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Cover: A dish for all seasons

Meal for 2 people

28Jun 12

Slow Cooked Spring Lamb Shanks in Cognac

Slow-Cooked Spring Lamb Shanks in CognacAn aromatic infusion of lamb that will melt in your mouth…

I first tasted slow cooked spring lamb shanks in Cognac in Northern Spain, just a stones throw from the farm where the animals were raised.  We ate it in the spring, when lamb is in peak season.  The meat becomes so soft that it falls off the bone, and it melts its aromatic Cognac infusion onto your palate.  If you don’t have a slow cooker, replace step 3 by cooking the lamb in a covered casserole dish in the oven.  Cook at 170ºC for about 3 hours, checking that the lamb is thoroughly cooked before serving.

What you need:

  • 2 lamb shanks on the bone
  • 350ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 200ml Cognac
  • ½ chicken stock cube
  • 1 onion, peeled and quartered
  • 1 tomato, halved
  • 5 garlic cloves, whole and unpeeled
  • 2 whole laurel leaves
  • 1 tsp Demerara sugar
  • A generous pinch of dried oregano
  • A generous pinch of dried parsley
  • Salt and pepper to season

What to do:

  1. In the morning of the day that you will be eating the dish, heat 100ml of the oil in a frying pan, season with a generous pinch of salt, and fry the lamb shanks for 5-10 minutes until golden brown all over.
  2. Transfer the shanks to the slow cooker and switch the cooker on to the low setting.  Sieve the oil from the frying pan over the lamb and add the remaining oil.  Crumble in the stock cube; add the cognac, onion, tomato, garlic cloves, laurel and sugar.  Season with salt and pepper, then sprinkle with oregano and parsley.
  3. Stir to coat the shanks, put the lid on the pot and slow cook on low for 8 hours.  Turn the lamb over half-way through the cooking time.
  4. Remove the lamb shanks from the pot and pour the sauce into a heavy-based frying pan.  Put the shanks back into the slow cooker and put the lid on to keep them warm.  On a medium to high heat, reduce the sauce on the hob by half to intensify the flavour.
  5. Place the lamb shanks into wide and shallow bowls, pour over with the sauce, and serve with creamy mashed potato and Spanish-style green beans.

15 minutes to prepare, 8 hours 10 minutes to cook

Makes 2 servings

Note: I just love lamb, so one of my favourite Italian dishes is Lamb and Linguine Bolognese.

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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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22Jun 12

Tortilla de Patata with Sorrel (Spanish Omelette with Sorrel)

Spanish Omelette with SorrelWe spent Easter in Spain, in a small village in the northeast; where the hills are like bulbous ferrous rock, and the villagers weave deep familial roots through the generations – including ours. It’s a beautiful place. My daughter is half Spanish, and one of her favourite foods is Tortilla – Spanish omelette.  Here’s a seasonal version for you: Tortilla de Patata with Sorrel.

There’s a little restaurant that we always go to just before our long journey home. It’s called Ben y Ben’s, and we love it because they lavish us with tea, glasses of red wine, pancetta, olives and best for our little one, tortilla de patata. We cut it into shapes: circles, squares and triangles and then pop a piece of olive on the top – that’s how she likes it best. When we were there at Easter, they came out from the kitchen with a very special omelette. Laced with green, the Tortilla de Patata with sorrel not only looked pretty, but tasted really good too. Sorrel grows wild in May and through the early months of the summer in England. If you’re going to go hunting for it, make sure you know for certain what you’re picking; or if in any doubt – buy it from your local market.

Also try this classic spanish potato omelette.

Tortilla de Patata with Sorrel (Spanish Omelette with Sorrel)
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2-4
 
Laced with green, the Tortilla de Patata with sorrel not only looked pretty, but tasted really good too. Sorrel grows wild in May and through the early months of the summer in England.
Ingredients
  • 1 medium onion
  • A good slug of extra virgin olive oil
  • 280g Desirée potatoes
  • 6 eggs
  • 100g fresh sorrel, thoroughly washed and finely chopped
  • Salt flakes to season
Instructions
  1. Finely slice the onion and place to one side.
  2. Peel and wash the potatoes. Pat dry with kitchen paper. Cut into quarters and then work your way through each potato, slicing off small roughly shaped thin pieces from the top. Do this as quickly as you can to prevent browning. Once sliced, pat with kitchen paper to dry.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a 20cm diameter non-stick frying pan until just smoking. Put the onion and the potato together into the pan and coat them in the oil, moving them about. Now turn the heat down to its very lowest setting, season with salt and fry the vegetables slowly for around 20-30 minutes until soft. Move them about as necessary and don’t let them brown.
  4. Once soft, add the sorrel to the pan and soften for 5-8 minutes.
  5. Whisk the eggs lightly in a large mixing bowl. Turn the cooked vegetables into the bowl and mix together. Add some more oil to the pan and heat at medium before carefully pouring the omelette mixture back into the pan. From this point, no stirring! Turn the heat back down to its lowest setting and cook very slowly for around 10 to 15 minutes. Loosen the edges of the omelette gently with the spatula from time to time.
  6. It’s time to turn the omelette. Place a plate that matches the size of the pan over the omelette and turn the pan over to release it onto the plate. Add a little more oil to the pan if necessary and then gently slide the omelette back into the pan, frying slowly on the other side until thoroughly cooked.
Notes
Cooking time may vary from between ½ to 1 hour

