Herby Poached Egg and Smoked Salmon on Sourdough Toast

Whenever I read through a recipe book I look longingly at some of the delicious ideas for breakfasts, but I keep going past that section because I never have time to make an elaborate breakfast. Fool that I am, quite often all it takes is a little forward planning and a delicious and different breakfast can be on the table in ten minutes – the same time it takes to prepare my usual boiled eggs and toast.

I saw Jamie Oliver make this on his most recent TV series and it sounded, and looked, so delicious that I was determined to make it myself. I’m so glad I did, it required no forethought – besides having the ingredients to hand – and it really was on the table in ten minutes.  This would make a great light lunch as well.

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RECIPE – serves 2

extra virgin olive oil
a few fresh chives, finely chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
2 large eggs
2 thick slices of sourdough, toasted
cream cheese
smoked salmon, roughly chopped
a large handful of spinach
Tabasco sauce
1 lemon


METHOD 

Lay two 40cm sheets of non-PVC clingfilm flat on a work surface and rub with a little oil. Place one at a time into a cup and push down to create a well to hold the egg.

Sprinkle the chopped chives and chilli in the centre of the sheet, then carefully crack the egg on top. Pull in the sides of the clingfilm and be sure to gently squeeze out any air around the egg. Twist, then tie a knot in the clingfilm to secure the egg snugly inside. Repeat with the other egg in the other sheet.

Your egg parcels should look like this:

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Poach the egg parcels in a pan of simmering water for 6 to 7 minutes for soft-poached, or until cooked to your liking.

Place a colander or steamer above the pan and wilt the spinach as the egg poaches.

Meanwhile, toast the bread and spread the cream cheese on it like butter. Scatter the smoked salmon over the cream cheese. Squeeze any excess liquid out of the spinach, then spoon over the toast.

Snip open the clingfilm parcel, unwrap the egg and place proudly on top. Dot with a little Tabasco and serve with a wedge of lemon for squeezing over, then season and tuck in.

Pasta, Cherry Tomatoes and Blue Cheese

We were supposed to go out for a meal last night, but a combination of fatigue and ennui determined that we would light the log burner and have a simple supper instead. Having nothing planned, I turned to the fridge and the pantry to find a handful of simple ingredients and cook this fast, simple and delicious treat.

We would have enjoyed our meal out, I’m sure, but I’m not so sure whether it would have been quite as lovely as what we ended up with.

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RECIPE – serves 2

300g cherry tomatoes, quartered

4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 fat garlic clove, thinly sliced

a good pinch of dried chilli flakes

a small handful of basil leaves, torn

220g pasta (whatever you have available)

200g soft, creamy blue cheese (Gorgonzola, Dolcelatte etc)

a little parmesan, finely grated


METHOD 

Combine the tomatoes, oil, garlic, basil and chilli flakes in a bowl, with a good pinch of sea salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Set aside for 30 minutes.

Cook the pasta in plenty of salted water at a rolling boil. Drain, return the pasta to the pan and add the tomato mix, toss well then crumble the cheese into it. Stir well, drizzle with a little more olive oil and a final twist of black pepper.

Serve in warmed bowls garnished with finely grated parmesan, alongside a simple green salad, dressed with a little freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Celeriac and Apple Soup

Simple as they seem, soups can be a real test of a cook’s palate and skill at combining flavours. This Tom Kerridge recipe is a great example, deceptively simple with only a handful of ingredients, the soup itself is the classic winter pairing of creamy celeriac and sharp cooking apples and is lovely by itself. Add some garnishes however and the resulting flavour combinations are eye-popping, every mouthful offers something different.

I have used pumpkin oil as a garnish here; it’s an unusual ingredient, and quite expensive – though it will go an awful long way. Use it like you would toasted sesame oil, as a seasoning and garnish, and it lifts anything it comes into contact with. A very worthwhile investment indeed.

This soup makes a delicious and filling supper meal, or a very elegant first course.

