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Posts from the ‘Mains’ Category

Getting hot under the collar.

Seasons are changing. Don’t you love it when nature transforms itself almost overnight? In the Swiss Alps, autumn has arrived and winter is slowly creeping down the mountain. The snow has made its first appearance in the resort and the lifts have opened early. My social network pages are rife with photos of the first ski outing of the season, snowball fights and glittering snow landscapes.

All these changes in climate will have you craving heart-warming stews, mashed potatoes, spicy alcohol fuelled brews, trying to prepare our bodies for the colder days and darker nights. Staying healthy and not surrendering to the stodge of winter is not an easy battle. However, what I have to offer is the warmth you need without the heavy post-meal slump.

This broth is spicy, tangy, clean. The Alaskan salmon brings mellowness to the fire and fullness to your stomach. Not to mention those precious Omega 3 oils – to lubricate that brain of yours!

Spicy Salmon Broth
Adapted from a recipe by Nick Nairn

Ingredients

1 tbsp sunflower oil
2cm of fresh ginger, julienned
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 large fresh chilli, julienned
1 small bird’s eye chilli, sliced
1 lemongrass stalk, sliced thinly
1 litre of vegetable stock (or fish stock)
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp tamari sauce (or soy)
Juice of 1 lime
A bunch of spring onions, sliced thinly (or red onion works well too)
Two good handfuls of spinach (optional)
Coriander, chopped roughly
2 Alaskan salmon fillets (MSC), cut into 2cm chunks

Method

Heat the oil in a large saucepan on low and add ginger, garlic, chillies and lemongrass for about 5 minutes.

Add the stock, tamari sauce, fish sauce and lime juice, bring to the boil and then simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the spring onions, cook for 2 minutes. Then slide in the fish, cook for a further two minutes. Throw in the coriander (and spinach if using). Let it wilt. Stir and serve in bowls.

Serves 2 for lunch or 4 as a starter. Sweating yet?

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Green and crunchy

Fruit in savoury dishes. A subject certain to elicit strong reactions. Be it the traumatic experience of eating my Mother’s chicken curry with bananas and raisins, a frequent occurrence in our household, and definitely not for the fussy or the faint-hearted, or the horror of discovering pineapple on your pizza, it can be the stuff of nightmares. However, as you grow older and culinary experiences abound, tastes change and we now have more options, more opportunities to discover interesting and subtler food combinations. For instance, mango, when not quite ripe, brings a little crunch to an Asian coleslaw or understated sweetness to a stir-fry. Blood oranges give asparagus and blue cheese salad an instant boost of freshness, a perfect balancing act. What about the humble Granny Smith, so green, so crunchy, and so perfectly sour? And by all accounts, one of the star ingredients of the summer salad I am about to share with you – quite understated but full of flavour. Tell me about your savoury fruit dishes – what’s your favourite? What was your first experience of a dish containing fruit? Pain or pleasure?

Granny Smith’s Prawn Salad
Adapted from a recipe from wholeliving.com
Serves 4 as a starter and 2 as a light lunch

Ingredients

3 tarragon stems and 1 teaspoon chopped tarragon
1/2 lemon, quartered
salt and ground black pepper
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
200g large prawns (you can use frozen)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped chives
1 Granny Smith Apple, halved and thinly sliced*
1/2 cucumber, thinly sliced*
1 avocado, pitted, peeled, quartered and thinly sliced
* I use a mandolin for ease

Method

In a saucepan, bring 750ml of water, tarragon stems, lemon, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and peppercorns to the boil.

Remove from heat, add prawns and poach until opaque, about 3 to 4 minutes (more if frozen and raw). Transfer prawns to a plate and set aside to cool.

In a small jar, whisk together the oil, vinegar, chives, tarragon, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Put lid on jar and shake well. In a large bowl, add prawns, apple and cucumber and avocado. Drizzle with the dressing and serve immediately.

Asian Style Tortellini

I always remember my Mother taking an Asian cooking course when I was in my teens. She was a keen shopper at the best of times and this latest project meant she could go wild in the aisles of the Chinese supermarket in Lausanne. I’d laugh at the number of bags she’d return with, filled with these wonderful and mysterious goods – apparently we needed all of it ‘just in case’.

Back in the late 80s and early 90s, Asian food was a novelty as Switzerland only had a handful of restaurants specialising in this kind of cooking so the opportunity to try it at home was warmly welcomed in our household. I spent quite a few Saturday afternoons making so many spring rolls that our freezer was almost fit to burst!

