Roast Vegetables

IMG_6877Throwing a load of vegetables in a tin with some herbs, oil, salt and pepper is about as easy as cooking gets. Easier than boiling an egg, even. It's a great accompaniment to roast meat and steamed fish and gets a load of different colours on your plate. I love picking out the caramelised, sticky and juicy bits that have caught in the pan while roasting, it's such a comforting and delicious treat that the cook gets all to their sneaky self.

Often I'll roast a chicken or joint of pork on top of the veg, that's a real treat. The meat takes on a deep flavour, and the juices in the pan are so rich and delicious, you just pour them over, there's no need to make a sauce.

I've even roasted a load of sausages in among the vegetables, a perfect one pot meal. All it takes is a little peeling and chopping then the oven does the rest.  You can throw in some tomatoes too, they give off their juices and mingle deliciously with the other veg. Fennel softens beautifully, giving off its light, mellow aniseed to the pot and onions turn golden, sticky and sweet.

Use what is available at the time and keep an eye on it while cooking so it doesn't burn. 35-45 minutes at 180c is normally about right, depending on what veg you use. One tip I'd give is to have the more delicate vegetables at the bottom and harder ones such as beetroot, carrots and the like on top.

Drizzle everything in olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Mix through some hardy herbs such as rosemary, sage and bay leaves and finish off with some young thyme and perhaps chilli flakes as it comes out the oven. Put it straight on the table and dig in.

Ça va, mon chou?

IMG_5867Savoy cabbage, quickly cooked, with butter and pepper is pretty good as it is. But if you want to pep it up to serve as a side dish with south-east Asian food it may not quite cut the mustard.

The trick with cabbage is to not cook it for a whole school term. A flash in the pan to soften it is enough, so be careful and be quick. This is fiery and comforting at the same time and goes really well with some steamed fish with lemongrass and lime leaves.

Ingredients 1/2 Savoy cabbage, shredded Coconut oil for frying 2 hot red birdseye chillies, sliced 1tbsp red Thai curry paste 1tbsp dessicated coconut 1tbsp coconut aminos or soy sauce 1tbsp lime juice 100ml coconut cream Salt to season

Method Sauté the cabbage in some coconut oil, letting some of the shreds almost burn. Add as much chilli as you like, my chillies were surprisingly hot, so be careful. Add the curry paste to the pan (home made if you can be bothered) and add a little more coconut oil. Cook for a few minutes, stirring well so it doesn't burn. Pour in the coconut cream and heat through. Tip into a bowl and blowtorch the top of the cabbage if you have one to give it a little bit of a dramatic char. Add a little more sliced red chilli and some hazelnuts sprinkled on top if you fancy, and serve.

Salmon Like It Hot

IMG_5606 That's a whole month now with no carbs or sugar. A whole month. And one that had Easter in it as well. It has been pretty tough watching the children stuffing their faces with chocolate, but I'm not going to give up now. I did have two helpings of coffee ice-cream on Easter Sunday, but I did it for Jesus.

When you are having meals like steak with béarnaise sauce and asparagus, or you can eat your way through a whole spiced roast chicken, there is nothing to complain about. I've eaten out a few times too, and everywhere I went had sweet potato fries on the menu, which meant I didn't sound like a paranoid L.A stereotype when ordering. It seems places are cottoning on and I don't have to go Hunting High and Low for healthy food when socialising. Yes, I saw A-ha this week.

This recipe is made up of simple ingredients and is quick to cook, but is so much more than the sum of its parts. For the salsa verde, there is a recipe here. (Leave out the rapeseed oil if you're doing the Whole 30). There are a few parts to cook, but prepare your pans and it will all come together beautifully. Make the salsa verde beforehand and you can keep it in the fridge for a few days. It's great on scrambled eggs.

