Salmon with Pickled Cucumber

Salmon and Pickled Cucumber

I was asked recently for more supper recipes, easy, quick, everyday numbers to resolve that daily dilemma, what are we going to eat tonight?    Several ideas came to mind but this is the one I was cooking that night for supper and in itself presented me with a problem.  Could I actually offer this up as a recipe?  As you will see it contains very few ingredients and furthermore part of it is from a recipe I created last year, the Herby Ricotta with Pickled Cucumber (September 2014).   Surely no one needs the suggestion of salmon for supper but maybe the pickled cucumber is a bit of a departure?  Indeed the crunchy, sweet and sour elements of this go splendidly with the rich, oily salmon, quite a partnership.  Anyway I dithered for a bit before realising how mad I sound.  Get ahold of yourself I said.  This is not a dilemma, choosing names for your children, deciding which house to buy, what career to pursue – these could all be considered dilemmas but not whether this can be justified as a recipe or not.

That it is unbelievably quick and easy is hardly a problem; nor that it requires a shopping list you could probably fit on a stamp;  most crucially it is extremely good and of course, good for you.  If you aren’t a carbo phobe it goes perfectly with glorious, fudgy Jersey royals and a big green salad, heavy on the fresh mint, would also be just the ticket, a fab supper.

Salmon with Pickled Cucumber

I made extra of this last week and had it cold for my lunch the next day.  I ate it with a salad but couldn’t help thinking it would also make a stellar filling for a sandwich.

2 salmon fillets

1 teaspoon olive oil

A couple of chives, finely chopped

Half a cucumber

1 tablespoon caster sugar

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Salt

Put the sugar and vinegar into a shallow bowl with a pinch of salt and leave to dissolve. Using a vegetable peeler, take long slices of cucumber avoiding the watery seeds in the middle and add to the bowl.  Leave for half an hour, stirring occasionally, for the cucumber to “pickle”.  Meanwhile brush the salmon fillets with the oil on both sides and put skin side down in a hot pan.  Leave for 5 minutes before turning and cooking on the other side for a further 5 minutes – this should be just right but cook a little longer if you prefer or your fillets are huge.  Sprinkle with the chives and serve with the pickled cucumber.  Enough for 2 but easily doubled, tripled….

 

 

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Grissini with Rosemary

Grissini

When I lived in London there were several favourite Italian restaurants that I would frequent from time to time.  There is something particular about entering such an establishment, the clamour and enthusiasm, the noise and bustle, the smell of herbs and garlic cooking that fills the air.   Following the greeting and seating a proper treat awaits you.  The grissini – slender, crunchy breadsticks all the better for gouging through the butter.  Not as filling as the proffered focaccia but the perfect nibble with a glass of wine whilst perusing the menu.  I love them and so do my family so we make our own.

Now I can’t pretend that dining in my kitchen offers quite the same experience.  Different certainly but just as much fun I would hope.   These grissini however are definitely up to those of nostalgic, rose or should that be frascati touched memory.   Crispy, savoury and in this case taken to new heights with the addition of chopped rosemary.   I serve these before and alongside lunch or dinner, take them on picnics and they are much in demand for packed lunches.   Very delicious and moreish to eat and so easy to make.  The rolling out takes me back to the days of plasticine and playdoh and is repetitive and relaxing, in a black clad Italian Mama sort of way.  Think Sophia Loren….

Grissini with Rosemary

Children love making these which is always a help and last week, rather than making the traditional stick shapes, my daughter fashioned each dough snake into an initial to place in each diners place at the table.  It looked charming and went down a storm.

