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.

 


Gnocchi with Butternut Squash, Garlic, Broad Beans and Crispy Sage and Kale

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The summer hols have started in my house. My daughters have weeks ahead to relax, explore, learn and grow. It’s a time to unwind and go at a more leisurely pace, no 6.30am wake up calls until September *does happy dance*. New additions to our family have arrived – two mini lop bunnies, so rabbit is firmly off the menu from henceforth.

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Picnics are wonderful but sometimes more of a proper meal at lunch time is required. This recipe is straightforward and although there are a couple of parts to bring together it really does not take long. I also love the bright summer colours of this meal, you can’t help but be happy when eating it. If you want to make it a morning activity though and involve your children/friends/partner then making your own gnocchi is really good fun. Here is my recipe.IMG_1335

I like to make kale crisps to add to this meal. Eleven minutes in a low oven and hey presto you have kale crisps. You can get creative as well and add cayenne pepper, soy, chaat masala, whatever takes your fancy. For this dish I have simply added a sprinkling of rock salt. By all means you can have the kale crisps in a bowl on the side, but I rather like the crisp aspect to the whole dish. It’s comfort food with a twist and they work well with the crispy sage. Broad beans are in season right now and I love to throw them in so many dishes. I prefer to shell them but I leave that to you to decide.
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Gnocchi with Butternut Squash, Garlic, Broad Beans and Crispy Sage and Kale

1/2 of a small butternut squash, skin removed and cubed to the size of the gnocchi

100g chopped kale

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

1 tbsp butter

40g shelled broad beans

350g potato gnocchi

salt and pepper to taste

handful of grated parmesan, optional

1. First cube the butternut squash into the size of the gnocchi. Boil in a pan of water along with the broad beans for around 10 minutes, or until soft but not mushy.  Rinse under cold water and leave to one side. If you need to shell the broad beans then do so at this stage.

2. Preheat an oven to 140 degrees fahrenheit. Meanwhile separate any stems from the kale and discard. Place the kale on a baking try and add the olive oil. Massage the oil into the kale and make sure that the kale is spread out evenly over the tray. Place in the oven for 11 minutes, by which time the kale will be crisp. If it is not then leave it for a minute or two longer. Keep a watchful eye over it as they can burn quickly. These kale crisps are a great snack but also rather lovely in this dish.

3. In a frying pan add the butter and when it is melted add the garlic. Move around the pan before adding the sage leaves. Allow them to cook on a low heat so that they begin to crisp.

4. Add the butternut squash and broad beans and coat them in the butter, garlic and sage.

5. Place the gnocchi in the pan and boil away for 1 minute or according to instructions. If you fancy making your own – here is my recipe.

6. Strain the gnocchi and add the pan with the other ingredients. Stir together for a minute, season to taste and plate immediately.

7. Sprinkle crispy kale over each serving with a scattering of parmesan as desired.


Butternut Squash, Lemongrass, Coconut and Spinach Curry

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Increasingly more and more people are balancing their diet with vegetarian food and cutting out meat completely on some days of the week #meatfreemondays. Whilst I do eat meat and fish I am consciously eating less meat and more fish and vegetables. A balanced diet is important and I do enjoy eating meat but I am in the camp that it is unnecessary to eat it everyday.

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My recipe here ‘Butternut Squash, Lemongrass, Coconut and Spinach Curry’ will hopefully convert even the meat lovers amongst you. It is packed with so much goodness and tastes really good, with a lovely chilli kick reverberating through the dish. For those who claim they can’t cook, seriously try this one. It is very easy to make and you can cook it in under 30 minutes. The hardest part is peeling the butternut squash. *Inventors* out there I would love you to come up with a device that makes it quick and easy to peel any type of squash or pumpkin. I use my regular peeler and knife and whilst it does not take long I know it can be done faster.

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This recipe shouts SPRING to me, although that maybe because I put daffodils in the photo shoot. The bright yellow orange hue coming from the butternut squash and turmeric sings to me and makes it wonderfully appetising to look at and eat. I also love the burst of green from the spinach, fresh herbs and lime.

