Courgette and Tomato Gratin

Although the ingredients for this recipe appear simple, it requires careful cooking to get it right. If you do not cook the ingredients down properly, it can be slightly bitter and watery. Done well, it is amazing, more than the sum of its parts.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 70g butter
  • 800-900g courgettes
  • 1 tin organic chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp freshly chopped parsley
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • salt and pepper
  • Wholemeal breadcrumbs

METHOD:

  • Use a peeler to peel the courgettes lengthwise. Do not peel completely, leaving a few strips of the green skin. Then slice them into thin rounds about half a centimetre thick.
  • Put the sliced courgettes in a colander and salt them, and leave them to drain for at least half an hour. Put a plate on top of them to press them down.
  • Put the chopped tomatoes, 10g of butter, chopped parsley and the garlic in a medium pan with salt and pepper and simmer very slowly to make a very thick paste.
  • In the meantime, put the sliced courgettes onto a tea-towel and mop up all the surface water, getting them as dry as possible.
  • Cook about half of the sliced courgettes in 20g of the butter. Start by gently melting the butter; do not let it colour brown. Add the courgettes and cook on a low heat until they are transparent. Repeat for the rest of the courgettes and another third of the butter. Doing them in two separate batches allows you to cook all of the courgettes properly.
  • Amalgamate the tomatoes and the courgettes, and put the mixture into an oven ready dish. Smooth down the top and strew with breadcrumbs, just a light layer. Dab a little more butter over the surface. Put the dish in the top of a hot oven (around 190C) for 25 minutes and serve very hot when the surface is a deep golden brown.

This would be a good accompaniment for pork or lamb, or served as a light meal with a baked potato .

Spicy fried potatoes

I think of these as tiny square spicy chips – they should be crispy and flavoursome. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • Around 700g potatoes, diced to around 1cm cubes
  • 5 tbsp veg oil, such as rapeseed or sunflower oil
  • 1/8th tsp asafoetida
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/8 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp red chilli powder, such as Kashmiri chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt

METHOD:

  • Heat the oil in a wok over medium heat, and add the asafoetida, mustard seeds and cumin seeds, and let them sizzle for a minute, so that the mustard seeds pop. 
  • Add the potatoes, stir and sprinkle in the turmeric. 
  • When the potatoes start to brown, add the coriander, cumin, chilli and salt and turn the heat up to hot. Fry for another couple of minutes so the potatoes are crispy on the outside. 

A great side-dish, or serve with a fried egg on top. 

Carrots with dill and hot green chillies

I must have first tried this recipe in the 1980s, it is hand-written in an old jotter that I used to copy out some recipes clipped from newspapers. I remember collecting recipes from the Sunday Times; they ran a series by Madhur Jaffrey about regional recipes around the Indian subcontinent. 

I have some very large carrots still to harvest this year. I grew a yellow variety that has a very firm flesh ideal for adding to stews, and for this dish. There’ll be more carrot-based dishes to come. Most spices are available in local shops. I bought some of them from Seasoned Pioneers, who retail spices online. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 500g carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cm ginger root (or 1/2 tsp ground ginger)
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/8 tsp asafoetida
  • 2 hot green chillies
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 20g chopped dill leaves
  • 1/2 tsp salt

METHOD:

  • Peel and slice the carrots, peel and finely chop the ginger
  • Heat the oil in a karhai or wok over a medium heat. When it is hot, add in sequence the cumin seeds, asafoetida, ginger and whole chillies, stirring between each addition. 
  • As the ginger begins to brown, add the sliced carrots, coriander and turmeric. Stir and fry for a couple of minutes
  • Add the dill and salt, turn the heat to low and cover with a lid. Cook for another couple of minutes, until the carrots are cooked. 
  • Remove the carrots from the oil and drain away most of the oil. 

This is delicious as a side dish, with rice and a range of other curries. Last night I was just on my own so I had it with a little bit of nan and yoghurt.

Italian potato pie

My potatoes are getting harvested, and I am trying out potato recipes. The first lot that I lifted were Arran Pilot, with white flesh that mashes very well. I made this from a recipe in Elizabeth David’s ‘Italian Food’. I also used some local free-range eggs. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 Kg of potatoes that mash well
  • 100g Gruyere or Emmental cheese, sliced
  • 75g cooked ham or Italian sausage (I used Fonteluna sausage from Valvona and Crolla), sliced
  • 2 eggs, boiled for around 7 minutes and peeled
  • 3 tbsp breadcrumbs
  • 75g butter
  • 4 tbsp milk
  • salt, pepper and nutmeg, to taste

METHOD

  • Peel and boil the potatoes until cooked, around 16 minutes. Mash them with about 40g butter and the milk, and put them through a mouli or potato ricer to make a very soft smooth mash. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. 
  • Grease a dish with butter (I used a small lasagne dish) and then coat the bottom and sides with 2 tbsp breadcrumbs
  • Put half the mashed potatoes in the bottom of the dish, then add the cheese, ham and chopped boiled eggs in a layer. Cover this with the rest of the mashed potato. Sprinkle the rest of the breadcrumbs over the top and dot with butter.
  • Cook the pie in a hot oven (around 200C) for 30 to 40 minutes until the top is golden. 

I served this with shredded kale. It is good with any green vegetable, or with a green salad. 

 

Japanese kale with sesame

This year I grew Japanese kale, it seems to really enjoy our local growing conditions. The leaves are quite tender, and very good in a stir fry. The flavour of sesame seeds goes very well. The basic ingredients of the sesame sauce are sesame, soy sauce and a pinch of sugar. I have also added mange tout to the kale with great results. You can use sweet cooking sake instead of the sugar, if you have it. 

