Friday, July 31, 2009

This week I wanted...I bought ...I made

I am full of excitement about making cripsy ham hock Saturday night having actually started Thursday night by making a master stock that is steeping in the fridge, next to the soaking hock, which will be simmered in the stock as the next step in its transformation. So in fact don't need to buy much more to go with it. It was in the end a marvellous treat but sadly, not crispy, but with plain rice and a fine hot cucumber salad it was a good dinner. Sunday we have a plan to lunch at the Bear, allegedly the second best pub for Sunday lunch in all of London and since it is only 15 minutes walk the possibility is irresistable If it is second best I may have to hunt out the best one - lunch was very good indeed. So I'm thinking cheese on toast for tea. There should be ham leftover for lunches Monday. Monday night we are at the theatre to see Jerusalem at the Royal Court. Tuesday an aubergine parmigiana recipe I've found that looks good ma po tofu and spicy dry fried green beans harvested from our wigwam, Wednesday pasta I think we had the aubergine pictured above which was good but will need a tiny tweaking involving the purchase of egg rings (I have secretly wanted egg rings since forever, and no I don't know why. Or why I never bought any). Thursday chicken casserole had turned into grilled pork chops by the time I got to the market then dinner was actually roasted vegetable pasta with buffalo mozzarella to use up the rest of the aubergine and cheese, Friday a salad spaghetti bolognese and garlic bread with the lovely David who is off to Singapore on the weekend. Lucky lucky lucky.
Minds had already been changed by the time we got to Borough Market Saturday morning. At Ginger Pig I bought a couple of lovely pork chops ridged with creamy fat into the freezer to have with salad late in the week and a big handful of smoked bacon oysters half into spaghetti sauce half in the freezer - £8.90

Then to Booths for potatoes still in the fridge, aubergines complex dish Wednesday night, little haas avocados mashed onto crusty bread with herb roasted ham for Saturday lunch that was so good it will be repeated very soon, limes, spring onions into salad Saturday night with cucmber from the garden and herbs, chilli and ginger from chinatown and carrots into salad using the rest of the thai basil and coriander Sunday to go with ham lunches Monday and Tuesday - £4.50

At Brindisa I bought a big pack of spicy cooking chorizo all in the freezer - £12.80

Wanted eggs the base for the aubergines from Lizzie at Wild Beef and she was selling packs of coarse ground mince at 3 for £10 - one pack split into smaller lots and used one for ma po Tuesday, one pack whole and in the freezer and one pack into bolognese sauce for Friday night dinner - total bargain for great meat - £11.50

A campagne tin loaf from Rhodes standing ten inches high and palely crusted all over for lovely sarnies Saturday and cheese on toast Sunday - £2.50

As we stood cheicking out the Rhodes stall the man was taken with big field mushrooms on Ted's veg stall and suggested them as a breakfast treat topping on toast - £1.85

At the cheese Gastronomica I bought a couple of mozzarella - big balls floating in a top knotted bag of water for all the world like goldfish you win at the fair one for aubergine Wednesday and one for pasta Thursday - £5

Herb roasted ham Saturday lunch from the other Gastronomica - £3.50

Peppers from Tony roasted for pasta Thursday - 3 for a £1

Milk from Neals Yard - £3.40

An ordinary cottage loaf from Flour Power - £1.10

Spent £56.05 and, despite the fact that I am convinced that I am clearing the freezer, this week I added half a loaf of bread from St John, 3 litres of pork master stock, 1.5kg minced beef, a dozen chorizo, 2 bundles of smoked bacon and a couple of pork chops. Might need a new plan...

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Roasted Red Onion and Green Bean Salad

This really is simplicity itself. We had roast beef on Sunday. As the joint cooked I added another pan with the onions and let them do their thing. Beans blanch for a minute. Mix and dress with the caremalised onion juices lifted with a splash of balsamic vinegar. Serve at room temperature for a summer version of roast dinner, with the beef and some potato salad. Lovely stuff and good next day too.

