KitchInspiration: (Lunch) Box Of Delights

I was talking to my friend Emily the other day who was sad about her lunch. Her midday meal, brought from home, was slimming but boring and consequently the working day had lost its spark.

What she wanted was something healthy but that felt “like the kind of lunch you look forward to”. Also, preferably something that could be prepared in a large-ish batch and kept in the fridge for several days so as to do for multiple lunches.

This rules out most green salady things. Lettuce would go wilty, cucumber soggy. Even cooked runner beans or peas go a bit grey after a day or so. Here, however, are three hearty-but-healthy dishes. All would be lovely on their own but I think would be even better with a handful of green. I would recommend keeping a bag of appropriate leaves in the fridge and adding a few on top of that day’s Tupperwared portion. It’s also worth finding a tiny jar (about the size that anchovy fillets come in) for transporting dressing. Just tuck it into the corner of the box and you’re ready to go. Old camera film canisters are really good for this if you have any knocking about.

All recipes make enough for three(ish) lunches.

chickpea carrot feta salad
chickpea carrot feta salad
chickpea carrot feta salad


Carrot, Chickpea & Feta Salad

This is adapted from a dish I ate on the final day of the Oxford Symposium On Food & Cookery. The lunch was a Greek Feast, curated by Aglaia Kremezifrom her book Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts.

The whole meal was delicious but I was particularly besotted with something billed as “Sauteed olives and carrots with preserved lemon and thyme”. This is inspired by her recipe but, since it's a lunch rather than part of a mezze spread, I've added chickpeas and feta. 

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 6 carrots
  • Juice of 3 oranges (or 100ml from a carton)
  • 3 or 4 sprigs of fresh thyme or a tbsp of dried
  • 1 tin chickpeas
  • 1 preserved lemon
  • 100g olives
  • 100g feta cheese

Method

  1. Heat a splash of olive oil in a large frying pan. Crush the garlic. Peel the carrots and cut them into pound-thick rounds. Add the garlic to the pan, then, almost immediately the carrots. Stir so everything is covered in olive oil, season generously and cook for a couple of minutes.
  2. Put in the orange juice, add the thyme and cook for 10 minutes. When it is nearly evaporated add the chickpeas and olives and continue to cook for a few minutes more.
  3. Remove the flesh from the preserved lemon and throw it away. Finely slice the rind and add to the pan, perhaps with a little bit of lemon juice, depending on how sharp the oranges were.
  4. Take the pan off the heat. When it has cooled, crumble in the feta.

  

Ifs And Ands

  • Try it in a pitta bread with houmous and rocket.
  • Use a similar method (without the orange juice) to cook courgettes.
cauliflower rice lentil salad
cauliflower rice lentil salad black garlic dressing


Cauliflower Rice Salad With Black Garlic Dressing

Sweet and smoky black garlic seems to be all over the place these days. It is particularly lovely in this dressing, even if I do say so myself. I know some branches of Sainsbury’s stock it but if you can’t find it available locally it’s easily got online.

Ingredients

  • 2 cauliflowers
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 100g puy lentils
  • 1 vegetable stock cube
  • ½ pomegranate
  • ½ bulb black garlic
  • 75ml olive oil (plus a little extra)
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 lemon

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Divide the cauliflower into florets and put a few at a time in the food processor. Whizz until they resemble rice. Lay the grains in a thin layer on a baking tray and toss with a little olive oil, salt, pepper and the cumin. Roast for 10 minutes.
  2. Cook the lentils in the stock as per instructions on the packet. Or until they are soft. I used Merchant Gourmet ones which claimed they would be ready in 20-26 minutes but it was a dirty lie and they took nearly 40.
  3. When the cauliflower and lentils and cool mix them with the pomegranate seeds.
  4. Put the black garlic in a food processor with the oil, mustard, zest of the lemon and a squeeze of juice. Season and blend until smooth. I won’t lie to you. It’s not pretty, being all weird and black and all. But it is delicious. Taste and add more lemon juice if necessary.
  5. In the morning add a handful of spinach leaves and take some dressing in a separate pot.

Ifs And Ands

  • If you can’t get hold of black garlic use a tbsp balsamic vinegar and a pinch of sugar instead.
  • I’ve left this as a veggie salad but it would go very well with a smoked mackerel fillet or some grilled chicken.
  • Slices of avocado or a few artichoke hearts from a jar would be good additions. Maybe even some cubes of cucumber (seeds removed) to add a bit of cooling crunch. 

