Thousand Island Slaw

When I was a kid one of the first things I ever learnt to make for myself to eat, apart from of course countless cakes and biscuits, was a salad that I recreated from Tootsies burger restaurant in Wimbledon village. They had the highly sophisticated, so I thought at the time, salad mix of red cabbage, grated carrot and most exciting of all – sweetcorn. I suppose that the influence had come from an American slaw, but to me it was revolutionary. And most exciting of all was there was a choice of four dressing. This was back in the day before the idea of “choice” was really embraced in restaurants. French Dressing, Vinaigrette, Blue Cheese or my absolute, total favourite Thousand Island Dressing. I loved the stuff! I still knock up “Thousand Island Slaw” as I have now named it using whatever I have at hand. My kids love it too!

Thousand Island Slaw

A selection of what you have to hand. I recon fresh sweetcorn would be lovely. Just boil the cobs and then cut down the husks to remove the kernels.

Pointed cabbage, red cabbage, savoy cabbage etc. very finely shredded

Carrots, peeled and grated

Thousand Island Dressing

5 tbsp. mayonnaise

2 tbsp. tomato ketchup

Juice of half a lemon

Dash of tobacco

Mix up the dressing ingredients and adjust to your taste. Dress the salad and serve.

Courgette, Goat’s Cheese, Red Onion and Olive Pizza

Once again stuck for lunches for the kids?  Make up a batch of pizza dough below and they can top it with whatever they like leaving you free to do the same.

Courgette, Goat’s Cheese, Red Onion and Olive Pizza

For the pizza dough

500g strong plain white flour, plus extra for dusting

1 tsp salt

7g sachet fast-action yeast

2 tsp. sugar

325mls warm water

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing

For the pesto

40g fresh basil leaves

25g pine nuts

1 garlic clove, crushed

4 tbsp olive oil

25g finely grated parmesan, or vegetarian alternative

For the topping

2 medium red onions

4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

200g soft, fresh rindless goat’s cheese (from a log)

2 medium courgettes

Oregano, fresh or dried

20 good quality black olives, pitted

Whisk the yeast, sugar, oil and water together. Add the flour and salt to a food processor. Add the yeast mixture and combine until the dough comes together. Allow to carry on for 5 minutes or so to knead the dough. Drop into a clean bowl (or the stand mixer bowl), cover with cling film and leave in a warm place to rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Heat the oven to 200°C/fan180°C/ gas 6. Peel the onions, leaving the root end intact. Slice each through the root into thin wedges. Put into a small roasting tin and toss with 2 tbsp of the extra-virgin olive oil and some salt and pepper. Spread out and roast for 20 minutes until tender and brown-tinged. Remove and turn the oven up to 250°C/fan230°C/gas 9, or as high as it will go. Place a baking sheet or pizza stone in the bottom of the oven to get super hot.

For the pesto, put the basil, pine nuts, garlic and olive oil in a food processor, then whizz to a coarse paste. Scoop into a bowl, stir in the parmesan, then season well with salt to taste.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, knock it back, then knead once more until smooth. Break off pieces of the dough, shape each piece into a ball, then roll each into rounds. Dust well with flour. Keep them around 10” as it is easier to work with.

Top and tail the courgettes, then cut them lengthways into ribbons using a vegetable peeler or mandolin. Drop them into a bowl and toss with the rest of the extra-virgin olive oil, the chopped oregano and some pepper. Don’t add salt until just before you use them, otherwise they’ll wilt and go floppy.

Flour a flat baking sheet and add a pizza base. Roll out again back into shape. Spread pesto over the surface, leaving a small rim clear round the edge. Top with the roasted onion wedges and twists of courgette ribbons. Scatter with goat’s cheese and the olives. Slide onto the hot tray or stone in the oven.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, turning the pizzas around halfway through so they cook evenly, until the crust is crisp and golden. Slide them onto a wooden board, cut into thick slices and serve.

 

Butternut Squash Falafel with Tahini Sauce

The thing I hate most about the school holidays, apart from having two squabbling children under my feet for most to the day, is having to produce endless lunches.  Weather permitting the best option by far is picnics every day. Kids are out of the house, so much more space, less mess and no clearing up. These falafel are great stuffed in a pitta with some salad. They are baked rather than fried, so healthier too. Add some hummus for the kids and chilli sauce for you.  Lunch sorted!

