Archive for the 'Vegetables/Fruit' Category

A RECIPE: Rainbow chard with lemon, capers & parmesan

swiss chard

I haven’t played around with cooking vegetables too much in the past- I might roast them or drizzle with extra olive oil but rarely do I provide them with enough excitement to award them a dinner plate of their own. Enter rainbow chard. When it comes to greens, chard is my favourite; second only to spinach. It comes a close second only because a/ it’s not as versatile as spinach as in you wouldn’t want to eat it raw and it takes longer to cook and b/ because it requires more cleaning which amounts to more effort, which is something that I lack come 5pm. But having said that this dish really requires minimal effort as there’s very little to it- perfect for after work when you crave a bowlful of health that doesn’t call for iceburg lettuce or tofu.

It also uses up mostly ingredients that I designate a essentials in my home stores. You know the one’s: olive oil, garlic, lemons, anchovies, capers and birds eye chilies- all little ingredients that offer a whopping blast of flavour. And only having to go out to buy one ingredient makes me feel rather smug. In fact, it used up so many of my essential ingredients that trying to name this dish became somewhat of an annoyance. How to sell a plate of greens to a hungry reader? I hate to list all the ingredients in the title- but it was infuriatingly hard not to with this recipe. And what I finally settled on certainly does not amount to the intense amount of joy you will have with each bite. Plain steamed greens, these are not.

The recipe itself is based on the one in the July issue of Gourmet magazine. I loved the idea of pairing lemon juice and Parmesan with the sauteed chard, but in order to make this a satisfying meal in it’s own right I felt it needed a few extra flavours and a poached egg on top just makes the meal complete. I started by scaling the dish down to serve one rather than six- partly because I really only eat all vegetable dinners when Don is out and because how many people have a pot large enough to cook 31bs of leafy greens in anyway? The recipe already called for anchovies, but frankly not enough to make a difference and I couldn’t resist adding a little heat in the form of a birds eye chili, plus capers go so well with lemon and parmesan. Like I said before, this dish deserves a plate of its own.

chard stemschard with poached egg

Rainbow chard with lemon, capers & parmesan

This dish has so much character that you can happily munch on a whole plate for dinner but it works equally well as a side dish to a simply grilled piece of fish or chicken. My favourite thing is to top it with a poached egg and let the runny yolk drizzle through the gaps.

Serves 1 as a main, 2 as a side

Diet Facts: Dinner has never been healthier

300g Chard (Rainbow or Swiss)

1 1/2 tsp olive oil

2 garlic cloves, peeled and very finely sliced into slithers

1 birds eye chilli (optional) sliced very thinly, with seeds if you like it very hot

2 large anchovies

zest 1/2 lemon

Juice 1/2 lemon (or to taste)

1 Tbsp freshly grated Parmesan

1 heaping Tbsp drained capers

Poached egg, to serve (optional)

1/ Prepare the chard, first by washing it really well in cold water. Drain, chop nasty bits of stalk off and then chop the remaining stalks into roughly 1 inch peices. Cut the leaves into roughly 1 inch strips (keeping separate from the stalks).

2/ Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over a medium heat and add the garlic and chili to the pan. Toss until golden brown, which will take about 30 odd seconds. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

3/ Add the anchovies to the pan, and stand back as they will start to splutter. Break up with a wooden spoon and if you need to add a splash of water to stop from sticking. Once they are mostly disolved (about a minute) add the chopped stalks to the pan. Cook over a medium-high heat for 5 minutes, tossing/stirring from time to time and adding a tablespoon of water if necessary to stop sticking.

4/ After five minutes, add the reserved leaves to the pan, turning so that they can wilt evenly. Cook for a further 8 minutes, continuing to toss and stir until they are fully wilted and some of the stalk ends are going golden.

5/ Remove the pan from the heat and add the garlic, chili and remaining ingredients to the pan, tossing to combine evenly and tasting before adding freshly ground black pepper and sea salt to taste. For a complete meal serve topped with a poached or fried egg.

