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Cover: A dish for all seasons

May, 2012

31May 12

Comforting Carrot, Coriander and Cumin soup

Carrot and Coriander SoupWhen out of the UK for a few years, I was missing those wonderful Covent Garden soups, especially my favourite – carrot and coriander.  So after a fruitless search to uncover them on the supermarket shelves, I decided to get making my own version which I call comforting carrot, coriander and cumin soup, and I’m so glad I did.  I like the alliteration, but the flavour’s even better, because nothing beats fresh home-made soup!  Carrots are a delicious root vegetable packed with carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A.

I’ve given this traditional recipe a little extra kick with the addition of cumin.  I like to make mine pretty intense for extra comfort, but you can vary the amount to your own taste.  I’ve kept the cumin content moderate in this recipe for you, so add or take away as you wish.

What you need:

  • 500g fresh carrots, washed and sliced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1.2 litres of vegetable stock
  • 1 large bunch of fresh coriander, roughly chopped and some kept aside for the garnish
  • 1tsp ground cumin
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

What you do:

  1. Add the oil to a large pan and soften the onions and carrots together for a few minutes.
  2. Sprinkle in the ground cumin, salt, and ground pepper.  Stir and cook for another couple of minutes.
  3. Pour in the vegetable stock and bring the liquid to the boil.  Once boiling, reduce the heat and simmer until the vegetables are cooked.
  4. Add most of the coriander and blend the ingredients into a soup to the texture of your choice. I like mine a little rough, but it’s just as yummy smooth.
  5. Serve in pretty bowls topped with a coriander garnish.

20 minutes to prepare – 20-30 minutes to cook

Makes 4 servings

Note: In general, carrot and coriander make for a great combination in soups. If you want to add a bit more protein, try this bacon, carrot, butter bean and coriander soup. It’s a bit heartier, so keep it in mind if you are quite hungry.

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28May 12

Hot Apple Tart with Cream

Hot Apple TartWhy not try this wonderful hot apple tart with cream as a great pudding to celebrate any occasion – perfect as apples are in season all year round.

For more apple goodness, try these caramelised apples with real custard.

What you need:

  • Pack of ready-rolled puff pastry
  • 8 eating apples, whatever you can find that is in season. Washed, peeled and cored.  4 cubed and 4 sliced into thin wedges.
  • 25g unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 50g caster sugar, plus a sprinkle for caramelising the apples at the end
  • ½ tbsp runny honey
  • Tub of double cream to serve

What to do:

  1. First make the apple filling.  Heat the butter slowly in a pan until it melts before adding the cubed apple pieces and coating them all in the butter.  Cover the pan with its lid and cook the apples over a medium heat for about 15 minutes.  Stir in the honey and cook on for a further 5 minutes.  Now stir in the sugar, and the cinnamon, puréeing the soft apple with the spoon as you do so.  Leave the puréed apple mixture overnight to cool, or if you’re in more of a hurry, you can cool it in the fridge.
  2. When you are ready to cook the tart, preheat the oven to 200ºC and line a circular, ceramic oven-proof dish with parchment paper.
  3. Roll open the puff pastry and lay it over the baking dish, pressing it gently to the sides of the dish and cutting off any excess pastry around the top edge.
  4. Spread the puréed apple into the pastry casing, using a spatula.  Leave a 1.5cm gap of uncovered pastry all around the edge.
  5. Place the apple wedges very gently over the apple purée filling, so that they are slightly overlapping, start at the outer edge and work your way into the centre in rings.
  6. Bake the tart in the oven for around 15-20 minutes, until the apples turn golden brown in colour.
  7. Remove the cooked tart from the oven, sprinkle over a little caster sugar and cinnamon, and under a very hot grill, caramelise the apples.
  8. Serve hot with a generous dollop of double cream.

30 minutes to prepare (plus cooling time) 40 minutes to cook

Makes: 4-6 servings

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20May 12

Succulent Scallops and Spicy Chorizo

Succulent Scallops and Spanish ChorizoThis succulent scallops and spicy chorizo recipe is one of the fastest, easiest and tastiest dishes I’ve prepared. You’ve really got to try it. Rich in omega 3, and low in calories, scallops are in season now. Their soft succulence, combined with the rich spice of the Spanish chorizo is a heavenly combination. With the zest of lemon and the freshness of parsley your taste-buds will be zinging! This is a perfect starter for a special occasion. Add your splash of sophistication by serving in scallop shells. But hey, they taste just as good eaten from a beautiful bowl.


