3 of the best – my courgette recipes from Waitrose Weekend

In case you missed them in store, here are my 3 courgette recipes from last month’s Waitrose Weekend.

In season Courgettes

We are so used to cooking with Mediterranean ingredients arriving from somewhere in the world that they have become ubiquitous in the kitchen. But the courgette is one of the summer squash family that grows well here at home through our English summer.  And now the vegetable is at its very finest – shiny, crisp and pale-hued with the flesh creamy and tinged with green. High in water – 90 percent – and not so high in nutrients, courgettes make the perfect host for other strong flavours such as citrus, mint, garlic and tomato. They bake, grate, ribbon, grill or fry and because of this endearing flexibility, appear in countless recipes from all around the Mediterranean and beyond.

I’ve taken inspiration from this popularity for my three recipes this month. They all deserve a place at your summer table for their versatility, flavour and good looks. Two are versions of old favourites and the third a happy new discovery. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have….

 


 

Courgette, aubergine and tomato gratin

Courgette and tomato gratin

I love this simple versatile gratin as it makes a supper on its own or a veg accompaniment to lamb or chicken dishes. The secret with courgette and aubergine here is to make sure they are well charred to caramelise their sugars and bring out their flavour

Serves 4/Prepare 10 minutes/Cook: 35 minutes

750g medium courgettes, thinly sliced lengthways

2 small aubergines, thinly sliced lengthways

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

225g Pome dei Moro tomatoes, halved (or 400g can plum tomatoes, drained)

125g mozzarella, sliced

1 tsp dried oregano

4 tbsp fresh breadcrumbs

2 – 3 cloves garlic, chopped

3 tbsp chopped flat leafed parsley

3 tbsp grated fresh Parmigiano Reggiano

  1. Preheat the oven to 220˚C, Gas 7. Place the courgettes and aubergine slices together in a bowl and add 2 tbsp of the oil and seasoning. Toss together to coat and arrange in two oiled baking sheets large enough to take all the vegetables in a single layer.
  2. Bake for about 20 minutes, turning halfway through cooking, until the vegetables are tender and golden brown. Add the halved tomatoes for the final 5 minutes
  3. Meanwhile, mix the crumbs in a small bowl with the garlic, parsley and Parmesan. Layer up the roasted vegetables in a gratin dish with the tomatoes, mozzarella slices and oregano. Spoon the crumb mixture over the top and drizzle with the remaining oil. Return the dish to the oven for a further 10 minutes until the top is golden and the vegetables are tender. Serve with ciabatta to mop up the juices.

 


 

Courgette, prawn and Udon noodle salad with nuoc cham dressing

Courgette, prawn and udon noodle salad

A gloriously simple and pretty salad to make with the new season’s courgettes. The Vietnamese sweet sour dressing that creates such a pleasing balance of flavours comes from my daughter Isobel

Serves 4/Prepare 15 minutes/Cook 5 minutes

200g medium courgettes, trimmed

1 large organic carrot, trimmed and scrubbed

4 – 6 spring onions

200g brown rice Udon noodles

140g pack tiger prawns

½ 28g pack fresh coriander, finely chopped

2 tbsp sesame seeds

For the dressing:

2 tbsp Nam Pla fish sauce

juice of 2 limes

1 red chilli, seeded and finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 tbsp dark brown sugar

  1. Cut the courgette and carrots lengthways into long thin ribbons with a swivel vegetable peeler. Cut the spring onions into diagonal lengths about 1.5cm.
  2. Cook the noodles for 9 minutes in boiling water according to pack instructions then drain and rinse under cold water. Pat dry and place in a salad bowl with the prawns, coriander, onions and the vegetable ribbons. Dry fry the sesame seeds for a minute or two in a non-stick frying pan until golden then add to the salad.
  3. Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a small bowl with 2 tbsp cold water and pour over the salad. Toss well to coat and leave to stand for an hour for the flavours to develop. Serve.

 


 

Courgette, pea and mint tortilla

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Tortilla is my go-to summer lunch dish as I’ve always got the basic ingredients to rustle one up when unexpected guests or family turn up. This is one of my favourite versions. Serve at room temperature with harissa mayonnaise and a salad; leftovers make great snacks or picnic fare.

Serves 2 – 3/Prepare 10 minutes/Cook 20 minutes

100g podded fresh peas

250g Jersey Royal or Charlotte potatoes, scrubbed and thinly sliced

2 tbsp olive oil

1 medium red onion, sliced

2 medium courgettes, halved lengthways and thinly sliced

60g diced chorizo or bacon lardons

4 large free-range eggs

2 tbsp chopped fresh mint

2 tbsp mayonnaise

1 tsp rose harissa

  1. Cook the peas in a little boiling water for a minute. Drain and refresh under cold water. Heat half the oil in a large non-stick frying pan, add the onion, potatoes, seasoning well, and cook over a medium heat for 10 minutes, turning the vegetables until the potatoes are starting to brown. Add the courgette and chorizo if using, raise the heat and continue cooking for a further 4 – 5 minutes until the potatoes are golden and tender. Stir in the peas.
  2. Beat the eggs in a large bowl, add the drained vegetables, mint and plenty of seasoning. Stir to combine and leave to stand for 5 minutes.
  3. Heat the remaining oil in a 20cm frying pan, add the egg mixture and cook over a low-medium heat for 5 – 8 minutes, lifting the mixture to let the egg run under until the egg is set on top and golden underneath. Place a large plate over the pan and turn the tortilla out onto. and then carefully slide it back into the pan for 3- 4 minutes to cook the other side. Turn again twice until the tortilla is cooked and firm in the centre. The turning is important to create the classic cake shape. Serve warm or cold with a tomato and onion salad.

