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Cover: A dish for all seasons

Less than 30 minutes

27Jul 12

Salmorejo (Spanish cold tomato cream)

SalmorejoSalmorejo is a wonderful Spanish dish, from the region of Cordoba, usually served as a starter and garnished with Serrano ham and hard boiled egg. Basically, it’s a cold tomato cream, and its main ingredients are tomatoes, bread, olive oil, garlic and vinegar.

It’s one of my favourite summer dishes, so easy to make and really delicious and refreshing on a hot summer’s day! But don’t confuse it with gazpacho, the Spanish cold soup made with tomatoes. Gazpacho is thinner, contains less bread, more water and additional ingredients like cucumber and red or green pepper.

I would say you drink gazpacho, but you eat salmorejo. You can also spread it on toast, with some Serrano ham on top, so if you want to do this you could make it a little thicker – by adding a bit more bread and a little less water. (For a hot treat, try this cream of tomato soup.)

Salmorejo (Spanish cold tomato cream)
Author: 
Recipe type: Starter
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4-6
 
The Spanish dish Salmorejo is a cold tomato cream made from tomatoes, bread, olive oil, garlic and vinegar and garnished with Serrano ham and hard boiled egg.
Ingredients
  • 1kg ripe plum tomatoes, washed and halved
  • 4 medium thick slices white bread (loaf or sliced)
  • 50ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small clove garlic, peeled
  • 1 tbsp Sherry vinegar
  • 3 ice cubes
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 hard boiled egg, finley diced (for garnish)
  • 1 large handful Serrano ham, finely diced (for garnish)
Instructions
  1. Remove the crusts from the bread and rip into pieces.
  2. Blend all the ingredients for the salmorejo, except half the olive oil, the ice cubes, the salt and the garnish, in a blender.
  3. Add the ice cubes and liquify in the blender.
  4. Strain the salmorejo through a conical sieve to remove any solid pieces.
  5. Blend again, adding the rest of the olive oil and salt to taste, until it has a smooth, thick consistency.
  6. Serve immediately in small bowls, topped with diced eggs and Serrano ham.
  7. Can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days.

 

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12Jul 12

Kiwi Fruit Smoothies Collection

Kiwi smoothieTime to raise a glass to your health!

Kiwi fruit is readily available in the UK from January to August.  This visually stunning fruit is so good for you.  It packs a punch in vitamin C and also contains potassium, vitamin E, vitamin A and plenty of dietary fibre, amongst other nutrients.

It has an intense, and some would say sharp, flavour when scooped straight out of its furry greenish-brown skin.  I love it just like that, or mixed in with strawberries and other fruits to make a colourful fruit salad.  But today, I’m going to share a few smoothie recipes with you: kiwi and strawberry smoothie, creamy kiwi smoothie (pictured) and sherbet zest kiwi smoothie.

These smoothies will make a wonderful dessert or a healthy mid-afternoon filler.  So let’s toast your health together in celebration of the wonderful kiwi fruit! (For a different type of fruit smoothie, try this Indian lassi with cardamom and pistachios.)

 

Kiwi and Strawberry Smoothie

What you need:

  • 2 kiwis, peeled
  • 8 strawberries, topped and sliced
  • 2 bananas, peeled and cut in half
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Generous splash of apple juice
  • 8 ice cubes

What to do:

  1. Pop the ice into your blender, followed by the kiwi fruit, the strawberries, banana and lime juice.  Add a generous splash of apple juice and blend for around 35-45 seconds.  Pour into chilled glasses and delight in the flavours!

5 minutes to prepare

Makes 4 servings

 

Creamy Kiwi Smoothie

What you need:

  • 4 kiwis, peeled
  • 2 tbsp good honey
  • 12 tbsp natural yoghurt

What to do:

  1. Blend the ingredients together in a blender or smoothie maker for around 35-45 seconds, pour into a glass and fill up your body with the wonderful nutrients.

5 minutes to prepare

Makes 4 servings

 

Sherbet Zest Kiwi Smoothie

And now for something a little different…

What you need:

  • 100g kiwi, peeled and diced
  • 100g lime sherbet
  • 200g peeled and diced banana
  • 200g honey dew melon, peeled, deseeded and cubed

What to do:

  1. Blend the ingredients together in a blender or smoothie maker for around 35-45 seconds, pour into a glass and enjoy the tang!

10 minutes to prepare

Makes 4 servings

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10Jul 12

Spinach with bacon and pine nuts

Spinach with bacon and pine nutsA starter that brings four flavours and textures together:  It’s soft, salty, crunchy and sweet.  Go on, try it…

Spinach with bacon and pine nuts uses soft and subtle spinach, brought to life by the saltiness of the bacon, the crunch of the pine nuts, and the sweetness of the raisins.  If you can find a good cured Parma ham, or Spanish Serrano ham to cut into chunks to replace the bacon, they also work really well in this dish.  We often make this dish as a starter, or as a side dish to accompany lamb, beef or pork.  Spinach is in season in the spring.

If you like this combination, I would also recommend these mini-pancakes with mozzarella, spinach and pine nuts.