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I have used fresh ginger paste and garlic paste, as I always have pots to hand in the fridge and for speed they are wonderfully helpful, but by all means use fresh ginger and garlic and then simply finely grate them so they become more paste like.

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The sweetcorn adds a lovely crunch and texture to the dish alongside the soft butternut squash and spinach. I have added kaffir lime leaves as I often have some in my fridge/freezer. They freeze well and you can pick them up at the big supermarkets.

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I don’t bother to take out the kaffir lime leaves or lemongrass when serving. I quite like the rustic, throw it together look. I also find the dish is a great pick me up if you are feeling a little under the weather. The ginger, turmeric, garlic, spinach and chilli really flood the body with so much goodness that a sense of wellbeing hits you almost immediately.

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I would love you to give it a try and please let me know how you get on. Butternut squash (uncooked) last for weeks so I always have one ready to use.

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Butternut Squash, Lemongrass, Coconut and Spinach Curry

Serves 4-6

3 tbsp ground nut oil

3 banana shallots (or 2 medium onions), finely sliced

1 tsp salt

2 lemongrass, outer leaves taken off and both ends and then bashed gently with a rolling pin

1 heaped tsp of ginger paste

1 heaped tsp of garlic paste

2 small red chillies, thinly sliced

3 kaffir lime leaves (optional)

1 tsp ground turmeric

200g chopped fresh tomatoes

1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into 3cm cubes

500 ml of vegetable stock

1x 400ml can of coconut milk (I find Pride is nice and creamy)

1 tbsp Thai fish sauce

1 fresh corn on the cob, corn sliced off the cob

200g fresh spinach

handful of fresh coriander, to serve (optional)

handful of fresh mint, to serve (optional)

1/4 fresh lime per portion

1.  Finely slice the banana shallots and then heat the oil in a large deep pan. When it is hot add the shallots and turn the heat down. Add the salt and stir into the shallots. Allow the shallots to soften, which will take a few minutes.

2. Add the garlic and ginger paste and stir into the shallots. Then add the chillies, lemongrass, ground turmeric and kaffir lime leaves. After a further minute add the fresh tomato and stir once again. Add the butternut squash and stir into all the other ingredients.

3. Add the stock, Thai fish sauce and the coconut milk and simmer gently for around 20 minutes, by which time the butternut squash will have nicely softened. If it needs a couple more minutes to soften adequately, carefully monitor as you do not want to over cook as mushy butternut squash is not so appealing. Add the sweetcorn 5 minutes before you wish to serve as it will take no time to cook.

4. Turn off the heat and add the fresh spinach and gently submerge in the sauce, which will wilt it perfectly.

5. Serve hot in bowls either with some jasmine rice or noodles. Add fresh coriander, mint and lime to suit individual tastes.

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If you click on the comments button below you will also see the option to like. I know it’s a little hidden away but have a look and don’t forget to click the *LIKE* button and if you are feeling extra brave do leave a comment as I love to hear from readers.


Indian Aubergine/Eggplant, Peanut and Tomato Curry

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Have you ever been a little ambivalent about aubergine/eggplant? On the one hand loving their smooth, shiny plum coloured exterior but never really in raptures about the taste. Well my other half, Mr B, tended to fall into this category, so a while ago I set out to prove him wrong.

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After mutterings of ‘you know aubergine is my least favourite vegetable, I prefer greens’, he tasted one mouthful and that completely shut him up. Murmurs of approval were given between mouthfuls and a 9/10 score (yes we regularly mark our food – is that unusual?). RESULT. Surprisingly my eldest child also adored it, surprising as it does have a fair amount of chilli in it! If you don’t like chilli, but like spice, just reduce or take out the chilli in the recipe below.

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The combination of aubergine, peanuts and sesame seeds works ridiculously well together so much so that you will have to restrain yourself from wanting to guzzle up the whole dish. Combine that with a spiced onion and tomato sauce and you have yourself a winning dish.  So put your assumptions to one side for a moment and give this recipe a whirl and I can assure you you will be more than pleasantly surprised.  I couldn’t resist the bijou aubergines on sale at my local market but a regular sized aubergine will work equally well. Just slice the aubergine into chunky chip sized pieces, keeping the skin on of course.