Red Onion and Green Beans

4 red onions, peeled and left whole
2 tbspns olive oil
100g thin green beans, topped and tailed, but left whole
1 tspn balsamic vinegar
Salt & pepper

Roast the onions in the olive oil for about an hour at Gas 4/180C, basting occasionally. When they are slightly blackened and soft to the tip of a knife, take them out and put them into a flattish bowl.

Bring a pan of salted water to the boil. Add the beans, return to the boil, and let them cook for a minute. Drain.
Scatter the beans over the onions, mix the vinegar into the onion oil and drizzle it over the vegetables. Stir through to coat and leave to macerate for a while before serving.

This will feed 4 in one go, but we had the other 2 with lunch on Monday, and very fine they were too!

Herb & Chorizo Salad

Gather round all you chorizo fans - here is a thoroughly fabulous way with the world's favourite sausage that is perfect on a summer evening. Thursdays and Fridays there is a stall round the corner from the office that sells hot chorizo rolls with piquillo peppers and fresh rocket. It's owned by Vahid of Borough Olives fame and he buys the chorizo and peppers from Brindisa and the bread from Rhodes. Jeremy and a young Brazilian guy are there for a couple of hours and they cook and construct each roll as it's ordered. And they are very very good indeed. Seriously.

Usually there is a queue - often up to about 15 minutes - and I always wait. Sometimes I get lucky and there is no one - just me to stand and watch the chorizo gently giving up it's ruby juices as the edges catch and caramelise and the smell of perfect bbq and paprika wafts about. Those two guys must smell lovely when they leave, an unexpected joy to sit next to on the bus. There was a young woman who worked on the gastronomica cheese stall for ages with Gianni and she said she really loved the stall but was embarassed going home by how much she smelled like cheeses. She moved on to the chocolate stall for that very reason then I lost track of her for a while till she reappeared at shellseekers selling fish and scallops.

Loving those lunches as I do I wanted to do a good thing with a chorizo from the freezer. The plan was lentils and a poached egg, but I still had a buffalo mozzarella that needed using and the last couple of piquillo peppers in a jar, ditto. Our garden is currently bountiful, tiny though it be. I had half a cucumber(already picked, obviously), lots of rocket, cut and come again lettuce, nasturtium leaves and flowers, and a profusion of herbs. There was also parsley and coriander in the fridge.

Our dinner became a herb salad tossed with hot chorizo and silky ribbons of piquillo , all of it ever so slighly wilted in a dressing of the rendered oil from the pan, lifted with a few drops of sherry vinegar for a bowlful of hot, sharp, sweet, sour. The second salad was a repetition of last weeks' delight - mozzarella and cucumber dressed with nothing more than black pepper and basil oil. Nestled palely gold beside them on the plate was a simple omelette. Some crusty bread and, even though we're not drinking much wine in the week, a minerally nz sauvignon blanc made it perfect.

Herb & Chorizo Salad

A generous handful of fresh herbs, washed and picked over - I used a mix of parsley, coriander, basil and tarragon
A generous handful of salad leaves, washed and picked over - I used lamb tongue, rocket and nasturtium leaves
4 or 5 piquillo peppers, drained and thinly sliced into long ribbons
2 cooking chorizo, cut into 1/2 cm thick coins
Scant tspn sherry vinegar

Mix the leaves and herbs together in a pretty bowl and scatter with strips of pepper.

Warm a small frying pan over a medium heat and add the sliced chorizo. Cook gently for about 10 minutes till the fat runs and the sausage smells wonderful. Take the sausage from the pan with a slotted spoon and add to the herbs.

Deglaze the pan with the sherry vinegar, pour over the herbs and toss till it's all lightly dressed.

Enough for the two of us. I'm sure it wouldn't keep and it would be wrong to waste any of it.

