Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Courgette and Pistachio Bulghar Wheat Salad

A zingy bulghar wheat salad packed full of parsley and coriander, pistachios and orange. I also chopped some courgette into small pieces, fried in a little olive oil and added it to the salad, finishing off with a squeeze of orange juice to freshen things up. Pistachios are fast becoming a new favourite, mixed with orange juice, its an exotic combination.

As with most salads, this is a chop and assemble job. As ever, bulghar wheat holds up quite well, so make plenty for lunch and snacks later. Try adding some shredded roast chicken for a more substantial meal maybe eating with a simple tomato salad.


200g bulghar wheat, cooked
2 courgettes
3tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped
1 bunch parsley, chopped
1 bunch coriander, chopped
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 orange, zest and juice of 1/2
75g pistachios, chopped

  • Top and tail the courgettes, slice into 4 lengthways and slice into chunks.
  • Heat a frying pan with 2tbsp olive oil and fry the courgettes for 5 mins or so until golden brown and cooked through. Season well and a splash of orange juice.
  • Mix with the bulghar wheat and add the rest of the ingredients saving some pistachios to sprinkle over later.
  • Serve with a spoon of yoghurt and sprinkled with the reserved pistachios.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Friday Night Mezze

My friends came over on Friday night for the usual dinner, drinks, shisha and terrible dancing. What with the weather and our dancing plans, I decided to go for a mezze affair taking inspiration from a tapas special in a really old copy of Observer Food Monthly written by Moro. A few colourful dishes that weren't too heavy eaten along with a simple salad and toasted pittas, the kind of food that can be eaten warm, lazily, over easy conversation with a glass of elderflower and fizz.
Top of the list was hummus with crispy lamb - an old favourite, this is so tasty and so easy. You can definitely get away with a decent shop bought hummus. Spread messily over a large plate, top with lamb mince fried with onions and little cinnamon, pine nuts and parsely. Then this delicious beetroot and pistachio salad - raw beetroot sliced paper thin topped with a jade green pistachio sauce flecked with parsley, mint and lemon zest. The nuts and lemon zest go perfectly with the sweet beetroot.

Finally I made chicken legs marinated in garlic, tahini and cumin, roasted until golden and crispy served with a tahini sauce.

All recipes here.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Courgette Pasta

We got the first of summer's courgettes in our veg box this week, small, firm and sprightly specimens. Perfect for the first Courgette Pasta of the summer. I wrote about this last year, but for those of you who might not have read it or who simply forgot, then this is a little reminder.
A perfect way to cook courgettes, grated coursely and fried slowly in plenty of butter and olive oil, left long enough to create crusty caramelised bits in place. Add plenty of garlic, lemon zest and pepper and eat with pasta. This is fresh and summery, none of the usual mushiness that makes most people dislike courgettes. Try adding a handful of pine nuts or a few spoons of creme fraiche.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Easy Peasy Chocolate Cake

This is based on the fabulous yoghurt cake recipe. If I haven't mentioned this before, then you must must must try this recipe. It's so so easy, requires NO weighing and is endlessly adaptable. My personal favourite is dark cherry yoghurt, replacing some of the flour with ground almonds or even oats.

Great for people who don't bake much, all you need is a bowl large enough to mix everything in and a receptacle for baking. Try muffin, sandwich or loaf tins. Even a large rectangle tin would be perfect for creating bite size cakes for afternoon tea.

I'm still developing student recipes for www.oxnosh.co.uk. While I knew this recipe would be great for students, I wanted something that would also work for a birthday cake. Birthdays are generally the occasion when most people dust of their mixing bowls. To me, birthday + student = chocolate. So, I tweaked the yoghurt cake recipe and came up with this version using cocoa powder, no chocolate melting involved!

You end up with a rich, moist chocolate cake ready for decorating. Make sure the cake is comletely cool before attempting to ice, too many times have I let impatience get the better of me and ended up fighting back the melting whipped cream (and the tears) as it cascades down the side of the cake.
Here we've filled the cake with whipped cream and iced with chocolate ganache, but you could try a mascarpone and raspberry filling. An easy grown up version - chocolate and raspberries are a delicious combination, strawberries would be great too. Mascarpone, although a little more expensive is great because all you need to do is stir it vigorously with a little icing sugar and maybe vanilla until it's soft and billowing like a dense whipped cream and stir the fruit in gently. Spoon generously onto one sandwich and top with the other.

My top tip for icing a cake successfully with minimum mess is to tear 4 long strips of greaseproof paper and place them on the edge of your plate. Top with the filled cake and do one layer of icing. The greasproof paper means you can be as messy as you want (within reason), you're going for general coverage here, trying to make the surface as smooth as possible in a thin coat of icing. Let this chill in the fridge before doing the second layer.

