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Posts Tagged ‘Cooking’

It’s never really too late to make your Christmas cake, though if you’re organised and have done it in October/November you’ve got longer to “feed” it. To be frank, I always have the best of intentions to make one early but never seem to get around to it until the very end of November or sometimes a week or two before the big day.

This version is fruit and booze rich, plus it has the added bonus of warm spices and stem ginger which makes it feel like a good hug alongside a mid-morning coffee.

We’re not big on icing, so when we’re ready to eat it I just glaze it with a spoon or two of apricot jam melted on the stovetop with a teaspoon or two of water. You can put blanched almonds on top for decoration if you like at this point. Sometimes we skip this stage too and just dig in.

Note: when looking for candied peel look out for the best you can find as it really makes a difference and you’ll get great flavours without them being too sweet and confected. This year our friends in Cavistons had whole candied oranges and clementines that we just couldn’t go past.

A warm and spicy Christmas cake

  • 200g of the best candied peel you can find
  • 800g mixed dried fruit (we used blueberries, raisins and cranberries this year, but quite often have currants in the mix too)
  • 150ml dark rum, plus extra to feed
  • 250g unsalted butter
  • 200g dark muscovado sugar
  • 1 orange, zested & juiced
  • 1 lemon, zested & juiced
  • 175g plain flour
  • 125g ground almonds
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 5 balls of stem ginger (in syrup), drained and chopped
  • 5 medium eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Put the peel and dried fruit into a large saucepan with the rum, butter, sguar and citrus zest and juice. Bring to the boil over a medium heat, then reduce to a simmer and heat until the butter has melted. Leave to cool for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the oven to 150C/130C fan/Gas 2.

Line a deep 20cm cake tin with a double layer of baking parchment, then wrap a double layer of brown paper (or newspaper) around the outside and secure with string.

Tip the flour, ground almonds, baking powder and spices into the saucepan with the cooled fruit and syrupy liquid, then add the stem ginger, eggs and vanilla. Stir with a wooden spoon until there are no floury bits.

Tip the mixture into the prepared tin, level the top and bake on the middle shelf for 2 hours until cooked through. Remove from the oven, poke holes into the top with a skewer and spoon over 2 tbsp rum, then leave to cool completely in the tin.

When the cake has cooled, peel off the baking parchment, then wrap in fresh parchment and store in an airtight tin. Feed the cake with 1-2 tbsp rum every fortnight, up to four times, but don’t feed it in the final week if you plan on icing or glazing it as you need the surface to be dry.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

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Who doesn’t love meatballs. There’s at least one person in this house who would have them every week. This recipe by Olia Hercules makes heaps to help with that problem.

Wine Suggestion: great with a simple Sangiovese with bright and slightly crunchy fruits and a good wack of tannins. Rocca delle Macie’s Chianti Vernaiolo is our standby and doesn’t hide behind oak, rather celebrates the joy of fruit. The added joy is the smooth tannins this wine brings despite the potentially awkward Sangiovese grape; they have a great feel for getting the balance right even with a bouncingly youthful cuvee.

Olia’s Meatballs – Sugo Della Mamma – makes 30 meatballs

FOR THE MEATBALLS:

  • 60g stale sourdough bread with crusts (or dry out 80g of fresh bread chunks in the oven)
  • 250ml hot whole milk
  • 20g parsley, very finely chopped
  • 400g beef mince
  • 400g pork mince
  • 1 small egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely grated
  • 100g Pecorino/Parmesan, finely grated, plus extra to serve
  • ¼ nutmeg, finely grated

FOR THE SAUCE:

  • up to 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and bruised but left whole
  • 800g tomato passata or 2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
  • a couple of sprigs of basil
  • Tagliagelle, pappardelle or orecchiette, to serve

Put the bread into a bowl and pour over the hot milk. Leave for 5 mintues then press the bread down to make sure it’s all soaked. Cover and leave for 15 minutes.

Mix the mince, egg, bread and soaking milk, grated garlic, parsley, cheese and nutmeg together. Season well with 1 tbsp of sea salt and lots of black pepper. Use your hands to mix it all together really well.

Wet your hands and shape the mixture into about 30 golf-ball sixed meatballs.

