Thursday, 16 April 2015

Wild garlic and asparagus crispy omelette recipe

Spring is sprung. I can tell by the ingredients available in my weekly Riverford Organic veg box. Lo! the hungry gap is drifting away into the horizon...that dull period in Britain between January and May when there isn't much to eat other than potatoes, turnips, kale and cabbage. Until next year...I heave a sigh of relief.
I got asparagus and wild garlic, yes another wild garlic recipe, the second in a week. Say it myself but it was delish. Hope you enjoy.

Wild garlic and asparagus crispy omelette recipe

Serves 2

4 eggs
pinch sea salt
a large handful of wild garlic, chop up 1/3, keep the rest whole
a dozen spears of fine asparagus
enough olive oil to cover the base of your frying pan
Zest of 1 lemon
a handful of fresh mint, finely chopped
White pepper

Whisk the eggs in a bowl and add a pinch of salt and the chopped 1/3 of wild garlic. I used a heavy seasoned cast iron frying pan which I heated up in advance on the stove. Use any good non-stick wide frying pan.
Snap the stringy ends of the asparagus by bending near the ends and snapping it off.
Oil the frying pan and tip in the egg mixture. Swirl it around until it cover the base of the pan then let it cook for a minute.
Add the asparagus spears whole then add the wild garlic leaves on top. Keep your pan on a low heat, use a lid or plate to cover the frying pan, letting the asparagus and garlic steam.
After five to ten minutes, remove the lid and grate on the lemon zest and sprinkle the fresh mint. Season with more sea salt and white pepper.
Serve warm, from the pan if you wish.

Blogger Widgets

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

I'm on TV! BBC2's Food and Drink

In the midst of a particularly laddish (ie male) episode, some have called it Top Gear for food, I appeared, clad in pearls, tottering in heels with a rose and net fascinator clamped to the side of my head and slightly smeared red lipstick, in a segment of BBC2's Food and Drink talking about fashion and food. We were looking at the mash-up food of chef Dan Doherty of Duck and Waffle and an Indian Scotch egg recipe by blue-eyed presenter Andy Bates. The lipstick smears were due to the fact that I'd been waiting in the Duck and Waffle's sky-high bar, overlooking London. I can faithfully report that the cocktails were excellent.
I wasn't introduced as a chef or even a cook but as a food blogger but I'd love to do more TV. What do you think?  Here is another video by me: 
How to make marmite on toast.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Mini-calzone with wild garlic and sheeps cheese recipe

It's wild garlic season so I'm threading it through all my recipes right now. Ramps tend to be mentioned on American food sites; while similar it is more like a baby leek or spring onion. Wild garlic is just leaves and flowers.
Everybody thinks bread and pizza making is so hard but it really isn't. This recipe couldn't be easier. Mix, leave for an hour, make balls, fold in 'topping' ingredients, bake, done.

Mini 'calzone' with wild garlic and sheeps cheese recipe

Makes 8

500g strong white flour
10g sea salt
10g fast action dried yeast
350ml luke warm water
a large handful of wild garlic
200g of sheep's cheese
Sea salt
Good olive oil

Mix the flour and the salt together, then add the yeast and water. If using a stand mixer, use the dough hook to knead for 5 minutes on a low speed. If mixing by hand then knead for at least ten minutes. Make a ball of the dough.
When using a stand mixer, I just cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave to proof in a warm place for an hour. If doing by hand then flour a bowl and place the dough ball inside. Cover with clingfilm or a damp tea towel and leave to rise for an hour.
Once the dough has risen, carefully tip it, using a dough spatula to gently pull it away from the sides of the bowl, onto a floured surface. Preheat the oven to 250c.
Divide the dough equally into 8 balls. Flatten them into rounds using your hand.
Then add some wild garlic leaves, (I stripped the leaves away from the central stalk), some sheeps cheese (you can use other cheeses) into the middle of the dough circle. I then crumbled a little sea salt on top.
Lift the edges of the dough circle, gathering them up until the edges meet in the middle and press them together. Flip over the ball and flatten into a circle again.
Do this with all 8 balls.
Line them up on a silpat or parchment paper, with gaps between them. Place in the oven for ten minutes then flip them over and cook for another five minutes or so.
They will puff up. Remove them from the oven and eat while warm. Once broken open, drizzle with olive oil.
If you want to freeze them, part bake them for only 8 minutes, remove, leave to cool then place in a plastic bag and freeze.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Pastitsio, recipe for a Greek vegetarian pasta dish