My fondness for Asian food, be it Thai, Vietnamese or Chinese stems from this time. It’s always interesting; it can be mild or spicy, fresh or intense, light or more substantial. But more than anything it brings back some great memories.

Prawn & Tofu Asian Style Tortellini
Tortellini dough & soy dipping sauce adapted from a Jamie Oliver recipe
Filling & Fish Sauce dipping sauce – my own

Ingredients

Tortellini dough
250g strong flour
2 free range eggs
4 egg yolks

Method
Whisk the two eggs and 4 eggs yolks in a bowl, mixing yolks and egg white roughly together. Place the flour on a clean counter surface. Create a well in the middle of the flour and add the beaten eggs into it… be careful it might spill out. With a fork mix the egg in with the flour, it will start to form a paste. At this stage, just get in there with your hands and knead until you obtain smooth dough. Wrap in cling film and then put in the fridge for 30 mins.

Remove from fridge and split the dough in half. If you have a pasta machine, go ahead and use it, putting the dough through several times so it’s only 1-2mm thick by the end of it. If not, use a rolling pin. It will take some effort and a little bit of time, but I promise it is worth it. Again aim for a thickness of 1-2mm. Once you have rolled it out to desired thickness, cut into 10cm x 10cm squares.

Prawn & Tofu filling
3 cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled
1 clove of garlic, peeled
2 sticks lemongrass, outer leaves removed and roughly chopped
100g frozen prawns, rinsed and defrosted
100g firm tofu, roughly cubed
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp cornflour
A handful of tinned water chestnuts

Method
Put the ginger, garlic and lemongrass into a food processor and whizz through. Add the rest of the ingredients and repeat. You should have a rough paste by now. Set aside.

How to make the tortellini:

Take a teaspoon of filling and place in the centre of the square. With a small brush or your fingers dipped in tap water, wet all around the filling.

Now fold over one corner of the dough square over to the opposite corner, creating a triangle. Cup the filling with your hand and press down so the dough sticks, ensuring there are no air bubbles.

At this stage, with the flat edge of the tortellini facing you, roll over once towards the tip.

Bring the two side flaps back towards you and squeeze together where they meet. I use a bit of water here if it doesn’t stick.

Cook in salted boiling water for 3-4 minutes. Drain. Then add some oil to a pan and fry one side of the tortellini until it is crisp and golden. Serve immediately with the two dipping sauces below.

Serves 6 as a starter.

Soy dipping sauce
4 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 fresh chilli, chopped
Chopped coriander

Method
Mix all the ingredients and refrigerate until gyozas are ready to be served.

Nuoc Mam dipping sauce
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp water
1 fresh red chilli, chopped
1 clove of garlic, chopped

Method
Put all the ingredients in a small bowl and leave in the fridge to infuse all the flavours.

The invasion of the courgette

Sharing a garden with someone who is green fingered has been a lovely treat. Our landlady regularly insists we eat her salads, Swiss chard, herbs, rhubarb and courgettes. Not one to turn down such an offer, I have made the most of her wonderful generosity. As gardeners will know, once the courgette plant is ready, it seems like it will never stop sprouting. From one day to the next, courgettes grow a couple of centimetres! Rather impressive.

One of my favourite dishes involves plenty of summer flavours: crab, chillies, red onion, lemon, capers and of course, our much loved courgette. Teamed with lovely wholegrain spaghettini, you have yourself a delicious week night dinner.

Crab, Chilli & Lemon Spaghettini
Adapted from In the Mood for Food by Jo Pratt

Ingredients
Olive oil
1 large red onion, sliced finely
1 large courgette or two small ones, sliced thinly
1 chilli, chopped
1 lemon, zest and juice
2 generous tablespoons of capers
1 or 2 tins of crab
Wholemeal spaghettini

Method
Add the spaghettini to a large pot of boiling salted water. Heat a large frying pan on medium to high heat. Add a tbsp of olive oil. Then add the sliced courgette, red onion and chilli. Fry until the courgette is slightly browned.

Add in lemon zest, capers. Stir through. With a couple minutes remaining on the pasta, add the crab and a splash of lemon juice.

Drain the pasta and put it back into the pot, throw in the crab and courgette mix. Add a glug of olive oil and some lemon juice. Season if needed. Serves two generously.

Surfing & Yoga at Surf Maroc

Onwards, in a taxi, to somewhere north of Agadir. A place called Aourir, known by everyone as Banana Village, just a little south of Taghazout, the surfing community of the area. The journey is chaotic but funny as our enthusiastic taxi driver bombs down the motorway towards our destination. This is argan tree land, there are thousands of them planted everywhere, on the hills, the side of the road, in every small patch available.

