Rememberance of Things Past

This week I have been developing a lemon and cardamom recipe for madeleines.

First melt the butter…

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then whisk the eggs and sugar…

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Flour, baking powder, lemon zest and the beautiful ground cardamom….

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Combine, apply heat and…..
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Ras El Hanout

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Ras El Hanout spice mix with rose petals

My store cupboard is packed with spices from food cultures all over the world. None of them lift my mood quite like the complex notes of a good quality Ras El Hanout.

Use in a dry rub, as part of a marinade or simply stir into a tomato based stew for warming depth of flavour

July In Focus – Summer herbs

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British summer herbs from left to right – Mint, Flat leaf parsley, Easy Cook Mixed Grains, Dill and Watercress

In addition to an abundance of soft fruit, July also heralds the verdant arrival of fresh herbs. A far cry from the dry, sawdust filled jars of my childhood, modern home cooks can now add a plethora of bright flavours to their dishes.

Beyond the ubiquitous basil of an Italian pasta or spicy coriander in a handmade curry, many cooks still report a lack of confidence when utilising herbs in their repertoire. On top of adding depth and complexity to an otherwise simple dish, herbs are often packed with numerous vitamins and minerals required for a healthy diet. This month’s ‘In Focus’ thread concentrates on how to get the best out of this powerhouse ingredient.

Herby Mixed Grain Salad

The mixed grains give a nuttier texture to this salad and many combinations are available in supermarkets or health food stores. Mine contained emmer, barley, durum wheat and buckwheat as well as red and black rice. You can replace the mixed grains with extra 85g of couscous if feels easier. Delicious served warm with steamed fish or cool to room temperature and add the watercress and radish for a satisfying vegetarian lunch.

Serves 4

  • 90g quick cook mixed grains
  • Half a chicken stock cube
  • Small handful of green beans
  • A good handful each of flat leaf parsley, mint and dill
  • One small courgette
  • 100g couscous
  • Peel and juice of 1 lemon
  • Slug of cold pressed rapeseed oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 80 – 100g bunch of watercress (optional)
  • 8 – 12 chopped radishes (optional)

Method

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  • Put the quick cook mixed grains and half a stock cube in a pan and cover with boiling water. Cook according to pack instructions.
  • Top and the tail the green beans. Add to the pan around 7-8 minutes before the grains are due to be cooked.
  • Finely chop the herbs and dice the raw courgette. Put to one side. Pour your couscous into a heat proof dish and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Add the zest of half a lemon and a good slug of the rapeseed oil. Combine well.
  • Once the grains are cooked and the green beans al dente, drain and keep the cooking water.
  • Take your heatproof bowl and just cover the couscous with the reserved water from earlier. Top up with hot water from your kettle if required. Leave until the water is fully absorbed and you can fluff the couscous up with a fork.
  • Prepare to assemble the salad. In a large dish combine the grains, green beans, couscous, herbs and diced courgette. If serving at room temperature toss with the watercress and scatter on the crunchy radishes before serving.

Tips for buying and using herbs

  1. Buy what you need and no more if you can. Most summer herbs don’t keep well in the fridge. If you use a particular herb on a regular basis then you can find a great selection of healthy plants at your local garden centre.
  2. Look to other cultures for herb based inspiration. Dill can be found running through Ukrainian and Norwegian recipes, whilst the combination of parsley, mint, garlic and lemon is the linchpin of Middle Eastern salads.
  3. Don’t be scared of big flavours. Experiment. What’s the worse that can happen?

A spicy British breakfast

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I recently purchased a chilli plant for my window ledge. It is absolutely covered in fruits, I only hope that I can keep it alive long enough to take full advantage. (House plants and I don’t have a great history of success.)

This constant supply of fresh and fairly hot chillies has triggered a craving for one of my favourite breakfast options. Simple but rewarding this dish deserves only the best of ingredients so I popped out to buy Yorkshire free range eggs and outdoor bred, British bacon from my local butchers and grabbed the frying pan.

Middle bacon with spicy eggs and tomatoes.

Serves One

Fry two slice of middle bacon and set aside to drain. Throw 6 or 7 cherry tomatoes into the pan and cook over a low heat whilst preparing the eggs.

For the spicy eggs

wpid-wp-1435050381462.jpegBeat three eggs, salt and pepper in a large cup. Finely chop one small, hot chilli pepper. Roughly chop a handful of fresh coriander.

When the tomatoes are just cooked, remove from the pan and set aside. Fry the chilli pepper for 1-2 minutes then pour in the beaten and seasoned eggs. Stir as for scrambled eggs. Fold in the coriander just before they reach your chosen consistency and remove from the heat. wpid-wp-1435050691962.jpeg

Plate up the eggs, bacon and tomatoes and enjoy with a big mug of coffee.