We found ourselves in the garden centre again the other day. A weekday and all. We passed through aisles of green and shelves trailing leaves and branches like lazy octopi.I bought a tarragon plant and a gooseberry bush, spurred on by the constant disappointment on the supermarkets shelves. I'll leave the tarragon a while to get established, unlike the parsley which I have had to plant a few extra pots of. We seem to use a lot in this house and the poor little things can't keep up.As for the gooseberries, those furry little fruits that seemed to be a permanent fixture of my late childhood summers, I shall, with hope and care, now have my own supply. And each year, when the season dawns, I'll be able to have the simple joy of having grown my own sour little bombs of flavour. They are so good turned into a sauce with mackerel.It dawned on me, as I eyed the cakes and considered a nice sit down and a cup of tea, that perhaps I'm not freelance, I'm retired. It'll be a tartan shopping trolley in the supermarket, grey slip-ons and annoying everyone by travelling to leisure activities at peak time on the commuter trains next.Or not. Life, after all, is about balance. And the joys of the garden, especially this time of year, when every day brings a surprising new burst of colour somewhere, have given me a new pastime. One that appeals to my inate talent of 'pottering' about. A place of calm in the morning before a busy day, or a place of contemplation and unwinding after one, as you walk around with a drink in one hand and the hose in the other. However, I can see the amount of greenfly attacking the rosebuds may lead to swearing in a quiet corner, out of earshot of the children.And talking of Ying and yang, there is the heavenly balance when startlingly sour meets incredibly sweet: a sweet spot. Just the hint of something on the edge of tartness, almost mouth puckering but not quite. Rhubarb is the king of this. Perhaps it's just me, but that feeling of being just on the edge, when chillies in a curry are almost unbearable, when bitterness is almost too much in a sour cherry tangfastic, when lemon juice or vinegar just hits the acidic edge in a vinaigrette is where the flavour is at its best. It's almost thrilling to be there.But this is only a drink, so we'll stop with all that. There comes a point in life when you have bought too much rhubarb and you have to hold back. And you can't -- although Noah would vehemently oppose this heretical idea -- have crumble every day. So to use the remaining spears, I've made this rhubarbade. It's delicious and makes a refreshing change from the lime and mint I love, or the cider vinegar and honey tonic I make. This vivid pink rhubarb at the height of its season is a real highlight of the year so get it while you can, and get it into as much as you can.Ingredients500g rhubarb500ml water50g maple syrup50g grated ginger (this helps bring out the flavour of the rhubarb, not that it needs help)1tsp citric acidJuice of a lemonMethodBring the ingredients to a boil in a saucepan and reduce to a simmer for about ten minutes. Leave to cool completely then strain into a bottle and chill.Dilute with sparkling water to serve, adding a sprig or two of mint if you like.
It's normally always there, lingering in the back of the cupboard, the lid slightly encrusted with a beige residue and the oil separated from the paste, sitting on top in a questionable pool. Then there is a fight to get the near solidified clay out of the bottom and not bend the spoon. And that's all before you discover you haven't got a tin of chickpeas anyway so have to go to the shop. Again.But fear not! This homemade tahini will save the day. And if there's ever a houmous crisis in the shops again, you can whip up your own in a jiffy. And then you can put it in a jar in the fridge and the whole family dip a carrot stick in it for lunch on Saturday then forget about it until you throw it away a week later as you wonder why you bother.Of course, this all depends on you having a bag of sesame seeds in the cupboard. I'd suggest that it is a staple worth having, and really, it's nicer making your own tahini anyway. It just (as with most things that are freshly made) tastes so much better. And you know it only has what you put in it in it.MethodTo make a jam jar sized amount of fresh tahini, sprinkle sesame seeds all over an oven tray, you can be very generous. Heat the oven to 180c and roast the seeds until they start to colour a little and toast. Stir them round occasionally so they don't burn.Leave to cool a little then put in the food processor and blitz until you have a crumbly mix. Slowly add in some neutral oil, such as groundnut or rapeseed and keep blending until you have a creamy paste. Transfer to a jar and keep in the fridge.Apart from houmous -- which I would recommend making using dried chickpeas for a better finished dish, but, if you only have tinned I'm not going to judge you -- tahini can be used in dressings, sauces with some yoghurt, drizzled over roast carrots or even put into ice cream. And what's more, there's a little more cupboard space and the satisfaction of the homemade.
