little and a wine that we think gets better with a few years in the bottle … if you can wait that long. Don’t worry if you can’t though, it’s delicious from release too.

Asparagus with ginger & garlic – serves 2

  • 12-16 spears of asparagus, snap off the woody ends and slice on the diagonal into 4cm pieces
  • 2-3cm piece of ginger, peeled and sliced into very fine matchsticks
  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
  • 80ml water
  • 1 ½ tbsp oyster sauce
  • cooked rice, to serve

Put your wok over a medium-low heat and add the sunflower oil. When warm, add the ginger and cook briefly until fragrant.

Add the asparagus, garlic and chilli and toss, then pour in the water and turn the heat to high. Cook for a minute, then add the oyster sauce. Toss well to coat the asparagus and cook for about 30 seconds or until tender but with a bite.

Remove from the heat and season with some black pepper, you shouldn’t need salt.

Serve hot over rice.

(Original recipe from My Favourite Ingredients by Skye Gyngell, Quadrille Publishing, 2008.)

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Try this if you’re in a bit of a lunch rut … or if like us you have bought an extra bag of spinach and have some miso lingering in the fridge. It takes 5 minutes and it’s delicious.

Miso spinach on sourdough toast – serves 2

  • 1 tbsp miso paste
  • 1 tbsp melted butter
  • 200g spinach
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 2 sliced scallions
  • 2 large slices of toasted sourdough (to serve)

Mix the miso paste with the melted butter, then tip into a frying pan.

Add the spinach and cook over a medium heat until wilted, then add 2 tsp soy sauce. Divide between the toasts and sprinkle over the spinach & scallions.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

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This is delicious with a load of warm flatbreads for scooping up the baba ghanoush. To burn the aubergines place them directly onto gas rings turned up high, scorch for about 20 minutes, turning once. You will need to open all of the doors and windows but it is definitely worth it!

Wine Suggestion: A Spanish red was called for, but to be a little contrary we went to Roussillon: Roc des Anges’ Segna de Cor. A Grenache, Carignan and Syrah blend from the “young” vines of this estate which average only 40 years of age … they have some wonderful old vines in this part of the world and Marjorie Gallet has some of the best parcels scattered across the incredible landscape that is Catalan France. Exceptionally refined and smooth, with layers of spices, warm fruits and a core of salty stones and smokey earth. For an entry level wine this is truly exciting. Also a good match for the smokey aubergines, earthy lentils and tart pomegranate.

Smoky baba ganoush with roasted cauliflower, lentils & pomegranate – serves 4 to 6

  • 1 cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 300g Puy lentils (or similar lentils)
  • 2 large handfuls of spinach leaves
  • a small handful of coriander leaves
  • ½ a lemon, juiced
  • 1 pomegranate, seeds extracted
  • pomegranate mollasses

FOR THE BABA GANOUSH:

  • 4 large aubergines
  • 4 tbsp tahini paste
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 2 tbsp Greek yoghurt
  • 5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Coat the cauliflower in olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Spread over a baking tray and roast for 25-30 minutes.

To make the baba ganoush, put the aubergines directly over a gas flame on high, for about 20 minutes, turning once. When cool enough to handle, peel off the blackened skin and place the flesh into a large bowl. Break the aubergine flesh up with a fork, leaving it a bit chunky, then add the tahini, garlic, lemon juice, yoghurt and olive oil. Mix with a fork until well combined and season well with salt and pepper.

Bring a large pot of water to the boil and cook the lentils for 20-25 minutes until just tender, then drain.

Combine the roasted cauliflower, lentils, baby spinach, coriander, a drizzle of olive oil and a good squeeze of lemon juice and season well with salt and pepper. Serve with plenty of baba gaanoush on the side, scatter over the pomegranate seeds and drizzle with a few drops of the pomegranate molasses.

(Original recipe from Community by Hetty McKinnon, A Plum Book, 2014.)

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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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We tend to be a bit suspicious of salads that claim to be a main course but we promise you won’t be hungry after this one.

Wine Suggestion: Naturally when eating asparagus we gravitate to Grüner Veltliner, but for this dish we felt drawn to Souther France and opened the Ch Vignelaure, La Source Blanc from Provence. Made mostly from Vermentino with a touch of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc. Fresh and summery with citrus fruits and a gently herbal twist; full of energy and vitality.

