Vietnamese Lettuce and Beef Wraps

Vietnamesse Wraps closeup

Finally for this week one of my favourite sorts of recipe. It is one of those when you manage to somehow conjure up a delicious dinner from almost nowhere. All I had left in the box was a green Batavia lettuce, some carrots and a cucumber. All I had in the fridge was one fillet steak. We can learn a lot from Asian recipes as they have long understood that meat and fish are costly and they know how to make expensive ingredients go along way. This is of course a healthier way of eating too and the idea that the vegetables should be as important as the accompaniment is very trendy at the moment. Although the list of ingredients often looks long and complicated, it really is store cupboard stuff and it really could not be quicker and easier to make.

Just time for “Kitchen Kit of the Week” – a microplaner is a grater reinvented. The story is, a Canadian housewife decided to use one of her husband’s favourite woodworking tools and discovered that it was the best orange zester she had ever used. There is a whole range available now but I suggest a fine one, for effortlessly grating ginger and lemongrass like you have never seen. Pick one up on Amazon or at Lakeland.

Vietnamese Wraps

Vietnamese Lettuce and Beef Wraps

You can make the dipping sauce and marinade the meat the day before.

For the marinade

1 fillet steak

2 tbsp dark soy sauce

1 tbsp fish sauce (Nam Pla)

1 tsp caster sugar

1-1½ tsp toasted sesame oil, to taste

For the dipping sauce

1 tbsp. rice vinegar, to taste

2 tsp. caster sugar, to taste

1 tbsp. Fish sauce (Nam Pla)

1 stick lemongrass

1 lime, juice only

1 fresh red chilli

For the wraps

1 carrot, cut into fine julienne strips or grated

½ cucumber

3 sprigs mint, leaves picked and chopped

½ small bunch coriander, leaves and stalks roughly chopped

1 lettuce such as Batavia or baby gem

Lime wedges, to serve

For the marinade, put the steak into a large bowl, add the remaining ingredients and mix until coated evenly. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to marinate in the fridge for at least two hours, or overnight if possible.

Meanwhile make the dipping sauce. Mix the rice vinegar, sugar, fish sauce and lime juice together. Finely chop the red chilli. If you like it hot then leave the seeds in, if not remove them. Remove any tough outer leaves from the lemongrass and trim the bottom. Grate using a microplaner starting at the bottom and grating until nearly three quarters of the way up. (If you do not have a microplaner, chop very finely). Add with the chilli to your dipping sauce and taste. Adjust the flavours as necessary – adding a little more sugar if it’s too sour, or more rice vinegar or lime juice if too sweet.

Next peel and grate your carrots and cut your cucumber into julienne. A mandolin is good for this. Separate and wash the salad leaves and leave to drain. Pick the leaves off the herbs.

In a large heavy-based frying pan, heat a dash of oil. Shake off any excess marinade from the steaks and cook for 2-3 minutes on either side – depending on their thickness and how rare you like your steak. Tip over the marinade and remove and rest on a plate for five minutes.

To serve, arrange the lettuce leaves on a serving plate. Fill the lettuce leaves with carrot and cucumber. Add a small handful of herbs. Slice the rested steak, and top each leaf with a slice or two of steak, tipping any resting juices over the top. Serve with the dipping sauce and lime wedges on the side.

Lettuce

Broad Beans on Toast

Sometimes the best things in life are the simplest and you do not get better or simpler that broad beans, a little parmesan and some good olive oil on a lovely piece of toast. But as always with the simplest things, it is imperative that every ingredient is great quality. Obviously there is no need to mention that Riverford’s broad beans are going to be fantastic. As for the olive oil and parmesan – well, again, Riverford supply an excellent Parmigiano-Reggiano, matured for 22 months from Hombre Farm in Italy and for olive oil, you are unlikely to find better than the delicious, Italian, peppery extra virgin olive oil from Giancarlo.

When it comes to bread, I have to admit I am not as familiar with bread from Riverford as I am with their veg. They supply an impressive sounding range from Flour Power and I am sure they are all very good. Maybe I will give them a go over the next few weeks and let you know how I get on.

In the meantime I am genuinely excited to see a Gail’s bakery opening in Wimbledon Village. Although I was sad to see The Village Bakery go, another one of the four only remaining shops left in Wimbledon Village that I remember as a child, it has to be said – their bread sucked. I had the fortune of working with Gail for a couple of years. She set up Gail Force bakery (now The Bread Factory) back in the day when no one in Britain had ever heard of a Rosemary Focaccia let alone a Pain de Campagne. Now a days these breads are common place in our everyday lives, but Gail’s bread remains up there with the best of them.

