Smoky Aubergine / Eggplant with Roasted Peppers

This is a dish inspired by baba ghanoush, that great dish of smoky aubergine (eggplant) with garlic, tahini and lemon juice.

This version omits the tahini, but adds grilled yellow peppers, parsley and aleppo pepper. 

You’ll need: one large aubergine per person, half an onion per person, and (depending on the size) 2-3 peppers per person, along with garlic, olive oil, the juice of a lemon, parsley and some aleppo pepper (you could use red chilli flakes, or alternatively sumac).

Aubergines and peppers are grilled until they are blackened all over, and then left in a covered bowl to cool. Skin the peppers, remove the core and the seeds, and slice into thin strips and set aside. When the aubergines are cool, slice open and scoop out the soft centre, leaving the blackened skin behind. 

Sauté a large onion in olive oil until soft, add a crushed clove or garlic or two and cook for a minute more. Add the aubergine, and cook for just a few more moments, stirring to combine well. 

Remove from the heat, allow to cool a little, and dress on top with the strips of pepper, a handful of parsley and a squeeze of lemon. Finish with the pepper (or sumac).

Serve with a salad and bread, or as part of a mezzo of dishes, or to accompany grilled meat. It won’t last long.

Easy Courgette / Zucchini Fritters (Dairy Free and Wheat Free)

This is a great technique to use on courgette / zucchini – and it’s really easy.

You want to allow one medium sized courgette per fritter. Grate the courgettes into a bowl, and then add gram (chickpea) flour a spoonful at a time until you have a sticky, but not wet mixture. I added a spice blend of sesame and caraway seeds, but a little parsley, or garlic, or chilli would also work well. Season with salt and pepper. 

Take handfuls of the mixture and shape into fritters no thicker than your finger. Dust your hands with a little more flour if you need to.

Heat 1cm of oil in a nonstick pan and fry them on a medium heat. You want it to be hot enough that a tiny bit of mixture bubbles when you drop it in, but doesn’t sizzle too aggressively. If the oil is too hot they’ll be black on the outside and uncooked inside.

When one side is cooked, flip over, until both sides are as dark as the picture, but take care you don’t let them burn.

We topped them with a quick onion pickle: finely slice onions, blanch in boiling water for a few minutes, refresh in cold water and soak in white wine vinegar and a teaspoon of salt for ten minutes. We added some chilli relish on the side, a side salad and two each formed a great supper.

For other recipes see my post What to do with a glut of courgettes / zucchinis

The Best Way to Start the Day: Cherry, Coffee and Almond Smoothie

This is outrageously good – it will kickstart your day like nothing else.

Per person: 50g of almonds (hazelnuts also work well), 120g of pitted cherries, coffee. I use cold drip made with my Cold Bruer, but you could use a double espresso and add some ice and a bit of cold water. All this gets blended until smooth.

Do a blind tasting with this and you’ll get an amazing response – “It’s so chocolatey” is the most common, even though it doesn’t have any chocolate in it. 

These have been getting me all the way through to lunchtime the past few weeks. I’ve frozen some pitted cherries and it does work with them, but try it with fresh cherries to get the full effect.

masterchefonfox:

Submitted to MasterChef by frankaboutfood
Mushrooms, ground beef, blue cheese – not the ingredients you want to be handed when the temperature is hitting 90° and all you want is a salad. White rice, iceberg lettuce, peanuts, yellow mustard, dill pickles, potatoes, soy sauce… the list for this MasterChef Mystery Box at Home challenge was daunting.
I thought about naked burgers in an iceberg bun, I considered a potato moussaka, and I toyed with some kind of meat-stuffed rosti.
But in the end I created these: potato croquettes filled with peppered beef and mushrooms, served with a homemade dill pickle and soy peanuts.
Croquettes: mashed potato was left to cool and then moulded into a cup shape and filled with the beef. The filling was made by finely mincing the mushrooms and frying these with the beef, plenty of black pepper and a slug of soy sauce. This was cooked until the liquid had evaporated, so the beef could be spooned inside the croquette, and the potato moulded round it to make a sphere the size of a golf ball. These were then deep fried.
Homemade dill pickle: a cucumber was finely sliced and soaked in white wine vinegar, dill and salt.
Soy peanuts: a handful of peanuts and a dash of soy sauce were heated until the sauce thickens and coats the peanuts.
Thanks Tumblr and MasterChef – they were really moreish!

staff asked me to take part in the masterchefonfox Mystery Box at Home challenge… High-res

masterchefonfox:

Submitted to MasterChef by frankaboutfood

Mushrooms, ground beef, blue cheese – not the ingredients you want to be handed when the temperature is hitting 90° and all you want is a salad. White rice, iceberg lettuce, peanuts, yellow mustard, dill pickles, potatoes, soy sauce… the list for this MasterChef Mystery Box at Home challenge was daunting.