Spring Salad – serves 4 as a main

  • 300g baby new potatoes, half any biggish ones
  • 1 spring of mint
  • 2 eggs
  • 200g asparagus, woody ends snapped off and saved
  • 50g frozen peas
  • 4 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 green apple, cored and finely chopped (we used a Granny Smith)
  • 3 scallions, finely sliced
  • 1 tsp capers, drained
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 Little Gem lettuce, leaves washed and dried, heart split in two
  • a few handfuls of soft herbs e.g. tarragon, parsley, mint, chives

FOR THE GARLIC CROUTONS:

  • 2 slices of sourdough or white baguette
  • a drizzle of olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic

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

Drizzle the bread with some oil and season, then roast in the oven for 12-15 minutes, turning halfway through. They should be crispy and golden.

Once baked, rub the bread with the raw garlic and cut into croutons.

Bring a pan of water to the boil. Add the potatoes, mint sprig and 1 tsp salt, then simmer for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender, no firmness should remain. Drain and discard the mint.

Meanwhile, bring another pan of water to the boil and add the eggs. Cook for 6 minutes and 30 seconds for firm whites and runny yolks, then drain under cold running water to cool and peel.

Bring another pan of salty water to the boil. Chop the asparagus spears into three and boil for 3-4 minutes or until just tender. Remove with a slotted spoon, then bring the water back to the boil and ad a pinch of sugar. Add the peas and cook for 2-3 minutes or until tender. Drain.

Toss the potatoes with 2 tbsp of the mayonnaise, apple, scallions and capers. Whisk the olive oil and white wine vinegar together, season, then dress the lettuce and soft herbs, the asparagus and peas. Spread the rest of the mayonnaise across a serving plat, top with the postates and dressed salad, halve the eggs and add more mayonnaise if you like. Garnish with the croutons and extra herbs.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

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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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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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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 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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This is easier to make than you think, particularly if you have a food processor to hand, though a whisk and a bowl will also work. So much nicer freshly made than any bought version and good with fish dishes or a roast chicken. 

If you go a fraction too fast pouring in the oil, it is easy for it to de-emulsify and go to liquid again as we did with this one. Do not dispair as it’s also easy to save – just pour the split mix into a jug and start again with 10ml water in the food processor, slowly adding the split mix and then the remaining oil. It all, miraculously comes back together again!

Aïoli – serves 4 to 6

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar
  • a big pinch of salt
  • 200ml groundnut oil or sunflower oil
  • 50ml good olive oil

Put the egg yolks, garlic, mustard, vinegar and salt in a food processor and blitz for 20 seconds. Keep the motor running while you add the groundnut oil/sunflower oil. You need to add slowly in a very thin drizzle, and then finish with the olive oil. 

You should get a nice thick mayonnaise and if it all goes wrong, follow the instructions in the introduction. If it’s a bit too thick at any point, you can add a splash of cold water to thin it, then continue adding the oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

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

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We served this as a side with a barbecue but it would also make a nice dinner for 2.

Couscous & chickpeas in ras el hanut spice – serves 4 as a side or 2 as a main

  • ½ a small onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp ras el hanut spice mix
  • 100g cooked chickpeas (from a tin)
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 60g couscous
  • 180ml boiling water
  • 15-20g coriander, chopped

Heat the oil in a pan, then fry the onion and garlic over a medium heat until softened and starting to colour. Add the salt and ras el hanut and mix for about 20 seconds. Add the chickpeas and diced tomato and cook for another minute. Stir in the couscous and boiling water, bring to the boil, then turn off the heat and cover.

Leave the couscous aside for 10 minutes to absorb the liquid, then remove the lid and use a fork to separate the grains and mix in the chopped coriander. Serve warm or at room temperature.

(Original recipe from Honey & Co. Food from the Middle East, Saltyard Books, 2014.)

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We know it’s a bit early for tomatoes, but this salad tastes good even with the blandest of specimens, so you’re good to go. A great side dish for a barbecue. You can get everything prepped up to an hour in advance but don’t toss it all together until ready to serve.

Tomato & za’atar fatoush – serves 4

  • 1 pitta, cut in half to make two thin round pieces
  • olive oil
  • 1 head of Little Gem lettuce
  • 250g mixed tomatoes
  • 150g feta
  • 2 springs of fresh oregano, leaves picked
  • 2 tsp za’atar
  • 2 heaped tbsp fresh pomegranate seeds

FOR THE DRESSING:

  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 2 tbsp good olive oil
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • a pinch of black pepper

Peel the garlic and bash with a knife to flatten. Mix it with the other dressing ingredients and allow to infuse for an hour at room temperature. Discard the garlic clove before mixing the dressing with the salad.

