Chorizo & Butterbean Stew

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his recipe is the absolute ideal for a balmy, summer provoking Monday night after work. My mind battled with the joys of staying out in the sun as long as possible and the equal craving for some kitchen relaxation that only stirring a pan with a wooden spoon can bring. Ideal for a speedy but flavoursome dinner that can be knocked up in minutes for one, for two, or for many and tomorrows leftovers.  Admittedly my holiday blues were kicking in….so the Med influence snuck back to the kitchen.

Mediterranean food is not usually my cuisine of choice but having spent last week in Corfu on a grounding, enlightening and entertaining yoga retreat (Just Relax Yoga retreats) dining on gorgeous vegetarian tapas and authentic Greek dishes, it solidified my theory that you only need just a few star ingredients to make a knock out dish. After many a beer one night in the Greek sun and a hunger like a pig on a diet, me and the yogis frantically ordered a table full of tapas. Now it may…may have been the hunger and hanger that made it more memorable but when a glutinous bowl of giant butter beans bathed and hugged in a smooth creamy tomato sauce was placed in front of me, I was in heaven. Devine. I’ll admit, the butter beans were twice the size in Greece but beggars can’t be choosers in London eh? After a week in Greece I was keen to get something similar into my regime…

Serves 2

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, crushed
  • 400-500g chopped tomatoes (1 can or carton)
  • 150g chorizo, diced/cubed
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds, light toasted then crushed
  • 1 x can butter beans, drained
  • Bunch basil and parsley, chopped
  • 1 lemon, zest
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 x sea bream or a white fish fillet of choice.
  1. Soften the onion in a little olive oil in a saucepan for about 10 minutes until translucent and starting to caramelise.
  2. Add the chorizo and the garlic and cook for a few more minutes until the chorizo is beginning to crisp and release its oils.
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes, crushed fennel seed and some generous seasoning.
  4. Simmer until reduced a little for 5 minutes or so.
  5. Add the drained butter beans and heat through.
  6. Simmer until reduced to a stew like texture. Taste and season as needed.
  7. Finally add the lemon zest and herbs and stir to combine.
  8. Serve with fried or grilled fish and a scattering of leftovers herbs and lemon! (Gremolata is wanted)

Mediterranean Roasted Potato Salad

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ith a holiday on the horizon it was time to use up the rest of the ingredients littering my fridge…I love this challenge.

Thats where the excellent ingredients that Odysea Greek produce come in handy – and ironically it was Greece where I would be destined for! Odysea sent me a glorious box of their devious samples last year and from this I have savoured some store cupboard gems, waiting patiently in the back of my cupboard until called upon and ready to pack a punch when called to the spotlight.

This salad was a mixture of fridge leftovers combined with a few cheeky purchases and of course, some glorious Greek flare. I used Odysea’s ‘Sun Dried Tomato Meze’ – a mixture of tomatoes, capers, and olives chopped roughly and combined in a gloriously flavoured oil. Similarily you can use the former ingredients alone and combine in your own combination but since Odysea did it so well, I figured I’d use their convenience pre-holiday….

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his makes one large chunky roasted salad but feel free to sub in other ingredients to your taste. Serves around 2-3 as a side dish. I served mine with a lovely fillet of grilled sea bass, but some steamed or roasted cod with lemon and parsley would also be delicious.

Ingredients (Serves 2-3)

  • 2 large potatoes, chopped
  • 1 x packet green beans
  • 3 spring onions, chopped
  • Bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 6 x large sun dried tomatoes (chopped), 1 handful olives (chopped), 1 tbsp capers OR 4 tbsp ‘Odysea Sun-Dried Tomato Meze
  • 10 slices thin chorizo OR 1/2 ring chorizo sausage, sliced
  • 2 handfuls rocket leaves
  • Olive oil
  1. Preheat the oven to 220°C.
  2. Start by par boiling your potatoes for about 10 minutes until just tender. Drain, shake in a pan to rough the edges and then tip into a roasting tray. Season and drizzle over a generous coating of olive/sunflower oil. Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes until golden and crispy.
  3. Meanwhile while they roast, par-boil the green beans for a few minutes. Drain and cool them under cold water.
  4. Chop the spring onions, parsley and combine in a large mixing bowl with the  cooled beans, lemon zest, sun dried tomato mixture and season.
  5. Pan fry the chorizo in a dry frying pan until crispy.
  6. Once the potatoes are ready, remove from the oven. Top into the salad bowl with the beans and herbs. Add the chorizo.
  7. Finely, just before serving, add the rocket leaves and squeeze over the juice of half the lemon.
  8. Serve!