Late afternoon, we arrive at Villa Mandala, a wonderful house on the beach. A warm welcome awaits from Louise & Emma, our yoga teachers and hosts for the week. We also meet the other residents of this 7-day yoga and surf retreat – an array of nationalities from Europe and the US, a great mix of personalities and backgrounds.

Our schedule each day includes two hours of meditation & yoga early morning, followed by a hearty and wholesome breakfast, before Eunice and Karim, our surf instructors, turn up to take us surfing to the various spots in the area. We return mid-afternoon, salty, sandy, windswept and sun baked ready for another two-hour session of yoga early evening. We are then rewarded by an amazing Moroccan inspired vegetarian feast cooked up by Shane Vincent, the Global Table Chef.

I take part in a 4-hour cookery class with Shane and some of the girls on holiday there. Going to the market to pick out the produce is a great experience, the stalls are over spilling with fruit and vegetables, it is busy, hot, fragrant. Back in the kitchen, Shane has us working like a well oiled machine: peeling chickpeas and almonds, toasting seeds and nuts, making curry paste, melting chocolate… Cooking the evening meal for everyone is incredibly rewarding.

On the surfing front, Eunice, our instructor, is an incredible teacher – clear with his instructions, patient, happy, kind and always full of praise when you finally catch that wave and stand up. If you ever get the chance to go on a Surf Maroc holiday, be sure to seek him out.

And, of course, the yoga… This holiday changes everything for me. I’d never been particularly into yoga before I went to this retreat. I dabbled a little here and there for several years, focusing on running and cycling rather than increasing my flexibility or strength. The wonderful set-up, the teachers, the progress I make and the open atmosphere this retreat offers takes me to a place where I suddenly understand why people are passionate about yoga. I now embrace it, trying to practice at least three times a week by any means I can – be it alone or in a class.

Surf Maroc’s Villa Mandala is the place to go if you want an active holiday, with great food, some pampering, a welcoming environment and the opportunity to feel not only revived but relaxed. You can do as much or as little as you want… which is just what you want when you are on holiday, away from all the obligations of your usual life.

Eat, Sleep, Shop – The Marrakesh Way

Discovering a country’s cuisine, having a comfortable place to stay and indulging in a spot of shopping is all part of the holiday experience. Here is what Marrakesh had to offer:

EAT
If you are anything like me, sampling the local cuisine is a must when on holiday. Despite most restaurants aiming their menus at tourists, the food is, in the main, very good. There aren’t many options if you are a vegetarian but most places do have a limited selection for the non-meat eaters. Also it is worth remembering that as a Muslim country, most places do not serve alcohol, though the higher end restaurants do. Here are a few recommendations:

For lunch:

Le Bougainvillier (33 Rue Mouassine): We stumbled across this one lunchtime as we were trying to find our way back from the Medina. Serves paninis, sandwiches, salads & cakes. The lovely courtyard is a great place to relax after a morning in the souks.

Earth Café (www.earthcafemarrakech.com) : Marrakesh’s first vegetarian café, it has a great choice of food. The portions are very generous, the prices are reasonable and the staff is very friendly. A great little place for a relaxed lunch. It also runs some cookery classes if you are so inclined.

For dinner:

Marrakchi (52 Rue des Banques): A restaurant positioned high above the Djema el Fna square, it offers a wide choice of good food, the service is great and the entertainment made for a great evening. We shared a vegetable pastilla to start and then had tagines. We also sampled a Moroccan red wine from the Meknès region – very palatable! Mains start at 130dh (approx. 13 euros).

Le Tanjia (near Place des Ferblantiers): This restaurant, in an old mansion with modern decor, served the best fish tagine of the holiday! The service was excellent and the prices were reasonable.

Djemaa el Fna Foodstalls: If you wish to eat at one of the stalls, I’d recommend choosing one which is mainly visited by locals, they don’t tend to hustle for your custom as much and the food is very good. You just take a seat at one of the benches and choose what you want from the menu. I greedily had several merguez sausages whilst John plumped for some calamari, all food comes with bread and they fetch drinks for you from stalls nearby. Being at the heart of it all makes it an incredible experience, one which I urge you to try if you get the chance.

SLEEP

If you ever find yourself in Marrakesh, I’d recommend staying in a riad, namely Riad Les Hibiscus, an oasis in the middle of the chaos. A two minute walk from the Djemaa el Fna square, its non-descript exterior belies the beautiful interior of tasteful white walls, sage green doors & woodwork, a small pool in the central courtyard, comfortable wicker furniture and interesting artwork. Stunning flowers & lush plants add to this haven. The room (Lotus) was comfortable, clean and peaceful and I cannot praise the riad’s hosts enough for their kindness and discreet manner.