 

sweet potato mexican salad

Sweet Potato, Black Bean & Chicken With Salsa Dressing

A vaguely "Mexican" lunch. Leave out the raw garlic if your desk is very close to your co-workers'...

Ingredients

  • 2 sweet potatoes
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika (smoked if possible)
  • 300g cherry tomatoes
  • olive oil
  • 1tsp chilli flakes
  • 2 chicken breasts or equivalent amount of leftover roast chicken
  • 1 lime
  • 1 tin black beans
  • ½ bunch spring onions
  • 1 tbsp pickled jalapenos
  • 1 clove garlic

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Peel and chop the sweet potatoes into bitesize chunk and toss them, on a baking tray with a splash of olive oil and the cinnamon, cumin and paprika. Put the cherry tomatoes in another oven-proof dish, splash over a little more oil, sprinkle on the chilli flakes and season with salt and pepper. Put everything in the oven for 15 minutes.
  2. Squeeze the lime into a bowl. Put the chicken breasts in a pan with some salt and the squeezed lime shells. Cover with water, bring to the boil, simmer for 10 minutes then remove and allow to cool. (For more information, the excellent Kitchn website has a good guide to poaching chicken.)
  3. Drain the beans and put them in a large bowl. Finely chop the spring onion and mix them in.
  4. When the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, remove their skins - they should have split during roasting and just slip off. If not, don’t worry. It’s not a big deal. Put them and their roasting juices in the bowl with the lime juice and squish everything with your hands until it becomes a chunky sauce (or use a blender for a smoother result). Finely chop the jalapenos, crush the garlic and add those too. Season with salt and pepper. If you want it spicier add a bit of Tabasco or other hot sauce.
  5. Tear the chicken into shreds and add it to the big bowl, along with the sweet potato. Mix everything together and then leave the salad and the salsa in the fridge overnight.
  6. In the morning transfer to your lunchbox. Bring a little jar of the salsa with you and pour it on at lunchtime.

Ifs And Ands

  1. If you can be bothered in the morning chop an avocado and add it to the salad along with a handful of coriander leaves. 
  2. You could add the salsa to the salad as it sits in the fridge so the flavours will mingle. It will get a little soggy but not in an unpleasant way.
  3. Bring a little gem lettuce with you and fill the leaves with forkfuls of salad before taking a bite.
  4. It would work with butternut squash or any other kind of pumpkin-like thing instead of the sweet potato.

Pesto Manifesto

When to comes to food, I’ve never believed that authenticity is paramount. Like language, cuisines evolve. I spent quite a while bemoaning text speak, lols and so on but came to realise that, while it might not be how I choose to express myself, it all makes perfect sense to plenty of people. Everything is in motion and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.

What does piss me off, linguistically and culinarily, is when definitions are stretched to the point of meaninglessness.  “Literally” was a useful word, goddamit! And so was “pesto”.

spinach blue cheese hazelnut pesto

I remember when pesto first became a thing in the UK (a good couple of decades before saying “a thing” became a thing). I was in my teens and it blew my mind. Before too long along came “red pesto” made with sundried tomatoes (they were still pretty exciting back then too). But these days so many things get called “pesto” it’s hard to keep up.

Sacla, the best known manufacturer here and, almost undoubtedly, suppliers of my first pesto fix, now make 12 different varieties, not including the “free from” and organic versions.

 Results of a recent trip to the supermarket...

Results of a recent trip to the supermarket...

The internet is also full of version using everything from kale to Brazil nuts. I even found a couple of of people touting recipes for “sweet pesto”.

The people of Liguria must surely disapprove? The north-western Italian province is pesto’s spiritual home. They like the stuff so much they have a bi-annual competition to see who makes the best. 

But no truffles or chargrilled aubergines for them. Ligurian pesto must be made by hand, with pestle and mortar, using only basil, olive oil, pine nuts, garlic, salt and pecorino and parmesan cheeses.

No doubt delicious but perhaps a little restrictive. The word “pesto” is derived from the Italian for “pounded” so, technically, any sort of paste is a pesto. But that’s going too far the other way for me though towards meaninglessness. A look at the ingredients on all those different Sacla jars reveals little common ground.