Friday, July 24, 2009

This week I wanted...I bought...I made

Out again Saturday night, this time to the Young Vic to see the Girlfriend Experience and I have Food Chain, so busy weekend. Something substantial when we get back from Tooting before we go out - maybe hot sausage sarnies... had a little picnic in the sunny garden in Tooting with little samosas and bhajis and things then didn't make the show but did make salami and cucumber /mozzarella cold collation Sunday roast, looking for easy peasy and with rare roast beef, onion salad, potato salad and a crunchy one of celery, carrot and radish that's what we had. Monday and Tuesday I am out, Tuesday to a blogger night organised by Cadbury which was an interesting masterclass on cooking ghanaian food - was the first time I have eaten zebra! - in honour of Cadbury's move into using entirely fairtrade cocoa from Ghana in the production of their chocolate. So a pie for the man and not sure what else. Wednesday probably chinese fab omelette and chorizo herb salad and another cucumber mozzarella combo dressed only in basil oil, Thursday pasta was chinese with dry fried green beans that we harvested from the wigwam in the garden and stirfry carrot and ginger over rice and Friday a salad plenty of rice leftover so it's fried rice tonight.

Arrived bright and early at Borough Market Saturday morning to find it very quiet and peaceful - perfect place to shop really! At Ginger Pig they had no topside so Charlie suggested a piece from the H bone cut that he said would roast very well and it did, that made Sunday supper and lunches through till Thursday so I bought that along with a kilo of pork mince which the man was curious to know what I was planning which was mostly just splitting it into smaller lumps for the freezer for addition to chinese dishes for the next month or two the first being Thursday night in carrot and ginger stirfry. Cost £27.20

At Booths I bought sharps express potatoes perfect salad, a butternut still there, fennel, carrots, radishes, spring onions and red onions additional salads Sunday and in the week for £7

At Wild Beef I returned a dozen or more boxes for the shortest possible version of recycling and bought a box of eggs omelette Wednesday - £1.50

Fennel salami from Gastronomica to repeat last Saturday's lovely lunch - £2.50

Buffalo mozzarella Saturday supper and Wednesday too from the Italian stall - £4.70

The most enormous ham hock I have ever seen it is to be the centrepiece of a dinner Saturday night which involves cooking it in master stock, then frying till crisp and serving with chilli caramel, a process I have already started as it will take 3 days to make the entire meal and I am so looking forward to it! from Silfield for £2.95

Peppers one in fried rice Friday and the other 2 still in the fridge but will be fine early next week from Tony - £1

Pies Monday supper from Elizabeth King - £5

Milk and pasta cupboard from Neals Yard - £6.20

A ciabatta Saturday night but not great bread, sadly and a brownie for the man from Flour Power - £4.20

Altogether £62.15. Also bought a loaf of bread from St John which is easily the best bread in London, and possibly the world, butter, a block of cheddar which was an impulse buy and probably a mistake, a camembert that was half price as it was at it's sell by date and is magnificent and perfectly ripe, so not a mistake. Also a load of things from Chinatown that I've run out of - soy sauce, black beans, shiaoxing wine, palm sugar and pickled bean sprouts if I can find them, as well as thai basil, lemongrass and spring onions for the Saturday sumptuousness of crispy ham hock and thai salad and rice.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Cucumber and Buffalo Mozzarella Salad

Am excited - possibly overly - at the sight of a couple of enormous cucumbers on the plant in a tub in my garden.

Last year I bought a little worm farm sure that I could produce extraordinary compost and fertiliser with all the peelings and things from our fabulous Borough shopping. Not quite sure why I was believing that worms in a 1 metre by 1/2 metre plastic tub would be able to eat all our veg scraps every day as well as at least one or two editions of the Guardian a week and produce worm juice to fertilise the garden. A compost heap doesn't work that fast so no matter how many little wrigglers I had - and after a month or so there were thousands - there would never be enough to transform all our scraps. So disappointed. Looking for a magic solution I guess but the worm farm certainly wasn't it. As winter set in the worms slowed down and though they did eat their way through very small amounts of finely pulped waste to make some rich soil most of our scraps still went into the garbage. My worm hopes were dashed.