 


 

Three quick ideas with courgettes

Finger sized and fresh from the garden - and perfect for cooking

Fried grated courgette with rosemary and garlic

this is one of my favourite ways to cook larger more watery courgettes and goes wonderfully with roast meat, especially lamb. Coarsely grate courgettes and fry in a little hot butter and olive oil until golden brown, stirring regularly. Add a mix of chopped rosemary, basil and parsley plus chopped garlic and cook for a minute. Season and serve.

Courgette, chilli and black olive pasta

  • probably my favourite quick pasta supper dish of all time. Fry thin batons of courgette in hot olive oil until golden brown seasoning well. Add chopped garlic, quartered stoned Kalamata olives and a scattering of dried chilli flakes and cook for a minute then toss with spaghetti and lots of grated parmesan. Add a splash of extra virgin olive oil and serve

Barbecued courgettes with spices

  • Strips of courgette cook beautifully on the BBQ. I like to marinate them first in oil infused with sliced garlic and a mix of ground cinnamon, smoked paprika and ground ginger. Cook over the coals then leave to come back to room temperature for the best flavour

 

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The pick of the crop at Penhurst farmers’ market this July..

I’ll be manning the information stand at Penshurst Farmers Market tomorrow Saturday 7th July where we’ll be celebrating the best of summer produce with a focus on local soft fruit, now at its very best. What better way than to enjoy an evening of sport than with a meal of all the best that the South of England has on offer.

I suggest a barbecue of either a whole fish – salmon or sea bass depending on what Paul at Arcade Fisheries is recommending – marinated in yogurt and curry spices or a maybe a wonderful butterflied pork joint from Renhurst Farm, rubbed with Chinese five spice, drizzled with honey mixed with a little oil, and roasted over sliced new potatoes. I like to serve it in thick slices with mayonnaise flavoured with rose harissa and the wonderful chilli jelly from Sugar and Spice.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOf course there are always sausages to fall back on and when they are as good as you can buy from Kieron’s Game – try his wild boar and apple, a personal favourite – they aren’t a poor option at all.

My monthly recipes for Waitrose Weekend newspaper in June featured raspberries and here are the three recipes for you to try if you missed out, any of which would make the perfect way to finish your summer meal. I think for saturday night I’ll be going for the gorgeous blondies – raspberry, cardamom and chocolate chip – with local ice cream. We have wonderful cherries from Dalloways and raspberries, strawberries and other soft fruit from New Park Farm featuring at the market tomorrow so you’ll be spoilt for choice.

In Season June – Raspberries recipes for Waitrose

My desert island meal – wild salmon, Jersey Royals and asparagus –  would end in a bowlful of freshly picked local raspberries, served dripping with luscious English double cream and a scattering of caster sugar. Maybe I’d add a squidgy meringue to the bowl before mashing the lot together as I’ve done ever since I was a child. Raspberries really are my favourite fruit of all, either served as simply as described, cooked in a pudding like the cheesecake recipe here, or maybe layered up with whipped cream to add oomph to a classic Victoria sponge cake.

To me the best food is always the simplest and freshest, which is one of the joys of eating with the seasons. It’s when ingredients are at their very best, and clever old nature provides the perfect partners to enhance flavours. So, serve raspberries with other seasonal red fruit – strawberries, currents, cherries – in a classic summer pudding, try scented with rose petals as in the meringue below, or just enjoy on their own in a homemade jam or tart.


Baked raspberry, white chocolate and lemon cheesecake

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White chocolate and raspberry cheesecake

This is the perfect pudding for a summer party as you can make the cheesecake a day ahead to allow the flavours to develop together then chill until ready to serve

Serves 8/Prep 20 minutes/Cook 35 – 40 minutes plus 4 – 5 hours cooling and chilling

150g Lotus Biscoff biscuits, crushed
50g unsalted butter, melted
300g fresh raspberries
150ml double cream
100g white chocolate, broken into chunks
400g soft fresh cheese (I find Philadelphia works well here)
50g caster sugar
grated rind of 1 lemon
3 medium egg yolks
3 – 4 tbsp soured cream
shaved white chocolate curls or crushed honeycomb pieces

1 Preheat the oven to 170C Gas mark 3. Mix the crushed biscuits with the melted butter and press into the base of a 20cm greased and base-lined spring release tin. Arrange two thirds of the raspberries over the biscuit base.

2 Place the cream and chocolate together in a small pan and heat gently until melted then cool.  Beat together the soft cheese, sugar and lemon rind until smooth then add the egg yolks and beat well. Stir in the cooled cream and melted chocolate mixture. Spoon into the tin and level the surface then bake for 35 – 40 minutes until only just set. The top should wobble gently. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin. Chill for at least 2 hours or overnight to let the centre set..

3 To serve, remove the cheesecake from the tin and place on a serving plate. Spread the soured cream over the surface, top with the remaining raspberries and scatter with shaved white chocolate curls.


Chocolate chip, cardamom and raspberry blondies

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Raspberry blondies

Gooey and gorgeous, these blondies are halfway between a pud and a cake so I say enjoy them either way! Don’t overcook – they should be soft in the centre – and eat within a couple of days (if they last that long)

Makes 12/Prepare 15 minutes/Cook 25 – 30 minutes

200g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
6 cardamom pods, seeds removed and lightly crushed
150g light brown muscovado sugar
50g dark muscovado sugar
2 medium eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
150g butter, melted
100g dark chocolate chunks
75g pistachio nuts, roughly chopped
100g fresh raspberries

1 Heat the oven to 200C gas mark 6. Butter and base line a 20cm square baking tin. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl then stir in the cardamom seeds and sugars. Add the eggs, vanilla and melted butter and mix lightly, then fold in the chocolate chunks and two thirds of the pistachios to give a soft consistency, being careful not to overmix.

2 Spoon into the tin, level the surface and scatter over the raspberries and remaining pistachios. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes until just cooked through but still a little sticky on top. Cool in the tin then cut into squares and serve with thick yogurt or in slices with coffee.