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RECIPE – serves 4

500g celeriac

1 litre vegetable stock

3 tbsp rapeseed oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 large Bramley apples, or other sharp cooking apples

the juice of a lemon, freshly squeezed

200ml double cream

1/2 nutmeg, finely grated

To garnish (use any or all):

salty, soft blue cheese (Roquefort, dolcelatte or similar), crumbled

toasted walnuts

celery leaves

a few drops of pumpkin oil

sourdough croutons


METHOD 

Heat the oven to 180C/ 160C fan/ gas 4.

Peel the celeriac and retain the peel, chop the flesh into 2cm cubes and tip onto a roasting tray, drizzle a couple of tablespoons of rapeseed oil over it. Using your hands, ensure that every surface of every piece of celeriac has a fine film of oil, then spread the pieces out evenly across the roasting tray. Do not crowd your tray, leave a little space between each piece of vegetable and in a single layer, otherwise some pieces will steam rather than roast. Roasting drives out some of the moisture in the vegetable, intensifying the flavour in a way that steaming does not. The oil coating protects the vegetable from the dry heat and delays caramelisation until the vegetable is soft. Roast for 30-40 minutes until soft and just starting to brown.

Meanwhile, put the celeriac peel into the stock and bring to the boil. Turn off the heat and allow to infuse for at least 30 minutes.

Sweat the onion in 1 tbsp rapeseed oil with a little salt for around ten minutes until softened but not coloured – the salt will help as it encourages the moisture in the onions to be released.

Peel and dice the apples and toss them in a large bowl with the lemon juice. When the onion is soft, add the apples with the lemon juice and the roasted celeriac. Strain the infused stock into the pan and bring to the boil, simmer for ten minutes until the apple has started to break down. Add the cream, bring the temperature of the soup back up until it is just about to boil, then turn off the heat. Using a stick blender, or worktop blender, blitz the soup until it is smooth. Test and correct the seasoning, and grate in half a fresh nutmeg.

To serve, garnish with any or all of the garnishes listed.

Squash Fritters with Green Tomato Salsa

I still have a small mountain of green tomatoes in my kitchen. They stubbornly refuse to ripen, not surprising given that it is November, but they are still firm and healthy. Determined to make use of them, I found this Jamie Oliver recipe which sounded intriguing.

When I started to make the fritter batter I must confess that I wondered whether I’d made the right decision, things didn’t look very promising at all. However, I soldiered on, mainly because I didn’t have anything else to fall back on. I needn’t have worried, they turned out to be absolutely delicious, especially when paired with the punchy salsa.

I served them alongside pan-seared salmon fillets and a simple green salad, quite wonderful.

Jamie’s original recipe calls for leftover roasted squash, I cannot think of any circumstances when I would have any leftover squash. If you are like me then you will need to roast some squash before you begin: peel and chop your squash into 2cm cubes, season lightly and toss in a little olive oil, just enough to coat each cube, and roast in a 200C/ Gas 6 oven for around 40 minutes until the edges are starting to caramelise.

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RECIPE – serves 4

For the salsa:

2 medium green tomatoes
2 medium, ripe red tomatoes
2 fresh red chillies, de-seeded and finely sliced
4 spring onions, trimmed and finely chopped
1 lemon, zest and juice
a small bunch of fresh basil
extra-virgin olive oil

For the fritters:

250 g roasted squash
250 g ricotta cheese
½ teaspoon ground allspice
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons wholewheat flour
½ teaspoon baking powder


METHOD 

Chop all the tomatoes, some roughly and some finely so you’ve got a range of shapes and textures, scrape them into a bowl with the chillies and spring onions, grate the lemon zest over the top, squeeze in half the lemon juice and stir thoroughly.

Pick and roughly tear the basil leaves, then add to the tomatoes along with a good pinch of sea salt, some black pepper and a drizzle of oil. Mix well, check and adjust the seasoning then set aside.

Roughly mash the squash in a large bowl then add the ricotta, allspice and a pinch of salt and pepper.

Crack in the eggs and whisk to combine, then fold through the flour and baking powder.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a non-stick frying pan or skillet over a medium heat, add 4 to 6 large spoonfuls of batter and fry for 3 to 4 minutes, or until golden and crisp on the bottom. Flip the fritters over and fry for a further 3 to 4 minutes, or until golden and cooked through.

