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Posts Tagged ‘Starter’

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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Fresh corn is in the shops and it’s delicious cooked in the husks over a charcoal barbecue.

BBQ Corn on the Cob with Chilli Butter – serves 4 to 6

  • 2 corn cobs in the husks
  • 40g salted butter
  • ½ tbsp honey
  • ½ tbsp urfa chilli flakes (we didn’t have urfa so used Aleppo pepper but you could also use smoked or regular paprika)

Put the whole corn cobs in their husks over a medium hot barbecue. Rotate them every 3-4 minutes until really charred – about 15 minutes in total.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small frying pan until starts to foam. Remove from the heat, add the honey and urfa chilli and mix well.

Take the corn cobs off the heat and leave aside for 10 minutes, then pull back the burnt husk and return to a high heat for a minute or two the char some of the flesh.

Return the pan with the butter to the heat to foam the butter again, then serve the corn cobs with the butter drizzled over.

(Original recipe from Chasing Smoked: Cooking Over Fire Around the Levant by Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich, Pavilion, 2021.)

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This is good to serve with drinks for a crowd. You will need some flatbreads or pitta for dipping.

Wine Suggestion: An aperitivo type of drink; Negroni’s if you like, or for us Jérémie Huchet’s Muscadet Les Montys le Parc. A special “lieu-dit”, a vineyard recognised as something special and unique that allows a longer growing season than surrounding vineyards due to the aspect and soils. More depth and roundness than their classic Muscadet, but still with a lovely minerailty and mouthfeel and great length. Serious, and yet still with a sense of playful fun.

Spiced beetroot yoghurt – serves 6

  • 500g cooked beetroot (not in vinegar)
  • 3 tbsp ground coriander
  • 20g mint, leaves finely chopped
  • 500g Greek yoghurt
  • 1 tsp nigella seeds
  • olive oil, for drizzling

Drain any juice off the beetroot, then whizz with a hand-blender to get a coarse-textured purée. Add the ground coriander, lots of salt and pepper and the mint (keep a little to garnish) and mix together well. Stir in the Greek yoghurt.

Season again to taste, then serve sprinkled with nigella seeds, the rest of the chopped mint and a drizzle of good olive oil. Serve with pitta, flatbreads or toast.

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

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A truly delicious dip to serve as a starter with warm flatbreads or pitta. It was very difficult to stop ourselves eating the lot …and thereby spoiling our appetite for the main to follow.

Yellow split pea purée with buttered onions and caper salsa – serves 6

  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 red onions, finely chopped
  • 180g yellow split peas, rinsed well and drained
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric

FOR THE SALSA:

  • 2 tbsp capers, roughly chopped
  • 5g parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 thin lemon slices, discard the pips and finely chop (including the rind)
  • 2 tbsp oil

Put the butter, 2 tbsp of oil, the onions and ¾ tsp of salt into a large sauté pan over a medium heat for 15-18 minutes, stirring regularly, until soft and golden. Transfer half the onions, along with most of the oil and melted butter to a small bowl, and set aside.

Add the split peas, turmeric and 1.2 litres of water and ¾ tsp of salt to the pan with the remaining onions and bring to a simmer. Lower the heat to medium and cook for 20 minutes, uncovered. Cover with the lid and cook for another 40-45 minutes, or until the split peas are very soft and most of the liquid is evaporated. If not, you can remove the lid again and cook a little longer.

Meanwhile, combine the ingredients for the salsa in a small bowl.

Whizz the warm split peas with the remaining cooking water and 1 tbsp of olive oil in a food processor until completely smooth.

Spoon into a shallow dish, creating a dip in the middle. Mix the buttery onions with the caper salsa, then spoon on to the dip. Serve warm.

(Original recipe from OTK 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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Try this idea by Tom Kerridge as an alternative to prawn cocktail. It’s delicious!

Wine Suggestion: Muscadet, or Alvarinho/Albariño. Plenty of choices out there, tonight a Pazo de Señorans Albariño but many more could have equally filled the slot. Keep it fun.