Ingredients (for two) 2 salmon steaks, approx 150g each 2tbsp salsa verde 1/2 large bulb of fennel, sliced 1 courgette, diced into 1cm cubes 1 clove of garlic, crushed 1/2 hot red chilli, thinly sliced 1 spring onion, sliced Coconut oil for frying Salt to season

Method Before you start, sprinkle salt over the salmon and leave for 20 minutes so excess moisture is drawn out and the fish is a little firmer. This will also prevent protein leaking out when cooking. Heat a griddle pan until really hot and add a little coconut oil. Grill the fennel until soft and charred, season and set aside. Keep the pan on the heat. Sauté the courgette with the garlic in a little oil in another pan for two minutes, season well and set aside. I like this dish warm, so don't worry about keeping the veg hot. Rinse the salmon and pat dry then cook on the hot griddle for 2-3 minutes on each side, depending on how pink you like it. Divide the courgette between two plates and top with the fennel, salmon, spring onion and chilli. Spoon over the salsa verde and serve.

 

Love and hake

IMG_5354 Still off the carbs and sugar, mealtimes are becoming much more interesting. While I have craved the odd sandwich or snack, and with weekends being particularly tricky with the spaghetti loving children around more, it's not been too difficult to keep on track.

I've realised that we rely so heavily on carbs to fill us up, adding other ingredients to it, rather than focusing on vegetables as the main ingredient and building around that. We've also cut down on salt here, which goes against all my instincts in the kitchen. I'm having to really get as much flavour out of the ingredients as I can through spicing, and sleight of cooking. The jar of powdered dried mushroom now has a place at the front of the shelf.

Still, as I float from room to room rather than bloat my way around, I feel a little lighter physically and a little more excited about fresh ingredients. I do half expect David Attenborough to peek out from behind the vegetation in the fridge at times —I also have crocodile meat in the freezer, so he may well be in there too— such is its lushness.

Apart from the seven hour lamb leg with harissa, rosemary and garlic I cooked on Friday, this week has had a lot of fish in it. Including my favourite pickled herring in dill which is my snack of choice, I've cooked salmon, tuna, prawns and in this recipe, hake. I'm surprised it's not more popular here, it's soft and meaty like cod and has a lovely delicate flavour. It's a winner with coconut and Thai ingredients so please try this. Once you make the paste, which you can keep in an airtight container for a week, this recipe takes about ten minutes. I'm not going to give you a paste recipe here, by all means buy some ready made if you like. I used David Thompson's Panaeng paste recipe, which does involve boiling peanuts for half an hour, but that's up to you. I ate this on my own, by candlelight listening to The Beautiful South, but that, also, is up to you.

Ingredients This is for one person, so just add more veg and fish as you need. Coconut oil for frying (or olive oil if you don't have any) 4tbsp Panaeng curry paste - homemade or bought. I'm sure green curry paste would be as delicious 1 tin coconut milk 125ml water 1/4 savoy cabbage, inner leaves only, shredded 1 small bunch of spring greens, trimmed 2 small hake fillets, total about 180g, salted for five minutes and rinsed Soy sauce and lime juice to taste A pinch of chilli flakes to taste

Method Heat a little coconut oil in a deep, heavy saucepan and fry the paste gently for a few minutes. Add the coconut milk and water then bring to the boil. Now throw in the spring greens and cook for 3-4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the cabbage and cook for a minute, then add the fish, bring to the boil and simmer for 3-4 minutes depending on its thickness. Taste the broth and add lime juice and soy sauce to taste. Spoon the greens into a bowl then add the cabbage and fish. Pour over the broth and finish with chilli flakes.

Miso soup with prawn, scallop and samphire

miso soupThis is one of the simplest and quickest meals you will ever make. And one of the most delicious. To make it work, though, you must get absolutely fresh tiger prawns and plump, large scallops. Don't be tempted to scrimp here, this is such a pure tasting dish and as there are so few ingredients there is nowhere to hide. I don't think you can beat a really good prawn. I prefer them to lobster. Keep the shells and heads in the freezer to use for bisque or stock.  If you're feeling hungry, a small bowl of jasmine rice on the side should satisfy you.

