Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Ribollita (again)

A perfect way to round off the year and counteract the Christmas excesses with a warming, hearty soup. This was made a few weeks back, and the kale was a gift from my friend Tara as she had signed up for Abel and Cole veg boxes and had an excess of it. I made this to use up some leftover vegetables in the fridge, but had a surprise visit from my mother and aunt the next day, so served this as a starter while my mum provided the main course. However, it is more than substantial enough to have on its own.

The parmesan rind is not essential, though it adds plenty of flavour. If you don't have one to hand, just sprinkle grated parmesan over when you dish up. I always keep my the rinds of my exhausted parmesan wedges in the fridge for adding flavour to dishes like this.

Ingredients (serves 6-8):
1 carrot
1 onion
1 stick celery
1 courgette
250g puy lentils
200g new potatoes 
100g chestnut mushrooms
100g mograbiah (Israeli couscous)
250g kale
1 parmesan rind (or grated fresh parmesan)
800g chopped tomatoes
450ml chicken or vegetable stock

Finely chop the onion and carrot and slice the celery, and in a large heavy bottomed saucepan, gently fry over a low heat until translucent. Thinly slice the courgette, then peel and dice the potatoes, then add to the pan and fry for a further 10 minutes. Thinly slice and add the mushrooms, fry for a couple of minutes then add the lentils, parmesan rind, chopped tomatoes and chicken stock and boil for about 30 minutes.

Add the mograbiah to the soup then chop the kale into 1cm ribbons. After 10 minutes, add the kale and cook for a further 5 minutes. Ladle into soup bowls, making sure to leave the parmesan rind in the pan and serve with freshly baked ciabatta. Yum!

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Tarte Aux Poireaux

This is in many ways the sister recipe to the Tarte aux Oignons et Lardons I made back in September. This was made as a large tart and cut into slices as finger food for a cocktail party a few weeks back, and was declared "excellent" by everyone who tried it. Though I suspect this was more down to their inebriation than any cooking talent of my own!

Ingredients (makes 12 6cm squares):
250g shortcrust pastry
2 leeks
4 eggs
40g grated parmesan
3 dessertspoons crème fraîche
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 200°C, then line a 32cm shallow baking tray with greaseproof paper. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface so that it fits the container, then line the baking tray on top of the paper. Prick the pastry all over with a form and add another sheet of greaseproof paper, then fill with ceramic baking beans. Place in the oven for 15 minutes, until cooked.

While the pastry is baking, slice the leeks into 5mm slices and gently fry until soft and golden, then set aside. In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, crème fraîche, parmesan and nutmeg, then season with a little salt and pepper. 

When the pastry is cooked, remove the top sheet of greaseproof paper and ceramic beans, then distribute the leeks evenly on top of the pastry. Gently pour over the egg and crème fraîche mix so that it fully covers the leeks and the pastry case is filled, then bake in the oven for a further 15-20 minutes.

When cool, transfer to a flat wooden board (a large chopping board will do) and slice into three lengthways and quarters widthways so you have perfect hand-sized portions. You can either serve it warm or at room temperature - your choice!

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Mushroom Blinis

The cost of buying blinis is silly, especially considering how easy they are to make and how much nicer they are than the shop-bought variety. It has to be said, they are a little bit more time-consuming, but they don't require much skill at all as they are basically just Russian yeast pancakes. The traditional topping is smoked salmon and crème fraîche; however, I've decided to make a vegetarian version to cater for all the non-fish eaters over the festive season.

 Ingredients (makes 20 blinis):
For the blinis
40g buckwheat flour
125g strong white plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
5g dried yeast
150ml crème fraîche
175ml skimmed milk
2 eggs

For the topping
250g chestnut mushrooms
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp crème fraîche
5g chives
salt and pepper

Sift together the buckwheat flour, plain flour and salt into a large bowl, then sprinkle in the yeast. Put the crème fraîche and milk in a saucepan and heat it until it is just lukewarm - if it is too warm it will kill the yeast. Then whisk the egg yolks into the milk and crème fraîche and pour the liquid into the flour mixture.

Beat everything together until you have a thick batter, then cover the bowl with a clean tea cloth and leave it in a warm place for about 1 hour – I put mine in front of a warm radiator as I don't have an airing cupboard. After an hour the batter will be spongy and bubbly. Next, whisk the egg whites into stiff peaks and fold into the batter. Recover with the cloth and leave as before for another hour.  

The batter should still be bubbly and faintly warm. Now, to make the blinis. Heat a frying pan with a teaspoon of olive oil and wait until it gets really hot. Then spoon just over half a dessertspoon of batter per blini into the pan and fry for about 20-30 seconds on each side, so they are cooked and golden but not burned. I did about 3-4 blinis per each time in the pan. You will need to add a little more oil after each batch or the blinis will stick.

