Saag Paneer

I don’t know why but I had never tried Saag Paneer. Whenever I go out for an Indian meal,  I guess I have always opted for Saag Aloo and so it never got a look in. Well that is a thing of the past. It is sublime. An Indian spiced, creamed spinach – what a great combination.

Neither did I know that you can make your own Paneer. I have to admit though that I didn’t. I got mine from Waitrose!

Saag Paneer

Coconut oil

1 onion

2 cloves of garlic

1 thumb-sized piece of ginger

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

2 teaspoons garam masala

½ teaspoon turmeric

2 ripe tomatoes

2 large handfuls of fresh spinach

100 ml double cream

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the paneer: OR 1 block of ready made Paneer (226g)

1.5 litres whole milk

1 lemon

To make the paneer, line a sieve with a large piece of muslin and place over a bowl. Heat the milk in a large heavy-based pan over a medium heat. Gently bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer.  Gradually add 4 tablespoons of lemon juice, stirring continuously so the curds and whey separate. Carefully pour the mixture into the sieve so the curds collect in the muslin. Place under cold running water to get rid of any whey, then gather up the muslin and squeeze out the excess moisture. Keeping the muslin bundle in the sieve, cover it with a plate and top with a few heavy weights (a couple of tins work well). Place in the fridge for 1 hour 30 minutes to set.  cut the

Cut the paneer into 2cm chunks. Heat some coconut oil in a large non-stick frying pan over a medium heat, add the paneer and fry for 5 minutes, or until golden, stirring frequently. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a double layer of kitchen paper to drain.

Peel and finely chop the onion and finely grate the garlic and ginger. Return the pan to a medium-low heat, adding a splash more oil, if needed. Add the cumin seeds, fry for 1 minute, then add the onion and cook for around 8 minutes, or until softened. Stir in the garlic, ginger, garam masala and turmeric. Halve, deseed and very finely chop the tomato, add to the pan and cook for a further 10 minutes, or until softened but not coloured, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile blanch the spinach in a pan of salted boiling water for 1-2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to a dry tea towel to cool. When cool enough to handle, use the tea towel to squeeze the excess water from the spinach. Roughly chop.

Stir in the spinach, cover and cook for 5 minutes, then stir in the cream, paneer and a splash of boiling water. Reduce the heat to low and cook for a further minute or two with the lid off, or until reduced to a deliciously creamy consistency. Season to taste and serve immediately.

Insalata Caprese

Tomatoes are really good for you, so I am always trying to add them to salads, but to tell you the truth, I don’t really like eating them on their own. Cherry tomatoes are fine, but the large ones are just a bit too acidic for me. That is until you put them  together with bufala mozzarella and basil. Once combined I could eat platefuls. Obviously the creamy, mild mozzarella cuts the acidity of the tomato, but it is the big mouthfuls of basil which really make this recipe work. I quite like to add a little vinaigrette but traditionally it is just olive oil. Make sure to season your tomatoes well though.

Insalata Caprese

(serves 4 with bread)

About 600g tomatoes

Extra virgin olive oil

250g buffalo mozzarella

Small bunch of basil

Cut the tomatoes into thick slices. Cut out the core if it looks chewy. Put into a bowl and sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper leave to sit for 10 minutes, then add 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil and gently toss with a couple of spoons.

Arrange the tomatoes on a platter, spooning over their juices. Thickly slice the mozzarella and scatter with basil leaves. Drizzle with more oil and season with a little more salt. Serve.

Marsala Frittata

And for my final Frittata, this might even have been my favourite, which I wasn’t expecting, as I mainly decided to make it because I liked the name!