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Indian Aubergine/Eggplant, Peanut and Tomato Curry

Adapted from Sanjay Thumma’s Eggplant Tomato Curry

450g baby aubergine/eggplant (normal size is fine too), sliced lengthways or chunky chip sized if using a regular aubergine

cooking oil, enough to deep fry the aubergine

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp black mustard seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

2 dried red chillies

1 small green chilli, finely chopped (optional)

5 curry leaves (fresh or dried)

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp of garlic paste

1 tsp ginger paste

1 white onion, finely chopped

200g chopped fresh tomatoes

1 tsp coriander powder

1 tsp cumin powder

1/2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

2 tbsp salted peanuts

1 tbsp sesame seeds

150ml water

1 tsp salt (to taste)

1. If using baby aubergine/eggplant slice lengthways removing the stalk. If using a regular sized aubergine slice into chunky chip sized, again removing the stalk. Once sliced, immediately place in a pan of boiling oil to sizzle away and bronze. This should take no longer than ten minutes.

2. Remove the aubergine with a straining spoon and place on some kitchen roll whilst you prepare the next steps.

3. In a new large pan add the olive oil and when hot add the mustard and cumin seeds. They will begin to pop immediately so move them gently around the pan for 15 seconds before adding the dried red chilli, fresh small green chilli (optional), curry leaves (fresh or dried), turmeric, garlic, ginger paste and onion. Continue to cook on a medium heat for around 7 minutes by which time the onion should have nicely softened, but not bronzed.

4. Add the chopped tomatoes, coriander, cumin and Kashmiri chilli powder and simmer for a further 5 minutes, by which time the tomatoes will have totally softened and blended into the sauce. Return the aubergines to the pan and fold gently into the sauce.

5. In a small pan dry roast the peanuts and sesame seeds for a couple of minutes, making sure to constantly move them around the pan so that the heat is evenly distributed and they do not burn. They will begin to bronze at which point you need to remove them from the pan.

6. Using a spice grinder (definitely one of my most useful items I own in my kitchen) – this is the one I use – see here – grind the peanuts and sesame seeds together to form a paste.

7. Add the peanut sesame paste to the pan and stir into the curry, adding more water if necessary. As I used salted peanuts I only needed to add a little more salt. Simmer for a few minutes and serve. If cooking ahead and leaving to rest you will have to add a little more water when heating up.

Serve with rice or Indian bread and you have yourself a vegetarian – in fact vegan – treat. Try it and leave a comment below.

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Chickpea, Tomato, Spinach and Feta Soup

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With a guest over recently, I found myself improvising with some ingredients to bulk up lunch. It was an unplanned creation and hence the results were all the more exciting and satisfying.  I literally threw together some ingredients I already had in the house to make a very comforting and warming soup/vegetarian stew. It took under fifteen minutes from fridge to stove to table and the silence as everyone delved into their bowl with concentration, was deeply reassuring. As they came up for air, the verbal endorsements confirmed this.

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It’s important to be able to whip up a meal in a matter of minutes. We all need an arsenal of these for when we have little energy or inclination to cook but want to be nourished by good home-cooked food. You can’t beat home-made soups – not only do they taste better, but you can also monitor exactly what goes into them.

I always have a range of tinned lentils on standby to use for soups, stews and salads, so for this soup I used a tin of trusty chickpeas. Everything else I had in my pantry (aka pull out cupboard…buy hey we can dream!) or in the fridge. I always have a pack or two of feta in my fridge as it can last unopened for around three months.

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Chickpea, Tomato, Spinach and Feta Soup

2 tbsp olive oil

3 garlic, peeled and roughly chopped

1 banana shallot (or small white onion), peeled and roughly chopped

2 large red chillies/chilli peppers (not the hot variety), chopped into inch pieces

4 fresh tomatoes, diced

1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes

1 x 400g tin of chickpeas

1 tsp of sweet paprika

1 tsp vegetable bouillon

200ml boiling water

1 tsp rock salt

pinch of black pepper

200g fresh spinach

100g feta, crumbled

1. Heat the olive oil in a large pan and when it is hot, but on a medium/low heat, add the shallot and garlic and gently fry.

