Grilled Courgette Salad with Chilli, Mint and Lemon

I never have enough recipes for courgettes so I was pleased to come up with two this week. This really light, refreshing salad is perfect when you are having a BBQ. Just grill the courgettes along side everything else. If you want to make it more substantial scatter with feta or crumble some grilled Halloumi over the top.

Grilled Courgette Salad with Chilli, Mint and Lemon

Serves 2

3 courgettes, ends trimmed, cut into long strips, a mandolin is great for this

Extra virgin olive oil

1 fresh red chilli, seeded, finely chopped

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

½ lemon, juice only

1 lemon zest

handful fresh mint, roughly chopped

Toss the courgette strips in a bowl with the olive oil (just enough to coat the courgette), and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Heat a BBQ or a ridged grill pan until smoking hot and griddle the courgettes in batches, about four minutes per side, being careful not to crowd the grill pan. They should be tender, but with a crunch to them in the middle. If the strips are not quite cooked, leave them on the grill pan for longer, but watch the heat as you don’t want them to burn. Don’t be tempted to move the courgette while it is cooking or you won’t get the char-grill marks across the flesh. Check seasoning.

Mix some lemon juice, olive oil and salt together to make a dressing and use this to dress the griddled courgettes. Add the chilli and mint and lemon zest and serve.

Tomato Salsa with Coriander, Chilli and Lime

I have served up this salsa at the Wimbledon Guild Fair for many years and it is always a firm favourite. It is such a versatile salsa, it goes with almost anything. Lovely dolloped over a piece of grilled fish, or equally delicious alongside a nice steak. It can be piled into wraps, Tacos, Quesadillas, on sweet corn fritters, with croquetas, excellent with avocado, in a burger or on nachos or on a chilli.

I have used this salsa in countless recipes on this blog but I have never actually featured it on its own. So here it is. Having said that the recipe is vague as it really is up to you to get the balance of sweet tomatoes, heat from the chillies and sour lime that you like. I am not keen on a lot of raw onion, but others are. I like lots of fresh coriander instead.

Anyway, I will be serving up at Holy Trinity Fair tomorrow, so come along to the Riverford stand if you would like to try some!

Tomato Salsa with Coriander, Chilli and Lime

1 fresh red chilli (very finely chopped)

1 spring onion or ½ a small red onion (very finely chopped)

6 large tomatoes (cut in 1/8ths ) or 15 cherry tomatoes tomatoes (quartered)

Juice of a lime

Small bunch of Coriander (finely chopped)

Glug of good extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt

Mix chilli, lime juice and olive oil together.  Season well.  Stir in rest of ingredients.  Allow to sit for a few minutes and check seasoning again.

Kohl Rabi and Carrots Slaw with Coriander and Lime Dressing

I can’t avoid it any more. The dreaded Kol Rabi has turned up in my box this week. I have to admit, I am not a great fan. It’s the smell that gets to me, of old turnips, not the taste which is really unobtrusive and the texture is crunchy and present. So I set about finding the perfect dressing for a Kol Rabi slaw. I wanted something with a bit of an attitude as Jamie Oliver says, something with a bit of guts to camouflage the smell and transform my slaw into something special. After scouring through hundreds of slaw dressings I found this one, which although I was most dubious of due to the strange mix of ingredients – balsamic vinegar with ginger and coriander! And also lime and honey, which always reminds me of cough sweets! But the reviews were glowing. Apparently it comes from TGI Fridays. Unfortunately, that I have ever been to one, so I can’t testify to it being true or not. I made a few changes, including quartering the amount of honey, but I have to say, it made a pretty good Kol Rabi and Carrots Slaw with Coriander and Lime Dressing. Just ready for the BBQ season!

Kohl Rabi and Carrots Slaw with Coriander and Lime Dressing

1 Kohl Rabi, peeled

3-4 carrots, peeled

Dressing

1 fresh chilli, seeded and coarsely chopped

1 clove garlic

Large knob of fresh ginger root, scraped

2 limes, juiced

1 tbsp. honey

1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

½ teaspoon salt, or to taste

Small bunch of coriander

3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Whiz the whole lot of dressing ingredients up with a hand blender. Adjust seasoning. Coarsely grate the Kohl Rabi and carrot. A food processor is good for this, but otherwise use a grater. There should be about an even amount of each. Dress and serve.