A RECIPE: Fruity farro salad with lemon chicken

Fruity farro salad with chicken

I am about to head off to the Hamptons for a month! I’m thinking long white sandy beaches, warm sea water, sunshine and one of those coconut drinks I sipped in the Dominican last month. And somewhere in between the lounging and galavanting, I’ll fit in the work that is the reason why I’m going and realise that it’s still only April and yesterdays rise in temperature was only a teaser. April showers are not over yet. So there may not be any swimming but I will be near the beach, albeit a cold one- and that has me thinking of eating summer foods. The kind you eat on your back deck, looking out over the ocean as the sun goes down sipping on a glass of pinot grigio….and there I go again- must have been yesterdays injection of vitamin D that has me dreaming. Amazing what a little sun can do for one’s mood.

This is my kind of salad- a bit of protein, some crunch vegetables, some fruit and a few grains for fiber to keep you going until tea time.  Farro is a wonderfully wholesome, nutty grain that makes Don raise an eyebrow and ask if I’m feeding him squirrel food again. You can swap it for absolutely any grain but I think something with a bit of texture is nice- Israeli couscous would be great. All in all it’s just begging to be packed up with a bottle of bubbly in a cooler bag and taken to a picnic. Now if only the sun would come back again….

Continue reading ‘A RECIPE: Fruity farro salad with lemon chicken’

A RECIPE: Lemon truffle dressing

I’ve been feeling unwell these last few days. The kind of unwell where you spend three days in the same pj’s, sprawled inelegantly across your bed/sofa/floor moving in and out of consciousness and in a steady sweat. The kind of unwell, where you only move to pop more Sudafed, vitamin C and echinachea down your parched germified gob and once in a while you drag your broken body to the restroom. The kind of ill where you find yourself with nothing left to watch on your TiVO and you’ve watched an entire series of Grey’s Anatomy on netflix. The kind of unwell where you blow your knows through three boxes of Kleenex and despite paying extra for the soft ones your upper lip and nostrils have gone bright red and undeniably crusty. The kind of ill where the only food worth eating is loaded with habinero chiles. The kind of unwell where when you cough in the night your significant other wakes up startled believing that there is a seal in the bedroom. There is indeed a dying, sweaty seal with a crusty nose clutching a handful of used kleenex- I am it. Like I said, it’s been a rough few days, people, so please forgive me that this weeks posting appears to be a bit of a copout.

In reality this recipe is no copout- it happens to be my favourite salad dressing. The kind of salad dressing that you pull out when you need to impress- when you need to wow.  Tangy with lemon, a little exotic with soy sauce and a splash of truffle love makes this one sexy salad dressing. This is not for days when your coughing your lungs out- it’s for the days when you’re feeling grateful that the taste of cough drops is no longer lingering on your tongue.

Lemon truffle dressing

Truffle oil is not cheap but it is worth the cost and you only need the tinniest dribble. Store the oil in the fridge and when you’re feeling low, open take off the cap and breathe in the truffle love.

Makes 500ml/2 cups dressing

Diet Facts: Truffle tastes good

1/2 cup lemon juice (about 3 lemons)

zest 2 lemons

1 Tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce

1 1/2 tsp sugar (or more to taste)

1 cup canola oil

3 Tbsp white truffle oil (or black will suffice)

1/ Place lemon juice, zest, soy sauce and sugar into a large bowl and whisk together vigorously to combine. Gradually add the canola oil- drizzling very slowly and whisking all the time. Finish by whisking in the truffle oil. Season to taste and store in a tightly sealed container in the fridge.

QUICK FIX: Guacamole


With the Superbowl this weekend I figured that providing you with my guacamole recipe might come in handy. I don’t want to toot my own horn but it’s seriously the best guacamole I’ve ever eaten. Handsdown. The Best. No questions asked. It is a little more detailed than most recipes but I figure if you’re going to the effort of making guacamole you may as well make it right! Even if you don’t need my recipe, please whatever you do- don’t buy it pre-made, it’s just doesn’t taste the same. I’ve provided the recipe using 1 avocado but you can easily double, tripple or quadruple depending on how many guests you have at your part. Me? I’ll be working (what a suprise).

