Grilled Leeks with Romesco Sauce

And so to my last leek recipe of the week. This recipe is actually for new season’s spring onions. In Catalan they have a festival in honour of their spring onions, called Calcots and the festival is literally called Calcotada. They grill their Calcots on fabulous charcoal fires and serve it with variations of this Romesco Sauce. It is funny I should think about this recipe now, because when I did some research into the festival, I discovered that it is celebrated this weekend! How is that for timing!

I have adapted the recipe for lovely fresh leeks. The secret to grilling perfect leeks is to boil them first until completely tender. Obviously that would be best grilled and lightly smoked, over a charcoal grill, but if not a griddle plate will have to do.

Romesco Sauce

2 red peppers

75g blanched almonds

75g walnuts

3 slices of wiale white sourdough bread

3 tbsp. olive oil

1 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tsp. smoked paprika

2 tbsp. sherry wine vinegar

1 small dried chilli

1 tsp. fennel seeds, lightly toasted

30g bunch of parsley

1 tbsp. tomato puree

3 tomatoes, roughly chopped

For the leeks

4 leeks

Extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 200C. Put the peppers in a roasting dish and leave in the oven for 40 minutes, until they are charred all over. Remove and place in a bowl, covering with cling film to steam the peppers and help the skins slip off. When cool enough to handle, skin and deseed. Meanwhile, lightly toast the walnuts and almonds in a dry frying pan, stirring frequently. Add to a bowl with the tomatoes, bread, vinegar, garlic, paprika, chilli, tomato puree, parsley, fennel seeds, olive oil and sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add the peppers and pulse all the ingredients in a food processor or with a hand blender until you have a smooth, thick sauce. Check for seasoning.

Put a large, salted pan of water on to boil. Trim the leeks both ends and cut in half. Put the leeks in the boiling water and simmer for about 10 minutes until you can easily pierce all the way through the leek with a sharpish knife. It is imperative that your leeks are properly cooked. Remove and leave to drain in a colander. When cool. Carefully cut in half lengthways with a sharp knife. Brush both sides of either leek and grill on a really hot BBQ or griddle. Leave until griddle marks are clearly made on one side before flipping to the other side. Serve warm with your Romanesco Sauce.

Ham Hock, Leek and Butter Bean Soup

This soup is just so quick and easy and it is exactly what you want to eat on a gloomy, winters day. Pulled ham hock is probably the most convenient food product since sliced bread, and much nicer. It is ready cooked and it is ready shredded. It saves literally hours in the kitchen.

Ham Hock, Leek and Butter Bean Soup

Serves: 4

20g unsalted butter

2 leeks, halved and finely sliced

1 garlic clove, crushed

400g can butter beans, drained and rinsed

750ml chicken stock (or use good quality stock cubes)

1 tbsp dijon mustard

150ml single cream

180g Pulled ham hock (or leftover ham)

1 tbsp chopped chives

Heat the butter in a large pan until foaming. Add the leeks and garlic and sweat for 10 minutes, until the leeks have softened and begin to caramelise. Add the butter beans and chicken stock, then simmer gently for 3 – 4 minutes. Mix the mustard into the cream, then stir into the soup along with the ham. Serve hot with chopped chives.

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Spicy Chorizo, Leeks and Tomato Baked with Eggs

This week is all in praise of leeks. It is still a month until St David’s day and I don’t know what got me thinking about leeks, but once I did, I couldn’t stop. The first recipe is a sort of variation on the North African Dish of Shakshuka. Here I replace the peppers and onions with leeks and chorizo. Serve it with plenty of sourdough bread to soak up the sauce. A great brunch!

Spicy Chorizo, Leeks and Tomato Baked with Eggs

Serves 2

120g Good quality Chorizo, finely chopped

2 leeks, cut in half and shredded, washed and drained

1 can tinned plum tomatoes

Pinch chilli flakes

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp smoked paprika

4 eggs

A little extra virgin olive oil

A small bunch of coriander

In a heavy bottomed pan (which can go in the oven) add a little oil and then fry the chorizo until it releases its own fat. Add the leeks, season, cover and cook gently for about 15-20 minutes, checking regularly. Remove the lid and continue to cook until they are beginning to caramelise. Add the tin of tomatoes and half a tin of water.  break up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Add the chilli and paprika and cook down until the sauce has thickened. .  Check seasoning and adjust to taste. Preheat oven to 180C. Make little wells in the sauce and crack a egg into each hole  Place the pan in the oven and cook the eggs to your liking. I like mine yolks just runny, whites fully set. Sprinkle with coriander and serve with bread.

