10 Minute Vegetable Noodle Broth

Earlier this week I popped the photo above onto my instagram feed. It was a last minute speedy photo, not really styled, but a quick snap before I dived in. I hadn’t given it much attention but thought I would pop it up on my feed. It was simply a quick broth that I had thrown together in 10 minutes one lunch time. I hadn’t made the broth from scratch by boiling up the bones/veg, it was a quick fix that hit the spot and fast.

It had such a positive response with a number of people asking me for the recipe that I thought I would pop it up on my blog so you can all see how quick and easy it is to prepare.

In fact I have popped up very similar recipes on my blog to this one over the last few years. Check out the following. All equally delicious and pretty simple to make as you will see.

 

Fragrant Lemongrass and Ginger Salmon Broth

Chiang Mai Noodle Broth

Miso Chilli Vegetable Noodle Broth

King Prawn Noodle Broth

 

So for the one I made earlier this week the magic ingredient is my garlic confit. Have you tried making it? I popped it up on a post in the summer and all I can say is that it is now my fridge staple.

If you haven’t made a batch then simple add olive oil and add 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped. Let me know how you get on if you make it and tag me #chilliandmint @chilliandmint on your instagram feeds. Happy lunch time eating all. Life’s too short to rely on sandwiches and salads every lunch.

10 Minute Vegetable Noodle Broth

serves 2

2 tbsp of garlic confit oil or regular olive oil if you have not made my recipe above

4 garlic confit cloves or 4 regular garlic cloves, chopped

2 inch piece of fresh ginger, skin removed and finely chopped into batons

3 spring onions, sliced at an angle

1 red or green chilli, finely chopped, optional

1 heaped tbsp of white miso paste

1 pint boiling water

1 tbsp light soy sauce

8 broccoli florets, chopped in half

2 large handfuls of fresh spinach

2 packets of udon noodles

2 eggs

10 cherry tomatoes, chopped in half

handful of fresh coriander

sprinkling of Japanese togarashi

 

  1. Gently lower the eggs into a pan of boiling water. If you want soft boiled eggs leave for 6 minutes max and if you want hard leave them for 8 minutes.
  2. In another pan, heat the garlic confit oil and garlic in a pan. If you have not made a batch of garlic confit – do seriously – you won’t look back after you have made one batch. Otherwise use olive oil and some fresh garlic roughly chopped. Move around the pan for a few minutes.
  3. Add almost all the  ginger batons, spring onions and chilli (if adding) followed by the miso paste and light soy sauce. Move around the pan for 20 seconds and then add the boiling water. I never actually measure out the water so add a pint and if you think it needs more, which it may well do add a little more.
  4. Add the udon noodles and broccoli and simmer gently for 3-4 minutes.
  5. Add the tomatoes, spinach and leave for 1 minute before turning off the heat. Taste test the broth and add more miso paste, soy sauce, boiling water to your liking.
  6. Remove the eggs from the pan and run under cold water whilst you remove the shell – you will find it easier to remove the shell this way. Cut them in half lengthways.
  7. Ladle the broth and noodles into deep bowls then add a good handful of fresh coriander, the remaining fresh ginger batons and place the eggs on top. Sprinkle some Japanese togarashi on top.

I often like to add a little Sriracha on top.

So easy and great for lunch or supper whether you are on your own or with company.

Slurping compulsory. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Toasted Sourdough with Soft Goats Cheese, Fig, Hazelnut and Honey

Eating for one need not be boring or unexciting. Working from home does allow me to make something delicious at lunch time, instead of the rather insipid sandwiches that certain chains offer. For those who follow my instastories will know I regularly make speedy veggie miso broths, interesting healthy colourful salads and sometimes a Scandinavian open sandwich: known in Danish: smørrebrød, Norwegian: smørbrød, Swedish: smörgås or macka. You can get creative as you like but they always look and taste good. I adore sourdough and invariably always have some in the house, so making an interesting open sandwich is a win win.

A fridge staple for me is soft goats cheese. Even if you think you may dislike goats cheese try the soft variety as it is less strong, deliciously creamy and has a wonderful taste. We all love it in my family. I cut a couple of slices of sourdough and pop them under the grill for a couple of minutes until they are toasted to my liking. I then slather soft goats cheese on top, quarter some fresh figs, scatter some nuts – hazelnuts or walnuts work really well, and then drizzle some sweet honey. So simple and yet super satisfying. If I have any fresh mint in the fridge/garden (which I didn’t today) I would roughly chop some leaves and throw them on it too. You get salty flavours from the goats cheese working so well with the luscious, soft figs and the fragrant honey.

It’s also a great weekend lunch idea for the family or if you have some friends coming over. To make it more substantial you could make a soup – something like my pea and mint would work really well.