Throwing 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.
My grandparent's kitchen in Newcastle was either full of cigarette smoke, the smell of Craster kippers being cooked for breakfast or a big Sunday roast being cooked while a Sarah Lee frozen chocolate gateaux defrosted on the side.Read More
New season English asparagus traditionally starts on St. George's Day. Enjoy them at their best during the short season and treat them simply.Read More
Savoy 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.Ingredients1/2 Savoy cabbage, shreddedCoconut oil for frying2 hot red birdseye chillies, sliced1tbsp red Thai curry paste1tbsp dessicated coconut1tbsp coconut aminos or soy sauce1tbsp lime juice100ml coconut creamSalt to seasonMethodSauté 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.
We have a few jars of various powders on the kitchen shelf that promise us eternal life. They contain about a thousand tons of kale and everything else too. They're great in our morning nutribullets. They are, however, expensive.We also have a permanent collection of avocados in the fruit bowl. They are replaced with fresh ones, obviously, but they come with a free stone inside. Over the week, these build up into a pile, albeit one that rolls about the place, and as I won't be creating an avocado farm in the garden, I roasted them this afternoon for about an hour and then pulverised them in the blender.Apparently the stones have more nutrients in them than the avocado itself and will also guarantee eternal life. Maybe I'll be able to keep my band on the road until we're in our hundreds as well. I'd have to get it back together though. We were called 44 stone after our combined weight. As Bee says, if we reform, we may have to up that number...You can dry the stones out on the window sill for a week or two before blending if you prefer, but roasting does help bring out the nuttiness. 160c is hot enough. Blitz them into a powder then store in a jar, adding a tablespoon to your smoothies or sauces as you want.
If you're getting a bit fed up of sweet potato fries, or are avoiding potatoes in general, these carrots are a great alternative. I'd choose them over fries nine times out of ten anyway, they're so good. I'd love to have a Josper grill at home, just so i could call these Josper Carrots, but that would be a step too far.I've made them many times before, each time just throwing in what spices took my fancy. This time, I just used the ones left out from last night's curry. Use what you feel like, and to be honest, they also taste great with bought curry powder.
No matter how worthy your diet, how well one can live on hemp and lentils, even hippies want a sweet snack every now and then.We've got a few 'nakd' bars in the cupboard for snacks but of late these have been relegated to the back for emergency use only. I've started to make my own in the Nutribullet and they're easy as well as being customisable to whatever ingredients, shape and size you can reasonably buy and make.These are quite addictive and it's easy to demolish the whole thing in one go, but while they're pure and healthy, it's probably not a good idea to do so. I have no idea what that many dates will do to your system in one go.If you don't have a Nutribullet, use a food processor or blender. Failing that, chop everything by hand. It's probably better to use a knife though.Ingredients (for one large bar)Equal amounts of:whole skin-on almondspitted datesraisinsapricots (the dark, sun-dried type, not the bright orange ones if possible)2tbsp raw cacao nibs1tbsp sunflower seeds1tbsp supergreens powder (I use Bioglan)1tbsp bee pollenA handful of dessicated coconutMethodBlitz half the almonds to a powder then add half of the remaining ingredients and pulse until well combined. You may need to stop and shake it up a bit.Empty the container into a large bowl and repeat with the remaining ingredients.Tip this into the same bowl and mix everything well by hand. Shape into one or two bars, squares or balls as you prefer and wrap well in clingfilm or put in an airtight container.Put in the fridge to firm. I keep them in there anyway, I like them better slightly chilled.You can vary the ingredients as you like, cashew nuts work well as does adding orange zest, vanilla seeds, fennel seeds for suprise and even chilli flakes. I'm tempted by the thought of covering them in melted chocolate, but that will have to wait a while.