Raspberry and rose hazelnut meringue layer

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In my house, it’s not truly summer without a meringue, cream and fruit pud. Here I use a yogurt and cream combination in the filling to balance the sweetness of the meringue

Serves 8/Prepare 20 minutes/Cook 2 ½ hours

3 medium egg whites
150g golden caster sugar
1 tsp raspberry or white wine vinegar
100g chopped toasted hazelnuts
¼ tsp rose water
250g fresh raspberries
100ml double cream, lightly whipped
4 tbsp Greek yogurt
extra raspberries and dried rose petals to decorate

1 Preheat the oven to 100C Gas Mark 1/4. Line two baking sheets with baking parchment and draw an 18cm circle on each. Whisk the egg whites with an electric mixer in a clean bowl until stiff then whisk in half the sugar until the mixture is stiff and glossy. Whisk in the rest of the sugar and whisk again until stiff. Whisk in the vinegar then fold in the chopped hazelnuts.

2 Spoon the meringue onto the baking sheets and spread out into the circles. Bake for 1 ¾ – 2 hours until the meringues are pale golden and crisp but still a little soft in the centre. Cool on wire racks.

3 To assemble, fold the whipped cream into the yogurt. Mash half the raspberries on a plate with a fork and fold into the cream with the remaining whole fruit. Spoon over the top of one of the meringue circles and top with the other meringue. Chill until ready to serve. Dust with icing sugar and scatter with rose petals and extra raspberries.


Three quick ideas with raspberries

Summer pudding

  • traditionally a mix of 4 parts raspberries to one part redcurrants, I use a mix of raspberries, red and black currants, halved strawberries and blackberries for mine. Cook with a little sugar until the juices run then spoon into a basin lined with thin slices of day old bread. Pack well and top with more bread. Weight the basin with a plate and chill overnight. Serve with cream.

Raspberry, blueberry and banana crumble

  • If it seems odd to make a crumble in the summer then try this combo of fruit, using your regular recipe for the topping – vegans can use a non-dairy spread instead of butter. I make a tray bake of it and serve it chilled cut into squares with thick yogurt or clotted cream

Quick raspberry jam

  • It’s easy to make a pot of your own raspberry jam for a summer breakfast treat. Simply gently cook a punnet of fresh raspberries with an equal weight of sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice in a pan to melt the sugar then boil for 8 – 10 minutes until thick. Pot and store in the fridge once cold.
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June bursts out at Penshurst this weekend… and I’m cooking fish and asparagus

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Hastings fishmonger and Penshurst regular Paul Saxby of Arcade Fisheries preparing mackerel for fish day at the market last year

If May is anything to go by, flaming June will hopefully live up to its name. If it’s like the past few weeks, we may well be dodging thunderstorms but also enjoying some florious sunshine. Hopefully the June sun will shine this weekend, as I’m cooking family friendly fish recipes at Penshurst Farmers Market on Saturday.

Introducing children to fish other than the ubiquitous fishfinger can seem a challenge so, having been through the process with my own family, I’ll be cooking my own well tested fish recipes from my Busy Mum’s Cookbook and offering tips on what to serve and how to prepare it for small people, and also advising on what to avoid. And I’ll have copies of the book to sell and sign, featuring the recipes.

As always, our regular stallholders will be out in force – local asparagus and fresh fish included – and this month with the growing season in full flow, there’s sure to be plenty to fill your shopping basket. So come prepared and come and say hello.


If you missed them, here are my seasonal asparagus recipes from Waitrose Weekend out in early May…..

As the countryside springs back into life after the chilly grey winter and snowy spring, the first signs of the bounty that will be with us in the coming months is starting to appear in store. For me the real harbinger of summer is wonderful English asparagus, one of the great treats of the season. The cool start to the year has kept the spears waiting in the ground but they are now pushing through the earth ready for harvesting. Asparagus is at its best when picked and cooked as quickly as possible so the farmers’ market is the shortest route from farm to plate for spears often picked that very morning.

The season for English asparagus is short and sweet so make the most of the delicate flavour by serving the green spears simply steamed with melted butter or hollandaise sauce, or cook and toss with crumbled local goat’s cheese, some toasted pine nuts and a simple olive oil and lemon vinaigrette. As the season progresses I use asparagus in risottos, in tarts with bacon or crab, for salads and soups or one of these recipes. Ideal flavour partners are cheeses and dairy – cream and full fat yogurt – lighter meats such as chicken and new season’s lamb, or cured meats such as bacon and pancetta.

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Spaghetti with asparagus, lemon and chives

Simple, luxurious and one of my favourite quick easy meals when asparagus is in season. You can add cooked cubed pancetta for any meat eaters which is also good

Serves 2/Prep 5 minutes/Cook 10 – 12 minutes

250g bunch fresh asparagus, ends trimmed

100ml double cream

grated rind of 1 lemon

2 garlic cloves, peeled and halved

3 tbsp chopped fresh chives

125g egg tagliatelle

4 – 6 tbsp freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

1 Cut the asparagus into 2cm lengths on the diagonal. Drop into a pan of boiling water, return to the boil for 2 – 3 minutes until just tender then drain thoroughly.

2 Heat the cream in a small pan and add lemon rind and garlic cloves. Simmer for 3 -4 minutes until the garlic soft then discard the garlic. Add the asparagus and chives to the cream and simmer for a minute. Keep warm.

3 Cook the tagliatelle in plenty of boiling salted water for 3 – 4 minutes until just tender. Drain and add to the sauce with the parmesan. Toss together and serve in warm pasta bowls with extra grated parmesan. 