Sour Dough

Their San Francisco Sourdough is the best and I buy a loaf a week, thinly slice it and freeze it in the same paper bag it came in. Throughout the week I remove a slice or two and pop them in the toaster, which I eat with nothing more than a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil – perfection. For a healthier option with one of your five portions of veg per day, try adding broad beans. This also makes a lovely quick canapé with drinks and is one of the delights Simon always hand out at his stall at the Wimbledon Village Fair. It is also delicious with pasta with maybe a little lemon zest as well for added zing.

There is no recipe – shell your broad bean, cook them in boiling water for two minutes, immediately remove them and put them in bowl cold water to refresh them and retain their beautiful bright green colour. Slip them out of the shells and mash them up with some good olive oil and grated parmesan. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper and heap onto some freshly made, sourdough toast. Yum!

Mashed Broad Beans

Fattoush Salad with Radishes and Broad Beans

Box week 5

Tempted once more but the promise of broad beans, radishes and home-grown mini cucumbers, none of which are quite ready at my allotment, I opted this week for a small vegbox (less roots). It did not disappoint with some of the fattest radishes I have seen, albeit a little dirty, but nothing a quick wash did not fix. Straight away one of my favourite salads came to mind, which I am pretty happy to live of all summer if needs be. This is a basic Fattoush, the famous Arabic bread salad, with a few extras thrown in, namely radishes and broad beans. Remember all these recipes are flexible and you can add what you please including feta if you wished to make it more substantial.

The knack of a good Fattoush is that it should be very juicy and not at all dry. The pitta however should remain crunchy and therefore it must be beautifully crispy before adding, so that it does not become soggy in the salad. If you are not eating the salad straight away, then don’t add the toasted pitta until serving. Don’t forget to top-up from Riverford with all the extras you might need such as red onions, lemons, mint and olive oil.

Fattoush Salad with Radishes and Broad Beans

Fattoush Salad with Radishes and Broad Beans

2 pieces of pitta bread

Extra virgin olive oil

1 bunch radishes

1 baby cucumber

2 large tomatoes

100g broad beans in pods

1 small red onion

1 lemon

Small bunch mint

Sumac (optional)

Sea salt

Pre-heat the oven to 180⁰C. Put a small pan of water on to boil. Rip the pitta into small pieces and toss generously in olive oil and a pinch of salt. Spread out on a baking tray and toast in the oven for about 20-30 minutes. You will need to check it regularly and each time shake the tray. Move any well done pieces to the centre and less done pieces to the outer edges, where they will cook quicker. The pitta should be golden brown all over and totally crisp. Meanwhile cut your tomatoes into eighths and put in a large bowl. Wash your radishes and cut them in quarters and add to the bowl. Cut your cucumber in half lengthways and scoop out the seeds. Cut both halves into 1cm slices and add to the bowl. Shell the broad beans and add to the boiling water. Get a large bowl of cold water ready and once the broad beans have boiled for a minute, remove them with a slotted spoon straight into the cold water. This will help retain their lovely bright green colour. Squeeze the juice from half the lemon into another small bowl. Add a teaspoon of salt and stir until dissolved. Add about 2-3 times olive oil to juice. Stir very well and taste. The balance of the dressing is important. If it needs more lemon or salt, then adjust. Peel and very thinly slice the onion and add straight into the dressing. Remember to check your pitta and remove once done. Drain your broad beans slip them out of their skins and add to the salad. Chop the mint and add that too. Finally add the toasted pitta and dress generously. Toss everything together well before serving. Dust with Sumac if you desire.

Bunch of Radishes

 

Strawberries and Cream

I always know it is nearly time for Wimbledon Tennis when the first English Strawberries appear. That and the fact that it is Wimbledon Village Fair next week – come and Simon and I at the Riverford stall. We will be there all day! Anyway, I couldn’t help but add a punnet to my order this week along with some delicious Riverford double cream. Cream is also fabulous at this time of year because all of the lovely grass the cows get to eat and really there is no better combination.

If you wanted to try something new, how about Eton Mess. Just add some meringue to your strawberries and cream and make a quick strawberry coolie with a little sugar in the blender, mush it all up together and there you have it! If you have any puree left over, try it in a glass of Champagne, Cava or Prosecco for a fabulous summer cocktail. Another idea is to macerate your strawberries with a bottle of Boujolais and eat it chilled straight from the fridge. Or how about adding them to a Knickerbocker Glory. In fact, the possibilities are endless, but as I said, nothing beats just strawberries and cream.