To make the topping, finely dice the mushrooms, then quickly fry to seal in the juices. When half-way cooked, crush in the garlic and cook for a further couple of minutes. Season with salt and pepper then stir in the crème fraîche. Dollop a teaspoon of mushroom on each blini and top with a sprinkling of chopped chives. Serve immediately with a glass of prosecco.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Salmon with Puy Lentils and Parmentier Potatoes

The whole of my mother's family was in London the other week - unusal as my aunt lives in Rome and my uncle in Somerset - and my uncle made a delicious fish dish. He made it with cod, but I decided to recreate it using salmon as I thought the flavours would work similarly well together. They did, and it got the other half's seal of approval. Excellent!

Ingredients (serves 4):
350g new potatoes
1 carrot
1 medium onion
1 stick celery
250g puy lentils
100ml chicken stock
100ml white wine
7g chives
4 boneless salmon fillets, skin on

Begin by making the parmentier potatoes: preheat oven to 200°C, then peel and dice the potatoes into 1.5cm cubes. Melt 25g of butter in a pan and gently fry for  5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the potatoes from browning or sticking to the pan. Then transfer the potatoes to a baking tray, add a little more butter and a little salt and pepper, then roast for up to half an hour, shaking halfway to prevent them from sticking.
While the potatoes are roasting, finely chop the onion and carrot and fry gently in a little olive oil for about 5 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Slice the celery and add to the frying pan. Cook for a further couple of minutes then add the lentils. I use pre-cooked Merchant Gourmet puy lentils to save a little time. Cook the lentils for a minute or so, then add the chicken stock and white wine. Simmer down until the liquid is almost gone. 

When the sauce is nearly cooked, fire up the grill or griddle, then grill the salmon until pink cooked through but not dry - about 5 minutes.

To serve, divide the parmentier potatoes between the four plates, then place the salmon on top. Finish by spooning over a tablespoon or so of the lentil sauce and garnish with a sprinkle of chopped chives.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Not An Egg McMuffin

I try to avoid junk food most of the time, though I have a couple of guilty pleasures. This is the perfect cure for the Christmas party season and will fix many a hangover. This is inspired by a recipe that first appeared in the Guardian's student cookbook, and on one particularly hangover-addled morning the boy and I decided it was the only thing that could possibly fix us.

I think this well and truly eclipses the McDonalds version. The only concession to the original is processed cheese slices, which I rather like. However, if you want to be a good food purist about it, I suppose a nice mature cheddar will work just as well. I like mine with peri peri sauce, though if you want a gentler version, use ketchup instead.

Ingredients (makes 2):
2 english muffins
2 large eggs
2 rashers smoked bacon
2 sausages
4 slices processed cheese
dijon mustard
ketchup or peri peri sauce

As this is basically an assembly job, I suggest turning the oven on to about 100°C to keep things warm as  you go.

Begin by grilling the sausages - they will need 15-20 mins to cook through. While the sausages are grilling, fry the bacon until lightly browned but not quite crisp, then put in the oven. Next, slice the muffins in half and toast them. Again, put these in the oven to keep warm. Put a pan on filled with about 4cm water, add a lidful of white wine vinegar to the mix and bring to the boil. Once boiling, turn down the heat so it reaches a gentle simmer.

At this point, put the sausages in the oven. Making poached eggs without a mould isn't hard at all. The most important thing, which I cannot stress enough, is making sure that the eggs are really fresh as it is this moreso than any swirling of water or other bits of trickery that will make the eggs keep their shape. I swirl the water a little, then add the eggs one after the other and simmer for 2-3 minutes. 

While the eggs are simmering, put the muffins on plates. Spread a little mustard on the inside top of each one, then slice the sausages into thirds lengthways and place on the bottom muffin slice. Put a slice of cheese on top, then add the bacon and some ketchup or peri peri sauce. Next, using a slotted spoon, remove the eggs from the water one by one and place on top of the bacon. Add the second slice of cheese and then place the muffin lid on top. Voila! Tasty, hangover-fixing junk food. And with a delicious runny yolk to boot.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Chicken and Lentil Curry

This is not authentic in the least, but in the near-freezing weather I felt like warming comfort food. And for me, warming generally means spicy. I love spicy. I love it lots. 

The recipe is quick to prepare, but if you can lavish adequate time on it to let it slowly simmer and the sauce reduce, it really benefits. It took me 10 minutes to put the ingredients together, but needs a couple of hours to get the best out of the sauce, so is perhaps not ideal if you're starving or in a hurry!

I kept this really simple and just served with a side of basmati rice. Oh, and a glass of ice cold beer.