When spring arrived I decided to set my wormies free and use the soil that was produced, with a little more to top it up, to grow some veg. I put a tomato plant and a cucumber plant into the box just outside the back door and watered them whenever it didn't rain. Slowly to start with, and then with ever increasing vigour, the plants grew and grew and sprouted flowers. Lots of them. A couple of weeks ago, coinciding with that lovely hot week, there were a few tiny cucumbers peeking out from under the big leaves. We watered them morning and night and, I swear, they grew half an inch a day with their girths swelling to match. Every time I looked they were bigger.

So, joy of joy, this week we have spectacularly fabulous ready to eat cucumbers as well as dozens of tomatoes that are yet to ripen.

They had given me such pleasure already watching them grow I wanted something pretty fantastic for the first meal I made with one. We were out to the theatre Saturday night so a pre performance supper was needed. I bought some buffalo mozzarella and fennel salami and, with crusty bread and lots of salad leaves from the garden I made one of the nicest salads I've had this year.

Cucumber and Buffalo Mozzarella Salad

1/2 large cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
100g ball buffalo mozzarella, ripped into pieces
Generous handful of mixed salad, I had lambs tongue, rocket and nasturtium leaves
3 tbpsns olive oil
1 tbspn lemon juice
Salt and pepper

Wash the salad leaves and put them into a pretty bowl. Add the cucumber and ripped mozzarella. Put the oil and lemon into a screw top jar with the seasoning and shake to emulsify. Taste and correct the balance if necessary.

Toss the salad lightly with the dressing and serve immediately.

Sweet, crisp, creamy, delicate - just fantastic.

Friday, July 17, 2009

I wanted...I bought...I made

We grew that!

Saturday we are out in the evening to see Jude Law in Hamlet so I'm thinking a cold collation later afternoon with the centrepiece of a salad of buffalo mozzarella, cucumber and rocket and lettuce from the garden which was utterly lovely with some fennel salami and crusty bread. Sunday we have more culture with an afternoon performance of Phedre at the National for which the man's parents are joining us. So we shall have lunch at ours beforehand - another cold collation but this time I'm thinking gammon and potato salad and a cucumber salad more from the garden and simply dressed with basil oil plus salad of fennel, carrot and kohlrabi for crunch followed by eton mess . Ham sandwich later! Monday a chicken casserole I've been thinking about actually stir fried cabbage and pork with rice, Tuesday duck bit salad - with cucumber! pasta with tomato, mozzarella and basil, Wednesday chinese I think including some cabbage salad ham, egg and salad and Thursday a little pasta with rocket perhaps after a quick drink in town home to fried eggs on toast, something I haven't had for the longest time and I realised just how much I like it! and Friday we are out with the lovely David Johnson.

Borough Market was very quiet first thing Saturday. It is the start of the summer school holidays and it's amazing how that affects numbers - no doubt made up for later with vast numbers of tourists. But for us it was heavenly. At the Ginger Pig I bought the only piece of unsmoked gammon they had - apparently they sell much more in winter which surprised me a little as I love cooked ham in salads and sandwiches and the man has a definite passion for it with egg and chips. It was an enormous piece - 3kgs - and cost £27. ~We ate it all week in various guises, including lunches with salads and then on sandwiches with cucumber with bread from St John

At Booths I bought potatoes, kohlrabi, garlic, carrots,but no fennel all in salads and beetroot already cooked in the fridge for £4.50

From Lizzie I bought some eggs fried, two nights in a row!- £1.50

A punnet of baby plum tomatoes Sunday lunch then in lunches with enough for next week, perhaps slow roasted for a little change from the Isle of Wight as a treat because the man's parents are coming for lunch Sunday - £3.50