Heat 3 tbsp of the olive oil for the sauce. Fry the meatballs in batches until browned on a couple of sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.

If you need more fat you can add the extra 2 tbsp of oil, then add the bruised garlic and cook for a few minutes to infuse the oil, then remove and discard.

Add the passata or tomatoes to the pan, then fill the jar or tin with 200ml water and add that with a generous pinch of salt. Cook over a medium-low heat for 15 minutes. Gently place the meatballs into the sauce and cook for 15-20 minutes at a gentle bubble. Add the basil sprigs for the last 5 minutes of cooking time.

Cook the pasta, then roughy drain so a little water remains. Return the pasta to the pot it was cooked in, ladle over the sauce and meatballs and gently stir to combine.

Serve with extra grated pecorino.

(Original recipe from Home Food by Olia Hercules, Bloomsbury, 2022.)

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Ixta Belfrage’s book, Mezcla, is full of genuinely new dishes with lots of flavour combinations that we’ve never tried before. These mushroom noodles are a great example. We used a mix of oyster mushrooms and ceps which worked well, but oyster mushrooms are definitely the way to go here. You can make the sauce ahead of time if you like.

Wine Suggestion: It’s not only mushroom season, but it’s Beaujolais Nouveau week too, so we had the luck of matching this dish with a bottle from our friend Chris. The Lapalu Beaujolais Villages Nouveau was smooth, dark fruited and earthy.

Oyster mushroom noodles – serves 2 as a main very generously

  • 200g fresh medium egg noodles (if you have dried egg noodles, cook them first)
  • 1 tsp finely grated lemon zest and 2 tbsp juice
  • 10g chives, finely chopped
  • 10g dill, picked from the stems
  • créme fraîche or sour cream, to serve

FOR THE MUSHROOMS:

  • 400g oyster mushrooms
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp fine salt

FOR THE SAUCE:

  • 40g unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to serve
  • 2 onions, very finely chopped
  • ¾ tsp caraway seeds
  • 1¼ tsp fine salt
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely grated
  • 500g chicken stock or veg stock
  • 2 ½ tsp English mustard
  • 5 tbsp double cream

Preheat the oven to 200C fan/220C.

Tear the mushrooms in half. Line a large baking tray with parchment, add the mushrooms, oil and salt and toss with your hands, then spread out over the tray. Roast in the oven for 22-25 minutes, stirring halfway, or until golden-brown and starting to crisp at the edges. Set aside.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Put the butter, oil, onions, caraway seeds and ¾ tsp of fine salt into a large sauté and put over a medium heat. Gently fry for about 12 minutes, stirring regularly, until soft and caramelized. Turn the heat down to the lowest setting and continue cooking for another 5 minutes, you are looking for deep golden-grown but not burned or crispy. Remove half the onions onto a plate and set aside. Add the garlic to the pan and fry for 1 minutes, stirring, then remove the pan from the heat.

Add the stock, mustard, cream, ½ tsp of fine salt and lots of black pepper to the pan with the onions. Stir, then add half of the roasted mushrooms. Return to a medium heat and cook for 4 minutes. Stir the noodles into the sauce and cook for 3 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened slightly and the noodles are hot.

Stir in the lemon juice and half the herbs. Transfer to a warm platter and top with the rest of the herbs, the lemon zest and the mushrooms and onions that you set aside before. Spoon over some crème fraîche or sour cream and finish with olive oil and black pepper.

(Original recipe from Mezcla by Ixta Belfrage, Ebury Press, 2022.)

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We love simple ideas like this one for mid-week inspiration. We used ready-made spinach gnocchi, try and find a decent brand if you can.

Gnocchi with mushroom and paprika butter – serves 3

  • 50g butter
  • 400g chestnut mushrooms
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 2 tsp chopped rosemary
  • ½ tsp hot smoked paprika
  • 500g pack gnocchi
  • 100ml sour cream or crème fraîche
  • grated Parmesan, to serve

Heat a small knob of the butter in a pan, add the mushrooms and ½ tsp salt, and cook until soft and golden.

Add the rest of the butter, garlic and rosemary, then cook gently for 4-5 minutes.

Stir in the paprika and season with black pepper, then keep over a low heat while you cook the gnocchi.