Alan Davidson, in the indispensable Oxford Companion To Food notes that “Sometimes other nuts are used, walnuts perhaps or in the small port of Camogli, hazelnuts.” Also: “A full discussion my be found in Plotkin.”

This Plotkin chap - Fred -  of whom I was previously unaware, turns out to be a much-feted American food writer and expert on Italy. His book Recipes From Paradise contains 16 different pesto recipes including one bulked out with spinach “for when basil is costly” and versions without nuts or dairy.

They still all contain basil though and I think I am willing to be even more fluid on this point.

I have therefore come up with my own Pesto Manifesto:
Anything I am going to refer to as “pesto” must contain three thing: something green, some nuts and some cheese. That’s it.

Having decided this when it came to lunchtime today and my foragings in the fridge and cupboards turned up some spinach, blue cheese and hazelnuts I decided I was within my rights to call the resultant concoction a pesto. I ate it with yet more courgetti and a tomato salad. It was pretty tasty so I think I can live with a little Ligurian disapproval.

spinach blue cheese hazelnut pesto


Spinach, Blue Cheese And Hazelnut Pesto (serves 2)

Ingredients

  • large handful of spinach
  • 40g blue cheese (I used Blue d’Auvergne)
  • 50g chopped roasted hazelnuts
  • 1 garlic clove
  • juice and zest of half a lemon

Method

  1. Put everything in a food processor with some black pepper and blend to desired consistency. I like it with discernable nuttiness. Taste for salt and add more if needed.
  2. Serve with courgette spaghetti or, hell, the real thing, a good gr and a few more hazelnut pieces scattered on top.

Ifs And Ands

  • This whole thing is about ifs and ands! The possibilities seem endless.
  • I think next up feta, rocket and pistachio for me. What else have you tried?




Give A Fig

There is a fig tree in the garden. It was here when we moved in. I am fond of it but our relationship isn’t easy. By the end of last summer it was huge so I cut it back a bit.

This year it has produced a few figs but hidden them right at the top and put all the rest of its energy into growing leaves. I can only imagine it is sulking and does these things to spite me.

baked figs with feta

Fortunately my neighbours also have a fig tree and theirs is more even tempered. Not the neighbours who gave me the vine leaves, the ones on the other side. Yesterday they saw me coming home and pressed some newly ripe fruit into my hands.

It was lunchtime so I made this salad. A nice combination of sweet, salty and sharp with just enough garlic in the dressing to give it a kick.

baked figs with feta

Baked Figs With Feta, Rocket Salad (serves 2)

Ingredients

  • 4 fresh figs
  • 60g feta
  • Olive oil
  • 2 handfuls rocket
  • ¼ pomegranate
  • 30g pine nuts
  • 1 orange
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 sprigs mint

Method

  1. Get rid of any tough stalks the figs might have and cut a cross into each one so it is divided into quarters, but still attached at the bottom. Put them in an ovenproof dish.
  2. Break the feat into large chunks and divide it between the figs. Drizzle over a little olive oil and season with black pepper. Bake for 15 minutes or until you can see the cheese begin to colour.
  3. Meanwhile, arrange the rocket on a serving platter or two individual plates. Toast the pine nuts in a dry frying pan until golden and separate the pomegranate seeds. Scatter both over the rocket.
  4. When the figs are done take them out of the oven and pour any pan juices into a food processor. Add the skinned garlic clove in a food processor, 30mls olive oil and the orange juice and zest. Blitz then taste and season with salt and pepper. Maybe a little lemon juice if the orange is particularly sweet. Finely shred the mint leaves.
  5. Carefully nestle the figs on top of the rocket. Drizzle on the dressing and sprinkle over the mint.

Ifs And Ands

  • Most of the elements here are interchangeable. Goats or blue cheese would work in place of the feta. And spinach, perhaps wilted slightly, instead of the rocket. Toasted chopped hazelnuts or almond slivers could stand in for the pine nuts.
  • The orange dressing works well with oily fish. Try it on a grilled mackerel and spinach salad.
  • A small spoonsful of capers is a good addition too, briging a bit more acidity.

