Fresh Guacamole and Flat Breads

Ingredients:

2 medium sized avocados
1 large tomato
1 tbsp olive oil
freshly ground pepper
a pinch of salt
juice of half a lime
2 – 3 small garlic cloves
Coriander (optional)
Peel the avocados and mash with a fork, adding the salt, pepper, oil, lime juice. Chop the tomato and mince the garlic cloves. Mix everything together well. If you chose to, mix in the coriander. That’s it! It’s ready to serve!

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Salmon Salad Wraps

This simple dish is a clean and cooling starter to precede something like a family meal this summer, or a smart dinner party aperitif. Easy to make up in advance, and a lighter change to the every day barbecues that these hot days might tempt us with.

The refreshing taste is a lovely alternative to a prawn (drowning-in-mayonaise) salad, which I know is often a go-to favourite UK summer holidayers everywhere.  A lovely accompaniment to a chilled glass of italian wine such as this.

Supermarkets are offering good quality smoked-salmon and great prices these days so there really is no need to worry about the cost. This could even be a great supplement to a Christmas or new year’s party smorgasbord platter.

Ingredients:

2 Avocados
250g smoked salmon slices
Vietnamese rice wrappers (avoid the ones made with tapioca)
Light dipping soy sauce
lemon juice
baby rocket leaves
A large bowl or roasting tray of cold water

Method:
Peel and slice the avocado into thin segments. Slice or tear the salmon into strips of similar length. Take one rice wrapper at a time and gently immerse in the tray of cold water. It does not take long for the wrapper to soften and become pliable. Lay on a clean tea-towel and place a segment of avocado, a couple of strips of salmon and a few rocket leaves in a horizontal line. Add a few drops of fresh lemon juice before folding over the bottom half of the wrapper, and then each side, and finally rolling the parcel up into a thick cylinder. Simply repeat until you have enough.

This is a great dish to prepare in advance. Simple refrigerate them until you are ready to serve them. Serve with a light dipping soy sauce – I love the salty taste against the slight oiliness of the avocado and salmon. But you could go all out and whip up a fantastic mayonaise, mary rose or gravadlax sauce.

Njuta! Enjoy!

Caramelized Apple Dessert

Sunday dinner is done and thoughts are turning to dessert. The weather is still cold outside and the snow is losing its charm now, becoming slush on the roads that will no doubt turn Monday’s dreary January commute into something a little more treacherous. So with our stomachs conjugating over the roast we’ve just had, I wanted something for dessert that would bridge that melancholy gap between the weekend and the week days that follow. Something to put a smile on peoples’ faces like a pudding that’s warm and friendly. A apple tart should do the trick. A little sweet. A little sharp. Served with hot custard and or cold cream accompaniments for those that  want to really and truly punch through their weekend calorie limits.

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Ingredients:

For the pastry:
Butter 50g (cubed)
Flour 125g
2 tbsp milk
2 eggs

For the filling:
3 sweet apples
Lime juice (2-3 tbsp)
2 cups ice cold water
2-2 tbsp Muscavado sugar

Custard or heavy cream for serving.

Method:
Rub the butter,  flour and sugar together then when the mixture resembles crumbs, add the eggs and milk slowly to combine the pastry together, working it into a dough. Knead until the dough is smooth, wrap and then chill for half an hour. Roll out to a thickness of half a centimetre (between two sheets of baking parchment if it helps). Lay the pastry across a fluted flan tin, pressing it into the corners gently and cutting off any excess. Chill for another half an hour or until you are ready to bake. In the mean time, peel, core and slice very thinly the apples before soaking them in the lime juice and water. This keeps them fresh, adds a little sharpness, and slows the browning process down.

When you are ready to bake, line the pastry with concentric circles of apple slices tightly. Dust the top with the Muscovado sugar and bake on 180º for 30 minutes.

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Kitchen Diary: I ~ a brief introduction

New year. New start. Well… I have already begun cooking in my new kitchen a few months back now, but by way of catching up on blogging about it I thought I would introduce you to the corners of my kitchen that mean the most to me, and perhaps the introduction of a few new implements and utensils along the way. If you’re in two minds about investing something specific, hopefully these comments might persuade you.

pestle

A saturday trip to my favourite kitchen shop in town, aptly named The Original Cookware Company, saw the purchase of one granite carved mortar and pestle. It has been on the must-get-around-to-buying list for quite a while, but none of the candidates we had come across really looked sturdy enough for the sorts of pummelling our kitchen had in mind. From salad seeds and Sarawak peppercorns to fresh garden herbs with oil bases, this needed something that wouldn’t take on some insipid ceramic stain at the mere sniff of turmeric root,  refused to be knocked off the counter surface without an honest fight, and that could cradle our ‘stressful day’ moments away with a solid understanding. pestle2 pestle1

Pot Roasted Lamb Shanks

The weekends are made for weather like this. Standing at my kitchen window watching the world outside, pillowed in white. A fantastic snow day. So what could be more rib-sticking and soul-comforting than something slow cooked? I love being able to literally toss everything into a pot, stick it in the oven, put on my scarf and gloves and pop down to my local pub for a social Sunday drink by the log fire knowing that something so tasty is bubbling gently away in the oven at home. So let us get on with this hearty supper….