I often will have a cup of miso in the morning, instead of tea or coffee. I feel purified and revitalised when I drink it. Again, buy a good paste, I like to use Clearspring's unpasteurised barley miso, it's organic and has nothing nasty in it. You can keep miso in a sealed jar in the fridge almost indefinitely, so it makes a great staple for when you're stuck. You can add some dried mushrooms to it or some fresh vegetables and you have a nutritious dish in a few minutes.

I eat this more than an hour ago, and I still have flavours coming back to me. Like the best of things, this simple dish has left me wanting to come back for more.

Ingredients (Serves 2) 2 squares of dried kombu seaweed 2 tbsp miso paste 1 tbsp yuzu seasoning (lemon juice will do if you don't have any) 2 large tiger prawns 2 large scallops, coral attached A small handful of samphire 1l water 2 tsp black lumpfish roe (or caviar if you're rich)

Method Soak the kombu in boiling water for about 20 minutes. Sear the scallop on both sides in some hot brown butter, then set aside. Bring the water back up to the boil and add the prawns. Cook for a couple of minutes then add the samphire and yuzu. Stir in the miso paste and make sure it blends in well.

Peel the prawns, leaving the tails on if you like. Cut the seaweed in two and place at the bottom of a warmed shallow bowl. Add the scallops and samphire.

Add a teaspoon of roe on top of the scallop then pour over the hot miso and serve immediately.

Smoked salmon and avocado with chilli tomatoes and chickpea flatbread

breakfastIn 2005 on honeymoon in South America I discovered Heuvos rancheros. To be fair, I didn’t actually discover them, they were on the menu. Corn tortillas with a spicy tomato sauce and soft fried eggs was a real treat. The chilli really gives you a little kick in the morning. I’ve taken that and added it to a classic mix of smoked salmon, avocado and egg and changed the tortilla for chickpea flatbreads to keep the carbs down. They also add a nuttiness to the dish and are quite a bit easier to make. Use as much or as little chilli as you like and make sure the avocados are nice and ripe.

Serves:                                    2 Preparation time:      10 minutes Cooking time:            20 minutes

Ingredients 4 slices smoked salmon 2 eggs Rapeseed oil and a little butter for frying 1 shallot, finely sliced 8 cherry tomatoes, halved 1 avocado, chopped 2 spring onions 2 red chillies, finely sliced ­- I use birdseye, but feel free to use milder juice of half a lemon Salt and pepper to season

For the flatbreads: 100g chickpea flour 2tbsp rapeseed oil 75ml water A large pinch of salt 2tbsp poppy seeds 2tbsp chopped coriander leaf Method 1. Mix the flatbread ingredients together in a bowl until you have quite a loose paste.

  1. Heat a cast iron pan until very hot and add a large spoonful of the paste. When it starts to set, spread it out a little bit until you have a small, thick pancake like bread. Cook the rest of the bread like this and set aside. If you prefer, you can make large ones by adding more of the mix to the pan, gradually adding the paste bit by bit as you spread it out.
  2. Heat some rapeseed oil in a heavy based pan and add the tomatoes, shallots and chilli then season well. Heat for a few minutes until the shallot and tomato begins to soften. Transfer to a bowl and keep warm.
  3. Heat the pan again, adding a little butter and gently fry the eggs on a low heat. Season well.
  4. Put a flatbread on each plate, top with the smoked salmon and avocado then add the tomato mixture. Scatter over the spring onion and coriander leaves and serve.

Cured mullet with pickled radish

pickled relishAt the back of my fridge you’ll find a jar or two of pickled herring from Ikea. I always stock up when I go, it’s the highlight of the trip. I get excited about any food that is cured, pickled, smoked, preserved or fermented and although I don’t need to travel across the desert with nothing but a camel and a bag of dried meat for company, taking a fresh ingredient and through salt or smoke or just air, turning it into something longer lasting makes me feel manly, much like standing around a barbeque.

