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We’ve done this Korean dish before, but it’s worth revisiting because its so easy and delicious. It’s a nice starter to throw together for guests as they arrive, presuming you’re allowed to have guests. For now we have that on hold but it makes an event for the two of us.

Aperitif Suggestion: A good dry Oloroso sherry, or a Manzanilla sherry with a bit of age, we had La Gitana’s single vineyard Pasada Pastrana.

Pan-Fried King Prawns – serves 2 but easily doubled

  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1/2 cm piece of ginger, peeled & finely grated
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp roasted sesame oil
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 150g king prawns, shelled
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp roasted pine nuts, roughly chopped

Make the sauce by combining the garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil and honey in a bowl.

Heat the vegetable oil in a wok, or pan, over a high heat. When very hot add the prawns and cook for a minute. Turn over and add the sauce. Fry for a further minute or until cooked through. Use your instinct here this depends on the size of your prawns and the heat of your pan. Don’t let them overcook!

Remove and pile onto a plate, sprinkle over the scallions and pine nuts, then serve. 

(Original recipe from Our Korean Kitchen by Jordan Bourke & Rejina Pyo, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2015.)

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We’re having a little Korean-inspired moment in the kitchen. So many of the dishes are super simple and really tasty. We had these soy-seasoned mushrooms with a glass of sherry for a starter but they’re a side dish really. A few ingredients that were made for each other and brought together quickly and easily!

Wine Suggestion: An umami-rich dish like this thrives with sherry and the La Gitana Manzanilla with it’s seaside freshness and bone-dry texture did not disappoint. Easy to see this dish in a tapas bar in Cadiz, despite the Korean origins.

Soy-seasoned mushrooms – bo-seot namool – serves 4 as a side dish or nibble with drinks

  • 1½ tbsp vegetable oil
  • 250g wild mushrooms (we used a mixture of baby shitake and oyster mushrooms), sliced into ½ cm strips
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tsp roasted sesame seed oil
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame seeds

Heat the oil in a wide pan over a high heat.

Add the mushrooms to the hot pan and stir-fry for 30 seconds, then add the soy sauce and garlic. Stir-fry for another minute.

Add the sesame oil and keep going for another minute, keep it moving so the garlic doesn’t burn.

Transfer to a bowl and mix in the toasted sesame seeds, then leave to cool a bit so the flavours come together. You can serve warm or cold.

(Original recipe from My Korean Kitchen by Jordan Bourke & Rejina Pyo, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2015.)

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This is a delicious Persian accompaniment that goes with almost anything. We know that as we initially served it as a starter with pitta breads, then proceeded to have it on the side with the main course, and for lunch the following day with something else. It’s hard to describe how good it is. 

Spinach & yoghurt with walnuts – Maast-o-esfenaj – serves 6 to 8

  • 250g spinach leaves (cut off any chunky stalks)
  • 500g thick Greek yoghurt
  • 1 large clove of garlic, crushed
  • 2 big handfuls of walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 2 tsp sumac, plus a bit extra to garnish
  • best olive oil, for drizzling
  • flatbread, to serve

Simmer the spinach in a saucepan of boiling water for 2-3 minutes until wilted. Drain and immediately transfer to a bowl of iced water to stop the cooking. When cooled, drain well and chop finely. 

Put the spinach into a large bowl with the yoghurt, garlic and walnuts (keep a few for decorating), sumac, a small drizzle of olive oil and plenty of sea salt and black pepper. Mix well. 

Serve the mixture on a flat plate, drizzle with more olive oil and sprinkle over some extra sumac and the reserved walnuts. 

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

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Pan-fried Figs in Parma Ham

Jono bought a ridiculous amount of figs this week. He got a “good deal” and so we’ve spent all weekend trying to use them. There is lots of fig jam and chutney but we also loved this little starter by Sabrina Ghayour.

Wine Suggestion: this is such a good tapas dish with the play of salty ham, sweet fruitiness and a layer of rich fat. To match we went with a Sanchez Romate Fino someone had given us and were very happy indeed.

