Fish Medley Chowder

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Pick up a paper or food magazine and the big topic for January always tends to be how to detox and various diets to go on to help shift the excesses of the Christmas season. We all start with good intentions but as the weeks of January roll into February the new exercise class or diet doesn’t seem to hold the same appeal in quite the same way.

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I tend to follow the old adage ‘everything in moderation’ and in January and February I do try to eat less meat, eat a lot of vegetables – especially greens, have a few vegetarian days per week and eat lots of fish. Exercise is important all year around and whilst I have been a little slack on this of late, other than great long walks over the Christmas hols most days, I will gradually get into it again once my daughters go back to school.

As I am still without a fridge  – the process of replacing my old (10 month old) one with AEG is painful to say the least, I have had to be well organised when it comes to feeding the troops. Thankfully my freezer – which is separate to the fridge – is working well and has been keeping us going with frozen fish.

For todays blog post I am going to share my fish medley chowder which is healthy, filling and a one pot meal to feed the family. They all love it and give it a big thumbs up.  I picked up a fresh fish mix – which is perfect for fish pie – in waitrose, which included Atlantic cod, smoked haddock and Atlantic salmon. It’s been sitting in the freezer ready for when I need to thaw it and cook. The fish was already cut to size so there really was minimum effort on my part. Give it a whirl. It is hassle free and whilst it is effectively a soup is substantial enough to be a whole meal.

Happy New Year to you all. I hope to put up lots of inspiring recipes over the course of this year for you all. Here is to happy, healthy eating.

Fish Medley Chowder

1 good slice of butter

1 leek

1 onion

small bunch of fresh thyme kept whole

2 bay leaves

1 large potato/2 medium size, cut into bite sized cubes

salt and pepper to taste

800ml milk

1 vegetable/fish stock cube

100ml boiling water

sweetcorn from one corn on the cob (frozen sweetcorn is also fine)

500g cubed smoked haddock, salmon, cod

handful of fresh flat leaf parsley

  1. Place the butter in the pan – I find my Le Creuset casserole pan works well – and when it is melted add the leeks, onions, thyme and bay leaves.
  2. After 4 minutes or so the leeks and onions will have softened and become more transparent. Add the cubed potato and a little salt and pepper to the pan.
  3. After a further couple of minutes add 500ml of milk along with the vegetable/fish stock cube and the boiling water.
  4. Cut the sweetcorn off the cob and add to the pan – frozen is fine, in which case throw in a couple of handfuls.
  5. Allow to simmer gently on a low heat for 10 minutes or until the potato has softened. Add the extra milk gradually over this time.
  6. Add the fish cubes to the pan. Do not move around the pan too much as you do not want them to break. Simmer gently for 8-10 minutes by which time the fish will be nicely cooked. Taste and season further if necessary.
  7. Remove the bay leaves and fresh thyme bunch from the pan before serving.
  8. Serve in deep bowls with fresh parsley scattered on top.

 

 

 


Warming red onion dal after a bracing New Year’s Day walk

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It’s new year’s day and after a wet and overcast walk through Richmond Park, along the Thames to Ham House followed by a mulled wine pit stop at the New Inn in Ham, we made it back to the car as day was turning to night, just in time before the gates to the park closed.

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Wet, windswept and with ruddy cheeks we made it home to hot piping bowls of dal that I had made in advance and then gently reheated. It is the queen of comfort food. Nourishing, warming, simple, restorative and importantly an utter joy to eat. It’s the type of food that gives you a great big hug and an inner body glow. There are so many varieties of dal, it can never get boring to eat or make. In India it is eaten every day in some form or rather. I’m a convert and I hope you will become one too once you give some of my dals a go. This one gives red onion centre stage (although I realise it does not show it in the photos I took, trust me they are in there!) and you can reduce the number of chillies depending on your preference. I find that by chopping them in two you can then make sure they do not go into the bowls of children or those who are less keen on eating a chilli. Either way give it a whirl to warm your soul after a windswept walk. Happy New Year to you all, may 2017 be a great one.