Strawberries in a punnet

Bunch of Carrots

Bunched Carrots are just lovely right now and there is no finer way of cooking them than simply roasting them in the oven. All vegetables benefit from a good roasting – it intensifies their flavour and helps release their natural sugars. There is never any need to add honey, they are sweet enough! Today I decided to turn them into a delicious salad with cumin seeds and dill which always work superbly with carrots.

When it comes to buying lentils, choose carefully. There may be lots of cheaper alternatives to the original and the best “Le Puy Lentils” but nothing holds their shape and texture the same or is so forgiving if you should accidently overcook them a minute or two. If you are feeling really lazy, Merchant and Gourmet do a ready cooked pouch.

Halloumi could be described as a lump of salty rubber but it is strangely addictive. People tend to cook it in slabs, which can be a bit overpowering but in this recipe I decided to cut it up into quite small cubes in an attempt to add a little salt and texture to each and every mouthful.

Into this salad, I also tossed in the Flat Beans from my box. I have never seen these particular beans available anywhere but Riverford. They look a bit like a Runner Bean but are much tender and less stringy, more like a French Bean, but flat!

Roasted Carrot, Flat Bean & Halloumi Salad with Cumin Seeds & Dill

Roast Carrots with Flat Beans, Le Puy Lentils, Toasted Halloumi, Cumin Seeds and Dill

1 Bunch of carrots

2 tsp. Cumin seeds

Small bunch of dill (don’t forget Riverford have lots of lovely herbs)

1 Bunch Flat Beans

50g Le Puy lentils

1 packet of halloumi

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Sea Salt and Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat your oven to 200⁰C. Wash your carrots and chop off the tops leaving a little green. Leave whole if small or cut in half if larger. Toss in good olive oil, season with plenty of salt and pepper and sprinkle with cumin seeds. Put in the oven for about half an hour until golden brown and tender. Meanwhile put your lentils in a pan of cold water and simmer for about 20 minutes until tender. They should still have a little bite. Drain and tip into a large bowl. Dress with plenty of good olive oil and a pinch or two of salt. Taste to check seasoning and adjust. Finely chop your dill and add that and then tip in the carrots. Put another pan of salted water on to boil. Cut your Flat beans into 1cm slices on the diagonal. Cut the halloumi into 1cm cubes. Heat a dry, non-stick pan and toast the halloumi on all sides until golden brown. Meanwhile add the beans to the pan of boiling water and cook for about 3 minutes until tender. Refresh and drain to keep the colour and texture. Tip the lentils and carrots onto a large plate and scatter with the Flat Beans and the halloumi. Drizzle with a little more good olive oil.

Carrots in a tin

Wet and Wild

 Wet and Wild

I was particularly excited about the first of the season’s wet garlic. I love this fresh garlic which has not yet been dried, especially as there is no need to even peel it. The internal skins have not yet formed so the whole head can be chopped. I love just baking them whole and spreading the creamy cooked garlic on a piece of toast.

Wet Garlic Cooked

When the stalks are fresh and green they can be cooked like leeks or finely sliced and used in soups, omelettes or even salads.

If you don’t get round to using it all up, just hang it up to dry in your kitchen and it will last up to nine months.

Wild garlic leaves are around now too, so keep your eyes peeled. I spotted a lovely patch in Cannizaro Park at the weekend, but obviously I am not telling you exactly where. If you manage to find some you could give the fantastically named “Wet and Wild Risotto” a go. And don’t forget to throw in some pretty garlic flowers too.

Wild Garlic

I decided to use mine simply sautéed with the delicious new potatoes in my box, but it would have been equally good with the mushrooms, just simply served up on a piece of sourdough toast.

Sautted Potatoes & Wet Garlic in a Pan

Sautéed New Potatoes with Wet Garlic

Give your new potatoes a good wash and put in a pan covered with plenty of cold water and a good pinch of salt. Bring to the boil and cook until a blunt knife will insert easily into the middle. Drain and leave to cool a little. Cut the potatoes in half, or quarters if particularly big. Heat some good olive oil in large frying pan and sauté the potatoes until golden brown. Thinly slice your wet garlic using the bulb and the stem and add to the pan with a scattering of sea salt. Sauté just until the wet garlic starts to wilt. Serve hot.

Sauteed Potatoes & Wet Garlic in a Bowl

Roast Ramiro Pepper, Chickpea & Coriander Soup

Finally for this week a warming soup, because although it is June, I am absolutely freezing! I love this soup because along with some nice lovely fresh bread, it is a meal in itself and it is so easy to make. You start by roasting the veg in the oven and there is none of the usual hours of chopping. Just roughly cut up the veg, chuck it in the oven and before you know it, it is done. I often cook this for Simon’s SuperClubs or for Riverford lunches because it is so simple and so tasty.