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 each2tbsp salsa verde1/2 large bulb of fennel, sliced1 courgette, diced into 1cm cubes1 clove of garlic, crushed1/2 hot red chilli, thinly sliced1 spring onion, slicedCoconut oil for fryingSalt to seasonMethodBefore 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.
Another carb-free week goes by and I'm fine. I don't miss bread as much as I thought. Basmati rice though, is a little harder to give up, we had lunch at Lahore Karai in Tooting the other day and the children tucked into a big plate of it without loosening their belts.This week I've made a few dishes that are more springlike. A confit tuna Niçoise, a spring minestrone, smoked salmon with avocado and eggs, and a light spinach and apple soup among other things.Last night though, with a breaking boiler and the cold weather still biting, we fancied something cosy and comforting: risotto. Rice is out of the question, but I've been using buckwheat a lot recently. I used buckwheat flour to make the children galettes the other day for lunch and I also used it to make soba noodles to go in a prawn and tofu miso soup. In the past I've toasted it in a frying pan before cooking it, making kasha to serve with salmon steaks. So I used it in place of my favourite Vialone Nano rice to make this simple mushroom 'risotto'.IngredientsFor two150g buckwheat1 small onion, chopped1 clove of garlic, crushed1tbsp powdered, dried porcini mushrooms (you can make your own in a grinder)150g chestnut mushrooms, sliced400ml chicken or vegetable stock. I used homemade chicken stock.Olive oilSalt and pepper2tbsp butterGrated parmesanChopped parsley to serveMethodSauté the mushrooms in a little oil and set aside.Heat some oil in a saucepan and add the onion and buckwheat. Cook for a few minutes until the onion is translucent and the grains are beginning to toast a little.Add the garlic, mushroom powder, season a little and stir well.Add a ladleful of the stock to the pan and stir well. Turn the heat down to a simmer and let the buckwheat absorb the liquid before adding the next. Keep on doing this until the stock is finished or the buckwheat is soft, but with a little bite.Add the cooked mushrooms and stir.Now for the 'mantecatura'. Add the butter and Parmesan and vigorously shake the pan while stirring with a wooden spoon. Put a lid on and leave to rest for a few minutes. Stir through some chopped parsley and serve with more Parmesan.
About an hour after I've had my jasmine tea in the morning, I'm ready for breakfast, which almost every morning is a Nutribullet smoothie.Usually I will start with a base of kale or other greens then add a little fruit or avocado, some coyo yoghurt, and top it up with almond milk and various ground things from mysterious containers. (Actually, they're all labelled, so there's no real mystery).This morning though, I was distracted. No hemp seeds, no flax seed, no greens. Mainly berries. And that's fine every now and then. It was much like a fruit ice-cream milkshake, and that's a pretty good way to start any day.Fortunately I have a few boxes of Bioglan superfood powders on the shelf. A tablespoon of the supergreens one went in. A quick fix. I can steam the greens later with some garlic, chilli and ginger and have them with lunch.Ingredients for two1 large or two small bananasA large handful of frozen berries (I used a mix of raspberries, blackberries, redcurrants and blackcurrants)1tbsp PB2 powdered peanut butter (amazing stuff- goes great with bananas)1tbsp Bioglan supergreens powder, we got ours on Ocado (if you don't have this, I would recommend it. Along with hemp powder, flax seed, chia seeds and all those things you can get in the health food shop and many supermarkets now)1tsp raw cocoa nibs1tsp turmeric (fresh preferably, but I only had extract and powdered on my shelf)Almond milk, fill up to the line, otherwise enough for two glasses (unsweetened and preferably with a high almond content)MethodBlend it all together until smooth. Couldn't be simpler. If you don't have a Nutribullet, a normal blender should do the job.