Drain the gnocchi and tip into the mushroom pan. Toss everything together and serve in warm bowls with a dollop of cream, lots of black pepper and some Parmesan.

(Original recipe by Janine Ratcliffe in Olive Magazine, October 2019.)

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This is a nice soupy-stew sort of thing. Perfect for cold nights but still with nice fresh flavours.

Wine Suggestion: We went a bit left-field for this dish and look for an aged white Rioja where you get the roundness and poise of an oaked chardonnay but with a slightly softer acidity. Graceful in age the Urbina Rioja Bianco Crianza 2014 was both youthful with melon and citrus fruits, and with a layer of aged, tertiary fennel, aniseed and peach. A joy to know this is the current release from an under the radar winery.

Chicken with leeks & orzo – serves 3

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 large chicken thighs
  • 250g leeks, cut into short lengths, wash well to get rid of any grit and pat dry with kitchen paper.
  • 1 litre chicken stock
  • half a lemon, cut into 2 fat wedges
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • 200g orzo
  • 150g frozen peas
  • a small handful of parsley, roughly chopped
  • a small handful of tarragon, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Heat the oil in a large, deep casserole dish. Fry the chicken thighs until well-browned on both sides, then remove and set aside.

Add the leeks to the chicken fat in the pan and cook over a medium-low heat, with the lid on, for 5 minutes, you want them softened but not browned.

Add the stock and stir with a wooden spoon until it comes to the boil, then add half the lemon, peppercorns and 1 tsp of salt. Scatter in the orzo and boil for 3 minutes. Return the chicken to the pan, then cover and bake for 35 minutes.

Add the peas, then return to the oven for another 5 minutes. Add the tarragon and parsley and serve in warm bowls.

(Original recipe from A Cook’s Book by Nigel Slater, 4th Estate, 2021)

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We served this with steak but it would be nice with other vegetable dishes too.

Pomegranate-glazed aubergine – serves 4

  • 2 large aubergines, peeled and cut into 2.5cm rounds
  • 3-4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 scallions, finely sliced on the diagonal
  • a generous handful of salted peanuts, chopped

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

Line a large baking tray with baking paper.

Set the aubergine slices onto the baking tray, then brush both sides with olive oil. Bake in the oven for 22-25 minutes until cooked through but not browned.

Mix the pomegranate molasses and maple syrup together, then use a pastry brush to brush evenly over both sides of the aubergines, then sprinkle with some flaked sea salt. Roast for another 5-6 minutes or until glazed and sticky.

Scatter with the scallion and peanuts before serving.

(Original recipe from Persiana Everyday by Sabrina Ghayour, Asteer, 2022.)

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A roasting tin dinner for busy evenings and when a batch of “very” late season cherry tomatoes land in our lap.

Rosemary & balsmic salmon with tomatoes – serves 4 (easily halved)

  • 4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 sprigs rosemary, 2 left whole and needles picked and finely chopped from the rest
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely sliced
  • 600g cherry tomatoes
  • 2 x 400g tins cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 4 small salmon fillets
  • 2 handfuls of rocket

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

Whisk the baslsamic, olive oil, chopped rosemary, garlic, and seasoning, together in a small bowl.

Tip the tomatoes and beans into a large roasting tray. Nestle in the salmon fillets, then pour over the dressing. Toss gently to make sure everything is coated in dressing.

Bake for 12-14 minutes or until the fish flakes easily. Give the beans and tomatoes another gentle toss and push down on a few tomatoes to burst them. Scatter over the rocket and serve.

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

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We’ve made a salad like this before but this one is fresher and makes a great side dish for a crowd. We served it with some spicy baked salmon.

Georgian kidney bean salad – serves 6 to 8

  • 2 x 400g tins kidney beans (we used 300g dried kidney beans, rinse then soak in 3 times the volume of cold water for 5 hours. Drain and put into a saucepan covered by an inch with cold water, then boil hard for 30 minutes, stirring to prevent any sticking)
  • 50g flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • 2 heaped tsp dried mint
  • 2 banana shallots, very thinly sliced into rings
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp pul biber chilli flakes
  • Maldon salt & fresh ground black pepper

If you are using tinned beans, drain them rinse well under a cold tap to get rid of the briny liquid. Shake the beans dry, then tip into a large bowl.