Serves 1-2

Peel and de-seed 1 avocado. Mash half of it and chop the other half into rough cubes. Gently fold into the mashed half

2 Tbsp diced red onion,

1 seeded and diced tomato

2 Tbsp diced red pepper

1 large diced garlic clove

1 Tbsp lime juice

3/4 tsp ground cumin

1 Tbsp diced jalepeno (optional)

pinch of chilli flakes (to taste)

1 Tbsp finely chopped coriander (cilantro)

and the remaining chopped avocado.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and adjust the heat. If you don’t intend to serve immediately press plastic wrap directly on top. Serve with crunchy chips or vegetables.

A RECIPE: Sweet potato, apple & cheese tart

sweet potato apple & cheese tart

I feel like a bit of a jet-setter or late- a tour around the UK followed by a jaunt to Naples, Florida before heading to Miami for the marathon. It hasn’t been a glamorous trip- travel in piggery class, dinners on a budget, nights slept on various friends/family sofa beds and of course the marathon on Sunday will be no jaunt in the park. I did have five glorious days in the UK though. Sure, the sun only came out on day four, I worked my way through an entire box of kleenex tissues having picked up a cold from some germ-riden plane passenger and Don and I ran around from village to village making sure that everybody who needed to be seen was seen, our wedding was planned and to restock on the necessary staples. It has been a holiday of endurance testing- the way a Helm holiday always is. If it weren’t for a few days relaxing in Naples the marathon might have become the most relaxing part of the whole trip.

And whilst it has been glorious not to be at work, I’ve found myself missing my home kitchen (the leaky tap and temperamental dishwasher, not so much) but the cooking I’ve missed. Eating on the run, in the car and on planes out of Tupperware with plastic forks has such limited appeal to me. No scrap that, it has no appeal to me. The nostalgia has only been made worse from the many food magazines that I picked up in the UK all dog-eared for my return. In the meantime I leave you with a recipe from before I left, which I know sounds rather mean but after the marathon on Sunday I will be back on full blogging form.

Continue reading ‘A RECIPE: Sweet potato, apple & cheese tart’

A RECIPE: Pumpkin oat crunch sticks

pumpkin oat crunch sticks

I have been cooking turkeys nonstop for the past two weeks. At least two and even up to six a day. Beautifully bronzed turkeys with crispy skin you just want to rip off and dunk in pan of simmering gravy. And yet come Thanksgiving day when I was faced with cooking my own turkey for six hopeful family members and friends I managed to do what so many others do when trying not to overcook the breasts and ended up undercooking the legs. Sure, leave it to the professionals- see what good that will do you. The thermometer reading was right on cue, the skin was bronzed and even though my gut said it hadn’t been in long enough I still pulled it out of the oven two hours before we were due to sit down for lunch and even turned the oven off for an hour and went for a jog before putting everything else in the oven.

If it had been TV the fact that the bird was not fully cooked to the bones might not have mattered- but with hungry guests and no more than a few scraps of smoked salmon on the table to tie them over it was not the desired outcome. Thank heavens for the here’s one I made earlier turkey that was soaking in its pan juices. Though, I’m sure not everyone has a spare bird hanging around on Thanksgiving- I was certainly saved this time by my hankering for plenty of leftovers.

And if raw turkey wasn’t going to ruin the meal on its own then there was the issue (that seems to be a running theme now when I entertain) of my inability to serve piping hot food. As somebody who hates lukewarm in all its possible scenarios, sitting down to a lukewarm meal (which I only have myself to blame for) is completely unacceptable. Food to my taste should be hot or cold- warm is rarely welcome. I blame it on the TV day job- the audience after all does not need to know that the creamy mashed potatoes with the perfectly carved spiral marking on their screen are actually on the verge of being classified cold and beginning to form a skin. But at home, with six pots balanced on four hobs, empty bottles scattered across your work surface and your helpers dashing to the loo or talking too loud to hear you asking them to be seated, it’s quite hard to get everything hot at the table. Not that there were complaints around my Thanksgiving table- I mean who really has the nerve to complain when they’re invited for lunch? The uncooked turkey went back in the oven and I had plenty of leftovers- cold, just the way I like them.