 

Date & Himalayan Pink Salt Truffles

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ts safe to say I’ve been provided with my fair share of artisan chocolate samples for blog experiments. From Green & Blacks to Doble & Bignall the ampersand seems to be a common (and successful) theme here (If we forget the Loving Earth samples. Dairy free, doesn’t count). That said, next in the greedy queue naturally seemed (drum roll)…Doisy & Dam. A superfood chocolate they say! Quickly discovered to be due to the ingredients added and not the output of its consumption. Sadly. So when D&D approached ‘forage in the pantry.’ with a teasing package of goodies to sample I was keen to take up the challenge of a new creation!

Doisy & Dam are indeed just that. Teasing. A mixture of naughty and nice. Chocolate and superfood ingredients creating delicious bars of solid and artisan chocolate. I think the first thing I said on trying these samples was ‘Wow, the textures are great!’ and it wasn’t until researching their background that I discovered their claim for ‘irresistable texture’. They’ve nailed it. Take the ‘Cocao Nib & Vanilla’ bar which is my favourite so far. The cocao not only adds a lovely crunch and texture but a subtle unassuming bitterness to the what is after all a dairy milk bar. Their chocolates are said to never be made with more than eight ingredients (minimum 8% superfoods and have a high cocoa content to squeeze out the room for sugar and fat). Whilst I’m a true 90-99% gal, this comment I can casually breeze over but quite rightly. The flavour is worth it.

So, down to the recipe. The best way to really taste the true flavour of a chocolate (besides sampling fresh from the packet in slab form) is to make something pure. Pure flavours, nowhere to hide. Truffles? Forget chocolate fondants and mousses, truffles really do not hide bad quality. Now I normally lean towards dark chocolate truffles. They are more stable at room temp and have a better flavour and quality.  Whilst my goodie bag contained a mixture of dark and milk, I couldn’t help being drawn towards the ‘Date & Himalayan Salt’ edition and that I did.

A healthy indigence as D&D would say….thats wiped out here sadly with the cream addition…

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s I’ve mentioned I wanted to keep these super simple so they are plainly tossed in cocoa. However for a twist try adding an extra ingredient/texture to the mixture before pouring into the container (e.g. chopped nuts, diced ginger, more cocoa nibs, more salt, coconut…). Equally you can roll the finished truffles in this ingredients of choice instead and forgo the cocoa powder.

Ingredients

  1. Heat the cream in a saucepan until just below the simmer.
  2. Break up the chocolate and stir into the warm cream off the heat. Stir until fully melted and combined.
  3. Line a shallow bowl or tupperware with cling film. Pour the mixture into the dish. It should be about 2cm in thickness but this is optional. Allow to cool, cover and refrigerate.
  4. Once set, place in the freezer for about 1 hour or until hardened. This just makes it easier to cut.
  5. Get a large mixing bowl and add a few tbsp of cocoa powder
  6. Turn out onto a chopping board and cut into pieces (size optional). Mix in the cocoa powder and then store in the fridge in a container.