Pan-fried figs in Parma ham – makes 16

  • 2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for frying
  • finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 4 large figs, quartered
  • 1 heaped tbsp za’atar
  • 8 slices of Parma ham (or Serrano ham), halved lengthways into long strips
  • top quality balsamic vinegar

Put the oil in a small bowl and stir in the lemon zest and heaps of freshly ground black pepper. Rub this oil on the cut sides of each piece of fig. Sprinkle the za’atar over the figs, then wrap a pieces of ham around each one, overlap so that the pieces are almost covered by the ham.

Heat a large frying pan over a high heat. Drizzle in a little olive oil and fry the figs on both cut sides for about a minute or until the ham crisps up and browns. Serve on plates with some aged balsamic vinegar drizzled over.

(Original recipe from Sirocco by Sabrina Ghayour, Mitchell Beazley, 2016.)

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Green Hummus

Really fresh and tasty. A lovely recipe from Simply by Sabrina Ghayour (our new favourite thing!). We served with toasted pittas. Leftovers great for lunch the next day.

Green hummus – serves 6 to 8

  • 2 x 400g tins chickpeas, drained and reserve ¾ of the brine from 1 of the tins
  • juice of ½ a lemon, you might need a bit more
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 30g of flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • 30g of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
  • 15g of tarragon, leaves picked, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp tahini
  • 1 tsp nigella seeds
  • warm pitta bread, to serve

Put the chickpeas, reserved brine, lemon juice, garlic, parsley, coriander, tarragon, tahini, some sea salt and black pepper, in a food processor and whizz until smooth.

Taste and adjust the seasoning, you might like to add more lemon juice. Serve in a bowl garnished with the nigella seeds and with some of your best olive oil drizzled over.

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

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BBQ Padron's

We’ve been picking up bags of padrón peppers at our local farm shop. We’ve usually cook these in a frying pan, or wok,  on the stove but have been throwing them onto the barbecue instead.

Thread the peppers onto two metal skewers, one at each end of the pepper, making sure there is a tiny gap between each to form sort of a raft. Drizzle with a touch of olive oil then put over hot coals until done or wrinkled and starting to blister. The raft helps turn them over.

Push them off the skewers into a bowl, toss with little Maldon Salt and serve with a glass of Txakoli or something similar.

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Crab cakes with dill mayonnaise

Always nice to have leftover crab and this handy recipe is both easy to make and a delight to eat. It can be made ahead of time if you like and cooked from chilled. We’ve put a stash in the freezer for a treat on another night too.

Wine Suggestion: for some reason this always feels so summery, so we think the matching wine needs to taste the same. We’ve been tasting a few different whites from Ribeiro and Bierzo in north western Spain recently, notably made from Treixadura, Godello, Loureiro and Albilla. They’re nice and light when they use a bit of lees contact, but very little, or no oak. Tonight the Dominio de Tares La Sonrisa, a Godello that is equally at home on a beach somewhere as it is at home, late at night, eating crab cakes.

Crab cakes with dill mayonnaise – serves 4 as a starter 

  • 250g potatoes, diced
  • 300g white crabmeat
  • 1 tbsp capers, drained and finely chopped
  • 2 scallions, finely chopped
  • zest and juice of a lemon, plus extra wedges to serve
  • small bunch of dill, finely chopped
  • 4 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 85g dried breadcrumbs
  • sunflower oil, for shallow frying

Boil the potatoes in plenty of salty water for about 15 minutes or until tender, then drain and leave to steam dry in the pot for a few minutes. Mash and leave to cool.

Mix the crabmeat, capers, scallions, lemon zest, half the lemon juice and half the dill, in a large bowl. Stir in the cooled mash and season, then make into 12 round cakes. Transfer to a plate and put in the fridge for 20 minutes to firm up a bit.

Make the dill mayonnaise by mixing the mayonnaise with the remaining lemon juice and dill. Keep in the fridge until needed.

Put the flour, egg and breadcrumbs on 3 separate plates. Dust the crab cakes with the flour, then dip in the egg and finally in the breadcrumbs to coat.

