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This recipe is from Rachel Roddy’s fabulous book, An A-Z of pasta. She introduces this one by asking if you are familar with vitello tonnato, which happens to be one of Jules’ favourite dishes, so we had to try it. Rachel uses the lumache pasta shape, which means snails and they are a bit like snail shells. We found these hard to find so we substituted conchiglie to great effect.

Wine Suggestion: look for a crisp, fresh white with a good body/structure like a dry, unoaked chardonnay from a cooler region. For us it was Céline & Frèdéric Gueguen’s Bourgogne Côtes Salines. Grown in vineyards just outside the Chablis appellation this is vibrantly fresh apple and melon flavoured with a savoury mid-palate that just melts into the tuna sauce.

Conchiglie with tuna, egg & capers – serves 4

  • 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 stick of celery, trim to the palest bit, pull of any strings, and finely chop
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 x 200g tin of tuna in olive oil, drained
  • 2 tbsp tiny capers, rinsed
  • 200ml white wine
  • 1 unwaxed lemon, zested and juiced
  • 400g conchiglie (or lumache)
  • a sprig of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 egg yolks, beaten

Bring a large pan of water to the boil and add a generous amount of salt.

Warm the olive oil in a frying pan, then add the onion and celery with a pinch of salt and cook on a medium-low heat, until soft. You need to be patient as this will take a while.

Add the tuna and capers, stir for a minute, then add the wine and allow to bubble for 10 minutes, adding 3 tbsp of lemon juice and some zest for the last few minutes. You are looking for a saucy consistency so cook for a bit longer if it is still watery.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the packet timings, then drain and tip into a warm bowl, pour the sauce over the top, add the parsley, toss together, then quickly add the egg yolks and toss again.

(Original recipe from An A-Z of Pasta by Rachel Roddy, Penguin: Fig Tree, 2021.)

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We were very pleased to find a late season crown prince pumpkin at our farm shop last week, which is our favourite variety. You could easily use a butternut squash instead if pumpkin is not available. This is a mild and creamy curry from Sri Lanka.

This is not an attempt at veganuary, we love to eat vegetables just as much as meat and fish. After the excess of Christmas we find a variety of dishes very welcome.

Wine Suggestion: Look to complement the rich, creaminess with a richer, creamy white, like an oaky Chardonnay, or similar. We went a bit left field with an older bottle or Jean-Michel Gerin’s le Champine Viognier which had in our cellar. With a heady apricot, pineapple and mango exoticism and a rich, very textural palate it was an unexpected treat.

Vegan pumpkin & coconut curry – serves 4

  • 1kg pumpkin or butternut squash, peel, deseed and cut into 1 ½ cm cubes (you want about 900g of cubed pumpkin)
  • 2 tsp curry powder, not too hot
  • 1½ tbsp rapeseed oil
  • fine sea salt
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 5 long green chillies, finely sliced, we took the seeds out but you can leave them in if you want more heat
  • 12-15 curry leaves
  • ¾ tsp ground turmeric
  • ½ tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 150g cherry tomatoes
  • 1 x 10cm cinnamon stick, snapped in two
  • 2 x 400ml tins coconut milk
  • juice of 1 lime
  • rice, to serve

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

Line a baking tray with baking parchment.

Put the pumpkin pieces into a large bowl with the curry powder, rapeseed oil and ¾ tsp of fine sea salt, then toss together to coat. Tip the pumpkin out onto the lined tray and spread it out evenly. Bake in the oven for 35 minutes, then set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, put the onion, chillies, curry leaves, turmeric, fenugreek, garlic, cherry tomatoes, cinnamon stick and 1½ tsp of salt into a saucepan with 200ml of cold water. Bring to the boil over a medium-high heat and cook for about 12 minutes or until the onions and tomatoes are soft and the liquid almost evaporated.

Add the coconut milk and roasted pumpkin, then bring back to a gentle simmer, then remove from the heat and add the lime juice. Taste and add more lime or salt if needed.

(Original recipe by Meera Sodha in The Guardian, 1st January 2022.)

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This is a bit of a labour of love from Ottolenghi Flavour. A good bit, however, can be done in advance and the end result is worth it. If you’re not feeling so energetic you can buy some fancy gnocchi from the supermarket and use that instead of making the turnip gnocchi. And another cooking discovery … we’re definitely going to be mashing our turnip in the food processor from now on!