Once dry, pull the strips out from under the cake for a perfectly clean plate.

Chocolate Ganache Icing

  • • 300ml double cream
  • • 125g dark chocolate
  • • 2tbsp icing sugar
Melt all the icing ingredients in a small saucepan, stirring gently. Keep whisking until it becomes thick and glossy.

Wait until the cakes are completely cool before icing. Place four strips of baking paper (or just normal paper) on the edge of a plate and place one of the cakes on top.

Pour half the cream into a large bowl with 1tbsp icing sugar and whisk until softly whipped (the peaks stand up by themselves). Spread this over the cake on the plate. Top with the other half.

Melt all the icing ingredients in a small saucepan, stirring gently. Keep whisking until it become thick and glossy. Ice the cake in 2 thin layers, chilling in between. Read more...

Friday, 12 June 2009

Spinach and Anchovy Tart

I've been lusting after this baby for a while now, everywhere I look in food magazines, there are beautiful tarts made in this rectangular tart tin. Not only was I won over by the elegance, I also hoped it might be easier to line with pastry and blind bake (I ALWAYS get holes). So, it was with great delight that I wandered around John Lewis homewares department last week and came out clutching my tin.

We seemed to get an explosion of green in the veg box this week, a bag of beautiful baby spinach, earmarked for nothing more than a salad and big bunches of spring greens. In my quest for tart inspiration, I came across this recipe on BBCGoodfood.com, except I used stirfried sping greens, chopped finely instead. The anchovies are not overpowering at all, but lend a salty savouriness, that perks this up and stops it being bland.

I also skipped the potatoes and made a potato salad instead. Slice new potatoes into thick coins and roast with olive and oil and salt until cooked through and golden, make sure you scrape them off the bottom of the roasting tray every so often to stop them sticking. Once cooked, add pepper, a squeeze of lemon juice, finely chopped onions and parsley. My new favourite way to eat new potatoes.

As you might expect, this is delicious eaten at room temperature so leftovers won't last long as I discovered when we devoured them at 4am after a night of dancing. The crumbs were quite a depressing sight the following morning.


Thursday, 11 June 2009

Iced Tea

While the weather's not exactly scorching, I'm not inclined to drinks cups and cups of tea all day as is my usual pastime. I've a longing for something cold and refreshing, but not full of sugar and nasties. Elderflower has been doing the job recenlty, topped up with fizzing soda water, but it seems to keep disappearing into cocktails with cheap fizzy wine (delicious by the way).

Recently I've taken to making my own iced tea, dismiss all thoughts of Lipton from your head now, this is iced Rosehip Hibiscus herbal tea, as simple as brewing a large jug's worth of tea, add a couple of tablespoons of honey or sugar to taste and leaving to cool in the fridge.

What you end up with is jewel-bright ruby red juice, tangy and fruity, try it with a squeeze of lime. Packed full of vitamin C, this is not only delicious and refreshing, but packs the healthy punch of normal tea. I'm thinking a concentrated version would be sublime with some gin and soda water, or maybe frozen into an icepop...

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Brown Rice and Spinach Pilaf

Eggs are my new favourite thing. Especially poached eggs, nestled atop a bowl of rice. I like to break open the yolk and let the insides trickle down. Recently it's been a stir fry, full of garlic, ginger and chilli and topped with plenty of toasted cashews. I came across this simple comforting bowl in Waitrose Food Illustrated and couldn't resist. Delicately spiced with cumin, cinnamon and cardamon, with plenty of spinach stirred through at the last minute and topped with toasted pine nuts.

Originally intended to be bulghar wheat pilaf, I reached into the grain drawer only to find I'd used all my bulghar wheat already. So brown rice it was, a little disappointing, only in the sense that brown rice takes about 3 times as long to cook and we were impatient for our dinner. Either grain would work well as they each lend a certian nuttiness to the end result.


serves 4
25g butter
2 garlic cloves , crushed
1 large onion , finely chopped
4 cardamom pods , bruised
1tsp cumin
1tsp cinnamon
250g brown basmati rice
500ml hot, vegetable stock
200g spinach, finely chopped
50g pine nuts
4 eggs, poached

  • Heat a frying pan (that has a lid), as you do so, toast the pine nuts and remove.
  • Add the butter and a little oil. Once bubbling add the onions and garlic and fry for 5-10mins until brown.
  • Add the spices and cook for a few more minutes until they begin to smell delicious.
  • Tip in the rice and stir well. Pour in the hot stock and bring to the boil.
  • Turn the heat down, cover and simmer for 20-30mins until the rice is cooked, adding more water if necessary.
  • Stir through the spinach, cover and leave to sit for a few minutes until the spinach is wilted. Season well and stirin the pine nuts.
  • Serve topped with a poached egg.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Spiced Turkey Kebabs

Marinaded in garlic, ginger, yoghurt and ground cumin. The kebabas are delicately spiced, nothing too overpowering, using yoghurt to tenderise and mint for freshness. We used turkey mostly because it was cheap, but of course you can use chicken - breast or thigh would work equally well. The yoghurt keeps the turkey wonderfuly moist as it has a tendency to dry out.