A fennel Sunday salad then lunchboxes at Teds Veg - £1

A small rye loaf for Sunday from Rhodes - £2.30

Coffee from Monmouth - £10

Strawberries for an exquisite eton mess Sunday from Chegworth - £2.50

Buffalo mozzarella salad Saturday and pasta Tuesday from the parma ham stall - £4.70

Fennel salami Saturday brunch from Gastronomica - £2.50

Smoked salmon Saturday breakfast from the Irish stall - £5

Milk, yoghurt, bread and cream from Neals Yard - £9.80

Cottage tin from Flour Power - £1.10

A not too bad £68.20

Also bought a bunch of parsley, onions, bread, more cream and strawberries to make another eton mess with the rest of the meringue (they are very big) that the man had for lunches as dessert - how decadent is that in the office? And a loaf of bread from St John

Thursday, July 16, 2009


I've been making peperonata on and off for about ten years now. It's very summery - even if the sun ain't shining. It goes really well with grilled meats, be wonderful as a bbq side dish, and works well with burgers and also crumbed aubergines and even pasta. Hot or cold it can be a sauce or a relish or a lovely antipasti on bruschetta. Simple to make, incredibly beautiful with its jewelled shiny redness, best of all it is lovely to eat. The recipe comes from Elizabeth David who thinks it is well worth making extra as it is so versatile and tasty and it is impossible to disagree with her.

We ate it hot with lamb burgers and butter bean mash Tuesday night and atop rocket and butter bean mash and cold burgers in wraps Wednesday night. And in lunchboxes in between. All versions different and good.

1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced
25g butter
25ml olive oil
4 red peppers, seeded and cut into 2cm cubes
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tin tomatoes
Salt and pepper

Melt the butter and oil together in a largish pan and gently fry the onions till they have melted to translucency. Add the peppers and garlic, stir to coat in the onion mix and cook over a low heat, with the lid on the pan, for about 15 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and seasoning and cook gently for another 30-40 minutes till the mixture is fairly dry and fragrant. But be careful - I managed to burn the bottom of the pan when I went off to watch something on the tv.

Enjoy for days in many ways!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Beansprout & Sesame Salad

After I abandoned the plan to make a bali salad Sunday night I was left with the bag of beansprouts I had bought to go into it. They're not expensive, it's true, but they do collapse into inedible slime within a few days and I wanted to use them not bin them. I was planning chinese for Monday night so that was a fairly obvious opportunity but at the same time I fancied something a little more interesting than a quick stirfry. Too easy, obviously.

So I consulted my trusty South East Asian Cookbook and found this Korean recipe for sprouts quickly blanched then made special with a sesame and honey dressing. Took a bit longer than just a quick stirfry, obviously, but worked better and tasted great. A good one for the repertoire.

Bean Sprout Salald

500g fresh bean sprouts
1 tbspn sesame oil
1 tbspn olive oil
1 tbspn crushed toasted sesame seeds
3 tbspns light soy sauce
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 spring onions, very finey sliced
1 tspn honey or sugar
Dash of chilli or cayenne pepper

Wash bean sprouts and nip off the worst of the stringy tails.

Bring a pan of lightly salted water to the boil, add the sprouts and return to the boil for 1 minute. Drain sprouts in a colander and rinse under cold water. Drain well.

Combine all the other ingredients for the dressing and toss with the sprouts.
Chill before serving.

This dressing would work really well with all manner of crispy veg and noodles.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Sticky Beef Ribs

Saturday before last when I was in the Ginger Pig one of the butchers was carefully removing the rib bones from a serious piece of beef. The quick deft movement caught my eye - watching them work with such cunsummate skill is better than theatre at times. The meat I thought about for the week though was not the resultant roast but those giant ribs laced together with lots of meat just crying out for a juicy sticky roasting for a weekend treat. Being hardcore carnivore I am a fan of bbq ribs but what I dreamed of last week was slow cooked and spiced with lots of sticky black sauce and plain boiled rice. Had also planned a bali salad to go with it but the man, once aware of the plan, insisted we didn't need salad. Just some pure, simple food for a Sunday night. He was not wrong.