2. After a couple of minutes add the chilli/chilli pepper and continue to stir for a further couple of minutes.

3. Add the fresh tomatoes and continue to cook on a medium/low heat until they begin to soften. Add the tinned tomatoes to the pan and stir into the other ingredients.

4. Now add the drained chickpeas, the sweet paprika, vegetable bouillon, salt and the boiling water. Give a good stir and let simmer for a couple of minutes.

5. Finally add the fresh spinach and place a lid on the pan. After a minute give a good stir and add a little more boiling water if necessary. Taste and season.

6. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with a liberal amount of feta.

All these steps will not take more than 15 minutes max to prepare and cook.

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Lamb and Spinach Curry – a warming curry for cold winter nights

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Given the recent drop in temperature my cravings for comforting meat dishes grows. Lamb works so well in curries that through the winter months I am always digging into my recipe library (see above) to cook either my lamb keema, my rezala, which is heavenly if you haven’t tried it already, or my goat curry, which you can cook with lamb instead.

With a lamb and spinach curry on my mind I set out to buy the ingredients – most of which I had at home, however the lamb and spinach needed to be procured. I picked up some halal lamb from my local butcher, so much better priced than supermarkets I might add, which was mostly off the bone. Personally I rather like meat on the bone as it tastes so much better, but I know that it can put off some guests who are unaccustomed to eating meat in this way. After purchasing a few other sundries, I arrived home and realised that I had forgotten the fresh spinach.  I decided to improvise and use the frozen spinach that I always have a packet of in the freezer. It works really well so don’t stress if you too go down the route of frozen as opposed to fresh spinach.

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I have a propensity to always cook more food than one can eat in a single sitting so that I can stretch the meal over two days. So whilst the meat quantity looks a lot it can be eaten in one go if you have 4-6 guests or over two days if you are feeding 2-4. As is always  the case with my blog the amount of chilli you put in is up to your own individual taste. If it were just me and Mr B eating it I would spice it up a lot more than if we are sharing it amongst guests.

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Lamb and Spinach Curry

Serves 4-6

3 tbsp vegetable oil

2 white onions, sliced

4 bay leaves

2 inch fresh ginger, finely grated

5 garlic cloves, crushed

1.4 kg diced lamb (mainly off the bone)

5 cardamom pods, seeds taken out

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 finger sized piece of cinnamon bark, broken up

2 tsp Kashmiri red chilli powder

2 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp ground turmeric

salt and pepper to taste

400g tin of tomatoes

700g frozen spinach (or fresh if you remember!)

500ml water

1. Heat a large casserole dish (or any that you can use both on a hob and in an oven) and add the oil followed by the sliced onions and bay leaves. Keep on a low heat for 10 minutes so that they soften and begin to brown in colour. If they remain translucent, increase the heat for a couple of minutes, stirring to make sure they do not burn.

2. Whilst the onions are cooking prepare the spice mix of cardamom seeds, cinnamon bark and cumin seeds in either a spice grinder (one of my favourite kitchen tools) or pestle and mortar. Add the ground turmeric, coriander and red chilli powder and place to one side.

3. Add the ginger and garlic to the onions and give a good stir. Remove from the pan and place in a bowl, whilst you bronze the lamb.

4. On a medium heat add a little more oil to the pan, if needed, lightly brown the lamb in batches.  This should only take a few minutes per batch. Return the cooked onion, garlic, ginger to the pan and add the spice mix. Stir into the meat and onions before adding a little salt and pepper, tinned tomatoes, spinach and water. Heat on the stove for 10 minutes before transferring to a preheated oven set at 150 degrees ( if using a fan oven), ten degrees higher if not. Place a piece of parchment paper over the casserole dish followed by the lid and leave to cook slowly in the oven for 1hour 30mins hours, stirring a couple of times during cooking. Leave to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

5. Taste before serving to check the salt/chilli level and adjust if necessary. I find this curry is great to make ahead of time as it tends to taste even better once it has rested for a while. When you are ready to eat simply heat up gently on the hob.

Serve with rice or naan bread.