There is a sharpness to pickled fish that really gives it a zing. Here, I’ve gone for grey mullet rather than the more traditional herring, for the simple reason that my fishmonger didn’t have any. And it was a great success. The radish and cucumber give a great crunch and a slightly Asian feel to the dish and the dill brings it back to its Swedish beginnings.

Serves:                          4 as a starter Preparation time:      10 minutes plus curing Cooking time:             curing and pickling only

Ingredients For the pickled radish: 16 radishes, sliced as thinly as possible 2cm cucumber, sliced as thinly as possible 1 head of Shimeji mushrooms, sliced from the base or 100g button mushrooms 25g xylitol or stevia powder 70ml cider vinegar 1 tbsp Mirin 2 tsp Japanese rice wine A few sprigs of mustard cress 1tsp toasted cumin seeds

For the mullet: 2 mullet fillets (400g) 1 small bunch of dill, chopped 1 shallot, sliced 1tbsp juniper berries, slightly crushed 1tbsp pink peppercorns, slightly crushed 1tsp Szechuan peppercorns 25g salt 25g xylitol or truvia sugar substitute 4 tsp caviar/lumpfish roe

Method 1. Mix together the dill, juniper, shallot, pink and Szechuan peppercorns, salt and xylitol then sprinkle half of this into a shallow baking tray or dish. 2. Lay the mullet fillets on top of the salt mix and cover with the remainder. Wrap in clingfilm and put in the fridge overnight or for at least four hours. 3. An hour before you want to serve, remove the fish from the fridge and rinse well then pat dry with kitchen paper. 4. Mix together the pickled radish ingredients and set aside for 45 minutes. 5. Serve the radish with the mullet and a teaspoon of caviar on each. Serve with a thin slice of toasted rye sourdough.

Nettle and wild garlic pesto with prawns and sweet potato

Nettle prawns Nettles grow like mad this time of year. Now, after many childhood tears, it’s time for revenge.

They have a grassy, earthy flavor that goes well in risotto or soup and if you like spinach, sorrel and other greens, you’ll love nettles. They’re also free, although ridiculously I’ve seen them for sale in a few farmers’ markets. I’ve paired it with wild garlic in this pesto recipe; it’s coming to the end of the season now it’s June so I’m trying to cram it into everything I can, flowers and all. Mix the pesto through pasta, preferably trofie or trenette, serve it with seared tuna and a tomato salad or toss it through buttery new potatoes or cauliflower. Here I’m serving it with some fresh prawns and sweet potato fries. It keeps for a couple of weeks in the fridge, just top it up with oil every so often. Wear a pair of rubber gloves when picking nettles (they lose their sting after boiling for one minute) and if you don’t have any in your garden, try and avoid picking them from areas well used by dog walkers or foxes…

Makes:                          A big tubful Preparation time:      10 minutes Cooking time:            10 minutes

Ingredients 150g stinging nettles 3 cloves of garlic 40g parmesan 180ml rapeseed oil 1 green chilli 100g toasted pine nuts A handful of wild garlic leaves and flowers Salt to season

Rapeseed oil for frying 180g raw, shelled tiger prawns per person 1/3 of a sweet potato each 5cm of cucumber 1 tbsp black sesame seeds 1 tbsp ground turmeric 2 spring onions 2 red birdseye chillies, sliced Juice of a lime

Method 1.  Blanche the nettles in boiling water for one minute, refresh in cold water then pick the leaves and discard the stems.

2.  Add all the ingredients apart from the oil to a food processor and pulse until roughly chopped.

3.  With the machine running, pour in the oil in a steady stream until you have a fairly coarse but loose paste. Check the seasoning and add more salt if needed.

4.  Decant into an airtight jar, pour over some oil and store in the fridge.

For the prawns and sweet potato: 1. Heat about three centimetres of rapeseed oil in a deep, heavy-bottomed pan to about 180c. For each person use about 1/3 of a sweet potato, skin and all, and cut it very finely lengthways into long matchstick chips. I use a mandoline for this with a julienne blade.

