Whole Roasted Cauliflower

Its amazing how many different ways of cooking this dish that you will find! To parboil or not? Hot oven or moderate heat? Spice rub or just salt & fat? Olive oil or butter ? (I like both 😉 )

A lovely way to serve cauliflower for guests and easy enough to make for yourself and family. I served this version with a chickpea and chorizo salad, so added a bit of the rendered fat from the chorizo to the rub. Waste not …. 😉 Placing a dish of water in the very bottom of the oven seems to help cooking to the core.

Whole Roasted Cauliflower

Serve this punchy flavoured cauliflower with a chickpea and herb salad, Labné (strained yogurt) or thick yogurt, a tahini sauce or a green or chili sauce of your choice.

  • 1 medium sized cauliflower
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons softened butter
  • 2 Tablespoons paprika or Spanish Pimenton powder
  • 1 teaspoon roasted ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon roasted ground coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon roasted ground fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon (or more if you like the heat) Harissa paste
  • 1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Chopped coriander leaves to serve

Trim the cauliflower taking care to leave it intact. In a large pot of boiling salted water, parboil the cauliflower with the stalk facing up. Don’t worry if its not totally submerged. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.Remove the cauliflower using a spider or large spoon and carefully place it to drain (still upside down) in a colander.

Preheat the oven to 200°C and place a baking pan of water on the floor of the oven. To prepare the spice rub, combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl. Place the cauliflower into a baking dish (not too big) with the core facing down. Using your hands or a brush, rub the mixture all over the cauliflower and place it into the oven. Bake, basting and turning once at the halfway point, for 40 to 60 minutes or until it is knife tender.

Serve at the table, sprinkled generously with coriander, cut into wedges.

Bon Appetît !

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Paneer in Pepper Sauce with Coconut Sambal

coconut sambal

This is a delightfully simple dish that is brightened up by this beautiful coconut sambal (that I could just eat by the spoonful).  Paneer cheese is one of my favourite things to put in a sauce and this is a nice change from my usual tomato based Matar Paneer.

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The original recipe called for Halloumi, mostly because Paneer is not always easy to find.  I make my own Paneer from fresh raw milk and it’s SO easy, give it a try.

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Summer came late this year so I had this recipe put aside waiting for the green peppers to turn orange, red or yellow.

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Paneer in a Pepper Sauce with Coconut Sambal

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

For the Curry:

1 or 2 x 225g blocks of Paneer (if you use one, its just more saucy 😉 ),  patted dry and diced into 1cm cubes (or make your own)
2 red peppers, roughly chopped
2 red onions, roughly chopped
4 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp of salt
6 cloves of garlic, chopped
zest and juice of 1 lemon plus extra wedges (add juice and taste before adding all !)
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
A handful of coriander leaves

For the Sambal:

150g desiccated coconut
1 clove of garlic
zest and juice from half a lime
a small handful of coriander leaves

Add the sambal ingredients to a food processor and blitz until combined. Transfer to a serving bowl and set aside.

Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large frying pan over a high heat and add the paneer cubes. Stir-fry for 5-7 minutes or until golden-brown. Then transfer them to a plate and set them aside until later.

Return the pan to the heat, add the remaining 2 tsp of olive oil and add the garlic. Stir-fry for a few minutes until the garlic starts to brown (carefful not to burn it).  Remove and put aside. Pile in the onion, pepper and salt. Stir-fry until soft, about 10 minutes.

Add the zest and juice of the lemon, the turmeric and cumin seeds. Mix well, add 250ml of water and cook for another 10 minutes.

Transfer the sauce to a food processor or use a hand blender to blitz to a paste.

Return the paste to the pan and place over the heat. Stir in the paneer and mix in until warmed through. If it’s dry, add a splash of water to loosen it.

Transfer it to a serving bowl, scatter over some coriander leaves, the crispy fried garlic. Serve with some lemon wedges and sambal with basmati rice.

Bon Appetît !

**Adapted from a recipe by Nadiya Hussain

Spring veggies

aspergesHEAVEN !  I love this time of year…  One by one, the spring veg show up in the market and in the garden 🙂

asperges1Lunch becomes more fresh and simple…  Quick to prepare.  Less cooking, more green, more crunch, feels healthy…  The chickens LOVE radish greens, so everyones happy 🙂

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To celebrate the arrival of the first broad beans and peas in our garden, I made a simple lunch adding fresh purple asparagus, bright red radishes and fresh herbs piled high on a beautiful slice of toasted sourdough bread after smearing a thick layer of the first fresh goats cheese from Anita’s farm.  A good shake of Espelette pepper and some local fleur de sel and we felt like we where the richest people in the world.  Quite sure that any great chef would be delighted to have access to this quality….

