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Posts from the ‘Quick and easy’ Category

Tzatziki to have with everything 

It’s hot hot hot out there isn’t it? So hot, all I want to eat is cucumber and watermelon, cooking is barely on the agenda. So for days like this I want a bowl of cool tzatziki in the fridge, ready to have a flatbread dunked into it or to be dolloped over a salad. It somehow adds richness whilst still being refreshing, and turns odds and ends from the fridge into a little summer feast.

I remember the first time I went to Crete, we stopped for lunch in a little cafe one day and I ordered tzatziki and a Greek salad, not the most adventurous lunch, but I was amazed by how different the tzatziki there was to the slightly insipid pots you get in the supermarket in this country. It was so thick and creamy, fairly pungent with garlic, utterly delicious. Having eaten that, my main quest in making my own has been to replicate that thick creaminess. This involves dedicating a bit of time to straining everything thoroughly, nothing complicated, but it’s enough to make the difference to the end result.

Start by lining a sieve with muslin or some sturdy kitchen towels. Dollop in about 300g Greek yogurt, then wrap in the muslin, cover with a small plate or bowl and a heavy weight of some sort, so that it’s pressing down on the yogurt. Pop the sieve over a bowl and leave in the fridge for an hour or two for some of the liquid to drain out. 

Partly peel half a cucumber, cut into quarters lengthways and remove the seeds. Coarsely grate into another cloth and squeeze firmly to wring out excess water. I like a bit of peel for some colour, but not all of it.

Add the cucumber to the thick drained yogurt, along with half a clove of crushed garlic, a spritz of lemon juice, a tablespoon or two of good olive oil, a small handful of chopped mint and some salt and pepper. 

Serves two. I’d highly recommend making a big batch of this although note that the garlic flavour intensifies the longer that you keep it.

Shopping list:

300g Greek yogurt 

Half a cucumber

Small handful mint

Lemon

Half a clove of garlic

Olive oil

Roast tomato, sweet potato, ginger and coconut soup

It’s nearly the wrong time of year for soup, but with the cold snap this week, I thought I’d squeeze in another batch. We’re on the cusp of all the lovely spring veg now, so I’ll be leaving the root vegetables behind soon, but this is just the thing for a rainy spring afternoon. And oh I love this recipe! It’s so thick, rich, sweet and creamy, it feels satisfyingly filling and warm in your stomach, I could eat it all in one go. The first time I made this my mum ended up doing most of the making whilst I looked after the little one who has a knack for knowing when I’m in the middle of something! I remember tasting a spoonful in the blender and it had come out just perfectly, no additional seasoning needed or anything. I bought all the ingredients again the next weekend, it’s just the best soup I’ve had in a long time.

Start by roasting your tomatoes. It’s really worth doing this, especially if you’re using winter supermarket tomatoes which lack some of the sweetness of summer grown ones. Halve about 500g tomatoes, drizzle over a little olive oil and add a sprinkle of salt. Roast in a hot 180C fan oven for 45mins to an hour, until blackened and starting to collapse.

Meanwhile, roughly dice half a red onion and gently fry in a spoonful of coconut oil if you have it, or olive oil. Peel and dice 2 medium sweet potatoes, about 300g, and add to the onions. Add about 3cm fresh root ginger, peeled and chopped and a couple of cloves of garlic. Cover with 500ml vegetable stock and bring to a simmer. Cook for around 20 minutes, or until the sweet potato is tender.

Add your roasted tomatoes to the pan, make sure to scrape in all that lovely sweet tomato juice from the tray, although it’s also lovely to mop the tray with a slice of bread! Add 200ml coconut milk and cook for another 5 minutes. Blend until smooth. This is very thick, you might want to add more water or stock to get to a consistency you like, but I like it like this. Add extra seasoning as needed. Add a few chilli flakes on top or a drizzle of cream to serve. 

Would probably serve 3 or 4 people, but I normally enjoy two very large bowls of this.