Butternut Squash Falafel with Tahini Sauce

1 small butternut squash

3 tins chickpeas

Small bunch of chopped coriander

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 cloves garlic, minced

45g gram flour

Cayenne pepper, to taste

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Olive oil

Tahini Sauce

3 tablespoons tahini

Juice of half a lemon

1 teaspoon salt

Pre-heat oven to 180C. Peel butternut squash, cut in half, lengthwise, remove seeds and chop into bite size pieces. Toss the butternut squash with salt, pepper and olive oil and tip onto a backing sheet lined with greaseproof paper. Roast butternut squash until fork tender, 40-45 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes.

Place butternut squash in a food processor and blitz until smooth. Add the chick peas and pulse until you have a course mixture. Add mixture to a large bowl. Add the coriander, cumin, 1 teaspoon salt, garlic, flour and cayenne to bowl and use your hands to mix until everything is evenly combined. Form the mixture into patties (however large or small your like) and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush the top of each falafel with a small amount of olive oil and bake falafel patties at 180 until browned on both sides, flipping once, 35-40 minutes.

Make the sauce while the falafel is baking. Mix all ingredients together the tahini and lemon juice and salt in a small bowl. Add enough water until you get a drizzling consistency. Drizzle desired amount of sauce on top of falafel before enjoying and eat with salad or in a pita if desired.

Blackcurrant Ripple Parfait

Blackcurrants are back! I love them. Just the smell of them transports me back to a child, on holiday in the South of France, eating my favourite sorbet – Cassis. Unbeatable, except maybe by this Blackcurrant Ripple Parfait. The intense, sharp and slightly sherbety flavour of blackcurrants combines beautifully with the creamy custard. And best of all, you don’t need an ice-cream maker to make it. Serve it in slices as a posh dessert or scoop in into cones for the kids.

Blackcurrant Ripple Parfait

Serves six.

3 large egg yolks

105g caster sugar

125ml water

300ml double cream

1 tsp vanilla extract

350g blackcurrants

Put the egg yolks into the bowl of a mixer and attach the whisk attachment; or pop them into a mixing bowl and have a hand mixer at the ready.

Put 80g of the sugar and the water in a small pan over a medium heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Raise the heat and boil, without stirring, until it thickens and turns slightly syrupy, or until a sugar thermometer reads 110C. Switch on your mixer and start whisking the egg yolks. Slowly pour the hot sugar syrup in a thin stream over the yolks, whisking continuously. Beat for about four minutes, until the mixture is thick, pale, glossy and cool – it should leave a ribbon trail in the bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk the cream and vanilla to soft peaks and fold into the egg and sugar mixture. Pour this into a lidded plastic container and freeze for about two and a half hours.

While the parfait is freezing, put the blackcurrants in a saucepan, along with a dribble of water to get them started, and the remaining sugar. Stir over a low heat until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 10 minutes, until the blackcurrants are soft and the juices have run. Rub through a non-metallic sieve into a bowl, then chill.

When the parfait is chilled enough to hold its shape but soft enough to work a little, roughen the surface with a spoon and make several channels, grooves and holes in it. Into these, trickle little pools of the blackcurrant purée. Cut the mixture a bit to spread the ripples around, but don’t overdo it or they’ll get too mixed up with the parfait and you’ll lose your pretty contrasts. Smooth over the top and freeze again for another three hours, until solid. Allow to soften for about 15 minutes before serving in scoops or slices.

Courgette, Bacon, Basil & Parmesan Frittata

When I tell new customers that I write a blog with Simon, to help them use up their veg boxes every week, they always reply “But are the recipes quick and easy?”  So, this week, here are three variations on a theme.  Frittata, an Italian style omelette can be packed full of seasonal vegetables and makes a great lunch or brunch in no time.

