A pal and commenter, Lynn, asked if I would be posting some strawberry recipes as we are smack bang in the middle of strawberry season….of course, am happy to oblige! Regular readers though will know that I am not much of a dessert maker (the ever expanding waistline does not permit too many treats) so I usually pull together dishes that are quick and easy but delicious enough to satisfy a sweet tooth. Strawberries are also so good right now, they don’t need too much mucking about with.
For anyone who also signed up for the “throw it together and see what happens dessert class”, this one’s for you.
Ingredients (to serve 4-6)
- 500g dessert pastry (I cheated and used ready made, but you can always make your own)
- 600g fresh strawberries halved or quartered if very large
- 1 heaped tbsp icing sugar
- 1 level tbsp cornflour
- Splash of fruit liqueur (I used framboise)
- 1 beaten egg
- Brown sugar
Mix the strawberries with the icing sugar, cornflour and liqueur and set aside while you roll the pastry out into a circle. Place the pastry onto an oven tray or into a tin, I used a deep paella pan which worked beautifully!
Pile the strawberries into the middle of the pastry circle then fold the extra pastry in over the top to form a bowl shape. Brush the top of the pastry with egg yolk and sprinkle over some brown sugar.
Bake at 180 degrees C for about 30 minutes or until the pastry is golden and the strawberries are bubbling. Allow to cool for about 15 minutes before serving – the cornflour will slightly thicken the juices. Serve with ice cream or cream whilst pretending to your impressed loved ones that it was really hard work to prepare.
We all know (and some of us love) dhal made with little red lentils. It’s fast and simple to cook and immensely gorgeous. This curry takes longer to prepare as the green (or you can use brown) lentils need about 45 minutes to an hour of cooking to become tender and delicious. It’s worth the wait though, I promise.
The recipe comes from Anjum Anand’s book Anjum’s New Indian and is perfect as a vegetarian main course or as a side dish in a larger meal. Economical to make and if you make curries regularly you’ll have most of the ingredients to hand. Delicious eaten with naan bread and/or plain boiled rice – I added a dollop of creamy yogurt and a sprinkle of chopped fresh coriander.
Ingredients (to serve 4-6 as a side dish)
- 250g green lentils
- A paste made from about 6g of peeled fresh ginger and about 4 cloves of garlic
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- ½ small onion, peeled and chopped
- 1 rounded tsp ground coriander
- ½ tsp garam masala
- ½ tsp red chilli powder (or to taste)
- ½ tsp turmeric
- 3 small tomatoes puréed or grated or finely chopped
- Finely chopped fresh coriander leaves and stalks
Rinse the lentils and simmer in plenty of water until soft (about an hour).
Heat the oil and add the cumin seeds until they give off their scent then add the onion and cook until golden brown. Pour in the garlic and ginger paste and cook until this turns golden then add the salt and powdered spices and cook for 10 seconds.
Pour in the tomatoes and simmer until the moisture has cooked off and the oil has separated from the mix to form the masala. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Add the masala to the lentils and simmer for about 10 minutes. Check the seasoning again, sprinkle with coriander and enjoy.
I was thinking of Confit of Duck, as you do, as I had a couple of duck legs planned for dinner. Of course, all the decent recipes wanted really long slow cooking, preferably a day or so in advance. I also didn’t have any duck fat to hand so had to think of an alternative. An “aha” moment came to me, not the Norwegian band from the 1980s you understand, although they did have their charm, but a turning on of a little light deep within the little grey cells. Patatas a lo Pobre, poor man’s potatoes. They are slow cooked in olive oil so there was no reason why the same process couldn’t work for my duck legs.
For those of you who are now digging deep within their own little grey cells to think of an A-ha song, here’s one to hum along to.
Now, back to the cooking.