Red Onion Dal

Serves 4

230g yellow mung dal

1 tbsp oil/ghee

1 tsp black mustard seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 red onion, thinly sliced

3 garlic cloves, crushed

2 green chillies, chopped in half

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

salt to taste

serve

squeeze of lemon

  1. In a deep pan add the dal and then cover it with cold water. Using one of your hands rub the dal through your fingers and move it around your pan. Pour the water out of the pan and repeat the process a couple of times.
  2. Finally cover the dal once again with cold water so that it is about an inch above the dal. Place on a low heat and keep the lid off the pan. You will need to keep adding more water as the dal cooks as it will get soaked up. It is not an exact science so just put a little in at a time so that it does not become too watery.
  3. Remove the scum that will form at the top of the dal and discard.
  4. Gently cook the dal for around 45 minutes, by which time it will have nicely softened.
  5. After the dal has been cooking for about 30 minutes place some oil in a frying pan. Add the cumin and mustard seeds and allow them to begin to splutter before adding the red onion slices – I find slicing them with a mandolin works best.
  6. Move around the pan and allow the red onion to soften slightly before adding the garlic and chilli and cook for a further 5 minutes.
  7. Add the turmeric powder and then add a couple of spoonfuls of the dal to the pan. Move the dal around the frying pan before returning the contents of the frying pan into the pan with the dal.
  8. Give a good stir and add salt to taste. If you are going to eat the dal later in the day, gently reheat it and add a little more water to loosen it up.

Serve with a squeeze of lemon.

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Hearty Venison Casserole with Star Anise, Nutmeg and Pink Peppercorns

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Our desire for comfort food begins to kick in around Autumn. For me this is a time to start cooking stews and casseroles – meals that are warming after a long walk in the fresh air. The game season is upon us so it is easy to pick up grouse, partridge, pheasant, snipe, rabbit and also venison. Game is extremely lean and surprising good value, so there tends not to be a week that goes by when my family do not eat some form of game over the Autumn/Winter months.  I’ll be putting up some more game recipes with a spiced twist over the coming weeks to give you some ideas on how to cook it.

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Unlike other game, venison doesn’t actually taste particularly ‘gamey’ and approximates beef. It is however far leaner and has more protein than any other red meat and is packed full of vitamin B’s.  So…

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Methi (Fenugreek) Paratha for Durga Puja

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This coming weekend is the beginning of the Bengali Hindu festival of Durga Puja, which lasts for five days. I have written a few posts on the celebration here and here over the last couple of years. In short, the weekend is spent visiting temples in all corners of London, catching up with family and friends and eating vegetarian feasts at the temples. I am not Hindu but I enjoy being part of the occasion, which is always very lively and colourful, and of course the food is always so good.

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I was pottering around in my local Asian supermarkets this morning when I came across some methi – fresh fenugreek. Fenugreek is jam packed with health benefits. We all need it in our diet – either the seeds or fresh leaves or both. It lowers blood cholesterol, reduces the risk of heart disease, controls blood sugar levels – therefore diabetics are advised to eat it daily. It aids digestion, weight loss, prevents colon cancer – the list goes on. Seriously if you have not had it before please try it and then try and incorporate it into your diet. One way you can do this is by making fenugreek/methi paratha. The hard part will be locating the fresh methi.

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If you live in London then you will have no problem as you will find it at any Indian/Asian supermarket. Apparently it is really easy to grow so maybe it is something to look into growing if you are living outside a major city. I would love to hear how you get on if you go down this path.

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Anyway back to the making of the paratha. It is important to carefully take the leaves of the fenugreek plant away from the stem, as the stem is very bitter and you don’t want to be eating that. I leave the leaves to soak in a bowl for 15 minutes so that the grit and dirt sinks to the bottom. Then you can easily remove the leaves and place them in a new dry bowl along with the spices and flour.

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If you don’t have a tawa then simply use a frying pan. Once the leaves have soaked and you have made the dough it takes very little time to make the paratha.

