recipes etc.
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fennel and asparagus salad with toasted hazelnuts

we’re on holiday at the moment and this was a “use up what’s in the fridge” meal just before we left. one large bulb of fennel was roasted with strips of lemon zest and fennel seeds (follow the link for full details). i tossed this with some just-cooked asparagus and added drizzles of white balsamic vinegar and olive oil plus a couple of handfuls of rocket leaves and some chopped mint. final bits were some buffalo mozzarella and toasted hazelnuts. we ate this with crusty bread.


perfect coq au riesling with gnocchi


riesling is the best known german wine so when i saw the latest felicity cloake “how to cook the perfect…” column was coq au riesling i decided it was something i should try. the result was very, very delicious. rich but delicious.

i took a simplified approach, using a couple of chicken/thigh pieces and mushroom stock rather than a whole bird and homemade chicken stock. i also took the meat off the bone before adding it back to the sauce at the end of the recipe – this was just to make it easier to eat. finally, i added some cooked potato gnocchi as my plan to serve this with crusty bread was let down by closed shops (aka poor planning). leftovers reheated well. 

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strawberry poppy seed crisp

this is a great recipe, especially if you have strawberries that need a flavour boost – i was unsure how i’d like them once they were roasted but it’s similar to a strawberry jam that hasn’t lost its freshness through being overcooked. i loved the hint of vanilla and citrus flavours; the crispy oat topping is also delicious and i much prefer it to the traditional crumble topping of flour, sugar and butter.

the recipe is from anna jones’ a modern way to eat, which is packed full of good ideas but also recipes that need tweaking. sometimes this is a matter of proportions or personal ingredient preferences but in this case the recipe hadn’t been proofread properly and various items were missing from the methodology (i have an early edition of the book and i know some of these issues have now been corrected) so the version below reflects the approach i took.

as well as filling in the gaps i also altered a few aspects of the recipe – i didn’t have any orange zest so added orange flower water to the strawberries and used the lemon zest in the crisp topping. i also used less butter in the topping – start by adding two thirds and then decide if any extra it is needed to bring things together as fine breadcrumbs. if your strawberries are sweet i think you could reduce the sugar in the topping as well.

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halloumi and asparagus with lime and caper dressing

this is a much loved favourite that i make every year – fried halloumi slices dusted with seasoned flour (black pepper and smoked paprika are my favourites, don’t add salt though, as the cheese will already be salty), a zingy lime and herb dressing with capers for an extra kick plus gorgeous green asparagus. it’s great as a light meal or as  starter. try to eat it while the cheese is still warm so it has that lovely slightly melty texture.

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asparagus and chorizo popover

so, a popover, what’s that then? it’s nothing i’ve come across before in the uk but it seems to be the american version of the british yorkshire pudding. except they’re as likely to be eaten with jam, fruit and cream for breakfast rather as part of a savoury meal (usually a traditional roast dinner in the uk, especially if it is roast beef).

having said that, it was actually a large popover, with “fillings” that caught my eye – this double smoked bacon and asparagus popover to precise. again there is a similarity with a uk dish – this time toad in the hole. i have to confess that the asparagus filling is more my kind of thing, rather the traditional sausage that is use to make “toad” (although i remember making a sweet version with a pineapple ring in a school cookery class!).

i decided to use a mix of asparagus and chorizo and loved the result. it is quite a heavy and filling dish and i think it needs an accompaniment to counter any dryness – a spicy tomato salsa or chutney would have been ideal here, as would a dressed salad. i’m looking forward to experimenting with popovers!