Add sunflower oil to a shallow frying pan until it comes about 1cm up the side. Heat the oil, then cook the crab cakes for about 3 minutes on each side or until crispy and golden. You will probably have to do this in batches. Drain on kitchen paper, then serve with the dill mayonnaise and some lemon wedges.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

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Melon, Tomato, Prosciutto & mint Salad

This makes a great summer lunch with some bread or an easy starter. The mint is a lovely addition.

Melon, tomato, prosciutto & mint salad – serves 4 to 6

  • 500g tomatoes, chopped into chunks or halved if small (heirloom tomatoes would be good if you can get them)
  • 1 melon, cut into chunks
  • 12 slices prosciutto
  • a handful of mint, leaves picked & shredded
  • crusty bread, to serve

FOR THE DRESSING:

  • 1½ tbsp Sherry vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp honey

Whisk the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl.

Put the tomatoes and melon into a large bowl, then toss with a little of the dressing and some salt and pepper.

Lay the prosciutto slices over a large dish, then spoon over the tomatoes & melon. Pour over another bit of dressing and scatter over the mint.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

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Orecchiette with Broccoli, Cauliflower & Pecorino

We ate this as a main for 2 but it really is flavour-packed and would work really well in smaller portions as a starter.

Wine Suggestion: This strong combination of flavours pairs well with characterful, fuller bodied Italian whites like Verdicchio and one of our favourites, the Sartarelli Classico, was our match this evening.

Orecchiette with Broccoli, Cauliflower & Pecorino – serves 4 as a starter

  • a large handful of coarse breadcrumbs (we used panko)
  • 100g orecchiette
  • a bunch of long-stemmed broccoli, cut into 5cm lengths
  • 150g cauliflower florets
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 x 45g tin anchovies, drained
  • a large handful of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • a large handful of shaved pecorino, to serve (we used Parmesan)

Spread the breadcrumbs out on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Bake in the oven at 200ºC for about 8 minutes or until crispy and golden. Leave to cool.

Cook the orecchiette in lots of salty water according to the timing on the pack.

Bring another large pan of salty water to the pan, then blanch the broccoli, followed by the cauliflower, for 2-3 minutes or until tender. Scoop out of the water with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Heat  150ml of extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat, then add garlic and cook gently for 5 minutes or until golden. Add the broccoli and cauliflower and toss to combine. Add the breadcrumbs, anchovies and drained orecchiette and heat through, you can add another splash of oil if needed to keep it moist.

Season to taste with salt, then serve with the parsley and pecorino on top.

(Original recipe from Maggies’ Kitchen by Maggie Beer, Lantern, 2008.)

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Lamb & Mint Samosas

Once you’ve got the hang of making samosas you can do batches and freeze them. Bring them out when friends come around, brush melted butter on and bake … easy. Here you can see a Beetroot & Feta version on the left and Lamb & Mint on the right. We’ve decorated them with different seeds to help tell the difference. Our guests went home wanting to make them for themselves – and they promptly did. No better indorsement we think.

Lamb & Mint Samosas – makes 18-24

  • 2 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 500g lamb mince
  • 1½ tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 2 tbsp finely grated ginger
  • ½ tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp finely chopped mint
  • 2 x 270g packs of filo pastry
  • 100g unsalted butter, melted
  • onion seeds (nigella seeds) or sesame seed to garnish, to garnish

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, then add the cumin seeds and fry for a minute. Add the onions and fry for 8-10 minutes, or until golden, then add the garlic and stir-fry for a couple of minutes.

Add the lamb mince and break up with a wooden spoon. Fry for 8-10 minutes, then add the cumin, coriander, garam masala, ginger, chilli & salt.

Continue to cook the the mince until starting to brown, then tip into a dish to cool. Add the mint just before you make the samosas.

Lay a sheet of the filo pastry out with the long side towards you (cover the rest of the filo with a damp tea towel). Brush the left hand side of the pastry sheet lightly with the melted butter. Fold the right hand side of the sheet over the left so you have a double layer of pastry. Cut the pastry into 3 long strips with a sharp knife.