Ingredients (serves 6):
1 red onion
2 red chillis
2.5cm fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic
2tsp garam masala
6 chicken thighs
6 baby aubergines
1 tin green lentils
1 tin coconut milk
2 tins chopped tomatoes
juice of half a lemon
20g fresh coriander

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large saucepan over a low heat, then peel and slice the onion. Deseed and slice the chilli, and peel and cut the ginger into matchsticks then fry together until the onion is soft. Add the garam masala, peel and roughly slice the garlic, and quarter the baby aubergines and then fry both for a couple of minutes before slicing the chicken thighs into 2cm strips. Add the chicken and fry until sealed, then add the lentils, lemon juice and tinned tomatoes. 

Simmer slowly for about an hour, stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn't stick, and then add the coconut milk. Roughly chop the coriander, and then add to the curry, reserving a little for garnish at the end. Simmer for a further hour, until you are left with a thick, gloopy sauce.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Courgette, Olive and Sundried Tomato Muffins

This is loosely inspired by a Dan Lepard recipe that featured in The Guardian a while back. My sister makes amazing muffins, but I am less of a sweet tooth, so upon realising that you could just as easily make savoury ones I leapt to the challenge. 

To me, these make a perfect lunch on the go - small, quick to eat, and very tasty. A little bit like a portable pizza. These are fluffy and moist but faintly spicy and with a slight bite from the courgettes and olives. Yum.

2 large eggs
100ml cold milk
25ml olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp coriander powder
6 spring onions
20 pitted black olives
30g coriander
100g sundried tomatoes
275g grated mozzarella
275g courgette
100g plain wholemeal flour
175g plain flour
3 tsp baking powder

In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs together with the milk and olive oil, then add the salt, pepper, chilli flakes, smoked paprika, cumin and coriander powder. Next, finely chop the coriander leaves and thinly slice the spring onions and olives and add to the mix. 

Then grate in the courgettes and add the grated mozzarella. Mix thoroughly. Finally, weigh out the flour and sift into the mix along with the baking powder and fold in until fully amalgamated.

Line a 12 hole muffin tray with paper cases and divide the mix evenly among them. Bake in the oven at 180C for 25 minutes until they have risen and are a gorgeous gold colour. Allow to cool for about 10-15 minutes before eating - you might burn your mouth otherwise!

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Tarte aux Pommes

I know my blog has a tendency to go "France! France! France!", but I can't help it. I am a complete and utter Francophile. And I have to blog one of my most favourite desserts, which just happens to be French. Je suis désolé. As I've said before, I am not much of a sweet tooth, so this is about perfect for me. Fruity, not too sugar-y, and delicious either on its own or with cream or icecream.

I made these as individual portions, but the quantities will equally cover a 24cm tin. I have used pre-made pastry as it saves a lot of time and is as good as anything I can make, but I'm not going to stop you if you want to go the whole hog and make your own!

Ingredients (makes 4):
100g shortcrust pastry
5 granny smith apples
2 tablespoons demerera sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon apricot jam
2 tablespoons brandy

Roll out the pastry so that it is very thin and will either cover 4 individual (10cm) tartlet cases or one 24cm case. Next, peel and chop up two of the apples and cook with the demerera sugar, lemon juice, and a tablespoon of brandy until it turns into a soft purée. 

Line the base(s) of your case(s) with the purée, then peel and thinly slice the apples, arranging them on top of the purée. Sieve the apricot jam to remove any lumps, then heat with the brandy until runny. 

Using a pastry brush, spread the brandy and apricot mix over the top of the sliced apples as a glaze, then bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes at 190°C, then allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Serve with cream or icecream and a nice sticky Sauternes. It is also extremely good served cool.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Coq au Vin

As the realisation hit that it wasn't going to get any warmer and a three minute walk to the shops left me with frozen fingers and a distinct feeling of being a bit cold, I decided it was time for a proper winter warmer recipe.

Although coq au vin is extremely simple, it does take time to prepare so is worth making in advance. An added bonus is that it always tastes better the second time round. Pickling onions can sometimes be quite hard to find so if they are unavailable, just use small shallots instead.

Ingredients (serves 4):
8 chicken thighs (or a combination of thighs and drumsticks)
200g cubetti di pancetta
300g baby button mushrooms
400g pickling onions
4 garlic cloves
750ml red wine
1 litre chicken stock
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs rosemary
5 sprigs fresh thyme
25g butter
2 tbsp plain flour
salt and pepper

Place the chicken thighs in a large bowl and add the bay leaves, rosemary, thyme and red wine, then leave to marinate while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. 

Peel, then top and tail the pickling onions, then fry the pancetta in a large, heavy pan - I used a Le Creuset casserole dish. You won't need any oil as the fat from the pancetta will be enough. Cook the pancetta for about a minute before adding the onions, then fry for a further 2-3 minutes, then add the garlic and mushrooms. Fry for a minute and then set the ingredients aside.

Put the flour on a chopping board, then remove the thighs from the red wine marinade and dust them in flour. Next, melt the butter in the pan you're using, and add the chicken. Fry until the skin is golden, then add the red wine marinade, the chicken stock and the onions, mushrooms, garlic and pancetta and season with salt and pepper.