Sticky Beef Ribs

1.5 kg spare ribs - beef

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 tbspn freshly grated ginger

1 tspn salt

3 tbspns peanut oil

1/4 cup dark soy sauce

1/2 cup water

2 tbspns sherry or xioaxing wine

1/2 tspn five spice powder

1 tbspn honey or palm sugar

Split spareribs into individual meaty bones and rub them with garic, ginger and salt.

Heat the oil in a roasting pan and brown the ribs.

Combine all the rest of the ingedients and tip over the ribs. Bring to the boil then put into a preheated gas 4/moderate oven and cook for 40 minutes.

Turn the ribs and cook for another 40 minutes then serve with boiled rice.

Finger licking yum.

Friday, July 10, 2009

I wanted...I bought...I made

I am hoping to get some beef ribs at Ginger Pig - I have been dreaming of them all week and seriously fancy them Sunday night slow roasted with spices and a bali salad. Then cold for lunch Monday... Saturday night fancy scallops for a change or maybe mussels and black beans. Monday night some chinese ma po tofu, to which I think I am now officially addicted with ginger wilted spinach and bean sprout salad, Tuesday I have some lamb mince in the freezer that I fancy as burgers with butterbean mash and peperonata. Wednesday had leftovers from last night but cold with warm flatbreads for wraps and the quickest dinner imaginable tortilla (!) and maybe lamb casserole from the freezer with pasta Thursday finally made the tortilla and it was almost perfect and so will post details next time and I'm thinking chorizo and rocket sandwiches with piquillo peppers Friday as a treat for the man as I often have one at lunch from a stall in Whitecross Street and the man misses out! Didn't wait till Friday had the chorizo for Sunday lunch so Friday night is the lamb and chickpeas from the freezer with some penne pasta.

Took sunglasses not umbrella as we headed off to Borough Market Saturday morning - wrong! Drizzly dribbly rather than full on storms first thing but bleeeeeeeeeeeugh none the less. At Ginger Pig they had a small mountain of beef ribs so bought a couple of sheets spiced for Sunday dinner with plain boiled rice - wanted leftovers as well as dinner - for a mere £7.01

At Booths I bought potatoes - for the never appearing tortilla made it Thursday, yay!, cabbage still in the fridge but usable next week, tomatoes salads, bananas smoothies and lunches, sugarsnaps lunches and padron peppers meant for tapas tonight might still be a snack with drinks - all for an even £6

From Shellseekers I bought mussels with blackbean and chilli Saturday night for £4.50

At Rhodes I bought a small campagne sarnie for lunch Saturday and lovely with mussels that night - £1.50

A basil plant in a pot from Ted's Veg to see if, repotted, it will grow (I live in hope) but the young woman serving seemed hugely doubtful! It seemed worth a try for £1.50 And was indeed - split the lots of little plants between two pots and after a couple of days they have perked up and started looking lush

Went to Taste of Turkey for their sublimely good super sun dried olives and got into a chat with the guy who owns it. Like some other traders he is unhappy at the direction the market is going in currently with the huge numbers of cooked food stands edging out the producers to some extent but did say they are thinking of opening the market Sundays with producers only, be interesting to see if that succeeds, certainly when the market first started it was aimed squarely at people shopping for top quality ingredients. Eventually also bought a tub of olives - £3.80

Strawberries for smoothies from Chegworth - £2.50

Peppers peperonata and rhubarb stewed with ginger for decadent breakfast atop sheeps milk yoghurt from Tony - £3.50

Milk and yoghurt from Neals Yard - £7.20

And a cottage loaf from Flour Power - £1.10

Not a huge lot this week - £38.61 - also bought butter, a coconut, beansprouts, butterbeans, chillies, tofu, biscuits, piquillo peppers and a meringue
All in all a good week for nice food.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Lentil and Piquillo Pepper Salad

