Chilli Cheese Cornbread

Corn bread doesn’t usually have sweet corn in it. It is the corn from the polenta, or corn-meal which provides the corn aspect. But this version is so much better, with fresh corn on the cob, caramelised onions, cheese and chilli. A winning combination.

If you have any left, toast it in a frying pan and serve it up along side a chilli, black bean chilli, with some fried eggs and bacon or rather strangely it went very well with my Labneh with Roast Beetroot & Sweet and Sour Onions.

Chilli Cheese Cornbread   

olive oil

2 red onions

2 corn on the cob

4 large free-range eggs

325 g coarse cornmeal or polenta

250 ml full-fat milk

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 tsp sea salt

6 tablespoons plain flour

140 g mature Cheddar cheese

2 fresh green chillies

Preheat the oven to 180C. Lightly oil a loaf tin.

Peel and finely slice the onions. Melt some olive oil in a saucepan pan on a medium heat, add the onions, then fry gently for 15 to 20 minutes, or until caramelised, golden and sticky.

Hold the corn cobs upright on a board and carefully run a small knife from the top of the corn to the bottom, cutting all the kernels off.

Add to the caramelised onions and cook for a further 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

Beat the eggs in a large bowl, then mix in the cornmeal, milk, baking powder, flour, sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper.

Grate the cheese and add. De-seed and finely chop the chillies and add along with the cooled onion and corn mixture.

Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin. Put the cornbread into the oven for 35 minutes, or until golden and cooked through.

Cool for 15 minutes, then turn it out onto a wire rack or serving plate. Serve straightaway – it’s unbelievably good when it’s warm.

 

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Peperonata

Peperonata is a Sicilian pepper stew and amazingly, for such a simple recipe, no two versions seem to be the same.  I add not only capers and basil but Balsamic vinegar to mine, just to really nail that sweet and sour kick, but I also leave out the tomato which is often present in other versions.  Use the best Balsamic you can, which not only means one obviously from Moderna, the home of  Balsamic vinegar but also one that has also been aged at least 12 years.  A decent one will set you back at least £12.00 for 250ml but it will be worth it.  You will not need very much and it’s mellow sweetness and integrated acidity will add an amazing depth and complexity to many sauces especially tomato based ones.

I love this pepper stew, not only on its own with a rocket salad but also with meat or fish, especially wild salmon or mackerel.  The acidity works really well to cut the oiliness of the fish.  All you need is a few boiled new potatoes and you have a little taste of much needed sunshine.

 Peperonata

6 peppers (red, yellow and orange are best)

Extra-virgin olive oil

1 red onion, peeled and sliced

3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 medium-sized bunch of basil, roughly chopped

A handful of baby capers

A splash of very good balsamic Vinegar (Aged 12 years at least)

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Start by slicing the peppers in half, scooping out the seeds and slicing into one-inch strips lengthwise. Now place a medium-sized heavy- based pan over a gentle heat. Add a tablespoon of the olive oil and allow to warm through. When the oil is warm but not hot, add the onions, a pinch of salt and sweat for 15 minutes, stirring from time to time.

Once the onions are soft and translucent, add the garlic and sweat for a further 10 minutes – the onions should not have browned at all. Add the peppers and stir to combine. Cook until the peppers are soft and almost falling apart; this should take about 45 minutes. Give the capers a good squeeze to get rid of any excess vinegar and add to the peppers. Drizzle with balsamic and season with freshly ground black pepper and salt.  Cook until the vinegar has the right sweet and sour balance.   Add the basil and taste for seasoning. Serve either warm or at room temperature.

 

Lamb Chops with Braised Chard & Mint

I am going to share a little secret with you. If you love lamb chops but are the kind of guy who is not very keen on fat, then you will probably love the very expensive cut of trimmed rack of lamb. You are probably looking at about £30 a kilo, and that is not cheap. However, check out your local Halal butcher. (Often found inside Arabic shops which have lots of fruit and veg outside. There are at least three in Morden.) They more than likely sell these fabulous little lamb chops, completely trimmed of all their fat. They might not look quite as professionally butchered as a French trimmed rack, but they are half the price and chuck them on the BBQ, they taste absolutely delicious, no one is going to care what they look like anyway.