I thought about naked burgers in an iceberg bun, I considered a potato moussaka, and I toyed with some kind of meat-stuffed rosti.

But in the end I created these: potato croquettes filled with peppered beef and mushrooms, served with a homemade dill pickle and soy peanuts.

Croquettes: mashed potato was left to cool and then moulded into a cup shape and filled with the beef. The filling was made by finely mincing the mushrooms and frying these with the beef, plenty of black pepper and a slug of soy sauce. This was cooked until the liquid had evaporated, so the beef could be spooned inside the croquette, and the potato moulded round it to make a sphere the size of a golf ball. These were then deep fried.

Homemade dill pickle: a cucumber was finely sliced and soaked in white wine vinegar, dill and salt.

Soy peanuts: a handful of peanuts and a dash of soy sauce were heated until the sauce thickens and coats the peanuts.

Thanks Tumblr and MasterChef – they were really moreish!

staff asked me to take part in the masterchefonfox Mystery Box at Home challenge…

Spicy Barbecued Sweet Potatoes

These are so good you might want to ditch the rest of the barbecue and just eat these. Sweet potato with nanami togarashi (a Japanese spicy pepper blend) and yuzu salt, finished on the barbecue to create crispy caramelised edges.

Sweet potatoes are microwaved until almost cooked, left to cool a little, peeled and cut into wedges. They’re then drizzled with groundnut or sesame oil, dusted with the pepper and salt (ordinary salt will work fine if you can’t find yuzu salt), and cooked on the barbecue until the edges are starting to take on some colour.

Summertime potatoes: with chard and peas, and with fresh garlic

Once you get over the excitement of the new crop potatoes simply boiled and served with butter and mint, here’s a couple of quick ideas for serving potatoes through the summer.

The first takes potatoes that are boiled until just done, and allowed to cool. Cut them in half and shake a little to roughen up, and then fry in some olive oil until they are just starting to take on a bit of colour and develop some crispy edges.

While you’re doing this, blanch some peas, and then some swiss chard. Drain the chard well and chop up, and add both of these to the pan. Stir for a moment or two, throw in a glass of dry sherry or dry vermouth, and shake the pan until it is almost all evaporated. Season with salt and serve.

This is great alongside grilled meat or fish, or as part of a bigger summer spread.

When you can get new season’s fresh garlic, roasting a head or it alongside some new potatoes is delicious. Clean and halve the potatoes, toss in a little olive oil in a roasting pan and salt lightly. Chop the head off the garlic bulb, set it in the middle of the potatoes and drizzle with oil. Roast in a hot oven for about 40-50 minutes. Ten minutes before the end, take the head of garlic out and allow to cool enough that you can pick it up and squeeze out all of the garlic cloves. Toss these with the potatoes and serve.

What to do with a glut of courgettes / zucchinis

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When they arrive, they come by the bucketload. Courgettes (zucchinis if you’re American) are now abundant. In England last week they were generally as thick as your thumb, whereas in Spain this week they’re more like the size of a forearm.

Anyone who grows courgettes will want to be well stocked with things to do with them. You can grill courgettes on a ridged grill pan or barbecue, and combine them with other vegetables, or with chickpeas for a big dish to share. Or when they’re big, split them in half lengthways, grill over charcoal until the outside is blackened, and then leave to cool a little, slice off the blackened skin and drizzle the soft flesh with olive oil and lemon juice, and add some chopped mint.

I’m making an effort to eat more eggs, which is a challenge as I don’t really like the taste of eggs. The answer is an omelette laden with vegetables, herbs and cheese. The one pictured above was made by sautéing three handfuls of chopped courgettes in olive oil until they took some colour, and then adding four beaten eggs. When the omelette is brown underneath and firm on top, add sliced cheese and put under an overhead grill (broiler) until the cheese is golden. With a green salad on the side it was a perfect summer supper for two people.

Courgettes work well with the trinity of anchovy, chilli and garlic – as in this pasta dish which uses a neat trick of grating the courgettes first.