Prawn salad with bloody mary dressing – serves 4

  • 2 tbsp olive oil, plus a drizzle more to serve
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely grated
  • a few pinchs of cayenne pepper
  • 20 large tiger prawns, peeled and deveined
  • lemon wedges, to serve

FOR THE DRESSING:

  • 5 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 5 good splashes of hot sauce, we used Frank’s
  • 1 tbsp creamed horseradish
  • 1 tbsp vodka
  • a large pinch of celery salt

FOR THE SALAD:

  • 2 ripe avocados, cut into chunky dice
  • 3 celery sticks, peeled and sliced into chunks, keep any leaves to garnish
  • ½ iceberg lettuce, shredded
  • 2 ripe plum tomatoes, roughly chopped

Mix the dressing ingredients together, season with salt, and set aside. Keep it in the fridge if you make it in advance.

Mix the oil and garlic in a bowl with salt, pepper and a pinch of cayenne pepper, then add the prawns and marinate in the fridge, covered, for 10 minutes (or up to 24 hours).

Prep the salad before you cook the prawns and scatter over a large platter.

Heat a griddle pan over a medium heat, when hot lay on the prawns and cook for no more than a couple of minutes on each side, they need to turn pink and be just cooked through.

Scatter the prawns over the salad, drizzle generously with the dressing, sprinkle over the celery leaves and another pinch of cayenne, then drizzle with a little more oil. Serve with the lemon wedges.

(Original recipe by Tom Kerridge in BBC Good Food Magazine, October 2021.)

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Try these to wet your appetite with a glass of sherry and some crusty bread.

Wine Suggestion: It only makes sense to drink a sherry with this dish with our suggestion being for either a good Fino or Amontillado. Fortunately our friends brought over Tio Pepe’s Fino En Rama. A savoury, minerally wine with grilled almond and iodine characters alongside some delightful lemon and apple fruitiness plus a good dollop of yeasty flor overtones.

Mushrooms with garlic & sherry vinegar – serves 4

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
  • 500g mushrooms, halve or quarter big ones
  • 2 tbsp sherry vinegar
  • a pinch of hot paprika
  • a small bunch of flatleaf parsley, chopped

Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Add the garlic and fry for 1 minutes, stirring, then add the mushrooms and cook over a high heat until just browned. If they give out liquid, keep cooking until it’s all gone.

Season well with salt and pepper, then add the sherry vinegar. Allow to sizzle until almost evaporated.

Serve the mushrooms with a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of hot paprika and the chopped parsley.

(Original recipe from The Hairy Bikers’ Mediterranean Adventure by Si King & Dave Myers, Seven Dials, 2017.)

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Truly original and truly delicious. Try them while we’ve got fresh corn cobs in the shops. Black limes are trendy at the moment but if you can’t find them you can use grated lime zest instead.

Corn ribs with black lime and pumpkin seed butter – serves 4 as a starter

  • 3 corn cobs, husks removed
  • 1.3 litres sunflower oil, for deep-frying
  • 1½ tsp runny honey

FOR THE BUTTER

  • 25g pumpkin seeds
  • 60g unsalted butter, softened
  • 1-2 dried black limes, roughly broken, then whizzed to a powder using spice grainder to get 2¼ tsp (if you don’t have black limes you can substitute grated lime zest)

Preheat the oven to 160C fan.

Spread the pumpkin seeds over a small baking tray and toast in the oven until golden-brown and starting to split, about 10 minutes. Coarsely blitz in a spice grinder (or finely chop) and allow to cool for 10 minutes.

Mix the butter with 2 tsp of the ground black lime, the chopped pumpkin seeds and 1 tsp flaked sea salt to combine. You can make this ahead but remove from the fridge half an hour before you need it.

Cut the corn cobs in half widthways, then cut each half lengthways into quarters.

Heat the oil in a medium, high-sided saucepan on a medium heat. When very hot (about 180C if you have a probe), test by lowering in the end of a piece of corn; it should sizzle but not turn brown immediatley.

Fry the corn in batches for 6-7 minutes, turning a few times until they have curled and turned golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Transfer the cooked corn to a bowl and toss with the honey and 1½ tsp of sea salt flakes.

Serve the corn on a platter with the butter on the side and sprinkle with the rest of the ground lime.