Wine Suggestion: We fancied a Chardonnay tonight and given the savoury nature of miso chose one from the Maçon in France with a touch of oak: Domaine Manciat-Poncet’s Pouilly-Vinzelles. From a vineyard area dating back to Roman times this has depth and breadth, combining a natural, fresh minerality with a fleshy opulence supported by an almond-hazelnut and toasty character.

Turnip gnocchi with miso butter – serves 4

  • 1-2 Maris Piper potatoes with skin on, approx. 400g
  • 2-3 small swede, peeled and roughly chopped into 2 cm cubes, approx. 600g
  • 70ml olive oil
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 150g ’00’ pasta flour
  • 500ml veg or chicken stock
  • 200g spinach, roughly chopped into 8cm lengths
  • 1 tbsp miso paste
  • 1 lime, finely grate the zest to get 1 tsp, then juice to get 2 tsp
  • 5g fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 50g unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp white sesame seeds, toasted

Heat the oven to 220C fan.

Wrap each potato in foil and bake for an hour or until cooked through. While warm, peel and mash, you should have about 230g of smooth mash. If you have a bit too much you can always eat some as dinner is still some time away.

You can cook the swede in the oven at the same time as the potato. Line a baking tray with baking parchment, spread the turnip over and drizzle with ½ tbsp of the olive oil. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes or until cooked through – it may take longer than this so do be patient. Put the cooked swede into a food processor with 2 tbsp of olive oil and blitz until smooth, you’ll need to scrape down the sides a few times. You should end up with about 320g of smooth swede.

Add the swede to the bowl of mashed potatoes, then add the egg yolk and ¼ tsp of salt and mix to combine. Fold in the flour and make sure it is all well mixed in with no lumps. Transfer the dough to a piping bag and put into the fridge for an hour (you can do this up to a day in advance).

Snip the end off the piping bag to give a 2cm wide opening. Fill a medium pot with 1.5 litres of water and 2 tsp of salt. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook the gnocchi in quite a few batches without overcrowding the pan. Pipe 3 cm pieces of dough into the water and use a small sharp knife to cut off each piece. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until the gnocchi float to the top. Scoop out the gnocchi with a slotted spoon and transfer to a tray lined with baking parchment. When all the gnocchi are cooked, drizzle them with 2 tsp of olive oil and return to the fridge for 20 minutes or until slightly chilled (you can also do this up to a day in advance).

Pour the stock into a large sauté pan over a medium-high heat and cook for 12-14 minutes or until reduced to 200ml. Add the spinach and cook for 2 minutes until tender, then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Return the liquid in the pan to a medium heat and whisk in the miso, lime juice, ginger and butter, then cook for 3 minutes, whisking until slightly thickened. Don’t let it boil or it will split. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside while you fry the gnocchi.

Heat the final 1 ½ tbsp of oil in a large frying pan on a medium-high heat. When very hot, add half the gnocchi and fry for 1-2 minutes on each side, until well browned all over. Transfer to a plate and continue with the rest. Add the cooked gnocchi and spinach to the sauce, then return to a medium-high heat and gently heat for a minute or two.

Divide between plates, sprinkle with lime zest, scallions and sesame seeds.

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

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A simple pasta dish with fantastic flavours. It looks veggie but actually contains anchovies and chicken stock. If you’re not bothered by those it’s a definite winner!

Conchiglie with chickpeas and za’atar – serves 4

  • 3 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to serve
  • a small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 10g thyme leaves, finely chopped
  • 25g anchovy fillets in oil, drained and chopped
  • 1 lemon, finely shave off a piece of the skin of half, then squeeze to get 2 tbsp of juice
  • 2 x 400g tins chickpeas, drained
  • 1 tsp soft brown sugar
  • 400ml chicken stock
  • 200g conchiglie pasta (or gigli or orecchiette)
  • 50g baby spinach
  • 15g parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1 ½ tsp za’atar

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan until hot, then add the onion, garlic, cumin, thyme, anchovies, lemon skin, ½ tsp of salt and plenty of black pepper. Fry for 3-4 minutes, stirring, until soft and golden.

Reduce the heat to medium-high and add the chickpeas and sugar. Fry for 8 minutes, stirring now and then, until the chickpeas start to brown and turn crispy. Add the chicken stock and lemon juice and simmer for 6 minutes, or until the sauce has slightly reduced. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Bring a large pan of salty water to the boil and cook the pasta according to the timings on the pack, then drain.