 

Toasted Sourdough with Soft Goats Cheese, Fig, Hazelnut and Honey

for one (increase proportions if you are feeding others)

2 pieces of sourdough bread, toasted

1-2 large figs quartered

1 tbsp soft goats cheese

1 tbsp hazelnuts/walnuts, roughly chopped

drizzle of honey on top

 

  1. Toast the sourdough on both sides under the grill, in a toaster or in a griddle pan.
  2. Slather goats cheese on top.
  3. Add the quartered figs and scatter the nuts.
  4. Top with fragrant honey.
  5. Devour.

 

So simple and yet deliciously effective.


Indian Panch Phoron Damson Achaar

After chatting on instagram with my friend Harriet, aka ‘The Nutritional Bean’ about damsons and what to do them – damson wine or chutney was my go-to response, my mother independently called me moments later to ask if I wanted any. Seeing it as a sign, I said yes and she arrived later that day with said damsons, as well as a bounty of other fruits and veg from the garden. Juicy sweet yellow plums, pears and some runner beans and tomatoes. The damsons were so ripe that they were about to turn and go off, so I felt an Indian achaar (chutney) would be a good way to work with them quickly. Indian achaar is different from those made with vinegar, which allows them to keep for a month or two. An achaar is often made and eaten on the same day with dal, rice and/or curry. Whatever fruit or vegetable that needs eating you can make into an achaar. This is my mango  achaar recipe.  They are always deliciously tangy, spicy, sweet and sour and work so well with Indian and Sri Lankan food.

The magic ingredient, which I have spoken about many times over the last nine years of writing this blog, is the Bengali five spice known as ‘panch phoron’. It is often used in achaar in West Bengal. You can either make your own – by reading this post – or you can pick up panch phoron at any Asian grocers and I have even seen some of the large supermarkets stock it. When it comes to de-stoning the damson you can either do it the long way (which was my option) by cutting it half and then scoping out the stone or invest in a cherry and olive pitter, which will also fit damsons. It’s definitely on my Christmas wish list.

 

Like all chutneys it does involve adding a good measure of sugar to counterbalance the acidity. As you will only be eating one or two spoonfuls per person per sitting, it ends up balancing itself out, but be aware that it does seem quite a lot at first glance. Taste test as you go and if you find your damsons are not too acidic then you can add less sugar.

Whilst you can eat the chutney with Indian snacks, curries or dal, the achaar also works really well with cheese. It lasts in the fridge for 3-4 days. Have you had any damsons this year? If so how are you using them? I would love to know.

 

Indian Panch Phoron Damson Achaar

Makes a small bowl full

1 tbsp vegetable oil

2 small dried red chillies

1 tsp panch phoron/Bengali five spice

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

655g (or thereabouts) damsons, stone removed

2 tbsp raisins, optional

1 tsp grated ginger

3-4 tbsp sugar (you can use caster or brown)

salt, to taste

 

  1. In a deep pan heat the oil and then add the 2 dried chillies. Allow them to begin to darken – it may make you cough a little – this is normal.
  2. Next add the panch phoron (fenugreek, nigella, fennel, black mustard, cumin seeds) and allow them to begin to splutter.
  3. Next add the turmeric quickly followed by the damsons. Give a good stir then add the fresh ginger and raisins.
  4. Add the sugar, a little at a time and taste as you go. Depending on the acidity of the damsons depends on how much you will require.
  5. Allow to bubble away on a low heat for 15 minutes. Add a little salt if required.
  6. Allow to cool and serve with Indian food or cheese, it works really well with both – just probably not together.

 


Top Tips On Visiting Petra and a Recipe for Jordanian Shorba


View towards the Monastery and Umm Sayhoun in the distance

One of the (many) highlights of visiting Jordan is exploring the magnificent Nabataean red rose city of Petra, which is believed to have been established in the 4th century BC as the capital city of the Nabataean Kingdom. I thought it might be useful if I provide some helpful tips, which will hopefully make your visit to this UNESCO world heritage centre truly memorable. I visited in August, when it is searingly hot, but totally doable at the same time.

 First glimpse of The Treasury whilst waking down the Siq

When is the best time to visit Petra?

The cooler periods to visit Petra are autumn and spring when I hear the crowds are less heaving. We visited in August and didn’t come across any other British tourists in Petra, although it seemed to be very popular with the Italians and Spanish. Whatever time of year you visit the quietest time to explore Petra is as soon as the park opens at 6am and in the late evening 6-7pm. In the summer months it closes at 7pm and the winter at 4pm, but I don’t think they are too strict about this- we stumbled out just before 7pm and there were still a number of people we had passed going up to the High Place of Sacrifice as we were coming down. Although do bear in mind that once the sun sets it gets dark FAST and navigating getting out of Petra in the dark, without a torch could be rather tricky, although I guess it would make a good tale to tell the grandkids!

Even though there were lots of people mulling around by the Treasury when we first entered via the Siq, once you go further in, the crowds disperse and you are free to explore the caves and sites without huge swathes of people.

