Crab and Fennel Linguini

I always think of fennel as a very early glimpse of Spring. Although it can be a winter veg, its fresh, vibrant green colour always makes me think of sunnier days. Which is why I always think this recipe makes such a perfect Christmas treat. Really good crabmeat isn’t cheap but you don’t need a huge amount to make this really delicious and luxurious, simple dish and it is a whole lot cheaper than having it in a restaurant.

Crab and Fennel Linguini

Serves 2

300g dried linguine, or fresh pasta dough equivalent

300g white crabmeat

1 bulb of fennel

1 lemon

1 fresh red chilli

Extra extra virgin olive oil

1 handful of herby fennel tops or fresh baby basil leaves or dill

Place the white crabmeat in a large bowl and add the zest and juice from the lemon. Remove the seeds from the chilli, finely chop and add. Trim the base of the bulb and remove the outside layer if it’s got any blemishes, then, using the coarse side of a box grater, grate the bulb into the bowl with the crab. Add a couple of tablespoons of really good, extra virgin olive oil, mix well and season to taste.

Put a large pan of salted water onto boil for the pasta. Cook according to packet instructions. Finely chop any fennel fronds, basil leaves or dill. Drain the pasta, reserving a cupful of cooking water, then toss the pasta through the sauce, adding half the picked herbs and loosening with a splash of reserved water, if needed. Divide between four warm bowls, sprinkle over the remaining herbs.

Crispy Roast New Potatoes

I have never really got used to being a home cook. Too many years in the catering industry have left me unable to only cook for four people. Hence, I always over cater. New potatoes are something I often get a bit carried away with but no one in my family minds as I have found a super simple and delicious way to use them up.

I chucked some of these in the oven and some sausages too, before I went off to tennis the other night, with instructions to my other half to take them out and serve them up for dinner. “Daddy made the best potatoes ever”, exclaimed my kids on my return. And I have to say that he looked pretty pleased with himself!

Crispy Roast New Potatoes

These are best done in the oven as the longer they cook for, the better but you could saute them in a frying pan too.

Boiled New Potatoes

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Sea Salt

Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Place a baking tray in the oven and pour a generous amount of olive oil onto the tray. Cut the cold new potatoes in half length-ways. When the oven is hot, tip the potatoes onto the hot tray. Arrange so that the cut side is faced down. Cook for about 25-30 minutes checking regularly. When the potatoes are golden brown on the bottom, flip them over and pull them into towards the middle of the pan pushing the less done potatoes nearer the outside edge, which is always hotter. Cook until all the potatoes are golden brown on both sides. Sprinkle with sea salt and serve.

Roasted Squash (Zucca al Forno)

It is squash time of year again and you just know you are going to be inundated with them. This is really the simplest way of dealing with them. No need to skin them, it all goes in, even the seeds. Eat it on its own, as a side dish or chuck into salad, pasta or soup.

Roasted Squash (Zucca al Forno)

1 large squash, whatever you have got

1 pinch dried red chilli

sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

1 large handful fresh sage leaves

1 stick cinnamon, broken into pieces

olive oil

Preheat your oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4. Halve the butternut squash, remove and reserve the seeds, then cut the squash into slices or chunks with the skin left on and put in a bowl. Add the whole sage leaves, the pieces of cinnamon, a pinch of chilli flakes, salt and pepper and enough olive oil to rub the whole lot over all the squash pieces so they are well covered. Place the squash in one layer in a roasting tray. Sprinkle over the seeds, cover tightly with tin foil and bake for 30 minutes, or until the skin of the squash is soft, then remove the foil and cook for another 10 minutes until the squash is golden and crisp. Remove the cinnamon.

Mediterranean Vegetables Roasted with Lemon, Yogurt, Tahini & Pomegranate

You may think you have heard and seen this recipe in many guises before but don’t judge a book by its cover. This is a really interesting version in a few ways. First of all, the use of whole lemon just chopped up and roast with the veg. I showed you how to make preserved lemons the other day but this is even more simple. Secondly the tahini dressing which I would have been tempted to drizzle on top of the veg, here is used as a base to the vegetables, more like polenta or mash. It turns a plate of roast veg into a proper lunch.

Finally, the fact that the chickpeas are used twice, once in the dressing but the bulk of them are roast with the veg and the resulting crispy morsels add great texture and interest to this dish.