 

Rosemary Creme Brule & Pine nut Shortbread

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aster is all about lamb. Lamb is all about rosemary. Stay with me here…

 

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aster lunch menu planning for a group of hungry guests isn’t usually that flexible as lamb joints grace the ovens and aga’s of cooks round the UK. Dessert however allows some creativity. I love the flavour of rosemary in sweet dishes especially when you pair it with sweet caramelised apricots (see here for pannacotta), earthy honeyed pine nuts (see here for pine nut tartlets) or almond and sweet nectarine (see here). Its a shocker I’ve not made a rosemary ice cream yet but creme brule is the next best thing. Having wanted to serve this with some caramelised fresh apricots and almond praline, I settled for some pine nut shortbread since the season did not agree with my fruit of choice. Feel free to experiment here, adding more rosemary to your tastes. Its subtle but still infuses nicely into what made a fitting, elegant and light dessert after a joint of garlic studded lamb leg, roasties and spring greens.

Rosemary Creme Brule

Ingredients (Serves 6)

  • 500ml double cream
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/2 vanilla pod
  • 2 x 10cm lengths of rosemary
  • Soft brown sugar to caramelise
  1. Preheat the oven to 150°C. Prepare 6 creme brule dishes/ramekins (dependant no the size you get around 6 portions- you can use whatever you like as long as its oven proof) and stand them in a deep roasting tray. The tray needs to be deep enough that the ramekins can sit in there and you can fill the tray with water half way up the ramekins.
  2. Lightly bash the rosemary in a pestle and mortar to begin to release the flavoured oils. Then add to a saucepan with the double cream and the vanilla pod.
  3. Scald the cream by bringing it just below boiling point then immediately remove from the heat and leave the rosemary/vanilla to infuse for 10-15 minutes. Strain and discard the rosemary. Scrape the vanilla seeds from the pod into the cream and discard the pod.
  4. Whisk the egg yolks and the sugar in a wide bowl.
  5. Carefully stir in the warm cream whisking continuously so that the eggs don’t scramble. Continue to whisk until all is combined.
  6. Sieve the mixture back into the saucepan. Heat on a very gentle heat for about 1 minute until the mixture begins to thicken a little and coats the back of a wooden spoon – careful the heat isn’t high or it will scramble.
  7. Pour the mixture into the ramekins.
  8. Fill the tray with boiling water so it rises half way up the side of the ramekin.
  9. Carefully place the tray in the oven and allow to cook for 30minutes until the creams are set with a slight wobble. Leave to cool and then chill until needed.
  10. When ready to serve, scatter a layer of the brown sugar over the top of each cream. Using a blow torch or carefully using a hot grill, heat the top until the sugar beings to caramelise and sets hard. Careful not to burn…its tricky…mine did!
  11. Serve with the shortbread biscuits for dunking if you wish.

Pine Nut Shortbread

Ingredients

  • 175g plain flour
  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 50g pine nuts
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  1. Dry fry the pine nuts in a frying pan until golden. Leave to cool.
  2. Combine the butter, flour and sugar in a food processor and mix until combined and the mixture in crumbly. Then tip in a handful of the pine nuts and continue to processor the mixture until it forms a dough.
  3. Tip out onto a lightly floured surface and combine into a ball. Wrap in cling film and leave to cool in the fridge for about 15 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  5. Combine the rest of the pine nuts in a pestle and mortar and bash lightly. Add the 2 tbsp of caster sugar and bash into a ‘pine nut sugar’.
  6. Roll the shortbread and cut out rounds (whatever shape and size you want) the thickness of 1 pound coin and place them onto a lined baking tray.
  7. Continue using up the dough. Scatter the pine nut sugar over the top of the shortbread evenly.
  8. Bake for about 15 minutes until just beginning to turn pale golden. (Don’t overcook past pale gold).
  9. Cool until ready to serve.

Scallops and Herb Crusted Cod

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ast weekend really did spark the start of a British summer…hopefully….Blues skies, dog walks, reading in the garden and cheeky trips to the local pub. Although they’re never cheeky in our household. More of a requirement. I escaped home to Wiltshire for the briefest of visits. Just 36 hours but I packed them full with foodie treats. Gorgeous weather means simple, fresh food. Torn between my love of the kitchen and my sun worshipping, I found a speedy recipe to prepare for Saturday supper. Time to indulge in the kitchen but also to balance my sunbathing. Priorities.