Add the rest of the ingredints to the bowl and fold together gently, you don’t want to crush the beans. Season well with salt and pepper, stir again and leave at room temperature for 20-30 minutes.

Stir well again before serving.

(Original recipe from Persiana Everyday by Sabrina Ghayour, Aster, 2022.)

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The mussels are cooked in a fairly light sauce but packed with flavour. Serve with some crusty bread if you like.

Wine Suggestion: This dish demands a white with good bones, though you need to keep it fresh and savoury as well for the taste of the sea the mussels bring. We chose to good effect Quinta Soalheiro’s Alvarinho Reserva which comes from some of their oldest vineyards in the north of Portugal. Aromatically intense with a complex structure, it nonetheless also maintains a salty freshness from the grape making it a great match for mussels.

Mussels and orzo with coconut & saffron – serves 4

  • 1kg mussels, scrubbed and debearded
  • 80g orzo pasta
  • 30g unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ a small onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, very finely chopped
  • 1 yellow pepper, chopped into 1cm pieces
  • 1 Scotch bonnet chilli
  • 1¼ tsp fine salt
  • 150g yellow cherry tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • ½ tsp tomato purée
  • ¾ tsp saffron threads
  • 400g tin coconut milk
  • up to 2 tsp chilli paste, we used paté bomba con peponcini piccanti (optional)
  • 1 lemon

FOR THE HERB OIL:

  • 5g chives, finely chopped
  • 5g coriander, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • a pinch of fine salt

Put the orzo into a medium-sized ball and cover with boiling water. Set aside to soak for 15 minutes, then drain and rinse.

Heat the butter and oil in a large, shallow sauté pan over a medium-low heat. Add the onion, pepper, the whole Scotch bonnet and the salt. Cook gently for about 8 minutes, or until soft but not coloured.

Add the tomatoes, tomato purée and saffron and stir-fry for 2 minutes, then stir in the coconut milk and simmer for 3 minutes.

Add the orzo, then spread the mussels out on top. Cover with a lid, turn the heat to the lowest setting and cook for 5 minutes or until the mussels have all opened.

Discard the whole chilli, you can give it a squeeze into the sauce first if you like heat. Taste the sauce and add some chilli paste if you like.

Squeeze plenty of lemon juice over the mussels, then mix all the ingredients for the herb oil together and spoon over the top.

(Original recipe from Mezcla by Ixta Belfrage, Ebury Press, 2022.)

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A delicious autumnal dish for not just sauerkraut lovers, but we think something to convert skeptics too. The sauerkraut provides freshness to the rich cream and cheese, plus it complements the velvety butternut texture.

Butternut squash with sauerkraut and gruyère – serves 3

  • 3 small butternut squash
  • 30g butter
  • 1 tsp thyme leaves
  • 2 medium to large onions, finely sliced
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • a small bunch of parsley, roughly chopped
  • 250g sauerkraut
  • 150ml double cream
  • 125g Gruyère, grated

Heat the oven to 200C.

Cut the butternut squash in half and scoop out the seeds and fibres with a spoon. Set the halves in a large roasting tin, then dot over the butter, sprinkle over the thyme and season with salt and pepper. Bake in the hot over for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until soft.

Meanwhile, warm the oil in a large deep pan, over a medium heat. Add the onions and cook for about 20 minutes or until pale gold and soft. Stir the parsley into the onions, then remove from the heat and add the sauerkraut, cream and cheese. Season.

When the squash are ready, divide the cheese and sauerkraut mixture betwen them, then return to the oven for another 20 minutes or until golden and bubbling.

(Original recipe from A Cook’s Book by Nigel Slater, 4th Estate, 2021.)

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We’re starting to switch to more autumnal dishes. This is thoroughly traditional in style and will put a bit of warmth in your belly. The best side for all pies is peas to which we added a few glazed carrots. Comfort food for cold weather.

Wine Suggestion: We’ve gone a bit mad for Portuguese reds the past while and for this it was no different as we opened, and enjoyed the Herdade do Sobroso Red. From the Alentejo this is an Aragonez, Alicante Bouschet, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah blend, having the joy of having a rich core, alongside an elegance and freshness that sits very nicely with the sausages and gravy.