Brush the pitta bread with a little olive oil and toast until lightly golden and crispy. Break into bite-sized pieces.

Separate the lettuce leaves and cut into large strips.

Cut the tomatoes in different ways – slice some, chop into chunks and just half the little ones. You want them bite-sized rather than finely chopped.

Break the feta into chunks.

When ready to serve put the pitta pieces, lettuce, tomatoes, feta, oregano and za’atar into a large bowl. Pour over the dressing and gently mix everything together. Serve on a large platter with the pomegranate seeds sprinkled over.

(Original recipe from Honey & Co. Food from the Middle East by Sarit Packer & Itamar Srulovich.)

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Rachel Roddy is a great inspiration for us in the kitchen. Her recipes are so simple but just right. This spaghetti dish has no pepper or cheese and doesn’t need them, it’s delicious as it is and a treat at any time of year.

Wine Suggestion: We were inspired by the bright Spring day and this dish to open the Spiaggia Marche Bianco. A youthful Verdicchio from the Sartarelli family who live and breathe Verdicchio. Joyful and charming; everything we were hoping for.

Spaghetti aglio, olio al limone – serves 4

  • 2 large unwaxed lemons, zest grated
  • a large handful of flat-leaf parsley, very finely chopped
  • 500g spaghetti
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
  • 1 small dried chilli or a pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • 6 tbsp of olive oil

Mix the lemon zest and chopped parsley together and set aside.

Bring a large pan of water to the boil, add lots of salt, then stir in the spaghetti and cook until al dente.

Meanwhile, very gently warm the olive oil in a large frying pan with the chopped garlic and chilli. You want it to be fragrant but be very careful not to burn it.

Use tongs to lift the spaghetti out of the water and into the frying pan, you want a little of the residual cooking water. Stir the spaghetti to coat in the oil, then add the lemon zest and parsley and a pinch of salt. You can also add a squeeze of lemon juice if you like, we usually don’t feel it needs it. Divide between warm pasta bowls.

(Original recipe from Two Kitchens: Family Recipes from Sicily and Rome by Rachel Roddy, Headline Home, 2017.)

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The first thing to mention, is that this is not like the cauliflower in cheese sauce that we all know and love, but no less because of that. This dish is more set, more ‘eggy’ and has a distinctive tang from the soured cream. It also reheats particularly well, regular cauliflower cheese tends to split. So the verdict is that you should definitely give this a go – we served as a side with a dish of minty peas and lettuce and some baked ham. It could definitely work as a main either with a green salad or green veg.

Cauliflower gratin with soured cream – serves 4

  • a knob of butter, for greasing the dish
  • 50g breadcrumbs
  • 1 large cauliflower, about 1kg when the leaves have been removed, cut into medium-sized florets
  • 350ml soured cream
  • 125g Cheddar cheese, grated
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 3 tsp mustard
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1½ tsp black pepper
  • 50g sunflower seeds

Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.

Grease a ceramic baking dish with butter, then sprinkle with the breadcrumbs.

Bring a large pan of water to the boil and cook the florets for about 6 minutes, or until just tender. Drain, then steam dry in the warm pot for a few minutes and drain again on some kitchen paper to make sure no water remains.

Combine the soured cream, 100g of the cheese and eggs with the nutmeg, mustard and seasoning in a large bowl.

Put the drained cauliflower into the prepared dish, then pour over the soured cream mixture. Sprinkle with the rest of the cheese and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, covering with foil if it starts to brown too quickly.

Serve with the sunflower seeds scattered over the top.

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

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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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This soup really couldn’t be simpler and it’s nice and filling for lunchtime. 

Tomato Soup with Chickpeas, Orzo & Pesto – serves 4

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 celery sticks, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 400g tin chickpeas
  • 150g orzo pasta
  • 700ml vegetable stock
  • 2 tbsp basil pesto

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and celery and fry for 10-15 minutes, or until starting to soften, then add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add all of the other ingredients, except for the pesto and remaining oil, and bring to the boil. 

Reduce the heat and leave to simmer for 6 to 8 minutes or until the orzo is tender. Season to taste and divide between warm bowls. Stir in the remaining olive oil with the pesto, then drizzle over the soup. 

(Original recipe form BBC Good Food)

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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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