Monday, 29 September 2008

Mexican Breakfast

As with most things I make, this isn't exactly authentic, but who cares when it tastes this good. And it did, believe me. This is a kind melding together of all things vaguely Mexican that I know of, initially inspired by this recipe from BBC Good Food, I made the spicy bean mixture, topped with cheese and grilled until bubbling and golden, on top came a fried egg, a spoon of tomato salsa, a handful of diced avocado and a splodge of greek yoghurt (in the absence of sour cream).

I would go so far as to say that this is almost healthy, plenty of beany protein and a hefty dose from the egg too, a couple of portions of veg and good fats from the avocado, all that colour is definitely good for you. This is a weekend breakfast though, you need a few hours reading the paper with a cup of tea to let it all digest. Then maybe another for lunch?

Breakfast Tostada

Serves 2

1 400g can refried beans
1 200g can kidney beans, drained
2 large flour tortillas
50g cheddar grated
1 green chilli , thinly sliced
2-4 free range eggs
3 ripe tomatoes, diced
½ red onion, diced
½ lime
½ avocado, diced
4tbsp sour cream or greek yoghurt

  • Mix the tomatoes, red onion and lime juice together and season well.
  • Mix the re-fried beans with the kidney beans and ½ the chilli, check if it needs extra seasoning.
  • This makes a lot of bean mixture, leftovers will keep in the fridge for a few days or freeze well.
  • Spread a thin layer over the torillas, sprinkle with the cheese and remaining chilli and grill until the cheese is bubling and the tortilla crisp.
  • Meanwhile heat about 1tbsp oil in a and fry the eggs to your preference. 1 or 2 each depending on how greedy you're feeling.
  • Once the tostadas are cooked, top with the fried egg, a spoonful of salsa, some avocado and a dollop of sour cream.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Split Pea Soup

I'm a big fan of pulses. They're cheap as chips and count as one of your 5-a-day, hurray! Recently, as our unspectacular summer grinds to an end, I've been hankering after soup and when I think of soup, split pea soup is one of the first to spring to mind.

The only version I've ever made is from the fabulous Cranks, split pea soup flavoured with some aromatic cumin, with fried mushrooms and spinach stirred in at the end, dolloped with limey yoghurt. Make this once and you will see why I've never veered from it before.

Whilst contemplating the soup however, I did a little recipe browsing and have since found that you can do pretty much whatever you fancy to the soup, here's a very basic recipe, and one with olives and raita added on top, I've bookmarked this version for next time.

In the end I started out sticking to the Cranks version, but decided to blend in the spinach at the end, do away with the mushrooms and lime and just add a spoon of yoghurt, some peppery olive oil and some paprika for smoky depth.

As with most soups, this is perfect for making in a big old pot and freezing leftovers. I made half the below amount and it was all gone disappointingly fast. Being at home all weekend, means there are plenty of opportunities to heat up a little bowl for a snack...


Makes 6-8 portions

500g split peas (yellow or green depending on your colour preference)
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 red chilli, chopped
1tbsp cumin seeds (ground cumin will do)
1.5litres hot vegetable stock
100g spinach
250g yoghurt
smoked paprika to serve

  • Pour the split peas into a large bowl, cover with twice the volume of water and leave overnight to soak.
  • The next day... Fry the onions with a little in large saucepan over a medium heat. Once softened, add the chilli, garlic and cumin, sizzle for a few minutes more.
  • Drian the split peas and rinse, tip them into the pan with the onions and stir well to coat in the aromatic oil.
  • Pour in the hot vegetable stock and allow it to boil vigorously for about 10mins, scraping off the frothy scum that rises to the surface.
  • Turn the heat down and simmer for about 30mins until the peas collapse.
  • Add the spinach to the pan, cover and let it wilt in the pan.
  • Once the spinach is wilted, use a hand blender to blend the soup until smooth, be careful not to overblend, you still want flecks of green against the yellow background. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Serve with a big dollop of yoghurt, a drizzle of oil and a sprinkling of paprika.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

The Best Salad Dressing

I felt I had to blog about this as its possibly one of my favourite discoveries. We get the Abel and Cole salad box, so always having lovely organic vegetables about means we have a salad with most meals. Almost any vegetable will make it in, just a little bit of slicing, shredding, chopping and dicing.

Now, here is the secret. My mustardy dressing, it livens up any salad and what's more you can make up a big batch of it and it will keep for weeks as its just mustard, vinegar and oil. I literally drizzle it on anything I can and I encourage you to do so too.

I've posted the recipe again below for convenience, a bit of whisking and you end up with a delicious, creamy emulsion. Use it on carrot salad or winter coleslaw.