 

 

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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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25Apr 12

Duck Fillet Stir Fry with Noodles

Duck Fillet Stir Fry with NoodlesI am sure that you have all tried a chicken stir-fry before, but have you tried it with duck? My recipe uses a meat that not many think to use very often.

Duck season runs from September to the end of February in the UK.  Duck fillet stir fry with noodles is a succulent, tasty, speedy, and low fat recipe – what more could you want?  It only takes 10 minutes to make, and is fit for a special occasion.

What you need:

  • 250g mini fillets of Gressingham Duck
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 carrot, thinly sliced
  • 100g broccoli, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 tbsp clear honey
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 tsp hoisin sauce
  • 300g straight to wok medium noodles
  • 4 spring onions, thinly sliced
  • Handful of cashew nuts, unsalted, whole

What to do:

  1. Heat the sesame oil in a large wok or heavy-based frying pan and stir-fry the duck, broccoli and carrot for about 5 minutes on a high heat.
  2. Mix the hoisin and soy sauces together with the honey in a small bowl and leave to one side.
  3. Empty the packet of noodles into the frying pan with the duck and the vegetables, cooking them for 2-3 minutes, until they are piping hot throughout.
  4. Add the cashew nuts and continue to stir fry until the duck is thoroughly cooked. You will know it’s done when it is brown throughout, with no pink areas.  Once cooked, pour over the honey sauce, stir it in, and sprinkle over the spring onions.
  5. Serve in pretty bowls and eat with chopsticks!

10 minutes to prepare and cook

Makes: 2 main courses

A little more about the Gressingham duck…

There are many varieties of wild duck in the UK, but perhaps the most renowned and desired for cooking these days is the Gressingham duck, which is a crossbreed of wild Mallard and Pekin.  It’s well known for its high proportion of breast meat and great flavour.  At the right time of year, you’ll find Gressingham duck in most major supermarkets and in some independent shops.  It’s a domestic duck that differs from all others.  Whilst most breeds live in nature and across continents, the Gressingham duck is a recently developed breed which is produced exclusively by one company in East Anglia.  It has rapidly developed a very high reputation for quality.

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18Apr 12

Yellow Thai Fish Curry

Yellow Thai Fish CurryThis curry uses cod and potatoes as the main base; simple, humble ingredients that when mixed together with the curry spices, make a tasty dish.

Cod is a good fish to put in a curry (like this green fish curry with coconut milk and bramleys) because it has a subtle flavour, and it’s soft and falls apart nicely into the texture of the curry.  Cod is one of Britain’s most sought-after fish, and although stocks are declining somewhat, they are still plentiful throughout the cold months of the year. This also happens to be when caught fish tend to be at their largest.

What you need:

  • 4-6 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and finely sliced
  • 2 medium to large potatoes, skins on, sliced into thin chip strips, then chopped into small cubes
  • 2 tbsp Cock Brand yellow Thai curry paste
  • 250g cod pieces, ideally skinless, but if the skins are on, you can remove them easily during the cooking process.  You can use fresh or frozen cod.
  • 1 chicken stock cube
  • 240ml water
  • 2-3 125 ml pots of natural sweetened yoghurt
  • 500 g of Thai rice

What you do:

  1. Fry the onions with the oil in a frying pan over a medium to high heat for 7-8 minutes until softened.
  2. Add the curry paste, stirring in well, then add the potato cubes.  Try to coat all of the ingredients in the paste gradually as the paste softens in the heat.  Cook like this for about 10 minutes on a medium heat.  As the curry paste is quite dry, you may find that you need to add a little more oil as you go.
  3. Add the cod pieces, coat in the paste, and fry for 3-4 minutes before crumbling in the stock cube and pouring in the water.
  4. Bring the liquid up to the boil, then turn down and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft and tender.
  5. Whilst the curry is simmering, cook the rice.
  6. Once everything is ready, take the curry off the heat and gently stir in the yoghurt.
  7. Serve the curry and the rice together, and enjoy with a glass of crisp dry white wine.