You will find fresh scallops in fish markets in January, or for those pressed for time, grab a bag of frozen ones from the supermarket, they taste great too.

You can find chorizo in most supermarkets. If you find one labelled spicy, go for that. You don’t need to add any oil to your pan, the chorizo has plenty. As you cook it, the paprika and oil release to create a wonderful rich colour in the pan. If you have any leftover, try chorizo braised in red wine.

What you need:

  • 100g chorizo sausage
  • 400g halved scallops
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 4 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley

What to do:
1. Cut the chorizo into thin slices.
2. Put a frying pan on the heat and when hot, fry the chorizo dry for a couple of minutes only, until beginning to crisp on each side. You will see the oil released in the pan.
3. Put the chorizo in a bowl, then fry the scallops in the wonderful orange chorizo oil for around a minute each side.
4. Return the chorizo to the pan with the scallops, squeeze in the lemon juice and sizzle for a few seconds.
5. Serve in the thoroughly washed scallop shells or in small bowls sprinkled with fresh chopped parsley.

Note, if you are buying scallops in their shells, be sure to find out how to prepare them before cooking first.

10 mins to prepare and cook
Makes 8 starters or 4 main courses

A little more about scallops…
Do you remember Botticelli’s painting The Birth of Venus? It depicts the Greek goddess Aphrodite rising from a scallop shell! Could eating scallops be an aphrodisiac?
The logo of the petrol company Shell is based on the scallop shell.
Most species live in tropical waters, but several live in polar waters. It is the muscle part that we eat.

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12May 12

Rhubarb and Marzipan Crumble


Rhubarb and Marzipan crumbleSpring is in the air! Well, perhaps not quite yet. But no matter the time of year, I enjoy the occasional treat to satisfy my sweet tooth. However, knowing that I am also eating fruits and veggies helps me justify these cravings.

Rhubarb comes into season in March and is readily available in the UK until May - so there’s still a chance to get some good rhubarb, just! Every year, as soon as I see it in the greengrocer, I pick it up so I can make a favourite of mine, rhubarb crumble.



This year I made this classic crumble pudding with a sweet surprise.  In this recipe, the natural tartness of the rhubarb contrasts really well with the almondy sweetness of the marzipan.

What you need:

  • 10 rhubarb sticks
  • 6 tbsp caster sugar
  • 4 tbsp water
  • 110g Demerara sugar
  • 110g butter, left at room temperature for a while to soften
  • 190g flour
  • 150g Marzipan, cut into thin strips

What to do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
  2. Chop the rhubarb into cubes, pop it on an oven tray, sprinkle over the water and caster sugar and bake it in the oven for 10 minutes.
  3. Remove the rhubarb from the oven once it is cooked, and transfer it to an ovenproof dish.
  4. Create the crumble by rubbing the butter, flour and Demerara sugar together.
  5. Place the thin strips of marzipan across the top of the rhubarb before sprinkling the crumble mixture on.
  6. Bake the crumble in the oven for 35-45 minutes, or until the rhubarb mixture is soft and bubbling and the topping is golden brown and crispy.
  7. Serve with vanilla ice cream. (optional)
30 mins to prepare, 30 minutes to 1 hour to cook
Makes: 4 servings

A little more about rhubarb…

The edible part of the rhubarb plant, the stalk, is technically a vegetable, though we think of it as a fruit.

Rhubarb seems to have become a popular food in the 17th Century when cheap sugar became accessible.

Rhubarb is thought to have first been cultivated in China in 2700BC.

It is said that the Romans believed that people who ate rhubarb were barbaric in nature (possibly because of its natural bitterness) and that the name rhubarb may have been derived from the Latin word rhabarbarum meaning ‘root of the barbarians’.

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04May 12

Mexican Chicken Mole, Puebla Style

Mexican Chicken MoléThe 5th May is a special day in Mexico.  Mexican pride and heritage are celebrated in the Cinco de Mayo festival, when Mexican chicken mole, Puebla style is often cooked up communally.