Stir the spinach and parsley into the chickpeas, if it doesn’t wilt you can warm the chickpeas through again gently. Add the pasta to the pan of chickpeas and stir to combine. Divide between bowls, then sprinkle with the za’atar and drizzle with olive oil.

(Original recipe from Ottolenghi Simple by Yotam Ottolenghi with Tara Wigley and Esme Howarth, Ebury Press, 2018.)

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It is dishes like this that make Claudia Roden’s cookbooks so popular and still so relevant. This soup is from her recent book, Med, and it is delicious with loads of flavour. Not a looker, but you really must try it.

Egyptian red lentil soup – serves 6

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 300g split red lentils
  • 2 litres chicken or veg stock
  • 1½-2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1½ tsp ground coriander
  • a good pinch of chilli powder
  • juice of 1 lemon

Warm the olive oil in a large saucepan, then gently cook the onion, carrot and garlic for about 10 minutes.

Add the lentils and stock, then bring to the boil. Skim off the foam that forms on the top, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes or until the lentils have collapsed.

Stir in the cumin, coriander, chilli powder and lemon juice, then season to taste.

(Original recipe from Med by Claudia Roden, Ebury Press, 2021.)

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Sprouts are for winter, not just for Christmas. Here’s an idea to make them shine.

Brussels sprouts with hazelnuts – serves 4

  • 50g hazelnuts
  • 450g Brussels sprouts, halved lengthways if large
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • ½ red onion, very finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Spread the hazelnuts out on a baking tray and roast for 8 minutes or until golden, then tip onto a clean tea-towel and rub to remove the skins. Roughly chop and set aside.

Put the sprouts in a bowl with 1 tbsp of the oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss well, then tip onto a baking tray and roast, shaking the tray from time to time, for 20-30 minutes or until tender and turning crispy.

Meanwhile, make a dressing by whisking the remaining 3 tbsp of olive oil with the lemon juice and mustard. Stir in the onion and season with salt and pepper.

When the sprouts are ready, transfer them to a bowl, add the hazelnuts and dressing and toss together.

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

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A simple idea to serve with drinks, something sparkly perhaps.

Wine Suggestion: a great match for any sparkling wine made with the Champenois method, double fermented in the bottle, and with some autolytic, yeasty, bready aromas that help give the structure for the food. Tonight a 100% Pinot Meunier from Laurent Lequart in the Vallée de la Marne, Champagne.

Smoked salmon, ricotta & dill wraps – makes 16

  • 300g soft ricotta
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon (use a zester if you have one rather than a grater)
  • a handful of dill, chopped, plus a bit extra to serve
  • 16 thin slices of smoked salmon

Mix the ricotta, lemon zest and dill together in a bowl. Season to taste with sea salt and black pepper.

Put 1 tsp of the ricotta mixture onto each slice of salmon and roll up, then skewer with a cocktail stick.

Arrange on a plaste and garnish with extra dill. Squeeze over some fresh lemon juice just before serving.

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

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This chicken dish is from OTK Shelf Love and is absolutely delicous; your kitchen will smell amazing. We had to try a few shops before we found the berbere spice, but it’s easily found online and worth the hunt. Out of interest this spice is integral to Ethiopian and Eritrean cooking and has a fiery, warm character that we now love. We served with roast Brussels sprouts with hazelnuts but any greens would be good.

Berbere spiced chicken, carrots & chickpeas – serves 4 to 6

  • 1 large onion, roughly chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 45g fresh coriander, separate the stocks and leaves and roughtly chop both
  • 2½ tbsp berbere spice
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 2½ tbsp runny honey
  • 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 800g carrots, peeled and cut into 4-5cm lengths
  • 2 tins of chickpeas, drained
  • 8 chicken thighs
  • 2-3 oranges, leave one whole and juice the rest to get 100ml

Heat the oven to 200C fan.

Put the onion, garlic, coriander stalks, berbere spice, tomato purée, honey, 1 tbsp of vinegar, 4 tbsp of oil, 1¾ tsp of salt and plenty of black pepper into a food processor and blend until smooth.

Put the mixture into a large roasting tin with the carrots, chickpeas, chicken thighs, orange juice and 150ml of water, then toss to combine.