Having walked down the Siq you arrive at The Treasury

To Guide or Not to Guide?

Hiring a local Bedouin guide has it’s advantages if you want to hike some lesser known trails around Petra. Also it might be good to hire one for a few hours before breaking away on your own to explore. If you have a good guidebook, however, you can  read up about the various key sights while you are there. Everything is well signposted and you are provided with maps from the visitors centre at the entrance. The key places to visit are: the Siq (which you will walk along to actually enter Petra), The Treasury, Street of Facades and The Great Temple excavations undertaken by Brown University, Theatre, Royal Tombs, Colonnaded Street, The Monastery and the Place of High Sacrifice.

Tickets to enter Petra for one day are JD50 (£50/$70) for two days only 5JD more and three days 10JD more. Children under 15yrs old get in free. In hindsight I wish we had spent an extra day in Petra so we could explore more of the trails instead of walking 15 miles in one day.

Colannaded Street with local Bedouins on their donkeys

Donkeys, Camels, Mules and Horses

Local Bedouins are eager to offer tourists rides to and around Petra on their various beasts of burden. Whilst I realise this is an income for them and that most of the animals looked in fairly good condition, I passed up on their offer, preferring my own two feet to carry me everywhere. Climbing up to the Monastery were dozens of donkeys carrying weary walkers to the top. It’s steep and as a walker you need to be careful for fear of being knocked over the edge by the animals as they clamber with their heavy human loads. I almost saw one mule, carrying a tourist, go over the edge of a precipice. Coming down on the donkeys looked really precarious so I will leave it to you on what you decide. I think it’s an easy decision mind you!

Don’t let the bazaar vibes get you down

Most of the Bedouins living in Petra are from the B’doul tribe and many now live in the purpose-built settlement of Umm Sayhoun, which you can see in my first photo in the distance on the far right. Most work in the tourism industry working in hotels or camps or as horse riders, tour guides or souvenir sellers. One thing I noticed was the huge amount of souvenir sellers  all around Petra, all the way along the trails to the main sites. Whilst it does seem rather overrun with stalls, there are some good souvenirs to buy, many made by the local women, so its worth looking at what they have to offer. Remember it is not like shopping here in the UK. When they offer a price you need to haggle a little bit – it’s what they expect, so don’t agree with the first price.

Meeting Marguerite van Geldermalsen

One New Zealand tourist visiting Petra in 1978 fell for the charms of one of the souvenir-sellers – Mohammed Abdallah Othman and never left. She learned Arabic, converted to Islam and gave birth to three children, who are now all grown up. Mohammed has since past away sadly, but Marguerite still lives there. For seven years she made a home with him in a two thousand-year-old cave carved into the rock hillside, living like a Bedouin. Whilst she now lives in Umm Sayhoun, she can be found most days in Petra selling her memoir, sometimes with her grown-up daughter, as well as some beautiful jewellery that she has designed and made with the help of a local women’s co-operative. Her shop is very close to where her troglodyte dwelling used to be in fact.

Are Food, Water and Facilities Available in Petra?

Absolutely yes to all three. Deliciously cold bottled water is available all over Petra, although prices range on where you buy them. At the bottom of the hike to ‘The Monastery’ they were half the price to what they were at the top. The main restaurant in Petra is ‘The Basin’ and whilst it’s ok, I think opting for a packed lunch and sandwich is a better option. I didn’t really feel like eating that much in the heat, and besides I was there to explore and hike and not eat copious amounts of salads and hummus. You can pick up some snacks Wadi Musa – the town that has built up outside Petra, or get your hotel to make up a packed lunch for you. Another option is to pick up a fresh sandwich at ‘The Monastery’ with a cold orange juice when you get to the top.

You will also find Bedouin ladies making tea at a number of opportune places. In the late afternoon we climbed to ‘The Place of High Sacrifice’ where we had the place to ourselves. Then behind a rock we found the lady in the photo on the right beckoning us to have some tea and sit with her. At which point she got out her tin flute and played us a tune as we sipped our sweet tea and watched the sun reflect brilliantly over Petra. Hauntingly memorable.

Made it to The High Place of Sacrifice - incredible view from the top

 

Where to stay in Petra?

All the hotels and camps have been built in and around Wadi Musa, which has grown as the tourist industry has thrived. We stayed at the Movenpick Hotel, which is perfectly positioned at the entrance to Petra. The hotel would not win awards for architectural beauty from the outside, but inside is far more appealing than you would be led to believe, especially the atrium where you can linger over a cold drink and a good book. There is an outside pool, which was much needed after 10 hours on our feet and a great roof terrace where you can watch the sunset/rise. The rooms and bathrooms are a little dated, but the beds perfectly comfortable so overall the hotel was an excellent choice for our adventures in Petra.