Potato Latkes

I have a fridge full of potatoes as the moment and I don’t even remember how they all got there. So I was thinking of interesting things to do with potatoes and remembered making delicious Potato Rosti in one of the Restaurants I used to work in. I started looking up recipes for this Swiss fried potato cake but they seemed over-complicated and confused. No one seemed to agree on what sort of potato to use – waxy or floury and some recipes mentioned boiling the potatoes first before grating them.I wanted something quick and easy for the kids tea.

So I turned instead to a less known cousin of the Rosti – Potato Latkes. Being almost identical but thinner, they are much easier to cook and there is less chance of an overcooked outside and a raw middle. There is nothing worse than a raw potato. What I can’t agree on is the traditional accompaniment of sour cream and apple sauce when what they really need is my favourite – sour cream and sweet chilli sauce. Delicious.

Potato Latkes

2 large potatoes (450g)

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 to 3/4 cup olive oil

Peel potatoes and coarsely grate by hand, transferring to a large bowl of cold water as grated. Soak potatoes 1 to 2 minutes after last batch is added to water, then drain well in a colander. Spread grated potatoes and onion on a kitchen towel and roll up jelly-roll style. Twist towel tightly to wring out as much liquid as possible. Transfer potato mixture to a bowl and stir in egg and salt.

Heat 1/4 cup oil in a 12-inch non-stick frying pan over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Working in batches of 4 latkes, spoon 2 tablespoons potato mixture per latke into skillet, spreading into 3-inch rounds with a fork. Reduce heat to moderate and cook until undersides are browned, about 5 minutes. Turn latkes over and cook until undersides are browned, about 5 minutes more. Transfer to paper towels to drain and season with salt. Add more oil to frying pan as needed. Serve hot.

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Baked Sweet Potatoes with Sour Cream and Sweet Chilli Sauce

I cant believe that I never thought of baking a sweet potato. How many sweet potato recipes I must have made over the years and I never thought of just putting them whole in the oven and removing them an hour later. That’s it. Healthier than a normal potato, they bake perfectly, and are a stunning deep orange when you cut them open. But what to serve them with? Well, Chilli con Carne would be lovely, or Spicy Black Bean Chilli, but both involve quite a lot of work. I was thinking more on the super quick and simple baked potato fillings – baked beans, grated cheese, tinned sweetcorn. But none of those sounded at all nice with a sweet potato. So I turned to my absolutely favourite accompaniment of all, the unassuming sounding but totally delicious combination of sour cream with sweet chilli sauce. It was perfect!

Baked Sweet Potatoes

Wash your sweet potatoes and dry well and place on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Cook in a pre-heated oven for about one hour depending on size. They are cooked when you can easily squeeze them. Remove, cut open and sprinkle with a little sea salt.

Blood Orange Sorbet

I know it is hardly the weather for sorbet but when I see blood oranges, I just can’t think of anything else. This is super delicious and super easy to make but you will need some sort of ice-cream machine. Mine is just a cheap one and cost under £20 at the time. You freeze the bowl first and it can’t cope with large quantities but worked brilliantly for this recipe.  Blood oranges are not around for long so make the most of them and get them whilst you can!

Blood Orange Sorbet

If using an ice-cream maker like mine, be sure to freeze your bowl overnight. (Serves 4)

7-10 blood oranges (400ml strained juice)

125g white sugar

Roll each orange on the work surface to release the juice, then squeeze. Pass through a sieve and you have about 400ml juice.

Heat 75ml of the juice gently in a pan with the sugar, stirring to dissolve. Allow to cool slightly, then add the remaining juice. Chill well.

Freeze in an ice-cream maker according to instructions. Eat as soon as possible for the best texture.

