Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Turkey Kofta with Greek Cous Cous Salad

I've just returned from the beautiful island of Cyprus with the usual holiday blues. What better way to banish those blues than with a plate of food that reminds you of the simple beauty of Greek/Cypriot food?

Kofta, in it's more simple turn, is a type of meatball combined with spices and usually served with flatbreads, yoghurt-based dips and salad and consist of any ground meat. These use turkey but feel free to use your meat of choice.

Utterly delicious, family friendly food that is so easy to make - what is there to not like about the food of this nation? Give it a go.

Turkey Kofta with Greek Cous Cous Salad
Feeds 4

500g minced turkey
3 spring onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp each of ground cumin, coriander and paprika
A pinch of ground cinnamon and chilli
A handful of fresh chives, basil, mint and oregano or one or two of these fresh herbs if and when available

For the salad
200g dried cous cous
1 red pepper, sliced
Cherry tomatoes, halved
A handful of fresh spinach, chopped
A few good black olives
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
Fresh basil

1 - To make the koftas, combine all of the ingredients thoroughly in a large mixing bowl. Form palm sized balls then roll into a slightly elongated shape like in the diagram. You can slide these onto sticks and BBQ or in my case, simply form the shapes. They should make around 10-12. Put aside to rest in the fridge for an hour or two.
2 - To make the cous cous, pour into a large bowl then stir in boiling water that just covers. Cover with clingfilm and leave for 10 minutes.
3 - Remove the clingfilm then fluff up with a fork. Once cool, stir in all of the ingredients until thoroughly combined. Taste for seasoning.
4 - Heat up a large frying pan, griddle pan or grill and cook the kofta, turning regularly until cooked through and golden brown. Squeeze in some lemon juice just as they are finishing to deglaze the pan and add more flavour.
5 - Serve the cous cous in bowls with 2-3 kofta each, a scattering of torn fresh basil and some fresh lemon.





Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Fish, Potato and Samphire Stew

A lovely, citrusy Spanish style fish stew. Delicious with a glass of chilled white wine or a cold beer. Change the fish if you prefer oily fish such as salmon or trout, use clams instead of mussels and if you can't get any samphire, stir in chopped spinach right at the end.

Fish, Potato and Samphire Stew
Serves 4

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
A pinch of saffron
A pinch of dried chilli flakes
2 tspn sweet smoked paprika
4 large potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1" thick slices
1 large red pepper, deseeded and sliced
1 lemon, sliced
600ml vegetable or chicken stock
3 skinned fillets of white fish such as haddock, sliced into large chunks
2 large handfuls of fresh mussels, cleaned and de-bearded.
1 large handful of samphire
Salt and pepper

1 - Heat the olive oil in a large pan. Add the onion, garlic, saffron, chilli and paprika. Soften without colouring.
2 - Add the potatoes and pepper. Pour over enough stock to just cover then place in the lemon slices. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until the potato is just beginning to soften.
3 - Add the fish and simmer for a further 5 minutes. Then add the mussels and samphire, cover and cook for 5 minutes.
4 - Remove the lid and taste for seasoning. Serve in large bowls with a scattering of fresh parsley.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Gluten Free Coffee and Walnut Cake

And so the gluten free challenge continues. This challenge entailed trying to make one of my favourite ever cakes without it having a dry, sandy texture, which baking with rice flour based gluten free flour can often do. I've cooked this cake many time before and I'm heavily indebted to Nigel Slater from Kitchen Diaries, a recipe I've tweaked once or twice but not to this extent.

The kind people at Hillfarm Rapeseed Oil recently sent me a bottle of their golden, cold pressed extra virgin rapeseed oil. I'm not sure if they will be surprised to hear that I used a glug of their oil in a cake rather than a savoury dish, but oils are often used to add moistness to bakes and in this instance, it made perfect sense. Not only did it moisten, it also added a touch of its golden colour and a slight nutty taste to complement the walnuts. It has been a fabulously versatile oil that I've used mainly for pan roasts.

This recipe and quantities can be made with normal flour and the oil can be replaced with olive, vegetable or sunflower oil.