Jazz and apron on, cool white Muscadet in hand….recommendations below….

Music to cook to: St Germain – Tourist (see here)

Wine recommendation: Muscadet or something zesty and fresh! Recommended from Armit Wines specifically is my favourite- Bianca di Evro Inzolia, a Sicilian wine (see here)

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n the topic of wine (I feel like I say that a lot) I’d eat this starter with a zesty, fresh, citrus wine. Nothing flashy….Muscadet is perfect. After a planned and cheeky G&T(sssssss) at the local pub in the setting sunshine pre dinner, this starter was very much a miracle on its own let alone anything too time consuming or thought provoking. A classic combination I’ll admit but I wasn’t looking for a trophy for originality. I did however omit the generic bacon wafer or chorizo cubes….whilst admittedly it was because I was too gin fuelled to bother, I did in fact pass it off as unnecessary to my guests but I do in fact agree (…with myself…) it is! It doesn’t need it. The greens, lemon, a Muscadet and the hearty fried capers are perfectly indulgent enough and allow the scallops to take the show without bacon raining on the parade.

Scallops and Greenery 

Ingredients (serves 4 as a starter)

  • 12-16 scallops (roe removed if wanted)
  • Large bunch rocket
  • 300g ish peas (frozen)
  • Bunch mint leaves, picked
  • 2 large knobs butter
  • 1 heaped tbsp capers
  • 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Boil the peas for a few minutes. Drain immediately and add to the bowl of a food processor. Add the mint, seasoning and 1 large knob of butter. Blend until smooth – or chunky, mine was rustic. If too thick, add a splash of milk. Set aside and keep warm.
  2. Get a sharing platter and scatter over the rocket. Squeeze over just a little of the lemon juice.
  3. Season the scallops and heat a splash of oil and the rest of the butter in a frying pan until hot.
  4. Add the scallops and fry on a high heat for just a few minutes each side until golden brown. For the last minute, add the capers and fry briefly.
  5. Remove the pan from the heat and add a good squeeze of lemon (it will sizzle). Baste the scallops in the buttery juice.
  6. Serve immediately. Spoon 12-16 spoonfuls of the pea puree onto the rocket and top each with a juicy golden scallops. Drizzle with the buttery capers and juices. Serve!

This next recipe is very easy but again and complements a pub visit. However, I did do a little pre pub prep just to make sure.

Herb Crusted Cod with Puy Lentils and Balsamic Onions 

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 4 fillets of cod/haddock/hake (or any meaty white fish)
  • 2 slices brown bread
  • 1 large garlic clove, peeled
  • 2 x packets (or bunches) of parsley (I used 1 bunch flat leaf and 1 bunch curly)
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 egg
  • 8oz Puy lentils
  • 2 large red onions, sliced
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Serves 4 

  1. Begin by making the crust. Blitz the bread in a food processor into crumbs. Add the garlic, the herbs and the zest of the lemon. Season and blend until everything is chopped and combined finely.
  2. Add the egg and blend again.
  3. Cut your fish into 4 fillets. Take a good spoonful of the herb topping – it should be fairly sticky with the bread and the egg – and compact onto the top of each fillet. Chill in the fridge for about 20 minutes until needed.
  4. Preheat the over to 190°C.
  5. Meanwhile, simmer the Puy lentils for about 20 minutes until just cooked and tender but with a bite. Drain and keep warm. Season.
  6. Meanwhile, heat a little oil in a frying pan and gently sweat the onions for a good 10 minutes until soft. Start to add some colour until caramelised. Season.
  7. Turn the heat up a little and add the balsamic which should sizzle and begin to reduce. Coat the onions then remove from the heat.
  8. Tip the balsamic red onions into the warm lentils and stir to combine.
  9. Remove the fish from the fridge about 5 minutes before ready to cook. Place on a greased or lined baking tray, and cook in the oven for about 15 minutes depending on the thickness of the fillet (15 minutes for those sized above).
  10. Remove from the oven when just cooked and beginning to flake. the fish will keep cooking when removed from the oven with the residual heat so don’t over cook initially.
  11. Place a spoonful of the lentils into deep warm serving bowls and top with the fish. Serve with a good wedge of lemon for squeezing over the crunchy crust! Enjoy!

