Tuesday, 29 June 2010

A herby pea and goat's cheese tart

This tart has been universally loved by everyone I've tested it on, even the goat's cheese haters. Need I say more?


250g shortcrust pastry
300g frozen peas
3 tbsp olive oil
Handful mint leaves
2 large eggs
150ml pot double cream
140ml milk
2 spring onions , finely sliced
150g mild goat's cheese , crumbled
Bunch of chives, finely chopped

1)Preheat oven to 200c/400f/gas 6.

2) Roll out the pastry to about 2mm and line a 25cm tin loose-bottomed tart case. Drape over the tart case so there is an overhang of pastry on the sides. Gently push the pastry into the corners of the tin then chill in the fridge for 20 mins.

3) Cook the peas in boiling water for 3 mins, then immediately drain and refresh under cold water. Purée the peas in a blender with the olive oil and mint then season with salt.

4) Prick the base of the pastry with a fork to prevent it from puffing up as it cooks, then line the tart case with greaseproof paper and fill it with baking beans. Blind bake for 20 mins, then remove beans and continue to cook for another 5 mins. Remove from the oven and trim the edges of the pastry.

5) Beat the eggs in a large bowl then whisk in the cream, milk and spring onions. Season the mixture with salt and pepper, but remember that the goats cheese will also add salt to the tart.

6) Spread the pea purée over the base of the quiche, then gently pour in the egg mixture and scatter over the goat's cheese and chives. Bake for 25-30 mins at 190c/375f/gas 5 until just set. Allow to cool in the case before eating.

Best eaten on the top of Primrose Hill with a ice cold glass of rosé and nowhere to be.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Moules marinière

Moules marinière sounds so much more romantic than the English translation: Fisherman style mussels. One conjurs up the image of a dish served on silver platters, probably in Paris, certainly with a little ooh-la-la. The other is reminiscent of industrial British dredgers making their way back from the North Sea in cable knit sweaters. Either way, it's a remarkably quick and easy dish, and fantastic with crusty bread to mop up the juices.

Serves 2 for lunch


1 kg live mussels (this is no time to be squeamish!)
75g salted butter
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 small clove garlic
a small bunch of parsley, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
a glass of white wine

1) Wash and debeard the mussels. I find it helps to use a small blunt knife for leverage, but if you do this be very careful! Discard any open mussels.

2) Heat 50g of the butter in a large pan which has a lid, then gently saute the shallot for a minute before adding the garlic and bay leaf. When the shallot is translucent, add the wine and bring to the boil.

3) Add the mussels and cover. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the mussels have opened, then decant them into a bowl, leaving the liquid in the pan.

4) Bring the liquid to the boil and then add the remaining butter and the chopped parsley. Pour over the mussels and eat immediately!

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Two tasty salads for lunch

It's the (proper) start of summer and I feel more inclined to take something healthy with me to work. These two salads are delicious and are robust enough to fill me up for the day and survive my rather lengthy commute to work. Give them a try and feel virtuous for the week!

Cannellini bean and tuna salad

1 can cannellini beans
1 sweet yellow pepper, chopped
1 can tuna, drained
A bunch of chives, chopped
1 lemon
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp cider vinegar

Mix the beans, yellow pepper, tuna and chives together in a bowl, and finely grate over the lemon zest. Drizzle over the lemon juice, olive oil and vinegar, and season to taste.

A vibrant, colourful coleslaw

2 carrots, and an equal amount of red cabbage and celeriac
1 small red onion
2 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tbsp yoghurt
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Parsley, finely chopped

1) Finely slice the onion and mix in 1/2 tsp of salt and 1 tsp sugar. Leave for 10 minutes then squeeze out the juices. This will take away the harsh edge and mellow the onion

2) Slice the red cabbage, carrots and celeriac into regular sized batons, and add the parsley. This mixture will keep for a few days in the fridge without going soggy

3) In a separate bowl, mix the mayonnaise, yoghurt and the lemon juice in a bowl, and season to taste.

When you want to eat the coleslaw, mix the dressing with the vegetables. If you do this too far in advance the veg will lose it's crunch so I'm taking the dressing to work in a separate container! Fussy, moi?

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Rhubarb, orange and almond cake

A light summery cake which is easy to make

Rhubarb always reminds me of the mysterious creaking noise in my parents' garden...which turned out to be the waxy leaves and stalks of the rhubarb groaning in the wind!

At home the rhubarb most often appeared on the kitchen table as a crumble, but I prefer to temper the intense sharpness and astringency in a cake - and with lashings of creme fraiche on the side!

250g raw rhubarb, cut into 2cm pieces
190g caster sugar
150g butter
2 eggs
75g self raising flour
½ tsp baking powder
100g ground almonds
Zest of one orange, and 2 tbsp of the juice
25g flaked almonds

1) Preheat oven to 190c/375F/gas mark 5. Grease and line a 23cm round cake tin. Place rhubarb in a bowl with 50g of the sugar and leave for 30-60 mins

2) Beat remaining sugar with butter, then whisk in the eggs

3) Gently fold in the flour, baking powder and almonds, then stir in orange juice and zest

4) Stir in the rhubarb and sugary juices and spoon into the cake tin and scatter over the flaked almonds. Place on a baking tray

5) Bake for 20 minutes at 190c then reduce temperature to 180c/350F/gas mark 4 and bake for a further 15 minutes. You may need to cover the top with foil after the first 20 minutes if the top starts to brown too much.