What hearty, warming curries do you like to make and eat as the winter evenings draw in? Are there any curries you would like to see me make on this blog? Leave a comment below and let me know….don’t be shy now ;o)


Turkey Revisited and Moule Mariniere

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Having been impressed by all that Turkey had to offer last year we decided to return for our summer foray this year, which is a little out of character as we tend to try somewhere new for summer travels. To be fair though, we were exploring  a new area – this time the Bozburun peninsula.
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I favour peace, tranquility and being away from the crowds of mass tourism, so nestling for a couple of weeks in the quiet village of Sogut at the very tip of the peninsula was absolutely the perfect base from which to explore the local area and enjoy the warm waters of the Aegean. It has been described as going back in time, not dissimilar to the south of Spain or France 40 years ago.
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The village itself is small and meanders down the hill towards the sea, offering breathtaking vistas of the nearby islands. The road came to an end at a picturesque harbour where a handful of wooden fishing boats bobbed gently up and down. Along the harbour were a few tavernas offering the freshest fish caught that very day. As the fish were bought in on the fishing boats the women would crouch over the rocks at the water’s edge gutting and cleaning the fish.
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Over the two weeks we alternated between these quaint little eateries (there were four in all) for our evening meal, sitting on the harbour wall, watching the sun gradually dip over the brow of the far away islands.
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Their menus were all fairly similar, but each had their own interpretation of the mezzes. We were somewhat surprised to see that samphire was offered every evening, cooked in garlic, lemon juice and olive oil. 2013 can definitely be remembered as the summer of samphire!
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It tasted less salty than the samphire found in the British Isles and when I asked where it grew, they pointed in-land as opposed to  seawards,  which might explain its less salty taste.
Octopus grilled with garlic, herbs, pink peppercorns and olive oil was another daily staple to the point that I fear that Mr B will start to have cold sweats if he doesn’t have it back at home now and again.  Needless to say a number of the mezzes consisted of aubergine and tomato fusions with the ubiquitous garlic and olive oil, as well as a broad bean based humous and another including beetroot.
We discovered a new soup that really appealed to us. Known as ‘tarhana’ it has been cited as the first ‘instant soup’ invented by Central Asian Turks. The dough that goes into making up the soup takes 5-6 days to ferment, so it really is a labour of love to make and as such I felt it probably wouldn’t get much of a following if I posted it as a blog post in its own right. If I am wrong then let me know and I may well do a post on it in the future.
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Apparently 100 years ago locals would eat a bowl of it for breakfast each morning before embarking on their day’s work. It is truly delicious, and eating it accompanied with a fresh tomato and pickled red cabbage salad and a round or two of gozleme filled with local cheese and cabbage definitely hit the spot.
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The Bozburun peninsular, or to be precise the village of Osmaniye, is one of the most prolific producers of pine honey in the world. We journeyed into the hills to visit the Honey House where we were taken on an informative tour of how honey is produced in the region. All those in the vicinity of the village earn their living from bee keeping and scattered all across the hillside you can see little blue and white boxes housing the bees.  True to its name, the honey itself has a distinctly pine taste to it and I was fascinated to learn that the bees collect a saliva off the pines that has been excreted onto the pine leaves by a totally different insect and it is this liquid that gives the honey its distinctive aroma and taste. You can find out more about the process here.
Other than eating we enjoyed seeing the local area and in particular the local ruins of Phoenix and Amos. The former was scattered all over the surrounding  countryside of Sogut and at a nearby beach – Phoenix Beach – which wins awards in my book as the most off-piste beach to reach, an adventure in itself – you can snorkel and see pots dating back thousands of years.
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I learnt that whilst it has not been thoroughly excavated, archeologists decided that concreting the pots and treasure of the past to the sea bed would be the best course of action to deter would-be-treasure hunters. Maybe this is common practice but I felt this was a rather unusual choice of action.
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We explored the ruins of Amos in 40 degree heat, which was not really the best time to explore the ruins thoroughly, but getting to the ruins took some time to reach as we meandered over the mountains and hairpin bends that make up the Bozoburun peninsular. After exploring the ruins of Patara, Tlos and Letoon last year the ruins of Amos and Phoenix were slightly disappointing, but nonetheless, I do still enjoy a good amble around an ancient ruin.
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As always the locals were friendly and welcoming and made our visit to their region a happy and enjoyable one. I was most impressed with Osman’s gold teeth (see above) – what a legend!
To continue with my seafood diet of the last two weeks I wanted to bring to you my version of the ubiquitous Moule Mariniere, which is long overdue.
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A foolproof recipe that is very quick to prepare and cook, economical and a family crowd pleaser. Enjoy. I hope you all had a wonderful summer holiday wherever that may have been. Leave a comment to fill me in.
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Moules Mariniere
Serves 4
2kg mussels, cleaned
2 tbsp butter
4 shallots, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves finely chopped
3 bay leaves
200ml single cream
200ml dry white wine
1 tsp salt (optional/to taste)
handful of fresh parsley to serve
crusty bread  to serve
1. Thoroughly clean the mussels under cold running water. Close the open ones with your hands or by tapping them gently and discard the ones that remain open or are broken. Remove any barnacles from the shell and pull away the beards. It’s easiest to pull the beards  back and forth and then they will release from the shell with a little tug.
2. In a pan that is large enough to comfortably fit all the mussels at once with extra room to move them around (if need be cook in two pans and then merge together at the end) melt the butter and then add the garlic, shallots and bay leaves. Once softened add the mussels and stir for a few seconds before placing the lid on top. Leave the mussels to cook in their own steam for 2-3 minutes.
3. Add the cream and white wine and give a good stir and leave for another minute or so.
4. Serve immediately in bowls topped with a scattering of fresh parsley. Serve with a crusty baguette to soak up the juices. Discard mussels that remain closed or are barely open.
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Vietnamese Chicken Rissoles with Shallots, Lemongrass and Garlic