10 minutes preparation time.  About 45 minutes cooking time.  Ready in under an hour.

Makes: 2 main courses

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05Apr 12

Steamed Spring Vegetables with Toasted Pine Nuts

Steamed Spring Vegetables with Pine NutsAn incredibly fresh and healthy accompaniment to any meat or fish dish that you are preparing – steamed spring vegetables with toasted pine nuts are particularly delicious alongside herb crusted salmon with salsa rosso.  In fact, I sometimes eat a big bowl of this and nothing else for my supper, when my body is calling out for greens, greens and more greens, as it often does! 

Asparagus and broccoli are in season in the spring in the UK.  They are bursting with vitamins and minerals, as well as flavour, when you dress them up in a little tasty topping.  Also works well as a starter. You can add Parmesan cheese to top it off at the end, but that is up to you!

What you need:

  • Bunch of fresh asparagus tips
  • Large handful of pine nuts
  • 12 stems of broccoli
  • 30g snow peas
  • 2 generous pinches of Malden sea salt flakes
  • Extra virgin olive oil to fry the nuts and to drizzle over the dish
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • Handful of fresh basil, roughly torn
  • A hearty drizzle of a good balsamic vinegar

What to do:

  1. Wash and prepare the asparagus.  Bend each stem, and if it is really fresh, it will break naturally to give you perfect tips.  Lay them to one side.  Wash the broccoli and trim off the ends. Rinse the snow peas.
  2. Prepare your steaming equipment and steam the prepared vegetables for 10-15 minutes, or until they are tender but retain a slight crunch (if you like them al dente like me).
  3. Whilst the vegetables are steaming, toast the pine nuts in a little olive oil over a medium to high heat on the hob.  This should only take a few minutes.  Sprinkle them over with a pinch of the sea salt, remove them from the heat and leave them sitting in the pan to keep warm.
  4. Once the vegetables are cooked, drain them and then serve them into pretty bowls or side plates.  Top with the pine nuts, and then drizzle over a generous helping of olive oil and swirl over with the balsamic vinegar.  Sprinkle all over with the fresh basil and season well with salt and pepper.  Cover the vegetables in the topping rather than just the centre.

Note: For a change, try substituting the balsamic vinegar for the juice of a freshly squeezed lemon.

10 minutes to prepare, 15 minutes to cook

Makes: 2 generous servings

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29Mar 12

Baked Salmon with Red Pesto, Red Peppers and Tomatoes

Baked Salmon with Red peppers and TomatoesBaked salmon with red pesto, red peppers and tomatoes is a low-fat, nutritious meal for two.  You do not need to add any oil; the salmon will bake in its own juices, along with those of the vegetables and the lime.

Roast Salmon with vegetables is also quite tasty as the veggies provide a perfect complement for this light dish.

Salmon is regionally seasonal, following a complex series of migrations as the fish move from river to river throughout the year.  It’s fascinating stuff!  Make sure to look up when Salmon is in a river near you.

What you need:

  • 2 salmon fillets
  • 2 tbsp red pesto
  • 1 large red pepper, deseeded then cut into long, thin strips
  • 4 garden tomatoes cut into halves or small cubes
  • Zest and juice of 1 lime
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • A couple of sprigs of fresh basil to garnish

What to do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC.
  2. Place a large sheet of aluminium foil over your baking tray, enough to comfortably wrap around all of the ingredients, sealing in the cooking juices.
  3. Lay the salmon onto the prepared tray with the skin side down; spread the red pesto over the top of each fillet.
  4. Arrange the red peppers and tomatoes all around the outside of the fillets, squeeze lime juice over everything, and sprinkle over the lime zest before seasoning with salt and pepper.
  5. Wrap the aluminium foil around all of the ingredients, creating a parcel effect, and bake in the oven for 25-45 minutes (depending on the size of your salmon fillets).  When the fish is opaque throughout, it is cooked. Check that there is no translucency to the middle part of the salmon fillets before serving.  You can also remove the foil from the top of the fish for the second half of cooking if you want to add a little crispness and don’t mind losing some of your cooking juices.  If you do this though, be sure to create a tray effect with aluminium foil (with folded edges to each side) plus a separate foil cover at the start, so that when you remove the cover, the juices won’t escape.  Both methods are very tasty.
  6. Serve the salmon over the vegetables. Pour over the juices, and top off with a sprig of fresh basil.

20 minutes to prepare – 25 to 45 minutes to cook

Makes: 2 main courses

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