Fennel and Sumac Seabass

 

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love fennel. I love sumac. I love sea bass. This will be a short blog post. If you’re new to sumac its commonly found as a pretty pink powder made from berries that are dried and ground and has a lovely tart/sour taste to give a sharp kick. Lovely sprinkled on flavoured yoghurts, in flatbreads, on humus or rubbed lovingly into chicken, vegetables and meats. Controversially it could be a bit pungent for delicate sea bass but its lemony flavour is a lovely match.

Being one of Ottolenghi’s favourite spices…need I say more….

Serves 2

  • 1 tbsp fennel seed
  • 1/2 tbsp sumac (see here but this can be found in all supermarkets)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 seabass fillet (or sea bream/other white fish fillets)
  1. Dry toast the fennel seed in a dry hot frying pan until fragrant. Remove from the heat and add to a pestle and mortar. Grind well.
  2. Add salt and pepper.
  3. Score the sea bass fillets with a single cut on the skin side to avoid curling while cooking. Then massage the fennel into each fillet and a pinch of the sumac (the remainder of the sumac is best sprinkled on after) with a splash or oil. Leave to rest until needed
  4. When ready to cook, heat a frying pan on medium high. Fry skin side dow for 2-3 minutes until he flesh side is beginning to turn white.
  5. Turn and finish the cooking for 30seconds – 1 minute.
  6. Remove from the pan and sprinkle with the ground sumac and a good wedge of lemon juice!

 

Chana Dahl and Flatbread

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e all know our favourite comfort foods on a cold, challenging day or just after a bit of a tough one be it winter or summer. They usually consist of English favourites like bangers and mash or a hearty pie. Mine vary throughout the seasons but usually consist of a creamy coconut rice topped with Asian salmon (recipe here) or a big bowl of fish soup. But dahl is another comfort food altogether and one that so effortlessly lives up to the job.

There are many types of dahl, made from varying pulses. Having sampled ‘Dishmoon‘s’ infamous black dahl I’ve been on a quest to make a rival recipe! I religiously order it with every visit to Dishoom. I even have a colleague who orders a portion with the bill so he gets a bowl ‘to go’. Its that good! However, I’ll be confidently honest here and admit that my attempt at a black dahl (recipe here) ticked the box for me in terms of flavour and decadence.

However, this variation is suitably named as ‘Speedy dahl’. The flavour is there but you don’t get the depth that you get from a slow cooked and infused recipe with commitment of time and love. So, after a long run around London last Sunday afternoon, a cold bitter chill in the air and a deserving appetite I set my pan on the hob to master a new recipe. Serve in bowlfuls with roti, naan, chapatis or flatbread alone or refined here with a piece of elegantly friend sea bass, it’ll offer the comfort you need. Its a hug in a bowl…..