Cook slowly over a low heat for 45 minutes to an hour, skimming off any excess fat as you go. You can either serve the Coq au Vin now, or you can reheat it when you're ready to eat as it is always better on second heating! Either way, the meat should fall succulently off the bone. I served it with rice, but it is equally delicious with new potatoes and fresh green beans.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Chocolate and Raspberry Mousse

I don't have much of a sweet tooth, so making dessert is not usually very high up on my "to-do" list when cooking. However, with a friend over for dinner and the resident sweet tooth out on a course, I was left trying to think of something tasty, but not overly sweet. You'd be forgiven for taking one look at the picture below, and the ingredients, and thinking it was a sweet tooth's dream, but the dark chocolate is deliciously bitter and the raspberries, although sweet, also tart. Perfect for a non-sweet tooth like me!

This was a surprisingly successful first attempt - I have never made chocolate mousse before. The raspberries proved to be an inspired addition, with the acidity providing the perfect balance to the rich dark chocolate. It is a wonderful dessert to be able to make - it is so quick and easy to make, can be made the day before if needed, and looks impressive, especially if you serve it in martini glasses or wine goblets.

Ingredients (serves 6):
250g dark chocolate (70% cocoa)
6 egg yolks
1 tbsp creme framboise
6 egg whites
250g frozen raspberries
2 tbsp icing sugar

About an hour before you start making the mousse, place the frozen raspberries in a bowl and sprinkle with 2 tbsp of icing sugar. Set aside and allow to defrost.

Next, place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl within a gently simmering pan of water  and gently melt it, stirring occasionally. Dip your finger into the chocolate to check that it is warm, not hot (you don't want to cook the egg yolks) and transfer it to a large bowl. Whisk in with the egg yolks and creme framboise.

Whisk the egg whites in another large bowl until they form stiff, meringue-y peaks then mix a couple of spoons into the chocolate mixture, and gradually fold in the rest in two or three goes, as lightly as possible.

Stir the raspberries and sugar - they should have lost a lot of juice, which is normal - and then spoon a dessertspoon into the bottom of each container that you're serving the mousse in. Then spoon the mousse on top, add any remaining raspberry and juice to the top of the mousse, then cover with clingfilm and chill for several hours until ready to eat.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Papardalle with Courgettes and Chilli

To counteract the excesses of the starter I posted previously, I followed it up with a simple pasta dish. It is hard to believe that something this good only has six main ingredients (or five if you want to make it vegan) but it is absolutely delicious and perfect for a midweek supper. I shall certainly be making it again!

Ingredients (serves 4):
250g pappardalle (or other wide, flat pasta)
1 courgette
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp chilli flakes
juice and zest of half a lemon
Salt and pepper
Grated parmesan to garnish

Put the pasta on to boil as per the instructions on the bag, then thinly slice the courgette (I used a mandolin to make the slices as thin as possible) and slowly fry it over a low heat with a little olive oil. Next, thinly slide the garlic cloves and after the courgettes have been cooking for about 5-7 minutes, add them to the pan. Fry for a minute or so, then add the chilli flakes, lemon juice and zest, spoon a couple of tablespoons of the pasta water into the pan and reduce until there is just enough liquid to lightly coat the pasta. 

Season the sauce with a little salt and pepper, then drain the pasta once it is done. Add the sauce to the pasta and serve with a sprinkle of grated parmesan if you so desire.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Portobello, Oyster and Chestnut Mushrooms with Dolcelatte on Toast

I met up with a friend for a light lunch and catch-up the other week and had a version of this at the pub we visited. It was so good that I wanted to try and recreate - and hopefully improve - it. So, inspiration at the ready, I set about making it as a rather indulgent starter for another friend when she came over for dinner. If you're counting calories, I suggest you look away now. If not? Then get stuck in! The creamy dolcelatte sauce is a delicious accompaniment to the deliciously garlic-y mushrooms and the rocket cuts a little of the richness.

Ingredients (serves 2):
2 portobello mushrooms
75g chestnut mushrooms
75g oyster mushrooms
2 garlic cloves 
Salt and pepper
150g dolcelatte
75g creme fraiche
1 tsp white wine vinegar
50g rocket
2 slices sourdough bread

Part of this can be prepared in advance, and if you have the time available, I advise that you do as it makes it much less fiddly when it comes to the final assembly.

Begin by making the dolcelatte cream: put the cheese and creme fraiche in a mixing bowl and mash with a fork until it is fairly smooth, then stir in the vinegar. Put in the fridge until ready to use. Next, prepare the portobello mushrooms. Trim off any excess stem, then crush a clove of garlic and spread it across the two mushrooms. Season with a little salt and pepper then drizzle with oil. Turn the grill on and bring to temperature.