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Roast asparagus and goats cheese risotto with Iberico ham crisps

Asparagus risotto is one of my dessert island dishes. This version is less rich than the classic version. Iberico jamon with its creamy fat cooks beautifully as a garnish and is a real treat but you could use serrano, Parma or a local ham as an alternative

Serves 4/Prep 10 minutes/Cook 25 minutes

2  bunches fresh asparagus

1 tbsp olive oil

2 shallots, finely chopped

1- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

300g Arborio risotto rice

100ml dry white wine

about 1.5 litres simmering vegetable stock

150g crumbly cheese, cubed

3 tbsp chopped fresh mint

8 slices jamon Iberico de bellota or locally cured ham

1 Preheat the oven to 200C gas mark 6. Toss the asparagus with half the oil and arrange in a single layer in a roasting tin. Cook for 20 minutes turning halfway through the cooking time until tender and lightly browned.

2 Meanwhile heat the remaining oil in a heavy-based saucepan. Add the shallot and garlic and cook for about 3 minutes until softened. Add the rice and stir to coat in the oil. Add the white wine, bring to the boil and simmer over a medium heat until the liquid is absorbed, stirring constantly. Continue adding stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring, until all the stock is absorbed and the rice is tender, about 20 minutes.

3 Cut the asparagus into 2cm lengths and add for the final few minutes then stir in the cheese, mint and seasoning. Cover the pan and leave to stand. Dry fry the slices of ham in a non-stick frying pan until crispy and browned. Spoon the risotto into warm serving bowls and garnish with the pieces of ham.


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Salmon and asparagus Thai curry

The richness of salmon with lemon grassy and ginger Thai spices surprisingly make a perfect foil for the grassy clean flavour of English asparagus at its freshest and best. This dish needs no accompanying rice unless you want some to soak up the juices

Serves  2 – 3/Prep 10 minutes/Cook 20 minutes

150g Puy lentils

1 tbsp vegetable oil

4 – 6 tbsp Thai red curry paste

400g can coconut milk

1 tbsp Thai fish sauce

220g fresh Scottish salmon fillet, cubed

230g fresh asparagus, cut into 3cm lengths

1 red and 1 yellow pepper, deseeded and cubed

juice of 1 lime

1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced

shredded fresh basil or coariander leaves to garnish

1 Rinse the lentils and place in a medium pan and generously cover with water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 – 20 minutes until just tender. Drain.

2 While the lentils are cooking, heat the oil in a heavy based pan and add the curry paste. Cook for a minute then add coconut milk, fish sauce and 100ml cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer for a few minutes then add the asparagus and peppers. Simmer gently for 3 minutes then stir in the cubed salmon and cook gently for a further 2 – 3 minutes until the salmon is just cooked through.

3 Add the lentils to the pan and heat through then add the lime juice. Scatter with the sliced red onions and basil. Serve alone in warmed bowls or with extra steamed rice.


 

Three quick ideas with asparagus

 Asparagus and Jersey Royal gratin

–  two of my favourite seasonal veg go perfectly together in this easy supper dish. Halve cooked Jersey Royals and toss with cooked asparagus tips. Arrange in a shallow ovenproof dish. Stir together hollandaise sauce with some lightly whipped cream or yogurt and a teaspoonful of Dijon mustard and spoon over the top of the veg. Scatter with a mix of breadcrumbs and chopped almonds and bake until golden and bubbling. You can also add cooked chicken to make the dish more substantial.

Griddled asparagus with parmesan pine nut dressing

-Griddling brings out the full flavour of asparagus beautifully. Toss spears in olive oil and cook on a hot griddle pan or under the grill until tender and golden. Whiz pine nuts, grated parmesan and a garlic clove together in a processor then drizzle in olive oil keeping the mixture thick. Season and serve with the asparagus.

Ribbon asparagus on toast with duck eggs and sunflower seeds

– Make asparagus ribbons from fat spears of raw asparagus with a swivel peeler from stem to tip. Toss with lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, sunflower seeds and seasoning and pile onto toasted sourdough bread. Top with a poached duck egg.

 

 

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Spring comes to Penshurst Farmers Market – my 10 top products to look out for this April

Well, as Sam Cooke sang way back in 1960, it’s been a long time coming but a change is going to come. And at last, with April’s farmers market at Penshurst just a day away, the sun has come out, the birds are singing their hearts out and it seems like Spring has finally got her glad rags on.

So it’s time to dress up in warm (ish) clothes and get you to Penshurst this Saturday morning. The market is on Saturday 7th April 9.30 – 12.00 in the glorious setting of  Penshurst Place car park (so you could make a day out and visit the house and gardens at the same time). And if you do, what will you find to put in your shopping basket? With over 30 stall holders this month there’s plenty of choice. Here are ten of my favourite seasonal buys that I will be putting in my basket:

1 New season’s Kent rhubarb from Viv
I’ll be making my favourite crumble this Sunday using flour from Pure Kent

2 Rye Bay scallops from Botterells – Saturday night’s supper seared in apan and served with wild garlic, pea and pancetta risotto (recipe below)

3 Newly laid proper free range eggs from Jennie at Far Acre Farm – I buy a whole tray at each market. Great value and they are only just laid so stay fresh for me to use and cook right the way through to the following month’s market. (The ones you buy in the supermarkets are already weeks old by the time they arrive in store.)

4 The superb veggie raised pies from Jo at Naked and Ready (and the meat version is amazing too!) That’s lunch sorted when I get home from the market – serve with Sugar and Spice’s glorious chilli jelly.

5 A bunch of glorious local spring flowers from Speldhurst Flowers

6 Award winning Barley and Wheat Flour from Claire at Pure Kent
(award winner at the latest Taste of Kent Awards). Nutty with a lovely texture I use this flour for cakes, crumbles and mixed with strong white flour for my own sourdough bread.

7 A joint of pork for Sunday lunch from Renhurst Farm. Happy pigs produce the tastiest and best meat and these from just down the road in Mark Cross are a world away from bland mass-produced animals.