Spicy Fennel, Sausage, Tomato Pasta

I hate to admit it but we eat rather a lot of sausages in our family. They are cheap and please everyone, which is always a bonus. I serve them up alongside all manner of vegetables and it is a great use up of whatever veg I have in the fridge, but I was I was thrilled to come up with this new way of serving them up and still managing to please the family.

Spicy Fennel, Sausage, Tomato Pasta

Serves 2

Extra virgin olive oil

2 heads fennel, finely chopped

1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds

8 good quality sausages or about 400g sausage meat

100mls white wine

1 tin plum tomatoes

Pinch chilli flakes

200g pasta, I used Conchiglie

Freshy grated Parmesan

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a heavy bottomed saucepan gently fry the fennel with some olive oil. When beginning to colour, add the sausage meat. Squeeze it from the casings and break it up really well with a wooden spoon. You don’t want any large lumps. Turn up the heat and fry really well. It is nice if it begins to brown. Add the wine and use it to deglaze the pan. Scape the bottom to release any stuck on sausage. Add a pinch of chilli flakes and the tin of tomatoes. Rinse the tin out with a little water and add that too. Break up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon and let the sauce gently bubble away whilst you cook your pasta. Check seasoning before serving. Top with Parmesan.

Inzimino di Ceci – Chickpeas with Swiss Chard

When Rose Grey was serving this dish up at the River Café over 25 years ago, most people in England didn’t even know what Chard was. Now a days we are so much more educated and I grow so much of the stuff on my allotment I barely know what to do with it. This simple dish of chard and chickpeas is a great way of using it up.

Inzimino di Ceci – Chickpeas with Swiss Chard

Adapted from The River Cafe

Serves 6-8

175 g (6 oz) dried chickpeas, soaked overnight (or use 2 tins)

1 large garlic clove, peeled

1 tin good quality plum tomatoes

2 cloves garlic, peeled and very thinly sliced

6 tablespoons olive oil

900 g (2 lb) Swiss chard leaves, washed and large stems removed

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 red onion, peeled and coarsely chopped

2 carrots, peeled and cut into small pieces

2 dried chillies, crumbled

250 ml (8 fl oz) white wine

3 handfuls flat leaf parsley

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Extra virgin olive oil

Drain the chickpeas and place in a saucepan with water to cover, add the garlic, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 45 minutes or until tender. Keep in their liquid until ready to use. Fry the thinly sliced garlic in some good olive oil until light golden brown. Add the tinned tomatoes with some water to rinse out the tin and season well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Break up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon and gently reduce. Blanch the chard, cool, squeeze out excess water and chop coarsely.

Heat the remaining olive oil in a large pan over medium heat, add the onion and carrot, cook slowly for 15 minutes or until the carrots are tender. Season with salt, pepper and chilli. Pour in the wine and reduce almost completely. Add the tomato sauce and reduce until very thick. Add the chard and chickpeas and mix. Season and cook for 10 minutes. Chop two thirds of the parsley leaves, and add to the mixture with the lemon juice. Serve sprinkled with the whole parsley leaves and a little extra virgin olive oil.

Fennel, Potato and Parmesan Gratin

Anyone who knows my cooking will know that I make quite a lot of gratins. I love the idea for adding a hidden layer for vegetables, be it leeks and mushrooms, chard, kale, cavalo nero or some other leafy greens or cabbage and bacon. I like to use a variety of different root vegetables too and I have experimented with mushroom and leek, beetroot, parsnip, sweet potato, jerusalem artichoke and kohl rabi to name but a few. But this Potato and Fennel Gratin was a new idea and although it sounds plain, it is one of those dishes which somehow manages to taste more than the sum of its parts. It is somehow deeply satisfying and I implore you to give it a go.

