Peak tomato season is the best time to blitz up some delicious cool gazpacho. This is the type of recipe I think is best made without a recipe 😉
There are so many methods and recipes out there, I prefer to just start with whizzing up deliciously ripe tomatoes and then go from there, tasting as you go. If you go for 3 parts tomatoes to 1 part other veg you should be happy.
Here are some things I usually or sometimes add:
Red or Yellow peppers, cooked or raw
Garlic (not too much)
Good olive oil (a few good glugs or to taste)
Sherry or apple cider vinegar (add slowly to taste)
Basil, parsley or coriander
Water if needed to achieve the desired thickness
Salt and freshly ground pepper . . . THIS is usually where I stop but you could carry on experimenting with the following ingredients:
Bread soaked in water (often used in Andalucia, Spain)
Melon, peach, watermelon or other summer fruit to add a bit of sweetness (very nice !)
Originally inspired by perking up the “January detox” brown rice bowls I have been making an unprecedented amount of green sauces these past few years. When spring and summer finally arrives, there are even more nice green leafy herbs to play with. I have a running stock of some of the below recipes that keep well in the fridge and some are best to be used immediately.
A great way to use up bunches of herbs you may have on hand for other recipes but don’t use them up fast enough. These lovely homemade condiments are starting to take over my fridge space. Beware… they are addictive 🙂
A great great way to add zing to, well…. anything !
dress up eggs on toast
or avocado’s on toast
the always delicious grain bowl
plopped into a bowl of soup (hot or cold)
on a tomato salad
on a sesame noodle salad (Scallion ginger sauce)
on a lovely piece of meat (Gremolata for example)
add flavour to a stir-fry
next to any curry recipe (green chutney for example)
Here are a few of my favourites:
Pesto Obviously ! You’ll find loads of recipes online… I like mostly basil, but some parsley. I use a really hard sheeps cheese, because that’s my regional cheese 😉 I never use pine nuts as they cost a fortune and usually come from China (a bit far), but walnuts, pumpkin seeds etc… work great. I like to make mine in a mini chopper or food processor, not a blender (and too lazy for the pestle and mortar). I freeze portions during peak basil season. Here’s my version using local wild garlic…
Salsa Verde is so versatile. Delicious on meat or fish. A great boost in flavour. Use the best tinned anchovies you can find.
Scallion ginger sauceOne of my perfect simple meals… Hot bowl of rice, some Kimchi or sautéed greens, a fried egg with a good spoonful of this on top. A bit of Echo’s Chili sauce (see recipe below) would be good too.
Love this one inspired by a recipe from my friend Echo. This keeps forever in the fridge. Absolutely delicious and just spicy enough. Great in noodle or rice dishes. I learned from Echo that Vodka is a pretty good substitute for Chinese rice wine.
2 cups chopped hot chili peppers (a mix of colours is fine, but try to chop fairly evenly.
1/4 cup vodka (or chinese rice wine)
2 Tablespoons sugar (add a bit more if you prefer it sweeter)
2 cloves of garlic chopped
Chunk of ginger about the size of your thumb
2 teaspoons salt
Mix all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Spoon into sterilized jars and seal. Let sit at room temp for 2 days and then its ready to eat. Store in the fridge for AGES !
The key to keeping sauces a long time in the fridge (this goes for store bought ones too, is to not “contaminate”. Meaning always use a clean and totally dry spoon to scoop out your sauce or paste to avoid mold.
Do you have any favourites to add to this list ! I’m always looking for more ideas. Share in the comments 🙂
All goes in the blender and blend away until you reach a nice smooth texture. I suggest adding the lime juice and the honey gradually until you reach the mix of sweet and sour that pleases your palate. Add more salt if needed and blend one last time. This will keep in a jar in the fridge for at least a week…
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 ….
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….
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 🙂
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.
I suffer when garlic season gets to the point where the cloves become soft, dry and past their prime. The green shoot in the middle changes the taste. . . I love young garlic, or even “young-ish” garlic. Since coming to live in France, I have never eaten so much garlic. Our family of four easily get through 2 heads per week.
In the spring I wait impatiently for the first fresh new garlic on market stalls. Then the garlic party starts and we eat masses of it until its gone until the following year. This is my favourite way to preserve garlic. This couldn’t be easier ! I may be addicted to this stuff.
