Category Archives: British

Good home cooking

There’s a certain giddiness in the air right now with the arrival of Spring.

Tolstoy describes it as, “the time of plans and projects”.

The author Margaret Attwood goes a step further by saying, “in the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt”

In short, it’s a time of growth, emergence and fresh engagement with life.

I’ve been thinking recently about the idea of the Soul (the identity, the Self, “the spark of the Divine”, or however else you want to define it) and how this is linked to personal growth throughout the seasons.

The poet Rumi describes Spring as: “When ecstasy seems the natural way to be and any other out of tune with the season of Soul growth.”

This idea of careful building, strengthening and nurturing really speaks to me.

In the midst of life’s struggles and confusion the Soul is tough, savvy and self-sufficient and is built entirely out of attentiveness.

Spring is a time of building ourselves up after the winter months.

For me, food and family gatherings are an ideal way to go about this.

This is a recent snap from a birthday gathering in Scotland featuring the very best of comforting home cooked meals from various members of my extended family.

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Clockwise from top left - vegetetarian lasagne, macaroni cheese, salad and crudités, salmon dressed with tomato and lemon, meat lasagne, broccoli with sweet peppers and, finally carrot and coriander soup with sliced sourdough bread

…and that’s only one half of the table.

What to do with left over pancake batter

This is my creative take on using up spelt pancake batter mixture from “pancake day” or Shrove Tuesday as it’s more traditionally known.

Oven baked Vegetable flan

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Ingredients

(For the batter)
100g spelt flour
150 ml almond milk
1 egg, separated (whisk the egg white until fluffy)
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tbsp sesame oil

(For the mixed vegetables)
1 head broccoli, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
65g chickpeas
2 tbsp omega seed mix
50g tofu
100g spring greens with bean sprouts
5 spring onions,  finely chopped
1 tbsp each cumin, coriander and fennel seeds
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
A small bunch of mint leaves, finely chopped.
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 170 C. Mix the batter ingredients together and set aside in an oven dish.
2. For the vegetables, heat the oil in a medium pan over a high heat and fry the broccoli for 5 minutes, turning consistently.
3. Next, add the rest of the vegetables, tofu, garlic and seeds and cook for a further 2 minutes.
4. Combine the vegetables with the batter in the oven dish and bake
for 20 minutes.
5. Serve with a sprinkling of chopped mint leaves.

Veg box delivery services

I was reading recently that sales of Organic food and beverages in Europe and the US are on an upward trend going into 2016. This is great news.

As some of you may know Scotland has some of the best produce in the world – particularly, in my view, when it comes to the organic root vegetables – largely due to the quality of the soils.

With that in mind I’ve been thinking recently about East Coast Organics – the fresh veg box delivery service and farm from Pencaitland in East Lothian, Scotland. They provide us with a fortnightly delivery of the freshest and most delicious vegetables – nothing like the bland, treated stuff you’d buy in supermarkets.

In choosing a well-run service I was inspired by their business model, sourcing and commitment to ethics and sustainability.

Organic vegetable box

Their produce is grown in 10,000 square feet of polytunnels giving the company a wide potential for growing organic vegetables; such as carrots, beetroot, kale, mushrooms, spinach, leeks, garlic, onions and peppers – to name a few.

We always receive always a nice heap of wrinkly biomass with all sorts of earthly surprises – such as the occasional snail nestled in a head of broccoli – or salad leaves which are often “on-the-turn” before we’ve even opened the bag e.g. the lettuce can sometimes be quite mushy – but who cares: it’s only a lettuce!

The carrots and beets are often caked in soil – having been freshly pulled out of Mother earth. Supermarkets in the UK are restricted from selling “wonky carrots” to the consumer due to some harsh EU regulations on vegetables – with the vegetable box this rule simply does not apply. Also, I personally feel much healthier; there’s a certain vitality that comes with knowing that your vegetables haven’t been heavily treated with insecticides.

We do, however, reach a slight saturation point with the amount of potatoes in the veg box each week. I like a variety of carbs during the week and so, although I love roast tatties, it’s not going to fly night after night.

Overall, the service saves time on the ‘big food shop’ for the convenience of home delivery. It also helps to circumnavigate supermarket supply chains which often involve enormous air miles and spoilage.

On that note I’d like to invite you to sign up for a service with East Coast and check it out for yourself.

Autumn reflections – with a comforting hummus dish

I think the Autumnal time of year is a great opportunity to cosy up with friends and family and share food which is a little bit more comforting than we might do in Spring or Summer – foods like mackerel, chicken casserole, spinach, kale, beetroot, pumpkin and other root vegetables (oven-roasted).