8 Any of the cakes from Debra (but my favourite is her Battenburg if there is any left!)

9 The wild boar and apple sausages from Kieron’s Game. Sunshine makes me long for barbecue days but in the meantime I’ll grill them and serve with purple sprouting broccoli and new potatoes with a little butter and chives.

10 And of course fish from Paul at Arcade Fisheries. Tomorrow it’s got to be Dover Sole – I just bake them in the oven with butter and lemon juice. With fish this fresh and good, simple cooking is always the best. but I’ll also pick up some of the hot smoked salmon to flake with scrambled eggs, add to a creamy chowder or just serve with salad and  new potatoes for an easy lunch. The queue for his stall is one of the social hubs of the market and a great place to meet friends, swap recipe ideas and check out/buy Jennie’s eggs and Chris’s beautiful chickens from their stalls next to Paul


Wild garlic, pea and pancetta risotto with seared scallops or Dover sole

One of my favourite risottos (you can use spinach instead if you can’t get wild garlic) especially served with Rye Bay scallops or Dover sole cooked on the bone to make the most of their flavour. Roll any leftovers into small balls, egg and breadcrumb and deep fry for the perfect canape with a glass of local chilled sparkling wine

Prepare: 15 minutes/Cook: 25 minutes/Serves 4

2 tbsp Pure Kent rapeseed oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
75g cubed locally produced smoked pancetta or bacon lardons
300g risotto rice
about 1.3 litres simmering vegetable stock
100ml dry white wine
100g frozen petit pois, defrosted
large handful wild garlic leaves, washed and shredded
30g freshly grated Parmesan or hard salty cheese such as Lord of the Hundreds
25g butter
salt and freshly ground black pepper

  1. Heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan. Add the shallot and cook for about 3 minutes until softened. Add the pancetta and cook until lightly browned then add the rice and stir to coat in the oil.
  1. Add a ladleful of stock and the white wine and simmer over a medium-low heat until the liquid is absorbed, stirring constantly. Continue adding stock, a few tablespoons at a time, stirring frequently, until all the stock is absorbed and the rice is tender and creamy but still with a slight bite. This should take about 18 – 20 minutes
  1. When the rice is tender, add the peas and garlic and cook for another minute or two to heat through thoroughly. Stir in the butter and Parmesan cheese and adjust the seasoning. Cover and leave to stand while you griddle some scallops. Keep any lefotvers chilled in the fridge and use within 24 hours.

Cook’s tip: if making for a party, cook up to the stage of adding the wine then leave and finish off just beofer serving

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Rhubarb rhubarb – my 3 foolproof recipes from Waitrose Weekend

 

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For those of you who missed my set of seasonal rhubarb recipes when they came out in February, here they are. Of course they work with main season rhubarb but try them now with the pink forced version that’s in now.

With its delicate slender stems with their distinctive, almost Barbie pink colour, yellow leaves and fine acidic flavour, new season’s rhubarb is a welcome sight for the cook yearning for fresh British grown fruit in the midst of the dark days of winter. At this time of year rhubarb is ‘forced’ – grown in the dark in warm sheds, where the sound of the rhubarb cracking as it grows can be heard, to produce brightly coloured tender stalks that are harvested by candlelight.

As a child of the Second World War my mother hated rhubarb because there was never enough sugar to make it palatable. And she was right – adding enough sugar is the secret to successful rhubarb cooking. Forced rhubarb is more delicate than the outdoor version so treat it with respect and cook it gently. I never get bored with its flavour and like its acidity as a partner for sweet and savoury dishes so – in a pavlova, classic pie or crumble or with fish or pork as in the recipes here.


 Five spice belly pork with baked rhubarb

Pink forced rhubarb makes a lovely partner for pork as an alternative to apple sauce now of year as the acidity balances the rich meat perfectly – and this recipe served with creamy mash or roasted sweet potatoes makes the perfect comforting Sunday roast

IMG_6246Serves 4/Prep: 10 minutes/Cook: 1 ½ – 2 hours

750g piece free-range pork belly joint
½ tsp five spice powder
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp coarse sea salt
400g forced rhubarb, trimmed
50g caster sugar
2 – 3 star anise

1 Preheat the oven to 220C Gas 7.  Remove the string from the joint and unroll. (If you buy your pork from the butchery counter it will be already scored but if not score the skin of the pork with a sharp knife.) Mix together the five-spice powder, pepper and salt and rub all over the skin, working it into the scored areas.

2 Place the pork skin side up in a roasting tin. Roast for 30 minutes. Lower the temperature to 180C Gas 4. Cook the pork for a further 1 hour until the skin is tender and starting to crisp.

3 Turn up the oven to 220C gas 7 again and give the pork a blast if the crackling needs crisping up.  Remove the pork from the oven, transfer to a warm plate to rest while you roast the rhubarb. Slice the rhubarb into 5cm pieces then arrange in a single layer in a small roasting tin, add the star anise and scatter with the sugar. Cover with foil and roast for 15 minutes until the rhubarb is tender but still holding its shape. I like my pork with wedges of roasted sweet potato and steamed greens or sprouts for a comforting February Sunday lunch.

Rhubarb and orange polenta cake

With both oranges and rhubarb at their sweetest and best now bring them together for this simple versatile cake recipe, which works well as a pud with ice cream or in slices with tea or coffee

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Makes one 20cm cake/Prep: 15 minutes/Cook: 1 – 1 ¼ hours

150g butter
200g caster sugar
grated rind and juice of 1 large orange
3 medium eggs, beaten
150g polenta
1 ½ tsp baking powder
75g ground almonds
400g forced rhubarb, trimmed and thickly sliced
1 tbsp granulated sugar

1 Preheat the oven to 180C/ Gas Mark 3. Butter and base-line a loose-bottomed deep 20cm cake tin. Cream the butter until soft then beat in the caster sugar and orange rind and continue beating until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs a spoonful at a time. Fold in the polenta, baking powder and ground almonds to give a soft mixture that drops easily off a wooden spoon. Spoon half the mixture over the base of the cake tin.