Arrange the thighs so they are on the surface and skin-side up, then cover the dish tightly with foil. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and cook for another 40 minutes, turning the dish around half way through. Set aside for 10 minutes before serving.

Meanwhile, peel and segement the whole orange and roughly chop the flesh. Put the orange into a bowl with the coriander leaves, 2 tbsp of vinegar and 2 tbsp of oil. Season with salt and pepper and mix together.

When ready to serve, spoon the dressing over the baking dish and serve.

(Original recipe from Ottolenghi Test Kitchen Shelf Love by Noor Murad & Yotam Ottolenghi, Ebury Press, 2021.)

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Every year we get a Christmas gift of a cookbook, well we demand it really. This year’s was Med by Claudia Roden and we made this soup as soon as we got home. The flavours are unusual and very delicate but it’s really lovely.

Yoghurt soup with orzo & chickpeas – serves 4

  • 50g orzo
  • 700ml chicken stock (or you can use veg stock)
  • 1 tbsp cornflour
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 250g Greek-styke yoghurt
  • 1 tbsp dried mint
  • a good pinch of saffron threads
  • 120g tinned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • extra virgin olive oil, sumac & chilli powder (to garnish)

Cook the orzo in salty boiling water according to the pack instructions, then drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, bring the stock to the boil in another saucepan.

Put the egg yolk and cornflour into a bowl and whisk with a fork until smooth. Put a large spoonful of the yoghurt into the bowl and beat to combine, then beat in the rest of the yoghurt. Stir in the mint, saffron and some black pepper.

Remove the stock from the heat and add the yoghurt mixture, whisking continuously. Stir over a very low heat until beginning to simmer, then cook for 3-5 minutes or until slightly thickened. Add the chickpeas and heat through and season with salt to taste.

Mix the orzo into the soup just before serving.

Divide between warm bowls and garnish with the sumac, chilli powder and olive oil.

(Original recipe from Med A Cookbook by Claudia Roden, Ebury Press, 2021.)

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This is a mildly spiced curry and quick to prepare. We had it on Friday with some naan breads from the take-away, but it’s easy enough for a weeknight too. An easy, tasty treat.

Wine Suggestion: This dish needs a lighter red wine with lower tannins and little to no oak. We enjoyed Domaine de Boede’s Pavillon rouge with this. An easy, Cinsault-Syrah blend which has such purity and precision of fruit that we love; a good accompaniment for the food.

Chicken & spinach curry – serves 4

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • a pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbsp grated ginger
  • 750g chicken thigh fillets, cubed
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp soft brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 90g baby spinach, chopped
  • a large handful of coriander leaves, chopped

Heat the vegetable oil in a heavy-based pan, then gently cook the onions for about 5 minutes or until softened.

Stir in the spices, garlic and ginger, and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring.

Turn the heat up to medium-high, then add the chicken and cook for about 5 minute until browned all over.

Add the tomatoes and salt, bring to a simmer, then cover and simmer on a low heat for 15 minutes.

Stir in the sugar and lime juice, then add the spinach and stir until wilted. Take the pan off the heat, scatter the coriander over the top and serve.

(Original recipe from Every Day by Bill Granger, Murdoch Books, 2006.)

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We regularly cook chicken drumsticks mid-week. This is mainly because we end up taking them when we buy chicken thighs from the butchers, we know we’ll always use them. They’re cheap and good for taking on bold flavours, and we particularly liked this marinade.

Wine Suggestion: Find a white with a hint of lime/citrus and juicy, zesty fruits like a good Riesling, Verdejo or Sauvignon Blanc. For us tonight Anthony Girard’s La Clef du Recit Menetou Salon, a Sauv Blanc grown on soils similar to Chablis and becoming a regular at our house.

Lime, paprika & honey-glazed chicken drumsticks – serves 4

  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 8 chicken drumsticks
  • 2 red onions, cut into wedges
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 2 tbsp runny honey
  • 125ml chicken stock
  • 1 lime, cut into thin wedges
  • steamed rice, asian greens & fresh coriander, to serve

Heat the oven to 220C.

Mix the flour and paprika and season well with salt and pepper.

Dry the drumsticks with kitchen paper, then dust them in the seasoned flour and put into a large roasting tin with the onions. Drizzle with the olive oil and roast for 30 minutes, turning once.

