The results came in as follows:Noah loved it and had more, so I won the carrot halwa war that no one else was fighting.Maya spat hers out in the bin and asked for a yoghurt instead.Read More
I've been a little less than enthusiastic about cooking the past week. It happens every now and then. Coming up every day with something exciting to eat for supper can be a train that runs out of steam occasionally. Getting back late from shoots and peering into an uninspiring fridge means we've also eaten out and had takeaway more than usual recently.Mostly, I'm up to the challenge and will happily cook a quick prawn curry, a risotto or simple pasta with salad. Last week even that was beyond me. It happens. Perhaps it's the laziness of summer, the thought of holidays and eating lunches by the water's edge, white linen tablecloths and the clinking of ice in glasses. But last night, I roused myself from my torpor and cooked a simple steak with asparagus and baby potatoes with chive butter. There was a delicious tomato salad with balsamic on the side and a bowl of green leaves, lightly dressed with vinaigrette to cut through. It was lovely.But the most delicious part of it was the final potato, crushed into the buttery juices of the steak, mopping up the mustard and melting into my mouth. That alone would have made a great dish.Today, with a little more time I'm making a carrot salad for lunch. I've jazzed it up with some fun ingredients. It's worth every now and then going out of your way to buy strange things such as cucamelons or shiso leaves, it adds a little wow factor. Just buy or grow what you can and have fun, remembering to use good things simply. They often speak for themselves.This salads simplicity, colourfulness and delicacy is just as exciting to look at as it is fresh, delicious and healthy to eat. If you don't like anchovy, leave them out of the mayonnaise, but they are a taste worth acquiring.IngredientsFor the cumin oil:100ml olive oil2tbsp cumin seedsFor the aioli:1 egg1 anchovy, chopped1 small clove of garlic, crushed1tsp Dijon mustardOlive oilFor the salad:A bunch of baby carrots, a mix of purple, yellow and orangeA handful of pea shootsA handful of fresh peasA punnet of cucamelons, halved, if you can get them (I use Mash Purveyors), if not, some chopped cucumberShiso leaves and flowers (Use mint leaves if unavailable)A head of fennel seeds just starting to flower, otherwise dried ones are fineSome carrot leavesMethodMake the cumin oil first. Heat a small pan with the olive oil and add the cumin seeds. Heat until the cumin becomes aromatic, then turn off the heat and leave to cool.Make the aioli. I use a jam jar as I find it emulsifies a little easier than whisking in a bowl. Blend together the mustard, anchovy, garlic and yolk and slowly drizzle in the oil, drop by drop at first, whisking all the time until you have a thick sauce. Keep going until you have half a jarful. This keeps in the fridge for a couple of days.Thinly slice the carrots and pile up on a plate with the other ingredients. Drizzle over the cooled cumin oil and serve with the aioli.
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.
I think it far better to buy a whole good chicken and roast it all than buy expensive packaged bits. At the very least you can make a really good chicken stock, let alone all the other dishes you can get from one bird. Try making three meals from two chicken breasts. Good luck.Chicken soup is one of my top five dishes and if I don’t have the time one week to make stock, I just freeze the roasted bones for later. We used this as the base for Ramen last week.This dish is so tasty and its simplicity is really rewarding. Slowly coking the leeks in butter makes them melting and rich, really comforting with the mash.Ingredients2kg whole chicken stuffed with onion, lemon and rosemary or tarragon. Season well1 large leek, slicedA handful of petits pois1tbsp fennel seeds2tbsp butter and a dash of olive oil2 large baking potatoesMethodRoast the chicken until the juices run clear and leave to rest, covered, for about 20 minutes.While roasting, chop and boil the potatoes until soft, drain and leave to steam dry.Slowly cook the leeks in a large sauté pan with the butter, oil and fennel seeds, Season well with salt. Cover with a circle of parchment and leave on a low heat for about half an hour, stirring occasionally. Add the peas and cook for a few minutes. Add a couple of tablespoons of cream and check the seasoning.To make the perfect mashed potato, heat some cream, butter and milk in the pan the potatoes were cooked in. About 350ml in this case. Season well and add the potatoes. I leave the skins on for cooking and mashing for a better flavour, but feel free to peel them if you prefer. Mash them well and keep warm. If you want a really smooth mash, put them through a ricer before adding to the liquid.Carve the chicken, I always go for the leg and thigh, and serve on top of the mash and leeks. Pour over some of the roasting juices, add a sprinkle of parsley and serve with wholegrain mustard.