Where to eat when you stay in Petra?

There are a number of restaurants in Wadi Musa all offering similar type dishes. We ate at a couple of restaurants – the best being ‘My Mom’s Recipe Restaurant’ which serves Jordanian fare in an atmospheric restaurant. It  is reached by climbing a couple of flights of stairs with rugs adorning the walls and ceilings. It was cosy and welcoming with good views of the nights sky and a local musician playing live music. I was also very impressed by the waitress who was Yemeni and spoke Arabic; English; Hindi and Filipino.

We also had an excellent buffet lunch at Al Qantarah where there was a wide selection of cold and hot dishes as well as some tasty falafels, which were freshly made.

I craved a hot soup (I know this may sound strange when it was mid 30’s outside), so ordered a local Jordanian favourite, Shorba, made of red split lentils, spices and lemon. It is similar to Indian dal, but with an Arabic twist.  I ate it quite a few times in Jordan so thought you would like the recipe too as it will be perfect for the months ahead.

Jordanian Shorba

serves 4-6

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 white onion, chopped

1 bay leaf

1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped

2 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped

2 cups of red split lentils, washed under cold water and strained a couple of times

2.5 litres of water

1 chicken/vegetable stock cube

1 1/2 tsp cumin powder

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

 juice of one lemon, or to taste

1 tsp freshly ground pepper

1 tsp salt

handful of fresh parsley, to serve

 

  1. In a deep pan heat the oil and add the onion, bay leaf and carrot and cook on a low heat for 5 minutes before adding the garlic and cooking for a further 2 minutes.
  2. Add the red split lentils and cover with the water and stock cube.
  3. Cook on a medium to low flame for 15 minutes, skimming any scum that may come to the surface.
  4. When it has softened, add the cumin and turmeric powders, lemon juice, freshly ground pepper and salt.
  5. Remove the bay leaf and then using a hand blender blitz the lentils so that they are smooth. You may need to add some more water if the soup is too thick.
  6. Taste test and add more salt/pepper/lemon juice as you see fit.
  7. Pour into bowls and add a little fresh parsley on top.

 

Exploring Little Petra - we pretty much had the place to ourselves

What is Little Petra?

Little Petra is about a 15 minute car ride from Wadi Musa. It is another archeological site located north of Petra. It is also Nabataean with buildings carved into the the sandstone walled canyon. It is thought to have been built to house visiting traders on the Silk Road – much like a caravanserai. It is free to visit and takes between 30 mins -1 hour to explore and there were only a handful of tourists when we visited. At the end of the canyon is a precarious climb to a view point with a souvenir seller at the top and a place to have some tea and cold drinks.

There are some other hikes, which start from Little Petra which take you further into the arid, mountainous desert region which look interesting if you have more time in the area. I would advise to get a guide if you want to venture further on this hike and make sure to carry lots of water and supplies as there will be no sellers offering food and beverages on the trail.

Local Bedouin man playing his Oud

Petra Night Tour – worth doing or not?

We did NOT do this ourselves, owing to the fact we were too shattered after our 15 mile hike around Petra and quite honestly could not face walking another 2.5km down the Siq and another 2.5km back in the dark.  Our legs had given up on us and we fancied a leisured evening and rest, before visiting Little Petra the next day. It also sounded a bit of a tourist trap if I’m honest and on Trip Advisor has mixed feedback. If you fancy giving it a whirl however, it happens on Monday, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8.30pm when the tour walks from the visitors centre down the Siq to the Treasury. Apparently it is all lit up with candles and is very atmospheric, albeit you are witnessing this wondering with hundreds of other people. There are some locals playing instruments, some Arabic singing and story telling and tea drinking but apparently as there are so many people receiving tea is not guaranteed with that number of people. The whole experience lasts two hours and once the sun has gone down it gets cold, so bring sufficient clothes to keep yourself warm.

Tickets cost JD17 (£17/$24), children under 10 are free, and it last for a couple of hours.

 

Sitting with my back to the Royal Tombs overlooking the Street of Facades and Colonnaded Street

Brown Lentil, Smoked Sweet Paprika and Parsley Soup

Continuing on the theme of lasts weeks post I wanted to show you a recipe that incorporates garlic confit.

So who has made it yet? Be honest!

Basically garlic confit is great in soups, stews, broths and pastas. It adds warmth, flavour and many delicious notes to a dish.

You will wonder how on earth you survived without it until now.

The soup I wanted to show you I’ve made a few times since my discovery of garlic confit. It takes minutes to prepare and is addictively delicious. The brown lentils I use are the ones in glass jars, as I just think they taste a whole lot better. If you can only find the tinned ones then absolutely use those – it will still taste great.

I love soups whatever the weather but I know that it is not customary to eat hot soups in hot weather here in the UK. In India it is quite different and hot soups are eaten even in 35 degrees heat. This recipe does have autumnal tones and I think that it will appeal to a wide audience as the days get cooler – at least I hope so.