Serves 4

  • 3 tsp cumin and coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
  • 3 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil 
  • onion, finely chopped
  • Knob ginger (about 35g), finely pounded with a pestle & mortar/grated
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely pounded with a pestle & mortar/grated
  • 1/2 can chopped tomatoes
  • 600ml coconut milk
  • 250g yellow split peas (rinsed well)
  • 3-4 small green chillies, finely chopped
  • fresh curry leaves
  • 1-2 limes
  • Coriander, roughly chopped
  1. To start, drain the split peas well in 4-5 changes of water then allow them to sit in a bowl of water while you start the dahl.
  2. Dry fry the cumin, coriander and mustard seeds in a hot frying pan until fragrant. Next pound in a pestle and mortar.
  3. Add the turmeric, garam masala and set aside
  4. Heat the coconut oil in a hot frying pan and sweat the onion of ragout 10 minutes until soft and beginning to carmalise.
  5. Next add the ginger, garlic and chopped chillies and cook for a few more minutes.
  6. Add the dry spices (and a touch more coconut oil if needed) and stir all to combine, frying the spiced onions for 2-3 minutes more.
  7. Add the tomatoes, coconut milk and the curry leaves. Drain the split peas and add these too.
  8. Bring to the simmer and then allow to bubble slowly and gently for about 1 – 1.1/2 hours (alternatively pop in a low 150°C oven with a lid on) until the split peas become tender and begin to break down. Keep an eye on it while it simmers so it doesn’t catch on the bottom. Add a touch of water if its drying out.
  9. After this time and the lentils are soft, remove from the heat. Use a potato masher to gently ‘mush’ the lentils into a paste. This is just to make it thicker, you don’t need to aim for a smooth dahl.
  10. Taste and season well and add the juice of at least 1 lime or more if required. It should lift the taste of the whole dahl.
  11. Scatter with the coriander and the dahl is ready to serve!

I served mine with fennel seed flatbreads (recipe here). Amend the spice/seeds as needed.

Lahmacun Meatballs

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ahmacun is like a Turkish meat pizza which I’ve sampled in my many escapades to my favourite middle eastern restaurants and holiday destinations. Pizza you say? In a very loose sense. A thin dough topped with a layer of spiced minced meat and a scattering of tasty salad. However, I’ve been experimenting with textures and I decided to turn mine into meatballs – maintaining the spices and flavours of a traditional Lahmacun serving them on a warm pillowy nigella seed flecked flatbread and topped with a fresh crunchy raw salad.

This would make an excellent dinner party starter in a mini version or a light meal or lunch.

Serves 4 (Makes approx. 16 meatballs)

Meatballs

  • 500g minced beef
  • 1 small onion, diced finely
  • 1 small red chilli, diced
  • 1tsp (heaped) ground cumin, coriander, cinnamon, smoked paprika
  • 50g toasted pine nuts (dry fry in a hot pan until beginning to turn golden and release a nutty aroma!)
  • Handful flat leaf parsley, chopped

Nigella Seed Flatbreads

  • 250g self raising flour
  • 150ml warm water
  • 1 1/2tbsp nigella seeds
  • Salt and pepper

Salad

  • 1 bag radishes, thinly sliced
  • 1 small cucumber, cubed into 1cm dice
  • 1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced into half moons
  • Small bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 2 little gem lettuces, chopped (optional)
  • 1/2 lemon
  • Tahini

You’ll need 3 large bowl, one for each component to get yourself started. A large frying pan and preheat the oven to 180°C.

  1. Start by making the meatballs. Mix all the ingredients in your first large bowl and combine with your hands, squeezing the mixture together to ensure all the flavours are dispersed. Don’t overwork or pound the meat however. Season well. Taking golf ball sized chunks, roll into meatballs and place on a plate. Continue until you’ve used up all the meat and you have around 16 meatballs. Cover the plate and chill in the fridge until needed.
  2. Next, make the flatbread dough. Combine the flours, salt and pepper and seeds in your second bowl. Pour in the water and mix with a fork. As it comes together, get your hands in and combine into a dough. It shouldn’t be dry but nor should it be sticky. Depending on the texture, add a tough more water/flour to enable you to roll into a smooth ball. Knead for 2-3 minutes on a clean floured worktop. Set aside in a floured bowl and cover with cling film and leave to rest for  about 20 minutes or so.
  3. Assemble the salad. Combine all ingredients in your final bowl except the tahini and lemon. Season and then set aside until ready to serve.
  4. Begin the cooking – remove the meatballs from the fridge! Heat a splash of vegetable or light olive oil in a frying pan over a high heat and fry the meatballs on all sides until they are golden and a nice crust has formed on the outside. Line a baking tray with foil and add the meatballs (the rest of the cooking can be done in the oven). Scrunch up the foil around them to keep them sealed ask they cook and stay moist. Place int he oven for 15 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, fry your flatbreads. Heat a dry frying pan over a high heat (you will likely need your extractor fan on here)  Take your dough, divide into 4 balls. On a floured surface, use a rolling pin to roll out into a small saucer size about the thickness of a 10p piece. When the pan is hot, add one flatbread at a time and fry on both sides, turning when beginning to brown and char in places. The dough will ideally bubble up and create air pockets but it doesn’t matter if not.
  6. As you fry and complete each one, wrap them in a pile in a clean tea towel to keep them warm and soft until needed.
  7. Once the flatbreads are toasted and the meatballs are ready, remove them from the oven.
  8. Dress the salad with the lemon juice and toss to combine.
  9. To serve, top each flatbread with 3-4 meatballs. Add a large handful or salad over the top and drizzle with the tahini if you like.