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They are great eaten with dal such as this one or this one or simply with chutney and perhaps a little yoghurt and lemon. In India they are sometimes eaten at breakfast, but I tend to eat them for lunch or dinner.

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Methi Paratha

Makes round 5

150g wholemeal chapati flour/atta 

50g gram/chickpea flour

50g fresh methi/fenugreek (leaves only), washed and finely chopped

1 small fresh green chilli, finely chopped (optional)

1/4 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

1/4 tsp turmeric powder

1/2 tsp salt, optional

2 tbsp melted ghee/butter/oil

  1. First remove the methi leaves and discard the rest of the methi stem. Place in a bowl of fresh cold water and leave to soak for 15 minutes.
  2. Gently remove the methi leaves so that the grit and dirt is at the bottom of the water bowl. Discard this water. Place in a clean dry bowl.
  3. Measure out the flours, chilli powder, turmeric powder, salt and fresh chilli (if using).
  4. Use your hand to begin to bind the ingredients together. Gradually add a little warm water so that a dough forms.  Be careful not to make it too wet.
  5. Place a drop of oil in the bottom of the bowl and cover the dough, which you have now made into a ball shape. Cover the bowl and leave for 10 minutes.
  6. Knead the dough for a minute further and then break off a small part – about the size of a lime.
  7. Place the dough in some fresh flour and then roll it out on a dry, clean surface. If you want to make triangular paratha roll the dough into a circle and then fold it in half and then half again. I kept mine round today.
  8. Heat a tawa/frying pan and place a drop of ghee onto the pan. Then place the paratha on the pan and leave for a couple of minutes.
  9. Whilst it is cooking begin making your next paratha.
  10. Before turning over the paratha on the pan, brush a little ghee on the top and then turn over. You want the paratha to begin to have little bubbles that begin to bronze. Leave to cook on this side for a further couple of minutes. If need be turn over again and then place to one side.
  11. Repeat until all the dough has been used up.

Eat warm with dal, chutney or yogurt with a splash of fresh lemon.

Notes: You can also add finely chopped onion, 1 tsp garlic paste and/or ginger paste, 1 tsp cumin seeds, 1 tsp ajwain/carom seeds, 1/2 tsp coriander powder. There are so many options so try a variation and see what works for you.img_3015

 


Dhokla – A Savoury Cake from Gujarat

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Dhokla or khaman dhokla, to give it’s proper title, is a spongy steamed snack that originates from the state of Gujarat in India. Traditionally it is steamed for around 15-20 minutes before a hot tadka is poured over the top. Tadka, or tempering as it is sometimes referred,  is a form of cooking in the Indian subcontinent where whole spices are roasted briefly in oil or ghee to release their flavours. They are then put on the top of dals, curries and of course dhokla. The tadka completely lifts the whole dish and is key in many recipes.

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The magic ingredient in dhokla is an ingredient called Eno. You’ll be able to pick it up at any Indian grocers. Do not be alarmed when you buy it in a bottle and it reads ‘fast refreshing relief from stomach upset’. You are buying the right ingredient. Do check the guidelines on the back and if anything applies to you then give it is a miss. If Eno is hard to source then I suggest using bicarbonate of soda in it’s place. It won’t be as spongy but the dhokla will still taste great.

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One other addition that you can decide whether to add or not is the sugar component at the end. Whilst dhokla is principally a savoury snack it does often have a little sugar added to the tarka which is then poured over the steamed dhokla. It gives the snack a delectable lightly sweet and salty taste to it, although it is principally a savoury snack.