 

Courgetti

I am back! And although summer seems to be on its way out, today is the first day in what feels like ages that I haven't stared out of the kitchen window at drizzle. It was even suny enough to eat lunch in the garden and, to celebrate, this is what I ate.

courgettie spaghetti shrimps

Just four ingredients and not many more minutes to put together but delicious. All the components have a certain sweetness but it manifests in a different way for each: the courgette is nutty, the shrimps fishy and the tomatoes slightly tart. And butter isn't bad for you any more so even with the small amount I used to make things luxurious it's still super healthy.

Shrimp & Cherry Tomato "Courgetti" (serves 1)

Ingredients

  • small slice of butter (10ish grams)
  • 1 courgette
  • handful cherry tomatoes
  • 50g cooked brown shrimp

Method

  1. Turn the courgette into noodles with a julienne peeler or spiralizer. I used a peeler here because I prefer the the results: shorter, slightly thicker "noodles" that don't go quite as soggy. But either is fine. Discard the seedy centre - put it aside for soup or something. 
  2. Cut the cherry tomatoes into eighths. 
  3. Melt the butter in a large frying pan and add the tomatoes. After a minute put in the courgette noodles and, after one more, the shrimp. Everything should be heated through but the courgette should still be a bit "al dente". As soon as the shrimp are warm, seasone with salt and pepper and serve. 

Ifs And Ands

  • A squeeze of lemon wouldn't go amiss. Likewise some torn basil leaves to scatter over. 
  • You could replace the shrimp with prawns or scallops or but, if cooking from raw, they would have to go in the pan first. Flakes of cooked salmon would be nice too. 


Back Soon

Hello chaps. Apologies for the unannounced hiatus. Clare Cooks is taking a tiny break as all sorts of things (work, life, you know the stuff...) got in the way. Back on Wednesday with ovens blazing. See you soon. xx

KitchInspiration: Who Do? Yuzu!

Alice writes:

I have a food challenge for you. What to do with the yuzu juice I got in my Christmas stocking, possibly not even in 2014, and have so far used precisely once? Its only outing was as part of the dressing for a crunchy Asian-inspired salad with some smoked oily fish of some sort, if I remember rightly. 


Yuzu is one of those ingredients that seemed to come from nowhere. A few years ago I’d never heard of the Japanese fruit and now it’s all over the place in salad dressings and cocktails and so on. 

Although, having said that, you can't really get them whole in this country, only the bottled juice. And I couldn’t even find that in my local Oriental supermarket so had to make do with this “citrus seasoning” that I found in Sainsburys. I’ve had it in restaurants though and this is pretty close (not to mention cheaper). Just to make sure the whole thing wasn’t a big con, I did a blind taste test against some bottled lemon juice and am pleased to report that you can definitely tell them apart. The yuzu is sweeter and slightly more floral, still tangy but not as outright sour as the lemon. It fits with the most common description of it which is being like a cross between a lemon and a mandarin. 

Although I must sound a warning note and say that my bottle claims it must be consumed within four weeks of opening so I’m not sure how advisable it is to use your stocking filler at all...

Nevertheless, if you do decide to throw caution to the exotic, citrussy winds, maybe the following will be of use...

yuzu salad dressing

Summer Vegetable Salad With Yuzu Soy Dressing

This is probably not dissimilar to the dressing you made once before. But I think the salad dressing is yuzu's natural home in the world of savoury things so I am going to include it anyway, mainly for the benefit of anyone who hasn't tried it. Also, all these vegetables are in season right now and make for a nice British-meets-Asian sort of vibe. It would go well with a tuna steak or a few slices of tofu, fried on a high heat to crisp them up a bit.

Ingredients

  

  • 2tbsp sesame seeds (I used one each of golden and black but it doesn’t really make a difference except aesthetically)
  • 200g baby courgettes
  • 4tbsp sesame oil
  • 3tbsp soy sauce
  • 4tbsp yuzu juice
  • 1tsp sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 200g green beans
  • 200g tenderstem broccoli
  • 1 small, ripe mango
  • 1 red chilli

Method

  1. Toast the sesame seeds in a large dry frying pan for a couple of minutes then set aside.
  2. Trim the baby courgettes and cut each in half. Crush the garlic and put it in the pan with 1tbsp of sesame oil over a high heat. Add the courgettes in a single layer and leave, undisturbed for a minute. Check to see if they have taken on any colour. If they are going a but golden brown turn them and give them a minute on the other side. Add 1tbsp yuzu juice and let them cook until it evaporates (should be pretty quick). When done put the courgettes into your salad bowl.
  3. Steam the beans and the broccoli for five or six minutes. They should be tender but with bite. Add them to the courgettes when they’re done.
  4. Peel the mango and cut it into smallish slices. Deseed and finely chop the chilli. Slice the spring onions into thin rounds. Add them all to the bowl, along wth the seasme seeds.
  5. Put 3tbsp each of soy sauce, seame oil and yuzu juice into a jar or salad dressing bottle with the sugar and shake. Pour over the salad and toss so everything is combined. Serve.