Keep in a warm oven while you prepare the rest of the fritters and cook your salmon, or whatever you decide to accompany them.

Grilled Sea Bass with Chilli and Mango Sauce

I am lucky enough to have access to a great fishmonger, and I’m always buying his fresh-caught sea bass. It has a lovely flavour and firm flesh, is an easy fish to work with, and whatever you pair it with it makes an impressive dish to put in front of guests. To prepare it, you need to gut and descale it, remove the fins and cut out the gills – but if you don’t fancy the work your fishmonger will happily do it for you.

This recipe comes courtesy of Gizzi Erskine, and it is perfect. It’s definitely one that I will make again and again, my wife demands it.

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RECIPE – serves 2

2 small sea bass
4 tbsp Thai fish sauce (nam pla)
3 tbsp shao hsing wine or sherry
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tbsp soy sauce
juice of 2 limes
1 fresh red chilli, chopped
½ firm mango (green underripe mangoes are great if you can find them), peeled and cut into matchsticks
200ml water
1 tsp tamarind paste
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp cornflour, mixed with 2 tbsp of water
To garnish, a handful of fresh coriander leaves 


METHOD 

Using a sharp, serrated knife, make 3 or 4 cuts on each side of the fish.

Put the fish into a bowl, pour 2 tbsp of the fish sauce over it and leave to marinate for 5–10 minutes.

Heat the grill to a high heat.

Put the rest of the fish sauce and all the remaining ingredients, except the cornflour and the coriander, into a saucepan. Place over a medium heat and bring gently to a simmer.

Pour in the cornflour mix and stir until thickened. Cover and keep warm.

Grill the fish for 8 minutes on each side or until crisp and golden on the outside but firm and flaky when pushed in its meatiest part.

Place on a serving platter and pour over the sauce. Finally, sprinkle with the coriander.

Red Tomato Dhal

Take a few simple ingredients, add a little heat and a little time and a whole evening of satisfied fullness will follow. Dhal is rapidly becoming one of my go-to meals when it’s cold outside and I’m lacking inspiration – after eating it I wonder why the hell we don’t have it every night. I have over twenty different dhal recipes in my notebook, they are all amazing but this is one I made the other night and it’s my current favourite – until I make the next one…

By the way, this is a very low-calorie meal – around 200 calories or so per serving. You’ll be amazed at how full you feel.

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RECIPE – serves 2

1/2 tsp rapeseed oil

1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced

1/2 tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp black mustard seeds

1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes

2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

1 tin of chopped tomatoes

75g red lentils

600ml vegetable stock or water

a few good handfuls of baby leaf spinach

fresh coriander, leaves and stalks chopped separately


METHOD 

in a small bowl, add a little water to the ground turmeric and cumin to make a paste, set aside for now.

Put a large non-stick frying pan over a high heat and brown the onion for 5-10 minutes until well coloured, then add the chilli flakes and black mustard seeds and fry for a further 15 seconds before adding the turmeric and cumin paste with the garlic. Cook on for a further 30 seconds or so then add the lentils and tinned tomatoes. Stir in the vegetable stock (or water) and the chopped coriander stalks. Bring to the boil before reducing to a gentle simmer for 30 minutes to an hour until the lentils are soft (depending on the age of your lentils). Add more water if necessary to prevent sticking.

Season, then add the spinach and allow it to wilt into the sauce. Scatter over the chopped coriander leaves and serve alongside Basmati rice and an onion salad.

Hake with Tomatoes and Puy Lentils

The trouble with always trying to make something new is that you often forget the gorgeous things that you have made in the past.  That’s why I keep a recipe notebook, in which I write down the final versions of everything that I make that I wish to one day make again. Pushed for time and inspiration last night I was flipping through the book and came across this richly delicious, and ridiculously quick, dish that I haven’t made in a couple of years.

What was I thinking? This is fabulous. I wish I knew where I initially found it, credit is most definitely due.