Ingredients for Red Pepper & Chickpea Soup

Roast Ramiro Pepper, Chickpea & Coriander Soup

3 or 4 Ramiro Peppers

2 Red onions (peeled & quartered)

4 cloves of garlic (peeled)

1 Fresh red chilli

3 tsp. ground cumin

Extra virgin olive oil

1 tin chickpeas

Small bunch coriander (roughly chopped)

1 to 2 tablespoons natural yoghurt

Preheat the oven to 200⁰C. Cut the peppers and chilli in half and remove the seeds and stalks. Add the peeled and quartered onions and the garlic. Sprinkle with cumin and salt and drizzle with lots of olive oil. Cover with tinfoil and put in the oven for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes remove the foil, stir well and return to the oven to roast for a further 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and tip into a saucepan. Cover with water, but only just. Add the chickpeas and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and add the coriander. Using a hand-blender whizz up the soup into a puree. If necessary let it down with some more water to get the correct consistency and adjust the seasoning to taste. It should be quite spicy. Serve hot, swirled with some yoghurt to cut the heat.

Red Pepper & Chickpea Soup 2

Some Summer Salads

Although I might spend my days writing about food and photographing it for a living, when it comes to dinner in my house, during the summer months most nights we eat pretty much the same thing – a piece of fish or meat and lots of salad, maybe with the addition of a few boiled new potatoes. I know it may sound repetitive but there is such an array of fantastic salads to choose from that I never tire of them. This simple Cucumber & Radish salad is actually a pickle and the dressing (a combination of rice vinegar, sugar and salt) is the very same mixture which is used to dress sushi rice. If you wanted to make this salad into a more substantial meal, without the addition of fish or meat, you could simply cook some Japanese rice and use a little of the dressing to flavour it.

The second recipe today can be a salsa or a salad. I love it as a salsa on a piece of bruschetta drizzled with extra virgin olive oil or else spooned over some fish or grilled chicken or steak. Both salads work well with salmon, as the acid of the vinegar/lime are excellent at cutting the fattiness of the fish. I particularly like the lightly smoked fresh salmon which you can readily buy now a days. But if you fancy turning this salsa into something more substantial, why not add a couple of avocados to your Riverford order and you have a meal in itself. Don’t forget that Riverford also has an impressive list of herbs at the moment, which always enliven any meal, so get them whilst you can!

Cucumber & Radish Salad

Japanese Style Cucumber & Radish Salad with Sesame

2 tbsp. rice vinegar

2 tbsp. caster sugar

1 tsp. sea salt plus a little extra

1/2 a cucumber

5 or 6 fat radishes

1 tbsp. toasted sesame oil

1 tsp. black or white sesame seeds

Small bunch dill (chopped finely)

Put the rice vinegar, the sugar and the salt in a small saucepan and heat gently, stirring until the sugar and salt have dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Thinly slice your cucumber and radishes. (Hopefully you will have invested in a mandolin, as I recommended last week, because these are great for this.) Put the cucumber slices in a colander and season with some salt and leave to drain. The salt will draw out excess water from the cucumber slices which would dilute the dressing. Once the cucumber has slightly collapsed, squeeze gently and put into a bowl. Add the radish and the cooled dressing along with the sesame oil. Check seasoning and mix through the dill and sesame seeds.

Tomato & Coriander Salsa

Tomato, Spring Onion, Chilli, Coriander & Lime Salsa / Salad

6 ripe tomatoes

2 spring onions (or the tops from your bunched onions)

1 lime

Small bunch of coriander

1-2  small fresh red chilli, deseeded and very finely chopped

Sea salt

A glug of extra virgin olive oil

2 ripe avocado (for the salad only)

Cut your tomatoes into 8th and chuck them in a bowl. Finely shred the spring onions and add them. Squeeze the juice from the lime and add 1/2  to the tomatoes with a good pinch of salt and a glug of olive oil. Roughly chop the coriander and add that along with i/2 the chilli.  Stir well and check seasoning. Add more chilli and lime to taste. It should be quite pokey.

If you are adding avocado then peel them and chop into large chunks. Squeeze over the last of the lime to stop the avocado discolouring and then stir through well with the tomatoes.

Tomato, Avocado & Coriander Salad

Juice

Salad Box 

With promises of a heatwave coming this week, I opted for a Salad box this week, which contained a bag of mixed salad leaves, some bunched radishes, vine tomatoes, a cucumber, several Ramiro peppers and a head of celery.