Marsala Frittata

Serves 2

Extra virgin olive oil

3 onions, thinly sliced

1 tsp. Garam Marsala

1 tsp. ground cumin

200g cherry tomatoes, halved

1 fresh red chilli, seeds removed and finely chopped

Small bunch of coriander, roughly chopped

4 large eggs, beaten

Pre-heat oven to 170C. Heat some oil in a medium non-stick, ovenproof frying pan. Tip in the sliced onions and cook over a medium heat with a pinch of salt, for about 10 mins until soft and golden. Add the chilli and spices and fry for 1 min more. In a bowl lightly whisk the eggs. Season lightly and add the tomatoes, the chopped coriander and the onions. 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.

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.

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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Home-made V8

I have been desperate to make my own tomato juice ever since I got a juicer so I was waiting to have a glut of tomatoes. Obviously I had to wait until winter was over to have any decent tomatoes at all, but then this week I seemed to have somehow collected three punnets. So without hesitation I chucked one punnet into my juicer. Absolutely nothing came out and when I peered inside, I seemed to have made little more than some tomato froth. Turns out you really have to cook the tomatoes to get the sort of juice I had in mind. There is a raw version but it is just not the same. So you simmer your tomatoes for about 25 minutes and push them through a sieve. No juicer required. However, if like me you wanted to use your juicer, there are all sorts of favours you can add to make your tomato juice a bit different. Mine ended up tasting a bit more like V8, but I didn’t mind, because I love the stuff. I added a little beetroot, which is great as it gives it a better colour, celery, parsley, spinach, watercress and a couple of carrots. Obviously salt, onion, pepper, sugar, Worcester sauce or tabasco can help add a kick, but that is up to you.

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Roast Tomato Soup with Basil and Balsamic

I know it is a strange time of year to be writing about Tomato Soup. Surely the time for this recipe is at the end of Summer when everyone has a glut of tomatoes, red and green, to us- up some how.

But it was half-term and I always struggle with suddenly having to produce a healthy, hearty lunch everyday for the kids. By day three the cupboards were bare, and that is when I resorted to this quick and easy tomato soup. Tomatoes are not really at their best in Winter, so roasting them really helps to intensify their flavour and release their natural sweetness. The balsamic vinegar added an extra hint of sweetness, so no need for added sugar, as in Heinz. The kids loved it. Only two more days to go!

Roast Tomato Soup with Basil and Balsamic

1 kg tomatoes

4 garlic cloves, peeled and whole

Extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon good balsamic vinegar

Handful of basil leaves

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees. Cut tomatoes into ¼ and season them well with salt and pepper. Toss with plenty of olive oil, the garlic cloves and the basil. Tip into a shallow baking dish and roast for about an hour. Stir from time to time. The longer the tomatoes cook down the more intense the flavour. Tip into a saucepan and add about ½ litre of water. Add the balsamic and puree with a hand blender until really smooth (most kids don’t like to see the tomato pips.) You can use a liquidiser or food processor instead. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve hot.

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Pepper’s Piedmontese

I can’t remember where this recipe first came from. Maybe Elizabeth David, but I remember serving it as a starter at the first restaurant I ever worked in, The Brackenbury in Hammersmith. In January and February, we did a set lunch with The Times, which was something ridiculous like £10 for three courses, so you can imagine, it was fabulously busy. Maybe up to 90 lunches a day in a little 50 seater restaurant with a tiny kitchen. It was hot, long hours and hard work and I made one hell of a lot of Pepper’s Piedmontese.

peppers-piedmontese

Peppers Piedmontese

For vegetarians, remove the anchovy.

Serves 4 as a starer and  2 as a main.