(A lime and mint yoghurt would also go down well here instead of tahini if wanted)

Enjoy!

 

Sticky Asian Brisket (Coriander, Peanuts, Lime and Chilli)

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nly a true occasion calls for the level of commitment that cooking a dinner requiring 5-6 hours plus additional prep time and a huge amount of will power and patience. And that occasion was, you guessed it, a Birthday. My sister’s birthday to be precise. Its a running joke (which is also true…and very much not a joke) that her Birthday is an (on average) 2 week occasion spanning the initial pre-brithday drinks followed by the Birthday eve event, the actual Birthday, the post Birthday dinner, the family occasion and finally a get together for those unfortunate enough to miss all the above.

So it was the family occasion when this recipe was summoned for a Sunday dinner with a twist. Sticky, slow cooked spiced beef marinated in soy and lime and scattered with fresh coriander and crunchy peanuts. As a fan of beef, brisket is a deep and meaty flavour that adapts perfectly to the slow cook. That and the Asian influence that my family adore, this recipe was a hit! The reduced soy based sauce at the end is particularly punchy, salty, deep and sticky so it would suit a refreshing simple crunchy salad or lightly flavoured rice to accompany.

Followed by a ginger cake (see here) with candles, singing, some more cake, and some ice cream for good measure it was a culinary Birthday I’ll have to try and top next year…

Serves 6 (Adapted from Delicious Magazine recipe see here)

Ingredients

  • 400g shallots, quartered
  • 5 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 500ml beef stock
  • 200ml runny honey
  • 2kg beef brisket
  • 250ml shaoxing rice wine (from the world food section of large supermarkets)
  • 70ml light soy sauce
  • 70ml dark soy sauce
  • 100g fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp chinese five-spice powder
  • 2 large red chillies, halved

For serve

  • 150g unsalted peanuts, toasted and lightly crushed
  • 1 red chillies, sliced finely
  • Large bunch coriander, roughly chopped
  • 3-4 limes
  • Rice
  • Crunchy salad (Little gems, chicory, cucumber, spring onion, celery lemon juice etc)
  1. Preheat the oven to 140°C and get a deep roasting tray ready.
  2. Heat a splash of oil in a deep frying pan and add the quartered shallots and fry for about 5 minutes until they begin to brown. Add the garlic and cook for another minute before adding the beef stock and half the runny honey and stir and heat to combine.
  3. Add the rice wine, soy sauce, fresh ginger, five spice and red chills in a big jug.
  4. Lay the brisket in your deep roasting tin and pour over both the stock and shallot mixture and the sauce from the jug. Cover with a piece of parchment and then with a few layers of foil enough to cover the tray tightly folding the edges down. Place in the oven for 3 hours undisturbed.
  5. After this time, remove the foil and parchment and turn over the brisket and baste. Cover again and return to the oven for another 2 1/2 hours.
  6. After this time, remove from the oven and increase the heat to 220°C.
  7. Pour all the juices from the tray into a frying pan and set the brisket aside. Bubble the juices on a high heat on the hob for about 15 minutes to reduce the heat by about half. However check the seasoning as you do so. The soy is quite a salty mixture so if you reduce it too much it will be overpowering. Add a splash of boiling water if you do so. Season with pepper and salt if needed at the same time.
  8. Cover the brisket with just a few ladles of the sauce and then drizzle over the rest of the runny honey. Return to the hot oven for another 15 minutes to caramelise the brisket and crispy the outside.
  9. Once done, remove the brisket from the oven and serve on a large pre-warmed platter with any of the juices and shallots remaining from the tray. Scatter over the herbs, peanuts, chilli and squeeze over the juice of half a lime.
  10. Serve with the reduced sauce in a warmed jug on the side and a good juicy lime half for all your guests!
  11. Serve alongside rice, flatbreads, salad or any accompaniment you like.