While waiting for the grill, roughly chop the chestnut mushrooms and slice up any larger oyster mushrooms so they are of a similar size to the chestnut mushrooms. Drizzle a little oil into a frying pan and when hot, quickly fry the chestnut and oyster mushrooms to seal in the juices.

While the smaller mushrooms are frying, place the portobello mushrooms under the grill and cook for 5-10 minutes, until the mushroom looks cooked (it will shrink a little and some of the juices will show on the bottom skin). Put two slices of sourdough bread in the toaster or under the grill, and when hot rub a scored garlic clove over the surface to give it a garlic flavour. 

Then finally, spoon the dolcelatte sauce into the frying pan with the smaller mushrooms to melt it, arrange the portobello mushrooms on the toast with a handful of rocket on the side to garnish and spoon the mushroom and dolcelatte sauce over the portobello mushroom. Serve immediately.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Roasted New Potatoes

Not so much a recipe - how can it truly be a recipe with only one ingredient - as a really great and simple side dish. I wasn't going to blog this at all, until I put them on the table alongside the Cajun Chicken in the previous post and my other half exclaimed that they were the best potatoes ever. So I thought I would share.

Ingredients (serves 4-6 as a side dish):
500g baby new potatoes
Olive oil
25g butter
Salt and pepper

Boil the new potatoes for 15-20 minutes, until cooked and soft when you test them with a knife. Drain and leave to cool. Put the oven on at 200°C and bring to temperature. Meanwhile, when the potatoes are cool enough to handle, gently squash them so they crack but don't break (there will be some casualties, but it doesn't matter).

Lay them in a single layer on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil, chop up the butter and distribute among the potatoes and then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 35-45 minutes, turning occasionally. The skins should be cracked and golden like you see in the picture above, and the flesh melt in the mouth soft and flavoursome. This is also really lovely if you roast them with a few extra sprigs of rosemary for flavour.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Cajun Chicken Thighs

My friend's dad makes the most amazing cajun seasoned chicken kebabs, and I thought I would try my hand at them too. Sadly it is no longer barbeque season, but if you have a grill it needn't mean the end of delicious, slightly charred kebabs until next summer. These were lovely served with a simple green salad and new potatoes.

Ingredients (makes 2 kebabs):
6 skinless and boneless chicken thighs
1 teaspoon cajun paste
1 teaspoon chilli flakes
2 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 dessertspoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper

First, mix together the cajun paste, chilli flakes, olive oil and lemon juice in a large bowl, then crush and mix in the garlic. Season with a little salt and pepper. Next, cut the chicken thighs into 3cm strips and marinade for up to two hours in the fridge. 

When ready, roll up each slice and add to the skewers until all the chicken is used up. Place under a hot grill and cook for 15-20 minutes, turning occasionally. Test the meat before serving - it should be piping hot with no pink flesh and the juices should run clear when a knife is pushed into the meat.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Fig and Goats Cheese Salad

This recipe is small cruelty on my part, I must admit. Mainly because it is the tail end of the fig season and if you want to make this recipe this year, you'll need to move fast! Figs are one of my mother's favourite fruits, and living close to so many wonderful Turkish supermarkets, I have been able to provide her with a steady stream of perfectly ripe figs, though not before keeping a few for myself. Unlike her, I am not a huge fan of them on their own, but i think they are absolutely delicious in salads.

It may look quite fiddly and like it takes a long time to make, but most of that time is taken up with roasting the onions so don't be put off!

Ingredients (serves 4):
For the salad:
4 figs
1 red onion
2 capricorn goats cheeses
1 tbsp pine nuts
100g rocket
100g spinach

For the dressing:
2½ tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
Salt and black pepper

Begin by cutting the onions into wedges, then place in a roasting tin, drizzle with olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper then roast at 200°C for 35 minutes or until the onions are soft and slightly caramelised. While the onions are cooling, grill the pine nuts, taking care not to burn them and slice the goats cheese in half width-ways (see photo) ready to grill.

Mix up the vinaigrette and place a small handful of rocket and spinach on each plate, scatter the pint nuts and onion slices over the leaves, cut the figs into quarters and place on the plate. Grill the goats cheese for 3-5 minutes, until runny and slightly golden on top, spoon the vinaigrette over the salad and then place the goats cheese on top. Serve immediately, it is nicest while the goats cheese is still warm.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Chicken Noodle Salad

I couldn't possibly tell you the origins of this recipe. It came from my mother via one of her friends, who had photographed a page of another friend's recipe book. So I cannot entirely call it my own. However, I have added to and tweaked it slightly.

What I do know about the original is that it comes from a famous chef in Sydney, Australia; and is a delicious fusion of Australian and Thai cooking, which the Aussies do so well.

I have also made a vegan version of this, which has been submitted to Siren Magazine, so check there if you're interested.

