I had a couple of packets of baby turnips in the fridge. I always struggle with them, as in, what is their point? I've always thought of them as a bulbous, soft crunch of flavourlesness. A little like eating a toasted tennis ball.To give them a chance, I threw some of my favourite flavours at them, knowing that whatever I did would be an improvement. It's hard to improve upon slowly caramelised onions, and the thought of draping them over the turnips once they had been roasted in some chilli oil was enough to get the oven on first thing this morning.Three quarters of an hour later and I had a delicious mid-morning snack with enough chilli punch in it to finally get the day going after having survived my children's joint birthday party with no fatalities and I think all children safely returned. We may yet find one or two in the bushes.So turnips are safe, for now. This would make a splendid accompaniment to spatchcocked, grilled tandoori-spiced chicken or roast coriander and cumin slow-roast lamb shoulder. Now there's an idea for next weekend.Ingredients:A few packs of baby turnips2tbsp chilli oil1tbsp chilli flakes1/2 white onion1/2tsp ground coriander1/2tsp ground cumin1/2tsp ground turmeric1tsp ghee or vegetable oilSalt and pepper to seasonMethod:Heat the oven to 180c and roast the turnips, drizzled with the chilli oil for about 45 minutes.While they are cooking, finely slice the onion and slowly sauté in the ghee with the spices and a little seasoning. Cook slowly until they are golden and starting to ever so slightly caramelise.Spoon over the turnips, drizzle with a little more chilli oil and scatter with chilli flakes.Serve immediately, being careful to not burn your tongue on the onions like I did.
It's a short-lived season, much like the elderflowers that grow at the bottom of the garden, but it's one, rather like the flowering of the magnolia tree, that brings me great happiness. In the past, I have tended to use wild garlic only for a risotto. Failing that, I just lie face down among the leaves and breathe deeply, occasionally chomping on a flower like a demented Eeyore.Summer is here more or less and the cupboards and fridge groans with colour and often fruit flies if I'm forgetful. It's the season that makes cooking easy. When you've got such fresh and vibrant ingredients readily available, if not in your garden then on your greengrocers shelves and market stalls, meals can be put together in hardly any time and with the minimum of fuss.This morning, I popped into my in-laws for a cup of coffee after taking the children to school and returned home with a bag full of snails, ladybirds, a bit of a slug and some other unidentified black dots with legs. Among the wildlife, I managed to fit in a few bunches of wild garlic leaves and the seed pods, I've missed the flowers this year.After a good wash of both the leaves and me (I feel I still have an insect or two lurking somewhere about my person), I quickly pulsed them in the processor and set about this dish with the enthusiastic thought of lunch. Feel free to replace the haddock with clams or perhaps monkfish.. It's just what I had in the fridge. And if you don't have any lapsang, just a little vegetable stock will work just as well.Ingredients20 wild garlic leaves50-75ml olive oil1tsp fennel seedsA small handful of pistachios2tbsp lemon juiceOne and a half small red onions, finely slicedOne celery stick, finely dicedSome thymeA spoonful of butterA handful of pearl barleyA mug of lightly brewed and strained lapsang suchong tea200g haddock, in chunksSalt to tasteA pinch of chilli flakesSome lemon zestA few fennel fronds if you have themMethodPulse the leaves, oil, fennel seeds, pistachios, oil and lemon juice together until you have a coarse paste. Taste and season if needed.Melt the butter in a saucepan and add 3/4 of the onion, thyme and the celery. Cook until softened, season and add the pearl barley. Cook for a minute or two before adding the lapsang then simmer for about 10-15 minutes until cooked, but with bite.Add the fish and cook gently for about three to four minutes.Remove the fish from the pan and stir through a little of the pesto and the remaining red onion. Serve the barley with the fish, a drizzle more of the pesto, the chilli flakes, lemon zest and fennel.
You can't really go wrong with caper butter and fish.Read More
On Thursday night we went out for my birthday supper at Olivio Carne, the sister to what is pretty much my favourite restaurant in London (Olivio near Victoria station) and I had pasta for the first time in nearly two months. My new rule is that food like that has to be worth it. And it was. A beautiful wild boar pappardelle. I also had plenty of Kate's duck ragù just to help her out.I've been wondering how to recreate one of my favourite dishes, ravioli con burro e salvia without pasta while I've been avoiding carbs. My new rules are that it's fine to occasionally eat what you want, and to not make sugar and wheat part of my daily diet. There seemed, after thinking about it, little point in trying to recreate ravioli, so here's a new dish based on those flavours.Leek is nature's cannelloni. And with this, instead of the traditional sage infused butter, a creamy sauce seemed a good idea. And to keep it dairy and wheat free meant almond milk and tapioca starch, so it's also gluten free. And vegan. And paleo. And Whole 30. It also dances the can-can for you while singing the Nessun Dorma. This should win awards for the most inclusive dish in the world. Unless you are allergic to nuts. Leave them out if you are. Unless you like risk.It's quite straightforward to make, once you get everything together. Just try not to spill double the amount of tapioca you need into the saucepan. This is very upsetting and can lead to a bit of a strop.Ingredients for two people as a starterFor the filling:420g roast butternut squash or pumpkin, diced40g almonds, skin on, chopped a little1 large clove of garlic, smashedA few young thyme sprigs1tbsp shiitake mushroom powder (optional)Pinch of chilli flakesA big squeeze of lemon juicesalt and pepperOlive oilFor the sauce:1 leek, light green part, pushed into tubesA large handful of sage leaves, shredded3tbsp Olive oilThin bits of middle of the leek, finely sliced300ml Almond milk1 1/2tbsp Tapioca starchSaltShredded sage leaves, chopped toasted almonds and dried borage flowers to serve, if you have them on the shelf in a jar and keep wondering what to do with them.MethodRoast the filling ingredients (apart from the lemon juice) at 200c for 25-30 mins, until soft and golden then leave to cool before adding the lemon juice and blitzing until smooth (but not too smooth) in a food processor then put in a bowl. Taste it and adjust the lemon juice and seasoning if necessary.Cut the dark green and white parts off the leek and use for stock. Or, do what I did and forget about them in the back of the fridge then throw them away.Push out the inner tubes of the leek, leaving you with about six of the large outer tubes. Slice the inner ones then sauté them until soft in good olive oil, with sage and then season and transfer to a bowl. Add the almond milk and tapioca to the pan, heat and whisk until you have an emulsion as thick as double cream. Add the leek and sage mixture and leave to infuse for ten minutes before removing the sage stalks and blitzing the sauce in the food processor. If you prefer, you can leave it unblitzed, but I prefer it smooth.Stuff the leek tubes with the filling and cook gently in a little olive oil until soft. Turning occasionally and carefully. Chop some toasted almonds and get the sauce warmed.Put the sauce on plates, top with the leek then sprinkle over the almonds, sage leaves and borage flowers if using. Blowtorch the leek if you're feeling fancy. Finish with a drizzle of excellent olive oil and serve.