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Ingredients:
4-5 small shallots (halved)
4 garlic cloves
2 fennel bulbs (sliced)
red wine (1 glass)
1 pt chicken stock
Sprigs of Rosemary and Thyme
A couple of Bay leaves
Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper
1 spring onion
Two tablespoons of olive oil
Two lamb shanks (1 per person – if you’re cooking for more people, add 1/2 a tsp more mustard and half a fennel bulb or an extra couple of shallots per person as well as an extra glug of wine and stock.)
pot roast ingredients

Method:
Start by browning off the lamb shanks in the casserole pot in one tablespoon of olive oil – just enough to seal the meat. Once browned, remove onto a plate and toss in the garlic cloves, shallots and fennel. Fry off in the oil (adding the extra table spoon if necessary), before adding the red wine. Allow the wine to deglaze any sticky residue the frying has left in the pot. Season generously with salt and pepper and add in the rosemary, bay leaves and thyme.

veg

Reintroduce the shanks of lamb into the casserole dish, gently placing them on the bed of fennel and onions. Dissolve the dijon mustard into a pint of stock before pouring this over the meat. Place in the oven with the lid on for two hours on a low heat (160°), turning the meat once half way through.

The end result is fall off the bone meat with plenty of sweet and peppery gravy to pour over a side of mashed or roasted potatoes.  If the gravy is not thick enough, whisk in a shallow spoonful of cornflour. Garnish with sliced spring onions and serve with mint sauce or jelly.
pot

Cream of Leek and White Bean soup ~ and chive oil

So we are through the Christmas holidays, an inch more on our waists and the kitchen fridge heaving with the half eaten left overs from the big family dinners and boxing day party platters.

Here is a simple soup: velvety and comforting enough to sooth any seasonal colds (as well as hangovers at that).

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Ingredients:
2 leeks, sliced and washed
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
50g of unsalted butter
1 large cup of cannelloni beans (or borlotti, or kidney beans) softened or tinned.
4-5 cups of vegetable stock
A bay leaf
Spring of rosemary
Salt and pepper for seasoning
1 cup of single cream (optional)

Start by melting the butter and frying off the onion and garlic until caramelised then add the leeks, stirring until soft. Add the bay leaf and rosemary. Pour in the stock and bring to the boil before adding the beans. Season to taste. Allow the soup to simmer with the lid on, for about ten minutes or until the beans are starting to disintegrate.

Let the soup cool so that it is blendable in a food processor or with a liquidizer. When you are ready to serve, reheat to serving temperature, take off the heat and add the single cream at the last minute. Serve with a drizzle of chive oil (or a topping of fresh chives).

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Of the Oldest Market in London

Oh my… I’ve been away a while. My apologies for that. It’s been quite a busy few autumn months that included a long trip to Malaysia, a busy new job, new home, a lot of new starts. And one of the best of these new starts – a new kitchen.

But I’m back with bang and in full gear, just before Christmas.

And so onwards…

In a kind of celebration of all that has happened since I last posted, a trip to some culinary hot-spot was in order. London has many food markets – Billingsgate, Brixton, Leadenhall to name a handful. But my favourite of all is Borough Market. Open on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and brimming full of produce fresh, home made, home grown, organic, hot, cold, spiced, pickled and well matured. Well kept, well presented cheeses from friendly fromageries offering nibbles to taste accompanied by smoked sausages, artisan breads, patés. If you’re mouth is not watering enough yet, I have not even started on all the fresh fruits, vegetables and meats. Everything – I really do mean everything is on offer. Heirloom tomatoes and salad leaves from the heart of England sit just a table length away from the more exotic rambutan, kumquats, turmeric roots and chillis.

Wondering around, you can meet Tom of The Market Quarter who specialises in fine french food and who was happy to share what he knew about foie gras. From him we bought a a fantastic duck fois gras lobe, and at his further suggestion a kilner jar of truffle salt. He is the kind of market seller that is happy to spend time with you discussing their produce and offering a lesson or two in taste.

Then when you’re done with the browsing and taste testing, it’s time for something more substantial to eat. There are hundreds of fantastic restaurants and cafés to pick from in the streets around the market. The glass building that houses Fish! under the railway bridge is a lovely place for lunch or dinner. The Wright Brothers Oyster and Porter House is always busy (and booking is highly advisable) but if you like oysters then it is a must. But if you want to stay immersed in the spirit of the market bustle there many market stalls that offer hot food from giant pans of paella, fishmongers’ seafood bisques, salt beef sandwiches, spicy sausages. I had roast rib of beef with rocket and nose-clearing fresh horseradish sauce from Roast! a fantastic restaurant that sits above the market that also offers hot meaty sandwiches to-go from the market floor.

And then all washed down with a cup of mulled wine.

So if you’re in London some time, Borough Market is one of the top five places I suggest you visit. If you live to eat, like me, you will not be disappointed. ~