What you need:

  • 1 kg freshly washed baby spinach leaves
  • 100g small bacon cubes
  • 3 tbsp pine nuts
  • 3 tbsp raisins
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and black pepper to season

What to do:

  1. Cover the raisins with water in a bowl to soak for a little while.
  2. Wash the spinach thoroughly under running water unless you have bought it prewashed and ready to use.  If you are washing it, pat it gently dry afterwards with kitchen paper.
  3. Heat 250ml water on the hob in a large pan, and when it reaches the boil, add the baby spinach leaves, season with salt, cover the pan, turn down the heat to a simmer and cook for about 5-8 minutes.  Alternatively steam the spinach.  It’s best to cook it for just enough time to soften it, but without overdoing it, so as to keep the nutrients it contains as alive and effective as possible.  When cooked, remove and drain the spinach and set it to one side.
  4. Drain the water off the raisins, and pat them dry on kitchen paper.
  5. Heat the oil in a shallow, heavy-based frying pan, and fry the bacon pieces on a medium to high heat for a few minutes, moving them about as they cook.  Add the pine nuts and keep stirring as you cook for another few minutes.  Now add the raisins and do the same for another couple of minutes.
  6. Add the cooked spinach to the pan, mixing all of the ingredients together.  Taste a little of the dish and add more salt if necessary, then grind over with a little black pepper.

10 minutes to prepare, 15-20 minutes to cook

Makes: 3-4 starters or side servings

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25Jun 12

Artichoke Heart Linguine

Artichoke Heart LinguineI find myself eating quite a lot of pasta in the spring and summer. All of the different shapes, flavours and textures seem to complement simply cooked green vegetables really well. Artichoke Heart Linguine is a well-established favourite of mine. It’s such a quick and simple vegetarian meal to throw together, so it’s great for nights when you want to be a bit creative, but don’t have much time!  Here’s another great pasta dish to try sometime too…sprout, chestnut and thyme tagliatelle.

Artichokes come into season in June and stay with us throughout the summer. They are a wonderful vegetable but can be a challenge to cook well. Because of this, my recipe uses artichokes that have already been marinated and softened for you, in herbs and oil. You’ll find these in most supermarkets in little glass jars; and they really are wonderful. If you prefer to cook, marinate and store your own artichokes, there are plenty of references on how to do that on the internet. I use fresh herbs and lime juice in this recipe to really bring out the flavours of the dish. Serve with a glass of chilled Chianti.

Artichoke Heart Linguine
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
Artichoke Heart Linguine is a quick and simple vegetarian meal to throw together, so it’s great for nights when you want to be a bit creative, but don’t have much time!
Ingredients
  • 220g fresh linguine pasta
  • 60g soft artichokes hearts, marinated in oil
  • 2 tbsp pine kernels
  • The juice of half a lime
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and mince
  • ½ tbsp fresh parsley, roughly chopped
  • ½ tbsp fresh thyme leaves, roughly chopped
  • Parmesan shavings to decorate
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to season
Instructions
  1. Dry fry the pine kernels in a frying pan for a couple of minutes, toasting them until they are golden-brown. Remove and set to one side.
  2. Cook the fresh linguine in plenty of salted water until al dente.
  3. Tip the artichokes from the jar, along with the oil, into the frying pan and heat them through with the garlic, thyme, and parsley. Squeeze over the lime juice and stir.
  4. Drain the pasta and serve into bowls. Top with the artichokes, the pine nuts, and the shavings of Parmesan.

 

 

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21Jun 12

Grilled stuffed mushrooms

White button mushrooms are one of the most widely consumed mushrooms in the world. They are available in shops all year round, but those who like mushroom hunting can usually find them after rainfall from late spring through to autumn. I love mushroom hunting, but I’m never sure if the ones I’ve picked are edible! So for safety I prefer to use the cultivated ones.

I love them; in pasta sauce, in risotto, in pies, in soups, in salads… they are so verstile. This dish is inspired by some “tapas” we had in Spain this Easter: grilled stuffed mushrooms made with Serrano ham (Spanish dry-cured ham), garlic and parsley. I brought some ham back from Spain so I used that for this recipe and added some sun-dried tomatoes for a personal touch. They are so delicious and easy to make, you should try them!

Little tip: They make a great appetiser for this mushroom risotto recipe.

Grilled stuffed mushrooms
Author: 
Recipe type: Starter
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2-3
 
This dish is inspired by some "tapas" we had in Spain this Easter: grilled stuffed mushrooms made with Serrano ham (Spanish dry-cured ham), garlic and parsley.
Ingredients
  • 12 medium sized white button mushrooms
  • 50g Serrano ham (or any dry-cured ham), finely chopped
  • 2 or 3 sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 2 medium sized garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
  • Olive oil, for sautéing
Instructions
  1. Clean the mushrooms, cut off the tips of the stems and dry if necessary.
  2. Remove the stems, making sure not to break the mushroom caps. Leave the caps aside.
  3. Finely chop the mushroom stems and mix them with the chopped garlic, dried tomatoes and parsley.
  4. Sauté this mixture in a little olive oil on a high heat for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring regularly.
  5. Turn off the heat and add the chopped ham to the mixture.
  6. Fill the mushroom caps with the mixture. (There will usually be a small amount of mixture left over).
  7. Cook the mushrooms in a grill pan on a medium heat until they are light brown and serve.
Notes
What are "tapas"? Tapas are typical in Spain. They are small portions of food, anything from some simple olives to a dish of paella, served to accompany a drink. In most parts of the country tapas are ordered and paid for separately, but in some provinces, especially Granada and Almería, the tapa comes free with each cold drink you order.