We eat these along with the bulgar salad below, but I would also eat them stuffed into pittas with salad and mayonnaise or yoghurt.


Serves 4

400g turkey breast, cut into chunks
4 tbsp Greek yogurt
handful chopped mint
1tsp ground cumin
1tsp ground coriander
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
small piece fresh ginger, finely grated
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 red chilli, finely chopped (optional)

  • Soak 12 wooden skewers in water for 30mins.
  • Add all the ingredients to a large bowl, mix well, cover and leave to marinade for an hour.
  • Thread the turkey onto the skewers
  • Grill for 8mins until golden brown and cooked through, turning halfway.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Roasted Tomato and Spinach bulghar salad

This is one of the great salads that I'm loving at the moment. They take a bit longer than your average chop and go salad to prepare but are bursting with flavour and if you make a huge batch, you can eat it for dinner and keep leftovers in the fridge for lunch or for other meals. Simply add the protein of your choice. Try blistered slices of haloumi, fried mackerel fillets, chicken, lamb kebabs or a poached egg.

This salad was inspired by this recipe from 101cookbooks, in all honesty, I took a cursory glance at the ingredients and went by the picture more than anything, so my version is below. Bursting with colour, sweet roasted cherry tomatoes and slow cooked red onions go beautifully with the nutty bulghar wheat spiked with loads of fresh herbs, a little garlic and a handful of spinach (I have a sneaky suspicion that toasted pine nuts or almonds would be a fabulously crunchy addition). A perfect accompaniment to a mezze type affair, try a simple carrot salad, some hummus and flatbreads.


250g cherry tomatoes
250g bulghar
olive oil
juice 1/2 lemon
1 clove garlic
3 handfuls spinach
1 bunch mint
1 bunch parsley

3 red onions, finley sliced
2tsp brown sugar
1tbsp balsamic vinegar

  • First up the tomatoes. Preheat the oven to 180C. Slice the tomatoes in half and throw onto a large baking tray. Drizzle with olive, season with crunchy flakes of sea salt, a twist of black pepper and a pinch of brown sugar. Stir well, making sure all the tomatoes are cut side up and roast for 40mins until shrivelled and golden.
  • Meanwhile pour the bulghar wheat into a saucepan that has a lid with 1/2tsp of bouillon if you have it or a pinch of salt. Cover with boiling water, bring to the boil, cover and simmer until all the water is absorbed and the bulghar is tender but still with some bite. (you may need to add a little extra water or drain any excess off.
  • Heat a large frying pan with 2tbsp olive oil, add the onions and cook on low until completely soft. Add the balsamic vinegar, sugar and plenty of seasoning and cook for another 5mins or so until dark, sweet and sticky.
  • To assemble the salad, squeeze the lemon juice over the bulghar and add 2-3tbsp olive oil, the garlic and most of the mint and parsley. Stir well and season to taste.
  • Fold in the spinach and tumble onto a large serving platter. Top with roasted tomatoes, onions and the rest of the herbs.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Summery Salad

I picked up some lovely organic pork meatballs from Waitrose (who can resist a 'reduced' bargain these days?), at the time I was thinking of a rich stew spiced with cumin, coriander and cinnamon to eat with a mound of cous cous and a dollop of yoghurt (serious comfort food) . Alas, the weather was having none of it, after sweating it home on the tube, the thought of cooking a stew and then eating was not appealing.

Off I went to the cookbooks and came back with this recipe from Delicious magazine. A fresh and summery salad of sweet peas, broad beans, crunchy radish and meatballs made by splitting open sausages and rolling them into balls. View this as completely open to interpretation - we used what we had in the fridge for ours, some thinly sliced fennel, peas, lettuce and red onion along with the lovey meatballs.

What brings the whole thing together is a generous scattering of mint and parsley and a deeply flavourful dressing made from (a lot of) anchovies, garlic and lemon juice.

Leave out the meatballs and this is a great side salad or try it grilled chicken or fish and here you could add capers for extra zing. I must admit I also mixed the leftovers with some bulghar wheat for my lunch - perhaps a little unorthodox but the extra carbs bulk it up and make it a little more exciting for lunch rather a leftover soggy salad.

1 garlic clove
4tbsp olive oil
6 anchovy fillets, chopped
juice 1/2 lemon

To serve:
1 small bunch of mint and parsley, roughly chopped

To make the dressing, heat the anchovy fillets and olive oil gently until the anchovies melt, now add the garlic and lemon juice and some black pepper.