Meanwhile, mix the ginger, honey, and chicken stock together. Pour the mixture over the chicken and add the lime wedges. Return to the oven for another 10-15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked and golden brown.

Serve with steamed rice, greens and lots of coriander.

(Original recipe from Bill Granger Every Day, Murdoch Books, 2006.)

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Tender lamb and a sauce rich with cumin and warm spices. Certainly not a combination we’re used to but one that works very well. Do remember to put the lamb in the marinade when you get home from work, don’t skimp on the butter, and don’t be tempted to use any cheese on the pasta, it is not required!

Wine Suggestion: warm, red and spicy; like a good Primitivo (Zinfandel), Monastrell (juicy Mourvedre) or Shiraz. Our choice tonight was Finca Bacara’s Crazy Grapes Monastrell from Jumilla in Spain; juicy, brambly and velvety tannins.

Lamb & Cumin Pasta – serves 4

  • 500g lamb leg steaks
  • 1 tbsp garlic granules
  • 2 tbsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground
  • 1 tbsp chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 4 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar
  • 250g tagliatelle
  • 50g butter

Put the lamb between sheets of cling film and bash with a rolling pin to flatten. Thinly slice the lamb into strips about ½ cm thick and put them into a non-reactive bowl. Add the garlic granules, spices, olive oil, sesame oil, soy sauce, vinegar and plenty of seasoning and mix well. Cover the bowl and leave to marinate at room temperature for at least an hour.

Cook the pasta in lots of salty water, then drain but keep the cooking water.

Meanwhile, heat a wok over a high heat. When hot, add the lamb and the marinade, cook until seared all over, this shouldnt take more than a few minutes, avoid stirring constantly to allow it to sear.

Remove the wok from the heat and add the butter. Check the seasoning, then add the cooked pasta with a little cooking water to loosen. Serve straightaway.

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

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This is tomato pasta sauce but with some unusual additions that make it taste a bit special. We hightly recommend you try this.

Pasta with tomato sauce & brown caper butter – serves 4

  • 400g penne pasta
  • Parmesan
  • flat-leaf parsley, chopped, to serve

FOR THE TOMATO SAUCE:

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • olive oil, for frying
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 2 x 400g tins plum tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp white miso
  • 1 tsp runny honey

FOR THE BROWN CAPER BUTTER

  • 4 tbsp capers, drained
  • 75g butter

Fry the onion in a splash of olive oil over a lowish heat for about 5 minutes or until soft. Add the garlic, rosemary and tomato purée and fry for another minute, then add the tomatoes and simmer for 10-15 minutes, breaking them up with a wooden spoon.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in lots of salty water until al denté.

Melt a small knob of the butter into a small frying pan, then add the capers and fry until they burst open, then tip into a small bowl. Add the rest of the butter to the frying pan and cook until it turns light brown and smells nutty, then pour over the capers.

Add the miso, honey and a little seasoning to the tomato sauce.

Drain the pasta but reserve a mug of the cooking water.

Mix the drained pasta with the tomato sauce and a splash of cooking water to loosen the sauce. Divide between warm bowls, then pour over the caper butter. Serve sprinkled with plenty of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and the chopped parsley.

(Original recipe by Ylva Bergqvist in Olive Magazine, December 2018.)

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We made this a few weeks ago for a small group of friends (before omicron took hold) and it was devoured with gusto. Despite the list of ingredients it’s all quite straight forward and a recipe to keep up your sleeve for any occasion … for friends, or just for yourself.

Wine Suggestion: the wine opened at the time was determined by the event, the Altosur Malbec made by Finca Sophenia in Tuppangato, Mendoza and what a triumph it was. Body and depth with seemless and juicy tannins; it just made it taste the dish a bit richer and more sophisticated.

Chicken kari – serves 4 to 6

  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 cassia bark stick (not a cinnamon stick)
  • 3 cardamom pods, crushed
  • 1 large onion, very finely chopped
  • thumb-size piece of fresh root ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 4 big cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1-2 small green chillies or 1-2 long red chillies, split but leave the stalks intact
  • 8 large chicken thighs, skin removed but bone-in
  • 2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 4 large tomatoes, roughly diced
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • Steamed rice, to serve

Warm the vegetable oil in a large saucepan over a medium-high heat. Add the mustard, fenugreek, cumin and coriander seeds, the cassia bark and cardamom pods and fry until the mustard seeds start to pop. Keep giving the pan a shake.