Brown Lentil, Smoked Sweet Paprika and Parsley Soup

Serves 4-6

3 tbsp oil from the garlic confit

8 confit garlic cloves

1 small white onion, finely chopped

2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped

1/2 tsp smoked sweet paprika

400g brown lentils

1 tbsp tomato puree

800ml of stock – vegetable or chicken

salt to taste

2 tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley chopped

juice of half a lemon

 

  1. In a large deep pan – I love to use my Le Creuset pot – add the garlic confit oil, along with 8 garlic confit cloves. Allow to heat up and then add onion and allow to soften.
  2. Add the tomatoes and smoked sweet paprika to the onion and garlic confit.
  3. When the tomatoes have softened, add the brown lentils and the tomato puree followed by the stock.
  4. Allow to come to the boil and then simmer gently for 10 minutes. Add salt to taste and then add the fresh flat leaf parsley and lemon juice.
  5. Serve immediately with some crusty bread.

 


If there is one thing you do this summer ………make Garlic Confit

Not so long ago ‘garlic confit’ entered my world. I had kindly been given the wonderful cookbook ‘Gjelina – Cooking from Venice California’ from a good Californian friend who knows I love the restaurant. I spoke more about it here. Flicking through the pages I saw a number of confit recipes so opted to try the garlic confit first. Of course I had heard of garlic confit, but never really had it to hand in my fridge. It is has now become one of my favourite fridge essentials, along with my chipotle of course.

It is really straight forward to make and the flavours it transmits in a dish are PHENOMENAL. The garlic cloves are slow cooked, which gives them a deliciously unctuous taste and texture and the oil they sit in is liquid gold that equally transforms a recipe. It’s one of those things that you wished you had cooked years ago – hence my enthusiasm to urge you to make a batch yourselves.

 

 

The only vaguely time consuming part is peeling 8 heads of garlic but that’s where your other half/children/neighbours/friends popping over for coffee, come in handy.

Would love to hear if you actually make it so please leave a comment in the comments section below.

Next week I will show you a deliciously easy recipe that includes garlic confit.

Garlic Confit

Makes around 1kg

8 heads of garlic, cloves separated and peeled

12 fresh thyme sprigs

3 bay leaves, bruised

500ml extra-virgin olive oil

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade.
  2. Peel the garlic cloves and place them in an oven proof dish.
  3. Add the bay leaves, fresh thyme and extra-virgin olive oil.
  4. Bake in the oven for 50 minutes so that they are lightly browned but still hold their shape.
  5. Allow to cool completely and then transfer to an airtight container.
  6. Place in the fridge and use when needed. They will last for up to 2 months, but I can assure you you will finish them way before the 2 months is up.

 


A Tuscan Classic – Ribollita

So how has everyone been coping this week with the HOTTEST weather on record in the UK and much of Europe? Dark, cool rooms or being in or near water have been the answer, but sleeping at night has been tough hey? When it’s super hot, I never feel particularly hungry and I certainly don’t want to be cooking with heat by a stove/oven for that long. I gravitated towards making salads, and on Thursday (the hottest day ever) I made my Vietnamese chicken salad – well a fusion of two of my recipes in fact – this one and this one .  It’s very straightforward and packed full of flavours and textures. It tasted cleansing and zingy with some good elements of crunch.

As crazy at it may sound when the going gets hot sometimes a soup – yes soup – can cool you down. You know how much I love soups and dals, and on our recent jaunt to Florence we ordered a Tuscan favourite – Ribollita – quite a few times when dining out. It’s a classic Tuscan dish that uses stale bread, tomatoes and my store cupboard favourite, white beans. It’s a meal in itself and gets the approval from the whole family so I thought I would make it my blog post for this week. I hope you like it. It’s a great year round recipe, so instead of just discarding stale bread try making this Tuscan classic instead.

 

Ribollita – a classic Tuscan dish

Serves 4-6

2 white onions, finely chopped

2 celery stalks, finely chopped

3 medium sized carrots, finely chopped

1 whole garlic, peeled and roughly chopped

1 wedge of parmesan rind (you know the end you normally want to throw away right)

2x400g can of good plum tomatoes

1 large handful of cavolo nero also known as Tuscan kale, roughly chopped

400g jar/tin of white beans

Approx 300g stale white bread (I like to use sourdough, but whatever you have to hand)

1 tsp red pepper flakes

70 ml of good extra virgin olive oil with extra to drizzle

salt to taste

 