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

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An excellent recipe for figs from Ottolenghi Flavour with the hot dressing perfectly complementing the cool ricotta. You can have the figs and the dressing made well in advance, making this dish simple to plate up.

Wine Suggestion: a complex and challenging dish to match with wine but if you can find a good, dry-ish Marsala, aged Tawny Port, or an Oloroso sherry with a hint a sweetness you’ll find the oxidative characteristics, hints of sweetness and tertiary, developed aromas and flavours really work a treat.

Grilled figs with Shaoxing dressing – serves 4 as a starter

  • 8 ripe purple figs, halved
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 ½ maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine (or you can use pale dry sherry)
  • 2 ½ tsp Chinkiang vinegar (or half this quantity of balsamic)
  • 60ml olive oil
  • 2 red chillies, finely sliced into rounds
  • 1 lemon, finely shave the skin to get 5 strips (a vegetable peeler works well)
  • 60g rocket
  • 140g ricotta

Preheat the grill to its highest setting.

Toss the figs in a bowl with the soy sauce and 1 ½ tbsp of maple syrup, then set them cut side up on a parchment lined baking tray. Don’t leave any paper hanging over the edges as it could burn.

Roast the figs close to the grill until soft and caramelised but still holding their shape. It’s fine if they blacken a bit in places. Return the figs and any juices to the same bowl, then add the Shaoxing rice wine, Chinkiang vinegar and another tbsp of maple syrup. Toss together very gently and set aside for at least 1 hour (or overnight).

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a small saucepan over a medium heat, then fry the chillies for 3 minutes. Add the lemon strips and fry for 30 seconds more then immediately pour into a heatproof bowl and set aside to infuse for at least 30 minutes (or overnight).

Arrange the rocket on a platter and top with the figs and dressing. Dot with ricotta and finish with the oil, chillies and lemon.

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

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This really is just the most delicious treat; the perfect beginning of a meal for 2. You will need bread!

Wine Suggestion: an excellent match for a well made Chardonnay with deftly handled oak. Without spending huge amounts Rustenberg’s Stellenbosch Chardonnay is a go to wine for us. With wild ferment in barrels this is complex, nutty, rich and smooth. Power and restraint in equal proportions.

Scallops with green peppercorns and garlic – serves 2

  • 6 scallops, you can remove the corals if you like but we recommend eating them
  • a knob of butter
  • 2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp green peppercorns (you buy them in jars with brine)
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 2-3 tbsp double cream

Heat the grill as high as it will go.

Put the scallops onto a small tray or dish that can go under the grill. We used a small oven-proof frying pan.

Dot the butter over and around the scallops, along with the garlic, peppercorns and thyme. Season with salt and pepper.

Put the dish under the hot grill, fairly close to the element. Grill for 2-3 minutes, then flip over, add the cream, give the tray a shake, then return to the grill for another 2 minutes or untl the scallops are cooked and the sauce bubbling.

Eat with lots of good bread to mop up the sauce.

(Original recipe from Gather by Gill Meller, Quadrille, 2017.)

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We’ve had limited success with prawn cakes in the past, they often fall apart. These are grilled which makes things much easier and the peanut chilli sauce is amazing!

Wine Suggestion: these call for a vibrant, youthful white like Weingut Korrell’s Weißer Burgunder (Pinot Blanc) which was full of charming pear and apple flavours with a zesty citrus twist that complemented the limes and fish sauce a treat.

Prawn cakes with peanut chilli sauce – serves 4 as a starter

  • 2 tbsp palm sugar or soft brown sugar
  • 3 cm piece of fresh ginger
  • a handful of coriander leaves, chopped
  • 3 small Thai shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 long red chilli, diced
  • 400g raw peeled prawns
  • zest of 2 limes
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 3 tsp vegetable oil
  • chilled iceberg lettuce, to serve

FOR THE PEANUT CHILLI SAUCE:

  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100ml rice vinegar
  • 2 red chillies, diced
  • 2 tbsp peanuts, toasted, finely chopped
  • 2 small Thai shallots, chopped
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp coriander

Put the palm or brown sugar into a small frying pan with 1 tbsp of water. Mix together and bring to the boil, then remove from the heat.