Stir in the onion and cook for a few minutes until it starts to brown and caramelise.

Add the ginger, garlic and chillies and stir-fry for a minute, then add the chicken thighs, turmeric and lots of salt and pepper and stir well. Add the fresh and tinned tomatoes, then add enough cold water to cover the chicken. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 2 hours, stirring now and then. Top up with more water if needed.

Remove the cassia bark and cardamom pods, then season again to test if needed and serve.

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

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Are you ready for something healthy yet? A delicious, quick and easy side dish. We served this with roast chicken, but we can see it happily going with lamb, sausages or a few other veggie dishes too.

Beetroot & lentil salad with mustard dressing – serves 5-6

  • 200g puy lentils
  • 1 tbsp grainy mustard
  • 1½ tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 300g cooked beetroot (not in vinegar), sliced
  • a large handful of tarragon, roughly chopped

Put the lentils into a saucepan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 20 minutes, then drain and leave to cool.

Whisk the mustard, olive oil and seasoning together in a small bowl.

Put the lentils into a bow, mix in the dressing, then stir in the beetroot, tarragon and more seasoning.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

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We’ve made plenty of fish and tahini dishes before but particularly liked this one with the additions of zingy za’atar and fresh spinch.

Wine suggestion: this works brilliantly with a juicy, crisp Verdejo, especially those that come from Rueda in Spain. Crunchy, juicy apples, lemons and grapefuit. In our glass was Dominio la Granadilla which demonstrates a passionate family all working together and speaking of the place they grew up.

Za’atar salmon and tahini – serves 4

  • 4 salmon fillets (about 600g in total), skin on
  • 2 tbsp za’atar
  • 2 tsp sumac, plus and extra ½ tsp for sprinkling at the end
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 250g baby spinach
  • 90g tahini
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 3½ tbsp lemon juice
  • 1½ tbsp roughly chopped coriander leaves

Heat the oven to 220C Fan.

Pat the salmon dry with kitchen paper and season.

Mix the za’atar and sumac together in a small bowl, then sprinkle this over the top of the salmon to form a crust.

Put a large ovenproof sauté pan over a medium-high heat and add 1 tbsp of the oil. When the pan is hot, add the spinach with a little seasoning and cook for 2-3 minutes or until just wilted.

Set the salmon fillets on top of the spinach, skin side down, then drizzle the top of the fish with 2 tbsp of oil. Bake in the hot oven for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, whick the tahini, garlic, 2½ tbsp of lemon juice, a good pinch of salt and 100ml of water together until smooth. It will be quite runny.

Pour the tahini around the salmon (but not over the fish) and bake for another 5 minutes, or until the fish is just cooked through and the sauce is bubbling. Spoon over the rest of the lemon juice and oil and top with the coriander and extra sprinkle of sumac.

(Original recipe from Ottolenghi Test Kitchen: Shelf Love by Noor Murad & Yotam Ottolenghi, Ebury Press, 2021.)

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This has to be the perfect post-Christmas dish; great for using up the cheeseboard leftovers and all that smoked fish you though you would eat. Our daughter was so enamoured of this that she has been demanding it ever since. Serve with a green salad and some crusty bread.

Wine Suggestion: Find yourself a Chardonnay made on the lees, but not necessarily in oak. This will preserve a freshness and mid-weight while giving a yeasty, buttery character. A good producer from the Maçon, like Manciat-Poncet, would be ideal and that’s what we had.

Smoked Salmon Soufflé – Serves 3

  • 20g freshly grated Parmesan, plus an extra 1 tbsp
  • 1 small onion, peeled
  • 100g smoked salmon or smoked trout, finely chopped
  • 300ml full fat milk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 50g butter
  • 55g plain flour
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 2 tbsp chopped tarragon

You will need a soufflé dish or baking dish, approximately 18-20cm.

Lightly grease the inside of the dish with butter, then dust with the 2 tbsp of grated Parmesan.

Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 6.

Put the milk into a small saucepan with the onion and bay leaf. Bring to the boil, then remove from the heat and leave to sit for a few minutes. Remove the onion and bay leaf and discard.

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan, then stir in the flour and cook, stirring, for a few minutes. Then pour in the warm milk and stir vigorously until you have a smooth, thick sauce. Continue to cook for another couple of minutes, then remove from the heat.