Tuesday a friend from work who is currently on maternity leave was planning to come up for lunch. Because of the vast amount of stuff required to transport a sprog from the wilds of Essex to the terrors of Barbican, and also because it's a bad idea to take babies to pubs at lunch time or any time, we usually make something to have in the boardroom where we can all sit around and the offspring can gurgle to his hearts content. Though it has to be said last time they visited there was a meeting going on and the offspring screamed unrelievedly in the way that only babies can. Good as gold once lunch was served. But the offspring is now teething - have terrors at the tears that must be provoking - so lunch was postponed at the last minute. Only I had already started boiling eggs to make a nicoise. So I had 4 boiled eggs in need of a plan and it wasn't even 8 am.

I found a recipe on the Brindisa site for a lentil salad that included a garnish of boiled eggs and had tuna and piquillo peppers mixed in and I really liked the sound of it. And it would use a couple of the eggs. Piquillo peppers are one of the revelations of Borough. They are grown in Navarra, and have their own “DenominaciĆ³n de Origen” (D.O. Pimientos del Piquillo de Lodosa). These small red peppers are charred over wood charcoal / old vines, then peeled by hand, marinated in olive oil with herbs, and eventually eaten either alone or in a salad or stuffed. They are silky and sweet and like no other pepper I have ever eaten. They seriously enhance any meal that they are part of. Their sweetness here contrasted beautifully with the earthiness of the lentils.

Lentil & Piquillo Pepper Salad

200g green lentils or other favourite ones
1 small onion, peeld and cut into eighths
1 carrot, diced
1 small leek, sliced into thin rings
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 bay leaf
2 eggs
100 g piquillo peppers strips
1 Ortiz bonito in olive oil 112g tin
1 red onion finely sliced
3 tbs Forum of cabernet sauvignon vinegar
4 tbs olive oil
Handful fresh herbs ( parsley, chervil and mint )
Salt and pepper

Heat 2 tbspns olive oil in a heavy pan then fry the onion, carrot, leek and garlic for five minutes till they just start to soften. Add the lentils and coat with the oil. Cover the lentils in plenty of water and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Add about a tablespoon of salt and continue simmering until tender (approx 20 minutes). Drain.

Cook the eggs for 6 minutes in boiling water. Drain, cool, peel and quarter.

In a salad bowl mix the piquillo peppers, lentils, red onion and the tuna, and season.

Mix the oil and the vinegar, add them to the salad, and toss thoroughly.

Finish with the fresh herbs and the boiled egg.

Butter a little crusty bread and dinner is served!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Summer Vegetable Pasta

Most weeks I make a pasta dish one night for dinner - they are one of the all time great stand by meals. Usually quick and endlessly variable they can also be easy as you like and have the added bonus that nearly everyone, apart from the Atkins adherents, will like it. Of all those qualities the most attractive for me is the versatility. You can have pasta one night a week for a year without the need to repeat yourself and stay seasonal and appropriate to whatever the weather is throwing at you on any particular day. It is relatively cheap as well as wholesome and filling and comes in a gazillion different shapes which work with different dishes. It goes well with meat and dairy and vegetables and can be served hot, cold or at room temperature. Love the stuff.

Last week I bought some ricotta thinking of making a light pasta bake type thing only to find that the whole of the week was properly hot and not at all conducive to the switching on of ovens - or anything else that might generate heat. So I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best that ricotta would stay fresh in its plastic bag in the fridge. I read somewhere it's possible to freeze it but I was doubtful and the consensus on a bbc forum was it was probably a worse idea to freeze/thaw than chance it not lasting till Tuesday. Was absolutely fine.

I was looking to make a summer pasta that was a reasonably substantial meal without being too heavy in the way that a mornay would be. I whipped the ricotta with eggs and grated nutmeg for the sauce element and then just layered it with crisp cooked vegetables and conchiglie and some fresh Parmesan then popped it in the oven. Came out pretty as a picture and was a pleasure to eat hot for dinner and cold for lunch next day.