Ingredients (to serve 2)
- 2 duck legs, seasoned with salt and pepper
- 2 very large potatoes peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 onion thinly sliced
- ½ a red pepper cut into thin strips
- 4-6 cloves of garlic (peeled or unpeeled)
- About ¼ cup of olive oil and ¼ cup of white wine
- Salt and pepper
- Heat the oven to low (Gas 3 or about 130 degrees C)
Pour the oil and wine over the potatoes, onions, garlic and peppers, season and mix. Place the potato mix into the bottom of an ovenproof dish then place the seasoned duck legs on top. Cover with foil and put into the oven for about 3 hours.
When the juices of the duck legs runs clear, remove the foil and turn the oven up to the highest setting, remove the foil, drain off any liquid and cook for a further 20 minutes or until the duck legs are browned and the potatoes and peppers start to char.
Leave to stand for 5 minutes before tucking into meltingly tender duck and potatoes. Fight using your fork with your loved one for any crispy bits in the pot.
If you fancy an oriental influenced duck dish, take a look here.
Special occasion food should be all about what you love most, shared with the people you love most. And sometimes it’s also about spending time with those loved ones enjoying the occasion and not spending too long in the kitchen preparing the food and being away from your guests. Don’t misunderstand me, I love spending hours and even days preparing a special meal, but this is one for when you don’t want to be in the kitchen for too long.
Ingredients (per person)
- 1 small Dover Sole (or other small flat fish)
- 4 large prawns (peeled and the heads removed but the tails left on to make eating them with your fingers much easier!)
- 2 scallops
- About 2 tablespoons of fresh samphire (or use a few stalks of fresh, blanched asparagus chopped into smaller pieces)
- Olive oil
- Lemon juice
- Salt & Pepper
Warm a little olive oil and butter in a large frying pan and heat. When the oil is hot, put the fish in, skin side down and cook for about 2 or 3 minutes until the skin starts to become crispy.
Turn the heat down to medium and turn the fish over. Add the scallops and prawns and cook them on each side for about a minute or two (the prawns will turn pink and the scallops will lose their opacity).
Remove the fish, prawns and scallops to a serving plate (keeping the oil in the pan). Squeeze in a little lemon juice to taste and add the samphire. Stir fry on a high heat for less than a minute, just to heat it through and spoon the samphire and juices over the fish. Season to taste (it probably won’t need much salt) and serve with a small wedge of lemon.
Pour glasses of wine for you and your loved ones and enjoy the moment.
In our little Up the Mountain village, sweet potatoes are only available to buy in the local shops during late summer and autumn. They even sell them ready roasted as there are still folk who don’t have ovens and do most of their cooking on the stove top. Of course, if we venture down to the coast and the big supermarkets, we can buy sweet potatoes whenever we want, but the choice of variety is still fairly limited to the large orange fleshed, thick skinned varieties.
Time spent in England Down by the Sea brings a world of vegetables to us in a local supermarket whenever we want. I try to buy seasonally, but with vegetables flying in from all over the world it’s sometimes hard to know what is in season and what is not. It’s also tempting to buy things just because you fancy them. This was the case with some very small, thin skinned sweet potatoes I spotted the other day. They were about 25cm long and just a bit thicker than a fat sausage. I was intrigued and couldn’t resist.
Two were simply roasted and utterly delicious but a lot sweeter than the ones we’re used to. I turned to my old pal Ottolenghi for inspiration and his cookbook delivered with a sweet potato gratin which I chopped and changed (adding in regular potatoes with the sweet ones and changing the chopped sage for parsley as I am being over run by the stuff, and using milk instead of cream). Go back to the original ingredients for a really stunning and luxurious dish (I’ve eaten that version too – it’s incredible) or stick with my recipe for a more every day dish.
This is pretty filling and is great as a vegetarian main course or as part of a larger meal as a side dish.
Ingredients (to serve 2 people as a main course)
- 2 small sweet potatoes, thinly sliced but with the skin on
- 2 medium potatoes, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
- 3 tsbp finely chopped parsley
- 2 cloves of peeled garlic, crushed
- A tablespoon of olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- About 120 ml (1/4 cup) of semi skimmed milk
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Mix together the two types of potato and the parsley, garlic and olive oil.