1tsp honey
1tbsp dijon mustard
1/2tbsp english mustard
3tbsp cider vinegar
100ml olive oil

Add the vinegar to a jug and spoon in the mustards and honey, whisk until smooth. Pour in the oil judiciously, whisking lazily until emulsified, add a bit of salt and pepper and keep in a jar or a squeezy bottle like I do for easy drizzling.


Monday, 22 September 2008

Moroccan Mackerel and Citrus Couscous

I'm rather proud of this one. Whilst I was supposed to be working, I naturally began thinking of what I was going to cook for the rest of the week. I've been thinking about the delicious Mackerel superfood salad from Leon for a while- its all Moroccan sweet and spice with dried apricots, hazelnuts and lemon zest. I couldn't glean much from the menu so did a little recipe investigation online and came up with the recipe below.

Happily, it turned out exactly as planned, I used orange zest and juice, which goes perfectly with the oily fish. Some toasted almonds add texture and parsley for freshness along with ground coriander and ginger for spicy depth. I was also unsure about using the broccoli, it seemed such a strange combination to me, but it works perfectly adding some welcome crunch.

Next time, I'm keen to try other variations...Fennel and black olive with dried apricots or cucumber instead of the broccoli, rocket for added punch. Either way, try this and let me know your thoughts/variations.

Ps: yes, more mackerel. This time, we used a mixture of smoked mackerel and tinned, purely because that's what we had. I've never eaten tinned mackerel before, it actually tasted pretty good and works perfectly fine in this recipe. Given the choice, I would use smoked mackerel next time though for extra flavour. In other news...I'm also mourning the addition of anchovies to the fish to avoid list (you can still buy them from sustainable sources though).


Serves 4
350g couscous
2tsp ground ginger
2tsp ground coriander
½tsp salt
350ml vegetable stock
1 head brocolli
75ml orange juice - about ½ large orange
zest 1 orange
4tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
½ red chilli, finely chopped
100g flaked almonds, toasted in a dry pan until golden
1 small red onion
250g smoked mackerel

  • Toss the cous cous with the ground ginger, ground coriander and salt. Pour over the stock, cover and allow to steep.
  • Cut the broccoli into small chunks, I did mine as small as possible but you might like it chunkier. Either steam or boil for a few mins until cooked but still with a little bite. To maintain the vibrant green of broccoli when boiling, mak sure its tipped into boiling water, not cold.
  • Once the couscous has soaked up all the stock, fluff with a fork and add the garlic, chilli,red onion, orange juice and zest and olive oil.
  • Once the broccoli is cooked, drain and add to the cous cous with the smoked mackerel, parsley and flaked almonds. Stir well and taste, you may need a little more orange juice or olive oil to lubricate, it should be zinging with flavour.
  • Pile onto a plate to serve and top with some parsley, flaked almonds and extra orange zest.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Mackerel with a Lentil and Yoghurt Salad

This is loosley based on a Jamie Oliverrecipe, he does pan-fried salmon with puy lentils dressed with garlic, lemon juice, oil and lots of herbs, some spinach stirred in and wilted; with yoghurt drizzled over the top. I've made this before and its delicious, I could eat a big bowl of the garlicky lentils all on their own, and I tend to put yoghurt on most things so its always a plus.

I had this recipe in mind when I took some mackerel out of the freezer for dinner. However, I decided to do a slightly different lentil salad that I came up with working at Piece of Plenty. This has a slight Arabian influence if you will, lentils dressed with garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, ground corinader and cumin, with lots of red onion, this is left to macerate, allowing the flavours to sink in. Its drizzled with yoghurt, and flecked with chopped parsley and pomegranate seeds to serve.

This is a perfect lunch all by itself, but it went particularly well with the mackerel, the freshness of the yoghurt, parsley and pomegranate really cut through the oiliness of the fish.

I used to make this with thin slices of red onion, but they can get a bit soggy if you leave it for a few days, so I think finely diced onions work better. If you're going to eat it all in one go, then the thin slices are good.

