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Cover: A dish for all seasons

Starters

31Jul 12

Courgette Carpaccio

Courgette Carpaccio
Courgettes
are great versatile summer vegetables, and right now they are at the height of their season in the UK. They are a good source of potassium, folate and vitamins A and C and, as we all know, the best way to get the most vitamins and nutrients from vegetables is to eat them uncooked. I had always cooked courgettes until I discovered that they are also quite nice raw, in salads and even in juices!

Sliced very thinly, drizzled with a basil, olive oil and lemon juice dressing and topped off with Parmesan cheese and roasted pine nuts, this courgette carpaccio is a light and appetizing starter that’s really easy to make. (Also try these courgette and leek fritters!)

Courgette Carpaccio
Author: 
Recipe type: Starter
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • 4 small courgettes, washed and dried
  • 100g walnuts
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 100g Parmesan cheese, thinly shaved
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 packed handful fresh basil leaves, washed and dried
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Coarse sea salt
Instructions
  1. Slice the courgettes very thinly and arrange on a large serving plate.
  2. Grind the basil leaves together with a large pinch of coarse sea salt and the garlic using a pestle and mortar.
  3. Add the olive oil and grind together again.
  4. Put this mixture in a clean jar, add the lemon juice, secure the lid and shake vigorously.
  5. Drizzle this basil dressing over the courgettes.
  6. Sprinkle the courgettes with walnuts, cheese and freshly ground black pepper.

 

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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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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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06Jul 12

Crispy Vegetable Spring Rolls

Crispy Vegetable Spring Rolls

The shiitake mushrooms in these crispy vegetable spring rolls help to give them a Chinese-style flavour.  You will find spring roll wrappers in Asian supermarkets, or you can order them over the internet. (You can also try these Vietnamese spring rolls.)

What you need:

  • 10 spring roll wrappers
  • ¼ white cabbage, shredded into fine pieces
  • 60g shiitake mushrooms, cut into thin slices
  • 50g sugar snap peas, cut in half lengthwise and sliced into thin strips
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 6 bamboo shoots, finely sliced
  • ¼ to ½ pack of beansprouts
  • 3 spring onions, finely sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped width-wise
  • 1tbsp soy sauce
  • 1tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1tsp sugar
  • Salt and pepper to season
  • 1L vegetable oil for frying
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Handful of fresh mint, chopped into fine shreds

What to do:

  1. Place a wok on a high heat and when hot, add a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil.  Add all of the vegetables and stir fry until slightly softened.
  2. Add the soy sauce, oyster sauce and sugar, and season well with salt and pepper.  Stir well and remove the wok from the heat.  Stir in the mint and transfer the vegetables into a cold bowl to cool.
  3. Add the litre of vegetable oil to a deep heavy-based saucepan (or deep fat fryer if you have one) and heat the oil on a medium to high heat.
  4. As the oil is coming up to the heat, make up the spring rolls.  Lay out a spring roll wrapper in front of you with one corner facing you to create a diamond effect.  Brush a little of the beaten egg onto the four edges of the wrapper.
  5. Spoon a portion of the vegetables onto the wrapper, a few centimetres from the bottom, in a thin strip, taking care not to touch the edges with filling.
  6. Lift the bottom of the wrapper over and tuck it in under the filling.  Fold the left, then the right sides over the top, and roll upwards to form a tube.  Now brush a little more egg over the top edge and seal it along the roll.  Repeat with the other wrappers until you have 10 rolls.
  7. When the oil is hot, lower in the spring rolls and deep fry them until golden brown all over – just a minute or two.  Drain them on kitchen paper before serving.

Try serving with dips of fresh minty yoghurt and Pantai sweetened chilli sauce.

30 minutes to prepare, 20 minutes to cook
Makes 4-6 servings

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26Jun 12

Cream of Asparagus Soup, without the cream

Cream of Asparagus Soup, without the cream
As you may have noticed if you read my blog regularly, one of my favourite vegetables is asparagus, particularly the green kind. Not only is it tasty, it is also really good for you, being a good source of fibre, potassium and folic acid. It also helps to prevent water retention and lower cholesterol. Asparagus is still in season in June, so this is a good time to make a nice, smooth cream of asparagus soup, before summer really gets going and it’s too warm to for hot soup.