Mediterranean Vegetables Roasted with Lemon, Yogurt, Tahini & Pomegranate

You can use any combination of veg you like. A combination of root vegetable would work well.

Serves 2

1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped

1 aubergine, diced

1 red onion, halved and cut into thin wedges

1 unwaxed lemon, ¼ chopped (skin and all), the rest juiced

2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to drizzle (optional)

400g can chickpeas in water, drained

1 garlic clove

2 tbsp tahini

3 tbsp natural bio yogurt

seeds from ½ a pomegranate

fresh parsley or coriander, chopped

Heat oven to 240C/220C fan/gas 7. Put the vegetables and chopped lemon in a large flameproof roasting tin and drizzle with 1 tbsp oil. Massage into the veg so they are all well coated, and season well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, then put the tin on the hob and fry, stirring, for 5 mins until starting to char. Stir in two handfuls of the chickpeas, sprinkle them with salt and roast the whole lot in the oven for 15 mins or so. Stir from time to time to ensure even roasting.

Put the rest of the chickpeas in a bowl with the garlic, tahini, yogurt and lemon juice and blitz with a stick blender until really smooth and thick adding a tablespoon or two of water to get it to the right consistency.

Spoon the yogurt tahini onto two plates and top with the roasted veg, pomegranate seeds and parsley or coriander. Drizzle of extra oil, if you like.

Thai Salad with Peanut Dressing

I love the sweet and sour combination of this crunchy salad. Adjust the dressing until you have the perfect balance.

Thai Salad with Peanut Dressing

You can use any cabbage in this salad even red cabbage works.

For the Thai Peanut Dressing

2 tbsp creamy peanut butter

1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, from one lime

1 tablespoon soy sauce (use gluten-free if needed)

1 tablespoons sugar

1-inch square piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped

1 Nam Pla

Pinch crushed red pepper flakes

For the Salad

½ pointed cabbage, shredded

3 carrots, peeled into ribbons

1  cucumber, halved lengthwise, de-seeded, halved lengthways again and chopped into 1cm chunks

1 cos lettuce, sliced into 1cm slices and broken up

2 medium spring onions, thinly sliced

1 bunch freshly chopped coriander

For the dressing, combine all of the ingredients in a blender and process until completely smooth. Use to dress the vegetables and serve straight away.

Sweet Potato Crisps

These sweet Potato Crisps make a delicious veggie snack and are great in the kids lunch box instead of boring crisps. It is a little hard to get them crispy but keep your oven low and wait until the edges are tinged with brown, but don’t let them go too far!

Sweet Potato Crisps

1 small sweet potato

Extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt

Heat oven to 160C fan. Slice the sweet potato thinly. The slices must be evenly cut so that they cook evenly. A mandolin is great for this. Toss with the olive oil and lay out on a lined baking sheet. Roast for 15-20 mins until crisp. Sprinkle with salt. Leave to cool.

Chicken & Courgette Tagine with Preserved Lemon & Coriander

Now you have made your Preserved Lemons in Salt you are going to want to use them!

 

Chicken & Courgette Tagine with Preserved Lemon & Coriander

Olive oil (or Argan oil if you have it)

1 kg of free-range skinless chicken thighs

1 heaped teaspoons of Ras-el-Hanout (Barts is excellent)

2 onions, finely chopped

2 large courgettes, very finely sliced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

Large pinch of saffron

½ a large preserved lemon, seeded and chopped

One bunch coriander, finely chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a tagine or large saucepan with a lid. Fry the chicken until all sides begin to brown. Remove and add the onions.  Scrape to remove all the nice bits of crispy chicken from the bottom of the pan. Cook for onions for 10 minutes until soft and just about to brown.  Add the courgettes and a large pinch of salt and cook down slowly for about 25 minutes until completely collapsed and beginning to caramelise. Add the garlic, the Ras-el-Hanout, the cumin and a generous amount of salt and pepper.  Fry for a few minutes to release the spices. Add the chicken back to the pan and ½ pint of water and the saffron. Bring briefly to boil, reduce the heat right down and cover, but leave a crack for steam to escape. Simmer over low heat for thirty minutes or more. When the chicken is cooked, check the sauce. Add the preserved lemons and the coriander. Adjust seasoning to taste. Serve with Cous Cous.

