Saturday, 29 August 2009

Roast Chicken and Bulghar Wheat Salad

A summery take on a simple roast chicken - using sage from our garden, lemon zest, garlic and butter as flavour. Eaten with this courgette and bulghar wheat salad, an extra smattering of pine nuts and some cooling, garlicky tzatiki.

To make the taztiki, I grated a cucumber, salted it and left it to drain for 15-30mins. Squeeze out the excess water (there should be a lot), tip into a bowl and mix with greek yoghurt, finely chopped garlic and a little lemon juice. Finish with black pepper and a drizzle of oil.

This is perfect summer eating, there's no pressure to serve it piping hot, indeed it's better lukewarm and eaten casually outside. In fact, you could joint the chicken and BBQ it instead, swapping the butter for olive oil. I'm a fan of uncomplicated BBQs - making one great piece of meat the star so you don't spend hours cooking burgers and sausages. We're recently had success with a huge leg of lamb, marinaded overnight, cooked briefly in the oven and then finished on the BBQ. Sliced thinly and eaten in pittas with tazatiki and tomato salsa - that's my kind of BBQ.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Banana, Raspberry and White Chocolate Muffins

I've taken to freezing bananas whenever there's a stray overripe one lying around. It renders them almost completely useless, as they turn into a sludgy mess when defrosted. However, looks aside, they do make perfect banana bread and that way I can freeze a banana every so often until I have enough in the freezer to bake with.

I came across this recipe while looking up Nigella classic banana bread in How to be a Domestic Goddess. These are ridiculously easy to make and taste as good at they sound. The dried raspberries (or cherries) contrast with the sweet banana muffin and the white chocolate adds a butterscotch touch.


Taken from How to be a Domestic Goddess but changed slightly

125g butter
200g sugar
1tsp vanilla
3 ripe medium bananas
4tbsp yoghurt
2 eggs
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2tsp baking powder
300g flour
40g dried raspberries, cherries
50g white chocolate

  • Preheat the oven to 180C and line a muffin tray with cases.
  • Melt the butter in a saucepan and stir in the sugar and vanilla using a fork.
  • Add the bananas, mashing them into the mixture as you go.
  • Stir in the eggs, yoghurt, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda.
  • Finally add the flour, chocolate and raspberries, stir until just combined and divide between the 12 muffins cases.
  • Bake for 20mins until golden on top and a skewer comes out clean.


Thursday, 20 August 2009

Brixton's Bazaar

Anyone who loves to cook harbours fantasies of having their own market stall. Naturally, I have always wanted one, but having worked in the food buisness for a long time, I know that it is a lot of work for not a lot of reward. That said, I found myself agreeing to fill a spot at the up and coming Brixton's Bazaar - a market that's just got going opposite the Ritzy and in time will be on the newly renovated Windrush Square complete with live music and performances.

So, a Saturday of baking ensued and my friend Kat and I produced a pile of brownies, lemon drizzle cake, carrot cake, vanilla cupcakes and chocolate Guinness cake. All the usual suspects but so good when homemade (well). Of course, the chocolate Guinness cake is a little different, a Nigella gem (obviously) - you do get a hint of Guinness in the cake, but really you just end up with a rich, dense, almost fudgy cake that is so easy to make (recipe here).

Things were a little quiet as the market has only just got going, but there were still plenty of people and it was so satisfying to see people enjoying the cakes - there were a few double takes when people tried samples and said "wow, that is really good!". Having said that, several people seemed genuinely surprised that we actually made them ourselves! Of course, in my experience, the best bit about doing a market is the sense of community and the swapping of goods at the end. In exchange for some leftover cakes we got some olives, a chorizo and some delicious creole fish cakes. Read more...

Monday, 17 August 2009

Courgette Fritters with a Tomato and Almond Sauce

I'm aware this is another courgette recipe. What can I say? We're overwhelmed, not only are we getting them from our vegbox but the marrows are also threatening to take over at the allotment we're babysitting.

Having said that, it's amazing what the pressure to use up a couple of huuuge marrows can do, I've come up with some genuinely delicious and different ways to cook courgettes, my favourite is still this soup, we made a huge batch out of the marrows.

This recipe is another gem, from none other than Cranks, I always forget just how good this book is, full of delicious and unique vegetarian recipes. It has guided me through budding vegetarianism and fed my friends and I through university.

These are crisp, delicate, gnocchi-esque fritters, eaten with a spicy tomato and almond sauce, couscous and yoghurt. I made the tomato sauce the day before in about 10mins and then made the fritters on the day. Cranks suggests making little balls and deep frying them. We went the lazy route and shaped larger fritters that we shallow fried. However, next time I think I will go all out and deep fry them (and I include instructions to do that below) - the crispy edges are just so good.


Serves 4

500g courgette, grated
1 onion, finely chopped
60g flour
1tsp paprika
1 red chilli, finely chopped
3tbsp chopped coriander
1/4tsp baking powder
1tsp salt
1 bunch coriander, chopped
vegetable oil for frying

Tomato and Almond Sauce
1 onion, finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped
1 small piece ginger, grated, juice reserved
2tsp ground cumin
1tsp turmeric
2tsp paprika
2tsp garam masala
1 can chopped tomatoes
3tbsp ground almonds
To serve: couscous, yoghurt and extra chopped coriander

Make the tomato and almond sauce first, it benefits from sitting around for a while letting the flavours develop.

