Posts tagged mint

Duck & Watermelon Salad

I

‘ve a list of recipes that just catch my eye for one reason or another that I immediately add to my ‘to cook’ list. Those reasons could be the choice of ingredients, the vibrant colours or just a mood and craving but all contribute to the creation of this list. Shamefully the list has been growing faster than it has even had a chance to be depleted this summer! However an easy Tuesday this week called for this vibrant and fuss free salad. Not much cooking here – just a lot of chopping and fancy scattering. Studded with pomegranate gems, hidden with crispy morsels of duck supported by a solid foundation of juicy watermelon bricks.

Having just this week returned from a bootcamp-esque paradise holiday in Greece filled with wake boarding, yoga, volleyball (I could go on), this recipe offered the perfect balance to continue the health kick while fantasising about being back in the turquoise oceans and white sands of my much beloved Greece.

It has been adapted by a recipe from ‘The Londoner’. Adapted with an alternate dressing more heavy on the lime and some extra hidden gems – roasted peanuts in any dish are rarely a bad thing. But what we do share is our appreciation for the hot duck – cold melon combo that is just so refreshing and de-wicious.

*[Alex and Alice – if you’re reading (which I hope you are), put this on your ‘to cook’ list too before summer is completely over!]

Serves 2

  • 1/2 large watermelon, chopped into chunks
  • 2 duck legs
  • 4 spring onions, chopped
  • 1 red chilli, finely diced
  • Bunch of mint, leaves picked and chopped
  • Bunch coriander, chopped
  • Handful of salted, roasted peanuts
  • Handful pomegranate seeds
  • 1-2 limes, zest and juice
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • Extra Virgin olive oil
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Season the duck and roast in a tray for an hour.
  2. While the duck is cooking, chop your watermelon into big chunks and add to a large salad bowl big enough to contain the whole salad.
  3. Add the chopped spring onions, red chilli and chopped herbs.
  4. Add the peanuts and pomegranate seeds (as many as you wish to balance the rest of the salad) and combine well.
  5. Combine the juice of 1-2 limes (depending on how juicy they are!) and the zest in a jam jar. Add almost the same measure of extra virgin olive oil, but a touch under so its more ‘limey’.
  6. Add the soy, sesame and some seasoning. Place the lid on the jam jar and shake well to combine. Taste and adjust to your liking. The last thing you want to do is add a bad dressing to your wonderful salad!
  7. When the duck is ready, quickly shred the meat and crispy skin. It cools quickly so in order to maintain the hot/cold vibe you’re trying to create here, pop it back in the oven for a final blast of heat to warm.
  8. Once hot, add the shredded duck quickly to the salad bowl and coat the salad and duck liberally in the dressing and combine well.
  9. Serve immediately!

I served mine with a nice fresh rocket and cucumber salad and some homemade coconut flatbreads. But this is still a good and healthy meal in itself. A few chunky roasted croutons would not go a miss here however. Just sayin.

Raw Citrus Salad

I

f you’ve been (un)lucky enough to experience the heat wave that swept the UK last week then you’ll probably agree that appetites change from being food dominant to a welcome craving for frosty, cold and delicious beers. Iced rose if thats more your thing, or perhaps just a freshly made lemonade in the sunshine. However, food still has its place but freshness, lightness and nothing too heavy takes the culinary crown. This salad was perfect after what was probably the hottest day of the year so far. After trawling over London for a meeting – which at the time felt dramatically reminiscent of a desert voyage – I was in no fit state for cooking anything too warm later that evening….

This therefore seemed the perfect opportunity to make a fresh salad but one to replenish the nutrients. And time to crack out an ingredient that’s been waiting patiently in my pantry for the past few months. A little gift from overseas from the Norwegian’s.  I’ve not seen a oil like this before but have been delighting in it since. Whilst I’ve tried flavoured oils in the past which I’ve found to be either bland or synthetic, this little oil/balsamic combo – mandarin oil with an epic peach and apricot balsamic – served neat and combined in equal measures with some crusty bread for dipping was amazing! I instantly thought seafood, fennel, and raw salads….after thoughts of frosty beers and rose. I did mention it was very hot…

With a lack of garden space or even a balcony in London (sympathy welcomed) there was sadly no place for a BBQ here. But if you do then this would be an amazing salad served with charred barbecued squid or octopus. Or keep it simple and griddle your asparagus or sea bass. The smoky bbq flavour is perfect for anything citrus here.

