Wondering what to cook over the forthcoming week? Something different, something creative, something quick? The aim of this site is to provide a selection of gastronomic gems which can be produced in a trice, with a bit of visual fun on the side.
enjoying the time spent cooking
Each month there will be a balanced selection of recipes:
- three course dinner
- chicken (or rabbit or something similar) supper
- meat supper
- fish supper
- pasta, rice, noddles, mince types of supper
all packaged up to be quick, simple and with a bit of flair…. the aim is to make this chore be fun. And in addition, once a month:
- we’ll look at a particular type of alcohol… how it can be used in cooking… and how to use up the rest of the bottle in a well-deserved cocktail!
- there’ll be a ‘what the hell is’ slot,
- a ‘how do I do this, and a there must be an easier way’ slot,
- a ‘who am I, where am i, and what’s in season now?’ slot,
- a really useful gadget, which truly saves time and will NOT end up in the dark recesses of a cupboard, or at the fete,
and as everybody knows cooking to music makes it much less of a chore, so there will also be:
- a monthly playlist – eclectic, unusual… hopefully enjoyable music
We’re launching off the site with a wonderful selection of food (and drink) for february… and of course the theme will be PINK and RED. Drink for this month is the in-your-face luminous orangy red Campari. There will be an appropriately pinkish musical playlist to get you going…
garlic stalks make very serious pesto
This is a very serious pesto made from the immature flower stalks of garlic (often known as scapes, spears, stems or tops, garlic bolts or 蒜苔 in Chinese (suantai)) – not for the faint-hearted. If you can’t get garlic stalks you can use a bulb of garlic and a leek. You can get amazing elephant garlic scapes in May or June from here.
Either serve it with pasta, an extra glug of olive oil, and some additional parmesan flakes
mix with a little extra olive oil and add a tablespoon to cauliflower soup
serve it on black olive crackers with some cold dry sherry….to people who aren’t off to important meetings or job interviews.
- 150g/6oz nice big bunch wild garlic stalks
not for people going to important meetings
- 75g/3 oz/¾ cup parmesan, grated
- 150g/6 oz/1½ cups roasted or dry-fried hazelnuts, chopped
- juice and zest of 1½ lemons
- 360ml/1½ cups olive oil
- smoked salt and Indonesian long pepper
- blitz wild garlic leaves either in a deep small-circumferenced bowl or saucepan and use your stick blender, or in a magimix, till really quite small
- then add hazelnuts… and then parmesan
- with blade still running slowly add oil – it shouldn’t be too runny
- add lemon juice and the salt and pepper
- put in fridge for as long as possible to allow the flavours to intensify
Garlic scapes, spears, stems, tops, bolts or 蒜苔(in Chinese suantai)) are the immature flower stalks of garlic. If they have the flowers still on they will curl calligraphically, otherwise they are often sold in farmers’ markets cut down. They are cut off by farmers to encourage the garlic bulbs to grow juicy and fat.
catch them in mid-June
The scapes of elephant garlic (not a true garlic in fact, it’s a kind of leek) can be eaten more like asparagus.
seven things to do with garlic scapes:
- they make a mean pesto
- put into an oiled roasting pan and top with a generous sprinkle of smoked sea salt and a generous slosh of olive oil. Perhaps some thyme if you have it. Put into a hot oven (210ºC) for about half an hour. A creamier taste than ordinary roasted garlic
- cut into short lengths and blanch briefly (a minute or two) in boiling water. Drain. Serve in a lemony vinaigrette dressing
- add to salads
- use as a garnish on soups (especially good with mushroom soup)
- fry with other vegetables – courgettes for example
- use it in a risotto
when are garlic scapes in season? Mid-June is the time to catch them
I like the contrast of the smoothness of the avocado and mayonnaise and the crunchy nuts and celery, and there is also the contrast of the soft blandness of the avocado and the sharp, strong taste of the capers. I didn’t include the cottage cheese in this recipe… or the nuts for that matter …. because they’re good for you, it was just that rather surprisingly they seemed to be just the right component part of the whole concept.
healthy ingredients, surprisingly delicious
for two as a starter, for one person for lunch
- one ripe avocado
- one stick of lettuce – chopped up small, save the leaves
- 8 pecans – dry fried and chopped
- 2 tsp capers (NOT the type in brine). If you really don’t like capers, it might be quite interesting to try with dried cranberries
- 2 tbsp mayonnaise – Hellman’s is fine
- 2 tbsp cottage cheese
- 2 tsp smoked salt
- sweet smoked paprika
- cut the avocado in two and remove the stone carefully
- mix up the other ingredients except the paprika
- fill the hollow left by the hole with the mixture, and put any left over on the side
- dust with the paprika, and put a final garnish of the celery leaves onto this masterpiece
Borage grows like a weed and it attracts butterflies – no excuses for not buying a pot and simply watering every now and then. It has a very unusual sweet, slightly cucumbery taste and a crunchy texture. Because a stem of it is traditionally added to Pimms I have always thought of it as a very english herb, but I got the idea for this salad when I was in Greece.