Sausage & Mash Pie – serves 4

  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 8 large pork sausages
  • 25g butter
  • 2 onions, finely sliced
  • a pinch of golden caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 500ml beef stock
  • frozen peas, cooked to serve

FOR THE MASH:

  • 1.25kg floury potatoes, such as Maris Piper or Roosters, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 150ml whole milk
  • 25g butter
  • 25g mature cheddar, coarsely grated

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and gently cook the sausages over a medium-high heat for 10-12 minutes or until browned on all sides. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Add the butter to the pan and heat until sizzling, then add the onions and sugar and cook for 8-10 minutes or until golden. Scatter over the flour and stir to make a paste, then add the tomato purée and cook for a minute. Add the vinegar, then pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Tip any juices from the sausages into the pan, then slice the sausages into chunky pieces and add these too. Simmer for 5 minutes or until you have a rich and glossy gravy. Tip the mixture into a large baking dish.

Meanwhile, put the potatoes into a pan of cold salted water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10-12 minutes or until just cooked. Drain and leave to steam dry for a minute. Pour the milk into the pan and bring to a simmer, then tip in the drained potatoes and butter, and mash. Season to taste.

Top the sausages with the mash, starting at the edge and working into the middle, careful not to leave any gaps or the gravy will bubble through. Use a fork to scrape lines along the surface and sprinkle with the cheese.

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

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until browned. Remove the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving with the peas.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

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These are a nice spin on regular sausage roll. Great for a snack with some ketchup.

Sausage rolls with barberries & dill – makes 16

  • 370g ready-rolled puff pastry
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds

FOR THE FILLING:

  • 350g sausagemeat
  • 3 scallions, finely sliced
  • 15g dill, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp dried barberries
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp garlic granules
  • 1 tsp pul biber chilli flakes

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

Line a large baking tray with baking paper.

Put all of the filling ingredients into a large bowl. Season generously with maldon salt and black pepper, then mix with your hands for a couple of minutes until evenly combined.

Divide the puff pastry sheet in two, lengthways.

Divide the sausage mixture in two, then form two long sausages, almost the same length as the pastry strips. Place a sausage in the middle of each piece of pastry. Brush one edge of the pastry with egg, then fold the pastry edges over to enclose the sausage. The beaten egg will help to seal them.

Turn the rolls over so the seam is underneath, then cut each roll into 8 pieces.

Transfer to the baking tray and brush the tops with the beaten egg. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds, then bake in the hot oven for 22-25 minutes or until well browned. Leave to cool for a few minutes before serving with some ketchup if you like.

(Original recipe from Persiana Everyday by Sabrina Ghayour, Aster, 2022.)

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A delicious steak recipe from Mezcla by Ixta Belfrage. Ixta fries the steak in a pan over a high heat, we used a barbecue – fabulous flavours either way. You will need to grind about 3 black limes to get enough for the marinade and the butter.

Wine Suggestion: Thanks to our friends Tim & Mick, who’ve been travelling recently, we had an excellent Öküzgözü from Turkey which was regal, refined, and a delightful surprise. We wish we could remember the name of the winery as we forgot to take a picture and the bottle recycling was done the next day before we remembered! Full of black cherry, raspberry, and dark mulberry flavours; this was complex and had layers of dark chocolate, licorice, leather, tobacco, cloves, and something slightly herbal and minty, but we couldn’t put our finger on what.

Bavette steak with black lime & maple butter – serves 4

  • 500g bavette steak, cut into 3 equal pieces
  • 300g ripe tomatoes
  • ½ red onion
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges, to serve

FOR THE MARINADE:

  • 1 tsp fine salt
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp Urfa chili flakes (we used a mixture of smoked paprika and aleppo pepper)
  • 1½ tsp ground black lime
  • about 50 twists of black pepper

FOR THE SOY AND MAPLE BUTTER:

  • 40g ghee or unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce or tamari
  • 2½ tsp maple syrup
  • ½ a small clove of garlic, finely grated
  • ¾ tsp ground black lime
  • ¾ tsp Urfa chilli flakes (see above)

Pat the steak dry and put into a large bowl. Add all the marinade ingredients and rub into the steaks. Leave aside for 10 minutes or up to 1 hour (you can do this further ahead and leave in the fridge but make sure you bring them back to room temperature before cooking).

