Market Day Salad Nicoise

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Sometimes when food shopping most of the elements of a great recipe just happen to appear before you. In this case, picked this morning french beans, bright green little gem lettuce and fresh from underneath the hen free range eggs. A salad Nicoise is asking to be made. There is no fresh tuna, which I would normally use, but lovely big prawns will do nicely for the fish element. Southern Spain is the land of the tomato, so super tasty tomatoes are always plentiful.

I prefer poached eggs to boiled, I like warm yolks to dribble over the salad, and a vinaigrette dressing to mayonnaise, so here is my version of Salade Nicoise.

Per person

lettuce leaves

1 or 2 tomatoes – chopped

French beans – top and tail them and cut them into about 3cm lengths, then blanch them in boiling water for two or three minutes. Drain and leave to cool.

1 tablespoon corn kernels

1 clove of garlic – chopped

olive oil

7 large prawns – peeled

2 large free range eggs

For the dressing

1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon white wine/cider vinegar

pinch of sugar

Firstly mix all the dressing ingredients together thoroughly. You can put them all in a little jar and give it a good shake. Put to one side while you assemble the salad.

Lay the lettuce leaves on a dinner plate to make a bed for the rest of the ingredients. Strew over the tomatoes, beans and corn.

Heat water in a small pan for poaching the eggs.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a small frying pan and add the chopped garlic, fry for a minute then add the prawns. Fry gently until just cooked through. Add to the salad with the cooking juices and garlic.

Poach the eggs, drain and lay on the salad.

Spoon over the dressing, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Serve with fresh crunchy bread.

Red Rice, Cauliflower & Green Bean Biryani

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In the lockdown I got into ordering some of the food stuffs less easy to get hold of locally online, and that is where I found the red rice. I overcooked it the first time I used it, but now I’ve got it right. It’s all down to the soaking. This rice wants to be steeped in cold water for a couple of hours or so before it’s cooking.

For 4 portions

120 grams red rice

500 ml vegetable stock

50 grams raw cashew nuts

2-3 tablespoons olive or peanut oil

1/2 red onion – diced

3-4 cloves garlic – finely chopped

2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger

1 red chilli – finely chopped

Seeds from 10 green cardamoms

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1/2 medium courgette – cut into small cubes

1/2 cauliflower – just the florets cut small

150 grams french green beans – cut into 1/2 cm lengths

salt and freshly ground black pepper

At least two hours before you are going to cook, put the rice to soak in enough cold water to cover it generously.

Toast the cashews in a thick based pan over a low heat until golden brown. Put to one side.

Drain the rice from its soaking liquid. Heat the stock in a saucepan and once it is boiling add the rice and a pinch of salt. Leave to cook on a slow simmer for about ten minutes.

Heat the oil or butter in a wok or deep frying pan over a low heat and add the onion. Fry until translucent then add the garlic and ginger. Continue frying until the contents are lightly browned.

Add the spices and fry for a few minutes.

Add the courgettes and cauliflower florets. Cover the pan and continue cooking.

After the rice has had its ten minutes of cooking, throw in the green beans and cook for a further 3-4 minutes by which time most of the cooking liquid will have been absorbed.

Add the rice and beans to the rest of the vegetables and stir well to mix. Cook for a further five minutes for the flavours to mix and to dry the Biryani if it is a bit too liquid.

Check the seasonings adding salt and pepper as needed.

Lastly stir in the cashew nuts and serve.

Fish Cooked in Coconut Milk with Spices

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I made the sauce for this fish dish first, and then slowly poached the fish in it. I’ve used fillets of Mackerel as they are in season here right now, so superbly fresh and a good price, but any firm fleshed fish fillets can be used. I haven’t tried it, but it could be a good sauce to cook prawns in as well.

For 2 portions

500 grams fish fillets

1/2 red onion – sliced

2 cloves garlic – finely chopped or green garlic sliced

1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger

1/2 fresh red chilli – finely chopped

oil or butter for frying

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

200 ml coconut milk

1 teaspoon ground rice

juice of a small lime

salt and pepper

Heat the oil or butter in a deep frying pan or wok. Add the onions and cook on a low heat until starting to brown a little.