Layer the slices in an ovenproof dish and season. Cover with foil and bake for about 30 minutes then remove the foil and pour over the milk. Roast for a further 30 minutes and check that the potatoes are cooked by testing them with a sharp knife.
The dish will be bubbling and hot, serve in the baking dish. Tastes great too at room temperature or even cold the next day.
Monkfish is an “oh so ugly but oh so good” fish. If you’ve ever seen it at the fishmonger before it’s been prepared it’s the one with the enormous gargoyle mouth and scary teeth and a body that looks a bit out of proportion with the head. It can also be an expensive fish, but like other luxuries such as fillet steak, you don’t need much.
My lovely Bexhill fishmonger had some beautiful monkfish recently and I bought a tail. From this I made two separate meals for two people, so I really managed to make the most of it!
First up is a curry recipe I came across which I think is now going to be my “go to” curry recipe. It was so easy, it didn’t have a huge long list of ingredients and the flavour was amazing. If, like me, you’re a curry fan (and if you’re not, perhaps I can convert you – this one is about balancing delicate flavours rather than smacking you around the chops with burning hot chilli), do give this a try!
- About 250g monkfish cut into bite size pieces and about 10 raw, peeled langoustines or large prawns
- The juice of two limes
- Pinch of salt
- 1 Tablespoon turmeric
- 3 Tablespoons ghee or clarified butter (or use a light vegetable oil)
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 5 cloves garlic smashed into a fine paste
- 2 inch piece of ginger smashed into a fine paste
- 1 chilli pepper finely chopped
- 1 chilli pepper halved
- 1 Tablespoon cumin powder
- 1 Tablespoon coriander powder
- 12 cherry tomatoes – halved
- 1 small bunch fresh coriander – finely chopped
- 400ml coconut milk
- Salt and pepper to taste
Place the cubed monkfish and peeled prawns into a bowl with the lime juice, salt and turmeric. Allow to marinade for about 30 minutes.
In a large pan or wok, melt the fat or heat the oil. Add the chopped onions and fry until translucent and lightly browned. Now add the garlic and ginger pastes along with the chopped chilli pepper and fry for a couple of minutes.
Pour in the coconut milk and bring to a bubble then add the cumin and coriander powder and stir to combine then add the halved chilli. Finally, add the marinated monkfish, prawns and the tomatoes. Stir it all into the mixture. Allow the monkfish to cook gently in the sauce for about 5 minutes. Taste and season if necessary and sprinkle over the chopped coriander to serve. Perfect with plain boiled rice and/or naan bread.
Chorizo in Spain is not like the chorizo you used to be able to buy in England – it was the hard, dry variety, rather like a little salami. In Spain chorizo is sold fresh – it looks like a bright red sausage and if you buy it at the butchers it’s sold in strings. You will be asked if you want it “fresco o seco” “fresh or dry”. The fresh variety is like a recently made sausage and is for cooking on the “plancha” or in a pan. The drier will have been made a few days or weeks previously and can be sliced and eaten as it is, in the same way as a salami.
It’s typical to buy a good supply and then hang some up for eating later and cook the fresh chorizo. I’ve noticed that in England, in some butchers at least, they are coming up with some wonderful and authentic tasting varieties of fresh chorizo, but if you can’t get hold of any, use your favourite sausage and add a little spicy pimentón to give it a warm Spanish taste.
This is a very typical dish served as tapas, with or without the addition of the onions. As we were still working our way through the onion glut, I did it with onions!
Ingredients (to serve as many as you like)
- For every chorizo you cook, you’ll need about half a medium onion finely chopped and a splash of medium dry Spanish sherry
Slice each chorizo into 4-6 pieces and fry in a little olive oil until the outside is slightly charred. If you are lucky enough to have a terracotta cooking pot, use this as it really does add something special to the flavour.