Like I said, its a meal for a hot day…minimal effort, more an assembly of flavours. Feel free to add in any other ingredients of choice or fish and seafood.

*NOTE – if you’ve no time to pop to Norway for these delights, a really good extra virgin olive oil with either a generous squeeze of lemon/lime/orange would work a treat. Try adding a few very thin slices of orange segments or grated zest too. Blood orange if you’re feeling extravagant.

Serve 2

  • 2 celery sticks, finely sliced
  • 1 bunch asparagus spears
  • 1 bulb fennel, sliced wafer thin (using a mandolin if you have one)
  • 1 handful walnuts, toasted and lightly crushed
  • Small bunch fresh basil and mint, finely chopped
  • 1 lemon/orange/lime
  • Extra virgin olive oil and 1 orange OR flavoured citrus oil or equivalent to above
  • 2 sea bass fillets (or as above, squid, octopus etc)
  1. Hest a frying pan/griddle pan to medium high and add a splash of light olive oil. Griddle the asparagus spears to just take off the rawness for a few minutes until beginning to char. Season and remove from the heat and set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the celery, shaved fennel, toasted walnuts and finely chopped herbs.
  3. When the asparagus spears have cooled a little, add them to bowl.
  4. Season and grate in the zest of half the lemon.
  5. The next bit if up to you. Add the citrus oil, and the juice of half a lemon or add the juice of an orange/lime and some plain, extra virgin olive oil. Its all about taste. You need a fresh citrus flavour but it needs to be balanced.
  6. Set aside once done. Fry your fish and serve atop your fresh salad.

I served mine alongside some roasted carrots …I’ll admit this isn’t supporting the cooling and ‘non hassle’ trend I championed above. What can I say, the frosty beer worked a treat…

  • Slice 2-3 large carrot into chunky diagonal chunks
  • Season and drizzle with olive oil
  • Scatter with 1 tbsp of cumin seeds
  • Roast for about 25 minutes until starting to caramelise and soften. Check after this time and leave in longer if needed.
  • 5 minutes before they look ready, add 1 btsp running honey and combine. roast for 5 more minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and served, slightly cooled, with your citrus salad (also lovely to add chopped parsley and crumbled feta/goats cheese)

 

Scallops and Herb Crusted Cod

L

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)

O

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!

Rum Roasted Pineapple, Coconut Ice Cream, Mint Sugar

I

‘m not a dessert person or a sweet tooth, unless it comes to ice cream. And this so happens to be my favourite ice cream recipe! Don’t get me wrong I love making desserts. Planning them, creating them and being able to execute a beautiful creation but I usually never eat them. So with guests for supper this weekend, a fuss free dessert was required. With a fatty hearty main on the cards, a fresh and citrus cleansing after was the perfect match. You can take more time over this as I mention below (see notes) by adding some grated coconut to the ice cream, grilling the pineapple towards the end, caramelising with a blow torch or wonderfully charring on the barbeque but fuss free was the aim here.

I made the ice cream in 5 minutes at breakfast and it was ready and set by dinner time and is just as impressive as a classic recipe. The pineapple is sweet and deliciously roasted and with a depth of flavour from the rum that makes this more than a fruit salad finish to a meal. Sometimes the simple ones are the best and this is no doubt a powerful but humble choice.

Serves 6 

Pineapple

  • 1 large pineapple
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 2 tbsp dark rum
  • 2 tbsp soft brown sugar
  • 6 tsp butter

Coconut Ice Cream

  • 400ml full fat coconut milk
  • 1 can condensed milk
  • Zest 1 lime
  • 1 fresh coconut, grated/ 150g toasted desiccated coconut (optional)