Courgette, Bacon, Basil & Parmesan Frittata

Serves 2

Extra virgin olive oil

6 rashers of thinly cut smoked streaky bacon

3 courgettes, thinly sliced

75g parmesan, finely grated

Small bunch of fresh basil

4 large eggs, beaten

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pre-heat oven to 170C. Heat some oil in a medium non-stick, ovenproof frying pan. Cut the bacon into lardons and fry until golden brown and crispy. Add the courgettes and cook over a medium heat with a pinch of salt, for about 10-15 mins until completely collapsed, soft and golden. Add the basil and cook for a few minutes more.  In a bowl lightly whisk the eggs. Add the courgettes and season lightly with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add the parmesan. Wipe out the frying pan. Add a dash of olive oil. Put the pan back on a medium heat. Pour in the egg mixture and leave on the heat, just until the bottom and sides begin to set. Put in the oven until just firm, about 10 minutes. It is up to you whether you flip the frittata over or serve it the same side up. Cut into wedges and serve with a nice salad.

Raspberry and Almond Tart

You know Summer is here when the raspberries start and there is no better recipe than this one for using them up. This is a sort of Bakewell Tart but instead of adding jam, the fresh raspberries, sealed by the frangipane, cook themselves. Serve with a dollop of crème fraiche and you have the most perfect summer pudding I can think of.

Raspberry and Almond Tart

Pastry

175g plain flour

80g butter

1 egg

Frangipane

175g butter

175g sugar

175g ground almonds

1 tbsp. plain flour

2 eggs

Amaretto (optional)

400g fresh raspberries

Put the flour and butter for the pastry, and salt if using, in a food processor. Mix until you have breadcrumbs. Add the egg and just mix enough for the pastry to come together in a ball. Wrap in cling film and put in the fridge for 30 minutes.  In the same food processor put the butter, ground almonds and sugar. Whiz until you have a smooth mixture. Add the eggs and Amaretto if using and mix again. Next add the flour. Mix briefly one more time. Preheat the oven to 170C.  Roll out the pastry and line the tart tin. Use a small piece f pastry dipped in flour to really push the pastry into the edges of the tin to avoid it shrinking. Get a round piece of grease proof paper and carefully cover the pasty with it. Folding it down over the top edge. Blind bake for about 15 minutes or until the pasty is very light golden brown. If it rises at all during cooking, push it firmly down. Tip the raspberries into the tin and spread across the bottom. Top with the frangipane mixture, trying to cover all the raspberries. Bake for 30–40 minutes until risen and golden brown. Serve warm with crème fraiche.

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A Modern Petits Pois à la Française

I love growing peas. They are so perfect from begging to end. The flowers are so pretty and there is nothing nicer than seeing the kids picking the pods and popping sweet, young peas straight into their mouths.

This Petits Pois à la Française is a classic dish of braised peas, but I like to make a rather more modern version, cooking it for much less time to keep it fresh and vibrant, both in colour and taste.

A Modern Petits Pois à la Française

(serves 4)

75g butter

1 large cos lettuce (I used Batavia)

400g freshly podded peas

The white part of 6 spring onions, sliced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Large pinch of sugar

Several mint sprigs

Wash and drain the lettuce.Melt the butter in a large, stainless-steel pan. Add the spring onion and fry for a few minutes without any colour. Add the peas and the lettuce to the pan with a pinch of salt, freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of sugar (optional). The peas should cook in the water released from the lettuce whilst it braises. This should only take a few minutes. If necessary, add a dash of water. When the peas are cooked and the lettuce wilted, add the mint sprigs. Check seasoning. Serve warm.

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Strawberry Ice-cream

I love this time of year with all the summer fruits. When it comes to strawberries it is difficult to beat strawberries and cream. Only one thing is better on a hot summers day – strawberry ice-cream!

Strawberry Ice-cream

Serves: 10-12

700 grams strawberries

175 grams caster sugar (plus 2 tablespoons)

500 millilitres full fat milk

500 millilitres double cream

1 tbsp. vanilla bean paste

10 large egg yolks

Hull and roughly chop the strawberries, put them into a bowl and sprinkle over the 2 tablespoons of caster sugar and leave them to steep and infuse with flavour.

Pour the milk and cream into a heavy-based saucepan, and add the vanilla. Bring the pan nearly to the boil and then take it off the heat.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl whisk the egg yolks and the 175g / ¾ cup sugar until thick and pale yellow. Pour over the scalding milk, whisking the while. Pour straight back into the pan and return to a medium/low heat. By keeping everything hot at this stage reduces the cooking time. Stir the custard until it thickens. This should only take a few minutes if you take care. Make sure you keep the mixture moving constantly at the bottom where is comes into direct contact with the heat. When you see a very subtle slightly oily, darker yellow separation in the mixture. Immediately pour into another container to cool.