Add the garlic, ginger and chilli. Stir in and fry for a few minutes.

Add the mustard seeds and fry until they begin to pop, then add the turmeric and coconut milk.

Gently cook the sauce for five minutes.

If the sauce is thin, then thicken with the rice flour.

Add the fish and poach gently until the fillets are just cooked.

Season with salt, pepper and the lime juice.

Serve with rice. I made a Red Rice, Cauliflower and Green Bean Biryani, which went very well. I’ll post the recipe for that next.

Hazelnut Toffee Tart

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I often end a meal with just fresh fruit, but sometimes there’s an urge for something quite sweet, not a big portion, but a mouthful or two of delicious sweetness, and this set of super easy desserts fits the bill. They all have a biscuit base, topped with a caramel toffee made by boiling tins of condensed milk to which chopped nuts are added.

If you have not come across this way of making a toffee before it’s, as I have already said, very easy, if a little disconcerting. You take the labels off your tins of condensed milk, and without opening or piercing them, put them in a pan with enough boiling water to cover and simmer them for three hours. If the water level gets below the top of the tins during cooking just add some boiling water. It’s three hours simmering wether the tins are the small or the larger size. I usually boil three of the small, 400 gram tins together. Let them cool for several hours in the water in which they have cooked. The caramel, being in tins will keep indefinitely of course, so it’s a good standby to have in the cupboard. Even an open tin will keep for several weeks. Shall we slide quickly past the reason being the high sugar content of the toffee…..

When you get to opening your tin you will find a thick caramel that holds its shape and can be spread onto a biscuit base. My favourite tart is to mix chopped nuts into the toffee before spreading it onto the biscuit layer, then decorate the top with whole or half nuts. I’ve made this with Pecan nuts and with Hazelnuts, both are very good. You can also put the a neat toffee layer onto the biscuits, then top that with banana slices and whipped cream for a Banoffee Tart.

The little tart pictured is made in a 10 cm wide loose based tin, which makes 6 my size mini portions or 4 larger ones.
For a 15 cm wide tart tin double all the amounts in the recipe.


60 grams biscuits – finely chopped in a food processor

20 grams butter

200 grams toffeed condensed milk

100 grams hazelnuts

Just in case you have never made a biscuit base, melt the butter in a pan over a low heat, add the biscuits and mix well.
Tip into the tart tin and spread into an even layer, tamp down firmly with either your fingers or something flat. Put to cool in the refrigerator.

Cut enough hazelnuts in half to decorate the top of the tart, then roughly chop the rest.

Mix with the toffee, then once the biscuit base is cooled, spread over this in an even layer, and then decorate with the hazelnut halves.

That’s it! Serve with fresh cream.

Globe Artichoke & Burrata Pasta

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A super simple dish today. Most of the tastiest pasta dishes have few ingredients, and this one is no exception. Good olive oil, garlic, fresh cooked artichokes and Burrata cheese are all that’s needed for the sauce. For the pasta I used my favourite dried pasta, Maccheroni al Ferreto, which I know is not always easy to get hold of. Any of the more substantial pastas will work, tagliatelle, penne, orecchiette or pappardelle.

Per person

tablespoon olive oil

2 cloves garlic – finely chopped

3 globe artichokes

1/2 a Burrata cheese – roughly cut up

salt and freshly ground black pepper

50 grams dried pasta

Bring plenty of salted water to the boil and add the pasta. Let cook at a fast simmer.

Prepare the artichokes by removing the tough outer leaves, then the top tough part of the flower and the stem. Cut into fine wedges.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and throw in the artichokes. Fry them over a moderate heat turning them as they cook.

After five minutes of cooking add the garlic. Continue frying until the artichokes are cooked.

If your pasta isn’t yet cooked turn off the heat under the artichokes and cover them.

Once the pasta is cooked drain it saving a little of the cooking liquid. Add to the artichokes and stir well to mix. Reheat the artichokes if necessary and add a little of the pasta cooking liquor.

Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, then add the cheese. Stir once to mix and serve.

Enjoy!