Homity Pie

It is funny how vegetarian cooking has gone in and out of fashion through the years and even more so, how the recipes have changed in style . It all started with Cranks which actually opened before I was born, but it was still fashionable when I was student, when being vegetarian was almost obligatory.  I remember waiting desperately for Cranks cookbook to come out so that I could try and recreate their legendary Homity Pie. I can’t remember if I ever made it back then, but I googled it the other day and came up with the original recipe which, not very surprisingly was really dated and uninspiring. Now a days it would have about twenty more ingredients in it. But I was drawn by it’s old fashioned simplicity, although it needed some serious alterations – It recommended putting the filling into a raw pastry case, which I thought sounded unwise, and indeed the pastry came out completely uncooked and soggy on the bottom. Anyway, a few tweaks here and there and my Homity Pie came out even better than I remembered it. I have to admit, that although Homity Pie should be made with wholemeal pasty, I cheated with some ready-made, ready-rolled shortcrust pastry, which made up for the extra blind-baking time.

Homity Pie

8” Fluted pastry case

125g/4oz plain flour, plus extra for rolling

125g/4oz wholemeal flour

150g/5oz butter

1 free-range egg, beaten

Or 215g ready-made, ready-rolled good quality shortcrust.

For the filling

350g tasty potatoes, peeled and cut into 1cm slices

25g/1oz butter

1 tbsp olive oil

3 leeks, shredded and washed (or onions)

2 garlic cloves, crushed

100g mature cheddar cheese, coarsely grated

250ml/9fl oz double cream

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200C/180C (fan)/Gas 6. Put the flour and butter in a food processor and blend until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the egg and pulse until the mixture just comes together as a dough. Bring the dough together and flatten into a round.

Put the pastry in the centre of a 20cm/8in pastry tin and carefully ease it over the base and up the sides of the tin. Line with baking parchment and bake until very light golden brown. Meanwhile cook the potatoes in boiling water for 15 minutes, or until just tender.

Melt the butter and oil in a saucepan and fry the leeks gently for 15 minutes, or until soft and pale golden-brown. Add the garlic and cook for two further minutes, stirring regularly. Add the garlic and fry for minute of two more. Add ½ the cheese and season well. Add the potatoes and spoon the filling mixture into the pastry case. Pour over the cream and allow it to drizzle down between the layers. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Place the tin on a baking tray and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until the top is pale golden-brown.

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Omelette Stuffed with Sautéed Spring Greens

It is January and I have taken a little longer away from this blog than usual. I hope that I haven’t left you lost for ideas for what to do with all your January vegetables but I doubt it, because this is the time of year when everyone jumps on the bandwagon of healthy eating and all the food magazines are packed with vegetable recipes. I always find it quite irritating that they all go mental for vegetables for one month of the year, before they move on to the next thing, where as I and obviously you, are focusing on vegetables all year round and not just for January.

Anyway it was whilst flicking through one of those many magazines that I got to thinking about omelettes. Not just any omelettes but ones stuffed full of greens. And when my box turned up with a large bunch of spring greens, I set straight to work to see how it worked out.

Being a trained chef, omelette is a word which conjures up many memories. The cooking of your omelettes had to be a work of art and I can still hear head chefs scolding me for over-mixing or overcooking the eggs or getting even the faintest hint of brown on the outside. We were not allowed to use any cooking implement, you had to make the whole thing by shaking the pan. Nowadays I allow myself to relax a little and so I have to admit I really enjoyed making, and eating this omelette.

Omelette Stuffed with Sautéed Spring Greens

For one omelette

3 eggs

A knob of butter

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

100g spring greens, shredded and washed

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 tbsp. double cream

In a heavy bottomed saucepan heat the olive oil. Add the drained greens and sauté. The moisture left on the greens from washing will help steam the greens as you sauté them. Season with salt and pepper and stir until just wilted and tender. Stir in the cream and remove from the heat.

Crack the eggs into a mixing bowl with a pinch of sea salt and black pepper. Beat well with a fork. Heat a small knob of butter in a small frying pan on a low heat, and once melted and foaming, add the eggs and move the pan around to spread them out evenly. Using a spatula or palette knife, stir the eggs until almost set. Then leave still for a minute. Remove from the heat and pile the spring greens onto the omelette. Using a spatula or palette knife, ease around the edges of the omelette, then fold it over in half and slide on to a plate.