To make the peanut chilli sauce, boil the sugar and vinegar in a small saucepan with a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 5 minutes or until syrupy. Remove from the heat and leave to cool completely, then add the chilli, peanuts, shallot, fish sauce and coriander.

To make the cakes, put the ginger, coriander, shallot and chilli in a food processor and blend until fine. Add the prawns, lime zest and fish sauce and pulse until combined, keep it chunky. Season with plenty of black pepper.

Put a little oil on your hands, then form the prawn mixture into 16 flat cakes. Put in the fridge until ready to cook.

Preheat the grill. Brush both sides of the prawn cakes with a tiny bit of oil then put on a rack on top of a baking tray.

Grill the cakes for 1 minute, then brush the tops with the palm sugar syrup. Cook for another 2-3 minutes or until opaque, there is no need to turn. Serve warm with the chilled lettuce leaves and peanut chilli sauce.

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

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

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

Grilled fennel with White Anchovies

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

Preheat the grill to medium.

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

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

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

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This is really a dish for sharing but we ate the lot with some crusty bread. Fabulous and intense flavours of lemon and harissa.

Wine Suggestion: Given this dish has a lot of strong, savoury flavours, including heat from the harissa and sour from the lemon, we had to choose Grüner Veltliner. Tonight’s choice is by Höpler from Burgenland in Austria and it was a pure and elegant wine with an appetising freshness and zesty finish. This stood it’s own ground against the big flavours in the food, was nice as an apertif and a wonderful palate cleanser after we’d finished; versatile indeed.

Harissa chickpeas with flaked cod – serves 4 as a starter

  • 200g skinless cod, remove the bones and cut into 3cm pieces
  • olive oil
  • 1/3 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 cloves of garlic, one crushed and one finely sliced
  • ½ an onion, finely sliced
  • 2 cardamom pods, bashed
  • 1 tbsp harissa, rose harissa if you can get it
  • 2 tsp tomato purée
  • 1½ small preserved lemons, skin finely chopped (discard the flesh)
  • 1 x 400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 200ml vegetable stock
  • 5g coriander, roughly chopped

Put the cod into a bowl with 1½ tsp of olive oil, the cumin, crushed garlic and a pinch of salt. Mix gently, then set aside for 15 minutes.

Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large sauté pan, then add the onion and fry for 4-5 minutes, until soft and golden-brown. Add the sliced garlic and cook for another minute over a gentle heat. Add the cardamom, harissa, tomato purée, preserved lemon, chickpeas and ¼ tsp of salt. Stir for a minute, then add the stock and heat for a few minutes, crushing some of the chickpeas with the back of a spoon to thicken the sauce.

Add the fish and gently stir, then cook for 3-4 minutes, turning half-way through, until cooked and easy to flake. Discard the cardamom pods, sprinkle with the coriander and serve.

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

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These are flavour-packed and great to serve with drinks … cannot wait to have someone over for drinks!

Wine Suggestion: despite the spice in this dish we think these go great with a good sparkling, particularly one made using the Champagne method of double fermentation in the bottle. A touch of dosage, creamy mousse and the lift of naturally acidic grapes both lift the flavours and the mood.

Gochujang Chicken Skewers – serves 4 or more as a bite-sized canapé

  • 500g chicken thigh fillets, cut into small bite-size pieces
  • sesame seeds, to serve
  • scallions, finely sliced to serve

FOR THE MARINADE:

  • 2 cloves of garlic, grated
  • a thumb-sized piece of ginger, grated
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp clear honey, plus a bit extra
  • 1 heaped tsp gochujang paste

Mix all of the marinade ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the chicken pieces and leave to marinate for no more than 30 minutes. 

Heat the oven to 190C/170C Fan/Gas 5.

Put pieces of chicken onto cocktail sticks or small skewers and put onto an oiled baking tray (keep the marinade). Cook for 10-12 minutes. 

Meanwhile, put the marinade into a small pan over a low-medium heat and reduce for a few minutes, you can add a bit of extra honey if you like.

Take the chicken out of the oven and brush with the reduced marinade, then sprinkle the scallions and sesame seeds over the top. 

(Original recipe by Milli Taylor in Olive Magazine, Christmas 2014)

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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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