Puebla is one of the three states that claim to be the founder of mole.  There are myths and legends surrounding the origin of the dish.  You can find out more if you want to because they are rather fascinating.

For some people, mole might be an acquired taste because it combines many interesting flavours such as chocolate and chicken. These two ingredients might not normally go together, but in mole and in this chicken thighs with a chilli chocolate sauce recipe, they are absolutely fantastic!

What you need:

  • 400g chicken breast pieces, skinless
  • 400g chicken thighs, boneless, skinless
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely sliced
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • 2 dried ancho chillies, torn into 3cm pieces
  • 700ml hot chicken stock
  • 30g sultanas
  • 1 medium tomato, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tbsp almond flakes, toasted
  • The zest of 1 orange
  • 15g unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • Twist of black pepper
  • White rice or enchiladas to serve

What to do:

  1. Heat the oil on the hob in a cast iron-style casserole dish.  Add the onion and fry for 5 minutes on a medium to high heat, until the onions begin to soften.  Sprinkle over the cumin, coriander and cinnamon and stir in, cooking for a further minute.
  2. Add the garlic and chilli to the pan and fry on for a couple of minutes until the chilli softens.  Stir in the chicken stock.  Now add the tomato, sultanas, sliced almonds and orange zest to the pan and combine.  Bring the sauce up to the boil.
  3. Add the chicken pieces, cover the pan and reduce the heat to a simmer, cooking for around 10-15 minutes or until the chicken is thoroughly cooked.  Remove the chicken from the pan and shred it with 2 forks.  Put it to one side.
  4. Add the chocolate to the sauce, and let it melt.  Whizz the sauce with a hand blender until smooth.  Reduce the sauce over a medium heat for around 20 minutes.  Add the chicken back to the pan, season with salt and pepper, and serve with white rice or in enchiladas.

15 minutes to prepare, around 45 minutes to cook

Makes 3-4 servings

A little more about ancho chillies:  Ancho means ‘wide’ in Spanish.  These are dried; deep reddish brown chilli peppers about 7.5cm wide and 10cm long which have a sweet, hot flavour.  When fresh, they are called poblanos.  Anchos are flat, wrinkled, and heart-shaped.

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04May 12

Authentic Mexican Guacamole


In the US and parts of Mexico, record sales of avocados are recorded around the 5th May.  The Cinco de Mayo festival commemorates the battle of Puebla between the Mexican army and French forces in 1862. It is celebrated most strongly in Mexico in the state of Puebla, and in some other regions to a lesser degree.  It is a national holiday in the US where the date has become a celebration of Mexican heritage and culture, more than a commemoration of the famous battle.  Authentic Mexican guacamole is made by the bucket-load around this time; portioned out on the streets at the festival, and made in countless homes and communities to share in celebration together.

Guacamole is said to have originated with the Aztecs as far back as the 16th century.  The name is derived from an Aztec dialect and literally means ‘avocado sauce’.

Avocados are said to be one of the true super foods, containing a plethora of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.  So if you make up a whole load of authentic Mexican guacamole to celebrate this May, you’ll be filling your body with wonderful goodness at the same time. (Also try this avocado and mango salsa with corn chips.)

Serve with a nicely chilled Mexican beer; in the bottle, with a little lime juice squeezed in, and a segment of lime sitting at the top of the bottle.

What you need:

  • 6 large ripe avocados
  • 6 tomatoes, chopped as finely as you can
  • 2 medium onions, finely sliced
  • 8 mild chillies, finely sliced
  • 2 bunches of fresh coriander, chopped
  • 3 tbsp water
  • The juice of a lime
  • A generous pinch of salt to season

What to do:

  1. Crush the coriander, tomatoes, chillies, onion and salt into a fine paste in a pestle and mortar.  If you don’t have one, the round end of a rolling pin in a small bowl works just as well.
  2. Put a little water into the mixture.  Chop the lime in half and squeeze it over the bowl, catching any pips with the palm of your other hand as you squeeze.  Add the avocados, mashing everything together.  Stir in a little more water if you feel the guacamole is too thick.
  3. Serve with nachos to dip.