Lamb Chops with Braised Chard & Mint

Serves 2

10 lamb chops (I allow about 5 chops per person)

For chard

1 bunch Swiss chard (1 lb)

1 large red onion, finely sliced

2 garlic clove, very finely chopped

Small bunch mint

Extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Zest from 1 lemon

Cut stems and center ribs from chard, discarding any tough portions, then cut stems and ribs crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Stack chard leaves and roll into cylinders. Cut cylinders crosswise to make 1-inch-wide strips. Wash and drain well. Cook the onion in olive oil, gently, stirring occasionally, until onion begins to soften, about 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic and chard stems and ribs, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until stems are just tender, about 6 minutes. Stir in chard leaves and water and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and fry for a minute more. Add the chard and season with salt and pepper and cook down until well wilted. Whilst the chard cooks, grill your seasoned chops. Add the mint and lemon to the chard and check for seasoning. Serve with the chops.

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.

Swiss Chard and Herb Tart with Fresh Goat’s Cheese

We all get a bit stuck in our comfort zone and when scaning through new recipes, I must admit I have a tendency to stick to the familiar, so I nearly bypassed this Ottolenghi recipe I found when looking for a new way of using up chard. For a start it was called Swiss Chard and Herb Tart with Young Cheese, and I knew for sure that I did not have any “young cheese” lying around in my fridge, nor was I very likely to be able to get hold of any very easily in the culinary void of Wimbledon. Secondly, I wasn’t sure about the mint. I am always a little wary of cooking mint. I little too much and it can end up tasting like toothpaste. I wasn’t sure about the quantities of the ingredients – follow the net weights not the descriptions. 8 large chard leaves turned out to be a whole bag of chard from Riverford. And finally I didn’t have any courgette flowers – too early in the year for my allotment. But I decided to make it anyway and I am really pleased that I did. It is absolutely delicious, even without the courgette flowers. For the young cheese, I used a Abergavenny goat’s cheese that I found in Sainsbury’s.

Swiss chard and herb tart with young cheese

Adapted from Yotem Ottolenghi. Serves four as a main course.

½ small red onion, thinly sliced (85g net)

3 celery stalks and leaves, thinly sliced (220g net)

8 large chard leaves, roughly chopped, white stalks discarded (175g net)

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

2 tbsp torn mint leaves

2 tbsp chopped parsley

2 tsp chopped sage

2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

75g feta, crumbled

50g pecorino, finely grated

15g pine nuts, lightly toasted

Grated zest of 1 lemon

350g all-butter puff pastry, I used ready rolled

100g brocciu cheese (fresh cheese) or ricotta or fresh goat’s cheese

6 Courgette flowers, cut in half length-ways (optional)

1 egg, lightly beaten

Salt and black pepper

Place a large frying pan on medium-high heat and sauté the onion, celery, chard, garlic, mint, parsley and sage in the olive oil. Cook, stirring continuously, for 15 minutes or until the greens are wilted and the celery has softened completely. Remove from the heat and stir through the feta, pecorino, pine nuts, lemon zest, ¼ teaspoon of salt and a hearty grind of black pepper. Leave aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Roll the pastry, if necessary to a 3mm thick sheet and cut it into a circle, approximately 30cm in diameter. Place on an oven tray lined with baking paper. Spread the filling out on the pastry leaving a 3 centimetre edge all the way around. Dot the filling with large chunks of brocciu, ricotta or fresh goat’s cheese.  Top with courgette flowers, if using. Bring the pastry up around the sides of the filling and pinch the edges together firmly to form a secure, decorative lip over the edge of the tart. Alternatively press with the end of a fork. Brush the pastry with egg and refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Bake the tart in the oven for 30 minutes until the pastry is golden and cooked on the base. Remove from the oven and brush with a little olive oil. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Greek Salad

I am over run with herbs at the moment. Ever since setting up my little gardening business, literally making “little gardens”, the bestselling box by far, has been our Summer Herb Garden Box – a little herb box packed with your favourite herbs for cooking, for herbal teas or barbequing. Being a kitchen table business, or in this case a garden table business, my back garden is overflowing with herbs waiting to be planted into our hand-made wooden boxes and delivered.