But then there are those disasters in the kitchen which end up turning into something rather exciting and not at all disappointing. Fast forward a day and lo and behold along came the pumpkin oat crunch sticks- a cross between granola and biscotti although I had originally hoped for something more like a flapjack. I was about to sweep the whole tray into the bin when it came out of the oven. It looked like a cake that had had the air kicked out of it but a little taste made me think it might be destined for better things.  I turned the oven down and sliced it into sticks, placed it on a baking tray and let it dry in the oven until it was crunchy and crisp. The following morning I dipped the sticks into a bowl of thick Greek yogurt and a steaming mup of white coffee (although not in that order). In the end I had to package them up and place them in the unreachable depths of my cupboards- I always find crunchy things highly addictive. They were neither undercooked nor lukewarm and the perfect way to use up that leftover pumpkin pie filling.

pumpkin oat crunch sticks

Pumpkin oat crunch sticks

Dip these into a bowl of Greek yogurt, coffee, melted chocolate or just eat plain. If you like things sweet, you will need to add more sugar. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Makes: 20 sticks

Diet Facts: health in stick form

400g tin pumpkin puree

1 stick butter, melted

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

100g/1/2 cup soft brown sugar

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ginger

1/4 tsp cloves

2 Tbsp flour

275g/ 3 cups porridge oats

75g/ 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds

1/ Heat the oven 180C/350F/Gas 4. Line a 20 x 30 cm (8 x 12 inch) pan with a strip of parchment that covers the bottom and comes up above the tin on two opposite sides.

2/ In a medium-sized bowl mix together the pumpkin, butter, vanilla and sugar. In another large bowl mix together the remaining ingredients Pour over the wet ingredients and stir until fully combined. Pour into your prepared pan and spread to evenly cover.

3/ Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes or until the top looks firm and lightly golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

4/ Once cool, heat the oven to 110C/200F/Gas 1. Remove the pumpkin oat mix from the pan and slice width-ways into roughly 1.5 cm (1/2 inch) thick slices.  Lay out on a wire rack set over a baking tray (or straight on to a baking tray with holes in it) and place into the oven for 3 hours or over night to dry out and become crispy. Store in an airtight container.

A RECIPE: Courgette mint & goats cheese frittata

I like to make the excuse that working on morning TV has turned me into somewhat of a morning person and a rather anti-social evening person. In truth, though, I’ve always been more keen to get going in the early hours of the morning and even more eager to snuggle under my douvet at the end of the day. 

In lieu of this, Don and I decided to throw a Saturday brunch over a late night dinner party after a series of hostess faux-pas at past ones’ we’ve thrown. I’m referring to the moments where I’ve found myself openly yawning at the table as I slouch further and further down my chair towards the end of the evening. Of course It doesn’t help that most of our guests these days are students, whose hours and lifestyles rather contradict mine- late night drinking binges have become somewhat of a foreign entity to me.

So brunch it was and it absolutely had to involve eggs. (It would have also involved Heinz baked beans if they weren’t so bloody expensive). I’ve relished in eating soft boiled eggs with soldiers since I was a little girl. My siblings and I used to play a trick on my mum and dad where we would turn over our empty egg shell in it’s egg cup to make it look like we had not eaten it and then either offer it to my father (who was always on the look out for leftovers) or ask mum to cut the top off before bursting into fits of giggles when they discovered the empty shell. I’m not sure who invented this trick but it proved to be an unending source of amusement- one that I recently couldn’t resist trying on my always-on-the-look-out-for-seconds-fiancé.

I cannot even begin to describe the joy that I feel, even now dunking a freshly buttered toast soldier into a gorgeously deep orange-coloured yolk. Soft boiled eggs are one of the few foods that I find acceptable to call sexy. But regardless of their sex-appeal, cooking eggs to order for ten people was not the kind of work I had in mind, even if they would have my guests gagging for more. Besides I was intent on trying out Rick Tramonto’s tip for a beautifully risen frittata- which happened to be a sexy little trick in itself.

Making a frittata does require a little more work than a soft boiled egg but you can make it in advance and if you’re lucky you’ll have some left over for lunched during the week. I filled this with what I had in the fridge but you could quite easily replace the veggies, herbs and cheeses- making sure that if you use slow-cooking veggies that you par-cook them in advance. I’ve omitted the standard flip and finished the frittata under the grill- because not only do they look nicer this way but it’s a lot easier-and who really wants to risk serving a frittata that’s broken in two from a fumbled flip? Plainly speaking, that would be such a turn-off.

Continue reading ‘A RECIPE: Courgette mint & goats cheese frittata’

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