6 ripe plum tomatoes

2 red peppers, sliced in half lengthwise, seeds removed

3 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced

Small bunch of basil, shredded

4 good-quality anchovies in oil

Freshly ground black pepper

4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Cut your peepers in half through the stem. Then cut across the stem with a knife to remove the seeds but leave the stem attached. Chop your tomatoes into 8ths and toss in a bowl with plenty of olive oil, salt, pepper and the basil. Heat your oven to 180C/350F/Gas4. Slice the garlic as thinly as you can (a mandolin is good for this.) Put some slithers of garlic into each half of the peppers. Next add an anchovy fillet into each one. Pile in the chopped tomatoes. Place on the middle shelf of the oven and roast for 30 to 40 minutes. The flesh of the pepper should be soft but not falling apart, steaming just slightly. Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature, when the flavour of the peppers is at its very best. Before serving, drizzle over the olive oil and serve.

peppers-piedmontese-1

Grilled Corn Salsa

Reading Guy’s news letter this week, reminded me about the terrible practices in non-organic farming of livestock.  Antibiotics are routinely added to livestock feed, as a preventative rather than as a cure. Surely it would be much more beneficial that farmers concentrated on ensuring the all livestock are raised in a healthy environment, rather than the use of medicines, especially as we know that we are already getting far too many antibiotics in our diets than is necessary or safe.

Obviously organic meat is going to be more costly, which may put it out of reach for many people, but there is a solution. Eat good meat, but eat less of it.  This Grilled Corn Salsa, bulks up a grilled steak and served alongside my Patatas Bravas, makes a great supper, probably even without the meat.

grilled-corn-salsa

Grilled Corn Salsa

Serves: 4

Ingredients

2 large ears corn

¼ red onion, diced

3 large ripe tomatoes, seeds slightly removed and diced

1 fresh red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped

sea salt

juice of one lime

small bunch freshly chopped coriander

Cook the corn as I did last week on the BBQ or a griddle. Leave the husk on and grill it first until charred. Then remove the husk and strings and put it back on the grill for a little colour – 2-3 minutes – rolling to char all sides. Don’t leave it on too long or the corn will dry out.

grillled-corn-on-the-cob

Once grilled, slice corn off of the cob and add to bowl with remaining ingredients and stir. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed, adding more salt, chilli or lime juice to taste. Serve immediately. Will keep covered in the fridge for several days, but is best when fresh.

grilled-corn-salsa-2

Halloumi and Vegetable Kebabs with Chilli Sauce

With this lovely weather we are having, I am trying to BBQ as much as possible. I always feel there is less cleaning up, apart from the occasional horrendous job of giving the BBQ a thorough clean a few times a year!

But somehow it is usually meat that ends up on the BBQ and the vegetables get forgotten. This is such a shame when the smoky, intense heat, works so well with so many summer veg. My favourites are peppers, courgettes, red onions and tomatoes which all fit perfectly on a skewer, and makes them great for kebabs. Riverford have the most adorable, little sweet peppers at the moment, which are perfect!

Riverford Sweet Mixed Peppers

Add some Halloumi, and you have got yourself a meal. Think Kebab, and serve with chilli sauce and pitta or go all-out and add tzatziki and shredded salad.

Grilled Halloumi and Vegetable Kebabs with Chilli Sauce

Halloumi and Vegetable Kebabs with Chilli Sauce

You want the thickness of all your vegetables and halloumi to be roughly the same. This way, they will all come in contact with the grill equally and cook evenly.

Mixed red, orange and yellow peppers

Halloumi cheese

Courgettes

Red onions

extra virgin olive oil

Cherry tomatoes

Extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Chilli Sauce (such as Sriracha)

Flatbreads

Place some wooden skewers into a large roasting tray of cold water to soak – this will stop them from burning.

Cut the pepper in half, scoop out all of the seeds and white pith with a teaspoon, then cut into 2cm chunks. Cut the halloumi into 2cm chunks. Cut the courgettes into 2cm slices. Peel the onions and cut into thin wedges and place in the bowl. Remove the skewers from the tray, discard the water and wipe the tray dry. Thread all your ingredients onto the skewers, not too close together so that they have a chance to cook. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Place the skewers onto the BBQ (or griddle pan) and cook for around 8 minutes or until cooked through, turning every 2 minutes to get nice and golden on all sides. Drizzle with chilli sauce and serve with flatbreads.

Halloumi and Vegetable Kebabs with Chilli Sauce