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Vietnamese chicken rissoles, or patties if you prefer, are the perfect simple lunch/supper to prepare for all the family. Little Z, who is four, is always a bit unsure about eating chicken, however, disguising chicken as rissoles seems to really work as they are softer and therefore easier to eat than regular chicken pieces. Other than the dipping sauce, there is no chilli in the rissoles, so they really are family friendly.

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When preparing the rissoles you really want to make sure that the lemongrass and garlic is well chopped up. I chopped them with a knife to begin with before putting them into my spice grinder for a finer texture. The chicken and the shallots also need to be chopped up before whizzing them in a food processor.

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Once the all the ingredients have been combined place some oil into the palms of your hands which will allow you to easily shape your rissoles without them sticking to your hands. Roll them into a ball before flattening them slightly to give a pattie appearance. Cooking time is really short. After heating oil in a pan place five patties in your frying pan and leave them for 3 to 4 minutes before turning them over for a further 3 to 4 minutes. Make sure that the heat is consistent and they do not burn.

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I like to eat them with a fresh salad of tomatoes, red onions and coriander with splashes of nuoc cham sauce over the top, although my daughters prefer theirs with white rice noodles and splashes of light soy sauce. Any leftovers can be stored easily in the fridge and then enjoyed the following day in a baguette with shredded carrots, cucumber and fresh cucumber – similar to the Vietnamese sandwich – Bahn Mi. More on these glorious sandwiches another time.

Chicken Rissoles with Shallots, Lemongrass and Garlic

Makes 15 rissoles (yes myself and a little someone ate two before the photos above)

adapted from the recipe I learnt earlier this year from Van at her fabulous Green Bamboo Cooking School in Hoi An

500g boneless chicken breasts, chopped and then blended

4 lemongrass sticks, finely chopped/blended

4 garlic cloves, chopped/blended

3 banana shallots (if you only have regular shallots that is also fine)

2 eggs

pinch of five spice powder

pince of cayenne powder

2 tbsp plain flour

1 tbsp caster sugar

salt and pepper

oil for frying

1. Finely chop the lemongrass and garlic, initially by hand and then in a spice grinder/blender./mortar and pestle. You want the lemongrass especially to be as fine as possible.

2. After roughly chopping the chicken and shallots place them in a blender until a chicken paste forms. Add the finely chopped lemongrass and garlic and pulse once again. Transfer to a large bowl.

