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Cover: A dish for all seasons

Starters

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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15Apr 12

Minty Jersey Royals with Chives and Lemon Butter

Minty Jersey Royals with Chives and Herby ButterJersey Royal Potatoes come into season in April.  They are chock-full of fibre and contain vitamin C, amongst other nutrients.  They are delicious cooked very simply in well-salted water to bring out their natural flavour, but today I’m going to share this minty Jersey Royals with chives and lemon recipe with you, which is just one of the ways of enjoying this distinctive seasonal gem.

Look out for potatoes with a papery-thin, flaky skin and try to buy them unwashed, washing them yourself quite carefully so as not to remove all of the skin, which has a lovely flavour and also contains many nutrientsJersey Royal new potatoes are best eaten within a few days of buying them.  Serve this herby salad dish warm or cold, at your spring barbeques, or to accompany grilled meat and fish like this grilled trout with tarragon and lemon butter.  And why not make some home-made lemonade to go with it?  Fresh tastes of spring!

What you need:

  • 1kg Jersey Royal new potatoes, washed gently to remove any dirt and left whole
  • 50g butter
  • 3 tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped, plus a couple of sprigs for the cooking water
  • 2 tbsp fresh chives, cut into 1cm strands
  • The juice of 2 fresh lemons
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2-3 generous pinches of Malden sea salt flakes
  • Fresh ground black pepper to season
  • A little olive oil

What to do:

  1. Put the washed, whole Jersey Royals in a large heavy-based saucepan.  Put the large potatoes at the bottom of the pan, and the smaller ones on the top.
  2. Bring a kettle of water to the boil and pour the water over the potatoes, almost covering them.
  3. Season really well with a few pinches of sea salt, add a couple of mint sprigs and a swirl of olive oil before covering the pan with a well-fit lid and simmering the potatoes gently for around 20 minutes.
  4. Whilst the potatoes are cooking, take a mixing bowl, put the butter in, and then sprinkle over with all of the herbs, the lemon juice and zest.  Stir the ingredients together and leave to one side.
  5. Once the potatoes are cooked (check one or two for tenderness and firmness with a sharp knife – and try not to overcook them), drain them, mix in the herby butter to the pan, then season again with sea salt and grind over some black pepper before serving.

20 minutes to prepare, 20 minutes to cook

Makes: 4-6 servings

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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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26Mar 12

Moules Mariniere

Moules MariniereMoules mariniere brings back memories of holidays in the south of France and close to the Spanish border where moules frites (mussels and chips) and mussels in Asturian cider are very popular.

British Mussels are in season in February.  If you’re lucky enough to find good ones, you will soon be making succulent and tasty mussels in a white wine and cream sauce, which you can enjoy as a starter, or as a main meal with nice hunks of granary bread, chips or a mixed salad.  It looks stunning in its presentation and is sophisticated to the palette.

Moules mariniere is most fun prepared in company, sampling the white wine together as you cook.  I use a splash of good white wine from the bottle I want to drink with the meal rather than a cheap cooking wine, which I believe improves the flavour significantly. Try this recipe with a very well chilled oaked chardonnay.

What you need:

  • 1.75kg fresh mussels
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 15g butter
  • 2 tbsp fresh coriander, roughly chopped
  • 100ml white wine
  • 120ml double cream (substitute for light crème fraiche if desired)

What you do:

  1. Wash the mussels thoroughly, removing and binning any that have opened and don’t close when lightly pressed in your fingers.
  2. Remove the beards from the mussels – these are the tough and fibrous strands which stick out of the closed shells.  Rinse the mussels once again.
  3. Melt the butter in a large pan (which needs to be large enough for the mussels to reach only half way up the pan) and fry the shallots and the onion until soft.
  4. Splash in the wine and add the mussels.  Turn up the heat at this point, cover the pan with a lid, and steam the mussels for 3-4 minutes.  Whilst the mussels are cooking, move them about every now and then by gently shaking the pan; there’s no need to remove the lid to do this.
  5. Pour in the cream, add the coriander, and remove from the heat.

10-15 minutes to prepare and cook

Makes: 4 generous starters or light main meals

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