SHOP

I found the souks incredibly overwhelming the first time we ventured there, there are no street names and it is easy to get a little lost! However, if you are blessed with a good sense of direction and a map, you should enjoy finding your way round. The souks north of the Djemaa El Fna square are made up of a long covered street, Rue Souk Smarine, which then branches out into two smaller streets, Soul el Attarin and Souk el Kebir. Off these, you can find all the souks, down alleys, lanes and small squares. Each are dedicated to specific crafts.

If you are not keen on haggling, I’d recommend going to the Ensemble Artisanal (Av. Mohammed V). It is a government run complex of arts & crafts with a good selection of goods – leather, jewellery, clothing, rugs, carpets and ceramics. The prices are fixed and you can shop without any hassle – I bought my niece and nephew some gorgeous babouches for a very reasonable price. At the back there are workshops where we saw some young ladies making carpets, an impressive and time-consuming task.

Next instalment: yoga, surfing & some great Moroccan inspired vegetarian dishes

Friday Night is Curry Night!

A few years ago, when I was still flatsharing in London, I lived with a girl called Justine. Before we’d even moved in together, we’d met up in a bar to sign the papers and got hilariously drunk on numerous cocktails. A bond over a mojito is unbreakable, well in our case it was anyway.

To this day it has been one of my happiest flatshares. We partied. We danced on the coffee table. We talked and talked. I introduced her to her now husband James. We cooked. And we had Friday night curry. This was tradition. Many years later, it still is. Today, married with a gorgeous daughter and a great new career as an interior designer, she still upholds this curry ritual when I visit on a Friday evening – we either order from the local curry house or she makes several dishes herself. All stunningly delicious might I add!

These are the little things that make our friendship something to cherish. We’ve seen each other through our very worst times but we also are each other’s biggest cheerleaders when life is good. It’s like having a second family. It’s irreplaceable.

I don’t claim this curry is going to be as good as anything Justine has made, but it’s most definitely in the spirit of Friday night!

Mushroom, Pepper and Pea Curry
Adapted from a recipe in Top Santé magazine from Anjum Anand

Ingredients
4tbsp vegetable oil
250g mixed mushrooms (oyster, shiitake and chestnut), cut into 2cm slices
Pinch of salt
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1 small onion, finely chopped
6g fresh root ginger, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped (I use my Cuisinart mini food processor to do the garlic and ginger together – it’s quicker!)
3 tomatoes, cored and blended into a purée (Cuisinart again but you can use a stick blender if needed)
1tsp ground coriander
3/4 tsp ground cumin
1tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1 red pepper
A handful of frozen peas
2 tbsps natural yoghurt (this is optional but I promise it makes it that little bit more special)
Chopped coriander, for garnish

Method
Heat 2tbsps of the oil in a non-stick frying pan. Add the mushrooms with a pinch of salt and fry over a medium heat for 5 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Heat another 2tbsps of oil and add the coriander seeds. Once these go darker, add the onion. Cook until golden. Then add the garlic and ginger and cook on low for 2 minutes. Pour in the spices and blended tomatoes, season and cook for 10 minutes.

Stir in the pepper, peas and add a splash of water and cook for approximately 4 minutes (until the peppers have softening). Add the mushrooms, cover for a few minutes (I use foil). Finally stir in the yoghurt, bring back to the boil. Remove from heat and stir in the chopped coriander. Serve with boiled rice.

Serves 2 as a main, 4 as a side dish.

NB: I have also made this by replacing the peas with spinach. Worth a try.

Ma petite noix de coco

Panna cotta. It is light, yet unctuous, it is refreshing yet indulgent. It’s a dessert of contrasts for me and that’s what I love about it. It’s my ‘go to’ dessert when I eat out, yet I’d never made it at home. One of the reasons for this is that John does not eat meat-based products so the use of gelatine was not possible. I finally found a recipe in Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Cooking cookbook which called for agar agar, a seaweed vegetarian gelatine substitute. This coconut panna cotta recipe comes with a summer berry coulis. But today is your lucky day and you get a ginger syrup coulis recipe thrown in as well! It makes for two very different desserts: the sweetness of the coconut against the tartness of the fruit works fabulously well and the fiery ginger compliments the coconut perfectly.