250g plain flour

250g strong white bread flour

7g sachet yeast

7g fine salt

300ml lukewarm water

25ml olive oil

1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary

Sea salt

Preheat the oven to 200.  Put both the flours, yeast and fine salt into the bowl of a stand mixer, turn it on and then add the water and oil until it comes together in a ball (you may need a drop more water).  Leave it kneading away in the machine for 10 minutes, adding the chopped rosemary for the last minute so it is evenly mixed through the dough.  Pinch off pieces the size of a large cherry and roll these out until about a foot long and pencil thin on a non-floured table or surface.  Gently and with fingers splayed seems the best way to do this.  Put them onto a baking sheet lined with parchment, sprinkle with sea salt and bake for 15 minutes.   After this time they should be golden brown and crispy, leave to cool on a wire rack and then store in an air tight container.   Makes around 40 grissini but if you get bored whilst rolling these out the dough will sit happily in the fridge for a day until you feel like making some more.   I’d say they last for a week but I’ve never had any hang around for more than a day or two.

Finally, they make a fabulous present to take if you are going to friends for supper.

Grissini 2

 

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Weekend Food

Marble Cake close 2

We had a houseful over the weekend with extras for lunch on Sunday and whilst I wanted everyone to be well fed of course, the last thing on the menu was for me to be stuck in the kitchen (hissing) all weekend.  With ages ranging from 18 months to grandparents and childrens’ teas to add to the mix I had much to do.  Nothing for it but a bit of organisation, a good list and setting Friday morning aside to get ahead.  I thought I’d let you know what we ate and what I was able to prepare beforehand in case any of these tips help.

Saturday lunch was a picnic with Cannellini Bean, Parsley and Lemon Dip (April 2015) with grissini (recipe coming soon) and Wild Garlic Focaccia (May 2014) alongside a big plate of salami, a bowl of tomatoes and a good chunk of cheddar.  For pudding we had meringues with vanilla bean cream and chocolate sauce (recipe coming soon).  I made the grissini, focaccia, meringues and dip on Friday so putting lunch together on Saturday only took a few minutes.  Incidentally the dough for the focaccia will happily sit in the fridge overnight so it can be baked just before lunch.

Wild Garlic Focaccia

At tea the children had orzo with bacon and tomato sauce (recipe coming soon).  Pudding, and for us to tuck into with a cup of tea, was a chocolate and vanilla Marble Cake (October 2013) which I made on Friday.  For supper we had Chicken with Harissa (October 2012) with Little Rosemary Roasties (March 2015) and my favourite Green Salad (January 2014) – couldn’t have been easier.

On Sunday we had Lamb which had been marinading in garlic, lemon and rosemary.  With this Fresh Herb Sauce (July 2013) but I used half mint and half parsley which made a funky full of flavour modern take on old fashioned mint sauce.  It went down an absolute treat.

Asparagus with parmesan

We didn’t need much for supper so I roasted several bunches of fabulous in season asparagus (June 2014) followed by Vanilla Pannacotta (July 2014) with poached rhubarb, both of which I made on Friday.

At each sitting I was delighted that the children scoffed everything except one who found the colour of the fresh herb sauce too alarmingly green.  Admittedly I gave myself quite I lot to do on Friday but I have to tell you it was worth it and it helped to know anything left to prepare was easy and also that so much was already in the fridge or cake tin.

Finally please don’t think there is even one iota of smuggery here,  I am rarely this organised but have proved to myself this weekend the virtue of planning and preparing ahead.  You may always be this organised but if not, I hope some of these tips and recipes might help you breeze through it next time you have a houseful.

One more thing, I finished off the leftover poached rhubarb and vanilla bean cream with a last meringue and it was fabulous.  It reminded me of a rhubarb pavlova that I made a couple of times last year and I will post that recipe soon.

 

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Cannellini Bean, Parsley and Lemon….dip

Cannellini bean dip

Now I will be frank and say I am a little nervous about the title of this – if my children were reading (having not previously tasted and devoured it as they do) I am pretty sure they would move on, pulses not being much to their liking.

For me, I struggle with the word dip, it is just a bit…. you know.  Dip covers a multitude and can be a tub of generic supermarket gunk or a red, oniony side dish to uh, dip things in.  Rarely have I come across anything with the moniker dip that I have wanted to love or, in many cases, finish.  This little beauty will, I hope, shatter all preconceptions.