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 floppy english lettuce
- 1 bunch watercress (or rocket if you can’t get watercress)
- 5 spring onions, finely sliced
- 4 sprigs dill
- 4 sprigs mint
- 4 sprigs borage (or, if you can’t get hold of this, or grow it, half a cucumber) – and also some flowers if there are any
- 1 small fennel bulb, finely chopped
- 50g/½ cup pine nuts
- salt and pepper
- shred the lettuce, watercress, dill and mint REALLY fine. Use a plastic salad knife for the lettuce and watercress if you have one.
- coarsely chop the borage, keeping any flowers for garnish
- put all of these ingredients into a wooden salad bowl
- mix the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper
- dress the salad and serve.
- add to a salad bowl with the pine nuts and spring onions
I often travel to Sardinia where somewhat to my surprise I discovered that this cut of meat was one of the best.
My beloved declares that he HATES dates… but he pronounces this dish, with reluctance and surprise, ‘really rather good’.
Use a non-stick saucepan or you will be scrubbing at the kitchen sink all night.
- a rolled, boned joint of pork (loin or shoulder) (1.8-2.25 kg, about 4.5 lbs)
- olive oil for frying
- sage – dried – 1 tbsp
- milk – ¾ litre/3 cups, or a bit more
- zest of one lemon
- Indonesian long pepper, ground in pestle*, 1 tbsp – or a bit more
- smoked Cornish sea salt, 1 tbsp – or a bit more
- 1 tbsp rose harisa
- 200g/4 oz orzo – the grain, not the pasta** – use quinoa or couscous as an alternative
- 7 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1 medium red onion, chopped
- 3 large plum tomatoes, chopped not too small (into eighths)
- ½ cup (80g/3 oz) dried dates, pitted and roughly chopped
- 2 chicken stock cubes
- ½ cup chopped parsley (reserving some for garnish)
the Indonesian long pepper is an essential part of this dish, it seems to work particularly well with the sage
- heat oven to 160°C
- heat oil in a saucepan just big enough for the joint
- pat salt, pepper and sage firmly all around the moist joint, and into any fissures in the flesh
- heat milk in a separate saucepan
- brown pork on all sides in oil
- add milk to cover about three-quarters of the pork and the lemon zest, bring to a simmer
- put in oven for about 3½ hours – after the first 15 mins check to see if it is simmering – if it is more like boiling turn down to 150°C
- about half an hour before you are due to eat, add the orzo to a generous saucepan of boiling water to which you have added the two stock cubes, and boil for 12 minutes.
- meanwhile, in a large frying pan, over a medium heat, fry the onion and the garlic
- add the harissa, mix to cover the onion
- add the dates
- take out the joint, put on a wooden board and leave to rest five minutes
- drain the orzo and mix in to other ingredients in frying pan
- add tomatoes and parsley, mix and heat through
- put orzo mixture onto plates
- top with sliced pork
- skim off curdled milk solids and share out over meat (this is the best bit!), sprinkle over remaining parsley
- put remaining cooking liquid/gravy into a jug and serve at the table
*don’t forget to inhale as you grind… the sweet, pungent smell is heavenly
**’orzo’ is the Italian for barley – and it can mean small grains of pasta shaped like barley, or a real barley-type grain which is delicious – an ancient grain which helps control blood sugar and is better for those with sensitive digestions who have problems with wheat.
- 400g/14 oz tagliatelle
- 300g/10 oz baby plum tomatoes – cut into quarters. use the tomato knife
- 2 jars (180g/6 oz) tapenade (aka black olive paste) – Belazu is really good
- 110g/4 oz bag of rocket or watercress
- 1 block (200g/7 oz) of feta, crumbled
- salt (go easy on the salt until the end until you have tasted as the feta and tapenade are both very salty) and pepper
- lots of olive oil
- grated parmesan for those who think ALL pasta should have parmesan
- some fried sage leaves might go rather nicely with this
- cook the tagliatelle in the normal way in a big saucepan.
- fry the tomatoes in a little oil, and add the tapenade for a minute or two to get it warm
- take the frying pan off the heat and add the feta, to get that warm
- drain the tagliatelle, and return to the saucepan with a good slug of olive oil
- add all the other ingredients except the parmesan
- garnish with the fried sage leaves
serve the parmesan separately for people to help themselves – it is not really necessary
reach six and a halfth nirvana with soda bread toast
The key here is to make the bread
• 400g (2 x 200g packs)/14 oz Philadelphia cream cheese
• 4 tbsp full fat milk
• 4 spring onions, chopped
• 200g smoked trout, flaked and chopped (in fact you can use offcuts of both smoked trout and smoked salmon
• juice and zest of half a lemon
• 1 teasp Worcestershire sauce
• brown soda bread, sweet smoked paprika and butter
mix all the ingredients together except for the trout, then mix that in, put in the fridge and leave overnight if you can.
serve with hot buttered brown soda bread soldiers – if you make the soda bread fresh you will be in seventh heaven, but even if you freeze it and make the soldiers from toast you will still be in six and a halfth heaven.