Brussel Sprouts with Cashews, Chilli, Ginger, Soy and Sesame

Finally, for this week, another recipe from Simon’s Supper Club this week. I was worried that most people might be a little Brussel sprout weary after Christmas so I needed to think up something a bit dynamic. Luckily they lend themselves perfectly to Asian flavours so I knew this was a good place to start. I don’t think you can really stir-fry Brussel sprouts unless you shred them and I wasn’t prepared to shred enough Brussel sprouts for 52 people. So I compromised by just cutting them in half, but them cooking them for a while in the added soy and a splash of water, so that they are not unpleasantly crunchy and raw. It is quite difficult to perfect the cooking time when cooking on mass, but I am sure that you will be able to time them just perfectly, in smaller quantities at home. Teriyaki sauce is a nice addition for a touch of sweetness and you can get a gluten-free version, although I did not manage to find any in time last week for the nine gluten free customers, which is why I subsequently left it out.

Brussel Sprouts with Cashews, Chilli, Ginger, Soy and Sesame

Brussel Sprouts with Cashews, Chilli, Ginger, Soy and Sesame
Serves 4
400g Brussel Sprouts
100g toasted cashew nuts
2 tbsp. Soy sauce
Large knob of fresh ginger
2 cloves of garlic
1-2 fresh red chillies, seeds removed and finely chopped
2 tbsp. coconut oil
1 tbsp. sesame oil
Toasted sesame seeds

Trim the ends off the Brussel sprouts `- and cut them in half. Peel the ginger with a teaspoon and grate it, along with the garlic on a microplaner or good grater. Heat the coconut oil in a wok and add the Brussel sprouts. Fry for a few minutes, stirring constantly to get some colour on the sprouts before adding the ginger, garlic and chilli. Fry for a few minutes more before adding the soy. Use the liquid to help cook the sprouts to your liking. Add a splash of water if necessary. Add a little salt if necessary, depending on the saltiness of your soy and your taste. When cooked add the cashews and sprinkle with sesame seeds before serving.

Brussel Sprouts with Cashews, Chilli, Ginger, Soy and Sesame 2

Cherry Tomato & Caramelised Onion Tart with Pesto

I am always a little dubious of tomatoes in January so I was really pleased to see how vibrant red and delicious Riverford’s cherry tomatoes are at the moment. Obviously the weather in Spain is somewhat warmer than ours.

Cherry Tomatoes Riverford

I am a great fan of ready-made, ready rolled all butter puff pastry. I am a stickler for checking ingredients on any ready-made food and I am always checking labels, Find one which only contains flour and butter and you know that you have saved yourself a whole lot of time, because making puff pastry is no easy feat. I topped mine with some ready-made pesto (once again, check the ingredients or make your own), caramelised onions and the cherry tomatoes with a drizzle of balsamic at the end. I was worried that the tomatoes would make my pasty soggy but blind cooking it first prevents this. I think you could just as easily serve this for a starter at a dinner party as a delicious, quick lunch. Either way, it is a welcome taste of Summer!

Tomato & Onion Tart with Pesto 3

Cherry Tomato & Caramelised Onion Tart with Pesto
Serves 4 as a main with salad or 8 as a starter
Extra virgin olive oil
2 onions, peeled and finely sliced
1 garlic clove, finely sliced
375g (1 sheet) ready rolled all butter puff pastry
2 tbsp. pesto
250g cherry tomatoes, halved
1-2tbsp aged balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6
Heat some oil in a pan and cook the onions with a little salt and pepper until soft and deep gold – about 20 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a further few minutes. Check seasoning, Set aside.

Gently unroll the pastry. Place on a baking sheet, still on the grease-proof it comes with. Put in the oven and bake for about 10 minutes, until golden brown. Flip the pastry over and bake on the other side until also golden brown. If the pastry has puffed up, just gently press it down to flatten it. Remove from the oven and spread a thin layer of pesto, leaving a small rim round the edge. On top of this spread the onion mixture evenly. Then top with the halved tomatoes. Sprinkle over salt and pepper and drizzle with a little balsamic vinegar, then bake in the oven for 10 minutes or so until the tomatoes begin to colour. Serve warm.

Tomtoe tart 2