 

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13Jun 12

Spanish Noodles with King Prawns and Clams (Fideua)

FideuaClams are best of season in January and February in the UK, but you may be lucky and find some in the first half of March too.  I love this combination of seafood and noodles, a little like a noodle paella I guess.  The garlic and the fish stock bring wonderful flavours to the dish. 

Spanish noodles with king prawns and clams is a slightly anglicised variation on a dish from the Spanish region of Valencia, where sun and seafood are abundant.  Be sure that your clams are fresh, properly prepared and checked before you cook them – if in doubt, ask at the fish counter.  You can also substitute the clams for mussels if you prefer.

What you need:

  • 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 400g very fine, short noodles (Fideua)
  • 400g king prawns, peeled
  • 350g clams in their shells, cleaned and prepared with any that are open, or come open with a light tap, discarded
  • 6 spring onions, or 1 medium onion, finely sliced
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
  • Generous pinch of dried parsley
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley, roughly chopped
  • ½ L fish stock
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • Twist of lemon

What to do:

  1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan, and on a medium heat, fry the onions for a few minutes.
  2. Add the prawns and the garlic and cook for 5-10 minutes until the onions are really soft.
  3. Add the noodles and the dried parsley to the pan and continue to fry for a few minutes before pouring in the stock, seasoning well with salt and pepper.
  4. Add the clams and bring the stock up to the boil.  Turn down the heat and simmer uncovered for 5 minutes or until the stock has been absorbed into the dish. Add the fresh parsley, (saving a little for the garnish) stirring it in on the heat for another minute before tasting, and if necessary, adding a little more seasoning.  Add more stock to the dish as you cook if necessary to prevent it from becoming too dry.  Scan the finished dish for any clams that have not opened during cooking, and discard them.
  5. Squeeze over the lemon, serve into dishes and top with the fresh parsley garnish.
  6. Enjoy with a glass of Spanish white wine and baguette rubbed with garlic and drizzled with olive oil.

Ready in less than 30 minutes

Makes: 4 servings

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05Jun 12

Lamb’s Lettuce Salad with Serrano Ham and Apricots

Spring Salad with Serrano Ham and ApricotsLamb’s lettuce salad with Serrano ham and apricots is a really simple salad with few, but very tasty ingredients.  I like the subtle play between the sweetness of the apricots and the saltiness of the Spanish ham.  Both are balanced wonderfully by the creamy texture of the avocado and the subtle freshness of the lamb’s lettuce.

Lamb’s lettuce is said to contain around three times the level of vitamin C that a common lettuce contains.  This salad makes a good light lunch or supper, but if you’re feeling ravenous, you can always eat it with a big hunk of buttered bread, or as a starter to a more substantial meal. (For more lamb’s lettuce salads, try this seared scallops with brittle Parma ham recipe.)

Lamb’s lettuce is in season through Winter and Spring.  It is a hardy plant that doesn’t rely solely on insects for pollination.  The wind helps to carry and drop the seeds, and in certain eras, it was thought to carpet the British countryside in swathes.  I love it for its softness and appearance – those rich green floral-shaped leaves make any salad look beautiful.

What you need:

  • Pack of lamb’s lettuce, ready washed
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 pack of Serrano Ham
  • 12 soft, preserved apricots
  • 1-2 tbsp good balsamic vinegar
  • 4-6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp runny honey
  • 1 tsp Dijon Mustard
  • 1 tsp soft brown sugar

What to do:

  1. Open the pack of Serrano ham about an hour before you want to eat it, letting it come up to room temperature.
  2. When you are ready to make the salad, arrange the lamb’s lettuce on the plates, covering almost the entire surface of the plate.
  3. Cut the avocado in half, remove the stone and the skin and slice into strips lengthwise.
  4. Tear the soft apricots roughly in half.
  5. Make the dressing by mixing the olive oil, runny honey, sugar, balsamic vinegar and Dijon mustard in a small bowl with a teaspoon.
  6. Arrange the avocado on the lettuce in a floral circle and dot the apricot pieces in between.  Roll the ham into the shape you like and space it out over the top of the salad, making sure that all of the ingredients are visually balanced.
  7. Drizzle over the dressing in a spiral pattern, or serve the dressing in a small bowl on the table.
  8. Season the salad all over with salt and fresh ground black pepper.

15 minutes to prepare

Makes: 2 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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04May 12

Authentic Mexican Guacamole

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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