Ifs And Ands

  • This works warm or cold and can be adapted to almost any green vegetable.
  • The dressing would also be good over steamed Bok Choi or Choi Sum as a side dish.


Delicious but not terribly original. I think things might get more interesting yuzu-wise if one turned to sweet stuff. Apparnetly the zest is very fragrant but, since we only have the juice in the UK, we will have to do without it.

yuzu meringue pie

Yuzu & Thyme Meringue Pie

I’ve adapted Theo Randall’s exemplary lemon tart recipe to become a yuzu meringue pie.

I sometimes find the fillings of lemon meringue pies a bit gummy and not lemony enough. Even Delia’s I’m afraid (the cornflour, I think). And although the Randall tart is the best I've ever come across, I was always a bit saddened by the egg whites that went to waste when I made it. So when I hit on the idea of whipping the otherwise-wasted whites with sugar to turn the tart into a super-lemony pie I was terribly pleased with myself. 

Here, I just replaced the lemon with yuzu and, ooking for something aromatic to replace the unavailable zest, experimented with thyme which worked really well. Also I had some sesame seeds left over from making the salad so they went in the pastry.

Ingredients

  • 175g (6oz) plain flour
  • 50g (1¾oz) icing sugar
  • 120g (4oz) butter
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 4 whole eggs
  • 130ml yuzu juice
  • bunch of thyme
  • 400g sugar
  • 200g butter

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 190C/gas mark 5.
  2. Combine the flour, icing sugar and butter in a food processor or with finger tips until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Mis in the sesame seeds and then add two egg yolks and work lightly with your hands to form a ball of pastry. Wrap this in clingfilm and leave to chill in the fridge for an hour.
  3. Divide the ball into eight and roll each piece out into a circle to fit inside a 10cm mini flan tin. Or else use a single 22cm one. Put a circle of baking paper inside each and fill with baking beans, rice or coins.
  4. Bake for 10-15 minutes (take them out when the pastry is turning golden brown) then remove from the oven and take out the baking beans. Leave the oven on though.
  5. Meanwhile, put the yuzu juice, butter, 200g sugar and thyme in a glass bowl over a pan of boiling water and heat until the butter has melted and the sugar dissolved. Remove the thyme and discard.
  6. Beat the eggs and egg yolks together and add to the pan. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture acquires a custard-y, lemon curd-y consistency. Give it a whisk if it looks a bit lumpy. When it’s ready, pour the filling into the pastry.
  7. Whisk half of the egg whites until they are white, fluffy and retain the shape of a peak when the whisk is lifted. You could do it by hand but personally I think anyone who does is insane. What are they trying to prove? When the whites are like little fluffy clouds, whisk in the remaining 200g sugar, bit by bit, until the meringue is glossy.
  8. Spoon it on top of the pie filling and put the whole lot in the oven for 15 minutes or until the meringue is going brown on top. Then take it out and leave to cool before serving. Personally I think it's even better after a night in the fridge.

Ifs And Ands

  • Even if you don’t have any yuzu, I would make Theo Randall’s tart. It’s delicious. With or without meringue on top. I bet it would be nice made with lime too.
  • Fresh ginger might work instead of the thyme.
  • I considered adding a tiny bit of wasabi paste to the meringue but lost my nerve. Maybe on a future occasion - a bit of heat would fight the sweetness.
  • Freeze the leftover egg yolks for another time. Whisk them up with the others (with an extra 50g sugar per egg white) and blob onto a baking tray. Cook overnight in a very low oven for crunchy meringues of the kind needed to make Eton Mess.

 

Other Yuzu-Inspired Ideas

I didn't have time to try all of these out but they are worth considering.