Shopping list:

500g tomatoes

300g sweet potato

500ml vegetable stock (I just use powdered)

Half red onion

3cm root ginger

2 cloves garlic

200ml coconut milk

Coconut or olive oil

Allow an hour and 15 minutes for cooking before you want to serve.

Warm ginger figs for breakfast

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I’ve moved house recently, so it’s not exactly been gourmet rations of late. I started off trying to make practical meals to use up everything I’d got stashed in the freezer, although this quickly degenerated into plates of random things with no purpose other than satiating an appetite. You can identify a low point when mayonnaise becomes a pasta sauce…

So now I have a new kitchen for a new season. This is really a suggestion in a bowl, rather than a recipe, but I enjoyed it enough to take a couple of photos as I sat surrounded by boxes waiting to be unpacked. And it had to be a smartphone photo, since my camera is deep in the mire of boxes awaiting attention.

I took inspiration from a recent trip to Greece for this, where sweet, sun ripened figs adorned the daily breakfast table. Figs really benefit from being slightly warm, as if they have just dropped off a tree on a sunny Mediterranean afternoon and burst open on the ground. They’re much less exciting plucked from the fridge on a dreary, autumn day in the UK. So start by warming through a couple of quartered figs in a low oven for 10 minutes, generously drizzled with a spoonful of syrup from a jar of stem ginger.

Fill a bowl with thick and creamy greek yogurt, pop your figs on top, sprinkle with a handful of your favourite granola, another drizzle of ginger syrup, a little chopped stem ginger and a few thyme leaves. Serves 1. Read more

Asparagus and iberico ham salad

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I can’t eat salad when it’s dark outside, so strong is my association of salad with sunshine. So suppers like this only really become an option at the height of summer, when it’s light until late and I’ve still got time to put this together after work.

I built this salad around the discovery of a jar of iberico pork fat in the supermarket and what a little jar of joy it turned out to be. I decided to showcase its rich, deep ham flavour by using lashings of it to make delicious crispy, meaty croutons out of some leftover bread.

Asparagus and ham are natural partners, and with the asparagus season still going in the UK it felt like the obvious choice. So just 10 minutes with a frying pan will make this substantial salad to enjoy whilst the sun goes down.

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Sunshine tortillas

A sunny light evening makes me crave something fresh and crunchy for supper and this fits the bill perfectly. I’ve been making this a lot recently. It’s one of those things that I just threw together to use up the things in my fridge one evening and, whilst the first version was so spicy I had a pot of yoghurt on the side, it was otherwise successful, even more so now I’ve toned the chilli down.

It’s really quick to make, so an ideal alternative to an after-work stir fry and would easily adapt to whatever vegetables you have in the fridge, although I love the combination of red and orange peppers and sweetcorn, it just looks like sunshine on a plate.

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Hot tomatoes on toast

This is a sort of winter version of one of my summer favourites – pan con tomate. At this time of year I want something warm to eat and the tomatoes in the shops can be in need of a little help to bring out the best in them.

Normally I shy away from anything sweet and sour; too many dodgy takeaways making it synonymous with gloopy luminous red sauce covering unidentifiable fried things and random chunks of pineapple. But a splash of sherry vinegar and a spoonful of sugar over some squashed fried tomatoes creates a delicious sticky glaze that will seep satisfyingly into a chewy slice of thick toast.

Toast a nice chunky slice of sourdough or similar bread and keep warm.

Pop a good knob of butter into a small frying pan with a whole clove of garlic and bring to a sizzle. Chop around 100-150g tomatoes into chunks – I only had cherry tomatoes in so I just halved them. Add to the pan and fry over a medium heat for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. When they begin to soften, give them a good squish with a fork then add a couple of teaspoons of sherry or balsamic vinegar and a couple of teaspoons of soft brown sugar. Allow to bubble away until thick and reduced.

Fish out the clove of garlic and discard. Add a little salt and pepper then pour over the bread. Sprinkle over a little thyme and eat.

Serves 1 as a light lunch. A poached egg on top would turn this into an excellent brunch too. Takes 10 minutes.