Place a heaped tbsp of the lamb mixture at the bottom of a pastry strip, then fold the bottom right hand corner up over the filling to make a small triangle. Flip the triangle over as you move up the pastry strip, the filling will eventually be sealed inside. When you get to the end, brush the end of the pastry strip with a little melted butter and press to seal.

Continue like this until all of the lamb mixture has been used, you might not need all of the filo pastry.

If you want to freeze the samosas at this stage you can set them on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper, then place in tray in the freezer. When the samosas are frozen you can transfer them to a bag.

If you want to cook the freshly made samosas, preheat the oven to 200ºC/400°F/gas 6. Brush the samosas on both sides with melted butter and sprinkle a few onion seeds or sesame seeds over the top. Put onto a lightly greased baking tray and bake in the oven for 15 minutes.

To cook from frozen. Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400°F/gas 6. Brush both sides with melted butter, sprinkle a few onion or sesame seeds over the top, and put onto a lightly greased baking tray. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until crisp and golden.

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

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Classic Prawn Cocktail

Some might say retro, but make this and you’ll have to admit it is a classic! This is not the authentic recipe, but it makes the best version we’ve come across so far by using Heinz salad cream and pink peppercorns.  You can make the prawn mix up a few hours in advance and leave it in the fridge.

Wine Suggestion: pink with pink … you just have to! Tonight something different, the Les Prunes Blanc des Mandó from near Valencia. Quite possibly Spain’s best answer to a dry, savoury, Provençal rosé … and a useful 11.5% abv.

Prawn cocktail – serves 6

  • 450g small cooked prawns (frozen ones work well but defrost thoroughly, drain well,  and pat dry with kitchen paper)
  • 200g salad cream
  • 3 tbsp tomato ketchup
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • a few drops of Tabasco
  • little gem lettuces
  • 1 tbsp pink peppercorns, crushed (or 2 tsp paprika if you don’t have the peppercorns)

Mix the salad cream, ketchup, lemon juice and Tabasco in a large bowl, then fold in the prawns.

Finely shred the lettuce and use to line individual bowls or a platter. Spoon the prawns over the top and scatter with the crushed peppercorns or paprika.

(Original recipe from Feast by Nigella Lawson, Chatto & Windus, 2004.)

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Beetroot & feta samosas

These are so simple to make and you can stash them in the freezer and cook from frozen so great for a snack or starter with drinks.

Wine Suggestion: We’ve tried these with a few different wines and prefer them if the wine is chilled. Quite a few whites worked really well, but interestingly the best combination was a chilled red made from Grignolino from the Piedmont in norther Italy. Light bodied and yet dry with hints of (in balance) pippy bitterness and structured, light tannins. From a bottle a friend brought over and made by Olim Bauda; a nice discovery.

Beetroot & feta samosas – makes 18-24 samosas

  • 400g fresh beetroot
  • 200g feta cheese, cut into 1cm cubes
  • 4 scallions, finely chopped
  • 30g coriander, finely chopped
  • 1 green chilli, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • ½ tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp toasted cumin seeds, crushed
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 2 x 270g packs of filo pastry
  • 100g unsalted butter, melted
  • onion seeds (nigella seeds), to garnish

Boil the beetroot until tender when pierced with a sharp knife, this can take an hour or more depending on what size they are.

Trim the beetroot and peel off the skin (you might like to wear gloves), then roughly mash.

Put the mashed beetroot into a hot frying pan over a medium heat and heat for 5 minutes to remove excess moisture, then transfer to a bowl.

Stir in the feta, scallions, coriander, green chilli, garlic, chilli powder, cumin, garam masala and salt.

Lay a sheet of the filo pastry out with the long side towards you (cover the rest of the filo with a damp tea towel). Brush the left hand side of the pastry sheet lightly with the melted butter. Fold the right hand side of the sheet over the left so you have a double layer of pastry. Cut the pastry into 3 long strips with a sharp knife.

Place a heaped tbsp of the beetroot mixture at the bottom of a pastry strip, then fold the bottom right hand corner up over the filling to make a small triangle. Flip the triangle over as you move up the pastry strip, the filling will eventually be sealed inside. When you get to the end, brush the end of the pastry strip with a little melted butter and press to seal.