Mint sugar

  • Bunch mint leaves picked
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  1. Start on the ice cream. If you’re after a super fast recipe, simply combine the condensed milk, coconut milk and lime zest, whisk to combine then place in a tupperware in the freezer (untouched) for at least 8 hours. For added flavour though you can add in the grated flesh of one fresh coconut or the desiccated coconut but if you’ve ever tried to grate a fresh coconut you’ll know it takes some commitment…
  2. Preheat the oven to 190°C.. Warm the rum gently in a pan and then add the sugar and the seeds of the vanilla pod. Stir to combine.
  3. Top and tail the pineapple and remove the rind. Cut in half lengthways and then cut each half into thirds. Remove the hard centre segment and then place the slices in a large bowl.
  4. Spoon over the rum mixture and let it sit for about 10 minutes.
  5. Line a baking tray and spoon the marinading pineapple onto the tray evenly with any of the leftover rum marinade. Place a tsp of butter on top of each and roast for about 30 minutes until tender. You can stick them under the grill for the final few minutes to char them slightly if you like but again, the aim here is fuss free!Jess - Pineapple
  6. Once ready remove from the oven and set aside. Bash the sugar and mint in a pestle and mortar until crushed and vibrant green
  7. Top each slice of pineapple with a little mint sugar and serve warm alongside a creamy scoop of your coconut ice cream

 

NOTE: There are certainly ways to ‘glam’ this up. Grill the pineapple once cooked for a caramelised effect, scorch with a blowtorch for the same effect or beautifully grilled on the barbecue. Add the fresh coconut to the ice cream as mentioned or make a lovely heard of sesame praline (melt caster sugar until golden, add sesame seeds and turn out onto an oiled sheet of parchment). Shortbread would also never go unwanted here.
Jess - Pineapple3

Dahl, Roasted Curried Cauliflower, Shredded Duck in Lime

Jess - Dahl and Cauliflower duck

Jess - Dahl and Cauliflower

Y

ou won’t be surprised to hear it was another week of stressful and busy work so the long weekend glowed like a beacon on Friday evening with promises of yoga, long runs in the sun and some experimental time in the kitchen to blog and relax the mind. I woke to a beautiful sunny day and after a long run to clear the working cobwebs I was already on my way to some downtime. All that was required was some time in the kitchen.

With a stressful period at work keeping 90% of my mind on the task it was time to start planning my second supper club to focus and begin that excitement again! With the date confirmed and inked in the diary I was more than eager to start developing the menu! With just over 2 month before the (second) big day it might seem premature but to get the invites and advert out as soon as possible and the ticket confirmations rolling in the menu was vital. Starter done. Dessert done and obviously featuring ice cream the main needed some attention. With the somewhat limited kitchen facilities and equipment of my cosy, niche and atmospheric chosen venue the dish needed some attention. Ambition needs to be carefully managed and focussed int he right direction.

While flavour is key here using wholesome ingredients cooked from scratch I wanted a menu that would make my potential guests salivate on reading and be booking tickets on autopilot before they could say ‘Deliveroo’! Flavour vital but practicality is also a contender here when cooking solo for 30 paying guests. And in addition economics, aesthetics and style are also important. Factoring all these competing aspects and a love of all things spice this punchy dish was created. I won’t give anything away but the next supper club main with feature something along these lines…

Serves 4

  • 4 duck legs
  • 1 x speedy dahl recipe (see here) with juice of 1/2 lime added at the end.
  • 1 cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp of black mustard seeds and cumin seeds
  • 3 spring onions, sliced on the diagonal
  • Handful of mint leaves, roughly chopped
  • Handful of coriander leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 large lime
  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Season the duck legs and roast for about 40 minutes in the oven.
  2. Scatter the cauliflower florets in a large baking tray and drizzle with a good glut of olive oil.
  3. Toss in the curry powder, turmeric cumin and mustard seeds and stir to coat. Add some seasoning.Jess - Curried Cauliflower2Jess - Curried Cauliflower
  4. After the duck has had 20 minutes of roasting add the cauliflower to the oven and roast for 20 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile make the dahl and set aside to keep warm.
  6. Once the duck and cauliflower are ready remove from the oven. leave the duck to rest for a few minutes before shredding the meat into a warm bowl with two forks and quickly squeezing over the juice of the fresh lime.
  7. Toss the warm cauliflower in the spring onions and herbs.
  8. To plate up, ensure you have warm shallow serving bowls or plates and spoon a generous spoonful of dahl onto the bottom and let it ooz out onto the plate. Top with a handful of the cauliflower before finally topping with a quarter of the shredded duck
  9. Serve immediately while still warm and devour! Serve with warm homemade flatbreads or roti if needed.

WINE: This would be great with an aromatic white such as a Riesling or a Gervertz to balance the spice.