Don’t get me wrong; I love the Autumn for what it is, especially the vibrant orange colours of the leaves on  the trees against the dusk skies – see below – and the briskness, crispness and freshness that we experience most mornings in the UK. Autumn skies

I recently posted a blog on how to make homemade falafel and I posted another blog on making your own dips for entertaining a crowd.

The purpose of this blog is to delve, once more, into Middle Eastern cuisine, with a recipe for creamy hummus – something I’ve always found to be a good accompaniment to vegetable or meat dishes.

Homemade courgette (zucchini) hummus with spices

Grilled courgette (zucchini)

Grilled courgette (zucchini)

I was fumbling around in the vegetable box receently thinking what might make a decent hummus recipe. Courgette’s (Zucchini) are one of my favourite vegetables and are pretty versatile – so I settled with that.

Grilled, fried or roasted, the courgette is blitzed in a food processor with chickpeas (garbanzo beans), aduki beans, fresh garlic, tahini (sesame paste), lemon juice, herbs, spices and extra-virgin olive oil.

It can be eaten hot or cold.

You can use it as a dip for pitta bread, spread it on a wrap or pair it with roasted vegetables and any meat dish.

Hummus complete

Hummus

It’s gluten-free, low-carb and vegan friendly. Nutritionally, it also has a decent amount of protein and fibre.

Ingredients

Chickpeas (garnazo beans), aduki beans and tahini

Chickpeas (garnazo beans), aduki beans and tahini

  • 1 courgette (Zucchini) – grilled, fried or roasted
  • 400g can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained
  • 400g can aduki beans, drained
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 4 tbsp tahini (sesame paste)
  • ½ tsp salt, more to taste
  • ½ tsp cracked pepper

    Ingredients for hummus (clockwise from top - chickpeas and aduki beans, courgette, spices, lemon, garlic and coriander leaf)

    Ingredients for hummus (clockwise from top – chickpeas and aduki beans, courgette, spices, lemon, garlic and coriander leaf)

  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 4 tbsp coriander or more fresh herbs
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

 Directions

  • Cut courgette into ½ inch thick strips, brush with a little olive oil and grill on medium heat until charred and tender.
  • (Alternately courgette may be roasted in the oven until tender. If you have very large zucchini with thick skin, you can half it lengthwise, roast in the oven and then scoop out the flesh, leaving the skin out, if necessary)
  • Place the grilled courgette along with the rest of the ingredients (except the oil, coriander herb and 2 tbsp of the chickpeas and aduki beans) in a food processor, and puree until relatively smooth.
  • Serve it in a bowl, making a little circular “well” using a spoon, and drizzle a little olive oil in the well.
  • Garnish with the 2 tbsp chickpeas and aduki beans and mix in the coriander herb.
  • Serve either warm or chilled.
Blitz hummus

Blitz hummus

Blitzed with coriander

Hummus blitzed with coriander

 

Cauliflower cous cous

It’s funny how some foods are being repurposed nowadays to appear to be something they’re clearly not. The latest such innovation to catch my eye is this “copycat” cous cous recipe.

Cauliflower cous cous

Cauliflower cous cous

Cauliflower cous cous processor

Pulsed

OK – so it’s not actually cous-cous, which is traditionally made from steamed and dried durum wheat (and it’s not comfort food), but it is very tasty fried with a little butter or olive oil and garlic. It’s also a versatile lunch box option and the texture is almost spot on when comparing it to the real grain.

For me, cauliflower is a mainstay in our household. I love roasting it in oil and salt, which really brings out the flavour, but it’s interesting to try something different; I just never thought it would involve using a cheese grater or food processor (see right).

In the recipe below I’ve paired the cous cous with rice, quinoa and herbs into a sort of pilau.

Nuts, seeds (sesame, pumpkin, linseeds) are entirely optional, as is serving alongside a meat-based main like chicken, lamb or pork.

I hope you enjoy.