  • Try mixing a spoonful or two into some mayonnaise for dipping tempura or panko-fried prawns into.
  • A yuzu jelly would be lovely, as would a sorbet.
  • Cocktails also seem the way to go. Try equal parts yuzu juice and vodka topped up with Champagne or prosecco and a couple of crushed mint leaves. (Add a bit of sugar syrup if you like it sweeter).
  • The reliable, but fancy, Great British Chefs website also has some ideas.
  • Now, after saying the word "yuzu" over and over again just try getting the  music from Labyrinth out of your head. I’ve had it going round my head the whole time I was thinking about this question...

UPDATE (03/09/2015): Since writing this I have been thinking more about yuzu. It sort of plagued me. I could taste it in my sleep and didn't fully feel I had done it justice. I saw a reccomendation for these Yuzu Sake truffles from Prestat and thought that sounded like a good combination, especially with the white chocolate.

The idea of a yuzu-flavoured creme brulee also occurred to me. Perhaps with chunks of mango at the bottom. 
 

It's Bean Salad (And Still Is)

In idle moments I sometimes like to consider which is my favourite vegetable. Definitely something green as I always feel a meal is incomplete without a bit of verdancy on the plate. But is it broccoli - not only delicious but lends itself to the fantasy that I am a giant, pulling up and eating whole trees? Or asparagus, so perfect but available so briefly?

green bean salad

Both are contenders but so is the relatively humble green bean. I love a green bean. I just came across a nice piece from a couple of years ago in which Bee Wilson extols their virtue but points out that the Kenyan sort are so readily available that we don’t always appreciate the British ones when they’re in season.

Yet they’re in shops right now and worth making the most of!

It’s true that summer beans are delicious with no more than a slick of butter and a grinding of black pepper but I thought they were worth fussing over a bit too. Hence this salad which would make a good accompaniment to chicken or lamb or as part of a mezze-ish spread.

green bean salad

I’ve specified half a bulb of garlic (about six cloves) to be roasted for the dressing but I’ve taken to just sticking one or two whole bulbs in the oven whenever I’m using it for something savoury and keeping the cloves in a small airtight container in the fridge. That way I’ve always got the sweet and mellow cloves on hand for blending into dressing and marinades, mashing with potatoes, stirring into mayonnaise etc.


Fine Bean Salad With Tahini Dressing (serves 4 as a side)

Ingredients

  • 350g fine beans
  • ½ garlic bulb
  • 1 red onion
  • 1tsp cumin seeds
  • 1tbsp sesame seeds
  • 200g cherry tomatoes
  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp chilli flakes
  • 3tbsp light tahini
  • 1tsp honey
  • 1 preserved lemon

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Chop the onion in half and then into roughly 1cm slices. Separate the slices into layers and scatter onto a baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat them evenly.
  2. Slice the cherry tomatoes in half and place them, cut side up, on top of the onions (which should act as balancing aids). Sprinkle the tomatoes lightly with salt and the chilli flakes.
  3. Separate the garlic into cloves and find a little space for them at the side of the tray. Put the whole lot in the oven and cook for 20 minutes.
  4. Top and tail the beans. Boil them until tender but still with a bit of a bite (about five minutes). Drain and set aside to cool.
  5. Toast the cumin seeds in a dry frying pan until they begin to smell fragrant then remove to a pestle and mortar and grind. Use the same pan to toast the sesame seeds until golden.
  6. When they are cool enough to handle remove the garlic cloves from their skin and put them in a food processor with the ground cumin seeds, tahini, honey, preserved lemon (cut into quarters) and 75ml water. Blend until smooth. This gives a spoonable dressing but if you prefer something more liquid then add a little more water. You’ll need about half of it here (it’s hard to make in smaller quantities) but the leftover will keep in a jar in the fridge for at least a week.
  7. Arrange the beans, side by side, in a dish. Spoon over the dressing so as to make a stripe that leaves the ends of them naked. Then arrange the onions and tomatoes on top of the dressing in another stripe. Sprinkle the whole with sesame seeds and finely chopped parsley and serve. (Of course you don’t have to be so fussy with the presentation. You could just toss it all together in a bowl and it would taste just as nice. Although don’t want to go lining up the green beans I would advise mixing them with the dressing then topping with the tomatoes and onions, otherwise it really will look a bit of an unappetising mess.)