One of the classic ways of using up courgettes is to make ratatouille. A good ratatouille takes a bit of time, as each ingredient is cooked separately, and then only combined to serve the dish. 

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This is a sort of cheat’s version of it using just courgettes, onions, garlic and tomatoes. Sauté two onions until translucent, add four handfuls of sliced courgettes and stir occasionally until they are just starting to take on some colour. Add three cloves of crushed garlic at this point, and stir for one minute more. Throw in three handfuls of tomatoes cut into halves or quarters (with the little green stalk cut out). Give the pan a shake but don’t stir it. Turn the heat to low, and cook, shaking every now and then but never stirring, until the liquid from the tomatoes has all but evaporated. 

This can be served straightaway, or allowed to cool to room temperature. Serve it as a side dish to grilled meat or fish, or add some cheese, crusty bread and a salad for a summer lunch.

Edit: I came up with a new dish – really easy courgette / zucchini fritters which are dairy free and wheat free.

Two Samphire Salads – Crab / Smoked Mackerel and Gooseberries

Samphire is a crunchy vegetable that grows wild by the sea. It’s in season right now (and will be for a couple of months), and it goes brilliantly with fish and shellfish.

Samphire requires picking over, nipping off any spiky ends, and any thick woody roots – much like you do with asparagus. After this give it a good rinse, and if it is looking a bit limp, let it sit in some ice cold water for a few minutes to get its crunch back.

You can eat it raw, or lightly cook it.

The first of the salads above uses raw samphire and pairs it with smoked mackerel and lightly pickled gooseberries. To make these, top and tail the gooseberries, and bring a saucepan with 200ml of white wine vinegar and two tablespoons of sugar to a light boil. Add the gooseberries for two minutes, take out and drain, and leave to cool.

Combine the samphire with flaked smoked mackerel and the gooseberries. Be careful with any extra seasoning as the samphire itself is naturally salty.

The second salad lightly cooks the samphire. Pick it over as before and then while still wet put it in a small pan with a small amount of butter and turn it in the butter until warmed through.

Add it to the plate, and top with picked white crab meat, and finish with black pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice.

It’s a simple as that. You’ll find samphire at fishmongers or markets for the next couple of months, or you could even try foraging for it yourself.

Gooseberry Fool

The early warmth is giving us a great gooseberry season and I bought four punnets at the market last week. The tartness of gooseberries makes them a good match for strong flavoured meat and fish – classically with mackerel, but also good with duck or pork.

Gooseberries do need to be “top and tailed” before cooking – which means removing the hard little stalk, and the brown dried bit at the bottom. You can pinch these out if your nails are long enough, but I find a small sharp knife to be easier.

With a big bowl of gooseberries, I wanted to use some straightaway, and put some in the freezer, so I cooked them in a pan with a splash of water and no sugar. About half a litre of the resulting puree was kept, and the rest frozen. To make this fool, I added a tablespoon or so of sugar (you want it to be sweet-sharp) and let it cool. This puree was then folded with a half litre of fromage frais / cream. You can use pretty much any combination of cream, creme fraiche, yoghurt, greek yoghurt and fromage frais, adjusting the combinations and adding more sugar if you want to, until it tastes just right.

How to Grill Fish – Hake with Bay and Lemon

Grilling fish on the barbecue can be a tricky business – once it’s perfectly cooked it will naturally start to fall apart, and fish skin seems to stick like glue to the bars of my barbecue. It also takes quite a bit of practice and a fair amount of luck to get the temperature just right. Unlike grilling meat, you’re not going for that caramelised Maillard reaction on the outside of the fish like you are with meat, and even with many vegetables.

This trick, which I originally picked up from a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall article, makes it much easier. You create a bed of bay leaves directly on the bars of the grill. I then like to add a layer of thinly sliced lemons, and then you grill the fish on top of this. It slows the cooking of the fish which keeps it really juicy, and as it cooks the bay leaves will create clouds of aromatic smoke. Then the lemon will start cooking too, adding its flavour to the fish.

The picture above shows two hake fillets – but this would work with fillets of most fish, or even with whole fish. The cooking time will depend on the thickness of the fish. These took about 7-8 minutes per side to cook right through, with the heat on medium. I started them skin side up so the flesh can absorb some of the fresh lemon, and then flipped them when the bed of leaves and lemon was really starting to char. 

Once you turn them, season the flesh side with a little olive oil and some salt. We served these with some grilled asparagus and a salad.