Lightly beat the the egg yolks with a fork, then stir them into the sauce with 20g of Parmesan, the chopped fish and the tarragon.

Beat the egg whites until stiff with a whisk in a large bowl. Fold the egg whites into the sauce, then spoon into the buttered dish. Smooth the top if needed, then sprinkle over the remaining Parmesan. Put the dish onto a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes. The crust should be pale brown and the centre slightly soft, it should still have a little wobble when you give it a shake.

Serve immediately with dressed salad leaves and crusty bread. You need to eat it all up as this dish will not keep.

(Original recipe by Nigel Slater in The Guardian, Tuesday, 28 December 2021.)

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Your butcher should be able to get you beef short ribs if you ask, and the trick is slow-cooking. All that fat will ensure they become meltingly tender and the meat will literally fall off the bones. This dish takes a while to cook but there’s not much effort required and the result is worth it.

Wine Suggestion: This dish requires a serious, powerful red with a good structure. Tonight we had a youthful 3 year old Chateau Puygueraud from the Côtes de Francs, Bordeaux. A merlot, cabernet franc, malbec blend it was appropriate but all judged it too young and a little forceful. However a Domaine des Roches Neuves ‘Marginale’, Saumur-Champigny from 2015 brought by our friends proved to be the wine match we were looking for. Cabernet Franc from the Loire this cuvée showed the class of being the best selection of the best vineyards in a powerful, great vintage. All parts integrated but still in it’s infancy. A good match tonight, and we are all sad we don’t have any more in our cellars to see this in 10 years time too.

Braised beef short ribs with butter beans & figs – serves 4

  • 2 onions, roughy chopped
  • 6 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 4cm piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 green chillies, roughly chopped, no need to discard the seeds
  • 6 beef short ribs (about 1.5kg),trim off any big pieces of fat at the edges but don’t worry about being too particular with the rest, it all renders down into the rich sauce
  • 60ml olive oil
  • 4 whole star anise
  • 10 cardamom pods, roughly bashed open with a pestle and mortar
  • 1½ tbsp tomato purée
  • 2 tsp ground allspice
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 5-6 large plum tomatoes, two-thirds roughly chopped and the rest roughly grated and skin discarded
  • 100g soft dried figs, roughly chopped into 1½ cm pieces
  • 700g jar butter beans, drained
  • 30g chives, very finely chopped
  • 1½ tbsp lemon juice
  • 300g regular spinach, discard the stems and roughly tear the leaves

Heat the oven to 165C fan.

Put the onions, garlic, ginger and chillies into a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.

Dry the short ribs with kitchen paper and season with salt and pepper. Put 2 tbsp of oil into a large ovenproof saucepan and turn the heat to medium-high. Fry the ribs in batches until well coloured on all sides, then remove and set aside.

Add the onion mixture to the pan along with the star anise and cardamom, and cook for 5 minutes to soften, stirring now and then. Add the tomato purée, ground spices, chopped tomatoes (don’t add the grated ones yet), 1½ tsp of salt and plenty of black pepper and cook for another 4 minutes or until the tomatoes start to soften.

Add the short ribs and 1.1 litres of water, bring to the boil, then cover and put into the oven for 3 hours, stirring a few times.

Add the figs and cook for another half hour, or until softened. The meat should now be very tender.

Meanwhile, put the butterbeans into a saucepan with a pinch of salt and cover with water. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 15 minutes, then drain. Stir in the chives, 2 tbsp of oil, the lemon juice and plenty of pepper.

When the beef is ready, take the ribs from the pan and pull the meat off the bones. Discard the bones and set the beef aside.

Heat the sauce and stir in the spinach, it should wilt in a few minutes, then add the grated tomato and remove from the heat.

Spoon the sauce over a large platter and top with beans and beef.

(Original recipe from OTK Shelf Love by Noor Murad & Yotam Ottolenghi, Ebury Press, 2021.)

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This is a rather unconventional method but it does work, and the resulting dish is perfect comfort food for a cold day. The za’atar pesto is a good addition to cut through the richness and the feta provides creamy nuggets. A crazy but good idea from the Ottolenghi Test Kitchen.

