In preparation for the summer, I have focused my efforts on developing simple and easy recipes for beachside BBQs and Ottolenghi inspired salads that may spruce up the buffet table. Cauliflower is a veg that is often overlooked. Personally, I tend to associate it with cheesy béchamel, long winter roasts and bland prep school dinners. However, a little bit of experimentation has led me to three vibrant and very different recipes for summer cauliflower salads. To be enjoyed warm or at room temp, today or tomorrow, any one (or all three) of these exotic numbers may be served as a side, or just be enjoyed da solo, providing a refreshing change from the usual suspects - mixed greens and potato salads - all the while costing no more than a pound a pop. I used ingredients from Bonativo, a new and exciting company who deliver artisan products from local farmers, right to your doorstep. They nail the classics, and offer rarer finds such as the subtly fragrant garlic leaves used here. Highly recommended!
In attempt to reconcile the ridiculous length of time it has been since I posted a recipe, I am planning to bombard the blog with tons of ideas for summer cooking. Drinks, canapés, meals for one, meals for two, suggestions for a cheap ‘n’ easy lunch a la desk? Stay tuned to find whatever you are looking for, and as always, feel free to get in touch with any requests or recommendations. First comes first, the perfect pre-preparable pud for your summer dinner parties: mini New York cheese cakes with balsamic glazed strawbs. You don’t need much time, skill or money for this one; just the right ingredients, about 20 minutes on the clock and a little fridge space for the couple of hours before eating. You can make them the day before, freeze them the week before, or just pop them in the fridge at the beginning of your meal. Flexible, dericious, and drop dead gorgeous.
Is it a sauce? Is it a salad? All I know is that this Asian green apple slaw is a definite must for the culinary repertoire. It’s a healthy, vibrant, easy, and impressive garnish to any meat or fish, and provides a brilliant alternative to your bog standard cold slaw. Perhaps owed to my Lebanese roots, I am a committed fan of tahini, and relish any opportunity to bring in that distinctive sesame flavor – the consistency also makes it an ideal substitute for mayonnaise in this instance. I used green apples, spring onions, carrots, ginger and red and green cabbage, but this recipe really is incredibly versatile; you can bring in whatever you have got in your fridge – kale, cucumber, mango, whatever. Better still, it keeps for days in the fridge, becoming more and more flavorful as the dressing is soaked up. Cheap, colorful, delish, and deceptively speedy. What more do you want, tartlets?
This simple, delicious and foolproof recipe requires nothing but time and a decent grill. The belly of pork is cheap, relative to other butcher's cuts, and provides the perfect centre piece for a dinner party of any size. It is gorgeous, impressive, and gives the illusion of the most sophisticated culinary expertise without demanding any complicated skills or strategies. The only thing you do need is a little time; the preparation and slow cooking is done in advance, leaving a simple 20 minute blitz under the grill to be done before it is time to eat! My favourite sort of recipe - one that allows you to fully relax into the pre-dinner drinks and nibbles without needing to slave away in a smokey kitchen or panic about anything falling into place. The tender flesh of the pork is contrasted with the airy crispiness of the crackling, and the garlic gravy made from the its' natural juices marries perfectly with the smooth and sweet rounded flavour of the parsnip puree. Serve up with simple greens and hey presto, finito!
Just because the festive season has come to a close, who is to say that we can't continue enjoy a couple of wintery canapés before dinner time? These delicious little parcels are rich in flavour and seemingly impressive despite being speedy and easy to prepare. They may be small but they leave a strong impression on the palette - and nobody needs more than one or two. All you need is a packet of prosciutto, a wedge of relatively hard gorgonzola (or other blue) and a packet of de-seeded dates. The brilliant thing about this one is that you can really go anywhere you want with the ingredient combinations - manchego marries well with honey roast ham and apple chutney, brie with streaky bacon, prunes and red onion marmalade... Whatever you fancy!
Whenever I go wander down the fish aisle of a supermarket or pop in to the local fishmonger, my eyes linger on the baffling affordability of cod relative to its' rivalling shelf mates (tuna, haddock, plaice, bass and so on). Line caught, boneless and skinless cod fillets approximate at £1.50 per steak, and that is if you are going for the really good quality (we are talking Waitrose grocery and The Chelsea Fishmonger here, so you are guaranteed to find better bang for your buck elsewhere). The white flaky swimmer has been one of Britains' favourites for decades, playing host to some of the best fish and chip beer batters our country has ever known (Rick Stein, we are lookin' at you). It is delicate and oily in texture but holds firm during cooking and its' flavour is incredibly mild, which makes it the perfectly versatile fish to incorporate into countless different recipes.
This sinfully delicious crowd pleaser is easy, quick and do-able using your most ordinary store cupboard staples. I hadn't encountered baked artichoke dip until recently, when I shared a portion with a friend at a prohibition bar in lower Manhattan. She tells me that it is a real classic amongst New Yorkers and often constitutes a starter at dinner parties and a canapé when people come together for drinks. Served warm, it is hearty, rich and a brilliantly simple comfort food. Serve with bruschetta, toast, tortilla chips or bread sticks, and to make it extra impressive, bake it in a hollowed out sourdough. Once you have done it once, I can guarantee it will become one of those go-to's that becomes a permanent part of your repertoire. Go go go!