2 Arrange the rhubarb over the cake base then drop the rest of the mixture over the rhubarb, leaving gaps. Bake in the preheated oven for 1 – 1 ¼ hours until well-risen and golden and a skewer inserted into the centre emerges clean and dry. Make holes in the surface of the cake with a skewer then scatter the granulated sugar over the top of the cake and sprinkle with the orange juice,

3 Cool in the tin for 15 minutes then remove and leave on a wire rack to cool. Serve warm with crème fraiche or vanilla ice cream or cool completely and serve sliced with coffee.

Mackerel with soy, ginger and rhubarb

The oily flesh of mackerel goes well with a sweet-sour combination of soy, ginger, brown sugar and rhubarb in this easy meal for one. Or double up for a supper for two

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Serves 1/Prep 5 minutes/Cook 20 – 25 minutes

100g forced rhubarb
1 whole medium mackerel, cleaned, head and tail removed
Small piece fresh ginger, shredded
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
¼ tsp dried chilli flakes
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp soft brown sugar
1 tbsp cider vinegar

1 Preheat the oven to 190C gas mark 5. Oil a large piece of foil. Cut the rhubarb into 7cm lengths then each length into thin slices. Arrange in the middle of the foil. Place the mackerel on top of the rhubarb.

2 Season the fish then scatter over the ginger, garlic and chilli, pushing some into the cavity of the fish. Sprinkle the soy sauce, sugar and cider vinegar over the top. Fold in the sides of the foil and make a pleat along the top to make a neat parcel enclosing the fish.

3 Place the parcel on a baking sheet and cook for 20- 25 minutes until the fish is just cooked through. It should come away from the bone when you put a knife into the middle. Serve with steamed rice and stir fried Pak choi.


Three quick ideas with rhubarb

Layered rhubarb and ginger fool – bake rhubarb as for the belly pork but add a teaspoon of ground ginger rather than star anise. Check sweetness then puree and cool. Spoon a layer into the base of individual serving glasses then top with Madagascar vanilla custard then whipped cream. Serve with ginger shortbread biscuits

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Rhubarb compote with vanilla – perfect with my breakfast yogurt, muesli or porridge, I like to gently poach sliced rhubarb with a couple of tablespoons of apple juice, caster sugar to taste and a split vanilla pod, aiming to keep the slices whole. Cool, remove the pod.

Open rhubarb and Demerara pie – toss sliced rhubarb with a third its weight of demerara sugar and a tablespoon or two of flour. Arrange over the centre of a sheet of all-butter shortcrust or puff pastry set on a baking sheet. Bring in the edges of the pastry to hold the filling but don’t cover completely. Brush the pastry with egg white and scatter with more sugar then bake in a hot oven until golden.

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Zest for life – my latest seasonal lemon recipes for Waitrose Weekend

fullsizeoutput_3935In case you missed the January issue of Waitrise Weekend with my lovely lemon recipes, here they are online.

I love lemons for their ability to be both exotic and so familiar at the same time. We’ve been cooking with them for a very long time. Originally from southern Asia, they arrived in North Africa and southern Europe with the Moors a thousand years ago. By the 15th century lemons had become popular in northern Europe, and records show the cultivated fruit arriving in England by the end of the century, shipped from the Azores. Lemons were valued not only for their astringent flavour with a place in so many dishes and drinks but also for its therapeutic properties. In the 17th century lemons were first recognised for their ability to prevent scurvy amongst seamen. The fruit has so many uses, both culinary and non-culinary, I couldn’t begin to list them here.

Lemon trees bloom throughout the year and the fruit is picked from six to ten times, which is why they are such a useful winter ingredient. At this time of year, our lemons come from the flowering the previous spring – ‘primafiore’ lemons – and with their glorious bright skin colour and scented skin and flesh, after the heavy foods of the festive season, cooking with lemon adds a ray of sunshine and a boost of zingy flavour to everyday dishes. I’ve chosen to use them here in three favourite savoury dishes that are lifted to another plane by the presence of our favourite citrus.


 

Pork and pine nut meatballs with lemon and rosemary

I love the way the lemon cuts through the rich pork, making this dish taste so fresh tasting. I either serve them as shown with a salad or toss with spaghetti…

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Serves 4/Prepare 20 minutes/Cook 20 minutes

1 unwaxed lemon

500g pork mince

2 – 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 large egg, beaten

2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted and chopped

2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp plain flour, seasoned

4 anchovy fillets, finely chopped

1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped

400g can plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped

watercress and spinach salad and extra virgin olive oil to serve

1 Grate the lemon rind and squeeze the juice. Mix the mince, half the garlic, egg, rosemary, pine nuts, lemon rind, half the lemon juice and seasoning together in a mixing bowl until thoroughly combined. The easiest way to do this is with your hands. Roll into 20 – 24 walnut-sized balls. Cover and chill while you make the sauce.

2 Heat a tablespoon of oil in a medium pan, add the anchovies, chilli and remaining garlic. Stir over a high heat for 30 seconds then add the tomatoes and seasoning and simmer for 10 minutes until you have a thick sauce.

3 Roll the meatballs in the flour. Heat the remaining oil in a non-stick frying pan and fry the meatballs in batches for 5 – 6 minutes until browned on all sides and nearly cooked through. Drain on kitchen paper and add to the tomato sauce. Simmer gently for 5 minutes. Serve with watercress and spinach salad dressed with the remaining lemon juice and a splash of extra virgin olive oil.