Preserved Lemons

I don’t think we ever think of lemons as having a season but now is the best time in the year for Spanish lemons which is where Riverford’s lemons come. So I decided to make a batch of Preserved Lemons. So you want to use the very best lemons you can find – organic and unwaxed. These lemons will keep for up to a year and are a fabulous addition to all sorts of dishes. You can use the lemons and I love the liquid as well in cous cous, salads and sauces and of course all sorts of Moroccan dishes including the classic Tagine.

Preserved Lemons in Salt  From Claudia Roden

Lemons (Organic, un-waxed if possible)

Kosher salt or Natural Rock Salt

Large Kilner Jar

Scrub the lemons under running water with a stiff brush to remove any dirt and impurities. Starting at one end, cut the lemons in half lengthwise, but stop about 1/2 an inch before you reach the bottom. Repeat the cut perpendicularly so you have cut each lemon lengthwise in a “X” formation, but not all the way through; they should still be attached at the bottom, about 1/2 an inch. Liberally sprinkle salt on the inside of the lemons. Hold them open with your fingers and really get the salt inside them. It is a little bit like those fortune-teller origami toys kids make out of paper. Place each lemon in the jar, pushing down on them and squeezing them to release the juices. Keep adding Lemons until you absolutely cannot get any more in. The lemons should be completely submerged in juice. If they are not, top up with some extra lemon juice. Seal the jar.  Let the jar sit at room temperature. Every few days, turn the jar upside down and shake it to distribute the salt and liquids. The lemons will be ready in three weeks, or so, when the rinds have softened.

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Warm Leek and Cannellini Bean Salad with Mustard Dressing

I love leeks. There is something so humble about them and yet this Warm Leek and Cannellini Bean Salad gives them an air of sophistication.

Warm Leek and Cannellini Bean Salad with Mustard Dressing

Serves: 4  I think this would be particularly nice with smoked fish.

410g tin cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 Large leeks, trimmed, washed and finely sliced

10g Flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

2 tsp Cider vinegar

A pinch Caster sugar

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the leeks and a good pinch of salt. As soon as the leeks begin to soften, turn down the heat fairly low and continue to cook for 10 minutes, stirring from time to time, until they are soft (don’t let them take on any colour). Add the beans and toss together until heated through. Take off the heat; stir in the parsley and plenty of black pepper.

For the dressing, whisk together the mustards, vinegar, sugar and remaining oil and season well. Stir into the pan of warm leeks and beans.

Sicilian Pasta with Sautéed Romanesco, Chilli, Pine nuts, Currants, Parsley and Lemon

Sicily, surrounded by water and having many ports meant that it was a key player in the spice trail. Whereas other regions of Italy tended to rely solely on their own produce, Sicilian cooking has always been a little more adventurous with its ingredients. This amalgamation of chilli, pinenuts, currants, parsley and lemon zest is classic and its sophisticated sweet and sour combination works beautifully with the delectable Romanesco.

The amazing fractal Romanesco is closer related to broccoli than cauliflower and it has a delicate nutty flavour and great crunchy texture. It holds its shape much better than cauliflower which makes it a useful replacement in lots of recipes and it looks fabulous!

Sicilian Pasta with Sautéed Romanesco, Chilli, Pine nuts, Currants, Parsley and Lemon

Serves 2

1 small to medium Romanesco cauliflower, cut into small florets (use the stalk too, thinly sliced)

200g pasta

Extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, grated

1 red chilli, deseeded & finely chopped

100g pine nuts, toasted

100g currants or raisins

Zest of 1 & juice of ½ lemon

Large handful fresh parsley, chopped

Handful Parmesan, grated

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a pan of boiling salted water, cook the Romanesco for 2-3 minutes, then drain and refresh in a bowl of cold water to stop any further cooking. Drain again and keep to one side. In another pan of boiling water, cook the pasta according to the packet instructions.

Meanwhile, heat some olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the Romanesco and fry for a couple of minutes until just starting to turn a golden colour. Add the garlic and chilli and cook for couple of minutes more. Add the pine nuts, sultanas, drained, cooked pasta, lemon juice and zest and parsley. Toss together to combine. Check seasoning and transfer to serving bowls and serve drizzled with a olive oil and some grated Parmesan.

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