Jess - Dahl and Cauliflower2

Harissa Chicken With Orange Herb Barley Salad

Jess - Harissa Chicken4Jess - Harissa Chicken3

I

ts safe to say I’m a fan of Greece. The food, the weather, the glassy wakeboard inviting waters and the calming pace of life. I’ve even been partial to the odd Greek wine! I visit every year for my dose of Vitamin D and halloumi and to brush up on my water sports. But I’ll focus on the food for the time being. After experimenting with a unassuming pack of Odysea’s deliciously authentic Saganaki cheese last year it was time to venture into their range a bit more with my appreciation of Greece and the Med. Being the good natured Greek loving company that they are I arrived home one Friday evening after work to a box of delightful goodies to sample and experiment with!

And sample I did.

This recipe is adapted from a Bill Granger combination I once saw and with all the right flavours from Odysea (with the odd ‘forage in the pantry’ twist) it was the perfect foundation for my med inspired dish to help prolong the recent spring sun. The roasted oranges add a really unusual touch here along with the gentle spicing which are a perfect match with Odysea’s punchy, creamy and crumbly feta cheese. Heaps of mint, dill and lemon juice bring it all to life and sooth the post harissa spice! One to give a go on a sunny but still brisk Spring evening.

Serves 4

  • 2 small oranges
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp ‘Odysea Wild Thyme & Fragrant Honey’
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 200g pearl barely or spelt
  • Juice 1 lemon
  • 1 carrot grated
  • 200g ‘Odysea Greek Feta‘, crumbled in large chunks
  • Large handful mint leaves
  • Small handful dill, finely chopped
  • 2 small poussin (or 4 joints of chicken e.g. chicken legs, thighs etc)
  • 4-6 tbsp of ‘Odysea Harissa spread‘ or 2 tbsp harissa paste
  •  2 large garlic cloves
  • Salad to serve – I used a crisp mix of chicory, little gems and watercress dressed in some lemon and extra virgin olive oil (Odysea of course)
  1. Preheat the oven to 220°C.
  2. Marinade the poussin in the harissa, seasoning well and then add 1 pealed, gently crushed garlic clove to each cavity and set aside.Jess - Harissa Chicken5
  3. Slice the oranges thinly and place on a lined baking tray evenly spread. Grind the fennel, cumin and chilli flakes in a pestle and mortar and then add the honey and olive oil and mix well. Coat the oranges slices in the mixture.
  4. Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes, keeping an eye on them until they begin to caramelise and char. This time with vary depending on how juicy the oranges are. Leave to cool slightly.
  5. Cook the barely or spelt according to the packet instructions until tender then drain well and leave to cool to room temperature.
  6. Meanwhile, turn the oven down to 190°C and place the poussin on a lined baking tray. Bake for around 40 minutes until tender and the juices run clear. Set aside to rest while you finish the salad.
  7. Add the warm oranges slices to the drained grains.
  8. Stir in the juice of the lemon, plenty of salt and pepper and the chopped dill.
  9. Scatter in the crumbled feta, the grated carrot and stir to combine.
  10. Finally, roughly chop the mint at the last minute and add to the grains and stir.
  11. Loosen with a little more lemon or a splash of extra virgin olive oil if needed
  12. Carve your rested poussin in half and serve half each alongside the grain and green salad, scattered with extra mint if you like

NOTES: This would also be lovely with a side of warm pillowy flatbreads, dipped into a cleansing and fresh lime and coriander yoghurt or tzatziki.

For a wine match I would suggest a fresh Chenin Blanc or the slightly aromatic taste of  Viognier.

Jess - Harissa Chicken2

 

 

Pea and Avocado Dip with Sprouted Olive Oil Crackers

Jess - Cracker2

Jess - rudehealth

F

irstly I think I need to explain the mystery behind the ‘Sprouted Olive Oil Crackers’. As if the wholesome organic produce that Rude Health so stylishly provide wasn’t tempting enough, they have developed a range of ‘sprouted flours’. Nothing to do with sprouts, nothing to do with flowers…..These flours basically contain a grain that has been allowed to sprout and germinate in an environment which stimulates enzyme activity and allows for the transformation of wonderful nutrients. Soaked in water, the grains sprout and release nutrients and once slow fired and and stone ground these are captured inside these tasty flours ready for your baking purposes. Nutty, wholesome and devine, they can be used in baking like for like to add a fantastic texture and flavour layer. Here I used the flour in some lovely giant tongue shaped crackers which I often make for dinner parties as elaborate dipping utensils!