Get your barbecue very hot, then sear the steaks for 2 minutes on each side, you want them dark brown on the outside but rare in the middle. Transfer to a warm plate and rest for 8 minutes, turning over halfway.

While the steaks are resting, slice the tomatoes and onions and arrange on a platter. Sprinkle with ½ tsp flaked salt.

Melt the ghee in a small saucepan over a medium heat. When it is melted and hot, remove from the heat and stir in the soy sauce, maple syrup, garlic, black lime and chilli flakes.

Slice the bavette against the grain and arrange over the onions and tomatoes. Sprinkle with some sea salt, then spoon over the soy and maple butter and serve with the lemon wedges on the side.

(Original recipe from Mezcla by Ixta Belfrage, Ebury Press, 2022.)

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This is fun to cook outside over fire but you can of course cook it on the hob too if you’re feeling less adventurous. Weather dependent though … we had a gap in the rain in Ireland and seized the day.

Wine Suggestion: Inspired by Jono’s trip to visit producers in California we opened a Cline Vineyards Pinot Noir from the Petaluma gap in Sonoma. Inexpensive for a Pinot, and yet so well balanced from the cooling fogs pouring in from the pacific, this is food friendly, open and joyful. At no point does this feel too heavy for the food and has the right amount of juicy fruit to complement the barbecue-smokey flavours.

FOR THE SPICE MIX:

  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • ½ tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • ½ cinnamon stick, broken up
  • 2 cloves
  • 3 black cardamom pods, crushed
  • 2 bay leaves

FOR THE KEEMA:

  • 3 tbsp veg oil or ghee
  • 500g venison mince
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 cm piece of ginger, finely chopped
  • 200ml water
  • 2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 3 long green chillies, finely sliced
  • 100g peas
  • 2 tbsp roughly chopped mint
  • 2 tbsp roughly chopped coriander

FOR THE CORIANDER AND GARLIC YOGHURT

  • 150m natural yoghurt
  • 2 small cloves of garlic, finely grated
  • 1 tsp finely chopped coriander stalks

TO SERVE:

  • nann breads
  • mango chutney or lime pickle (optional)

Put all of the spice mix ingredients into a dry frying pan with the bay leaves and toast over a medium heat for a few minutes until fragrant. Remove from the heat and leave to cool, then crush to a fine powder.

Put a large fire-proof pan over the hot embers of your fire and add the oil or ghee. If you’re cooking inside use a large deep frying pan or shallow casserole. When hot, add the venison mince and cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring, until well browned and almost crispy.

Add the onion and cook for another few minutes until softened, then stir in the garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant. Stir in 3 tbsp of the spice mix and continue cooking for another minute.

Pour in the water and bring to a simmer. Simmer until the liquid is reduced by half.

Meanwhile, mix the ingredients for the yoghurt together in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper.

Add the chopped tomatoes chillies and peas and warm through. Season with salt and pepper and stir through the herbs.

Serve with warm naan breads and Indian chutneys or pickles.

(Original recipe from Outdoor Cooking by Tom Kerridge, Bloomsbury Absolute, 2021.)

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Pastrami bagel of dreams. We used some rose veal pastrami from Broughgammon Farm in Ballycastle but any pastrami will do.

Pastrami & cheese bagels – serves 4

  • 4 bagels
  • 8 slices of gruyère
  • 600g pastrami, finely sliced
  • 175g sauerkraut
  • dill pickles, to serve

FOR THE DRESSING:

  • 120g kewpie mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp capers, rinsed and dried
  • 6 cornichons, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped chives
  • a squirt of tomato ketchup
  • a squirt of sriracha sauce
  • a squeeze of lemon juice
  • a dash of fish sauce

Make the dressing first by whisking all the ingredients together. Taste and season as needed.

If you have a sandwich press, heat it up. We don’t and so cooked these in a heavy frying pan with another heavy frying pan on top to act like a press.

Cut the bagels in half, then put a slice of cheese on the bottom half of each. Top with loosely folded pastrami, sauerkraut and another slice of cheese. Cover with the bagel tops. Cook in the press or in a frying pan for about 4 minutes or until the cheese has melted, then open the bagels and spoon over the dressing.