Gluten Free Coffee and Walnut Cake

200g salted butter
200g Demerara sugar
3 large eggs
200g gluten free self-raising flour
100ml Hillfarm rapeseed oil

2 tsp coffee granules
75g walnut halves

For the butter cream:
150g butter or margarine
300g icing sugar
2 tsp coffee granules
Walnut halves

1 - Pre-heat the oven to 180C/gm4. Grease and line a 20cm loose bottomed cake tin.
2 - Cream the butter and sugar until soft and light. You can go manual and beat with a wooden spoon or use an electric mixer.
3 - Crack in the eggs one by one and thoroughly combine. Then, gently fold in the flour.
4 - Put the walnuts into a bag and whack with a rolling pin until broken up, the fold into the cake mixture.
5 - Dissolve the coffee granules in a tsp of boiling water and along with the oil, gently fold in. Pour into the cake tin, place onto a baking tray and bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 35-40 minutes. Test with a skewer to see if it is cooked (if it is still uncooked in the centre, cake will stick to the skewer.) Remove and cool on a wire rack.
6 - To make the butter cream, best the butter or margarine until light and fluffy the. Bat in the icing sugar 50g at a time. Dissolve the coffee in a tsp of boiling water and fold in.
7 - Remove the cake from the tin. Using a sharp knife, cut approximately across the middle. Spread half of the butter cream into the centre and place on the top part of the cake. Spread the remaining butter cream on top and decorate with walnut halves.



Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Slow Cooker Asian Pork and Aubergine

This is an incredibly simple slow cook stew that celebrates the great flavours of south east Asia: hot, sweet, salty and sour.

Use a cheap cut of pork such as the shoulder or steaks from the leg and the meat will just fall apart at the touch of the fork. The aubergine, vast in number at the start of the stew, absorbs and melts into the sauce making it rich and velvety.

I can't really sell it enough - just make it and enjoy it with plain rice and perhaps a baked sweet potato. It will be a good decision.

(This recipe is for a slow cooker but can be replicated for cooking in an oven set to GM2/150C.)
Sunflower or vegetable oil
1kg pork shoulder, cut into large chunks
2 aubergines, cut into chunks
1 tbsp demerera sugar
2 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 tbsp tamarind paste mixed with a little hot water
1 large onion, chopped
A large pinch of dried chilli flakes
1 thumb size of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 tbsp fish or soy sauce
Water
Fresh limes
Fresh coriander

1 - Pre-heat your slow cooker.
2 - Heat up a tbsp oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Add the pork and quickly brown all over. Remove to a plate.
3 - Add the aubergine and quickly brown all over. Return the pork and stir in the sugar. Cook, stirring all of the time, to caramelise the sugar. Tip into your slow cooker.
4 - Heat up another tbsp oil and add the onions, ginger, chilli, star anise and cinnamon. Cook until softened then add to the pork and aubergine.
5 - Pour in 200ml water, the tamarind and the fish sauce. Cook on the medium setting for 5-6 hours until the pork is meltingly tender. Stir in a handful of chopped fresh coriander.
6 - Time to tweek with the flavours. Squeeze in the juice of one lime and taste. You want the right balance of salty, sweet, hot and sour. Adjust the quantities of fish/soy sauce, sugar, chilli and lime to your tastes.
7 - Serve with plain boiled rice, fresh coriander and wedges of fresh lime.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Coriander Crusted Seabass with Fennel and Lentil Salsa

This is a bit of a mix up of influences, using Asian style seasoning on the fish coupled with a south American salsa which contains lentils. Fish and a hot and sour salsa go so well together, as does crunchy fennel. The no-fuss salad is simply fennel, thinly sliced and tossed with lime juice and seasoning.

The whole plate of food is what you would consider super healthy which, once tasted, will prove to any doubters that well prepared, healthy food can be packed with amazing flavour and texture. Experiment with the fish; replace the seabass with a firm fish such as red mullet, snapper, salmon or trout.

Coriander Crusted Seabass with Fennel and Salsa
Serves 2

Two fillets of sea bass, scaled and deboned
2 tbsp coriander seeds
Salt and pepper
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
A handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
1 lime
2 tbsp olive oil

For the salsa
100g brown lentils, cooked according to the instructions and cooled
200g cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 red onion, finely diced
A handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 lime
A splash of olive oil
Salt and pepper

1 - Crush the coriander seeds in a pestle and mortar. Mix in with a little salt and pepper. Slice the skin of the fish at intervals which will help it to crisp up. Rub in the coriander and put aside.
2 - Put the thinly sliced fennel into a mixing bowl, season and squeeze over the lime. Put aside.
3 - To make the salsa, put all of the ingredients into a mixing bowl and combine. Put aside for 5 minutes whilst you cook the fish.
4 - Heat up the oil in a non-stick frying pan. Add the fish skin side down and leave for 2-3 minutes until crisp and golden. Flip over and cook for another 2 minutes.
5 - To serve, place a pile of salsa onto a plate alongside the fennel salad. Place the fish onto the salsa along with a wedge of fresh lime.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Moroccan Beef Cous Cous

A very quick, delicious and healthy meal for the whole family. I used lean minced beef to keep the cost down but the meat can be substituted with lean cuts of beef, chicken or pork. Half an hour from start to finish, this is an absolute must for any busy family looking for something speedy and balanced to feed hungry mouths.