Ingredients (serves 4):
For the marinade
3 tablespoons fish sauce
freshly ground black pepper
3 garlic cloves
2 large red chillis
2 teaspoons sugar
8 skinless and boneless chicken thighs
2 tablespoons olive oil

For the salad
3 tablespoons lime juice
3 tablespoons caster sugar
200g rice noodles
1 cucumber
1 ripe mango
10g fresh mint
10g fresh coriander
4 shallots
2 tbsp cashew nuts

Deseed and finely chop the chillis, crush the garlic cloves then whisk the fish sauce, pepper, chillis, garlic and sugar together in a bowl. Chop the chicken thighs into 2cm strips and then place in a separate bowl. Pour half the sauce over and allow to marinade for 20 minutes to two hours in the fridge.

Finely slice the shallots and add them to the remaining marinade. Add the lime juice and caster sugar and mix well. Set aside to allow the sugar to dissolve.

Peel the cucumber, then slice in half lengthways. Scoop out the seeds using a teaspoon, then finely slice the cucumber halves into 3mm slices. Peel the mango then slice into similarly thin slithers. Cook the rice noodles - I plunged mine into just-boiled water and let sit for 15 minutes - then rinse and drain thoroughly. Add the dressing to the noodles, crush the cashew nuts and finely chop the mint and coriander. 

Using a griddle (or George Foreman grill, whichever you prefer), cook the chicken for 3 minutes each side, until cooked through.

Add the mint and coriander to the noodles and mix so they are evenly distributed throughout, then serve up the noodles onto plates, sprinkling with a small handfuls of cashews per person, and dividing up the mango and cucumber between the two plates. Place the grilled chicken on top at the end and serve. I found this delicious with a bottle of Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Spicy Parsnip Soup

One for the sadly cooling weather - a heartwarming, spicy soup. This was made for Siren Magazine and is vegan. Parsnips are one my my favourite winter vegetables and they are in season at the moment. I am most familiar with them as an accompaniment to a Sunday roast, but they make an excellent soup too and they hold their own against an assortment of spices. 

For those less than enamoured with the thought of using soy cream (though I urge you to try it, it works beautifully adding a hint of creaminess to the soup), you can replace it with either single cream or fat free natural yogurt for a healthier alternative.

Ingredients (serves 6):
6 parsnips
1 large onion
2 garlic cloves
3cm fresh root ginger
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp Maldon salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1.5 litres vegetable stock
250ml soy single cream
1 fresh red chilli (to garnish)

Turn the oven on to 180°C and bring up to temperature. Meanwhile, chop the parsnips and onion into wedges and transfer to a large roasting dish. Combine all the spices (apart from the fresh ginger) in a bowl and then sprinkle over the parsnips and onions. Drizzle olive oil over the vegetables, give them a toss and then place in the oven for 35 minutes, or until the parsnips are soft. 

While the parsnips and onions are roasting, peel and chop the garlic, then peel and chop the ginger. Add them to the roasting vegetables about 10 minutes before they are ready. 

Once done, in batches, transfer the roasted vegetables, along with 2-3 ladles of vegetable stock to a blender.  Blend until you have a purée, then transfer to a large saucepan lined with a sieve. You want to push the soup through a sieve to get rid of any lumps and bumps. Once all the ingredients have been blended and sieved, turn the soup on to a low heat to warm through. Once warm, add the soy cream and stir in. Keep on heating the soup until it is piping hot, but do not allow to boil as the cream will curdle.

Finally, finely chop the fresh red chilli, taking care to discard any seeds. Transfer the soup to bowls and then garnish with a few slices of chilli per bowl.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Smoked Salmon and Spinach Tartlets

This was originally a guest blog and was developed especially for the excellent Siren Magazine

After trying and failing and trying and failing at making my own pastry the way it should be, I finally gave in and bought a pack of ready made frozen pastry from the supermarket. I honestly don’t know why I didn’t just do this in the first place – it’s cheap, you still get all the fun of rolling it out and that home made look. Naturally, it is also the perfect consistency. Not too short, not too dough-y. Perfect!

Having cracked the pastry problem, the world of tartlets was suddenly my oyster so I set about making what, to me, was the perfect Saturday lunch. Smoked salmon, spinach, and a creamy but not-too-rich sauce. These are delicious hot or cold so make a nice additional treat to take on picnics or in packed lunches.

Ingredients (makes 4 tartlets):
125g frozen shortcrust pastry
2 eggs
2 tbsp crème fraîche
30g comté (or emmental)
¼ tsp nutmeg
Pinch of salt and pepper
100g spinach
1 garlic clove
50g smoked salmon
4 baby plum tomatoes
2 spring onions

4x 10cm fluted tins

Begin by rolling out the pastry on a lightly floured surface (to prevent it from sticking) so there is enough to line the pastry tins - it should be around 1.5-2mm thick. Turn the oven on to 190°C, then once you have lined the tins, remove excess pastry from the edges and then prick the pastry with a fork.