Wine Suggestion: A crisp white with body and texture is called for here to help cut through rich layers and stand up to the complex flavours. Domaine Ventenac’s Cassandre waas our choice and a very happy match indeed. Vermentino from Cabardes in the south of France, this comes from vineyards that have cooling breezes and a little altitude to give it depth of flavour as well as a scintillating freshness; finishing with a slight nutty twist that gave the pesto an extra lift.

Middle Eastern mac n cheese with za’atar pesto – serves 4 to 6

  • 300g dried cavatappi or fusilli pasta
  • 600-700ml whole milk
  • 65g unsalted butter, cut into 3cm cubes
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • tsp ground turmeric
  • 1½ tsp cumin seeds, toasted and roughly crushed
  • 75ml double cream
  • 150g mature cheddar, roughly grated
  • 180g Greek feta, roughly crumbled
  • 45g shop-bought crispy onions or shallots

FOR THE ZA’ATAR PESTO

  • 1 large lemon
  • 3 tbsp za’atar
  • 20g fresh coriander, roughly chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 40g pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • 6 tbsp olive oil

Put the pasta, 600ml of milk, 350ml of water, the butter, garlic, turmeric, 1 tsp of salt and plenty of black pepper into a large sauté pan over a medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer, then turn the heat down the heat and cook, stirring now and then, for 8-14 minutes, or until the pasta is al dente and the sauce thickened. You can add the extra 100ml of milk if you need it thinned a bit.

Turn the heat to low and stir in the cumin, cream and cheeses. Stir until the cheddar has melted.

Meanwhile, make the pesto. Finely grate the lemon to get 1½ tsp of zest. Peel the lemon, cut into segments and roughly chop. Put the lemon and zest into a bowl.

Put the za’atar, coriander, garlic, pine nuts, a pinch of salt, plenty of black pepper and 3 tbsp of the oil into a food processor, then pulse a few times to get a coarse paste. Add to the lemon and stir in the remaining 3 tbsp of oil.

Transfer the cheesey pasta to a large serving platter, dot all over with the pesto and top with the crispy onions.

(Original recipe from Ottolenghi Test Kitchen Shelf Love by Noor Murad & Yotam Ottolenghi, Ebury Press, 2021.)

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Our daughter is a gyoza addict and luckily we have a good local Japanese restaurant. She would order three or more portions if we let her. So in order to avoid bankruptcy we’ve decided to start making them ourselves. They are actually very straightforward, and helped immensely by shop-bought gyoza wrappers and a little gyoza folding gadget.

The wrappers keep in the freezer and defrost in an hour at room temperature. Just put them in the fridge afterwards until you’re ready to make the gyoza.

Chicken & Shiitake Gyoza with Miso Lemon Dipping Sauce – makes about 30 gyoza

  • 300g chicken thigh fillets, quartered
  • 10 shiitake mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 8 water chestnuts, finely choped
  • 3 tsp light soy sauce
  • 2 tsp finely chopped ginger
  • 1 tsp sake or mirin
  • 6 scallions, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp cornflour
  • 30 gyoza wrappers
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil

FOR THE DIPPING SAUCE

  • 2 tbsp pale miso
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tsp toasted sesame seeds

Pulse the chicken thighs in a food processor until minced, then tip into a bowl.

Add the mushrooms, water chestnuts, soy sauce, ginger, sake/mirin, scallions and cornflour. Season with salt and plenty of black pepper, then mix together well with a metal spoon. You can leave the mixture in the fridge until you’re ready to cook.

Mix together the ingredients for the dipping sauce and set aside.

Line a large tray with non-stick baking paper and have a bowl of water handy.

Put a gyoza wrapper into your gyoza maker, floured side down, and put 1 tbsp of the filling in the middle (you can and should use a piping bag for this). Dip your finger in the water and lightly run it round the edge of the wrapper. Close the gyoza maker and squeeze tight to seal. If you don’t have a little machine, you can look up how to fold them on youtube.

Heat a large frying pan with a lid over a medium high heat. Add ½ tbsp sesame oil, then place the gyozas into the pan, you will probably have to do 2 batches. Leave them for about 2 minutes or until the bottoms have turned golden, then add 40ml water and cover with a lid. Cook for another 2 minutes until most of the water has evaporated, then remove the lid. Drizzle over another ½ tsp of sesame oil and allow to crisp up for about 30 seconds.

Remove from the pan and serve with the dipping sauce.

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

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