I don’t use cream in my recipe, as I prefer the taste of extra virgin olive oil, and I’ve realised that a little of it is enough to give the soup that rich, creamy texture. Plus, it’s much better for you!

If you love asparagus as much as I do, try these other recipes: Curly Asparagus Salad with Goat’s Cheese and Medjool Dates, Steamed Spring Vegetables with Toasted Pine Nuts or asparagus risotto.

Cream of Asparagus Soup, without the cream
Author: 
Recipe type: Starter
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Cream of Asparagus Soup with extra virgin olive oil instead of cream
Ingredients
  • 1 large bunch (about 250g) fresh green asparagus
  • 150 – 200g potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 1 large leek, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 chicken or vegetable stock cube
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Chop the asparagus, being careful not to damage the tips and discarding any tough woody parts from the lower ends.
  2. Lightly fry the chopped leeks, asparagus and garlic in a saucepan with a tablespoon of olive oil.
  3. Set aside 8-12 asparagus tips if you want to use them for garnish.
  4. Add the potatoes and water until all the ingredients are covered. Add the stock cube (crumbled), bring to the boil and boil until the potatoes are soft (about 20 mins).
  5. Remove from heat, add two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and then blend everything with a blender until smooth, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Serve hot.

 

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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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17Jun 12

Traditional Scotch eggs

Traditional Scottish EggsWhile looking for ideas for traditional British food to prepare for our little Jubilee street party at the beginning of the month, I saw some Scotch eggs in the supermarket and thought “typically British!” and realized that I had never tried home-made ones because they can be found all year round in any supermarket. As I’d never made them before, I decided to do a test run yesterday and discovered how delicious they can really be, rolled in sausage meat and breadcrumbs and then deep-fried. Not very healthy, I know!

They can be oven baked, but for tradition’s sake I’m definitely going to use this recipe again for this weekend’s Jubilee celebration; it’s well worth the effort! (If you like eggs, you can also try this typical Spanish dish called a Spanish Potato Omelette. It’s really just eggs and potatoes, but it’s quite a treat!)

Traditional Scotch eggs
Author: 
Recipe type: Appetiser, Starter
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6 portions
 
Traditional Scotch eggs, rolled in sausage meat and breadcrumbs then deep fried; delicious finger food for any Jubilee street party.
Ingredients
  • 6 large hard boiled eggs, cooled
  • 450g sausage meat
  • 200g plain flour (seasoned with salt and black pepper)
  • 200g breadcrumbs
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh chives
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • Vegetable oil (for deep frying)
  • Black pepper (freshly ground)
  • Salt
Instructions
  1. Peel the hard boiled eggs and set aside.
  2. Add the parsley, thyme, chives, some salt and black pepper to the sausage meat and mix in a bowl.
  3. Divide the sausage meat mixture into 6 equal portions and flatten them out into ovals.
  4. Roll each boiled egg in the seasoned flour and then warp each one in a sausage meat oval, making sure to totally cover the egg and smoothing out any bumps.
  5. Coat each sausage-covered egg in beaten egg and roll into the breadcrumbs, covering completely.
  6. Heat the oil in a deep frying pan. You’ll know it’s hot enough when you drop a breadcrumb into it and it sizzles strongly.
  7. Place each Scotch egg into the hot oil very carefully and deep-fry for around 8 minutes or until golden brown and completely cooked.
  8. When cooked, carefully remove the eggs from the oil with a slotted spoon and leave to drain on paper towel.
  9. Can be served warm or cold.

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14Jun 12

Rich and Tasty Watercress Soup

Rich and Tasty Watercress SoupWatercress! That crunchy, peppery green leaf that’s in season in May! There are lots of meals you can make with it if you use your imagination. I love it stuffed copiously into sandwiches, laced into salads drizzled with honey and balsamic vinegar, and many other ways. But today I’m here to share a really yummy version of  soup – rich and tasty watercress soup.