It came about, as many things do out of my kitchen, from necessity over organisation.  I wanted something to offer with drinks but frankly the larder was pretty bare but for a few tins of beans.  I always have parsley, lemon and garlic on hand and so it was that these were the volunteers, the ingredients that stepped forward from a skeleton line up.

I actually made this three times over Easter, once to serve with said drinks and twice to put on the table along with a mezze type picnic lunch.  With some toasty baked pita my children scoffed this with unseemly speed and didn’t even stop when they discovered the star ingredient.  I could not believe my eyes at this nor my ears when they asked me to make it again.  Today we are having it with some roast chicken, new potatoes and a big salad.  It is really good, beyond easy and properly useful of have up your sleeve, but what are we going to call it?

Cannellini bean dip 2

Cannellini Bean, Parsley and Lemon Dip

Taste this when it is all whizzed together, it should have lots of lemon juice to give it zing and you will need a really good pinch of salt, possible two as pulses seem to lap them up.  Serve with chopped carrots, baked pita bread, breadsticks or alongside a roast chicken or with a collection of other mezze type dishes.

1 can of cannellini beans

1 small clove garlic

Half a small packet parsley, approx 20g

Juice of 1 large lemon

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

Put all the ingredients into a small blender or a jug if you are using a hand held blender.  I find it easiest to put the lemon juice in first then you can pick any rogue seeds out easily, followed by the salt so it can dissolve in the juice.  The order doesn’t really matter though.  Whizz it all up, taste and check you are happy with it before decanting into a dish.  The four of us will polish this off between but that said, my husband and I could probably eat it all too.  You can double or treble easily if you have a crowd to feed.

 

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Little Rosemary Roasties

Rosemary Roasties

If I put these on the table they disappear.  Not so much a magic trick but more one of my families absolute top ways to eat potatoes.  One of my favourites to cook too as they couldn’t be easier and go with so many things.  More crunchy and full of flavour than boiled potatoes and quicker than traditional roasties but just as good.  I could eat these everyday.

Simply chop potatoes (no need to peel), tumble into a pan with some olive oil, salt and finely chopped rosemary.  Then roast.  In the meantime you can get on with something else and they will transform from hard little raw blocks into crispy edged, fluffy centred, rosemary scented bits of deliciousness.

If you want to make more of them you can lay some fish fillets over the potatoes for the last 10 minutes of cooking with a spritz of lemon juice and there you have it – fish and chips for supper with the absolute minimum of fuss and effort, no frying and no claggy batter.  I’ll be back after Easter!

Rosemary Roasties 2

Little Rosemary Roast Potatoes

I generally use baking potatoes because then I only have two to chop but you can easily use an equivalent weight of smaller potatoes.  I reckon on a regular size baking tray full of roasties for the 4 of us (two big and two smaller people).  If you are more or just hungry it couldn’t be easier to do several trays….

2 large baking potatoes, unpeeled

1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary

1 tablespoon olive oil (ordinary is fine, no need for extra virgin)

1 teaspoon salt, I like crunchy sea salt but use what you have

Preheat the oven to 200.  Chop the potatoes into 2cm dice (roughly 2cm, there is no need to get a ruler out) and put them onto a baking tray lined with baking parchment along with the rosemary, olive oil and half the salt.  Mix it well so that each cube is coated in oil and flecked with rosemary and then roast for 30 minutes, turning once half way through the cooking time.  When they are golden, crispy and thoroughly tempting sprinkle with the remaining salt and serve to thunderous applause.

 

 

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Raspberry Larder Pudding

Raspberry Larder Pudding

Remember I said I couldn’t imagine Sunday lunch without a pudding?  This one is another contender for the ‘had to be rustled up from an empty larder’ prize.   Our plans changed one weekend and we found ourselves at home, a main course had been found but a pudding was, of course, required.

I always have frozen raspberries tucked away and am never without a jar of raspberry jam for breakfast or just in case it is a day for scones.  In this instance I used the final jar of the Loganberry jam I made last summer and there couldn’t have been a more fitting or appreciative last hoorah for it.  I would get panicky if I didn’t have the wherewithal to make a cake in the house and so it was that all these ingredients made themselves available.