Serve with the dill pickles on the side.

(Original recipe from Everything I Love to Cook by Neil Perry, Murdoch Books, 2021.)

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Who doesn’t love squeaky cheese? This baked halloumi is good as a side dish with some roasted chicken thighs, or you could serve as a starter with some flatbreads.

Baked halloumi with lemon, thyme & honey – serves 2-4

  • 250g block halloumi cheese
  • 2 tbsp garlic oil
  • 1 heaped tbsp clear honey
  • finely grated zest of 1 large lemon and juice of half
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • ½ tsp coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp pul biber chilli flakes
  • flatbread, to serve

Heat your oven to 220C (200C fan), Gas 7.

Prepare a piece of tinfoil, large enough to completely encase the halloumi. Line the tinfoil with a square of baking paper and put the halloumi in the middle. Scrunch the paper tighly around the block, leaving only the top exposed.

Mix all of the other ingredients together in a small bowl, then pour over the halloumi.

Scrunch the foil around the halloumi to make a sealed parcel. Put the parcel into a small ovenproof dish and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove form the oven and serve with warm flatbread.

(Original recipe from Persiana Everyday by Sabrina Ghayour, Aster, 2022.)

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So tasty and an absolute doddle to prepare. We served with some crusty bread and baked halloumi. Delicious!

Za’atar, paprika & garlic chicken – serves 3

  • 6 large chicken thighs
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 heaped tbsp za’atar
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp garlic granules
  • finely grated zest of 1 lemon and juice of ½

Heat your oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas 4.

Line a baking tray with paper.

Put the chicken thighs into a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, and add the spices, lemon zest and juice and lots of salt and pepper. Mix with your hands to coat the chicken in the mixture.

Put the chicken onto the lined tray and roast for 1 hour or until well browned and cooked through (you can check at 45 minute if your thighs are small).

(Original recipe from Persian Everyday by Sabrina Ghayour, Aster, 2022.)

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A bit like a classic lasagne but there’s no béchamel and definitely less fuss altogether. It tastes absolutely amazing too. The recipe is from Mezcla by Ixta Belfrage; a book full of delicious things.

Wine Suggestion: we grabbed the first thing in the fridge which was the Zuani Bianco Riserva, an oaked Collio from North Eastern Italy which is a blend of Friulano, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio. Stunning, with so much complexity and layered fruits, savouriness and creamy textures. An under-rated part of the world. If you can’t find something like this, look for a lightly oaked white with a fresh acidity and a nutty finish.

Squash and sage lasagne gratin – serves 4 (generously)

  • half a large butternut squash, peeled and seeds discarded (about 500g)
  • 400g ripe cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely grated
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 2¾ tsp fine salt
  • 5g fresh sage leaves, roughly chopped, plus 10 extra leaves to serve
  • 6 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to finish
  • 220g double cream, plus extra 2 tbsp to serve
  • 80g Parmesan, finely grated, plus extra to serve
  • ¾ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 250g-300g dried lasagne sheets
  • 400g chicken stock (you can use veg stock if you prefer)

Heat the oven to 220C fan/240C.

Finely slice the butternut squash into very thin half moons – a mandoline is best for this or you could use the slicing attachment on a food processor.

Mix the squash slices, tomatoes, garlic, tomato purée, fine salt, chopped sage, 4 tbsp olive oil and lots of black pepper, together in a large bowl. Your hands are best to toss it all together.

Mix the cream, Parmesan and nutmeg together in another bowl. Set 80g of this mixture aside for later.

Cover the bottom of a baking dish (approx. 28cm x 23cm) with a layer of lasagne sheets, then a layer of the squash mixture. Spoon over some of the cream mixture, then continue the layering until you have used everything. Pour the stock evenly over everything in th edish, then cover tightly with foil and bake for 50 minutes.

Remove from the oven and remove the foil. Spoon over the reserved 80g of cream mixture and return to the oven, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

Mix 2 tbsp of the oil with the 10 sage leaves in a small bowl. Spoon this over the lasagne and return to the oven for a final 5-6 minutes, or until the sage leaves look crisp and the lasagne golden-brown.