3. Add the eggs, flour, spices and all the other ingredients. Mix well with your hands.

4. Place a little oil in the palm of your hands and then roll some of the chicken paste into your hands to create a ball and then gently press down to create the flattened rissole.

5. Heat a large frying pan with oil and when it is hot gently lower the rissoles into the pan. I usually do mine in batches of 5. Leave the rissoles to cook well on one side (3 to 4 minutes should be sufficient) before turning over and cooking for a further 3 to 4 minutes.

6. When they have browned, place the rissoles onto some kitchen paper to cool.

7. Serve with nuoc cham dipping sauce and a fresh salad

Nuoc Cham Dipping Sauce

juice of 1 lime

2 tbsp sugar

3 tbsp fish sauce

1 tbsp garlic, finely chopped

fresh chilli, finely chopped (optional/to taste)

1. Initially mix the lime juice with the sugar thoroughly before adding the rest of the ingredients. Continue to mix together. This sauce can be made ahead of time and can store easily.


Miso Chicken, Slow Baked Tomatoes and Fresh Spinach Salad

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Here in the UK we are enjoying a flashback to the summer of 1976, apparently. I was only one at the time so have no recollection of the ‘great summer’ but we are now into weeks, not days, of glorious warm sunshine with temperatures climbing up to 33 degrees in west London. When the weather is hot I love to get creative with my salads and try out different flavour and ingredient combinations. This one I created awhile ago when a friend, who has certain culinary likes and dislikes was coming over to supper. I started with the miso chicken and spinach and then built from there, digging out interesting ingredients from my fridge and pantry along the way. The overall mix of flavours works really well to the extent that I have now cooked this salad multiple times and thought you would appreciate having it too. It’s great for a picnic, lunch or supper, is hugely versatile and if you keep the chilli oil marinade to one side for guests to help themselves, then the whole family can enjoy the dish.

Miso Chicken Slow Baked Tomatoes and Fresh Spinach Salad

Serves 4-6

 For the Chicken Marinade

500g chicken breasts

3 garlic cloves, grated

1 inch ginger, peeled and grated

2 tbsp sweet white miso paste

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 tbsp light soy sauce

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parchment paper

3 tbsp pine nuts, toasted

250g puy lentils

1 avocado, chopped

6 slow baked tomatoes marinated with chilli

chilli oil from the slow baked tomatoes (see above)

250g fresh spinach

1. First you need to flatten the chicken breasts as they will cook under the grill more evenly and quicker if they are thinner. Place a large strip of parchment paper underneath the chicken breasts and another similar sized piece on top. Then using a rolling pin gently hit the chicken pieces which will begin to flatten. Check to see how they are looking and if they need to be a little flatter continue to hit them with the rolling pin. If you overly bash them they will begin to break apart so flatten them to the extent that they still keep in tact.

2. Place the flattened chicken breasts into a freezer bag and then add the grated ginger, garlic, sweet white miso paste, soy sauce and sesame oil. Using your hands massage the ingredients thoroughly into the chicken pieces. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes or longer if you can.

3. Heat up a small frying pan and when it is hot add the pine nuts being careful not to burn them as they toast quickly. Keep them moving around the pan and after a minute they should have toasted nicely.  Place to one side.

4. Heat your grill (you could also use a griddle pan or BBQ!) to 200 degrees centigrade and place the marinated chicken directly onto your oven rack. Place some baking parchment/foil underneath to catch all the bits than fall through the rack – these will also taste great in the salad.  The breasts will need around 6 minutes each side. If they look a little undercooked leave them for a minute or two more and vice versa.

5. In a large mixing bowl add the spinach, chopped/sliced avocado, puy lentils – for speed I often use the Merchant Gourmet brand – see here, pine nuts and slow baked tomatoes marinated in chilli. Whilst you can of course slow bake your own and marinate them in chilli oil (which I will get around to doing so at some point – will make a great blog post) I opt for the Sacla brand – see here. Chop the tomatoes up slightly and then gently mix all the above ingredients together.