They are amazing served with dips and spreads. I’ve made these in the past but never with sprouted flour and the baking smell alone as they crisped away in the safety of the oven was enough to inspire a healthy dip to accompany.

Makes about 15 dependant on size (adapted from Ottolenghi)

  1. Preheat the oven to 220°C and line a large tray with baking parchment.
  2. In a large bowl or food processor combine all the ingredients except for the salt until you have  affirm dough.
  3. Leave to rest for 30 minutes or so in the fridge.
  4. When ready to cook, take walnut sized pieces of dough (about 15g) and roll on a floured surface into tongue or oval shaped crackers, paper thin if you can!
  5. Repeat and place on your lined backing tray. Drizzle well with olive oil and scatter with the sea salt.
  6. Bake in the oven for about 6 minutes or until crisp, golden and filling the kitchen with wonderful smells.
  7. Leave to cool on a wire rack before enjoying with a dip or choice.

Pea and Avocado Dip (Serve 4-5 as a starter/nibble)

I saw a version of this recipe in a recent Waitrose magazine. Having been invited to a last minute impromptu BBQ I felt I needed a culinary offering which is where this speedy dip was created. To my disappointment this said recipe wasn’t particularly inspiring on the taste delivery. It was a bit bland. However, with a complete recipe makeover and the addition of some forage in the pantry flavour staples I had a tasty vibrant dip in no time to accompany my sprouted olive oil crackers. Knocked out in minutes I just had time to grab a bottle of chilled white before heading out into the sun….

  • 150 peas, defrosted or fresh
  • 1 lime, juice
  • 1 crushed garlic clove
  • 1 tbsp creme fraiche
  • 15g pistachios
  • 1 avocado, chopped into chunks
  • 1 tsp spice mix (see here)
  • 60g feta cheese
  • Handful mint leaves
  • Chives, dill and chilli oil to garnish
  1. In a food processor, please the peas, lime juice, garlic, pistachios, creme fraiche, spice mix and mint. Pulse and blend until the mixture turns into a paste. You may need to scarp the sides down as you go.
  2. Add plenty of seasoning and then add the feta cheese and avocado.
  3. Blend again to form a smooth paste. If you like it a bit thinner, add some olive oil.
  4. Serve scattered with chopped dill and chives and drizzled with chilli oil

Jess - Peaavocadodip2

 

Moroccan Chicken and Green Bulgar Wheat

A

recent adventure to the Moroccan Atlas Mountains can only (and easily) be described as the time of my life and the best birthday I’ve ever experienced. A timelessly long relaxing weekend perched secludedly on the crumbly edge of the Atlas Mountains in the Ourika Valley in the heart of the National Park. Nestled high above the local Berber village I felt more than privileged to be there and in wonderful company. Basking in the golden sun, trekking through the local valley, wholeheartedly absorbing the culture and contagiously relaxing in the peaceful vibe of the Kasbah Bab Ourika. How many bedrooms can you watch the sun rise while gazing at snow caped mountains before enjoying a humble breakfast on a warm terracotta terrace? Kasbah Bab Ourika really is a special place. Saturated in charm, authenticity and the smell of fire and leather. And mint tea…lots of mint tea.

On arrival we were welcomed by the local Berber staff by the hydrating delights of said fresh mint tea. With only 26 rooms and more staff than guests, not once did we feel the infringing presence of the other holiday makers. We wondered the lavender filled gardens, bathed by the pool and drank tea until the sun went down. Or at least until an acceptable time arrived to sip on a cocktail or two.

image
image
image
image

The view from our bedroom balcony was breath taking. An inspiring place to cleanse the soul so what better way to start my birthday than a yoga practice and some ‘sun’ salutations at sunrise.

image

My birthday ticked casually by starting with a stimulating 12km trek through the undulating local National Park, an indulgent foodie buffet lunch served in the sun washed terrace before unwinding with a Moroccan massage in the lavender filled gardens.


Chickpeas

Buffet

Ice cream

Only then did the heavens open and cool the hot parched ground. Naturally we retired to the leather filled bar with a crisp class of bubbly by a soothing fire in our dinner finery.

image

The peace and tranquility was broken only momentarily by a crazy and amazing venture into Marakesh! What a place. The flavours and familiar smells of the ingredients I have accustomed myself to using were 100 times stronger and more intense in this vibrant city making my reluctant return to the English supermarkets even more disappointing. The mint seemed fresher and the spices seemed stronger. Inspiration for my favourite cuisine could not be ignored on return home. Cucumber martinis to cool us down before tackling the vibrant market as the sun went down

IMG_3464

Tagine

Town

After having commitedly devoured the tender delights of tagine every night I felt an alternative recipe in order. Taking inspiration from the African bliss I enjoyed this weekends meal. Clean, fresh, flavoursome and delicious. Moroccan spiced chicken with green herby bulghar wheat and sharp lime yoghurt.