Moroccan Beef Cous Cous
Feeds 4

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 red pepper, diced
100g green beans cut into small pieces
1 tsp each of ground cumin, paprika, coriander
1 clove of garlic, chopped
A pinch of chilli powder
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 beef stock cube
1 tbsp honey
250ml water

200g cous cous
A couple of handfuls of fresh spinach, chopped
Cherry tomatoes, halved
A handful of fresh coriander, chopped
1 fresh lemon
Salt and pepper

1 - Put the cous cous into a bowl. Pour over boiling water until just covered. Cover with clingfilm and leave for 10 minutes.
2 - In a wok or large frying pan, heat up the oil. Add the onion, carrot, pepper and green beans. Cook for 10 minutes until beginning to soften.
2 - Add the spices and garlic and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring.
3 - Add the tomato puree, crumbled stock cube, honey and the water. Bring to the simmer, cover and cook gently for 15 minutes.
4 - Taste for seasoning. Fluff up the cous cous with a form then stir into the meat mixture with the spinach, cherry tomatoes and fresh coriander. Squeeze in half of the lemon and cut the other half into wedges.
5 - Serve with the lemon and some more fresh coriander scattered over.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Asian Beef, Savoy and Peanut Salad

Salads shouldn't be boring and this one is anything but. Asian flavours of sour, hot, sweet and salty combine with raw veg and beef in a 15 minute start to finish super meal.

Too healthy for you or lacking in carbs? Toss in some brown rice and/or quinoa to bulk it up. Lovely stuff.

Asian style Beef, Savoy and Peanut Salad
Serves 2-3

1 Savoy cabbage
4 carrots, grated
A handful of fresh coriander
Salt and pepper
2 sirloin steaks

For the dressing
1 crushed clove of garlic
Juice of 2 limes
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp honey

A handful of peanuts

1 - Thinly slice a whole Savoy cabbage and combine in a large mixing bowl with grated carrots and lots of coriander.
2 - Heat up a griddle pan. Season your steaks then sear on each side to your desired redness. Set aside to rest whilst you make the dressing.
3 - Mix together the dressing ingredients and then mix thoroughly in with the salad. Set aside for 5 minutes.
4 - In a hot pan, toast the peanuts then remove and either bash in a pestle and mortar or roughly chop.
5 - Thinly slice the beef, mix in with the salad and top with the peanuts. Serve with fresh pieces of lime.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Spring Lamb with Thyme, Lemon and Garlic


Last night it was back down to earth with the remnants of the week’s leftover vegetables and our favourite, 'bubble and squeak'. A few spring lamb chops left to soak in thyme, garlic and lemon are the perfect lip smacking accompaniment. It has everything that easy, no fuss cooking should have and the key to making the most of a simple yet special thing.

Spring Lamb with Thyme, Lemon and Garlic
Feeds 3

6 lamb loin chops

For the marinade
2 cloves of garlic
10 sprigs of thyme, leaves stripped
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper

For the 'bubble and squeak'
Any leftover vegetables such as potatoes, carrots and cabbage.
Salt and pepper

1 - To make the marinade, crush the garlic and thyme in a pestle and mortar or a food processor with a good grinding of salt and pepper until you have a green sludge. Mix in the lemon juice and olive oil.
2 - Put the chops into a bowl and pour over the marinade. Rub in and leave to sit for at least 1 hour.
3 - Heat up a frying pan until smoking, or heat up a grill to its highest setting. Cook the lamb chops without moving for 2 minutes each side until char-grilled but still pink inside. Leave to rest for 2 minutes.
4 - To make the bubble and squeak, simply mash all of your leftovers together with seasoning and form into little 'cakes'. Pan fry until crisp and golden.
4 - Serve with bubble and squeak or boiled potatoes and a simple salad, ensuring that you drizzle over the pan juices.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Cod, Caper and Olive Potato Cakes


Fish cakes and tartare sauce have to be a favourite tea time food in our house. Tartare sauce - that sharp, acidic mayonnaise 'with bits in' (as my daughter says) - is the perfect accompaniment to a delicious crispy fish cake.

I've mentioned this in a previous post, but getting the little ones involved in something like a fish cake is an excellent way of experimenting with food and actually getting them to eat something different. It is also a great excuse to get out my favourite kitchen gadget, my £1 potato ricer.