It’s developed over time, based on several recipes that I’ve tried and tested until I’ve reached this particular set of ingredients. No doubt the recipe will keep evolving; as I love to experiment and move things on after a while. It’s good to keep fresh and enjoy change in life, wouldn’t you say? I love the addition of a little Tabasco in this soup; it’s just there in the background giving a little extra twang to your taste buds!

Soup and salad is a perfect meal for spring and summer. Why not pair this soup with a watercress and mango salad?

Watercress is actually a member of the mustard family (which explains its mild heat). When you’ve bought it, cut the stems, wash it really thoroughly and then pat it with kitchen paper. You can store it for up to 4-5 days in the fridge in a plastic bag. Watercress is full of vitamins A and C; contains calcium; and is of course fat and cholesterol free – until you add the cream!

Rich and Tasty Watercress Soup
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Rich and tasty watercress soup - featuring that crunchy, peppery green leaf that’s in season in May!
Ingredients
  • 600g fresh watercress, thoroughly washed and roughly chopped
  • 600ml chicken stock, hot
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 4 medium shallots
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced (or reduce to taste)
  • 3 fistfuls of fresh mint, saving a little to garnish
  • 3 fistfuls of fresh parsley, saving a little to garnish
  • 8 tbsp double cream
  • 4 dashes of Tabasco sauce
  • A generous swirl of extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tbsp Greek yoghurt
  • Salt flakes and fresh ground black pepper to season
Instructions
  1. Heat the butter in a deep-based saucepan; and then brown the shallots and garlic gently together for 5-8 minutes until soft.
  2. Add in the watercress, fresh herbs and the hot chicken stock; stir and bring the soup up to the boil. Cover, reduce the heat and simmer for 3-4 minutes to cook the watercress.
  3. Splash in the Tabasco and spoon in the cream. Continue to simmer for a couple more minutes.
  4. Swirl in the olive oil and season really well with salt and pepper. Transfer into a food blender and whizz until smooth.
  5. Serve in individual bowls topped with a sprig of fresh herbs.
  6. You could also add a spoonful of Greek yoghurt while serving, but that is optional.

 

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04Jun 12

Coronation Chicken Salad

Coronation chicken salad

With the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee coming up in June, I’m helping my neighbours to organize a little old-fashioned street party, and I’m going to make a Coronation Chicken Salad. The original Coronation Chicken dish that was invented for the Queen’s Coronation banquet in 1953 included whipped cream and was served with a rice salad, but I want to make something lighter and crunchier.

So I’m going to use this recipe that I tried out last summer, replacing the cream with healthier Greek yoghurt and including celery to add a bit of crunch to the creamy texture of the sauce. Apricots are in season in the UK from May to September, but you can use dried apricots if you can’t get hold of fresh ones. (I also recommend this warm chicken salad with garlic and tomato bread.)

Coronation Chicken Salad
Author: 
Recipe type: Starter
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4-6
 
Coronation Chicken Salad with Greek yoghurt and celery to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
Ingredients
  • 1 chicken (about 1.5kg), poached and cooled
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 100g fresh apricots
  • 100ml red wine
  • 175ml mayonnaise
  • 175ml Greek yoghurt
  • 1 stalk of celery, chopped
  • Watercress, according to preference
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1 tbsp curry paste
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Remove the meat from the bones of the poached chicken.
  2. Peel the apricots and simmer for about 15 minutes.
  3. While the apricots are simmering, heat the oil in a saucepan, add the finely chopped onion and lightly fry for about five minutes.
  4. Add the curry paste, tomato purée, wine, bay leaf and half the lemon juice.
  5. Bring to the boil, then leave to simmer for about ten minutes.
  6. Drain the apricots and purée them in a blender, press through a sieve and leave to cool.
  7. When the curry sauce has reduced, remove the bay leaf and leave the sauce to cool.
  8. Mix together the apricot purée, the mayonnaise and the cooled curry sauce.
  9. Fold the yoghurt into the mix, and then add the chicken, chopped celery and the rest of the lemon juice.
  10. Season with salt and pepper and serve with watercress and white baguette.
Notes
I used poached chicken because it's really tender and succulent, but if you prefer, you can use roast chicken (or the leftovers from a Sunday roast). If you're using dried apricots, you only need 50g, but you'll need to soak and boil them to make the purée.

 

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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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