It is great having herbs on hand growing in your back garden, or even on a window ledge, because you never know when you are going to need them. Like in this fabulous Greek Salad. This is one of my favourite salads because it is so jam-packed with summer. The fresh mint and ripe tomatoes, the oregano and the cool crunchy cucumber, with salty olives and feta, it makes me long to be in Greece, in a little Taverna over-looking the deep blue sea. Still, there are many worse places to be than my back garden surrounded by herbs.

Greek Salad

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

1 cucumber, quartered length ways, de-seeded and diced

6 ripe tomatoes cut into bite sizes chunks -8ths or 10ths, depending on size

Large handful of pitted Greek black olives

225g feta, crumbled (I used Wooton White)

1 handful of shelled cooked broad beans

½ bunch of mint, shredded (roll the leaves into a cigar shape and cut through as finely as you can)

For the dressing

Juice of half a lemon

Extra-virgin olive Oil

Fresh chopped oregano or dried

Make the dressing by putting the lemon juice in a large bowl. Add a large pinch or two of salt. Gradually add the olive oil, stirring vigorously all the time. Keep tasting until you have a perfect mix of lemon, salt and oil. Add the sliced onion and marinade whilst you chop the rest of the vegetables. Add the tomatoes, cucumber, olives, broad beans, mint and feta and carefully stir through. Check for seasoning.

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Puy lentil and mushroom Bolognaise

As I said, I have been using up lentils this week, and what better way than this fabulous lentil Bolognaise. It is healthier, quicker, cheaper and makes so much less mess as there is no meat to brown off. You can use it just like Bolognaise too – in a lasagne, in a baked potato, on polenta or on pasta as I did. I really cannot rate it enough.

Puy lentil and mushroom Bolognaise

Serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 sticks celery, finely chopped

2 carrots, finely chopped

2 onions, finely chopped

300g chestnut mushrooms, finely sliced

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

250g puy lentils

150ml red wine

1 tablespoon tomato puree

800g tin of chopped tomatoes

1 litre vegetable stock (I make mine with kello stock cubes)

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon dried oregano

sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large pan and gently fry the carrot, celery and onion for about 10 minutes, until they begin to soften. Add the mushrooms and garlic, cooking until the mushrooms are cooked through, release their liquid and begin to fry. Add the tomato puree and fry for a minute or two. Add the red wine and reduce for a few minutes. Season well and add the puy lentils and the tinned tomatoes, stock and herbs and simmer for 25-35 minutes, until the lentils are cooked and your ragu is nice and thick (you may need to add extra stock/ boil away any excess depending how long it takes the lentils to soften). Check seasoning.

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.

Onion Bhaajis

As I was making my Cauliflower Pakora this week, it got me thinking about Onion Bhaajis. A great recipe when you have a glut of onions. It makes a really nice quick and easy supper with some chutneys or raita and the kids love them.

Onion Bhaajis

3 onions, peeled and thinly sliced

Sunflower oil, for frying

For the batter

150g gram flour (chickpea flour)

½ teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons ground coriander

½ teaspoon ground turmeric

A good shake of cayenne pepper

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

For the batter, put the gram flour, baking powder, ground spices and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to combine and get rid of any lumps. Slowly whisk in 175ml cold water, which should give you a smooth batter with a similar consistency to double cream. Add a little more water if necessary – different brands of gram flour will vary in how much they absorb.

Break up the onion slices into rings. Dip the onion in the batter, making sure they are all thoroughly coated, and scrunch them up slightly, into balls,

Heat about a 3cm depth of oil in a heavy-based pan over a medium-high heat. When the oil is hot enough to turn a cube of white bread light golden brown in 30–40 seconds, start cooking the bhaajis, a few at a time so you don’t crowd the pan. Cook for about 2 minutes, until crisp and golden brown on the base, then turn over and cook for another minute or two.

Drain on kitchen paper, then serve piping hot with the raita for dipping.

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!