Best eaten warm with a generous helping of full fat creme fraiche on the side. Delicious!

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Scallops with cauliflower, pea shoots and walnut dressing

Scallops & cauliflower: a match made in heaven?

I've been meaning to try out this combo for a while now, but only got around to it today as an alternative Sunday lunch. This makes a great special occasion meal which looks and feels luxurious but actually involves very little work.

I really liked the sweetness of the scallops against the creamy bitterness of the cauliflower puree. In retrospect I would be more generous with the crushed walnuts to add a bit more texture and crunch, but as a concept the flavours work really well together.

Serves two for lunch (with crusty bread and butter)

12 fat scallops
1 small cauliflower
a handful of pea shoots
15g butter
¾ pint whole milk
1 tsp icing sugar
1 tbsp walnuts, finely chopped
salt and pepper
vegetable oil

For the dressing:

3 tbsp walnut oil
½ tbsp cider vinegar

1) Remove and discard the cauliflower stalk and separate the head into similar sized florets. Place into a small saucepan with the milk and bring to a gentle simmer until just tender.

2) Reserve 8-10 florets on a plate. Lightly season with salt and sieve over the icing sugar.

3) Use a spoon to scoop out the remaining florets into a blender, adding a tablespoon or two of the cooking liquid. Add the butter and blend until really smooth and creamy. Season to taste.

4) To make the dressing, whisk together the cider vinegar and oil and season with salt and pepper.

5) Heat 3 teaspoons of oil in a pan and fry the reserved cauliflower until golden brown, then place on a dish and cover until needed.

6) Add a teaspoon of oil to the scallops and lightly season. Take a heavy bottomed frying pan and heat until vey hot, then fry the scallops for 1-2 minutes on each side - no longer!

7) Spoon the cauliflower puree onto two plates and place the scallops on top. Add the toasted cauliflower florets and garnish with the pea shoots. Spoon a little dressing onto the pea shoots and sprinkle over the walnuts.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Nori ten wasabi (wasabi tempura seaweed crisps)

A mindblowing snack for wasabi lovers!

These small crackers pack a real wasabi punch, so they're not for the faint hearted, but if you like wasabi peas and seaweed then you'll love them as I do. On one side crispy, seasoned seaweed, and on the other a light tempura-like batter, dusted with wasabi flour. Be warned: the dusting is not evenly distributed so it's wasabi roulette!

I bought some in store from the Japan Centre at Piccadilly last week, but annoyingly they only sell the non-wasabi version on their website: http://www.japancentre.com/items/1783

Worth tracking down if you have an asian grocers near you, they're excellent on a warm afternoon with an icy cold beer..! Ahhh.

Lunchbox muffins

Monday morning is looming and I can't face making another quiche to last me a week of work lunches.

So hooray for the Guardian food pages! The courgette muffins from the lovely Hugh Fearnley sound just the trick.

I made them without the 'orrible sultanas, and made six big lunch box sized ones instead of the twelve tiddlers that Hugh suggests. I'm a greedy girl by lunchtime!

Here's a link to the original recipe: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/jun/05/savoury-muffin-recipes-fearnley-whittingstall

Or my version:

Courgette and pine nut muffins

200g plain flour
40g jumbo oats
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp flaky sea salt
A few grinds of black pepper
8 large basil leaves, shredded
60g parmesan, coarsely grated, plus another tablespoon to sprinkle on top
2 eggs
250g whole milk yoghurt
4 tbsps olive oil
200g courgettes, coarsely grated
40g pine nuts, toasted

Preheat the oven to gas mark 5 (190c/375f ) and lightly grease a 6 cup silicon muffin tin with butter.

1) Stir the flour, oats, baking powder, bicarb, salt, pepper, basil and parmesan in a large bowl

2) Whisk the eggs, yoghurt and oil together in a separate bowl, then add to the flour mixture and fold in until just barely combined – don't overmix (this is quite important. Don’t worry if there are a few floury lumps, it’ll still work!)

3) Add the courgettes and pine nuts and lightly stir in

4) Spoon into the muffin tin and sprinkle over the rest of the parmesan. If you’re making six large muffins, the mixture will come right up to the top of the tin

5) Bake for 25 minutes then check with a metal skewer to see if there is any uncooked batter lurking in the middle. If there is, pop them back in the oven for another 5 minutes then check again

6) Turn out to cool on a wire rack

These are amazing while they’re still warm from the oven and crisp on the outside!

Saturday, 5 June 2010

In the summer time when the weather is high...

Two old friends are visiting for lunch and as south London is sunny and wonderful today we've decided to have an Ottolenghi inspired barbeque. My contribution is barbequed mackerel, based on a recipe my mother used to do a lot when I was little. It's very simple - basically marinating overnight to add flavour.

Yesterday I mixed strips of lemon peel, fresh rosemary, bay leaves and punchy whole black peppercorns in olive oil and left it all to mingle overnight. Today I poured the unctuous, lemony mess over the fish, spooning a little inside to penetrate the flesh. 10 minutes on the grill after the initial heat has died down and they will be done to perfection.

I chose a large mackerel and rainbow trout for this, both large enough to survive the heat and give us something to share on the table with some horseradish sauce on the side.

I'm promised tabbouleh and 'something made of aubergine' to accompany the fish, with flatbreads from the fantastic Iranian shop, Persepolis, in deepest darkest Peckham. Fingers crossed the weather holds...
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