Less than 30 minutes to prepare, no cooking required

Makes 8 portions

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03May 12

Curly Asparagus Salad with Goat’s Cheese and Medjool Dates

Asparagus SaladA little inspiration for a way to enjoy the first of the spring season’s asparagus…

Curly Asparagus Salad with Goat’s Cheese and Medjool Dates combines lengthy ribbons of peeled asparagus with sweet dates and crunchy peanuts, topped with a well-matured and hard goat’s cheese and drizzled all over with a balsamic reduction.

I have two other variations for this salad: sometimes I use toasted pine nuts and parmesan in place of the nuts and the cheese.  At other times I use toasted flaked almonds and drizzle it over with a lime butter, topping off with lime zest and fresh coriander.  All three variations are fun to make and yummy to eat.  Enjoying asparagus raw is a great way to maximise on the nutritional benefits of this wonderful vegetable.

What you need:

  • 450g fresh asparagus (thicker stems work best), thoroughly washed
  • 60g honey-toasted peanuts
  • 50g Medjool dates, stones removed
  • 7 tbsp good balsamic vinegar
  • 60g hard goat’s cheese
  • Salt flakes and ground black pepper to season
  • Extra virgin olive oil to dress

What to do:

  1. Lay a single stem of asparagus on its side on a chopping board.  Grab the tough end, and using a Y-shaped vegetable peeler, shave off ribbons of asparagus from stalk to tip, peeling away from the tough end that you are holding.  Repeat with the rest of the bunch.  You won’t be using the tough ends so put them aside to compost.
  2. Reduce the balsamic vinegar on the hob until it is thick, sticky and very viscous.
  3. Arrange the ribbons of asparagus prettily in a medium-sized salad bowl, then drizzle over with some olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Toss the salad carefully with tongs.
  4. Chop the dates into thin strands.  Put the peanuts in a small sandwich bag and bash them on a wooden block with a rolling pin to break them up.
  5. Sprinkle the chopped dates and peanuts over the top of the salad and toss it again very gently.
  6. Use the same peeler to shave off some goat’s cheese curls directly off the block.  Drizzle over with the balsamic reduction, season with a little more salt and pepper, and serve immediately.

20 minutes preparation, 10 minutes cooking

Makes 3-4 servings

Note: For a hot asparagus dish, try this scrumptious asparagus and cheese pudding.

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02May 12

Irish Brown Soda Bread

Irish Brown Soda BreadI’ve given this classic soda bread recipe a little twist with the addition of walnuts, which I think work really well with the wholemeal version of the bread and are incredibly tasty in combination with cream cheeseIrish brown soda bread with cream cheese and smoked salmon would make a perfect light supper for those of you celebrating St Patrick’s Day, and whose tummies were heartily filled at lunch time with a roast welsh lamb with garlic and rosemary recipe.  Irish flour is traditionally made from soft wheat so, if you can’t get hold of the real thing, you’ll get a more authentic result if you use a pastry or cake-making flour, as this is also made from soft wheat.  I have heard it said that Guinness can be used in place of the buttermilk, but I’ve never tried that!

What you need:

  • 175g wholemeal flour, self-raising
  • 175g plain or cake making flour (soft flour where possible)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 300ml buttermilk
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1-2 generous handfuls of chopped walnuts
  • 1-2 generous handfuls of raisins
  • Tub of good quality cream cheese
  • Packet of good quality smoked salmon slices

What to do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC.
  2. Mix the 2 flours along with the walnuts, raisins, the bicarbonate of soda and the salt, in a large bowl.
  3. Create a well in the centre of the flour, pour almost all of the buttermilk in, then quickly but carefully, bind the mixture together using a large fork.  Add the remainder of the buttermilk if necessary to form dough that is neither too sticky, nor too stiff in consistency, working the dough as little as possible.
  4. Take a baking tray and lightly dust it with plain flour.  Mould the dough into a ball and slightly flatten it before placing it onto the tray.
  5. Bake the dough in the oven for around 30 minutes, or until the loaf gives a hollow sound when you tap the base.  When cooked, turn the bread out onto a cooling rack.
  6. Serve warm if possible with the cream cheese and the smoked salmon.  Delicious!

Enjoy with a glass of chilled white wine, or a Guinness if you prefer!

Less than 30 minutes to prepare, 30 minutes to cook

Makes: 6 servings

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