Remove the chorizo and put to one side. Add the onions to the olive oil (and the chorizo will also have released some oil) and if you are using it, add a little pimentón. Fry the onions until they start to soften, but not caramelize and then add the wine. Cook until the liquid has almost completely disappeared and the onions are soft and coloured from the juices. Add the chorizo back into the dish and cook for a couple of minutes more until warmed through. Normally you won’t need any seasoning as the chorizo is highly spiced and salted, but check to taste and adjust if necessary. Serve with a glass of ice cold fino and plenty of delicious bread.
Back in England and Scallops are very much back on the menu for us. This is a simple but luxurious starter or a light lunch or supper. I also served the scallops with some excellent smoked salmon I happened to have but it would have been just as good without.
Ingredients (to serve 4 as a starter or 2 as a light main)
- 12 scallops
- Some finely chopped rocket mixed with the finely chopped zest of a lemon (unwaxed)
- Some finely chopped coriander to sprinkle over
For the dressing
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of sesame oil, 1 teaspoon of fish sauce, a tablespoon of rice wine vinegar, half a crushed clove of garlic, the juice of half a lemon, a little honey (to taste), salt and pepper.
Mix or shake up all the ingredients for the dressing, tasting and adjusting as you go
Heat the griddle pan until it is smoking hot and quickly sear the scallops on each side (about a minute is all they’ll need) then plate them up. Pour the dressing over the hot scallops, and sprinkle over the rocket and lemon mix.
Fast food doesn’t get much better than this!
For more scallop inspired recipes, take a look at this or this.
I know, I know, I can’t remember the last time I posted a recipe for something sweet and a little naughty. We all have to be naughty sometimes don’t we? And these bite sized Florentines really hit the spot and are a perfect gift to take along when you go visiting.
I made these recently when we went for lunch with a pal to my parents. We’re not really a family of dessert eaters generally, but a little treat like this with a cup of strong coffee after a perfect lunch is a great way to round things off. And I know my mum has a soft spot for these little almond and chocolate biscuits so that was a good enough reason for me to have a go at making them.
They’re not all that difficult to make, you just have to keep an eye on them at each stage so that you don’t end up with burnt nuts (and nobody wants burnt nuts do they?!). Set aside a couple of hours and put a pot of your favourite coffee on to brew and you’ll enjoy a wonderful, creative afternoon making these sweet treats.
- 3 tbsp butter
- 3 tbsp golden syrup
- 3 tsp flour
- 100ml double cream
- 50g/2oz flaked almonds toasted
- 20g chopped hazlenuts
- 100g/4oz dried sour cranberries and glace cherries finely chopped
- 150g/5oz good quality dark chocolate broken into pieces (I did a few with white chocolate too)
- Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
- Heat the butter, syrup and flour in a pan over a medium heat, stirring continuously, until the butter has melted
- Gradually add the cream, stirring continuously until well combined.
- Add the nuts and fruit and mix well until combined.
- Line a couple of baking trays with greaseproof paper and place teaspoonfuls of the florentine mixture onto it. Space the teaspoonfuls out at 2.5cm/1in intervals so they don’t merge together when heated.
- Transfer the florentines to the oven and bake for about 10 minutes, or until golden-brown. Keep an eye on them to ensure they don’t burn.
- Remove from the oven and set aside to cool on the tray, then transfer the florentines to a cooling rack. Be patient here, they need to be cool otherwise they will break easily when still warm and soft.
- Bring a little water to a simmer in a pan. Suspend a heatproof bowl over the water (do not allow the base of the bowl to touch the water). Add the chocolate pieces and stir until smooth and melted.
- Turn the florentines so that the flat base is facing upwards. Spread the melted chocolate over the florentine bases and set aside to cool and set. I used a pastry brush to do this.
Although keeping them in the fridge will cause the chocolate to lose its shine, I found that the warmth of my kitchen caused them to soften so I kept them cool. This crisped them up and they tasted great!
Inspired by a BBC Recipe