Continue like this until all of the beetroot mixture has been used, you might not need all of the filo pastry.

If you want to freeze the samosas at this stage you can set them on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper, then place in tray in the freezer. When the samosas are frozen you can transfer them to a bag.

If you want to cook the freshly made samosas, preheat the oven to 200ºC/400°F/gas 6. Brush the samosas on both sides with melted butter and sprinkle a few onion seeds over the top. Put onto a lightly greased baking tray and bake in the oven for 15 minutes.

To cook from frozen. Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400°F/gas 6. Brush both sides with melted butter, sprinkle a few onion seeds over the top, and put onto a lightly greased baking tray. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until crisp and golden.

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

 

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Mozzarella with salami, cannellini beans & olives

If you can find a ball of buffalo mozzarella, then lucky you. There is none to be had in our vicinity at the moment, but it will return. This is a super simple idea from the River Café which makes a lovely lunch or a starter for sharing – for when we can share stuff again. We will share stuff again.

Salami with Cannellini Beans & Olives

  • 1 x 400 tin of cannellini beans, drained & rinsed
  • a squeeze of lemon juice
  • small black olives, we like the wrinkly ones, pitted
  • finely sliced fennel salami – of course any salami or other cured meat will do, and there are loads of brilliant Irish producers to choose from
  • a ball of buffalo mozzarella

Gently heat the beans with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and some olive oil. Season and purée – a stick blender does the job here.

Toss the olives in a little of your special bottle of olive oil.

Put the salami on a plate with the mozzarella and serve with the bean purée alongside and the olives scattered over.

Simple and delicious.

(Original idea from Italian Two Easy by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers, Clarkson Potter, 2006.)

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Hot Crab Pots

This is such a simple starter but really delicious. Couldn’t recommend it highly enough. We made with some fresh crab leftover from another dish and waiting in the freezer.

Wine Suggestion: this is quite rich and we’d suggest pairing it with a fuller, more complex and concentrated sparkling. A good vintage Champagne works, or alternately find a top-quality sparkling made in the same method; tonight it was Dermot Sugrue’s The Trouble with Dreams, one of our favourite English sparkling wines.

Hot Crab Pots – serves 4 as a starter

  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 200ml double cream
  • 100g mixed white and brown crabmeat
  • 50g gruyère, grated
  • butter
  • 1 tsp chopped chives

Preheat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4.

Mix the eggs, cream, crabmeat and gruyère together in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

Grease 4 ramekins with butter, then divide the mixture between them.

Cook the pots in the oven for about 15 minutes or until just set – we had to cook for a couple of minutes longer.

Sprinkle with the chives to serve. Some sourdough toast on the side would be nice but not essential.

(Original recipe by Victoria Moore in BBC Olive Magazine, March 2013.)

 

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Mussels & cockles with garlic breadcrumbs

This is a great starter from Polpo that tastes similar to stuffed mussels but is nowhere near as fiddly to prepare. We used cockles instead of clams as that is what we could get the day we cooked this.

Wine Suggestion: we’d suggest a white from central or sourther Italy for this dish. Tonight it was a Verdicchio from the Marches, the Tralivio by the Sartarelli family which combines citrus, apricots and wild herbs with texture, body and hints of a bitter almond on the finish. Very attractive, refreshing and a perfect food wine.

Mussels & Clams with Garlic Breadcrumbs – serves 4 – 6 as a starter

  • 100g old bread
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • a small handful of flat parsley leaves, chopped
  • a large pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • 1 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • flaky sea salt and black pepper
  • 1 kg mussels
  • 1kg clams
  • 100ml white wine
  • bread, to serve

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/Gas 4.

Tear the old bread into pieces, then scatter over a baking tray and pour over plenty of olive oil over them. Put the tray into the oven for 5 minutes or until the bread is crisp and golden, then set aside.

When the bread has cooled blitz it in food processor with the chopped parsley, half the dried chilli, half the garlic and some seasoning. When the bread has turned to fine crumbs, taste some and adjust the seasoning and add some more oil if they are too dry.