Cod, Caper and Olive Potato Cakes
Makes 6 large cakes

Fillets of 1 large cod
Milk
Water
1 onion
1 lemon
2 bay leaves
4 large floury potatoes
1 handful of capers, rinsed and finely chopped
1 handful of black olives, preferably those salty Greek olives, stoned and finely chopped
4 small gherkins, finely chopped
50g butter
A handful of fresh chives, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
Plain flour
Breadcrumbs
2 eggs, beaten
Olive oil

1 - Place the potatoes in a large pan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil then cook until they are cooked through. Leave to cool slightly, then peel and either mash into a bowl or use a potato ricer adding the butter.
2 - Place the cod fillets into a large shallow pan. Cover with roughly half milk, half water, a slice of lemon, a slice of onion, the bay leaves and some seasoning. Bring to the boil then simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Gently break the cod fillets into the potato, ensuring all bones and skin are removed.
3 - Stir in the capers, olives, gherkins, fresh herbs, a squeeze of lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Be gentle on the salt as the olives have plenty.
4 - Put the beaten eggs in a bowl, some seasoned plain flour on one plate and the breadcrumbs on another. Add enough olive oil to a non-stick pan to allow shallow frying and heat up.
5 - Shape the mixture into 'cakes' using floured hands. Dip them first into the flour, then the egg, then the breadcrumbs and fry gently for approximately 7 minutes each side until golden and crisp. Place onto kitchen towel to absorb some oil, then serve with a simple green salad, tartare sauce or simply fresh lemon wedges.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Griddled Pineapple with Coconut, Lime and Rum Syllabub

It may not quite be the perfect weather at the moment for wheeling out the BBQ but it won't be long before the smell of cheap burnt sausages are invading every garden up and down the UK.

A griddled or barbecued pineapple is amazing as a dessert after you've packed back a week's supply of meat cooked by a can wielding uncle or dad. The ridges of the BBQ give it a caramelised edge and the heat makes this beautiful fruit even more fresh and juicy.

I serve mine with a syllabub, an ancient English dessert of cream and alcohol, with rum, coconut and lime added to give it that Caribbean twist.

Make it in advance, put it in little glasses in the fridge, whack the slices of pineapple on the BBQ and it makes for a very impressive and stress-free dessert. Equally, the pineapple can be cooked on a non-stick griddle pan.

Griddled Pineapple with Coconut, Lime and Rum Syllabub
Feeds 4

1 whole pineapple, skinned
2 tbsp sugar
1 sprig of fresh mint

For the syllabub
300ml double cream
2 tbsp soft brown sugar
Juice of 1 lime
2 tbsp rum
2 tbsp grated coconut and the milk (if you are using fresh)

1 - To make the syllabub, mix the sugar, lime and rum in a bowl and set aside.
2 - In a large bowl, whip the cream to soft peaks. Pour in the sugar, lime, rum, coconut and milk and quickly whisk in. Tip into small glasses and put into the fridge.
3 - Heat up a griddle pan or BBQ. Slice the flesh from the pineapple away from the core and then cut these into small segments. Place onto the griddle or BBQ and cook on each side for 2-3 minutes until slightly charred.
4 - Whilst the pineapple is cooking, grind the mint up with the sugar in a pestle and mortar.
5 - To serve, place the glasses onto plates and grate on dark chocolate. Stack the pineapple up alongside, sprinkle on some mint sugar and serve.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Breakfast Rhubarb Cranachan

Scottish cranachan is one of those quick fix creamy desserts that are a doddle to knock up when time is short.

Traditionally made with whipped cream, honey, toasted oats and fresh raspberries, it's a bit like an Eton Mess which is neither here nor there but utterly delicious.

This is a healthier version which uses seasonal rhubarb stewed in a little honey and omits the whisky, meaning it can be eaten for breakfast. If you want to use it as a dessert, add a drop of decent single malt whisky if desired.

Toast the oats in advance, combine a pro-biotic yoghurt with Greek yoghurt, flavour with a little vanilla extract or if you are feeling posh, a whole vanilla pod and sweeten with honey. It's a great way to start the day even if you are going to upset the traditionalists.

Breakfast Rhubarb Cranachan
Feeds 2-3 people

150g rolled Scottish oats
6 sticks of rhubarb, cut into pieces and stewed in a little honey until soft, cooled
250g natural yoghurt
250g Greek yoghurt
50g honey
1 tsp vanilla extract or seeds of 1 vanilla pod

1 - Put the oats into a dry frying pan. Heat up and cook until beginning to toast. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
2 - In a mixing bowl, combine the yoghurts, honey and vanilla. Mix in a couple of handfuls of rolled oats and stewed rhubarb.
3 - Place a tablespoon of stewed rhubarb into each of your serving glasses. Top with the yoghurt mixture then top with a little more rhubarb, toasted oats and honey.