6. Once the chicken has cooled slightly slice into stripes and mix gently into the salad along with the bits that had fallen through the rack. Add a little of the chilli oil from the slow baked tomatoes and place extra in a small pouring jug.

7. Transfer the salad to a serving bowl and allow guests to serve themselves. I find it is best eaten at room temperature.

It is surprisingly filling and leftovers the next day taste equally good, so just refrigerate if you have some left over.

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Broad beans, lemon zest ricotta, fresh mint oil, parma ham with pink peppercorns

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I have been meaning to a write blog post on this recipe for sometime now as I seem to be averaging eating it once a week in the last month or so. It’s one of those recipes that once you’ve prepared it you want to dive in and eat it so I needed to be speedy with the camera work, hence the lack of lots of photos.  It is absolutely perfect for a lunch either by yourself or if you have a few friends coming over. The bright greens and the complimenting flavours of lemon, broad beans, mint, olive oil, garlic, ricotta, parmesan, parma ham and pink peppercorns really appeal to me. The pink peppercorns I managed to source in Turkey last year and they have the most wonderful flavour. Whilst I imagine a quick trip to Turkey may not be realistic you’ll be glad to hear that you can find them at most supermarkets – they are definitely worth seeking out as they have a very distinct flavour – very different from the black variety.

I stumbled across this recipe years ago in Skye Gyngells book ‘A Year in My Kitchen’ and as far as I’m concerned it’s a winning recipe. The only slightly time consuming part is taking the skins off the broad beans – which to be fair does not really take that long, especially if you have a friend to chat to whilst you are sharing the podding together.

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Other than this time, I always prepare the dish with fresh broad beans but for some reason the two places that normally stock them this morning had run out, so I had to suffice with frozen. They tasted equally good, although they were a slightly smaller in size, which made peeling them take a little longer. I reckon if you have a glorious sunny day with friends coming over for lunch this is the perfect dish. To accompany it, a glass of Riesling or ginger cordial would always go down a treat. A great wine merchant called Symposium, based in the picturesque town of Lewes in East Sussex, I always find comes up trumps with recommending great drinkable wines. I’m based in London and they always seem happy to deliver a case or two to me when I am needing to stock up. If you are interested send Henry an email henry@symposium-finewine.co.uk and he’ll send you their wine list.

Broad beans, lemon zest ricotta, fresh mint oil, parma ham with pink peppercorns

Adapted from Skye Gyngell’s book ‘A year in my kitchen’

Serves 4

1kg of fresh broad beans in their pods (or 500g podded/frozen)

250g fresh ricotta

50g parmesan, finely grated

1 lemon, zest and juice

8 slices of parma ham

1 garlic clove

handful of fresh mint

75ml olive oil

pinch of pink peppercorns per serving

sour dough bread (or ciabatta)

1. If using fresh broad beans, take them out of their pods and place into a pan of boiling water for under 1 minute. If you are using frozen broad beans you need to leave them in the boiling water for 3 minutes. Strain and run under cold water immediately and then peel off  the outer shell of the broad beans and discard.

2. Take a large handful of fresh mint and finely chop up all of it bar a few leafs that you will sprinkle over the top at the end. Place the finely chopped mint leaves in a bowl with 75ml of olive oil and leave to infuse for 15 minutes or longer.

3. Place the ricotta into a bowl and add the finely grated parmesan. Stir together and then add most of the zest from one lemon – the remaining zest you will sprinkle on the dish at the end. Add the juice from half a lemon.  Stir in all together and leave to one side.

4. In a preheated oven – 180 degrees – place the parma ham on baking parchment with a drizzle of olive oil and black pepper. Leave to crisp up in the oven for 10 minutes.

5. Slice some sourdough bread and place in the toaster or under a grill for it to become golden. Once toasted cover with a little olive oil and fresh garlic.  Place on a serving plate.

6. Add a spoonful or two of the  lemony ricotta/parmesan to the toast. Add a scattering of broad beans followed by some mint drizzle and then lay two slices of parma ham over the creation followed by some of the remaining lemon zest, fresh mint leaves and a good pinch or two of pink peppercorns. I find that no salt is necessary as the parma ham and parmesan more than make up for the lack of salt.

Eat at room temperature.

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