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees centigrade.
  2. First prepare the onion, celery, carrots and garlic. Place to one side
  3. Next remove the stalk from the kale by gliding your hand down the stalk to remove the leaves from the base of the stalk. Then roughly chop and place to one side.
  4. Cut up a wedge of parmesan rind and place to one side.
  5. Remove the plum tomatoes from the cans and strain, keeping the juice and then using your hand break up the plum tomatoes and place in a different bowl to the juice.
  6. Roughly tear by the bread.
  7. In a large pan – I find my trusty Le Crueset pan works really well for this type of meal – heat the oil and then add the onion, celery, carrots and garlic along with some salt. Allow to soften and the onions to become translucent but not brown.
  8. Add the plum tomatoes – still keep the juice to one side – and mix in thoroughly. Simmer for a further 10 minutes.
  9. Now add the parmesan rind, red pepper flakes, tomato juice and the strained white beans and stir in gently so that the flavours can infuse together.
  10. Add 1 litre of water and simmer.
  11. Now add half the cavolo nero and once wilted add the rest.
  12. Follow a similar step with the stale bread. When you have added the second batch of stale bread, add a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and place in preheated oven for 10 minutes.
  13. Serve immediately with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil on top and some freshly grated parmesan cheese.

 

 


Memorable Eating in Florence

Arriving in any new city is exhilarating and thrilling and Florence is no exception. I’ve been a few times in the past but it had been a decade since my last foray in the city so remembering where to eat needed fresh research. One exception is Il Latini, which is a Florence culinary institution, that is always worth seeking out.

Il Latini: Via dei Palchetti, 6R

Hams hang from the ceiling at this charming Florence eatery that has exceptional Florentine food and welcoming staff. It is a place to linger and enjoy the buzzy atmosphere and a real sense of occasion when you go there.

So the other places to recommend when you visit are as follows:

Trattoria Mario: Via Rosina, 2r,

This place is a real gem, that was so good we returned to twice. The first time it was so busy that we were ushered to what seemed like a store room in the cellars with wine stacked up. Tables were huddled together and we all felt rather grateful to have been giving a table at all as its the kind of place that you want to arrive as close to noon as possible to guarantee a table. The menu changes daily – its short, which all good menus should be (in my view). It is equally loved by tourists and locals as the food is excellent, very kind to the wallet and has a good traditional trattoria vibe. Be warned if you are in small group you will be sharing a table with others, but that makes it all more fun right?

We had to wait for about 5 minutes on one occasion otherwise we were seated immediately. The courgette ravioli, below was very memorable and I will certainly try to replicate it myself in my own kitchen.

Got to love a birds eye view!

L’Giuggiolo – Osteria/Pizzeria: Viale Augusto Righi, 3 A/D

Recommended by the taxi driver who was extremely enthusiastic that we go. Within a few mouthfuls of food we understood the reason for his pride. We would not have naturally visited it as it sits anonymously on the road at the outer environs of Florence, just outside Fiesole. You can take the bus to Fiesole or a taxi which takes around 15 minutes. The food is sublime and the service is relaxed giving us a very comforting Sunday lunch experience. The pastas were perfectly cooked and generous and the bistecca was as good as any we have eaten. Furthermore being outside the tourist centre the bill was much more modest. It’s location makes it a good place to have a post or pre-lunch hike, so take some good walking trainers.

 La Menagere: Via de Ginori 8r

This places oozes cool with its crittall windows, arched vaulted ceilings, its mismatched lamp shades and stone flooring. It’s one of those concept stores that gives you the option to buy all manner of wonderful things – whether its some beautiful flowers, music, a pastry and coffee, breakfast or perhaps a more refined evening meal. Whilst we did not eat here, it goes on the list as it is very different from anything else I saw in Florence and is a good place to have a pre-dinner cocktail or a coffee and watch the world go by. It would not be out of place in London’s Shoreditch, New York’s Brooklyn, Tel Aviv’s Jaffa or LA’s Echo Park or Silver Lake.

Gelateria Santa Trinita: Piazza Dei Frescobaldi, 8/red

Florence is teaming with gelateria but if you are not careful you will be paying overinflated prices if you opt to buy one too near the Ponte Vecchio. Gelateria is perfectly positioned just by the Ponte Santa Trinita, which affords excellent views of the Ponte Vecchio. Portion size is super generous – I opted for the smallest size in a cone and as you can see from the photo below I could pick two flavours – nocciola (hazelnut) and black sesame (definitely try this one if you have not done so before). It came to 2.80 euros – the same portion at one near the Ponte Vecchio was 6.50 euros. There is lots of choice and the quality is very good.

Osteria Del Cinghiale Biano: Borgo S.Jacopo, 43r

Located on the ground floor of a thirteenth century tower in Borg San Jacopo, one of the quaintest streets of medieval Florence. The first dining room is situated right in the old tower, with the original antique stone walls in view. The second dining room and the kitchen were built in the tower’s old courtyard, which was covered by vaults in 1500 in order to best bear the weight of the historic building. It’s rustic and charming and the staff were attentive and welcoming. Wild boar and truffles feature on the menu so are definitely worth trying. The tiramsu is also an obvious choice for dessert and got a definite thumbs up from my family. You do need to book though so don’t just turn up.