Busy mum’s tip:  If short on time use one of the ready-made chilled tomato sauces for pasta such as Waitrose cherry tomato and basil sauce


 

Sticky lemon, soy and honey roast guinea fowl 

I’m cooking guinea fowl more often these days as one bird is just the right size for two of us. This marinade is a variation on an old family favourite with cumin and honey from my first Busy Mum’s Cookbook and works just as well. It’s a great all in one dish that only needs a salad or green veg to make a complete meal

IMG_4792Serves 4/Prepare 10 minutes plus marinating/Cook 1 ¼ hour

2 tbsp cold pressed rapeseed oil

2 tbsp runny honey

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tsp ground ginger

2 lemons

1 small piece of root ginger, sliced

1 large guinea fowl or free range chicken

1 Mix together the oil, honey, soy sauce, ground ginger with seasoning. Squeeze the juice of half the lemon and cut the squeezed half into slices. Add to the marinade then our over the guinea fowl and leave to marinate in the fridge for at least 15 minutes (ideally for an hour or more if you have time).

2 Heat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Remove the bird from the marinade. Place the other lemon half and the root ginger inside the guinea fowl and put in a deep roasting tin that is a neat fit.

3 Pour over 150ml boiling water and roast in the oven for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 180C Gas mark 4 for a further 45 – 60 minutes, basting regularly until the guinea fowl is cooked through, the skin is golden and the juices run clear when the thigh is pierced with a skewer. Remove from the oven and leave to stand for 10 minutes. Carve and serve with the juices spooned over the meat.

Busy mum’s tip: Cook wedges of sweet potato around the chicken for an all-in-one easy roast.


 

Roast cauliflower with lemon caper salsa verde

I have become a cauliflower addict over the last few years. No longer the boring veg with cheese, I now roast it, curry it or add it to soup and stews. This method of cooking is so simple and easy and retains lots of nutrients and flavour.

IMG_4807 Serves 2 as a supper or 4 as a starter or vegetable accompaniment/Prepare 15 minutes/Cook 40 minutes

1 large cauliflower or 2 small ones

2 unwaxed lemons

4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves

1 tbsp capers

20g walnut pieces

½ 25g pack flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

1 Preheat the oven to 200C gas mark 6. Remove the outer leaves from the cauliflower and cut vertically into slices about 1.5cm thick. Arrange in a single layer in a roasting tin. Cut one of the lemons in half and cut into thin slices. Tuck these amongst the cauliflower then drizzle with half the olive oil, juice from the other half of the lemon and seasoning. Cook in the oven for 30 – 40 minutes, turning once, until tender and golden brown.

2 While the cauliflower is cooking, finely chop the garlic, capers and walnuts either by hand or in a processor – just take care not to over-process. Place in a bowl and stir in the parsley, grated rind of the other lemon with its juice, remaining oil and plenty of seasoning.

3 Remove the cauliflower from the oven and arrange on a warm serving plate then drizzle over the salsa verde and serve.

Busy mum’s tip: This is also good served at room temperature as a salad. Try the recipe with broccoli or cavolo nero as an alternative


 

Three quick ideas with lemons

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Tuna and lemon spaghetti

My favourite quick supper for two – flake the meat from a 70g can Charles Bassett white tuna in extra virgin olive oil. Mix with the oil from the can, the grated rind and juice of 1 lemon, 1 tbsp finely chopped capers, a seeded and chopped red chilli and a handful of chopped flat leafed parsley (in summer I sometimes use fresh basil). Toss with freshly cooked spaghetti, season and serve.

Ginger lemon pudding

Whisk double cream until just thick then whisk in grated lemon rind and juice and sugar to taste. Dunk gingernut biscuits in a little amontillado or cream sherry then layer up in glass dishes with the lemon mixture. Chill overnight to let the flavours meld and enjoy one of my favourite tastes of the 70s.

Baked fish with lemon roast potatoes

This is one of my favourite ways to cook fish. Mix thinly sliced charlotte potatoes with a third of their weight of thinly sliced lemon. Toss in olive oil and seasoning adding a clove or two of chopped garlic if you want to and spread over the base of a shallow roasting tin, tucking several fresh bay leaves among the potatoes. Cook in a really hot oven until almost tender and golden at the edges then arrange any kind of fish fillets or whole cleaned fish on top (skin side up if skin on), drizzle with a little olive oil and bake until cooked through.

 

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Three must-have mushroom recipes…

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In case you missed my latest set of seasonal recipes in Waitrose Weekend two weeks ago, here they are….

These days we are all used to thinking of colourful vegetables such as peppers and aubergines as containing lots of useful nutrients and minerals but the less showy mushroom is just as useful nutritionally. These members of the fungi family are not only full of flavour but are also a great source of valuable vitamins, including vitamins D and B, iron, and selenium, all vital to good health as we head into the winter months with little sunshine. As a cook, I welcome their rich meaty flavours and texture. They add depth and interest to many dishes at this time of year. The secret is to give them careful cooking as they are full of water (most mushrooms are 90% water!) and can go slimy if treated in the wrong way. Short, fast cooking is the trick, which also helps to retain the valuable nutrients.

There are plenty of different varieties of cultivated mushrooms now available in store from the more familiar button and chestnut to exotic mixes. Picking the right one for the recipe is the secret to success – at one end of the scale button mushrooms retain their texture and colour so are good in chicken or lighter dishes whilst dark rich field mushrooms can be stuffed and baked or sliced and used in pies and braises.