Summer Vegetable Pasta

350g conchiglie or similar pasta shells
50g unsalted butter
4 tbspns olive oil
3 thinnish leek, sliced about half a centimetre thick
Medium sized head of broccoli, cut into small florettes
2 courgettes in 1/2 cm slices then halved to make semi circles
100g frozen peas
3 cloves garlic finely chopped
400g ricotta cheese
2 eggs
1/2 tspn freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Extra olive oil, for drizzling
Cook pasta until just al dente in a large pan of boiling salted water then drain into a colander.

Melt butter with the olive oil over medium-low to medium heat and add the garlic and leeks. Cook gently for about fiftenn minutes till the leeks are translucent. Sprinkle in a little salt. Add the broccoli and cook for a couple of minutes then add the courgette and cook for a minute. Add the frozen peas, stir together, then turn off the heat. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, mix the ricotta, eggs, nutmeg, salt, and pepper until well combined.

To assemble, butter a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.

Add half the pasta, then dollop on about 1/3 cup of the ricotta mixture.

Sprinkle 1/3 of the Parmesan over the ricotta, then 1/2 the cooked vegetables.

Repeat with the rest of the pasta, the rest of the ricotta, and another 1/3 of the Parmesan.

Finish with the rest of the vegetables and the last of the Parmesan. Drizzle with a couple of tablespoons olive oil, then bake for 35 minutes on gas 4/350F till hot through.

So there is twenty minutes active cooking time and a little while in the oven and dinner is ready! Could be served with bread and salad should you so desire but mighty fine with nothing more than a glass of wine and lovely company.

Friday, July 03, 2009

I wanted ... I bought ... I made

Saturday we have the afternoon in Tooting while I get everything sorted for Sunday Food Chain so dinner needs to be a simple thing, fish and salad perhaps though it's 4th July so quite fancy a burger blowout in the end we had pan fried chicken with potato salad and garden salad from our very own garden. Sunday an easy roast to make when I get home even better I had cooked the gammon Saturday then glazed it with cloves and molasses sugar for a deeply wonderful result with a crisp green salad and more potato salad, Monday I'm out so the man may like to eat a pie, Tuesday a lentil salad I fancy trying we had pasta with ricotta and summer vegetables, Wednesday the pasta that didn't happen last week may be resurrected which was Tuesday and the lentil salad was Wednesday, Thursday I will try the tortilla the tortilla may never be made! as we had eggs and dahl as told by Madhur Jaffrey and Friday a cold collation with some things that we have now in the fridge perhaps but we are out so dinner at A&H. Yay!

Sunshine Saturday - starting to expect it now after a whole week or more. Soon I may forget how to wear a cardigan. We headed off to Borough Market early and it was a real pleasure to wander about almost unimpeded by tourists. At the Ginger Pig I bought a lovely piece of gammon Sunday dinner and lunches till Wednesday and a couple of chicken breasts just fried with garlic for dinner Saturday - £16.55

At Booths I bought potatoes, little cucumbers (as in 'would you like a little cucumber?!), leeks, fennel, and red onions a variety of salads- £6

Have run out of posh sherry vinegar so got some from Brindisa as well as a tin of tuna - £12.70 - it is expensive but it lasts forever (till it runs out, obviously) and is a brilliant ingredient for certain salad dressings, particularly

From a very cheerful Lizzie at Wild Beef I bought a dozen eggs two lots of boiled egg dishes, one salad one curry, plus a couple in the pasta bake on Tuesday - £3

A crusty white campagne from Rhodes - £1.50

Coffee from Monmouth - £10

A lovely steak and kidney pie from Mrs Kings - £2.50

Milk from Neals Yard - £3

A cottage loaf from Flour Power - £1.10 - but no brownie as the man has vaguely gone off them of late so perhaps absence will restore the passion!

So a not unreasonable £56.35