Spicy Cauliflower Salad with Toasted Almonds and Coconut

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One of my fellow gardening friends has given me a cauliflower he has grown, and it’s the tastiest most tender cauliflower I have eaten in a long time. I blanched some of the florets in boiling water for a minute, before draining them and adding the florets to a mixed salad the other day, which is when I discovered how exceptionally tasty they were. So today I thought to make them the stars of a salad to accompany some Onion Bhaji.

Half a cauliflower – cut into even sized florets

2 tablespoons desiccated coconut

2 tablespoons almond flakes

2 tablespoons peanut or olive oil

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/2 sweet onion – sliced

2 cloves of garlic – finely chopped

1 small green chilli – finely chopped

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon lime juice

fresh chopped coriander or green coriander seeds

Put the cauliflower florets in a bowl and cover generously with boiling water. Leave to steep for 2-3 minutes then drain. Leave to cool a little.

Put the coconut in a thick based frying pan on a low heat to toast, stirring from time to time. It will suddenly start to brown so don’t be tempted to wander off as I did once. When it has started to brown stir constantly until the coconut is an even golden brown colour, then tip the coconut onto a plate to cool.

Add the almond flakes to the same pan and toast these. Again to a golden brown colour an the tip onto the plate with the coconut.

Again using the same pan, put the 2 tablespoons of oil into the pan, and then the mustard and cumin seeds. Fry for a minute or two until the seeds start to pop.

Add the onions, chilli and garlic and fry gently until soft. Add the turmeric and stir to mix.

If there is enough room in the pan, add the cauliflower florets, or add the contents of the pan to the florets in a bowl. Stir to mix well.

Add the coconut and almonds and mix again. Season with salt, pepper, chopped coriander or seeds and lime juice.

Enjoy!

Mixed Lentils in Tomato Sauce & Ottolengis Spicy Moroccan Carrot Salad.

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The first time I made these lentils, I happened to have some leftover carrot salad from the day before which I stirred into my portion of lentils. The mix is so successful that now I plan to have the salad one day, and make enough to have leftovers ready to mix in to the lentils the following day.

The Lentils – this makes four good servings

100 grams yellow lentils

40 grams small white lentils

40 grams red lentils

oil or butter for frying

2 medium sized onions – sliced

4 cloves garlic – finely chopped

fresh ginger roughly 3x2x2 cm – cut into small cubes

fresh green chilli – finely chopped

1 level teaspoon turmeric

2 teaspoons ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon asafoetida

200 gram tin puréed tomatoes

200 grams tomato passata

salt and pepper

Put the lentils in a bowl and pour over enough boiling water to cover. Leave to soak for an hour.

Heat the oil or butter in a deep frying pan and add the sliced onions, garlic and ginger. Fry gently for about five minutes to soften.

Add the chopped chilli and stir to mix.

Once the lentils have had their hour of soaking drain them and add to the pan of onions. Stir to mix in.

Add the turmeric, coriander, asafoetida and the tomatoes. Season with salt. Stir to mix all together.

Bring to a simmer, turn the heat very low, cover and leave to cook for about half an hour. Stir from time to time and add water if the mix is getting to dry.

Once the lentils are cooked add salt and pepper to taste. Serve as they are or with the Ottolengi’s carrot salad which follows, either on the side or mixed in.
Oh and if you were wondering what the little green seeds are decorating the lentils, they are fresh green coriander seeds as my coriander in the veg patch is now going to seed with the warmer temperatures. I can leave the seeds to go brown and dry, but I love the flavour of them, pungent and sweet, so a collect them green, and either use them fresh or freeze them. Enjoy!

Spicy Omelette Breakfast Wrap

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This recipe’s origins lay with one of the supermarkets local to here being taken over by South American’s, who know a good flour tortilla and stock the best ones you can buy around here. I have made my own, but these are better than I can do, so why bother. Burritos are the first recipe I made with the tortillas, and I’ve used them as Chapatis with Indian dishes, but one morning fancying a change from my poached egg on toast I made a thin omelette with spices in it, drizzled it with a spicy chilli sauce and rolled it in a hot tortilla. Fab!

Since then I’ve made different variations depending on what vegetables or sauces I’ve had. I’ve added mange toute peas, sweet garden peas, blanched broccoli, sweetcorn or peppers and I’ve put a spread of hummus or aubergine pate on the tortilla before the omelette. The recipe below is for the plain spiced omelette, which is lovely and tasty as it is, or you might want to add vegetables for a more robust omelette.