Shopping list:

Around 150g tomatoes

A good chunky slice of bread

A knob of butter

1 clove garlic

2tsp sherry or balsamic vinegar

2tsp light brown sugar

a few thyme leaves

 

Cauliflower almond soup, with mushrooms and truffle oil

I’ve got snow envy again. It seems to be the same old story every January these days; I’m always the happy recipient of other people’s snowmen pictures, but there’s never a flake to be seen in London. Whilst I’m not a fan of the cold, I do love that magical ability snow has to imbue a sense of calm and serenity, acting as a massive blanket that muffles any noise and makes everything still under its weight.

The delicate flavour and thick texture of this soup has a similar calming influence to that elusive heavy snowfall which I never open my curtains to find. White food seems to have a gentle quality which can be just what you need after a daily battle through the cold. The nutty sweet flavour of almonds blends well with the earthiness of the cauliflower. I decided to top it off with even more earthy flavour from some fried mushrooms and truffle oil, although it’s not essential. Read more

Sweet potato, sweetcorn and chorizo hash

I’m having a bit of a sweet potato love-in at the moment. Maybe it’s their enticingly autumnal orange colour, but I’ve eaten this dish so many times recently, I just had to share it. I love the bright colours and sweet flavours; it’s a lovely, comforting and filling supper.

Peel and chop a small sweet potato into small cubes – the smaller they are the faster they’ll cook. I try to cut mine smaller than 1cm if I can. Heat a little oil in a small frying pan over a medium heat and add the potato. Cover with a lid and fry gently, stirring occasionally, for around 10 minutes until soft and slightly golden.

Meanwhile, peel a small corn on the cob and slice off the kernels, or use a small tin if you can’t get fresh corn. Slice a few spring onions and halve a handful of cherry tomatoes.

Slice a couple of chunks of chorizo sausage and cut into cubes. Add these to the cooked potato and stir for a couple of minutes till the oil starts to ooze out. If you don’t have chorizo or don’t want to use it, add half a teaspoon of paprika instead for a lovely smoky flavour.

Throw in the corn, onions and tomatoes and allow to cook for A few minutes. Then add a good handful of spinach and allow to wilt then crack one or two eggs over the top, turn the heat to medium-low, put the lid back on and allow to cook for a few minutes until the egg white has set but the yolk is still lovely and runny.

Sprinkle over some chopped coriander and serve.

Serves 1, takes 20-25 minutes.

Shopping list:

1 small sweet potato

1 small corn on the cob

Small bunch Spring onions

cherry tomatoes

a few slices of chorizo or 1/2 tsp paprika

spinach

1 or 2 eggs

coriander

Sweet potato laksa

sweet potato laksa

So I’ve been spiralising again, it’s quite addictive once you start! This time with an actual spiraliser, a lovely birthday gift that enables me to spiral away at speed; no vegetable is seemingly safe from being turned into some sort of noodle.

I can feel the Autumn mood settling into my kitchen already. I like a little chilli in many dishes, but as the seasons change, my choice of recipe changes too. In summer I like my chilli paired with citrus and herbs, something bright and vibrant, evocative of Vietnam or Mexico. As the weather turns cooler, I move towards gentle, sweet spices; mellow and rich with coconut or cream. This laksa strikes just the right comforting note on a cool, damp evening. Read more

Prawn, feta and lemon courgetti

prawn, feta and lemon courgetti

 

The lure of a new kitchen gadget can prove hard to resist. I’ve been toying with the idea of getting a spiraliser for a while now; there is something very appealing about swapping the carbs for something a little bit lighter, especially in summer.

Until I have a massive kitchen with oodles of storage, I try not to act on impulse and commit my already bulging cupboards to yet another gadget, however exciting it might seem. So in an attempt to work out whether long thin strands of vegetables will indeed prove to be a total revelation to my cooking, I bought a significantly smaller, cheaper julienne peeler instead, which can live comfortably and guilt-free in the utensil drawer.

Prawns and feta are one of my favourite flavour combinations – the tangy, salty cheese sits perfectly alongside the sweet, meaty prawns. Handfuls of herbs and some lemon zest make this taste like a summer evening by the seaside. Read more