La Bussola: Via Porta Rossa, 56r

If pizza is what you are after then La Bussola will definitely tick that box. The restaurant is a lot bigger than it appears at first glance, with options to sit at regular tables inside or outside or on stools up at a marble bar. There was a wide choice of pizza – as well as lots of non-pizza options too. I can’t fault the pizzas – they were the right thickness, were generously covered and tasted great. Whilst you probably could walk in off the street, we had made a booking to be on the safe side.

Mercato Centrale: Via dell’Ariento

This place is Florence’s answer to Borough Market. Downstairs artisans sells there wares with hams, cheeses and olives galore, upstairs is a massive food court which is super busy and the perfect place to pick up a snack or two and a beer. Whilst you can eat at that level – which is hard as so many people are trying to also find a seat – I recommend finding your way up to another level, with more seating and a chance to actually sit down.

Alimentari Uffizi: Via Lambertesca, 10/R

A biouji family run deli, a stones throw from the Uffizi gallery down a quiet street. It is a great place to stop for a glass of wine and a plate of prosciutto from the present owners’ son’s farm. You perch on wooden stools and tables and order a range of delicious antipasti. It’s the type of place that you are really happy to have stumbled across as it feels so welcoming and Italian.

 

Ristorante Toto: Borgo Santi Apostoli, 6r,

After arriving into Florence around lunch time we decided to find somewhere close to the station that we could walk to with our luggage and indulge in a bowl of pasta – as you do! After some speedy research we opted for Toto Firenze. It’s spacious and buzzing and the waiters were welcoming as they showed us to our table. The restaurant prides itself on its famous ‘ fiorentina bistecca’ and looking at those served up on other tables (as well as the meat fridge below) it was most impressive, but we were craving pasta so all opted for the spaghetti carbonara. Portions were generous and the food tasted great. Price wise the restaurant is also very good – so a perfect place to go with a family or group.

So that’s it folks. We ate at a few other restaurants that were good, but bang for buck I felt the ones above were more of a ‘home run’.

If you discover any different from this list do leave a comment in the comments box below, I would love to know. Equally if you try any of the above let me know what you think. Did you have an equally good experience?


Rainier Cherries, Soft Goats Cheese, Prosciutto and Mint Oil Crostini

I have very fond memories feasting on cherries as a child. My grandmother had a cherry tree in her garden, which as well as bursting with cherry blossom and beauty, also supplied us with a bounty of cherries each year, if we could get to them before the birds did of course!

A few years ago I started to see in the shops a variety of cherry that I was unfamiliar with. I discovered more recently that they are called  ‘Rainier’ cherries and that they are originally from the US Northwest Pacific region. Imported to the UK by ‘Northwest Cherries’, they have a creamy yellow flesh and a pink blush, contrary to its usual ruby red counterparts, and are deliciously sweet with a thin skin. They are named after Washington States’s largest mountain, Mt. Rainier, as they are larger in size to other cherries. It is reported that they were created in 1952 when Harold Fogel and other researchers from the Washington Agriculture Experiment Station in Prosser, crossed two well-known varieties of cherries the, ‘Bing’ and ‘Van’, resulting in the sweet tasting Rainier cherry.

Now the good news folks is that JULY and AUGUST signifies the beautiful Rainier cherry season in the UK and are widely available at selected retailers. Cherries have numerous health benefits and are a good option for a healthy treat. They are packed to the rafters with antioxidants, vitamin C and fibre, as well as containing phytosterols, which is thought to help lower cholesterol. If you are planning to jet around the globe this summer bear in mind that cherries are one of the few natural sources of melatonin, which can apparently improve sleep and help prevent jetlag. If that wasn’t enough to make you run and buy a punnet, the anthocyanins in them are important for good brain function. They help the brain produce the mood-enhancing hormone ‘serotonin’. It’s amazing how a fruit so small, in the grand scheme of things, can contain so many good health benefits.

Whilst I can easily see off a whole punnet on my own, I also thought that it might be fun to show you a recipe that really allows Rainier cherries to be centre stage. Over the summer months I love to entertain outdoors – I mean who doesn’t? –  and offering guests a cool aperitif with a delicious canapés always goes down well. I thought crostini with Rainier cherries sitting on whipped soft goats cheese,  a little prosciutto perhaps, drizzled with a mint oil would receive a positive reception. You can make the dish vegetarian by removing the prosciutto completely. As an alternative to the goats cheese you can also use ricotta and parmesan, which works really well too. So lots of options to consider.  The sweetness from the Rainier cherries balances so harmoniously with the saltiness from the cheese and prosciutto. In the mint oil I have added a little lemon juice, zest and  wildflower honey to balance it all out and offer a lightness to the canapé.