Serves 4

4 mackerels, filleted
150g puy lentils or lentilles vertes
1 lemon
3tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 bunch parsley, chopped
250g yoghurt
pomegranate seeds to serve

  • Season the yoghurt, add the juice of ½ lemon, stir and leave until ready to eat.
  • Cover the lentils with water in a pan, bring to the boil and boil rapidly for 5mins, then turn the heat to low and simmer for 20-30mins until soft, don't add salt to the water, otherwise they'll turn into hard little bullets.
  • Drain, return to the pan and whilst still hot dress with the olive oil, the juice of the remaining ½ lemon, ground coriander, cumin, garlic and salt and pepper.
  • Then, stir in the red onions.
(This can all be done in advance, just re-heat the lentils before serving. They are still exquisite eaten at room temperature also)
  • Drizzle olive oil over the mackerel with some seasoning and rub into the flesh.
  • Heat a pan until smoking hot, and fry the mackerel for 3mins on each side.
  • To serve sprinkle the pomegranate seeds and chopped parsley over with a dollop of the yoghurt dressing and enjoy!

Thursday, 18 September 2008

What do you think?

In an attempt at self improvement, I recently bought a book on Food Writing. Not only to improve the writing of my blog posts, but also the food website I'm developing (more on that soon...) . I'm trying to educate the scientist out of me and experiment with things like similes and metaphors. Exciting.

I devoured the book in a week or two, a 45min commute will do that with most books, even in between the occasional nap, and its revolutionised my life! Well, not my life, but at least the way I approach this blog and the writing. I'm aware that I probably shouldn't draw attention to my writing, lest people start looking at it more critically and realise I fall somewhat sort...

The point of this post is actually to draw attention to my recipes. A large section of the book was devoted to writing good recipes, I soon realised my slapdash approach was not going to cut it when writing actual recipes for a website. I've now dedicated a new notebook to recipes, and try to write down what I use as I make something. Then when I make it again, I can go back and see what I did, perhaps make alterations, until I'm sure I have the perfect recipe.

This is where you come in, dear reader. Should you happen to cook one of my recipes. I'd really love some feedback. Did it work? Was it nice? Did you make any changes? Were the quantities right? Email me your thoughts, rachelamanley [at] gmail [dot] com and I'll be eternally grateful. Read more...

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Carrot, Orange and Pistachio Cake

Carrot cake freshened with orange zest and a little texture from pistachio nibs comes together to make an altogether grown up carrot cake. Taken from the excellent Dan Lepard, I find his recipes tend to err on the side of complicated, so I’ve tweaked this to make it a little more user friendly whilst maintaining the seductive ... By all means use his recipe and look at others too, they are not your run of the mill cake recipes and all the better for it too.

Cakes come into the realm of true indulgence when iced, and look particularly pleasing a top a cake stand, I used a very simple cream cheese icing, with a little lime juice and icing sugar. The other day, my friend Kat brought me some carrot cake she made with cinnamon cream cheese icing, something I’ve never thought to do but delicious! I’ve lined this up to try with my next carrot cake.

I normally have some tahini knocking around to make hummus, it also make a very good sauce in its own right that’s perfect for roasted vegetables; here are some other recipe ideas. I'm sure no else is as silly as me, but a word of warning, do not keep tahini in the fridge. According the jar, it should be stored at room temperature and gets hard and difficult to use when kept in the fridge!

Whilst aimlessly browsing in Waitrose today, I saw a beetroot and tahini dip, I’m going to do some research, give it a try and get back to you, its always good to have new beetroot recipes...

75g tahini
125ml sunflower oil
Zest of 2 oranges, and 100ml juice (about ½ orange)
200g caster sugar
3 eggs
3 medium carrots (about 200g) grated finely
100g chopped pistachios
175g wholemeal flour (plain will do fine)
2½ tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg

  • Grease and line the base of 2 sandwich tins and preheat the oven to 180C.
  • Whisk the tahini, oil zest and sugar until smooth, next whisk in the eggs.
  • Add the carrots and mix to distribute evenly, your mixture should now be a vivid orange colour! Add the orange juice and stir thoroughly.
  • Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg into a separate bowl and mix together. Combine with the carrot mixture and fold together.
  • Finally, fold in the pistachios and transfer to the cake tins. Bake for 20-25mins until the tops are golden and firm to the touch and a cake tester comes out clean.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before icing.

100g cream cheese
25g icing sugar
Juice and zest of half a lime.

  • Beat the cream cheese in a large bowl until softened, add the lime juice and beat until smooth.
  • Sift in the icing together and stir until dissolved.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Mushroom and Walnut Pasta

This dish evolved from hunger more than anything, adding things to the pan until it looked good,
I like to fry mushrooms in a very hot pan but with no oil as they just slurp it all up. Be patient. Mushrooms tend to leak all their juices readily, but given time soak them back up again, its important to season them as soon as they hit the pan so they can absorb that too, once they get going add a few sprigs of thyme and garlic too. Plump with seared edges in what you're going for, not soggy and limp. Finish with some lemon juice and your laughing.