Mushroom and coconut curry with coriander chutney

Mushrooms haven’t been traditionally used in Indian cookery apart from in the south of the country but make a very tasty speedy supper dish when cooked with curry spices and coconut milk. Use fat Portobello mushrooms thickly sliced or halved and top with a simple fresh coriander chutney

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAServes 2/Prep 15 mins/Cook 10 minutes

1 tbsp cold pressed rapeseed oil
1 echalion shallot, finely chopped
1.5 cm piece ginger, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 – 2 red chillies, seeded and chopped
1 – 2 tsp Cooks Ingredients Keralan curry paste (you can use curry powder)
250g Portobello mushrooms, thickly sliced or halved
200g coconut milk
juice of 1 lime
50g LoveLife cashew nuts (or almonds)
1/2 pack fresh coriander, finely chopped
natural yogurt to serve (optional)

1 Heat the oil in a medium pan and add the shallot, ginger, garlic and half the chilli. Cook for several minutes until soft then add the curry paste and cook for a minute. Put the heat up and add the mushrooms and cook over a high heat for a couple of minutes until lightly browned.

2 Turn down the heat and add the coconut milk, juice of ½ lime and cashews. Season and simmer for 5 minutes until the sauce is thickened and the mushrooms are tender but not collapsed.

3 Chop the coriander and mix with the remaining lime juice and remaining chopped chilli. Serve the mushrooms with the coriander chutney, lime wedges and a dollop of yogurt if you feel like it. I served mine with the lovely LoveLife red Camargue and wild rice mix but you can serve it with warm Indian bread.


Flaky mushroom, celeriac and thyme pie

There is nothing more comforting now as the days get shorter than a well-baked pie. This one marries the earthy flavours of mushrooms with mellow rich celeriac – a marriage made in heaven to be sure. If you have the time, try the quick flaky pastry for its lovely texture and flavour but if not you can substitute ready-made shortcrust pastry with butter

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Serves 6/Prep 40 minutes plus chilling/Cook 1 hour

For the quick flaky pastry:
175g butter, stored in the freezer
225g plain flour
beaten egg to glaze
For the filling:
1 large celeriac, about 800g
vegetable stock
3 tbsp double cream
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp olive oil
15g butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 x 200g packs mixed exotic mushrooms
2 tbsp each chopped fresh thyme and parsley 

1 To make the pastry, put the butter in the freezer for half an hour. Sift the flour into a bowl with a pinch of salt. Wrap one end of the butter in foil and coarsely grate into the flour. Mix to coat the butter in the flour then add 85 – 100ml chilled water and mix to a soft dough with a knife. Bring together with your hands into a dough, wrap in film and chill for 30 minutes.

2 Preheat the oven to 200C gas mark 6. Peel the celeriac and cut into thick matchsticks. Cook in the boiling stock for 15 – 20 minutes until tender. Toss with seasoning, cream and mustard and leave to cool. Meanwhile cook the onion and garlic in the hot oil and butter in a large frying pan for a few minutes until softened then add the mushrooms and cook over a high heat for 5 minutes until lightly browned. Stir in the herbs and seasoning and tip the pan ingredients onto a plate to cool.

3 Roll out two thirds of the pastry and use to line a 20cm spring-release cake tin. Spoon the mushroom mixture over the pastry and spread level. Arrange the celeriac over the top. Roll out the remaining pastry and use to cover the pie, pinching to seal the edges. Brush the pastry with beaten egg, cut a steam hole in the centre and bake for 25 – 30 minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden. Serve hot in wedges with salad or cold for packed lunches.


Baked chicken with mushrooms and Gorgonzola

This dish reminds me of my mother’s cooking – easy to prepare and a classic combination of flavours that everyone loves. Button mushrooms work best here as they stay firm and don’t leach colour into the sauce. You can swap the chicken thighs for breast fillets but I prefer their texture and taste, and cooking chicken on the bone adds enormously to the flavour of the finished dish

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Serves 4/Prep 15 minutes/Cook 25 minutes

4 large chicken thighs
1 tbsp seasoned flour
1 tsp olive oil
15g butter
400g button mushrooms, halved
2 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon
50ml white wine
150 ml chicken stock
50g Gorgonzola, cubed
50ml crème fraiche
chopped fresh flat leafed parsley to serve

1 Preheat the oven to 180C gas mark 4. Toss the chicken thighs in the seasoned flour to coat. Heat half the oil and half the butter together in a flameproof casserole and cook the chicken thighs until golden brown, turning once. Transfer to a plate and cover loosely with foil.

2 Add the rest of the oil and butter to the pan and add the mushrooms. Cook over a high heat for 3 -4 minutes until lightly browned, then return the chicken thighs to the pan, add the tarragon, wine, stock and seasoning and bring to the boil. Cover the pan and place in the oven for 25 minutes.

3 Scatter over the Gorgonzola and pour over the cream, return the pan to the oven for 5 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce just thickened. Scatter with parsley and serve with egg tagliatelle to soak up the delicious sauce.

Cook’s tip: you can use skinless thighs or breasts here for a lighter dish but for the classic full flavoured finish as a special treat I like to leave the skin on but make sure it is well browned

 


Three quick ideas with mushrooms

Baking large field mushrooms with a stuffing makes an easy lunch or simple supper. Try this pesto and olive crust – remove the stalks from large flat mushrooms and chop. Stuff the shells with a mixture of basil pesto, dried breadcrumbs and chopped Kalamata olives with the chopped mushroom stalks. You can bind with an egg yolk if it needs it. Scatter with pine nuts and grated pecorino or Parmesan and a little olive oil and bake in a hot oven until golden and tender.

Papardelle with mushroom, pancetta and rosemary – mushrooms make a wonderfully meaty quick sauce for pasta. Fry pancetta cubes in a little oil then add sliced portabellini mushrooms, fresh rosemary, chopped garlic and cook over a high heat. Add a dash of white wine then toss with cooked pasta and grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Mushrooms on toast – one of my favourite ways to enjoy mushrooms at their simplest and best. Chestnut mushrooms work well here and I slice them then fry them quickly in a little butter, add a chopped clove of garlic, cook for a minute, then scatter over plenty of chopped flat leaf parsley and pile onto toasted sourdough. You can add a dash of cream or sherry to finish but the dish works well without

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