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Feeling fortunate and pretty pleased with myself !

Bon appetit !

Simple Lentil Dal

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I could live off Dal (I think quite alot of people do in India !)…  Isn’t it wonderful when “healthy” also falls under the heading of “comfort food” ?

Dal (daal, dhal etc.) is a broad term that refers to legumes (lentils, peas, and beans) that are cooked and spiced.  I’m sure there are an infinite number of recipes for Dal though one of its endearing qualities is the lack of need for a recipe.  Get the water to lentil ratio about right and play with it from there.  One of my favourites is this base, made with red (actually orange, go figure ;)) lentils.  PS :  red lentils are a great source of iron ….

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The most exciting bit of this dish lies just before serving. . . TEMPERED OIL. Once you try tempering spices in oil, you’ll be flavouring all of your curries this way….

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Oil, or even better Ghee is heated, spices are added and the whole sizzling lot is poured into your finished dish.  Total transformation, trust me 🙂

Dal

Simple Lentil Dal

  • Servings: 4 - 6
  • Difficulty: very easy
  • Print

  • 1 cup (200 g) red lentils (picked over if needed, and rinsed)
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 4 cups (235 ml) water

Tempering Oil

  • 2 – 3 Tablespoons oil or Ghee
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 or 2 whole dried red chilies
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds (lightly crushed in a mortar & pestle)
  • Finish the dish with the juice of 1/2 a lemon or lime if you like

Put the lentils into a large saucepan with the turmeric, salt and water.  Bring to a boil and skim the foam that rises.  Simmer, covered on a low heat until the lentils are soft, 20 minutes or so.  Add more water if necessary and taste for salt.  Some like their Dal thick some like it soupy, its up to you.

For the tempering oil, combine the oil, coriander seeds and the cumin seeds in a small pan and heat over a moderate heat, stirring until they colour slightly (1 minute).  Add the chilies and cook, stirring for another 30 seconds.  CAREFUL NOT TO BURN THE SPICES.  Pour the oil and spices into the Dal, add the lemon or lime juice if using  and simmer for another 5 minutes before serving.  Serve on its own, with rice or Naan bread, or as part of a curry feast.

Bon appétit !

Some yummy variations to play with:

  • Before adding the lentils, fry a grated onion until soft adding chopped ginger and garlic just before the lentils and water go in.
  • Add a chopped fresh tomato just before the lentils are done.
  • Replace half the water with coconut milk.
  • Top with fresh coriander (cilantro).
  • Play around with other spices, either added with onion at the beginning or in the tempering oil; cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, garam masala, black mustard seeds, curry leaves etc…
  • Top the dish with crispy fried onions or leeks just before serving.

Shakshuka !

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Besides really enjoying saying the name of this dish (note the exclamation mark), I’m in love with this. . .   Couldn’t be easier to prepare and has endless versions waiting to be created !

A summer favourite for a healthy lunch or dinner.  In France it it more common to have your eggs for those meals than for breakfast but I think this dish is sweeping the western world as THE brunch dish of the moment.

Shakshuka has its origins in Tunisia, but has been adopted by many other countries for so long now that they call it their own as well (Israel for example).  Basically it is a dish of eggs poached in a sauce made with peppers and tomatoes (sometimes onions) and usually cumin.  It is so forgiving, as you will see in my the photo of the finished dish here, I overcooked the eggs AGAIN and its still fabulous.  The above shot is from the book JERUSALEM by Yotam Ottolenghi and is how its supposed to look 😉

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This is the perfect time of year, with tomatoes and peppers nice and ripe.  I have tried a few versions of this recipe but come back this one (good old Ottolenghi) often. Harissa is nice, I’ve made my own but this is the best shop bought brand.

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Tip:  If you take some regular plain yoghurt and plop it into a cheese cloth or tea towel over a bowl and leave it to drain for a few hours (even an hour or so is enough), you get thick Greek style yoghurt which is great to top Shakshuka.

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Let me count the reasons to love a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe, but one is that he often gives you the weight of an ingredient, such as eggs.  I find this so important for some preparations and here you will find the weights for the peppers and tomatoes.  If you could have seen one of my beefsteak tomatoes this summer, it was 800g on its own.  So what does “5 large tomatoes mean”?  Very helpful.