Raspberry Larder Pudding 2

This is essentially a light vanilla sponge atop a juicy, fragrant, sweet and sharp raspberry sauce – but it is so much more than merely that!  With cold double cream (for me) or further heady vanilla in the shape of ice cream (my husband and children) this is dream worthy.  Somehow a pudding of distant memory or perhaps just nostalgia as I don’t recall ever being given this as a child.

No matter, make this next time you need to rustle up afters a bit pronto and find yourself caught short in the shopping department.

Raspberry Larder Pudding

100g soft butter

100g golden caster sugar

2 eggs

125g self raising flour

2 tablespoons milk

150g frozen raspberries

1/2 jar raspberry jam

Icing sugar to dust

Preheat the oven to 180.  Place the raspberries in an ovenproof 1 litre dish and dot over the jam along with 2 tablespoons water, give it all a mix and set aside.  Cream the butter and sugar well and then add the eggs one at a time with spoonful of flour.  Finally gently mix in the reminder of the flour along with the milk and a pinch of salt.  Pour this batter over the raspberries, smooth to cover and bake for 35-40 minutes until just firm on top, you can put in a toothpick to double check, if it comes out clean it is done.   Dust with icing sugar if you like, serves 4.  This is easily doubled in which case you will need to cook it for about 1 hour.

Raspberry Larder Pudding 3

 

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Chicken with Chorizo, Parsley and Lemon

Chicken with Chorizo 2

It is a funny time of year.  Yesterday I got caught in a hailstorm whereas today there is a definite whiff of Spring in the air.  Primroses are nudging snowdrops out of the way, lambs are bouncing and I am tempted to put washing out on the line.   Rather as fashion magazines talk of that tricky between seasons time, what to wear, what to wear?  So in the kitchen we can feel caught on the hop.  Rich, hearty, belt loosening stews feel a little de trop now but salady lunches are still a way off.  Winter veg remains on offer and the bounty of Spring produce is yet to appear.

This then is the answer.  An unbelievably easy, one pot wonder that is both cooked and served in the same pan (less washing up, marvellous) and doesn’t require any hard to find or particularly seasonal ingredients.  Indeed, if like me you tend to keep chorizo in the fridge, then you may well have all the necessary to hand.   This will serve you well for lunch or supper and is just the ticket if you have friends over for dinner as it will tick along in the oven quite happily whilst you sit with a glass of something chilled.  You don’t really need to serve anything with it but my favourite green salad (January 2014 without the croutons I think) would be a verdant, refreshing side dish if  you want.

Chicken with Chorizo

For pudding I can’t think of anything better than Vanilla Pannacotta (July 2014) but instead of the summer blackcurrants in that recipe serve it with some baked rhubarb.  I made this last week for a girls lunch and was delighted with the combination, both creamy and refreshing, perfect for Spring – see the photograph at the bottom.

Chicken with Chorizo 3

Chicken with Chorizo, Parsley and Lemon

I serve this alongside a bowl of yogurt that has a little finely chopped garlic and salt added, it works an absolute treat with the chickpeas.  By the way, if chickpeas are really not your thing (ahem Miss and Master May) then omit them and serve with waxy little new potatoes which will be equally fabulous.  Incidentally don’t scrimp on the parsley, it is very much part of the dish and not just a garnish!

1 red onion

100g chorizo, sliced into discs

4 chicken thighs

1 clove garlic

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 lemon, halved

1 tin of chickpeas

1 small packet parsley, chopped

Plain yogurt to serve, see introduction

Preheat the oven to 200.  Peel and cut the onion into eighths and put into a large roasting pan with the oil, chorizo, chicken and garlic and turn it all over in the oil.  Season with salt and put in the oven for 30 minutes.  After this time take the pan out, baste the chicken, add the chickpeas and squeeze both lemon halves over it all and put these halves in the pan too.  Cook for a further 10 minutes, remove from the oven.  Sprinkle with the parsley and serve.  This amount serves two but it is easily doubled or tripled.

