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Posts Tagged ‘Starter’

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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Smoked Mackerel Loaded Leaves

This is the kind of nibble we like before dinner. Really tasty but light so it won’t spoil your appetite. Radicchio and/or chicory leaves are preferable but if you can’t find these you can substitute Little Gem lettuce – as we did.

Wine Suggestion: Your choice of bubbles, whether it’s Prosecco, Cremant, Cava or Champagne

Smoked Mackerel Loaded Leaves – serves 4-8

  • 200g smoked mackerel fillets, skin removed and flaked
  • 4 tbsp crème fraîche
  • juice and zest of ½ lemon
  • small bunch of chives, snipped
  • small handful of dill, chopped
  • 1 small radicchio, separated into leaves
  • 1-2 chicory heads separated into leaves

Gently mix the mackerel with the crème fraîche, lemon juice, half the herbs and some pepper. Chill until ready to serve.

Spoon generous amounts of the mackerel mixture into each leaf and arrange on a plates or a platter. Sprinkle over the remaining herbs and the lemon zest.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

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Smoked salmon & crab timbales with cucumber parpadelle

This luxurious starter of smoked salmon timbales filled with creamy crab can be made up to a day ahead. You do need to find big slices of smoked salmon as you need to completely line the moulds to stop the filling leaking out.

Wine Suggestion: as befits the occasion these go great with bubbly. We love good Champagne, but have recently been sampling various Cremants from around France and enjoying the variation and character each brings. With this we served the Manciat Poncet Cremant de Bourgogne which our friend brought along to dinner.

Smoked salmon timbales with cucumber pappardelle – serves 8

  • 12 large slices of smoked salmon
  • 225g full-fat soft cheese
  • 100-150ml sour cream
  • 100g white crab meat
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh dill, plus some sprigs to garnish
  • lemon wedges, to garnish

FOR THE CUCUMBER PAPPARDELLE:

  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 150ml olive oil
  • a few black peppercorns
  • 1-2 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 large cucumber peeled

Line eight 100ml ramekins with the smoked salmon making sure there are not gaps and hanging it well over the sides.

Beat the cheese to soften and mix in 100ml soured cream – loosen with a little more cream if still too firm to spoon.

Pick over the crab and remove any tiny bits of shell. Stir into the cheese with the chopped dill and season. Spoon into the moulds and fold over the overhanging salmon, then cover with cling film and chill in the fridge for 2 hours (you can do this up to a day ahead).

Make the dressing for the cucumber. Put the sugar and 3 tbsp of water int a small saucepan and bring quickly to a simmer. Add the lemon zest and juice, oil and peppercorns, then taste and add 1-2 tsp of vinegar. Season with salt. Return to the boil, then cool (this can also be made up to a day ahead).

Use a swivel peeler to shave long strips of cucumber until you get to the seeds. Discard the centre. Don’t do this any more than 30 minutes beforehand or it will go soggy.

To serve, unwrap and run a knife between the salmon and the ramekins to pop them out onto plates. Strain the dressing through a sieve, mix a few tablespoons with the cucumber and arrange next to the timbales. Garnish with lemon wedges and dill and drizzle over some more dressing.

(Original recipe by Gary Rhodes in BBC Good Food Magazine, December 2004.)

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Rosemary and cheese straws 1

Who knew cheese straws could be so tasty? These are a great freezer standby to pull out and bake as needed and they work perfectly with pre-dinner drinks. They are definitely best served warm so don’t bake until your guests have arrived and have drinks in hands.

Wine Suggestion: Champagne and if not in your budget, a really good sparkling with a bit of time on the lees. We don’t know anyone who refuses this combination!

Rosemary & Cheese Straws – makes 36

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 375g pack of ready-rolled all-butter puff pastry
  • 3 tbsp roughly chopped rosemary, plus a bit extra
  • 100g gruyère or emmental, finely grated
  • 2 tbsp finely grated Parmesan
  • sea salt, for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 200C/Fan 180C/Gas 6.

Mix 1 egg yolk with the mustard and stir until smooth, then set aside.

Lightly flour a work surface and open out the pastry, then prick all over with a fork. Brush the egg and mustard mixture over the pastry.

Sprinkle the rosemary over the pastry, followed by the cheeses and lightly press into the pastry. Cut the pastry sheet in half lengthways, then cut each length widthways into 2cm wide strips. Twist the strips gently.

Put the straws onto two large non-stick baking trays or trays lined with parchment. Press the ends of each twist onto the tray. Beat the remaining egg yolk with a teaspoon of water and brush over the twists, then sprinkle with the additional rosemary and sea salt. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until puffed and golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool a little but serve while still warm.

To Freeze: Make the straws up to the point of twisting, then arrange on a large baking tray and freeze, uncovered, until solid, then pack into a freezer-proof box. To serve, remove from the freezer and glaze with the egg yolk (as above) and bake from frozen for 12 to 15 minutes.

(Original recipe by Henry Harris in BBC Good Food Magazine, November, 2001.)

Rosemary and cheese straws 2

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Patatas Bravas

We love these crispy potato cubes with spicy sauce and this version roasts the potatoes in the oven rather than frying them in heaps of oil. Serve as a side dish or just on their own for a snack.

Wine Suggestion: We love a dry sherry with these, but can’t decide between whether we prefer Fino, Amontillado or Oloros – we recommend them all.

Patatas Bravas – serves 4

  • 800g floury potatoes, peeled and cut into 3-4cm cubes
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped flatleaf parsley, to serve

FOR THE SAUCE

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp sherry vinegar
  • ½ tsp sugar or honey
  • 1 tbsp sweet paprika, plus extra to serve
  • 1 tsp hot paprika, plus extra to serve

Put the potatoes into a pot and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, add plenty of salt, and simmer for 3-4 minutes or until starting to soften. Drain gently so they don’t break up too much.

Preheat the oven to 200C/Fan 180C/Gas 6.

Put 2 tbsp of olive oil in a roasting tin and heat in the oven. Add the drained potatoes, toss in the oil, and roast for 40-45 minutes.

To make the sauce, heat the olive oil in a small saucepan and add the garlic. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until the garlic has started to soften but not coloured. Add the vinegar and sugar or honey and stir until dissolved. Stir in the sweet and hot paprikas.

Pour the sauce over the crispy potatoes and sprinkle with a little extra paprika and some finely chopped parsley.

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

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