 

‘Mini’ Chorizo Scotch Eggs

I

call these ‘mini’ as when referencing a Scotch egg these quail egg equivalent would be considered small which made them the perfect canapé for our New Years Eve party! After a long festive week of cooking for the family and indulging in experimenting in our family kitchen and fully stocked fridge, I was pleased to know that the dinner party I was to be a guest at required me to put down the oven gloves and simply bring a bottle of fizz! However it wasn’t long before I was tasted with canapés! I usually don’t bother with the faff but not one to let a challenge go, I wanted something that would get the guests excited!

I’ve also never jumped on the ‘gooey-in-the-middle’ Scotch egg band wagon. These days you can’t call yourself a Gastropub without proudly and confidently sitting a gooey scotch egg at the top of your bar snacks menu. But since I wanted to make a little extra effort I thought I’d give them a go! I know you won’t believe me when I say it but they are actually really simple to make! They do require some effort but what else was I to do on New Years eve day when the dinner was being prepare elsewhere?

Three simple steps and you’re done. I also made cheese and pineapple on sticks. No recipe required, and no ‘steps’….but caused equal excitement. Who knew?

Makes 12

  • 12 quails eggs (at room temperature)
  • 6 chorizo sausages
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 handfuls plain flour
  • 150g breadcrumbs
  • 1 litre vegetable oil.

Step 1 – Boil the eggs:

  1. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Gently add the quails eggs and boil for exactly 2 minutes. Drain and run under cold water immediately until the shells are cool to touch.
  2. Tap each egg to break the shell (you can be rougher than you think with these but don’t be too heavy handed) and remove the shell. This can be easier under running water. TIP – when you remove the shell, there is a thin clear membrane beneath the covers the white. If you can get under this, the shell can be removed much easier, sometimes in one go!

Step 2 – Coat the eggs:

  1. Remove the meat from the sausages skins and combine in a large bowl.
  2. Take golf ball sized portions (or divide your meat by 12) and flatten on the palm of your hand into a large disc about 6 cm wide. Place one of your eggs in the middle and wrap the meat around it. This can be fiddly but just ensure its covering the egg. Once wrapped around you can mould it in your hand.
  3. Repeat with all the eggs, setting aside on a plate when done.
  4. Place the flour, beaten eggs and breadcrumbs each in their own bowl.
  5. One at a time, roll the eggs in flour then egg, and finally a good coating of breadcrumbs, moulding in your hand (you can be rougher here) until coated well.
  6. Repeat to finish and set aside on a plate and refrigerate until needed.

Step 3 – Cooking the Scotch eggs:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Take a large saucepan and add the oil. Heat on a high heat until hot. Test it by adding a piece of cubed bread. If it sizzles and begins to turn golden, the oil is ready. You’re aiming for 180°C so if you have a thermometer use this. (Alternatively if you have a deep fat fryer, heat to 180)
  3. In bathes of 3-4 (depending on your pan size) lower the eggs into the oil and fry for about 4 minutes by which time your egg should be golden and cooked through. TIP: If you can’t gauge the temperature of your oil and they turn golden too fast before the meat is cooked (like mine) remove from the oil when golden and place in a baking tray and finsih cooking in the oven for about 15minutes.
  4. Drain each egg on kitchen towel to absorb any oil and leave to cool

When ready to serve, scatter with sea salt, slice in two if you wish or if you can manage, each whole dunking into some decedent lemon mayonnaise before hand!