Vanilla Pannacotta with Rhubarb

Pannacotta with rhubarb

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Penne con Salsicccia (or Sausage Pasta)

Sausage Pasta 3

So I promised you easy, everyday family food and then give you shortbread.  This is to make up for it.  For those days when I have so much on my to do list I can’t think straight and whilst busy writing and testing a couple of recipes I don’t actually have anything for supper.  For those days you need emergency food that can be conjured up from whatever you might keep in your fridge or larder.

Any day of the week my daughter would choose pasta for tea.  Ideally a Bolognese type ragu or this sausage pasta.  My son however doesn’t like pasta or sausages…. Quite a conundrum and this tends to remain for days when he is out.  I must stress though that of all the people, child or adult, who have tried this, he is the only one who doesn’t like it!

Sausage Pasta_

I love this though and whenever I cook it for my daughter I hover greedily and wish I had thought of it for our supper.  Speedy and simple, the sauce takes no more time to make than the pasta does to cook.  Add as much or as little chilli as you like depending on your diners.  I struggle to find spicy, Italian sausages around here so add heat with some dried chilli flakes whose  smoky flavour is perfect here.  Should you be able to find some genuine salsiccia (you lucky thing) the taste a bit once it is cooked before adding chilli in case it is not required.

This is supremely comforting, quick, cheap and easy – what more could you want?

Sausage Pasta

I might add the some leaf spinach along with the cream and water if this is for our dinner letting it wilt in the heat of the sausage sauce.  My daughter would be horrified if I did this to her favourite supper so I tend to leave the spinach out for her but sometimes I add some peas…..

1 tablespoon oil

6 good sausages, skin removed

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

Pinch of chilli flakes (see above)

1 tablespoon cream

1/2 a small bunch of parsley, chopped

150g short pasta, I use penne but it is up to you

Parmesan to serve

Cook the pasta as per the packet instructions.   Heat the oil in a frying pan and cook the sausage, breaking it up as much as you can.  When it is starting to look a little brown and crisping around the edges add the garlic and chilli.  Cook for a few more minutes to lose the rawness in the garlic and then add the cream and 3 tablespoons of water out of the pasta pan.   When the pasta is cooked drain then add to the pan with the sausage, give it all a good mix, taste and see what seasoning it needs then sprinkle over the parsley and serve with lots of grated parmesan.  Enough for 2 but easily doubled or tripled.

Sausage Pasta 2

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Ginger Shortbread

Ginger Shortbread

Half term is a perfect time to get children into the kitchen and these biscuits are a great place to start.  Delicious, crisp, gingery shortbread which are simple to make and employ a useful 3:2:1 ratio in the recipe which is easy to remember and keeps maths in mind even away from school (is that mean of me?).  More importantly cooking something from scratch gives children a huge sense of achievement and their pride in themselves as they offer the biscuits to family and friends is worth any mess in the kitchen.

I must confess to having a bee in my bonnet about children and cooking.  I worry that cooking skills are not being passed on and their importance overlooked.  Nutritionally, emotionally and practically, learning to feed yourself well and to cook is essential and yet it doesn’t seem to get the focus I think it deserves.  If we don’t teach children how to cook for themselves from raw ingredients then we will raise a generation of microwave cookers.

The raw ingredients bit is key here.  Anyone can bung a ready made lasagne in the microwave and cook it.  All you will end up with though, is, well a lasagne.  However, if you take a potato, how many ways are there to cook that?   Twenty or thirty possibilities for your dinner present themselves, but, to be fair, you have to learn how to make them, rather than just read timing instructions on a box.  There lies your conundrum – potatoes, cheap and accessible but requiring a little attention and knowledge;  or a packaged lasagne probably containing preservatives and perhaps more salt and sugar than is advisable, certainly more expensive but easy to heat.