Ifs And Ands

  • The dressing and topping would work well with other green veg. Sprouting broccoli would be particularly good when it comes into season. It would be nice with roasted butternut squash too.
  • Or as a dip for pitta bread and crudites. 
  • I bought some pumpkin seed "butter" from a health food shop the other day which turned out to be horrible on toast but works OK in dressings. You could replace the tahini with any seed or nut butter and then top the salad with matching seeds/nuts. 





 

FOMO Fro-Yo

Right. This really is the last recipe sparked by our recent jaunt to the Port Eliot Festival. Apologies for banging on about it so much but it was such a creatively lively event and sparked so many ideas.

I had some delicious frozen yoghurt from a stall called Hedgerow which I was keen to recreate. 

elderflower frozen yoghurt

I can’t normally get terribly excited about frozen yoghurt. Not the massively overpriced stuff on the highstreet anyway. I think it’s because I hate the way most of it is branded: a weird mixture of feminine guilt (“Dessert is so naughty! Have this sin-free treat!”) and sex, all tricked out in shades of hot pink and faux-flirty slogans. Ugh.

hedgerow

But Hedgerow weren’t doing any of those things and had an Elderflower & Honey flavoured yoghurt which sounded lovely. I bought a small serving and indeed it was.

I’ve made frozen Greek yoghurt a few times, just by stirring in honey and churning it in the machine. It comes out really creamy and is a great accompaniment to baklava. But this was more tangy and milky so I used Yeo Valley’s “Natural” yoghurt in my replication attempt.

This is super simple but makes a really light and refreshing dessert.

 

Elderflower & Honey Frozen Yoghurt (for two servings)

Ingredients

  • 200g plain natural yoghurt
  • 60ml elderflower cordial
  • 2tbsp honey

Method

  1. Mix all the ingredients together and churn in an ice cream maker.
  2. Best eaten as soon as it’s ready with berries and a little more honey drizzled over the top. If you’re going to keep the yoghurt in the freezer take it out 20 minutes before serving so it has time to soften.

Ifs And Ands

  • Add a little lemon zest and juice. But be careful as the elderflower flavour is easily overwhelmed.
  • Cook berries with a little sugar and put them through a sieve to make a puree. Stir into the yoghurt instead of the cordial.

Salamagundi, Born On Monday

I thought I was all done with Port Eliot inspired dishes but I’ve actually got at least two more. Today’s is a much simpler version of the absolutely enormous salamagundi I saw Jeremy Lee make whilst he chatted to Rachel Cook.

A salamagundi is basically a giant salad and is as much fun to eat as it is to say. The dish originated in early 17th century England and was made with a variety of meats, fishes, fruits and vegetables.

salamagundi

Lee had all sorts of things in his: chicken, pigeon, anchovies, soft boiled eggs, broad beans, peas, a vast array of leaves and herbs, cherries, peaches, tomatoes, carrots, broad beans, fennel, beetroot… Enough that every mouthful would have been different. It was vast and beautiful and the perfect thing to feed a crowd on a lazy summer lunchtime.

jeremy lee

Mine is more minimalist. But, like Lee’s, it is all about the contrasts: salty samphire and sweet cherries, plump chicken and crunchy vegetables, warm gravy and cool greens.

(This uses only half the chicken, leaving you with the rest for another day. If you want to eat the whole thing then double the quantities of the other ingredients and consider adding one or two of the optional extras mentioned at the end.)

 

Summer Salamagundi with Chicken, Cherries and Samphire (serves 4 as a light lunch)

Ingredients

  • 1 small free-range chicken

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 lemon
  • 4 little gem lettuces
  • handful rocket
  • 100g samphire
  • 150g cherries
  • several sprigs of fresh mint
  • sherry vinegar
  • pinch sugar

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Massage the olive oil and butter into the chicken’s skin and season generously with salt and pepper. Pierce the lemon a few times with the tip of a sharp knife and put it inside the cavity. Roast the chicken for 20 minutes per 500g plus and extra 20 minutes.
  2. While it is cooking, prepare the other ingredients. Wash the samphire and check it over, removing any woody stems. Boil it for two minutes then drain and leave to cool. Stone the cherries and cut them in half. Separate the lettuces into individual leaves and shred the hearts.
  3. When the chicken is done remove it from the oven and leave to cool. When it’s comfortable to handle, remove and discard the lemon. Hold the bird vertically so all the cooking juices run into the roasting tin then remove it to a plate and pick all the meat from the bones (keep them for stock).
  4. Arrange the lettuce leaves on a large serving platter. Top with the rocket and samphire, then the chicken and cherries.
  5. Add a splash of sherry vinegar to the pan juices - taste carefully as obviously the amount needed will depend on how generous the juices are. Warm the mixture slightly, scraping to make sure all the sticky bits from the tin are incorporated. You don’t want it to be piping hot, just warm enough to melt any gelatinous, stocky bits and take the sting out of the vinegar.
  6. Pour the gravy/dressing over the salad just before serving and sprinkle on the mint.
salamagundi
salamagundi
salamagundi
salamagundi
salamagundi
salamagundi