Puree the strawberries in a processor, and when the custard is cool fold in the  strawberry puree.

At this point you can either freeze the ice cream in an ice-cream maker, or in a plastic tub in the freezer. If you do the latter you should whip it out every hour for 3 hours as it freezes and give it a good beating, either with an electric whisk, by hand or in the processor. That gets rid of any ice crystals that form and that make the ice cream crunchy rather than smooth.

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Apricot Tarte Tatin

Another super easy recipe for summer fruits. As everyone know, who knows this blog, I am not one to give a day over to making my own puff-pastry. I spent too many hot summers in boiling hot restaurant kitchens trying to do my umpteenth fold, butter melting and no matter how much flour I used, puff pastry sticking to warm stainless-steel counters, to undertake that again in a hurry.

Now a days I am all for “Ready Rolled All Butter Puff” and you can knock this whole, delicious desert up in about ¾ of an hour.

Apricot Tarte Tatin

75g/2¾oz caster sugar

40g/1½oz unsalted butter, cubed

10 fresh apricots, halved and stoned

375g/13oz sheet of ready-rolled puff pastry

Crème fraiche or ice cream, for serving

For caramelising the apricots, you need a large ovenproof frying pan with a base that measures about 20cm/8in in diameter. Put the sugar in the pan and set it over a medium heat. Cook until the sugar first melts and then caramelises and turns golden brown. Try not to stir the sugar but swirl it around the pan every now and then. When you get to a deep golden caramel, add the butter and

stir in the butter with a wooden spoon. The caramel will be extremely hot so watch out for splashes. When the caramel is smooth, carefully arrange the apricots on top, cut-side up. Leave to cool for 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.

Unroll the puff pastry sheet Place a dinner plate or 25cm/10in cake tin on the pastry and cut around it. Gently place the pastry on top of the apricots and tuck down the sides with your fingers.

Bake the tarte tatin for about 20-25 minutes until the pastry is well risen and golden-brown. Remove the pan from the oven using an oven cloth to hold the handle of the pan – don’t forget – it will be very hot. Leave the tart to stand for a couple of minutes to allow it to settle, then loosen the edges and place a large serving plate or board on top of the frying pan. Very carefully, but quickly, turn it over, using a folded dry tea towel to help you hold it, and allow the tarte tatin to drop gently on to the serving plate.

Serve warm with crème fraiche or ice cream.

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Red Onion and Rosemary Focaccia.

When I was making pizza dough this week, I made up an extra batch for Focaccia. Focaccia is quite simply an Italian bread, similar to a deep-pan pizza that, no matter the topping, should involve a generous amount of Olive Oil.  This acts to produce a golden brown, crispy crust that is to die for.  It has to be fresh out of the oven.  Don’t ever believe that it is worth buying a Focaccia from a supermarket shelf.  It will inevitably be a complete contradiction of what it is meant to be – slightly stale, dry and dreary.  You have to make it yourself. And it will be anything but!

I love this time of year when all the alliums are out and so I topped my Focaccia with caramelised red onions, which I just cooked slowly with some extra virgin olive oil, a great way of using up a glut of onions.

Red Onion and Rosemary Focaccia.

½ batch of pizza dough

6 red onions

Extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Malden sea salt

Rosemary

Lightly oil a large metal frying pan or a metal dish with olive oil. Press in the pizza dough. Allow to prove for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, cut your onions really thin. Use a food processor if you have one. Add to a heavy bottomed saucepan with lots of olive oil, a pinch of salt and some freshly groung black pepper. Very finely chop your rosemary and add that too. Cook over a medium heat until almost dissolved. Keep an eye on them so they do not catch. Cook them for as long as you have got. Check for seasoning. Preheat your oven to 200C. Add your onion mixture all over the dough, but not quite at the edges. Sprinkle with Malden sea salt. Bake neat the bottom of the oven to ensure that the top gets cooked in the same time as the bottom. Bake until deep-golden brown. Remove the Focaccia from the tin to allow the bottom to cool. Eat warm.