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RECIPE – serves 2 or 3

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
150ml vegetable stock
400g can chopped plum tomatoes
1 heaped tbsp sun-dried tomato paste
1 tsp hot smoked paprika (pimentón picante)
210g dried Puy lentils OR 400g can Puy lentils
2 or 3 skinned hake fillet (or other firm, white fish)
flat-leaf parsley, chopped to garnish


METHOD 

If using dried lentils, submerge them in clean water and agitate to rinse them, pick out anything that looks like it doesn’t belong then add to a large pan and cover with around 1 1/2 inches of cold water – DO NOT ADD ANY SALT or anything with salt added, it will make the skins tough and essentially inedible. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes (depending on the age of the lentils) until they are just soft enough to eat. Drain and leave to cool on a plate.

Heat the oil in a large, nonstick sauté pan or cast iron casserole with a lid. Add the onion and fry over a medium-high heat for 10 minutes or until browned, turning up the heat a little if necessary. You want the flavour that a well-browned onion will give you so be brave!

When the onions are almost done, add the sliced garlic and fry for a couple of minutes until the garlic also browns, moving it around just enough to ensure it doesn’t catch. Burned garlic is bitter and ruins a dish, so be brave but take care to keep a close eye on things. You can always arrest the cooking by adding the stock…

Ah, the stock. Please, please, please, make your own. I have provided a link to my recipe in the ingredients list, so use that or use somebody else’s but whatever you do using a stock cube or bouillon powder should be your absolute last resort – the difference between home-made and powdered in the final dish is like the sun and the moon.

Lay the fish to dry on kitchen paper, and pat the top side of each fillet dry as well. Lightly season with salt and pepper and allow to sit for a few minutes while you carry on.

Add the stock to the onions and garlic and let it bubble for a few seconds, then tip in the tomatoes followed by the sun-dried tomato paste, paprika and lentils. Bring to the boil then simmer for 10 minutes before seasoning with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Lay the fillets on top of the tomatoes and lentils, pressing them lightly into the sauce without submerging them, then cover the pan. Simmer over a very gentle heat for 10 minutes or until the fish is just cooked. The fish will poach on the underside and steam on the top side because of the lid, and will remain tender even if you slightly overcook it.

Serve in warmed bowls with crusty sourdough or wholemeal bread.

 

Indonesian Coconut Fish Curry

What makes this curry very different from what you get in your local takeaway is the shrimp paste. The flavour that it adds to the dish is indescribable, at least by me. Together with the lime, lemongrass and coconut it makes something midway between a Thai curry and a Keralan curry, but different enough from both to be worth putting into a category all its own.

Shrimp paste is widely available in supermarkets, but if you do struggle to get it you will get an acceptable result by using one anchovy and a teaspoon of fish sauce. The result will still be lovely, but different. Please please please, make and use your own curry powder – it is dead easy and it makes an incredible difference to the finished dish. You will find my recipe here.

All it requires to complete it is some plain boiled or steamed Basmati rice. If you keep the woody parts of your lemongrass stalks, add these to the cooking water for a delicate citrussy edge to the rice. Delicious!

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RECIPE – feeds 2

1 tbsp ghee (or vegetable oil)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
a big piece of fresh ginger (4cm or so) finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 tsp shrimp paste (or 1 anchovy and 1 tsp fish sauce)
4 birds-eye chillies, left whole but with a 1 cm slit in the side
2 lemongrass stalks, tough outer leaves removed, soft parts finely chopped
I heaped tbsp curry powder
I tbsp jaggery (or dark muscovado sugar)
a bunch of fresh coriander, stalks finely chopped, leaves roughly chopped
1 tin of coconut milk
3 loins of cod, hake or other firm white fish, cut into large chunks
200g raw king prawns
finely grated zest and the juice of 1 lime


METHOD 

Prepare all your ingredients.

In a large frying pan, melt the ghee over a medium-low heat, add the onions and fry gently for 5 to 10 minutes until soft and translucent.

Add the ginger, garlic, chillies, lemongrass and shrimp paste. Cook for two minutes or so until aromatic and starting to take a bit of colour, then add the jaggery and curry powder. Cook on for a minute or so, keeping everything constantly moving so nothing catches, then add the coconut milk. Stir well and bring to a gentle simmer for 5 minutes.