I also freeze a bag of peeled cloves to use during the “down time”. They can be grated (using my handy microplane) straight from frozen. The fresh skins and stalks of new garlic can be kept in the freezer as well to pop into meat stocks.
Peel one or two heads of garlic and place the cloves in a heavy bottomed pan. Cover them with olive oil and slowly heat the oil. Cook on a very very low heat for 45 minutes to 1 hour until they are knife tender. Leave to cool, pour into a clean glass jar and store for several weeks in the fridge. Make sure that the garlic is always covered with oil. Don’t forget to use the oil for cooking when the cloves are all used up 🙂
A few ways to use your garlic confit (though you will easily find ways to use it !) :
spread the cloves on toasted bread and sprinkle with salt flakes and/or chili flakes
toss the cloves and some of their oil through pasta
mixed in with roasted vegetables
blended into a home made mayonnaise (very delicious)
spread over a piece of fish or meat
flavour soups, sauces, dressings and dips
Solar oven notes: We do this in our solar oven whenever the sun is out and we have nothing else to cook. Almost fill a jam jar with garlic and pour over enough olive oil to cover the cloves. Place, uncovered in your solar oven just until some of the cloves start to rise to the top or they are knife tender. This could take anywhere from 1 to 2 hours. When I do this in the solar oven their is a thin film of yummy stickiness that forms on the surface and sticks to the sides of the jar. My husband calls this “caramel d’ail” or garlic caramel 😉
Its the long awaited chili season so out come my three (or four) ways to preserve them.
After over-wintering a few of my chili plants in the greenhouse, the Jalapenos are ready first. So the Caribbean Sauce is first in line. Its pretty tasty this year. I never use the same amount of each herb, so its never quite the same.
Next up is chili jam but my “sunburst” chili’s are still green.
Actually “4 ways” ! One of my favourite things to do with my garden Chili peppers is to make Chili Butter. My Chili Butter is a sound favourite in this house, especially when spread on toast and topped with a boiled egg for breakfast.
Rural France = no fresh chili peppers for sale ! This has led me to grow them myself and to be creative and find ways to preserve that addictive heat to get me through until the next Chili season . . . This years harvest includes Jalapeños and Calabrese peppers.
In chili season I pick a few and finely chop them (followed by thorough washing of my hands) to have them freshly chopped, ready to use in the fridge. Next step is to preserve the bounty !
I have added 3 new additions to my “preserved chili pepper” larder this year. Chili Jam which is…
Following at a close second to Kale as the “wonder vegetable” of the moment, cauliflower is being used in ways unheard of before. I’m not a fan of ALL of these new ideas. A notable failure was Cauliflower “bread sticks” or pizza base ! NO ! Maybe if you haven’t eaten bread in a while or for those who are truly gluten intolerant (ie have Celiac Disease), but this is not better than real bread . Cauliflower Fried “Rice” is another that I’m not a huge fan of. Its nice, but lets not call it . . . rice 😦
So back to the basics with good old cauliflower, which I do love ! The kids fight over this. So so easy to make and great as a side dish to many things or eaten on its own as snacks with drinks. Its also nice, if cut smallish, to sprinkle on top of soup for a lovely texture.
I usually make this with “Indian” spices, but it would be just as nice with simpler flavorings such as dried oregano and chili flakes. Make it Middle Eastern with sumac and allspice.
1 cauliflower (as much as will fit into your pan without over crowding)
3 or 4 Tablespoons good olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Seasonings of your choice (feel free to make up your own versions):
A good sprinkle of turmeric, black mustard seeds, chili flakes and garam masala
Dried oregano and smoked paprika and feta when it come out of the oven
A good sprinkle of ground sumac and ground allspice
A good sprinkle of ground cumin and coriander with black onion seeds
A bit of lime juice at the end would be nice
Preheat your oven to 200°C (400°F)
Cut the cauliflower into smallish pieces (size of your thumb) and put into a roasting tin. It’s important to not pile them up (or they will steam instead of go crispy), try to keep spread out evenly. Add your chosen spices and your olive oil and toss.
In the oven they go for around 30 minutes, stirring halfway or until crisped to your liking.
TIP: If you want to serve this as finger food with drinks, don’t use too much stalk (keep them for making soup !).