Serves 2

  • 60g bulgar wheat
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 25g currants, soaked in boiling water/orange juice for 20 minutes
  • 50g pistachios, chopped
  • Large handful each of dill, parsley, basil and mint
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 chicken supremes/chicken breasts
  • 2 heaped tsp Ras el Hanout
  • Rapeseed oil
  • 50g yoghurt
  • 1 large lime
  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Marinade your chicken in the Ras El Hanout, salt and pepper and a few tbsp’s of rapeseed oil in a large bowl for at least 30 minutes.
  2. When ready to cook, heat a frying pan over a high heat and drizzle with some more oil. Sear the chicken on the skin side to get a really crispy and golden skin for up to 5 minutes. Once crisp, turn and seal on the flesh side for 1 minute. Place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until tender and cooked. Leave to rest for 5 minutes and keep warm.
  3. Meanwhile make the bulgar wheat salad. Simmer the wheat in boiling water (about 5 x as much water as wheat) for about 10 minutes or so or until tender and soft. Drain well and fluff with a fork. Keep warm in the pan with a lid on.
  4. Heat a frying pan over a medium heat and gently fry the onion until soft and translucent. Add the ground cumin for the final few minutes to cook out. Add these to the warm wheat.
  5. Combine the green herbs in a food processor (or finely chop). Add seasoning, the juice from the lemon and a little oil to loosen if needed. Scrap the herby mixture into the bulgar wheat and stir well.
  6. Check the seasoning of the wheat before adding the currants (drained) and the chopped nuts.
  7. Combine the yoghurt with the lime juice and some salt and pepper.
  8. When the chicken is cooked and rested, slice in half on the diagonal.
  9. Spoon a ring of yoghurt onto your serving plate and fill the centre with a generous helping of green bulgar wheat salad. Top with the sliced chicken and scatter over any remaining herbs.
  10. Enjoy!
image

Chocolate Mint Tart with Sugared Pistachios

image
image

M

y recent adventure to the colourful delights of Morocco has naturally fuelled my blogging obsession once again. I have, for this week at least, exhausted the classic tagine and now have only sweet treats on the mind. Green & Blacks recent emphasis on colour in our taste and perception can not only be reflected in their packaging but I couldn’t help but see this mirrored in Morocco which is a country that is summed up by colour and flavour. A feast for the eyes. With teasing fresh mint tea available in Morocco at any opportunity (whether requested or not) I stole this flavour inspiration using Green & Blacks new ‘Mint Crisp’ bar.

If you’re a chocolate connoisseur you’ll already have noticed Green & Blacks new bars – ‘Thins’ – so this won’t come as surprising news. Long ago I spotted the ‘Mint Crisp’ flavour and stocked up. I love this new format or bite-sized slices of flavoursome chocolate. Ironically here I’ve used the new ‘Thins’ bar in this recipe….which won’t make you that. But hey, the mint brings back the buzz of the Medina’s and Riads.

image
image

This tart is rich and dense. If you’re not a mint fan then feel free to make this soley dark or try using G&B’s salted caramel thins in stead. The crunchy topping adds a lovely texture but again can be substituted with pecans, walnuts, or almonds (which would go particularly well with the salted caramel bar). Devour with some clean simple ice cream or fruit.

Pastry

  • 1 x quantity of shortcrust pastry (see here for recipe) made with additional small handful of desiccated coconut.