Pastitsio, the classic Athenian recipe, a pasta bake, similar to lasagne, but made with long tubular macaroni called 'mezzani'. If you can't find it where you live, feel free to use shorter macaroni, or bucatini, which is Italian pasta with a smaller tube. But if, like me, you believe certain shapes of pasta go with particular sauces and are a little bit fussy about that, make the effort to get the right pasta. 
I admit that I'm a pasta fascist. I recoil with horror when my daughter puts different shaped pasta together in the same pot. Of different cooking times! No. Just no. 
My other pasta rules: buy the very best, the stuff that costs a couple of pounds a packet. You aren't exactly breaking the bank with that. In fact this is one of my life rules: if you don't have much money, go luxe on the cheaper things of life. Buy great soap, great pasta, great tinned tomatoes. Never buy cheap pasta and of course never EVER buy quick cook. 
Do not confuse pastitsio with pasticcio, an Italian dish, which is more like a pie (although you will see recipes around the internet which call it by the latter name).
I think this is a great supper club or dinner party dish, as you can make everything in advance, assemble it, then bung it in the oven while your guests are here, leaving you hands-free to serve drinks and chat.

Vegetarian Pastitsio Recipe

Serves 8 to 10 people


The tomato sauce
A heavy splash of olive oil
1 litre of passata (or 1 500g box of passata and 1 tin of chopped tomatoes)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp of fresh thyme leaves
Sea salt
The pasta
500g macaroni, ideally ‘mezzani’
1 tbsp sea salt
2 tbsp olive oil
The mushroom béchamel
1 kilo of mushrooms, thinly sliced
50g unsalted butter and a splash of olive oil.
1/2 glass of white wine
75g of unsalted butter
6 tbsps of flour
1.5 litres of whole milk
1 tsp of ground nutmeg
Sea salt to taste
White pepper, ground
Cheese topping
200g grated hard sheep cheese, Cheddar or tomme

For the method go to my blog post on this recipe  where I also talk about my new found love of Greek wines (even Retsina!) in my column. And I explain how to keep all of your pasta in straight lines. 

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Artichoke, black lime, dill and lemon stew recipe (vegan)

Artichokes have hearts but as they grow older their hearts turn into bottoms!
This stew can be extravagantly made with fresh artichokes if you can get them cheaply in season otherwise this dish becomes too expensive.  But I've found artichoke bottoms in brine in large jars at my local Kurdish corner shop which taste pretty good. Frozen artichoke bottoms can also be found in Middle Eastern shops if you live in a city. I would count 3 artichoke bottoms per person if using fresh or more if using jarred or frozen. Fresh artichokes take up space in a saucepan and this is a rich 'stew' so you don't need too many. But you know your own appetite for artichokes I'm sure, so put in as many as you feel you'd like to eat.
Another ingredient you may not have tried is black lime which is often used in Persian cookery. It adds an intriguing smokey, charcoal, fermented note. Crumble it into any kind of stew or leave whole to slowly infuse into your pot of ingredients.
One more thing, if using jarred/canned/frozen artichokes, this recipe takes maximum half an hour to make.

Artichoke, black lime, dill and lemon stew recipe

Serves 4

400g jar of artichoke bottoms (drained) or 12 fresh artichokes, stem cut, top sliced off
1/2 lemon for the pot if using fresh.
Juice of 2 lemons
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 black lime, pounded into dust
2 preserved lemons, finely sliced
a handful of fresh dill, finely chopped
150ml of good olive oil
100ml raki (optional)
Sea salt to taste

Garnish with crumbled feta (optional)
or mint leaves, torn

If using fresh artichokes, cut off the stems and cut the top of the spiky thistle off. Prepare a large saucepan of salted boiling water, with half a lemon. Make sure you can fit all the artichokes in (you may need two pans) and that you have a lid for the pans. I also seal the pans by wrapping the lid in a clean tea towel. Boil for around ten to fifteen minutes longer if the artichokes aren't very fresh. However, do not over boil them. You want to be able to tug at a leaf and it comes off with just a little resistance, not too easily. If you were cooking them to use as a steamed artichoke starter then you would want the leaf to come off easily. But for a stew, you don't want the artichoke to turn into mush.
When they are par-boiled, remove the artichokes and leave them to drain, head facing downwards.
Then remove all the leaves and any thistle until you have the base.
(I ate the leaves as I went along!)
Using jarred/canned/frozen artichoke bottoms or prepped fresh ones, place them in a heavy bottomed large sauce pan. Add the lemon juice, garlic, black lime, the preserved lemon slices, the dill, the olive oil. Add the raki if using. Simmer for ten to fifteen minutes on a low heat.

Serve warm or cold as a meze or part of a main meal. Drizzle with more olive oil. Tastes even better the day after.