I added a luxurious dollop of creme fraiche and some walnuts for texture, stirred into pasta, this is the way to eat mushrooms. I'm becoming a fan of using walnuts and almonds instead of the ubiquitous pine nuts with pasta, cheap and they add a much mellower flavour than the (admittedly delicious) pine nuts. I've also taken throwing chopped parsley onto everything, I love the freshness it adds, it would work particularly well here to cut through the richness of the sauce.


Serves 2

1 onion, finely chopped
200g short pasta (we used rigatoni)
200g mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
a few sprigs thyme
4tbsp creme fraiche (or double cream)
squeeze lemon juice
100g walnuts, chopped
parmesan and parsley to serve (optional)

Begin by cooking the pasta in plenty of boiling water. Once cooked, drain the pasta, but reserve a little of the water.
Meanwhile, cook the onion in a little oil on a low heat in a large frying pan until softened, then remove from the pan. Turn up the heat and add the mushrooms along with some seasoning and the thyme. Fry for about 5mins until the mushrooms are tinged brown.
Return the onions to the pan along with the garlic, give it a stir and add the creme fraiche, the creamy white turning a grey on contact with mushrooms. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and taste to see if it needs for seasoning.
Add the pasta to the sauce and stir well to coat in the sauce, add a little cooking water if the sauce seems too thick, sprinkle over the walnuts and tuck in immediately. Read more...

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Another Crab Spaghetti

This version is slightly different to the previous one as it has asian leanings, admittedly a bit strange with pasta, if you feel that weird about it, you could always have noodles...

The point is, this is a perfect way to eat crab, with chilli, garlic, coriander and lime. Add to that that this was lovely crab from a day boat in Dorset and you've true indulgence.


Serves 4

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 chilli, finely chopped
4-6 spring onions, finely chopped
1 bunch coriander, chopped
1 lime, zested
1 dressed crab
1 bunch parsley, chopped
250ml white wine
400g linguine

Cook the linguine in plenty of salted boiling water. Meanwhile, soften the spring onions, garlic, chilli and ½ the coriander in a little oil, add the brown crab meat and white wine and cook for about 10mins until the crab has melded with the wine into a thick sauce. Drain the pasta (reserving a mugful of the water) and add to the pan along with the white crab meat, the rest of the coriander, the parsley and a squeeze of lime juice. Stir to coat thoroughly and season. Add a little of the pasta water if necessary to loosen the sauce. Read more...

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Jansen's Temptation

I saw this recipe in this month's Olive for a Swedish dish of potatoes and onions layered, covered with cream and anchovies and baked with a crunchy breadcrumb topping. How can you go wrong?

I ended up using this recipe from Hollow Legs and it was pretty good, although I'm not sure I was completely turned, possibly too many onions for me. We had it with a delightful salad of veg box ingredients as the cream makes it pretty rich.

It reminds me of a Jamie Oliver recipe that my friend Rose makes all the time, now that is a good fish bake. Read more...

Monday, 8 September 2008

Mushroom Risotto

I got one of the little boxes of Japanese mushrooms from the farmers' market and seen as though I still had some dried ones from when I was testing mushroom recipes for a book (someone else's!), I decided to make mushroom risotto. Also, as you use some wine in a risotto, its always the perfect excuse to drink the rest...

Using dried mushrooms really bolsters up the stock and will disguise a poor mushroom selection, although we're coming into autumn now and wild mushroom season, which reminds me, I must find a course where I can learn about picking wild mushrooms...

I fried the mushrooms separately and only added them to the risotto at the end, so they didn't get all limp and soggy, I also didn't add parmesan as the risotto was richly flavoured enough with the mushroom stock and a knob of butter (naturally).


serves 4

50g dried mushrooms
1 litre vegetable stock (from bouillon is fine)
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
300g risotto rice (arborio or carnaroli)
1 small glass white wine
500g mixed mushrooms, larger ones sliced
couple sprigs thyme
squeeze lemon juice
1 small bunch parsley chopped
large knob of butter

Add the mushrooms to the hot stock and set aside for about 15mins, drain the stock into a saucepan and keep warm on a low heat, retrieve the dried mushrooms and chop roughly. Fry the onions and garlic over a medium heat until softened, then add the dried mushrooms and rice, fry for a few mins until the rice grains become translucent. Next add the wine and turn up the heat, allow the wine to bubble away until nearly all of it has gone. Now add a ladleful of stock, stir gently until nealry all the stock has been absorbed (but not all!), continue to do this until most of the stock has been absorbed and the rice is cooked with a little bite. Meanwhile fry the mushrooms over a in a little butter and oil, add the thyme sprigs and seasoning. When the mushrooms are cooked add a splash of lemon juice. Add the mushrooms to the risotto once the rice is cooked, add the parsley, some seasoning and a knob of butte, stir, put a lid on and leave for 5mins. Stir again and its ready to serve. Read more...