Place a large square of baking paper (enough to fully cover the inside of the case) over the pastry and fill the cases with ceramic beans (though rice, lentils or dried beans will serve equally well). Place in the oven for 15-20 minutes.

While the cases are baking, in a blender whisk together the eggs, crème fraîche, comté, nutmeg, salt and pepper and then set aside. Next, wilt the spinach in a pan with a hint of olive oil and the garlic clove crushed in for flavour. Once the spinach has wilted, transfer to a sieve to drain off any excess liquid. You might need to press the spinach firmly with a spoon – if the spinach is too wet, it will make the bottom of your pastry cases soggy.

Slice the smoked salmon into ribbons, finely slice the spring onion and quarter the baby plum tomatoes. The pastry cases should be done by this point, so remove from the oven (but leave the oven on – you’ll be using it again very soon) and allow to cool for 10 minutes before you embark on the next step.

Once the pastry is cool, remove the ceramic beans and baking paper and divide the spinach between the four cases so that it lines the bottom of the case. Then, add the smoked salmon and sprinkle the spring onions on top. Arrange four quarters of tomato on top of each tartlet then finally, spoon the egg mixture into the tartlets until it just reaches the top.

Place the tartlets back in the oven for a further 15-20 minutes, until the egg is set and the surface of the tartlets lightly golden. Let cool for 5 minutes then serve with a fresh green salad. Bon appetit!

Sunday, 26 September 2010


Ribollita simply means "reboiled" in Italian, and true to form, this soup tastes even better on its second heating. As the days grow gradually cooler, I had a craving for a hearty soup and this hit the spot perfectly. Visiting my aunt in Tuscany, I have had many variations on this and the one constant is the simple ingredients and hearty, wholesome nature of the soup. 

If you wish to make this dish vegan, simply omit the parmesan and make sure you use vegetable rather than chicken stock. With soup this delicious, who needs meat anyway?

Ingredients (serves 4):
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
75g pearl barley
1 onion
2 carrots
1 courgette
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp mixed herbs
½ tsp chilli flakes
400g chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato purée
900ml chicken or vegetable stock,
1 pinch salt
1 pinch black pepper
400g borlotti beans
250g spinach leaves
8 slices ciabatta bread
1 tbsp parmesan cheese plus extra to sprinkle on at end


Put the barley in a pan with about an inch of cold water in it and bring to the boil, then drain, rinse and repeat. Once cooked, set the barley aside in a colander or sieve until ready to use.

Chop the onions and slice the carrots and fry in olive oil over a low heat for five minutes. While these are frying, dice the courgette and add to the pan. Fry for 5 minutes then add the garlic, mixed herbs and chilli flakes and fry for a further minute. Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato purée, and stock. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Drain then mash half the beans with a fork and add to the pan along with the barley then gently bring the soup to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, add the remaining beans and shredded spinach to the pan. Simmer for a further 30 minutes.

When nearly ready to serve, stir 1 tbsp of grated parmesan into the soup, toast the bread until golden and place 2 pieces in each soup bowl then drizzle with a little olive oil.

To serve, spoon the soup over the ciabatta into the bowls and top with a sprinkling of Parmesan.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Tarte aux Oignons et Lardons

In the village of Cordes-sur-Ciel in France, there is a wonderful patisserie at the bottom of the hill called Maison Moulin. Their speciality is sweet pastries and gateaux, but they also do a few delcious savoury treats, my favourite of which is their tarte aux oignons avec lardons (though they also do a divine tarte aux poirons).

As I am in London, just popping down to the bottom of the hill is impossible, and I will have to wait until my next trip out there for the real thing. However, I decided to take a stab at recreating them for myself. These are slightly more rustic than the Moulin version, but my other half (who is also familar with the delights of Moulin) has tasted these and proclaimed them "a good match for the real thing". 

I have made two versions - one large, round version, and individual little tartlets. They are both equally good, so I'll leave it up to you which version you go for! Serve with a fresh green salad and a cool glass of white wine.

 Ingredients (serves 4):
3 Eggs
3 tablespoons crème fraîche
1 tbsp grated parmesan
2 large onions
1 tsp mixed herbs
200 grams of smoked bacon lardons
250g shortcrust pastry
salt and pepper

Chop the onions then gently fry them with the mixed herbs until slightly caramelised and golden in a large frying pan with a tablespoon of oil. Transfer them to a sieve to drain out any excess liquid, then in the same pan, fry the bacon until cooked and tender. Add the bacon to the onions in the sieve to drain out any excess liquid from them too, then mix the bacon and onions together.

Mix the eggs, crème fraîche, parmesan and a pinch of salt and pepper together in a mixing bowl or jug, then roll out the pastry to about 2mm thick and line either four 10cm fluted tins or one 24cm fluted pastry tin. Prick the pastry with a fork then line the pastry with greaseproof paper. Add baking beans to weigh down the pastry, then bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes at 200°C.