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After you have fallen in love with Shakshuka, as I have, here are some ingredients you may want to play around with:  onions, feta, chopped courgettes, potatoes, different coloured peppers, a touch of sugar, a touch of lemon juice, crumbled chorizo or merguez sausages, fresh chopped chili, parsley, paprika (smoked or not).

To be served simply with your favourite dipping vehicle such as crusty bread or flatbreads.

Shakshuka Servings=2 as a main meal

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons harissa paste (optional and use less if not big on spicy !)
2 teaspoons tomato paste
2 large red peppers, cut into dice (2 cups / 300 g in total)
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon toasted ground cumin
5 large, very ripe tomatoes, chopped (5 cups / 800 g in total); canned are also fine
4 large free-range eggs
1/2 cup / 120 g labneh or thick yogurt
Salt and a handful of chopped coriander (aka cilantro) to serve

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat and add the  harissa, tomato paste, peppers, garlic, cumin, and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Stir and cook over medium heat for about 8 minutes to allow the peppers to soften. Add the tomatoes, bring to a gentle simmer, and cook for a further 10 minutes until you have quite a thick sauce. Taste for seasoning.

Make 4 little dips in the sauce. Gently break the eggs and carefully pour each into its own dip. Use a fork to swirl the egg whites a little bit with the sauce, taking care not to break the yolks. Simmer gently for 8 to 10 minutes, until the egg whites are set but the yolks are still runny (you can cover the pan with a lid if you wish to hasten the process). Remove from the heat, leave for a couple of minutes to settle, then spoon into individual plates and serve with the labneh or yogurt.

***Directly adapted from a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe in his book Jerusalem

Solar oven notes: If your solar oven is nice and hot (at least 120°C) you can follow the directions as above.  Good idea to use a transparent lid or none at all so you can monitor the cooking process with out opening the oven all the time.

Green beans with hazelnuts and crème fraiche

greenbeannoisette

The moment when summer meets autumn and the fruit and veg available start to change.  Before “the change” goes too far I like to pair the taste of summer and autumn together.

purplebeans

This is a delicious recipe to eat as a side dish or mixed with pasta.  Just cooked green beans, a bit of pig for the salty richness, toasted hazelnuts for a bit of crunch and some very good quality “raw” crème fraiche from gorgeous local Jersey cows to blend it all together.

chinesebean

Although it has been, in general, a pretty bad  year for veggie gardens in southwest France this year, the green were as prolific as usual.  This year I grew your basic French green bean, gorgeous purple ones and very long Chinese red beans (just for fun).

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Green beans with hazelnuts and bacon servings = 4 as a side dish

  • 500g green or runner beans, trimmed and sliced
  • 4 rashers of smoked streaky bacon, chopped into pieces
  • handful of hazelnuts, toasted (peeled if you like) and roughly crushed *
  • 2T cider vinegar
  • 5 T crème fraiche (or thick cream), more if serving with pasta
  • handful of tarragon or parsley, chopped

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the beans for 4-5 mins until cooked, but still vibrant. Drain the beans and tip straight into a bowl of ice-cold water. Drain again and set aside.

Heat a frying pan, tip in the bacon and sizzle for 4-5 mins until it starts to crisp.  Use a slotted spoon to scoop out the bacon, but leave behind any juices and residue. Place the pan back on a low heat, slosh in the vinegar and sizzle for a moment, then stir in the cream. Return the beans, bacon and hazelnuts to the pan to warm through and toss them in the dressing. Tip into a bowl and mix in the tarragon just before serving.

** To easily peel hazelnuts:  Dry toast them in a frying pan, being careful not to burn !  Tip them onto a clean tea towel and wrap them up.  Once cool rub them around in the tea towel which will help remove most of the papery skins.

***Adapted from the BBC Good Food Magazine

Bon appetit !

Piedmont beans

With the late August heat, this has re-emerged as a “test” in the solar oven. Great results with a beautiful crispy top . . .

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GOOD food from the good life . . .

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Its late August and the garden is in overdrive !  We are now on our 8th continuous week of eating green (or purple 😉 ) beans numerous times per week…  I usually make this recipe at least once in the season when I want to “get rid” of loads of beans in one meal.

Its an interesting recipe as it seems a bit odd, on the verge of “will this work?”.  The ratio of beans to the other ingredients just doesn’t seem right.  Trust me as I trusted the original recipe, it does work.

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I’ve adapted this Italian inspired recipe to suit my tastes and the ingredients I can get here in France so play around with it, its a forgiving recipe.  I used a beautiful ground red pepper produced in the Basque Country called “Espelette Pepper”, that I’m quite addicted to which adds a bit more depth and a…

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