Inspired by one of my favourite blogs, the Smitten Kitchen, I have perfected a funky rendition of a family favourite breakfast dish: eggy bread. My sisters and I were always delighted when our mother would make us eggy bread, and would always jump at the opportunity to order it whenever we were out for breakfast. However, we extremely were stubborn about two things: firstly, anybody who calls it "French Toast" is simply a moron and they must get out right now, and secondly, eggy bread may only be served with tomato ketchup. The American traditions of serving "F***ch T**st" with maple syrup, sugar, cinnamon, bacon, blueberries or anything else, were profoundly misunderstood, and there was no room for improvement beyond the British tradition we knew and loved. However, as I grew older I grew more open to trying new things, ingredient combinations, flavours, new traditions, and I opened my heart to the prospect of my favourite breakfast food being sweet instead of savoury. Alas, we have my new traditional way serving eggy bread under a knob of salted butter, dusting it with cinnamon brown sugar and eating it with fresh berries. I challenge you to not fall in love with this one peeps, no matter how stubborn you are...
Whether a picnic piece or sandwich filler, coronation chicken has become something of a national treasure. There is something nostalgic about the creamy, exotic and utterly indulgent dish. You can never have too much coronation chicken. Or perhaps you can never make too much. It is easy, inexpensive, keeps well in the fridge and provides a versatile accompaniment to any seasonal meal. Having trailed and tested many coronation chicken dishes, I have boiled it down to this foolproof recipe. If you are a spice-phobe, go easy on the curry powder, turmeric and cumin. If you are (like me) one who likes your ethnic flavours hot and with a kick, add a few dried chilli flakes. The same goes for almonds, raisins and so on... Add and omit to your own taste!
The perfect way to brighten up a colourless or bland meal, this couscous salad is a foolproof and speedy recipe that is a sure fired way to impress your dinner guests. It is a real cheat, whilst you have got to be willing to do a fair bit of chopping, once that is done all that is required is tossing everything together in a simple lemon dressing, yet people seem to walk away thinking it must have taken you absolutely hours. I always find that ignorance is bliss, and you needn't correct such misconceptions... It is all about the blend of colour. It looks great on a plate, and people will always opt for it in favour of your bog standard hodgepodge of monotonous salad leaves. It also keeps incredibly well, so can be a great thing to throw together on a Sunday afternoon in bulk and keep in a tupperware to do your work lunches throughout the week. If it starts to dry up, just add a little more olive oil with some white wine vinegar, the couscous soaks it all up and just continues to get more and more delicious. Equally, you can carry on adding fresh vegetables as the week progresses - it is a real winner for using up whatever is fresh in your fridge, and can pretty much accommodate any combination of flavours. It can be a meal in itself, a bed for a main, a starter, hell it can be a pudding. I like to throw prawns in there to spice up a leftover lunch. Easy, fast, cheap and healthy, without butternut squash roasting or anything else tedious. What more do you want to brighten up your dreary October my tartlets?
New York bagels boast global recognition as the world's finest. Why are they so damn good? Bagelries typically poach the bagels prior to baking them. The bagels spend a few minutes simmering in a pot of water before entering the dry heat of an oven. It is this pre-gelatinisation process that is thought to produce the especially chewy interior and slightly changed flavour or the finished product. The result is unbelievable. Following my return to London, the I attempted to satisfy a habituated craving for a breakfast bagel first thing in the morning. M&S's finest sesame bagel, sliced, toasted and buttered. The result? Unremarkable. Immediately, I wanted to do my very best to achieve the perfect balance of textures and flavours that I had experienced when eating even a $1 bagel from a deli diner in Manhattan. If I can't alter the London bagelries production practices, what can I do?
The ultimate British pudding is jelly and cream. It defines nostalgic eating, taking us back to our preschool tea party days with each and every sumptuous mouthful; I don't think I know anyone who doesn't like jelly and ice-cream (vegetarians, you are excused). This recipe incorporates fresh, juicy strawberries into an authentic homemade summer jelly that is slightly more grown up than what we remember from our kindergarten days. It is less sweet, more fruity and paired with a freshly whipped slightly zingy elderflower cream, provides the perfect dinner party pudding. You can use virtually any juice to make homemade jelly (clementines, peaches...) so go for whatever is seasonal. I have gone for strawbs as they are an all time favourite!
Having received countless recommendations, I popped into the mid-town Fifth Avenue branch of the New York born Mexican Grill, Chipotle. It was love at first taste. Easy, fast, cheap, and my God is it delicious. "The menu may be simple, but the taste certainly isn't. Start with one of our menu options, then customise it to your liking." Just what I wanted to hear. I went for a classic burrito: coriander-lime rice, pinto beans, adobo-marinated and grilled chicken, guacamole, salsa, cheese and sour cream packed into a soft floury tortilla. Woof.
Strolling through Lexington Avenue's Fall Street Fair on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, I couldn't help but notice a queue stretching from one of the food stalls right around the block. Looking like a confused fish out of water, I jumped up and down in attempt to glimpse the source of the most enticing smell that has ever hit my nostrils. I was told that I must get "on line" immediately to get a sandwich from The Wandering Que - a Kosher Texas style wood burning BBQ rig that promised "the best darn sandwich experience you'll ever have."
No blog post, no recipe, just provision of marvelling material for anyone who loves pasta as much as me. A peek into the produce of Tuscany shows you how many shapes and sizes everybody's favourite carb come in!
“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” - Virginia Woolf
Queen of Tarts
A food blog to bring you healthy, deliciously gourmet recipes and honest restaurant reviews from a thoroughly committed foodie / food critic!
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