Coconut Panna Cotta
Adapted from Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson

Ingredients
1 can coconut milk
300ml milk
60g light cane sugar
8g agar agar

Method
Lightly oil 6 ramekins, set aside.
Put coconut milk, milk, sugar and agar powder in a pan. Then let it rest for 5 minutes to let the agar agar dissolve. Slowly bring the ingredients to a simmer for about 5-6 minutes, until the powder is incorporated (I used a wooden spoon which I pressed against the side of the pan for any lumps of agar agar). When the time is up, pour into the ramekins, set aside to cool down then chill in the fridge until set, about 2 hours.

Summer Berry Coulis
Adapted from Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson

Ingredients
2 cups frozen summer berries (you can use fresh raspberries & blackberries if you wish)
40g light cane sugar
Juice of ½ lemon

Put berries, sugar and lemon juice in a pan and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat. Mash the berries a little, let it cool and then chill.

Fiery Ginger Syrup

50g ginger, skin still on in 2mm slices
160g cane sugar
500ml water

Combine ginger, sugar and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over moderate heat. Lower the heat and simmer 20-25 minutes. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Strain, and keep refrigerated for up to two weeks.

BONUS: You can also serve this syrup as a drink – add about two tablespoons to a glass and add sparkling water, ice and a slice of lime. Stir gently. Enjoy.

Mon petit chou-fleur

It is about this time of year that I start to long for longer days and a glimpse of sunshine. Winter, be gone! In the kitchen, although I am still looking for comfort food as we slowly ease out of the darkness of this dreary season, I am also keen to try some fresh new tastes and to add some bright colours to my plate.

Well, I have just the thing for it. A comforting cauliflower, combined with juicy tomatoes, some spices and some citrus juice. It’s fresh, it has warmth and it is very different to any curry you will have ever tried before. Plus it’s all made in one pot so less washing-up!

Cauliflower & Tomato Curry
Adapted from Orchards in the Oasis by Josceline Dimbleby

Ingredients
1 medium to large cauliflower, cut into florets
500g plum tomatoes, peeled and quartered (method below)
4 tablespoons groundnut oil
2 teaspoons turmeric
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon black onion seeds
4cm ginger, peeled and chopped
1-2 chillies, seeds and core removed, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Juice of 1 orange
Juice of ½ lemon
Chopped coriander
Salt

Method

Heat the oven to 160 degrees.

Place the tomatoes in a pyrex bowl and cover them in boiling water for about 2-3 minutes. Remove and peel. Cut into quarters.

Heat the oil in a large ovenproof pan. Once hot add the spices and fry for about a minute, then add in the chilli, garlic and ginger. Fry for another minute. Add the cauliflower and coat with the spice mixture. Once the cauliflower is smothered in the spice mixture, remove from heat. Place the quartered tomatoes amongst the cauliflower.

Add the orange and lemon juice. Sprinkle with salt. Put the pan back on the heat and bring to a simmer. Cover and place in the oven for 50 minutes. Serve with some brown rice.

This post is dedicated to my Grand-Mamy Read more

Smokin’

Smoked haddock. Whenever I cook it, it reminds me of my Granny’s house. Westbury Road: with the ominous sounding doorbell, the blue and pink hydrangeas, the patterned carpets, the familiar smell of home, the verdant garden and the badminton matches played on the lawn on balmy summer afternoons. I still dream about that house from time to time, it makes me feel happy and safe.

Whenever Granny made smoked haddock, poached in milk, it felt like a treat. The flaky texture of the fish, the smokiness combined with the saltiness, it is quite simply magnificent. The perfect winter fare. I like it in risotto with leeks: gratifying, nutritious, comforting, just how food should be at this time of year.

Smoked Haddock and Leek Risotto
Adapted from roast figs sugar snow food to warm the soul by Diana Henry


Ingredients

10g butter
1 medium leek, sliced finely
125g smoked haddock
450ml of chicken stock (plus some for poaching)
75g risotto rice
20g parmesan, grated

Method

Melt the butter in a saucepan and sweat the leeks for about 15 minutes. Remove any skin from the fish and poach in the stock (make sure it covers the fish). When it’s cooked, leave covered with stock so it stays moist.

Add rice to the leeks making sure it is nicely glazed with the juices. Have your stock simmering on the side and slowly add it, one ladle at a time. Always make sure the liquid is fully absorbed before adding any more. Stir constantly during this process, which should take about 20 mins. Near the end, use some of the stock the fish has been poached in, not too much or it could be too fishy and salty!! Taste as you go along.

When the 20 minutes is up, add tbsp of parmesan and delicately break the fish into chunks and stir into the risotto. Add some black pepper if you wish.

Serves one generously.