Fennel, Potato and Parmesan Gratin

750g potatoes, peeled

500g trimmed fennel

750mls double cream

250mls milk

3 garlic cloves

Small bunch of thyme

Pinch chilli flakes

50g freshly grated parmesan

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put the cream, milk, garlic cloves, a pinch of chilli flakes and the bunch of thyme in a heavy bottomed saucepan and infuse over a low heat for as long as you have got. Check that it does not boil over, or catch as it reduces. Preheat the oven to 170C. Meanwhile thinly slice the potatoes and the fennel. A mandolin or a food processor is good for this. In a large gratin dish, put a layer of half of the potato, top with the fennel and then finish with the rest of the potato slices. Season the cream well with salt and pepper. Remember it has to season all the potatoes and fennel as well so it should be quite salty. Pour the cream mixture through a sieve over the potatoes. Scrape the sieve to make sure that you squeeze though all the garlic and the juices from the thyme. Press down the potato so that the cream mixture comes up to the top of the top layer of potato. If not, top up with a little milk. Scatter over the parmesan. Cover with tin foil and cook slowly in the oven for about 1 – 1 ½  hours until a blunt knife inserts easily all the way through. Remove the tin foil and allow the parmesan to brown to your liking. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.

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Grilled Squid with Fennel and Saffron Risotto

I’ve been thinking about making Fennel Risotto for quite a while now, but I felt it needed something just a little bit more to make it special. I thought of mixing in some crab, which would have been delicious but when I saw some nice fat tubes of squid for sale in the fishmongers, I knew that would be the perfect combination. Usually I do squid with Risotto Nero, blackened with the ink from the squid, but I think this makes a nice, more summery variation.

Grilled Squid with Fennel and Saffron Risotto

Serves 2

4 fat tubes of squid

100g butter

2 bulbs of fennel

200g risotto rice

200mls white wine

1 litre hot stock (can use good quality stock cubes such as kello)

1 tsp ground fennel seeds

Pinch saffron

Pinch chilli flakes

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Remove any tough outside leaves or stalks from the fennel. Save any fronds for a garnish. Cut the fennel in half and slice thinly. Melt ¾  the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan, add the fennel and a good pinch of salt and gently fry without colour until softened for about 10 minutes.  Add the rice and cook for a minute more and then add the wine. Keep stirring. It is banging the grains of rice together which releases the starch which makes your risotto creamy. Add the fennel to the hot stock and gradually start to add the stock a ladleful at a time. When the liquid has just about been absorbed, add another ladleful of stock. Keep cooking like this for 20-25 mins until the rice is chewy but not chalky. Add the fennel seeds and chilli, plenty of freshly ground black pepper and check for seasoning. Add the rest of the butter but do not stir, and leave to sit covered for a minute or two. Heat a griddle or BBQ until smoking hot. Cut through one side of the squid and open out flat. Season and brush with olive oil. Grill first on one side and then the other. The squid should curl up when cooked. Give the risotto a final stir and serve with the squid and any chopped fennel fronds you may have.

Chilli Con Carne with Roast Sweet Potato Chips

I have got obsessed about sweet potatoes, sour cream and sweet chilli sauce. It is more of a snack though, and not exactly a meal, so I decided to turn it into one.

Chilli Con Carne with Roast Sweet Potato Chips

Olive oil

1 large onion

1 red pepper or a few sweet baby peppers

2 garlic cloves, peeled

1 tsp spicy chipotle paste

1 tsp ground cumin

500g lean minced beef

400g can plum tomatoes

1 tsp dried oregano

410g can red kidney beans

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Soured cream, to serve

Roast Sweet Potato Wedges

Prepare your vegetables. Chop 1 large onion into small dice. Cut the red pepper in half lengthways, remove stalk and seeds and then chop. Peel and finely chop 2 garlic cloves.

Put a heavy based saucepan on the hob over a medium heat and add some oil and the beef.. Add the oil and the onions and cook, stirring fairly frequently, for about 5 minutes, or until the onions are soft, squidgy and slightly translucent. Tip in the garlic, red pepper and cook for a further 5 minutes or so. Add the ground cumin and chipotle sauce. Give it a good stir, then leave it to cook for another minute. Add the tomatoes and break up with a wooden spoon. Rinse out the tin with half a tin of water and add that too. Drain the beans and add too with the oregano. Add a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of pepper. Simmer it gently. Bring the whole thing to the boil, give it a good stir and put a lid on the pan. Turn down the heat until it is gently bubbling and leave it for an hour or two. (At this stage, you can tip the whole lot in a slow-cooker). You should check on the pan occasionally to stir it and make sure the sauce doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan or isn’t drying out. If it is, add a couple of tablespoons of water and make sure that the heat really is low enough. After simmering gently, the saucy mince mixture should look thick, moist and juicy.

