Asparagus soup

Don’t you just love it when asparagus starts coming to season? Something I always make during that period is asparagus soup. You only need a few ingredients, and it’s pretty quick to make (unless you want to make your own chicken stock for it).

serves 2-3
500g asparagus
2 shallots
600 ml chicken stock
25g butter
olive oil, for drizzling over the portions

1. Trim the asparagus stalks, by peeling the lower half of them. Otherwise you’ll end up with woody strings in your soup, that are edible, but somewhat uncomfortable in the mouth. Rinse, and cut the tips off. Set the tips aside for later. Roughly chop the asparagus stalks and the shallots.

2. Melt the butter in a pan, and soften the shallots and asparagus, frying for 5 minutes at medium to high temperature. Reduce to low to medium temperature, and fry for another 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock, and simmer for 5 minutes.

3. Cool the mixture, then liquidise the soup until smooth. Place back in the pan, heat and season to taste.

4. Boil the asparagus tips separately for 2 minutes, and drain. Mix into the soup, saving a few to be put on top.

5. Drizzle with little olive oil.

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Aromatic rice with tandoori lamb steaks

When my husband and I met, I was going through a cooking phase of making a lot of Indian curries from scratch. I still cook these, of course, however not as often as I used to back then. This particular rice is one of my favourites, and it comes with an amusing story. We were attending a friend’s BBQ party, and I brought all the ingredients for the rice with me, as well as marinated lamb cutlets, to finish the cooking at my friend’s house. The rice and the lamb were a huge hit,  and the rice became the most talked about topic of the whole party. One person, who was a vegetarian, said she was going to try it, and I mentioned to her that unfortunately it does contain chicken stock. She said she was still going to try it regardless, because everyone at the party was raving about the rice so much. She ended up asking me for the recipe.

Tandoori lamb
250ml natural yoghurt
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp fresh root ginger, peeled and finely chopped (about a thumb size piece)
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground cumin
lamb

1. Mix all prepared ingredients together with the yoghurt. If you want the marinade mixture to be smooth, you can blend it in a food processor. This would normally be enough for at least four portions of meat.

2. Add the meat to the mixture, and make sure the meat is fully coated. Cover, and marinade in the fridge overnight, or as long as you can: you could prepare this in the morning, to cook later in the day.

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3. Fry the steaks for about 5 minutes on each side in a griddle pan with some oil, or on a grill (as I only used two steaks, I had a lot of leftover marinade. I poured it on a pan, and cooked it, to use as sauce).

Aromatic rice
2 onions, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp black mustard seeds
4 cardamom pods, bruised
2 bay leaves
2 dl shelled pistachio nuts
3 dl uncooked basmati rice
5 1/2 dl chicken stock
1 tbsp ghee or vegetable oil

1. Wash the rice thoroughly, until the water doesn’t isn’t cloudy anymore (this gets rid of the excess starch). Drain well.

2. Prepare the stock. You want this to be warm when you use it.

3. Prepare / measure other ingredients. I usually tend to measure all dry spices that get used at same stage, in one cup. Best way to bruise the cardamoms is to place the flat surface of a wide knife on top of the pod, and bash it with a fist.

4. Heat the ghee / oil in a pan. Cook the onions, garlic, spices and nuts, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until the onions are browned slightly and the mixture is fragrant.

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5. Stir in the rice and stock, and bring to boil. Lower the heat and simmer 15 minutes, covered. Once cooked, mix with a fork and stand, covered, for 10 minutes.

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Cauliflower and pomegranate ‘couscous’ with octopus

This light cold salad was a completely experimental creation of mine. I’ve been wanting to do something resembling couscous, but neither myself nor my husband are friends of the wheat couscous. I think cauliflower is a great, healthier replacement of it, as well as the texture of the cauliflower working very well. I’ve also recently been wanting to utilise pomegranates in cooking, and thought these two ingredients were going to be the ones I was going to build the rest of the dish around of. The pomegranate and the grapes bring sweetness, and to balance this I added lime juice and capers, and it worked really well. The end result is a delightful couscous salad that is fresh, sweet, sharp, salty and earthy all at the same time. You can serve the octopus warm or cold, I served it cold.

1 cauliflower
2 pomegranates
20 red grapes
1 lime – juice
3 tbsp capers
1 dl pine nut kernels
2 spring onions
handful of pea shoots
225g cooked octopus

1. Place all the cauliflower florets in a blender, and process to a grainy texture.

2. Cut the pomegranates in half. I find the easiest way to pick the seeds out without breaking the juicy outer coating, is to break the fruit by had piece by piece, and remove the seeds by hand. Half the grapes lengthwise.

3. Add  the lime juice, capers, finely chopped spring onions and coarsely chopped pea shoots. Cut the octopus to pieces of your liking. I cut the thicker ends of the tentacles to about 5-10mm thick pieces, and the thinner ends longer.

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Salmon en papillote

En papillote cooking is an easy, mess-free and quick way of cooking food. You basically place all the ingredients per portion inside one parcel, which each diner will then have.

serves 2
2
salmon fillets (about 125g each)
6 tbsp frozen
peas (3 tbsp on each portion)
1/2
leek, sliced (split in two parcels)
4 tbsp
crème fraiche (2 tbsp per parcel)
2 tbsp tarragon or parsley, finely chopped (1 on each parcel)
dash of
black pepper
dash of salt

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C / 390°F. Remove peas from the freezer. The fish will cook quickly, so it might be better if the peas have defrosted a little bit.