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Dhokla

150g gram flour (chickpea flour)

25g course semolina

140g natural yoghurt

2 small fresh green chillies (keep the seeds in for added heat)

1 heaped tsp ginger paste

1/4 tsp turmeric powder

1 tbsp lemon juice

approximately 120ml water (add more if necessary)

1/2 tsp salt, to taste

1tsp  Eno

*****

Tadka

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp black mustard seeds

1 tsp sesame seeds

1/4 tsp hing/asafoetida

Around 15 fresh curry leaves (cleaned and dried)

1 tsp sugar, optional

25ml warm water, optional

To serve

1 handful of fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped

1/2 tbsp fresh or dried coconut shavings

  1. First line your tin with baking parchment and rub a few drops of olive oil into the sides and bottom. My tin is just over 19cm in diameter and fits perfectly into my wooden bamboo steamer. If you do not have a steamer, simply use a large deep pan (which has a lid) and place an upside down bowl that you can rest the cake tin on. You need to then fill the pan up with water so that the water level remains below the bowl or first level of the bamboo steamer.
  2. Next you need to sieve the gram flour and semolina and then add the natural yogurt. Stir together and then add the finely chopped chilli, ginger paste and salt. Pour in the water gradually so that no lumps form and you have a smooth paste, slightly denser than pancake mixture.
  3. Heat the pan so that the water is boiling and ready to steam the dhokla.
  4. Add the eno (or bicarbonate of soda) and stir continuously for about 1 minute to allow air to enter the mixture. You will notice that the size of the batter will increase slightly.
  5. Immediately pour the dhokla batter into the baking tin and place in the steamer for around 20 minutes on a medium heat. At 17 minutes insert a toothpick or knife into the dhokla to see if it comes out clean. If it is then it is ready, if it has some mixture on it then leave it for a further few minutes. When it is done, remove from the steamer and leave to rest for 5 minutes, before turning it out of the tin and removing the baking parchment.
  6. Meanwhile heat a frying pan with oil and when it is hot add the sesame seeds, mustards seeds, asafoetida and fresh curry leaves. Leave to fizzle for no more than 20 seconds, moving around the pan.
  7. In a small jug mix the sugar with the warm water and add to the pan. It will spit so be careful. Move around the pan for a few seconds and then pour the tadka over the dhokla so that it soaks into it and scatter the coriander and coconut garnish as well.
  8. Eat immediately or at room temperature.

* I have friends who make it with just semolina and no gram flour and you can also make it with dhokla flour itself (a combination of gram flour and rice flour).

You can also omit water altogether and simply use yoghurt so use my recipe as a template to find the one that suits you and your taste best.

* you can find eno (fruit salt) in any Asian grocers. It is the ingredient that makes the cake spongy in appearance.  If you do not have it to hand you can use bicarbonate of soda although it will be more dense in texture. 


Wild Garlic Pesto Linguine with Sausage Crumb

IMG_0392Continuing with the same theme as last week’s post I decided to use up the remaining fresh wild garlic that my mother had given me by whizzing it up to create a pesto. It stores so easily in the fridge, for at least a week, and the whole family love it so its a win win.  Making pesto in general is easy and versatile. You can alternate the nuts from pine to walnut to pistachio and add a host of herbs and vegetables: basil, coriander spinach, wild garlic, tomatoes, peppers. I love the look of these varieties that Saveur has come up with.

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I thought the addition of a sausage crumb scattering would be a nice touch and balance well with the wild garlic. I used one sausage per person and then made a little incision into each sausage so that the outer ‘skin’ could be taken off. With the sausage meat I then broke it down and gently fried it, so that it crisped up.

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It took far less time than cooking a sausage normally would so again this whole meal was created in a very short space of time. I found I had lots of pesto leftover so popped it in the fridge in a sealed jar to use over the coming days.