At this point I like to turn everything off and let the sauce rest for a few hours. This softens the edge of the spices and makes everything more flavourful. However, you can carry straight on…

Add the coriander stalks and the white fish, simmer for three minutes and then add the lime zest, half the lime juice and the prawns. Simmer for a further two minutes then add the rest of the lime juice and scatter the coriander leaves over the top.

The fish and prawns should be just about cooked – don’t forget that they will cook on in the heat of the sauce.

Serve with plain steamed or boiled Basmati rice, flavoured with lemongrass stalks if you like.

 

Cauliflower Pappardelle with Gorgonzola

Oh my.

Some recipes are classic for a reason. This is a classic Italian dish, it’s delicious. That’s the reason it’s a classic.

I have tried this using other blue cheeses but it is at its absolute best when Gorgonzola is used.

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RECIPE – feeds 4

200g cauliflower florets

20g unsalted butter

150g Gorgonzola cheese, diced

3 tbsp whole milk

3 tbsp olive oil

1 garlic clove, peeled

1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme leaves

400g pappardelle

25-50g freshly grated Parmesan cheese


METHOD

Parboil the cauliflower for 5 minutes in a large pan of salted, boiling water. Remove using a slotted spoon and retain the cooking water.

Melt the butter with the Gorgonzola and milk in a small pan over a low heat, stirring continuously until melted and smooth. Do not let it boil. When creamy, remove from the heat and set aside for now.

Cook the pappardelle in the reserved cooking water (add a little if you need to), per the pack instructions, until just al dente.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large frying pan, add the whole garlic clove and cook over a low heat, stirring frequently, for a few minutes until lightly browned.  Remove and discard the garlic clove, add the cauliflower to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes until lightly browned. sprinkle with the thyme and season.

Drain the pappardelle, reserving a little of the water for use in loosening the sauce if necessary,  and add it to the pan with the cauliflower. Stir in the Gorgonzola mixture, toss well, remove from the heat and serve sprinkled with the Parmesan alongside a simple bowl of rocket and a crisp glass of white white.

Pan-Fried Sea Bass on Pita with Labneh, Tomato and Preserved Lemon

A straightforward middle-eastern inspired dish that utilises a handful of delicious ingredients all working together. If you make your own pita and labneh it goes from delicious to stunning.

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RECIPE – feeds 2  

2 sea bass fillets, skin on

3 tbsp olive oil

2 small preserved lemons, pulp removed, skin cut into thin strips

2 pita bread (white or wholemeal) each cut into 3 pieces

labneh (or some thick Greek yoghurt mixed with olive oil)

2 tbsp pomegranate seeds

2 tsp za’atar

2 good handfuls of rocket

For the salsa:

2 ripe tomatoes, skinned, de-seeded and finely diced

1 long red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped

1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes

a small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped

a small bunch of fresh coriander, chopped

juice of a lemon


METHOD

First combine the salsa ingredients. To de-skin your tomatoes: boil a kettle, lightly score a cross in the base of the tomato and put it into a cup. Pour the just-boiled water over the tomato and leave for 15-20 seconds. Empty the hot water out and immediately refill it with cold water. Lift out the tomato, insert the point of a knife under the score and lift the skin away, you should find that the skin peels off easily. If you leave the tomato in the hot water for too long it will begin to cook, and the skin will not come so easily.

Cut the tomatoes into quarters and cut out the seeds, then slice into thin strips, then slice across to make fine dice. Season, then put the salsa to one side.

Prepare the remainder of the ingredients. Pat the sea bass fillets dry with kitchen paper, season, then heat the oil in a large frying pan.

Lightly toast the pita.

Fry the fillets, skin side down, over a medium heat for approximately 3 minutes until the skin is crisp and the fish moves freely in the pan. Carefully flip the fish over and cook for a further minute.

To serve: put a good handful of rocket in a large bowl, place the cooked fish on top. Scatter the salsa on top of the fish and all around it. Tuck the pita into the rocket and under the fish, spoon some labneh on each piece of pita and sprinkle some za’atar over the top. Scatter the strips of preserved lemon and the pomegranate seeds over everything.

Pour a glass of good dry white wine and enjoy yourself.