Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Pan-Fried Sea Bass with a Warm Courgette Salad

Light, fresh, healthy and most importantly incredibly easy to make, this dish is the ideal speedy lunch for when you're in on your own. 

I'm a huge lover of all fish but there's something particularly appealing about sea bass, especially when you crisp up the skin but keep the flesh lovely and moist, flaking apart with just a fork. Courgettes are great at this time of year so keep them simple but delicious with no more than a few seconds in the pan along with some lightly caramelised onions, garlic and a dash of white wine vinegar to give it all a lift.

Pan-Fried Sea Bass with a Warm Courgette Salad
Serves 1

oil (rapeseed or olive)
2 x sea bass fillets
1 courgette, made into ribbons using a vegetable peeler
1 small onion, sliced
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
dried oregano, salt and pepper, for seasoning

Heat a tsp of the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Fry the onion and garlic until softened then add the courgette to the pan and stir fry until lightly coloured and starting to soften. Season generously with salt and pepper and then pour in the white wine vinegar. Remove from the heat and scatter over the chopped parsley and a pinch of oregano. Mix well then transfer to a serving plate and keep warm.

Heat a little more oil in the pan and put it over a medium-high heat. Season the sea bass fillets generously on both sides then fry, skin-side down for 3-4 minutes until golden and crisp, then flip over and cook for a further 2-3 minutes on the flesh side. Serve the fish alongside the warm courgette salad.

Monday, 29 May 2017

Piri-Piri Spatchcock Chicken

It's been absolutely scorching weather in Yorkshire this weekend and when that's the case it can be hard to think of what to cook for dinner: you don't want anything too heavy or too wintery but you still require a decent meal to fill you up!

For me, this dish is the perfect solution with juicy, perfectly cooked chicken coated in a punchy piri-piri sauce to really set the tastebuds alight without being bogged down with stodge. The chicken is spatchcocked (backbone removed and remainder flattened) to speed up the cooking process and crisp up the skin evenly. I served mine with crispy potato cubes and some seasonal vegetable lightly grilled and with lemon squeezed over the top.

Piri-Piri Spatchcock Chicken
Serves 4

1 whole chicken (about 1.5kg), spatchcocked 
salt and freshly ground black pepper 

For the piri-piri sauce:
6 fresh red chillies
2 garlic cloves, chopped 
1 tsp salt flakes 
1 tsp oregano 
1 tsp paprika 
100ml olive oil 
50ml red wine vinegar

To make the piri-piri sauce, preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Place the chillies on a roasting tray and roast them for 10 minutes. Cool and roughly chop the chillies. 

Place the chillies, garlic, salt, oregano, paprika, olive oil and vinegar in a saucepan, and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Allow the mixture to cool, then blend it to a purée in a jug blender or food processor. Store in a lidded container at room temperature; it will keep for about a month. Shake before using. 

Place the spatchcocked chicken in a sealable plastic bag or a large ceramic bowl. Add half the piri-piri sauce, spreading it evenly over the chicken. Seal and marinate in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

Preheat the oven to 200C/390F/Gas 6. Season the marinated chicken and then transfer to a roasting tray lined with baking paper. Roast in the oven for 30-40 minutes, until cooked through, basting regularly with the remaining piri-piri sauce.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

George's Herb-Crusted Rack of Lamb with White Bean Purée

For once I can claim no part whatsoever in the following recipe as it was made for me in its entirety by my boyfriend! I'm fairly swamped with revision at the moment with my final law exams beginning next week so cooking duties have been put a bit on the back burner. The good news about that is that I get wonderful meals like this one made for me and this lamb was so good I simply had to share it with you.

The lamb itself was cooked to perfection, coated in a herby, lemony, crunchy sourdough crust and served alongside a super smooth, super tasty purée packed with all the great flavours of Southern France - heady garlic, earthy rosemary and salty anchovies. I can honestly say this was one of the most delicious things I've had the pleasure of eating and I urge you all to give it a go!

George's Herb-Crusted Rack of Lamb with White Bean Purée
Serves 2

50g sourdough bread, torn into small pieces 
2 tbsp roughly chopped parsley 
2 tbsp thyme leaf 
2 tbsp rosemary leaves, picked from sprigs 
zest 1 lemon 
25g grated parmesan 
2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
6-bone rack of lamb, well trimmed 
1 tbsp Dijon mustard 
200g spinach leaves 

For the bean purée:
400g can butter bean, drained and rinsed 
1 garlic clove, chopped 
3 anchovy fillets
large rosemary sprig, leaves chopped 
juice ½ lemon 
6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Tip the bread, herbs, zest and Parmesan into a food processor with 1 tbsp of the oil and some seasoning. Blitz until everything is finely chopped. Heat the remaining oil in an ovenproof frying pan. Season the lamb, then brown it well on all sides and turn off the heat. Turn the racks so that they are fat-side up, and brush liberally with the mustard. 