2. Take 2 large non-stick baking parchment sheets. Place the salmon pieces on the sheets, at around 1/3 from front, leaving 2/3 at the back, so that you will be able to fold it on top. Season with salt and pepper. Add the leeks, peas, crème fraiche and herb.

3. Bring over the baking paper, to cover the fish. The front edges should be together. Roll until it reaches the fish. Then roll the ends. The parcels are now sealed, which means the fish will cook in it’s own  juices / steam.

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4. Cook in the preheated oven for 7 minutes.

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BBQ beef ribs

My recipe is for oven baked ribs, however if you want to grill yours on a barbeque you can still follow the marinating and BBQ sauce steps. This recipe will give you tasty, as well as nicely tender meat, which comes off the bone easily.

serves 2

Marinade
2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 garlic cloves, squeezed
2 tbsp dark muscovado sugar
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp paprika powder
1/2 tbsp black pepper
1/2 tbsp oregano
2 tsp mustard powder
1 tbsp onion powder
~~~~~
~600g beef ribs
BBQ sauce (click here for homemade BBQ sauce recipe)

1. Mix all the marinade ingredients together. Pour the mixture over the ribs, and rub onto the meat, so that all of the ribs are coated. Let marinate in the fridge for 1-2 hours.

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2. Heat oven to 120°C / 250°F. Place the ribs in an ovenproof dish, and cover tightly with foil. Bake for 3.5 hours.

3. Check the meat, and if it’s tender, switch the oven to a grill setting, medium to high temperature. Pour away the liquid (mixture of fat and cooking juices). Completely remove the foil that was covering the meat, and brush the ribs with the barbeque sauce. Place under the grill for 5 minutes, until the sauce gets sticky.

 

BBQ sauce

I don’t use BBQ sauce very much because I don’t really like the ones you can buy. So when I do  need it, I make my own, and it’s so much better than the shop bought ones! All you need to do is put all the ingredients together, simmer it for an hour whilst stirring occasionally, and voila! My recipe is with a little bit of heat to it. It doesn’t give you a huge amount, so you might want to double or triple the amounts (this amount is perfect for cooking beef short ribs for two).

120ml tomato ketchup
200ml water
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
4 tsp dark brown muscovado sugar
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp lime juice
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Place all the ingredients in a pan and bring to boil. Immediately reduce to simmer, and keep simmering uncovered for an hour. Stir occasionally.

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Chicken stir-fry

When you’re on holiday, eating out every day, you start feeling like you’re ready for that home cooked food again. And you know that coming back after being away for a couple of weeks, work will be pretty busy. This stir-fry dish is great, because I always make a really big portion that will last you for several day, whether you want to take it as lunch to work, or have it waiting at home for dinner after getting home late. This is one of my husband’s all time favourite foods that I cook, so it’s a winner all around. Packed with vegetables and other healthy ingredients, it’s also great at boosting your immune system.

2 large chicken breasts

1 carrot

1 green pepper

5 medium chestnut mushrooms

1 brown onion

1 courgette / zucchini

300g bean sprouts

100g green beans

150g mangetout peas

100g baby corn

3 small green chillies

a thumb size piece of ginger

100g cashew nuts

4-5 garlic cloves

150g dry noodles (I use vermicelli)

50ml groundnut oil

50ml toasted sesame seed oil

50ml dark soy sauce

1 tbsp light soy sauce

1 tbsp fish sauce

1 tbsp rice vinegar

1 tbsp lemon juice

I tend to chop all ingredients beforehand, because the actual cooking phase will be quite quick, and you won’t have time to chop the next ingredients. I usually have two containers; on box number 1 I put all the ingredients that require slightly longer cooking time, and box 2 the ingredients that will be added a little bit later.

1. On box no1, peel and slice the carrot in match-like sticks. Chop the green beans in about inch size pieces. Rinse and drain well the mangetout, and add to the box. Finely chop the chillies, and peel and finely chop ginger, and also add the cashew nuts to the box no1.

2. For the box no2, deseed and slice the pepper. Slice your onion and mushrooms, and cut the courgette into strips like the carrots. Cut the baby corn into pieces, and finely chop the garlic.

3. Cut the chicken breasts into thin strips. Heat the groundnut oil in a large wok, and add the chicken. Stir around for about 30 seconds – 1 minute, then add the ingredients from the box no1. Fry, stirring, for about 5 minutes.

4. Add the ingredients from the box no2 and stir. You’ll want to fry everything for about 5 minutes again. While doing this, boil some water, and pour over the noodles. You only want to soak the noodles (if using vermicelli) for 3 minutes. Do check the packaging for how long you need to soak the type of noodles you’re using. Drain the noodles well.

5. Add the bean sprouts to the wok, stir in for couple of minutes, then add the noodles. Add all the remaining liquid ingredients over the noodles, this will help you separate and stir the noodles into the rest of the dish more easily.