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.IngredientsThis 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 delicious1 tin coconut milk125ml water1/4 savoy cabbage, inner leaves only, shredded1 small bunch of spring greens, trimmed2 small hake fillets, total about 180g, salted for five minutes and rinsedSoy sauce and lime juice to tasteA pinch of chilli flakes to tasteMethodHeat 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.
I tend to start every morning with a Nutribullet smoothie. I was never a great breakfast eater, but this has proven an easy way for me to get the day off to a good start. Some combinations have been less successful than others, but one thing I find is using frozen fruit makes even the greenest vegetable drink taste delicious. Just blitz all the ingredients together and drink immediately.This morning's ingredients:1 bananaA handful of kale1tbsp goji berries1 tsp vanilla extract3 tbsp porridge oats2 tbsp sunflower seeds2 tbsp chia seeds1tbsp raw cocoa nibs1 tbsp turmeric powderA large handful of frozen mango, melon and pineapple piecesAlmond milk
A good kebab is a great thing. It’s almost the ultimate in balanced meals with the meat, salad, vegetables and carbohydrates. It can either soak up a night’s excesses or remind you of long summer lunches in Greece or Turkey, surrounded by the chargrills and their mouthwatering aromas.Cooking over coals or wood gives the meat such tenderness and depth of flavour and certainly appeals to my inner Neanderthal.The best way to cook this, then, is over flames. However, if it’s the height of the English summer and you have to cook inside, grill them on the highest heat possible and that should do.Prep: 25-30 mins (15-20 if using minced meat)Serves: 4Ingredients300g rib-eye steak300g osso bucco1 tsp white peppercorns1tbsp cumin seeds1tbsp coriander seeds1 tsp dried mint½ tsp smoked paprika1 tsp za’atar1 tsp chilli powder1 tbsp puréed garlic1 tbsp puréed ginger½ red onion, finely dicedA handful of breadcrumbs1 eggA squeeze of lemon juiceMethodSlice the meat as finely as you can, or if you haven’t the time, get your butcher to mince it for you. The texture won't be as good, but the end result will still be delicious.Squeeze out the bone marrow from the osso bucco and add with the sliced meat to a large mixing bowl.Toast the peppercorns, cumin and coriander in a dry frying pan until they start to release their aroma, then transfer to a spice grinder or pestle and mortar and process to a fine powder.Add the ground spices along with the rest of the ingredients to the meat, season well and mix thoroughly until everything is incorporated without it becoming to slushy.Shape the mixture into sausage shapes around metal skewers and grill on a high heat, turning occasionally, for five to ten minutes, depending on how thick you have made them.Tonight, I’m serving these with a carrot, cumin and dried mint yoghurt and a simple salad.Feel free to add flatbreads, but as I’m currently going low carb in a bid to look 20 again, not for me this time…
I love meatballs more than almost anything in the world. It's hard to beat a bowl of them served with spaghetti, but for this version I thought I'd make a healthier dish (with lower carbs) by substituting spaghetti for ribbons of courgette.This dish works really well - in fact, these are the best meatballs I've made - and we'll certainly be having it again soon.Makes more meatballs than you need for 2, or freeze the remainder once cooked.For the meatballs:1 pack of beef mince1 egg1 small jar of 'Sofrito' (or make your own by sweating a chopped carrot with chopped celery, chopped onion and salt)Large handful of dried breadcrumbs2 sprigs of chopped rosemarySeason well, mix well, form into balls and refrigerate for 30 mins.Fry in batches and set aside.For the sauce:Sauté an onion with some garlic in olive oil and as many hot chillies as you fancy. (I used four). Season, then add a tin of tomatoes and some oregano. Add a pinch of sugar and simmer for 20 mins or until thickened.Add the meatballs and heat through.For the courgette:Thinly slice the courgette lengthwise into spaghetti strips. Blanch for 20 secs in boiling water, then briefly sauté in chopped garlic.Season well and serve with meatballs and sauce, sprinkled with parmesan to taste.