Ifs And Ands

  • Peaches or nectarines would be good here instead of the cherries.
  • Mackerel or another oily fish would work instead of chicken.
  • Play with different herbs such as basil or dill and different leaves. A old-fashioned butter lettuce would give the dish a nostalgic feel.
  • Bring in even more textural contrast with some sliced boiled eggs (hard or soft, as you prefer) or crumbled goat or sheep cheese. Maybe some capers for little pops of acid.

Port Eliot 3 - Fish Tacos - Not To Be Confused With "Fishtachios"

The most delicious thing I ate at the Port Eliot Festival was a fish taco from the stall run by the people from the Rum & Crab Shack in St Ives. I also enjoyed their Crab Burger but the taco just pipped it. I don't like saying the words "fish taco" as it always makes me think of that episode of friends where Monica is creating Thanksgiving recipes with "Mockolate", the "completely synthetic chocolate substitute." When it's FDA approval is denied she is asked to work on "Fishtachios" which "taste exactly like pistachios, but they're made primarily of reconstituted fish bits." 

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But I got over that and uttered the phrase and I'm glad I did. The taco contained a chilli-spiced mackerel fillet and a generous pile of white crab meat along with a slick of something guacamole-ish, fresh coriander and thinly sliced spring onion. A little messy to eat but in a good way and ridiculously fresh and zingy.

So naturally I stole the idea and tried to recreate it at home. I left out the crab as it’s pricey but would add it back in if I was doing them for company. And, instead of the spring onions, I made some pink pickled ones like you get at Wahaca. (The Cool Chile recipe was helpful here.)

fish taco

Fish Tacos (makes 2)

Ingredients

  • 2 mackerel fillets
  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • 1tsp chilli flakes

For the guacamole

  • ½ avocado
  • Lime wedge
  • pinch salt

Pink Pickled Onions

  • 1 red onion
  • 50mls cider vinegar
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1tsp sugar
  • ½ tsp chilli flakes

To serve

  • 2 tortillas (wheat or corn depending on your preference - I think corn has a bit more flavour)
  • Lime wedges
  • Handful fresh coriander

Method

  1. First make the pink pickles. Thinly slice a red onion into half moons and put them in a small bowl with the vinegar, salt, sugar and chilli flakes. Top up with water until the onion slices are just covered and leave for four hours by which time they should be a charming shade of pink and have a decent amount of heat and bite. Drain and put to one side.
  2. Then put the avocado in a food processor with a generous pinch of salt and a squeeze of lime and whizz it to a smoothish puree.
  3. Warm your tortillas according to packet instructions.
  4. Put a frying pan on a medium high heat and add the oil. Sprinkle the skin side of the mackerel fillets with chilli flakes and salt. Lay them (skin side down) in the pan and cook until most of the fillet has become opaque (about four minutes). Then flip to cook the other side for another couple of minutes.
  5. Spread half the avocado mixture on each tortilla. Lay a mackerel fillet over it. Sprinkle with salt and grind on some pepper. Add half a handful of coarsely chopped coriander leaves to each and a few pickles. Serve with a lime wedge on the side and maybe a green salad for a light lunch.

Ifs And Ands

  • The white crab meat of the original really did make the taco something special. Worth giving it a go if you come across some. 
  • Or try replacing the mackerel with salmon fillet, medium rare tuna steak or even a nice crispy fish finger.
  • Leftover pink pickled onions are great in cheese sandwiches.
  • If you don’t fancy the pink pickles you could go back to the Rum & Cracb Shack’s spring onions. Or a spoonful of those sliced, pickled jalapenos you can get in supermarkets would be nice too.
  • Push the whole thing in a slightly Middle Eastern direction by using babaghanoush instead of avocado and pomegranate seeds in place of the pickles.