Ingredients

Serves 3 – 4

  • 1 head cauliflower, any size
  • 1tbsp olive oil or butter
  • 100g brown basmati rice
  • 100g quinoa
  • 500ml chicken or vegetable stock
  • 75g flat leaf parsley or coriander

Directions

  • Add the rice, quinoa and stock to a medium pan and bring to the boil. Reduce to a slight simmer and then cover with a lid and cook for 12-15 mins or until both are soft.
  • Meanwhile, cut the head of the raw cauliflower into quarters, then trim out the inner core from each quarter. Break apart the cauliflower into large Cauliflower cous cous blitzedflorets with your Cauliflower cous cous processed
    hands. If the core is tender, you can chip it into pieces and add it with the florets.
  • Transfer the cauliflower to a food processor and pulse the cauliflower until completely broken down. It’s best to do this in 1-2 second bursts until it appears “grainy” (Alternatively, grate the florets on the large holes of a box grater.)
  • Transfer the cauliflower couscous to another container and re-process any large pieces.
  • Cauliflower couscous can be used raw, which retains the texture,or it can be cooked: Cooking makes the cauliflower more tender and rice-like.
  • Warm a tablespoon of olive oil or butter in a large wide-based pan over medium heat. Stir for around 3 – 4 minutes then combine in a serving dish with the cooked rice and quinoa.

 

 

 

Warm new potato and mackerel salad recipe

I’ve featured mackerel a few times on this blog – only because I love it and because it’s such a nutritious source of food; packed with protein, vitamin D, selenium, niacin (vitamin B3) and vitamin B12.

This recipe provides good all-round combination of energy, texture and flavour. I love the warm and waxy new potatoes, the crunch of the gem lettuce, the slight acidity of the red onions and the saltiness of the smoked mackerel.

Bon Appetite!

Grilled mackerel, red onion and potato salad

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 200g new potatoes
  • 2 smoked mackerel fillets (about 200g weight; skinned and flaked)
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 baby gem lettuce, chopped
  • a small handful of dill or chives, chopped

Directions

  • Cook the potatoes in a large pan of boiling salted water for 15-20 minutes or until tender.
  • While the potatoes are cooking, mix the red onion with the lemon and add small a pinch of salt. This helps to tenderise the red onion.
  • Drain the potatoes, halve and set aside to cool down for a few minutes.
  • Add the smoked mackerel and gem lettuce to a serving bowl and toss gently together. Then add the new potatoes with the olive oil, red onion (including the lemon juice) and dill. 
  • Toss together to mix thoroughly.
  • Pile on two plates and serve warm.

Summer canapes

A few months ago I published a blog on “entertaining a crowd” which focused on a variety of dips for canapes / appetisers. I’ve decided to revisit this subject – this time focusing on something a bit different.

What comes to mind when you think of “Canape” ?

For me, it brings to mind large prissy platters at fancy parties that quite simply overdo things – like thinly sliced carpaccio of beef with quail’s eggs or weird shot glasses filled with foam – who has the time for that?

Well, I like to keep things simple.

The Recipes

These recipes are great for appetisers, breakfast, brunch, lunch or just as a snack or appetizer. All you need is any type of crisp bread, flat bread (e.g. pitta), oatcake, sliced baguette, crackers or you could use a pizza base, sliced into bite-sized portions, toasted, fried or grilled until crispy and topped with the ingredients.

Once assembled all that’s required is a quick drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.

Flaked salmon crisp breads

I’ve used Peter’s Yard rye flour crisp breads for this recipe. Utterly delicious.

Salmon

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 200g hot smoked salmon, flaked
  • 4 – 6 Peter’s Yard crisp breads
  • 1/2 lemon, zest and juice
  • extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  • Arrange the crisp breads into “half moon” shapes and top with the salmon.
  • Drizzle over the lemon juice/zest, olive oil.
  • Serve on a plate in the sunshine!

“Tricolour crisp breads” of tomato, basil and mozzarella

You can grill these crisp breads for a couple of minutes to warm and soften tomatoes and mozzarella.

Tri colour crisp breads

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 6-8 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 100g mozzarella cheese, sliced into small chunks
  • a handful of fresh basil, torn
  • 4 – 6 crisp breads
  • extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  • Brush the tops of each crisp bread with olive oil.
  • In a medium bowl, toss tomatoes, olive oil and mozzarella cheese, salt and pepper together until combined.
  • Drizzle each crisp bread with a little olive oil. Sprinkle with chopped basil. Serve.

(For grilling)

  • Heat the grill to a medium-high heat and grill the crisp breads, on a heat-proof tray, for 2-3 minutes . Serve.

Crackers and Camembert

An old classic. Slightly less colourful than the previous recipes but just as appealing.

Crackers and Camembert

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 round of Camembert (you can also use Brie), sliced into chunks
  • 6-8 crackers
  • Butter, for spreading

Directions

  • Spread each cracker with butter and top with cheese.