Clean the mussels and clams in cold running water and discard any that are damaged or that stay open when tapped.

Heat a large pan and add some olive oil. Throw in the mussels and clams with the rest of the chilli and garlic and stir until the shells start to open. As they do, pour in the white wine and cover the pan with a lid. The shells should all have opened after a couple of minutes, throw away any that haven’t opened.

Add a handful of breadcrumbs to the pan to thicken the sauce. Spoon the mussels and clams into shallow bowls and sprinkle with the rest of the crumbs. Serve immediately with crusty bread if you like.

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

 

 

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Honey glazed chicken wings

We love a good chicken wing and the only way to eat them is with your fingers – like we need an excuse. Cheap as chips too. What’s not to love?

Wine Suggestion: keeping it simple we pulled out a bottle of the Petit Mazuret Viognier from southern France. Not complex, but rich and able to stand up to the flavours of the chicken; a very satisfying accompaniment

Honey-glazed Chicken Wings – serves 6 as a starter

  • 1kg chicken wings
  • 2 tbsp clear honey
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 100ml sour cream
  • 100ml buttermilk
  • 100g mayonnaise
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • pinch of smoked paprika
  • 2 red chillies, deseeded and finely sliced
  • celery sticks, to serve (optional)

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

Put the wings in a large roasting tin. Mix the honey, soy and ½ tbsp sesame seeds in a bowl, then pour over the wings. Mix well with your hands to coat, then roast for 20 minutes or so until browned, sticky and cooked through.

Meanwhile, combine the sour cream, buttermilk, mayonnaise, lemon juice and paprika. Season well, then chill until ready to serve.

When cooked, sprinkle over the rest of the sesame seeds and the chilli. Serve with the dip and some celery sticks if you like.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

 

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White aspargus with serrano ham and chive dressing

We adore this stuff. A piece of salty ham and mustardy dressing are all that’s needed for a delicious starter or light lunch.

Wine Suggestion: given the ham and mustard dressing we chose a bottle of Dönnhoff Liestenberg Riesling Kabinett which was superb. It had a vibrancy and freshness to match the salty fatiness of the ham and the tangy dressing.

White asparagus with serrano ham and chive dressing – serves 4

  • 16 fat white asparagus spears
  • 4 slices serrano ham

FOR THE DRESSING:

  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp clear honey
  • 3 tbsp walnut or hazelnut oil
  • 1 tbsp snipped chives

Trim the asparagus and peel the stems with a potato peeler. Boil in salted water for 12-15 mins until the spears are tender, then drain well.

Whisk together the lemon juice, mustard and honey with some salt and pepper. Whisk in the oil, then stir in the chives just before serving.

Divide the warm or cold asparagus between 4 plates. Lay the ham on top and drizzle over the dressing.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

 

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Avocado & Broad Bean Mash

This makes a nice light starter to share with some crusty bread, crackers or breadsticks.

Wine Suggestion: Rosé because it matches the mood and season, and also because a good, dry, rosé is both refreshing and a good match for food. Today it was the Ch de la Negly “les Terrasses” from the Languedoc.

Avocado & broad bean mash – serves 4

  • 250g podded broad beans, fresh or frozen
  • a large avocado, peeled and roughly chopped
  • a lemon, finely shave with a peeler to get one long strip of zest, then juice to give 1 ½ tbsp
  • 4 tbsp of olive oil
  • 2 scallions, finely sliced

Bring a pan of salty water to the boil and blanch the beans for 2 minutes, then drain, run under cold water and drain again. Remove the skin from the beans and discard, they should pop off easily. Set 50g of beans aside and put the rest into a food processor with the avocado, lemon juice, 2 tbsp of oil and ¼ tsp salt, then whizz until almost smooth.

Heat the remaining 2 tbsp of oil in a small frying pan, then gently fry the scallions and lemon skin for a minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the reserved broad beans and a pinch of salt.

Check the the avocado and broad bean mixture for seasoning then spread over a plate, making a rim around the edge. Spoon the spring onion mix into the middle just before serving.