Rest for 10 minutes, then finish with the 2 tbsp of cream, a good drizzle of olive oil and plenty of extra grated Parmesan, sea salt and black pepper.

(Original recipe from Mezcla by Ixta Belfrage, Ebury Press, 2022.)

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This was our first ever attempt at rough puff pastry. It’s actually pretty simple but you do need to start in the morning if you want to eat these for lunch. We had too much filling and we made some extras with shop-bought puff pastry – these were good too! It’s a good idea to make the filling first as it needs to cool completely before stuffing the pasties.

Courgette, chard & feta pasties – serves 4

FOR THE FILLING:

  • a bunch of chard
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 6-8 small courgettes, sliced into 1cm rounds
  • finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • a large handful of basil leaves, chopped
  • a handful of flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
  • 150-200g feta cheese (or soft goat’s cheese)

FOR THE ROUGH PUFF PASTRY:

  • 250g unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
  • 500g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • a good pinch of salt
  • 200ml iced water

TO FINISH:

  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 tsp black onion seeds

Wash the chard, then remove the stalks from the leaves. Roughly chop the leaves and cut the stalks into 1cm pieces. Bring a pan of salty water to the boil and add the stalk pieces. Cook for a minute or two, then add the leaves and cook for another couple of minutes. Drain and allow to cool, then squeeze out any excess liquid from the leaves with your hands. Set aside.

Heat half the olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onions, garlic and some seasoning. Cook for 5-6 minutes, watching that they don’t catch. Add the courgettes and cook for another 15-20 minutes. You want the courgettes to be nice and soft but not disintegrated. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the chard, lemon zest, basil, parsley and more seasoning. Allow to cool completely, then crumble in the feta and gently mix together. Keep the filling cool while you make the pastry.

TO MAKE ROUGH PUFF PASTRY:

Combine the butter cubes, flour and salt in a large bowl. Add just enough cold water to bring everything together into a dough. It will have big pieces of butter in it and that’s ok.

Flour your surface well, then roll the dough in one direction, away from you, to a 1cm thick rectangle. Fold the two short ends into the middle so they overlap. Give the pastry a quarter turn, repeat the rolling, folding and turning process another three times (four in total). Wrap the pastry in baking paper and put into the fridge for 30 minutes. Remove the pastry and repeat the rolling, folding and turning process another 4 times. Return to the fridge again for another 30 minutes.

Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/400F/Gas 6.

Remove the chilled pastry from the fridge and roll out to 4-5mm thick. Use a 18-20cm plate or cutter to cut out 4 rounds. Put a quarter of the filling (or whatever fits) in the lower half of each round, leaving a 2cm border around the edge. Brush the border below the filling with beaten egg and fold the pastry over to encase the filling. Crimp the edges with a fork to seal, then brush with the egg and sprinkle over the onion seeds and a little bit of flaky sea salt.

Put the pasties on to a baking sheet lined with baking paper and bake for 45-50 minutes or until golden. Eat just warm or at room temperature.

(Original recipe from Outside by Gill Meller, Hardie Grant: Quadrille, 2022.)

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We love dal on a friday night with some naan breads from the takeaway.

Chana dal – serves 4

  • 400g yellow split peas or chana dal
  • 4 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • ½ tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 fresh red chillies, pricked with a knife in a few places

Rinse the dal in a few changes of cold water, until the water runs clear, then put into a saucepan. Cover with 1.25 litres of cold water and bring to the boil, then simmer for about 40 minutes, or until cooked. The texture should be soft with no bite or chalky texture.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tbsp of the oil in a frying pan. Add the onion and cumin seeds and cook for gently for about 15 minutes or until caramelized. Add half the garlic and fry for another few minutes, then remove from the heat.

Add the onion mixture to the dal, along with the garam masala, chilli powder and salt. Taste and add more salt if needed.

Wipe out the frying pan, then heat the remaining oil. Add the mustard seeds and fry until they pop, then add the rest of the garlic and the red chillies. As soon as the garlic starts to turn golden, take the pan off the heat and drizzle everything over the dal, garnishing with the chillies. Stir everything together before serving with rice, chapattis or naan and pickles.

(Original recipe from Made in India by Meera Sodha, Fig Tree, 2014.)

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