Pack over the herb crust, drizzle with a bit more oil, and roast for 15-25 mins until the crust is golden and the lamb is cooked – if you have a thermometer it should read 50C in the middle. Put the lamb on a board to rest and cover loosely with foil. 

While the lamb is cooking, blitz the beans with the garlic, anchovies, rosemary, lemon juice, some seasoning and 5 tbsp olive oil (or enough to make it a smooth purée). Tip into a saucepan to gently heat. 

While the lamb is resting, heat the remaining tbsp of olive oil in the pan you used to cook it in and then wilt the spinach over a low heat. Once the lamb has rested, carefully carve it into chops, trying to keep the crust intact. Divide the warm bean purée between 2 plates, add a small mound of spinach, then arrange 3 lamb chops on top of each portion. Sprinkle with stray crumbs and drizzle with a little olive oil.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Sattu Parathas (Indian Stuffed Flatbreads)

A paratha is a flatbread that originated in the Indian subcontinent and sattu is Indian for the gram (or chickpea) flour that is used to bind the stuffing ingredients together. Basically, these are like the ultimate naan breads-cum-chapatis in the entire world and when they're this easy to make it would be rude not to!

The dough itself is soft and fluffy, with lots of puffed up layers before you hit the slightly spicy, incredibly tasty stuffing made up of vibrant chillies, ginger, garlic, onion, lemon and a couple of spices. I love serving these alongside a curry for scooping up the good stuff but they're just as great on their own or with some chutneys and raita. 

Sattu Parathas (Indian Stuffed Flatbreads)
Makes 6

100g wholemeal flour 
100g plain flour, plus extra to dust 
1 tsp fine salt 
1 tbsp extra-virgin rapeseed oil, plus extra for drizzling and frying 

For the filling:
60g gram flour 
1 tsp grated fresh ginger 
2 green chillies, seeds removed, very finely chopped 
½ small red onion, very finely chopped 
2 tsp finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp cumin seeds 
½ tsp garam masala 
Juice ½ lemon 
2½ tbsp extra-virgin rapeseed or olive oil

To make the dough, tip the flours and salt into a medium mixing bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour in 100ml cold water and the oil, then mix with a wooden spoon or your hands until it comes together into a dough. If it feels a little dry, add a tiny splash of water. Knead for 5-8 minutes until smooth and elastic. Return to the mixing bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to rest for an hour. 

Meanwhile, make the filling. Put all the filling ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and stir to combine. Cover and set aside while you continue with the dough. 

Divide the dough into 6 equal balls. On a lightly floured surface roll each ball out to a 3mm-thick disc. Take one of the discs, top with 1 tbsp of filling, bring the edges of the dough into the centre, then pinch to seal and form a pouch. Gently flatten the pouch in your hands, then sprinkle with more flour and re-roll, seam-side down, to a 3mm-thick disc. Repeat with all the discs of dough. 

Heat a heavy-based frying pan over a medium heat and dry-fry the parathas, in batches, on one side for 30 seconds. Flip and cook for a minute more on the other side, until small blisters form on the surface. Brush or drizzle a little oil over the surface, flip onto the other side and fry for another minute. Brush/drizzle more oil on the upturned side, then flip again and cook for a final minute. Serve warm with raita, chutney and/or curry.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Chocolate Banana Upside-Down Cake

Sweet, sticky, caramelised bananas on top of a moist yet incredibly light chocolate-chip sponge - this is the stuff dreams are made of!

This cake is a real show-stopper and it's perfect for parties as it can be served warm as a pudding with a good dollop of ice cream or cold with tea or coffee after a meal. Be warned: this cake is highly addictive and you may find yourself going back for seconds... and thirds...

Chocolate Banana Upside-Down Cake

200g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra to grease 
100g caster sugar 
100g dark brown sugar 
3 medium free-range eggs 
300g plain flour 
1 tsp baking powder 
2 ripe bananas, mashed 
150g dark chocolate chips 
100ml whole milk 

For the caramel and banana topping: 
50g unsalted butter 
70g soft light brown sugar 
70ml golden syrup 
4-5 just ripe bananas, peeled and sliced in half lengthways

Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan160°C/gas 4 and grease a 23cm springform cake tin. 