Wild Garlic Pesto Linguine with Sausage Crumb

Pesto

200g wild garlic leaves washed and roughly chopped, flowers removed

100g parmesan cheese, finely grated

100g pine nuts

150ml olive oil

squeeze of lemon juice

salt

pepper

****

1 tsp ground nut oil

sausages (1 per person)

linguine

  1. First you need to wash the wild garlic leaves thoroughly and remove the flowers (these are edible but best put on as a garnish re my last blog post).
  2. Roughly chop the leaves and then place them into a food processor and blitz so that they are broken down.
  3. Next add the parmesan cheese and blitz again before adding the pine nuts.
  4. Gradually add the olive oil so that a paste forms. Add more or less olive oil depending on the thickness you require for your pesto.
  5. Season to taste and add a dash of lemon juice.
  6. Boil a pan of water and add the linguine and cook according to packet instructions – just under 10 minutes should be perfect.
  7. To make the sausage crumb all you need to do is remove the outer covering of the sausage and discard. With the sausage meat, break it down using your hands.
  8. Heat a frying pan and add the ground nut oil. Add the sausage meat and move around the pan until it browns and begins to crisp. This should be done within about 5 minutes.
  9. Strain the pasta and place back in the pan. Add a generous amount of pesto and stir into the pasta.
  10. Serve into bowls and scatter with sausage crumb.

You can store the remaining pesto in the fridge in a sealed jar for over a week. 

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Childhood memories – Japanese Chicken Katsu Curry

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This post is dedicated to my sister who has always adored Japanese Chicken Katsu Curry. That’s not to say that I don’t, because I certainly do, but not in the same way as my sister. A few years ago when I visited her in Vancouver she ordered it in a Japanese restaurant hoping that it would bring back the same happy childhood  memories of the dish. Sadly the disappointment on her face when she tried their offering was plain to see, so I made it my mission there and then to try and find the recipe of our youth.

You may be wondering why we were eating such cosmopolitan food at such a young age in 80’s rural England. Our blessing was that my family had close links with a Japanese boarding school called the Rikkyo School. Most half term holidays we would welcome a couple of Rikkyo students, who were…

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Indian Inspired Cucumber, Apple and Red Onion Salad

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I’ve just returned from 10 glorious days in the Schwarzwald – or German Black Forest to you and me.

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Days were spent hiking through dense forests where gentle streams turned into ferocious waterfalls.

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 We climbed many a hill and marvelled at all the spruce and pine trees peppering the landscape. Dramatic scenery at every turn.

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Picnic lunch stops afforded us spectacular vistas, stretching for miles and the best thing was that we were completely alone – over the time we were there we passed only a couple of other walkers, one of which was a nun from the local nunnery. We live in such a frenetic, fast paced world that taking time out and spending time with nature away from the crowds is wonderfully cleansing for the mind and soul.

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Upon returning to our gasthof we would often treat ourselves to the local speciality…….Black Forest Gateaux,  because when in Rome…..

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After resting our weary limbs we prepared for serious dining in the evening. The food was exquisite, refined and yet hearty – the lemongrass creme brule and the wild garlic soup being highlights.

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Upon returning back in the UK however, I was ready to have a vegetarian spell. I began to crave green vegetables (I eat a lot of spinach) and fruit with a spice injection and simple Asian food. In fact the first thing I cooked for myself when we returned to Blighty was this.

With the bambinos having just returned to school and the sun giving us a lovely, welcome dose of vitamin c – check out the blossom and blue skies

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I wanted to eat a lovely salad that I was given recently when I was in Kerala. It’s lovely on it’s own or eaten to accompany all manner of Indian, meat, fish or veg curries – see my recipe library. The crunch from all the different textures and the flavours sing sweet notes as you dive into this salad. Give it a whirl and let me know if you agree.

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Indian Inspired Cucumber, Apple and Red Onion Salad

Serves 4 with another dish or 2 on it’s own

2 crunchy green apples, cored, skin removed, quartered and chopped into 3

1 cucumber, skin removed, halved and chopped into half moons

1 red onion, finely sliced

1 handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped

1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp agave nectar/honey

  1. Skin, slice and cut the ingredients as specified above and mix altogether along with the honey and salt. Simple and utterly delicious.

This salad would also be perfect with meat, fish or vegetables off the BBQ.

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Dry-Fried Ginger and Turmeric Okra

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Okra, or rather ‘ladies fingers’ tends to divide people. Those in the negative camp tend to complain about  ‘a slimy texture’ as the main reason for not raving about this vegetable.  I have recently discovered the reason for this and the way to keep slime at bay whenever you cook with okra.