Friday, 5 September 2008

Homemade Gnocchi

I had a fantastic weekend, generally cooking and eating lots of fabulous things. There's nothing like a bit of time to spend pottering in the kitchen, hence homemade gnocchi. I tried making this once at university with pumpkin I think, anyway it was a disaster, the high water content in the pumpkin just made gloopy blobs of the gnocchi and I've been put off a bit since then.

Anyway, I was browsing, looking for a pesto recipe, when I came across the gnocchi recipe. I followed this recipe pretty loosely as to be honest, there was a lot of waffle to wade through. Either way, we ended up with delighful pillows of gnocchi that I decided to fry instead of boil, just because I've never done it before. The browned bits on the gnocchi went really well with the smokiness of the red pepper pesto we had with it. It was one of those dinners where you spend the whole time exclaiming about how GOOD it is. A success I think... so now I'm thinking that you could probably make loads of this and freeze half, then pop them straight in boiling water to cook (you know when gnocchi is cooked as it floats to the surface) and then try this Nigella recipe.

I didn't add anything to the gnocchi, which was fine as they were still amazing, but I thinking some extra flavourings could be pretty good, for next time, I have several ideas, one is to use cheese - mozzarella, ricotta, gorgonzola, or basil, spinach, mushrooms etc.


Serves 2

500g waxy potatoes
200g plain flour
1 egg, beaten
salt and pepper

Peel and dice the potatoes and boil in salted water until tender. Drain and push through a potato rice if you have one, if not make sure you mash them well to get rid of any lumps. Spread the fluffy potato out on a chopping board and allow to cool. Once cool add the egg, flour and plenty of seasoning. Carefully incorporate this into the potato, gradually bringing it in to form a dough, knead for a few minutes then cut into about 4 pieces. Roll these pieces out into long sausage shapes, about 1in thick, then cut into pieces about 1in long. To make the charactersitic gnocchi marks, use a fork to press on the top of the gnocchi, once done, place onto a floured plate.

To cook either boil for a few minutes in plenty of boiling water or fry gently for a few minutes on each side. Read more...

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Roasted Red Pepper Pesto

Mmmmm, I can't begin to describe how good this pesto is, I just had some leftovers for my lunch and its even better than yesterday.

For some reason we ended up with 4 red peppers in the fridge, I decided to roast them as I'm a bit fussy about raw peppers, in that I'm not really a fan and like them diced really small. Anyway, I cut the peppers in half, deseeded them, and lay them skin side up on a baking tray, I drizzled with a little oil and left them under a hot grill until they were really black and blistered, I then turned them over and grilled the underside a bit too, just because I like my roasted peppers to be really soft. Then its into a sealed tupperware to steam of the skin until cool.

Once cooled, I peeled the peppers and blitzed them with about a small bunch of basil, stems and all. We've got a basil plant in one of our window boxes that has just gone crazy, so I was pretty happy about being able to cull it a bit, also, check out our wormery in the background! I also added a small handful of toasted pine nuts and the same of cheese and a splash of balsamic vinegar. I didn't add any oil as the peppers are moist enough to lubricate the pesto. I must admit that in the absence of parmesan, I cheated and added mature cheddar too (you can't taste the difference).

Red pepper and almonds go particularly well and I have a feeling toasted almonds would be delightful in this pesto, but I have loads of pine nuts (always a nice position to be in) so pine nuts in was.

Either way, you end up with a slightly sweet and smoky pesto from the chargilled peppers. We had it on homemade gnocchi, it would be great on pasta, or with fish or chicken. I'm thinking now that chilli and perhaps coriander instead of basil would be good. Either way, make this and make it soon! Read more...

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Spaghetti Puttanesca

Ah, the holy trinity of capers, olives and anchovies, they go so well together. You can't really beat a puttanesca, I used fresh tomatoes in this recipe, but that's mostly because we had lots. I think this is perfectly fine with chopped tomatoes. The intensity of flavour in the anchovy, capers and olives see to that.

I've included a recipe here, but once you made it once, you'll never the recipe again, its so easy. Just fry onions with garlic, chilli and anchovies, (I love anchovies so use loads), add the tomatoes, simmer for 10-15 mins until the sauce is thick, then add some capers and chopped black olives. done! I had mine with parsley, but you could have basil or nothing. Cheese is somewhat unorthodox but also good with this. Read more...