You could also serve this as a starter or a lunch option. Instead of using baguette to create your crostini, you could use some sourdough, which is larger and have a slice or two of this with all of the ingredients below on each plate.

However you like to serve it up I can assure you that your family and guests will absolutely adore this summer Rainier cherry recipe.

 

 

Rainier Cherries, Soft Goats Cheese, Prosciutto and Mint Oil Crostini

1 x stonebaked baguette, thinly sliced on the angle

300g soft goats cheese, whipped in a bowl

70g prosciutto, cut into small strips

1 x 400g punett of Rainier cherries, halved and stone removed

1 garlic clove, peeled

******

dressing

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

3 large mint leaves, finely chopped

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp lemon zest

1 tsp honey

 

  1. Preheat a grill at 190 degrees (fan).
  2. Thinly slice, on an angle, the baguette and space out on a baking tray.
  3. Place under the grill for 2-3 minutes – keep a close eye as it will burn quickly. When it is lightly bronzed take it out of the oven and turn it over and grill the other side for another minute.
  4. Remove from the oven completely and rub the raw garlic gently on the side of the baguette that you are going to put the whipped soft goats cheese on.
  5. To whip the goats cheese, simply place in a bowl and mix with a spoon so that if become smooth.
  6. Place a teaspoon of goats cheese onto the toasted baguette and evenly spread.
  7. Next place a thin strip of prosciutto on top of the cheese and twist it so that it adds texture and height and then half a Rainier cherry at the back and a little of the dressing on top.
  8. Work through the whole toasted baguette or as much as you think you and your guests will eat.

You can make them ahead of time – although I suggest adding the dressing at the last minute – and eat at room temperature.

Easy, visually striking and importantly packed full of delicious flavours.

AD: This blog post was a paid collaboration with @lovefreshcherries. All views, opinions and the recipe are mine.

 


Roasted Fennel with Orange and Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

Friends from California came and stayed at the weekend and gave me the Gjelina cookbook, which I have been cooking from ever since. My goodness it is good. Having received it on Saturday I have since cooked 4 recipes:

garlic confit

roasted yams/butternut squash with honey, red pepper flakes and lime yoghurt

roasted cauliflower with garlic, parsley and vinegar

roasted fennel with orange and crushed red pepper flakes)

I plan to cook a 5th (grilled squash with mint-pomegranate pesto, which is on the front cover below) tonight, so I guess you could say I’m rather smitten with the book.

For those of you in the dark, Gjelina just so happens to be one of my favourite restaurants in LA. As it says in the book cover: “In Southern California, there’s no restaurant that better expresses the energy and cool excitement of Venice Beach than Gjelina” and I couldn’t agree more. It epitomises grain and vegetable centric, globally inspired cuisine, which suits me down to the ground. It has echo’s of Ottolenghi’s tomes – think za’atar and pomegranate molasses infused dishes – but the thing I automatically liked about it is that the recipes are those you actually want to cook and share with friends and family, also they are dead easy and if you don’t have an ingredient you can ad lib and make your own additions. The photos and props are also definitely the style that I love.

I have a large pot of garlic confit sitting in my fridge now, like the one above. I can’t wait to make their version of mushroom toast – I mean how divine does it look?. This would definitely appeal to my father who also has a deep fondness to mushrooms, like myself.

So last night I made the ‘roasted fennel with orange and crushed red pepper flakes’. I couldn’t find any blood oranges so I used a regular orange. I also played around with the measurements here and there to suit me. The final dish was delicious and is perfect with a roast chicken, fish or perhaps some other vegetable dishes. Great for summer gatherings. Give it a whirl and let me know what you think.

 

Roasted Fennel with Orange & Crushed Red Pepper Flakes 

2 fennel bulbs, cut into wedges and the stem into thin slices, reserve the fronds

1 large orange, peeled and cut into segments

60ml extra-virgin olive oil

flaked sea salt

80ml fresh orange juice

30ml masala wine (they use 60ml of white wine but I none to hand)

60ml of vegetable stock (I used my homemade poussin stock which is so flavoursome)

pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

freshly ground black pepper

  1. Prepare the fennel bulbs and then in a large frying pan warm the olive oil. When it is hot add the fennel wedges so that the cut sides are against the bottom of the pan to get a good sear.
  2. Cook until the fennel is caramelised, which takes about 3 minutes. Turn over, using tongs, and caramelise the other side for a further 3 minutes.
  3. Season with salt and toss in the fennel stems and continue to cook for another 2 minutes so the stems are well-browned.
  4. Now add the orange juice, wine and stock and let reduce do that the sauce thickens and the fennel is seared and starting to softened – this should only take a couple of minutes.
  5. Add the red pepper flakes and season with salt and pepper.
  6. Pour onto a serving platter and garnish with the fennel fronds, orange segments.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Super easy and super delicious. I hope you agree.