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It’s simple. After washing the okra you need to dry them throughly. There cannot be a drop of water remaining on the okra. You need to dry each and every okra with a dry tea towel. It only takes a moment to do but the finished result when you eat your okra will be worth the little drying exercise.IMG_2281

In Cochin recently I was shown a very simple and straightforward okra dish, which is great to accompany meats, fish or dal. Ten minutes max and you have yourself a tasty little dish. If you also prepare my speedy dal then you have yourself a satisfying feast in no time at all.

Did you know there is also a vegetable called ‘gentleman’s toes’? I am totally serious. You can find out more about this tasty vegetable on my blog post here.

So remember don’t add water when cooking with okra and make sure the okra is super dry before cooking with it.

Dry-Fried Ginger and Turmeric Okra

Serves 2

1 tbsp coconut oil

250g okra, washed and completely dried and then chopped and sliced (see photos above)

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1/2 tsp ginger powder

1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

1 tsp salt

  1. Heat the oil in a pan.
  2. Add the okra, spices and salt and stir.
  3. Place a lid on the pan and stir at intervals for 6-8 minutes.
  4. Taste to see if the okra has softened but still holds its shape.
  5. Serve immediately.

 

 


Spinach with Shallots, Green Raisins and Red Peanuts

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My latest addiction is spinach.

I know I know how crazy do I sound? I’ve always liked it mind you, but of late it’s gone up a notch or two. It’s probably my body screaming at me that ‘I NEED MORE IRON‘.

 I’m happy to eat it in all its incarnations for breakfast, lunch or dinner. It’s super versatile and is cooked quicker than the time it takes to get your bowl/plate and cutlery together.

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Recently I visit a local eatery called ‘The Little Taperia‘ in Tooting in the strip, which is fast becoming increasingly hip and cool. Sitting next to Soho House’s ‘Chicken Shop’ and virtually opposite the newly established the ‘Trafalgar Arms’, ‘The Little Taperia’ offers Spanish tapas at it’s best; I could literally eat the whole menu. It was packed on my visit with a wonderful buzz to the place. The decor (love the floor tiles) and general vibe was conducive to a relaxed, memorable evening, so if you have not yet been I urge you to get down there and experience it for yourself.

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Back to the spinach. You are probably wondering where spinach and ‘The Little Taperia’ fit together.  Well it was there that I ate a delicious spinach dish that inspired me to create my own version of the dish for you today. They used pine nuts and I can’t recall if they added raisins but I’m thinking they did as the dish had a subtle sweetness, which I don’t think was coming from the onions alone – but may well have been. Needless to say the dish was utterly delicious and I think the one that I have created for you equally hits the spot.

I’ve eaten it on a few occasions since and this time I accompanied it with my Indian dal with butternut squash. I don’t actually have that recipe up on my blog but a very similar one using marrow can be found here.

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I add a dollop of ghee – clarified butter – on the top but if you are off diary or watching your waist line then just omit that part.

Spinach with Shallots, Green Raisins and Red Peanuts

2 tbsp light olive oil

2 banana shallots, finely sliced

pinch of salt

35g red peanuts (works out to be a handful)

35g green raisins (works out to be a handful)

240g fresh spinach

1 tbsp ghee

  1. Heat a pan with the oil and when it is medium hot add the banana shallots and pinch of salt and leave to soften and begin to bronze, which will take around 5 minutes.
  2. Add the green raisins and red peanuts and move around the pan. After a minute add the spinach.
  3. Place a lid the pan so that the spinach wilts. After a minute give a stir and then add the ghee. Let it melt and then serve immediately.

It is perfect with meat or fish but in this instance I ate it with some of my butternut squash dal, which was hit the spot for a delicious vegetarian supper. My butternut squash dal is similar to my marrow dal but uses butternut squash instead of marrow. Check it out here.

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