For a dinner plate sized tortilla you want –

1 free range egg

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon garam masala

1 tablespoon water / vegetable stock / milk

pinch salt

freshly ground black pepper

fresh coriander roughly chopped

olive oil for frying

Mix all the ingredients together.

Heat the oil in a small frying pan, add the egg mix and cover. Cook slowly until just set.

Turn the omelette onto a warmed tortilla, drizzle with a hot chilli sauce of your choice, roll and enjoy!

Roasted red cabbage with apples &walnuts

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This is a Sunday roast with a difference and meat free so suitable for vegans. I have a lovely crop of red cabbages in my plot at the moment, the best that I have ever grown, so I’m feeling quite proud of myself. I have braised the cabbage in the past with apples, onions walnuts and spices, but roasting it results in quite a different texture, more solid but tender.


Roasting vegetables is so simple and tasty. The variations are many, the roast can be winter vegetables as in this case. When I’m in Northern Europe I love to add parsnips and celeriac. A summer roast would include peppers and aubergines flavoured with garlic and Rosemary. For the non vegetarians pieces of chicken or rabbit can be roasted with the vegetables. Rabbit with thyme is particularly good.

The only work is calculating in what order to add them to the roasting pan so that they are all perfectly cooked at the same time. Most vegetables need about 40 minutes, while potatoes need ten minutes more, so they are always first into the oven. I then usually put in anything from the onion family, onion wedges or leeks, roasting them for five minutes before adding the rest of the vegetables. Any nuts that you are adding only need a short time to heat and brown, so these go in ten minutes before the end of cooking.


For 2

2 or 3 medium potatoes – scrubbed and cut into wedges

1/4 red cabbage – cut in half as a wedge

6 small carrots – scrubbed

1 onion – peeled and cut into 4 wedges

1 leek – white part only – cut into 3 centimetre lengths.

1 courgette – cut into chunks

1 large apple – cored and cut into wedges

80 grams walnut halves

olive oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper


Put the oven on at 200C or if a fan oven 180C to heat up with a large roasting tray in the oven.

Season the potato wedges and toss with enough olive oil to coat. Once the oven is hot, put the potatoes in the tray and roast for ten minutes.

Season and oil the onion wedges and leeks then add them to the potatoes. Roast for about 5 minutes

Season the rest of the vegetables and the apple and toss with olive oil to coat. Add to the roasting tray and put back in the oven. Roast for 30 minutes tuning the vegetables over half way through the cooking.

Add the walnut halves and put back in the oven to roast for another ten minutes.

Enjoy with a glass of red wine.

Sauerkraut Soup with Mushroom & Hazelnut Mash

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This is a vegan version of a traditional recipe that I had in a little Polish restaurant in Doncaster. The soup was a thin clear broth with sauerkraut in it, and on the side of the dish a pile of mashed potatoes that you mixed into the soup as you ate it to thicken it.
The original version was made with a meat stock, and the mash thickener had finely chopped ham in it and maybe some fried onions as well. The additions to the mash can be changed depending on what you have in your cupboard, just fried onions and or garlic would work well, finely chopped fried peppers too.

For 1 portion

250 – 300 ml clear stock

70 grams sauerkraut plus a tablespoon of its salty liquid

1 medium potato – peeled and cut into smallish cubes

1 medium sized strongly flavoured mushroom – chopped into small dice

1 clove garlic – finely chopped

20 grams hazelnuts – roughly crushed

1 tablespoon olive oil

freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a small saucepan and once hot add the garlic and mushrooms. Fry stirring regularly for about 5 minutes.

Add the potatoes, stir to mix in, the add enough boiling water to only just cover the potatoes. Cover and simmer until the potatoes are cooked and soft.

While the potatoes are cooking, put the stock and sauerkraut in another pan and bring to a simmer. Check the seasonings adding salt and black pepper as needed.

Once the potatoes are cooked pour off any excess cooking liquid into the soup. Mash the potato mix. Add the crushed hazelnuts and mix in.

Serve the soup with a little mound of the potato mix to one side.