  • Heat a large saucepan with a splash of oil. Fry the onions, ginger and chilli for 5 or so mins. Add the spices and fry for a few mins more.
  • Add in the chopped tomatoes and ground almonds. Simmer for 15-20mins until thick and season well.
To make the courgette fritters:
  • Squeeze the grated courgettes in a muslin cloth or clean towel to remove as much excess water as possible and tip into a large mixing bowl
  • Add the rest of the ingredients and stir well.
  • Now pour the oil into a deep saucepan – you want it to be about 10–12cm deep – and heat it to 180°C. To check, just drop a piece of bread into the oil, if it floats and starts to sizzle immediately, it's ready.
  • Flour your hands and shape a tablespoon of mixture at a time into small balls. Carefully place into the hot oil. Fry the pieces gently, turning them a couple of times with a slotted spoon.
  • When they’re browned and crisp, lift them out of the oil, allowing any excess to drip back into the pan, and drain on kitchen paper.
Serve on a mound of couscous with a spoonful of the sauce, a dollop of yoghurt and a sprinkling of coriander.

Carrot and Radish Salad

This came about by using up the dregs leftover in the fridge (as is so often the case). We're not massive fans of radish in our house and we always seem to have more carrot than we know what to do with. As I've said before, I will happily eat grated carrot with nothing more than a drizzle of sharp mustardy dressing, but Pete has started to complain so I threw in a few extras to jazz it up.

Bright, colourful and crunchy, with added saltiness from proper deli olives and tang from mustard dressing. It will happily and indeed should sit around for an hour or two for the flavours to meld and to take some of the edge of the red onion. We eat ours with little cubes of crispy roasted potatoes and a piece of fried salmon - simple summer eating. Also, everyone knows how good carrot and hummus sandwiches are - imagine how good leftovers of this are on hummus sandwiches.


Makes a large salad - enough for 4 people as a side salad

4 medium carrots, peeled and grated coarsely
1 small bunch of radish
1 small bunch of parsley, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
small handful olives, sliced
generous drizzle mustard dressing
handful of seedy sprinkle

This is essentially an assemble job, mix the ingredients together, drizzle with dressing and leave until you're ready to eat - at which point I would stir it a little to freshen it up or decant into a clean bowl (I'm a big fan of decanting into clean bowls). All I will mention is how I cut up the radishes. Clean, top and tail and cut into 4 slices lenghtways; while still holding them together, cut into 4 slices in a perpendicular direction so that you end up with radish batons - a little labour intensive but it works much better with the grated carrot.


Monday, 10 August 2009

Seedy Spinkle

Having been a vegetarian for so long (although decidedly lapsed now...) I know you don't need meat to complete a meal. And while I certainly appreciate the charms of a roast chicken, or sausage or steak; I love vegetables and am happy to make them the star of the show.

Unfortunately, they are often jostling for space with my other favourites - eggs, cream, cheese, potatoes, pasta rice - you get the picture. In an attempt to eat a balance diet, I often shoehorn in more veggies with a side salad. Nothing fancy and at this time of year, its downright easy with everything tasting so damn good.

I always have seedy sprinkle and mustard dressing on hand, these two will liven up anything. Be it a few lettuce leaves or a grated carrot. I like to add finely chopped red onion or spring onions. Cool and creamy avocados for a hint of oily goodness. Quartered cherry tomatoes - so sweet and full of flavour right now. Thinly sliced fennel or cabbage, a handful of defrosted peas add a little sweetness. The list goes on...

I used to make this seedy sprinkle in big batches when I worked at pieceofplenty, hazelnuts, sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds roasted in chilli powder, paprika and soy sauce. You're left with crunchy, spicy seeds that make any salad instantly delicious, be it simply grated carrots or a couscous salad.

I've not been able to get my fix lately, so I knocked up my own batch today. It was all done in half an hour.

To make this, heat a couple of tablespoons of sunflower oil and sprinkle in 2tsp of paprika and 1-2tsp chilli powder (depending on how hot you like it). Heat until sizzling and tumble in 500g mixed seeds or nuts. The mixture is down to you, I like lots of pumpkin seeds, but chopped cashews would also be delicious. Stir really well and make sure the seeds are coated in the bright red oil. Roast in a large tray for 20-30mins until brown.

Pour back into the saucepan and drizzle over 2-3tbsp soy sauce. Heat and stir frantically until the soy is absorbed, giving the seeds and salty coating. Allow to cool and store in an airtight jar.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Courgette Carbonara

We were away at the weekend and so returned to a huge pile of vegetables, not only from the vegbox but also kindly donated from an allotment. In search of courgette inspiration, I got this recipe from Rachel Eats. A wonderful blog brimming with simple, colourful and delicious Italian food. Every time I read it, it makes me yearn to have long leisurely lunches of pasta. In a departure from the norm, I actually followed this recipe as is, it's super easy and you end up with smooth and creamy pasta, made a little lighter and fresher by the use of courgette and basil rather than bacon.

The only tricky bit with carbonara is you need to allow the egg mixture to cook in the residual heat of the pasta and courgettes rather than directly on the hob, so you end up with a silky sauce rather than scrambled eggs. Jamie Oliver also does something similar.