The Japan Centre is an excellent place to find good quality ingredients and recipes. I haven’t quite sussed how to put a Japanese menu together, this is meant as a side-dish. I served it with ginger noodles. The Japan centre suggests serving with plain rice, or as a side-dish, or as part of a Bento lunch. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 200g kale, sliced across the leaves, discarding any tough stems
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted and ground in a pestle and mortar
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp cooking sake or 2 tsp brown sugar and 1/2 tsp water

METHOD:

  •  Mix the toasted ground sesame seeds with the soy sauce and sake
  • Put about 1cm water in a large pan with the kale, bring to the boil and simmer for around 5 minutes, stirring the kale to make sure it all cooks. 
  • Once the kale is cooked, drain, and mix with the sesame sauce. 

 

Patatas a lo pobre – Potatoes and green peppers

The trick with this dish is to stew the peppers and potatoes slowly in olive oil. We had this with grilled pork chops.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 250ml good olive oil 
  • 3 onions, sliced
  • 5 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 3 green peppers, roughly chopped
  • 1kg firm potatoes, peeled, halved lengthways and then sliced 
  • salt and pepper
  • a pinch of fennel seeds, optional. 
  • 4 bay leaves, optional

METHOD:

  • In a large pan or casserole dish, heat the oil over a lowish heat. 
  • Start cooking the potatoes in the oil, and when they start to cook and soften a bit, add the onions, peppers, garlic, fennel seeds, bay leaves, grated black pepper and a good pinch of salt. Simmer for around 15 minutes. 
  • Drain off the oil using a sieve, set the oil aside for further use. 
  • Serve with pork or lamb chops. 

Cabbage, ginger, carrot, spring onions

There are so many fresh vegetables in the garden it is hard to keep up. Tonight I made a light stir-fry of home grown vegetables. It is good hot or cold. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 small cabbage, cored, quartered, and sliced into ribbons around 1.5 cm wide. 
  • 1 large or 2 medium carrots, cut on the slant and each slice cut into thin strips
  • 3 spring onions, cut into 3 cm lengths, which are then cut lengthways into thin strips
  • 3 tbsp light vegetable oil
  • 2 slices of fresh ginger, lightly crushed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp dry sherry

METHOD:

  • Heat the oil in a wok, and then add the ginger, stir it about and then add all of the vegetables. Stir them round and cook for 3 minutes. 
  • Add the sherry, cover and cook for another 3 minutes
  • For the last minute, uncover and boil of some of the liquid before serving. Remove the slices of ginger as well. 

Super tasty as part of a larger meal. 

 

Courgette and Yoghurt salad

It’s courgette season. I love raw courgette, so crunchy. I love it sliced into long strips and grilled, with lemon dressing. I love this salad, from Madhur Jaffrey. It is really easy and quick. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 courgettes, around 350 to 400g
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 red onion
  • 350ml plain yoghurt
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • black pepper to taste
  • Cayenne pepper to taste and garnish. 

METHOD:

  • Use a food processor to grate the courgette coarsely. Put the grated courgette onto a tea towel in a heap and sprinkle with half a teaspoon of salt. 
  • Peel the onion, halve it and then slice thinly across the way. 
  • Beat the yoghurt in a bowl and add 1/4 tsp salt, a pinch of cayenne and a grate of black pepper
  • Wrap the tea towel around the grated courgette and wring out any excess water. Use your fingers to separate any clumps. 
  • Heat the oil in a pan, and when it is hot, add the mustard seeds. As soon as the seeds start to pop, add the onion, and fry for a couple of minutes. 
  • Add the dried courgette, and fry for another three minutes or so. When it is done, turn the heat off and let it cool a bit, before stirring it into the yoghurt. Decant to a serving bowl and sprinkle with cayenne pepper. 

This can be served as a side dish with just about anything. It is as good cold from the fridge as it is warm.

 

 

Broad beans with bacon

This is a good dish to serve at room temperature along with a selection of salads, and other delicious things from the fridge. Fresh home-made bread is a good accompaniment. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 500g podded broad beans – Neillie’s has frozen broad beans that work well for this recipe
  • 150g rindless, smoked, dry cured streaky bacon
  • 50g butter
  • 1 fat garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • a handful of chopped fresh herbs – try dill, mint, or parsley
  • Freshly grated black pepper and salt

METHOD:

  • Cut the bacon across the way into strips around 1cm wide. 
  • Heat the butter in a large frying pan and fry the onion over a low heat until softening, then add the finely chopped garlic
  • As the garlic begins to cook, add the bacon and turn up the heat a little, stirring until the bacon is cooked. 
  • Stir in the beans, heat and stir until warmed through. 
  • Cover the pan and simmer for around 7 minutes until the beans are cooked. 
  • Remove from the heat, stir in the salt, pepper and herbs, and cover again to allow the flavours to infuse as the dish cools down to room temperature 

Broad beans with chard

This is one of my favourite dishes, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t already shared it. It is very simple to make, and delicious. Clair, this is for you.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 300g broad beans, podded (you can use frozen beans)
  • 300g chard, rinsed and sliced
  • 100g butter
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 8 tbsp chopped dill leaves
  • 1/2 tsp salt

METHOD:

  • Separate and wash the chard leaves and stems, and slice them crosswise at 2cm intervals. 
  • Heat the butter in a large pan, medium heat, and melt the butter. As it begins to froth, add the onion, sauté for a minute and then add the beans. After another minute, add the chard and dill. Stir and cook for another couple of minutes. 
  • Add the salt and around 50ml water, bring to a simmer, and then cover and cook over a low heat for around 15 minutes.