Taste a bit of the chilli and season. It will probably take a lot more seasoning than you think. Now replace the lid, turn off the heat and leave your chilli to stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Serve with soured cream and sweet potato wedges. Or why not try as a filling for a baked sweet potato!

Teriyaki Stir-fry with Cashew Nuts

This is such a great use-up dish at the end of the week, when your fridge is still full of veg and you know your next veg box is coming. You can throw in whatever you like and haven’t even padded it out with noodle, it is just veg, veg and more veg and you can be sure you have got your 10 a day

Teriyaki Stir-fry with Cashew Nuts

Serves 2

Teriyaki sauce varies hugely. My favourite is Waitrose home-brand.

Large knob of fresh ginger

2 cloves of garlic

1-2 fresh red chillies

1 red onions, peeled and thinly sliced

1 red onions, peeled and thinly sliced

Handful of purple sprouting broccoli, sliced finely

Head o Bok, Choi shredded

Few sticks of celery and its leaves, shredded

2 carrots, peeled and then peeled into ribbons

Sweet mixed peppers, sliced, seeds removed

Teriyaki (for gluten free a mixture of Mirin, gluten free soy and Chinese cooking rice wine)

Handful of fresh coriander, chopped

Chopped cashew nuts, toasted

Sea salt

Cut the chilli in half, remove the seeds and finely chop. Scrape the ginger with a teaspoon to remove the outer layer and grate. Peel the garlic and grate it. Heat a large wok or saucepan and add some sesame oil, the  garlic, chilli and ginger. Fry for a few minutes. Add all the rest of the vegetables and stir fry for 5 minutes or so. It is important to keep the veg moving all the time as the name stir fry implies. When the veg is well wilted, add the teriyaki to taste and a pinch of salt if necessary. Remove from the heat and add a little more sesame oil to taste. Add the freshly chopped coriander and chopped cashew nuts and stir well and serve straight away.

Cut the chilli in half, remove the seeds and finely chop. Scrape the ginger with a teaspoon to remove the outer layer and grate. Peel the garlic and grate it. Heat a large wok or saucepan and add some sesame oil, the  garlic, chilli and ginger. Fry for a few minutes. Add all the rest of the vegetables and stir fry for 5 minutes or so. It is important to keep the veg moving all the time as the name stir fry implies. When the veg is well wilted, add the teriyaki to taste and a pinch of salt if necessary. Remove from the heat and add a little more sesame oil to taste. Add the freshly chopped coriander and chopped cashew nuts and stir well and serve straight away.

Conchiglie with Purple Sprouting Broccoli, Anchovy and Chilli

I love this time of year. Your vegbox evolves from, let’s admit it, something which sometimes over the winter might have been just a little bit of a chore, to complete pleasure. Suddenly there is a burst of spring, with new vegetables emerging every day. They return to our boxes like old friends and have us reminiscing recipes of years gone by. I realize, slightly worryingly, that I have probably cooked this recipe every spring for some 25 years now!

Conchiglie with Purple Sprouting Broccoli, Anchovy and Chilli

Serves 2

200g Conchiglie

400g Purple sprouting broccoli

2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

4 anchovy fillets

A generous amount of extra-virgin olive oil

A pinch of crushed dried chilli flakes

large handful of grated parmesan

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

A dash of double cream (optional)

To prepare the purple sprouting broccoli, you do not want the stems to be too big and it is important that all the pieces are a similar size and tender. Keep the smaller shoots whole but cut the heads in half or even in quarters length-ways. Boil the purple sprouting broccoli in plenty of salted boiling water for about 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and refresh in cold water. When cold, drain well in a colander.

Meanwhile cook the pasta in boiling, salted water. (You can use the same water as the purple sprouting broccoli.) Two minutes before it is done, heat a frying-pan over a medium heat, add the garlic and oil, and fry until starting to colour. Remove from the heat and add the anchovies and a little water. Mash the anchovies up with a wooden spoon until they almost dissolve. Add the chilli and the drained purple sprouting broccoli. Sauté briefly, seasoning with salt and pepper, then add a few tablespoons of the pasta water or a dash of cream. Next add the cooked pasta and a large handful of grated parmesan. Stir and serve.