So whilst I am not expecting every 10 year old to be able to rustle up a Coq au Vin or a souffle, learning to cook is a life skill and these biscuits are a good place to start.  You can leave the ginger out if that is not your thing or alternatively, make the buttermilk scones I wrote about last month.   These shortbread are meltingly delicious so make some for those times when you need to sit down with a cup of tea and something sweet to settle your nerves and it is too early for gin – after all it is half term.

Ginger Shortbread 2

Ginger Shortbread

This is a pretty straightforward recipe using 150g flour, 100g butter and 50g sugar but I like to use 100g plain flour and 50g of cornflour to ensure that crispness.  If you don’t have any cornflour they will still work well with 150g plain flour.

100g very soft butter

50g golden caster sugar, plus a little extra

Pinch of salt

100g plain flour

50g cornflour

1 heaped teaspoon ground ginger

Preheat the oven to 170.  Cream the butter, sugar and salt together.  You can do this by hand or in a stand mixer.  Then add the flours and ginger and mix until it forms a ball of dough.  Roll out on a lightly floured surface and cut out whatever shapes you like and place on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment.  Sprinkle lightly with caster sugar and then bake in the middle of the oven until golden, about 12-15 minutes but keep an eye on them.  Makes about 20 depending on the size of your biscuits.

 

 

 

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Roast Cauliflower and other vegetables

Roast Cauliflower 2

I heard something absolutely extraordinary last week.  Whilst tucking into tea, my daughter stated the previously unimaginable “I love kale”.  I stopped talking and sat slack jawed in amazement.  This is the child that will shy away from vegetables apart from a grudging tolerance for peas and cooked carrots.  This the child who would normally show wide eyed panic in the face of anything cabbagy and try distracting tactics when I am dishing out.  Yet here she was and here it was – kale.   Now kale is one of the tougher and if we are honest more bitter winter leaves and so this particular entente was all the more surprising.  What was the magic, what was the secret alchemy you ask.  One of the oldest tricks in the book, a bit of olive oil, a sprinkle of salt and a brief sojourn in a hot oven.  That is all it takes to transform these frilly green leaves into a salty, savoury snack comparable (if not better) to the finest potato crisps.

The thing is I really want my children to like vegetables, I don’t want those stand off scenarios where I insist that vegetables are good for them while they will sit, mulish and resistant, eyeing me as one who wishes to enforce horror.  So I make it my goal to make their veggies more palatable, whatever it takes, I will keep trying different sauces, salsas and cooking methods until I have cracked it.

Roast Cauliflower

Cauliflower along with cous cous were two things my son had asked me, in all honesty, why God had invented.  He couldn’t bear either of them, couldn’t see their point and so some time ago having tried all other routes I thought to roast cauliflower.  What do you know they will now clamour over the last little floret and I can’t blame them, the oil, salt and hot oven trick turns these innocent little white sprigs into gold singed, roasty delicious mouthfuls.

These are not just something I serve to children and in fact the cauliflower in this form with the dipping sauce is a great choice to put on the table at the beginning of supper or to add to a tapas style spread.  The green sauce is my Fresh Herb Sauce (July 2013).

Roast Cauliflower

The addition of some chilli flakes to the cauliflower before roasting gives a lovely pop of heat but I generally don’t add them when doing this for children.  I have previously given the recipe for kale crisps, essentially just tear the leaves into mouthful size, turn in a little olive oil, spread out onto a baking sheet, sprinkle with salt and cook at 200 for about 7-10 minutes, turning once or twice and eyeing them like a hawk so they don’t burn.

1 medium size cauliflower

2 tablespoons olive oil

Sea salt

Preheat the oven to 200.  Trim the cauliflower , break into small florets and spread onto a baking sheet.  Pour over the oil and turn the cauliflower really well making sure every bit is coated in oil.  Sprinkle with salt and roast for 20-25 minutes until it is just turning golden brown and catching slightly at the edges.  Cool for a minute or two and taste, you might want a tiny bit more salt then serve with the green herby sauce.

Roast Cauliflower 3

 

 

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