Once the pastry has baked, remove the baking beans and greaseproof paper, let sit for a couple of minutes then spoon in the bacon and onion mixture. Finally, pour the egg and crème fraîche sauce over the onions and bacon so it is just covered and bake in the oven at180°C for 25-30 minutes. Delicious hot or cold!

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Baba Ganoush

This has to be one of my all-time favourite dips. I like hummous, but the moment I see Baba Ganoush any desire to eat the hummous goes out the window. It is absolutely delicious - filled with warm, earthy flavours from both the chargrilled aubergine and paprika. I like it served with nothing more than fresh rustic bread; be it ciabatta, Lebanese flatbreads or a really good sourdough.

2 medium aubergines
1 tbsp tahini paste
70ml boiling water
2 garlic cloves
1 tbsp coriander
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp olive oil and a drizzle at the end
1/2 tsp paprika
2 tsp pomegranate molasses
salt and pepper

If you have a gas hob, place the aubergines over an open flame and grill until charred, turning occasionally. This lends a wonderful smokey flavour to the aubergines. If you don't have a gas hob, you can also place the aubergines under a hot grill (pierce them first so they don't explode!) though this doesn't lend quite such a smokey flavour. 

Set the aubergines aside to cool, then slice in half and scoop out the flesh. Take care to avoid the charred skin. Roughly chop the aubergine then set aside to drain for about half an hour. 

In the meantime, prepare the rest of the dip: pour the boiling water into a bowl with a tablespoon of tahini paste and mix until the two ingredients form a paste. Crush in the garlic cloves and add the lemon juice, paprika and pomegranate molasses. 

Once the aubergine has drained, stir it into the tahini paste mix, finely chop the coriander and add that too, season with salt and pepper then taste. You might find it needs a little more lemon, salt or even pomegranate molasses. The Baba Ganoush should taste smokey, but not too dense.

Serve in a bowl and garnish with a drizzle of oil, a sprinkle of paprika and a sprig of coriander.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Paella Marinera

I first had a proper paella two years ago when on a minibreak to Barcelona with my other half. We ate at Puda Can Manel in Barceloneta and had to wait 2 hours to be seated. The place was clearly very popular with the locals, but it was worth the wait. Sat outside on a sunny but still slightly chilly Sunday in late January, we tucked in to a delicious Paella Marinera.

Two years later, my other half and I were discussing what to do with the remaining fish in the fridge in France. It turned into salmon with red pepper and olive salsa, but the idea of making paella was firmly in my head, and with my uncle and aunt coming over for dinner, it seemed like the perfect excuse to make it. The photograph is, unfortunately, missing the ramiro peppers which I only remembered to add once it was too late. However, it is worth remembering them as they add a wonderful splash of colour!

Ingredients (serves 6):
350g monkfish
300g cod
3 new zealand squid tubes
24 mussels
18 whole prawns
350g paella rice
1 litre chicken stock
1 spanish onion
2 garlic cloves
175g marinated artichoke hearts
100g fresh peas
2 ramiro peppers
2 ripe tomatoes
pinch of saffron strands
1 tsp paprika
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

The making of paella is very similar to that of risotto. Use the biggest heavy bottomed pan you have - ideally about 15"/40cm. I don't have such a big pan so made do with my wok, to surprisingly good results.

It helps to have all ingredients prepared in advance so you can add ingredients to the paella as you go with minimal extra hassle. I began by chargrilling, skinning and deseeding the peppers, then chopping them into 1.5cm strips. Then I plunged the tomatoes into boiling water for a minute and skinned and roughly chopped them. I also roughly chopped the artichoke hearts.

From here it was onto the fish. You can use any firm white fish, but I chose to use a combination of cod and monkfish. Make sure the fish is both skinned and boned, then cut into 2cm dice and set aside. Then cut the squid tubes into 1.5cm rings.

Clean the mussels: debeard them with a pair of scissors, discard any open ones that don't close when tapped and leave them in cool - not cold - water with a handful of flour to clean themselves for about half an hour or so.

Now, onto assembling the paella itself. Finely chop the onion and gently fry in about a tablespoon of olive oil. Once soft, add the tomato, crush in the two cloves of garlic and stir in the paella rice. Cook for 2-3 minutes, add the saffron strands then cover with stock. When you have used about half the stock, add the peas, artichokes and ramiro pepper strips.

Stir the monkfish, squid and cod into the rice, add another quarter of stock and simmer gently for 10 minutes. At this stage, add the paprika and season with salt and pepper to taste. Finally, stir in the prawns so they are covered and push the mussels opening end down into the paella. Add the very last of the stock and simmer for a further five minutes, until the mussels are open.

Turn off the heat, stir all the ingredients together one last time, cover with a clean dishcloth and leave to stand for 10 minutes then serve. I paired this with a delicious bottle of white Rioja, which went with it beautifully!