2. Fry the potato in the oil and drain on kitchen paper. Season with salt, black sesame seeds and turmeric powder then set aside.

3. Toss some shelled, raw tiger prawns (I use about 180g per person because I’m greedy) in rice flour and fry in batches in the oil until cooked and crisp. Drain on kitchen paper then stir through a couple of tablespoons of the pesto and toss well. Set this aside for a minute too.

4. Salt the cucumber then squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Mix the cucumber, spring onion and red chilli together and season well.

5. Divide the sweet potato between the plates, top with the prawns in pesto and the cucumber mix. Serve immediately with a squeeze of lime juice.

Quick carb-free crab ‘courgetti’

courgetti This is a take on one of my favourite pasta dishes. It’s a great way to cut out carbohydrates if you're on a health kick, and it really stands out as a dish in its own right.

It’s so quick to make, as long as you have a spiralizer. If not, you’ll have to slice the courgettes very finely by hand. I have a small hand-held spiralizer that only cost a few pounds and I highly recommend it.

Use good olive oil, juicy tomatoes and adjust the chilli to your taste. Don’t overdo it though, this is a delicate dish. It also works very well with prawns if you prefer.

Serves: 4 Preparation time: 5 minutes Cooking time: 5 minutes

Ingredients 2 tins of crab 1 large courgette ½ a clove of garlic A large handful of cherry tomatoes Olive oil A pinch of chilli flakes 2 tbsp fresh chives, finely sliced Salt to season

Method

  1. Prepare the courgette and set aside for a minute.
  2. Gently heat the olive oil and add the garlic, then cook for a minute.
  3. Add the courgette, season and toss in the pan for a minute or two, until it starts to soften.
  4. Add the crab, tomatoes and chilli flakes and cook for a further minute to warm through.
  5. Check the seasoning and stir the chives through just before serving with a salad.

Jasmine-cured mackerel fishcakes

IMG_0905

Fishcakes are a great way of either using up fish trimmings or making fish a bit more accesible for the children.

I'm a big fan of Thai fishcakes. Full of zingy flavours, and with their added prawn and no potato they are firm and can be roasted in a little oil or deep fried, as with the traditional British ones. When making the British kind, something that's really important to me is not including too much potato and not making them too large.

This recipe is for fishcakes that are a bit special because they use mackerel that has been cured in sugar, salt and jasmine pearls. These are easily found in supermarkets in the tea section. The fishcakes have turmeric and spices in them to boost the flavour. Increase the quantity to suit your palate; I made these to be very child-friendly. Normally I prefer them with a bit more kick.

Serve with a cucumber and dill mayonnaise or some smoked paprika ketchup.

Serves: 4 Preparation time: 30 minutes Cooking time: 20 minutes

Ingredients 4 fresh mackerel, filleted 4 tbsp of jasmine pearls 4 tbsp caster sugar 4 tbsp salt 4 medium floury potatoes 50g butter, melted 50ml milk 1 tbsp turmeric powder 1 tbsp garam masala 2 tsp ground coriander seeds Salt and pepper to season Flour for dusting

Method 1. Place the fish on a large plate or tray and sprinkle over the jasmine, salt, sugar and a twist of pepper. Make sure all the skin and flesh is covered then wrap in clingfilm and leave to cure in the fridge for at least an hour.

2. Rinse and gently poach the fish in water for about five minutes then remove the skin, flake the fish and set aside to cool.

3. Cook the potatoes until soft and starting to fall apart when you prod them with a knife. Drain and leave to steam dry for a while then mash well with the butter and milk until creamy.

4. Mix together the fish, potato and remaining ingredients and shape into fishcakes.

5. Toss them in flour to dry them out and shallow-fry in vegetable oil (preferably rapeseed) until golden brown, flipping halfway through.

6. Drain on kitchen paper and serve with the mayonnaise and ketchup and a beetroot and chicory salad.