To make the topping, put the 50g butter, brown sugar and syrup in a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. Cook at a gentle simmer, stirring, until the sugar dissolves and the syrup is thick and golden. Pour the syrup into the cake tin. Arrange the sliced bananas, cut-side down, over the base of the tin. 

Put the 200g butter and sugar in a bowl and beat until pale and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift in the flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt, then gently fold through the mixture with a large wooden spoon. Mix in the mashed bananas, chocolate chips and enough milk to reach a dropping consistency – the mixture should drop heavily from the spoon when lifted (you may not need to use all the milk). Dollop the batter evenly over the bananas and smooth the top with a spatula. 

Put the cake on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper, then bake for 45-50 minutes or until golden on top and a skewer pushed into the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven and leave in the tin for 5 minutes to cool slightly, then invert onto a large serving plate. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream as a pudding, or cool with a cup of tea or coffee.

TIP: You must bake this cake on a tray as some of the syrup is likely to leak out of the bottom as it cooks.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Pork Vindaloo (Na Na Na)

Vindaloo is possibly the most famous curry in this country - it even has a place in one of our national football chants! - but whilst its reputation is one of pure chilli heat, in reality its origins are much more interesting than that...

Vin-daloo is actually from the Portuguese meaning "wine" and "garlic", which the Indians took and made their own swapping the wine for vinegar and adding lots of spices. The result is a heady mix of complex spices (not just heat!) and the sharp, fresh vibrancy of the vinegar running through the dish. This is one of my absolute favourite curries with tender chunks of pork, as with the original dish, but it does work well with either chicken or lamb too.

Pork Vindaloo (Na Na Na)
Serves 4-6

1½ tsp chilli flakes 
3 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp mustard seeds 
15 whole black peppercorns 
Seeds from 9 cardamom pods 
6 whole cloves 
2 tsp ground turmeric 
2 tsp soft brown sugar
4cm fresh ginger, roughly chopped 
5 fat garlic cloves, roughly chopped 
150ml cider vinegar 
900g British free-range pork shoulder, cut into chunks
2 tbsp vegetable oil 
2 medium onions, finely chopped 
1 tbsp tomato purée 
300ml chicken stock 
30 fresh curry leaves 
Small handful fresh parsley, chopped

In a dry frying pan over a medium heat, toast the chilli flakes, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, peppercorns, cardamom and cloves until fragrant. Transfer to a pestle and mortar and grind to a powder (or whizz in a spice grinder). Add the spice powder to a food processor along with the turmeric, sugar, ginger, garlic and vinegar then whizz until you have a wet paste. 

Put the spice mixture and the pork into a glass or ceramic bowl (they won’t react with the vinegar) and mix well. Cover and put in the fridge to marinate for at least 1 hour. 

Heat the oil in a large heavy- based pan, then gently fry the onion for 10-15 minutes until softened. Add the tomato purée, the pork and all the marinade, then mix well. Add the stock and 1 tsp salt, then stir in the curry leaves. Cover and simmer gently for 40-50 minutes until the pork is tender. 

Season with salt and pepper to taste. It should have a distinct vinegar flavour – if it’s too strong for your liking, balance it out with a little extra brown sugar. Sprinkle with the parsley, then serve with freshly cooked basmati rice.

Pea, Courgette and Parmesan Soup

Spring has sprung and this recipe is a true celebration of a whole host of the wonderful produce that pops up at this time of year here in Britain...

Peas, courgettes, basil, sweet potatoes - beautiful, fresh and vibrant flavours that combine perfectly to create a soup you're bound to enjoy. As with most soup recipes, there isn't much skill involved so it's ideal to throw together when you want a healthy but hearty easy meal.

Pea, Courgette and Parmesan Soup
Serves 4-6

1½ tbsp olive oil 
500g courgettes, halved lengthways and sliced into 0.5cm half moons 
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped 
½ tsp white pepper 
1 litre fresh chicken stock 
300g sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into even chunks 
200g frozen peas 
50g fresh basil, roughly chopped 
90g parmesan, finely grated

Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat and fry the courgettes, garlic and white pepper for 5 minutes until softened. Pour in the stock, bring to a simmer, add the potatoes and cook, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes until soft. 

Add the peas and the basil, then simmer gently for 5 minutes. Add the parmesan and stir until melted. Allow to cool a little, then carefully transfer to a blender and whizz until smooth (or use a stick blender). Season to taste, then serve with a chunk of crusty bread.