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

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Smoked Salmon, Horseradish & Dill Crostini

Do try this. It looks like regular smoked salmon crostini but the balance of ingredients is perfect, including the rather generous portion of salmon per toast. Don’t be tempted to scrimp on either quantity or quality!

Wine Suggestion: excellent with sparkling – your choice of Crémant, Champagne, or your local version. Just make sure that it a fresh, more acidic style … Prosecco need not apply as it doesn’t have enough zing for this. Tonight the Soalheiro Espumante, a sparkling made from alvarinho in northern Portugal and wonderfully citrus, vibrant and refreshing.

Smoked salmon, horseradish & dill crostini – makes 20 crostini

  • 250g crème fraîche
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • about 3 tbsp freshly grated horseradish
  • pinch of caster sugar (optional)
  • 1 French stick, cut into discs and lightly toasted
  • 500g thinly sliced top quality smoked salmon
  • 20 dill sprigs
  • lemon juice

Make the horseradish cream by mixing together the crème fraîche, mustard and horseradish. Season with salt and pepper and add a little sugar if it tastes tart.

Put a generous slice of salmon in each piece of toast and top with a spoonful of horseradish cream. Decorate with a sprig of dill. Add a few drops of lemon juice and some black pepper before serving.

(Original recipe from Polpo: A Venetian Cookbook (of sorts) by Russell Norman, Bloomsbury, 2012.)

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Bandari fishcakes

These Persian fishcakes are full of herbs and make a delicious starter or light lunch. They can be made up in advance and cooked when you need them.

Wine Suggestion: the only option here is a youthful, light, off-dry Riesling where the aromatics, herbs, date and tamarind all play with each other. Tonight we drank the Dr Loosen Estate Riesling, his entry level wine made with his own fruit in the Mosel and it was an excellent match. Along with the Mosel we’d recommend the fruity styles (Kabinett & Spätlese) from other German regions such as the Nahe and Rheingau. Further afield the Aussie Rieslings tend to be too dry for a dish like this but there are some excellent NZ examples, Forrest Estate and Felton Rd spring to mind.

Bandari fishcakes with a tamarind and date sauce (Kuku-ye mahi) – serves 4

  • 300g potatoes, peeled and roughly diced
  • 200g white fish fillets e.g. cod/haddock
  • ¼ tsp cumin seeds
  • 50g coriander, finely chopped
  • 25g parsley, finely chopped – plus extra to garnish
  • 1 tsp dried fenugreek leaf (menthi)
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • a pinch of cayenne pepper
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • zest of ½ lemon
  • 1 medium egg
  • plain flour, for dusting
  • 3 tbsp sunflower or olive oil

FOR THE TAMARIND & DATE SAUCE:

  • 50g tamarind pulp soaked in 100ml just boiled water for 10 minutes
  • 75g Iranian or Medjool dates, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp light brown sugar
  • a pinch of cayenne pepper
  • a pinch of cinnamon
  • 150ml hot water

Put the potatoes into a large pan and cover with cold water. Add a generous pinch of salt and bring to the boil, then simmer until tender. Drain, mash the potatoes, and put into a large mixing bowl.

Add the fish to the potatoes. Dry fry the cumin seeds in a small frying pan for a minute or until fragrant. Grind the seeds with a pestle and mortar, then add to the bowl along with the fresh herbs, fenugreek leaf, garlic, cayenne, turmeric, lemon zest, egg, 1¼ tsp of salt and ¼ tsp of pepper.

Mix well with your hands, then shape into eight round patties. Dust with a little flour and place on a plate, cover with cling film and chill.

To make the sauce, put the tamarind and its soaking liquid, the dates, brown sugar, cayenne, cinnamon and a pinch of salt in a small saucepan. Add the hot water and cook for 10 minutes over a low heat until the dates are very soft.

Take the sauce off the heat and sieve into a bowl, use the back of a spoon to rub as much through as possible.

To finish the fishcakes, heat the oil in a frying pan and cook the cakes on a medium-high heat for 6-8 minutes, turning every few minutes, until golden brown and crusted. Garnish with parsley and serve with the sauce.

(Original recipe from The Saffron Tales by Yasmin Khan, Bloomsbury, 2016.)

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