I noticed that there was lots of juicing fruit available at the moment at Riverford. It’s funny that everyone gets out there juicers in January with great intentions of fulfilling New Year’s resolutions of eating healthier, getting fitter and losing weight but by the time there is an abundance of seasonal vegetables around, the juicer has long been put away. I decided to get mine out again and it give it another try.

I have experimented quite extensively with my recipes but rather conservatively I have decided that there is only one concoction that I like. It is a blend of apples, carrots, celery and beetroot – the quantities of each may vary greatly depending on what I have to hand but the ingredients never alter – because it is just perfect as it is! With this in mind I added beetroot and apples to my order this week and here is the result. Beetroot is super good for you, excellent at lowering blood pressure and cholesterol and especially at good at detoxing your liver, which is always a good thing.

Beetroot in a Bag

When it comes to juicers, you do have to invest. I have got a basic Magimix one which I have had for about 15 years and it is still going strong and is vastly superior, in my mind to a Nutribullet which was the fad this year and about the same price. I know that Nutribullet keeps in fibre but it is due to this, that practically every drink I have been served from one, is virtually undrinkable. You may strongly disagree and I would love to hear your recipes for your favourite juices.

juice with veg

Beetroot, Carrot, Apple and Celery Juice

1 beetroot

2 sticks celery

2 apples

3 carrots

Wash the vegetables and fruit well. Peel if you like, depending on your juicer. Cut up any veg that will not fit into the shoot. Stir all the juices together well. Drink immediately. (I like to keep my veg in the fridge for a couple of hours before juicing so that you get a really cold drink.)

Juice

 

Save

Baby Spinach, Wild Rice, Broad Bean, Grilled Asparagus & Courgette Salad with Crispy Onions

Finally for this week, another really delicious salad and a meal in itself. I am back to grilling veg again and although I know that grilling courgettes maybe a bit laborious, I cannot think of a vegetable which is more elevated by this simple process. The rather tasteless courgette absorbs the smoky flavours of the grill and is transformed into something quite exceptional.

The crispy onions are another favourite of mine and are such a marvellous addition to so many dishes. You can make up a batch and they will keep crispy for up to a week in an air-tight container. The oil, which you can re-use each time you make a batch, also serves as a delicious dressing and gets more intense the more times you re-use it.

I love adding a couple of handfuls of shelled broad beans to my salads. Their pale green colour so quintessentially says “spring” so get them whilst you can because along with the asparagus, they will be finishing soon.

I love the chewy texture and nutty taste of Wild Rice and it is super good for you too. It is a little hard to get hold of so stock up on it when you see it because it is one of my salad ingredient staples.

Crispy Onions

Crispy Fried Onions

Thinly slice a few large onions. Cut off the top end of the onion and peel the rest of it. Slice as thin as possible. A Mandolin is really good for this or you can use a food processor. Place a saucepan on a high heat and add about an inch of vegetable oil. You don’t want to use too much oil as the more intense the flavour the better. Heat the oil to 180⁰C using a thermometer. Add the onions slowly and deep fry until light golden brown. Be careful not to burn, stirring regularly, especially in the corners where the onions will cook most quickly. Remove with a slotted spoon, straight into a colander lined with kitchen paper over a bowl. Break up any clumps and leave to crisp up. Season lightly with salt. When cool pour the oil into a bottle for further use.

Courgette, Asparagus & Broad Bean Salad

Baby Spinach, Wild Rice, Broad Bean, Grilled Asparagus & Courgette Salad with Crispy Onions

Serves 2 as a main

A Couple of handfuls of baby spinch (washed)

200g broad beans

1 bunch asparagus

50g Wild Rice (try Tilda)

2 courgettes

Crispy fried onions (see above)

Olive oil

Sea salt

First put your rice in a saucepan with plenty of cold water and a good pinch of salt. Boil gently for about 20 minutes until pleasantly chewey to eat. Drain. Meanwhile put another pan of water on the boil. Snap amy woody end off the asparagus and drissel with a little olive oil and sea salt. Slice the cougette into flat ribbons. A mandolin is brilliant for this, otherwise use a sharp knife. The slices should be about the thickness of a £1. Heat your grill or light you BBQ. Once the water is boiling add the shelled broad bean and boil for about 2 minutes. Drain and immediately refresh in cold water. Whilst you are grilling the courgettes and the asparagus, slip the broad beans out of their skins. Put the drained rice in a large bowl and add a tablespoon of the onion oil and a large pinch of salt. Taste it and notice how the flavour has come alive. Add the spinach and broad beans and gently mix. Tip onto plates and pile the courgettes and the asparagus (cut into 3cm lenghths) on top and finish with some crispy onions.

Asparagus