Filling

  • 150g Green & Blacks ‘Mint Crisp Chocolate’
  • 100g Green & Blacks dark 70-80% chocolate
  • 100ml single cream
  • 250ml whole milk
  • 3 beaten eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Topping

  • 50g pistachios
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 4 tbsp desiccated coconut
  • 1 large lime, zest only
  1. Start by making the pastry case according to the link above and using a deep 20cm wide pastry case. Add a handful of coconut to the flour if you like.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Set aside your blind baked pastry case while you make the filling.
  3. Mix the cream and milk together in a saucepan and heat until just about to come to the boil.
  4. Remove from the heat and break in the chocolate in small pieces. After a few minutes mix together until the chocolate is smooth and fully melted into the cream. Use a whisk to throughly combine the cream and melted chocolate.
  5. Leave to cool until lukewarm.
  6. When lukewarm, beat in the eggs and vanilla.
  7. Place the tart case on a baking tray and fill ¾ full with the chocolate filling.
  8. Place the tray on the oven shelf and once its stable, fill the tart to full with the remaining mixture (or as much as will fit int your tin! I had a little left over)
  9. Bake for about 20 minutes until just set and shiny.
  10. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely.
  11. Meanwhile make the topping. Crush the nuts in a pestle and mortar until finely crushed but with a few chunks here and there.
  12. Toast the coconut in a dry hot frying pan until just beginning to colour golden and then add to the nuts. Stir in the lime zest and the sugar and combine.
  13. Once the tart has cooled, use this mixture to scatter over the top of the tart.
image

Thai ‘Papaya Noodle’ Salad

 

image

I bought a Papaya on a wim. As an extremely disciplined person by nature, I find it annoyingly frustrating that I can never resist a supermarket food offer! After freely placing it in my basket without a second economic thought, my mind began racing over what to make with it. On my walk home, sat in the cinema that same afternoon and whilst relaxing in the bath the culinary devil sat on my shoulder. With salmon in the fridge I couldn’t resist the flavoursome attraction of Thai ingredients to combine with from the pantry.

This recipe is loosely based on one by ‘The Hairy Bikers’. However it does emit some of the ingredients suggested as the pantry let me down (shocker) on tamarind water….but it tasted delicious! And who knows, it could taste even better? The important thing here is to make the dressing seperately and taste as you go along adding more of any ingredient you need depending on the taste which is how I came up with the below. Only then, once you have it to your liking, should you dress the salad. This may sound hard but trust your instinct and taste buds! See below for help.

Serves 2-3 depending on appetite!

  • 1 large papaya, peeled and chopped into matchsticks of julienned with a peeler
  • 3 oz red camague rice
  • 1 small red chilli, finely copped
  • 2cm knob ginger, half grated, half finely chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, grated
  • Juice 1 lime
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 ½ tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 ½ tbsp sugar (palm or brown sugar)
  • Bunch mint leavves, chopped roughly
  • Bunch basil, chopped roughly
  • Large handful roasted peanuts
  • 2-3 salmon fillets
  • 1 head broccoli
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  1. Start by simmering the rice in boiling water for about 20 minutes until cooked. Drain and keep warm
  2. Next make the dressing. In a large bowl, mix together the chopped chilli, garlic, ginger, lime juice, soy, fish sauce and sugar. Give it all a good mix and taste. Add more of what you think it needs. This may be hard but use your instinct. Add more lime for sharpness, sugar for sweetness and soy for savoury saltiness. Quantities will all depend on the ingredients you start with. The soy I used here for example was even new to me –  a very dark, intense type unlike my usual light soy which is less pungent.
  3. Set aside the dressing when you’re happy with it while you julienne the papaya. I have a special peeler for this which I highly recommend if you’re into your raw vege noodles (see here). If not, chopp into matchsticks.
  4. You want to assemble the salad at the last minute when ready to eat so cook your salmon and broccoli before this. Heat a large fryng pan until medium-hot. Add a tbsp olive oil and fry the salmon fillets, skin side down for about 3 minutes on the skin side. Once the skin is nice and crispy turn onto the flesh side and cook for a further 2 minutes to brown it all over and create a lovely charred crust on the outside. Don’t be tempted to cook the salmon longer, the crust on the outside will be a delicous contrast to the soft just-pink inside. No matter what thickness the salmon, it should (generally) never take more than 5 minutes in a medium hot pan. Additionally, it will continue cooking while you bring it to the table.
  5. Steam or boil your broccoli and drain. Drizzle with the sesame oil.
  6. When ready to serve, combine the rice with a few tablespoons of dressing. Add the papaya, chopped herbs and peanuts and mix (reserving a handful or herbs for garnish). Add enough dressing to your liking but make sure its not swimming in the stuff!
  7. Top the salad with your tender salmon fillets alongside your freshly cooked broccoli and scatter with the reserved herbs.

WINE: Excellent served with a delicious Riesling (see here for a suggestion)

image