Gazpacho

This summer soup is one of my all time favourite chilled soups. All ingredients are served raw, so you can be sure that all the flavours and nutrients are still present for sure. You can serve it on it’s own, or perhaps with finely chopped cucumber / red pepper pieces, or perhaps with some goat cheese mousse. I use quite a lot of cucumber in my recipe, as I love it, however it dilutes the redness of the soup a little bit. The soup is very liquid, as it’s drained through a sieve, but it is really flavoursome. You can serve it as a very light lunch or dinner, in which case you’ll probably get two servings from this recipe, or you could serve it as a little appetizer or starter on a garden party, in which case you’ll get many servings.

400g large tomatoes
1 cucumber
1 garlic glove
2  handfulls of basil leaves
1 tbsp tomato puree
2 tbsp lemon juice (1 lemon)
3 dl water
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp tabasco
salt
black pepper

1. To get the skin off the tomatoes more easily, place them in boiling water for 20 seconds. Remove and let cool. With a sharp knife, make a slit on the skin going around the whole tomato, this will make it easier to peel them. Then chop the tomatoes, discarding the hard core part.

2. Peel and chop the cucumber while the tomatoes are cooling. Place in the liquidizer, together with the peeled garlic clove. Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, basil leaves and water, and blend until smooth.

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3. Strain through a sieve, and push as much through as you can. This step will take a while.

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4. Stir in the lemon juice, oil, tabasco and seasoning. Chill in the fridge for at least couple of hours. Before serving, check the taste, and add seasoning if required, as chilling may reduce the strength of flavours.

Smoked cod with mustard and kale mash

This cod dish is pretty good, easy cooking for those days when you’ve been working late, and just want to quickly get on with it when you get home. Cod itself can normally be quite a tasteless fish in my mind, and buying it smoked makes a nice change. I might also swap it to smoked haddock, which works well too. I would say this recipe can work for anything between 2-4 people, depending on the diners’ appetite!

3 medium to large potatoes
300ml vegetable stock
3 handfuls of chopped kale
2 large smoked cod fillets
25g butter
1 tbsp grainy Dijon mustard
salt
black pepper

1. Peel and cut the potatoes into fairly small chunks. Place in a pan, and boil in the stock for 5 minutes, covered with a lid.

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2. If the chopped kale pieces are large, you may want to chop them more finely. Stir in the kale and butter, and lower the temperature to simmer. Simmer, covered, for 5 minutes.

3. Place the fish pieces on top of the potato – kale mixture. Simmer gently, steaming the fish for 7-8 minutes.

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4. Carefully remove the fish. Coarsely mash the potatoes and kale together, and mix the mustard in. Season with salt and pepper.

 

 

Poached eggs and asparagus wrapped in bacon with Béarnaise sauce

I love trying to think of different ways to serve food I might have often, to keep things interesting. As we’re currently in asparagus season, I thought this would be a perfect way to serve one’s usual eggs and bacon breakfast.

5-6 asparagus per diner
Thin cut streaky bacon rashers, 1 for each asparagus + 2 extra per diner
2 eggs per diner
Béarnaise sauce

Béarnaise sauce (serves 2)
2
tbsp finely chopped onion
5 freshly ground white peppers, or 3 shakes of ground white pepper
2 parsley stalks
2 tarragon stalks
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp water
100g butter
2 egg yolks
1-2 stalks of tarragon, leaves only, finely chopped

1. Put the onion, pepper, parsley, tarragon, vinegar and water in a pan. Let boil until the liquid has reduced to about half. Strain the liquid.

2. Melt the butter.

3. Put the egg yolks in a bowl, and drizzle over the strained liquid.

4. The eggs will need to be cooked in a bain marie (hot water bath). This is actually not as complicated as it sounds, please don’t let that deter you from making this sauce! You need a pot with water at the bottom, which will be heated to boiling. It’s important that the bottom of the bowl with the eggs doesn’t touch the hot water, as this could result to your sauce splitting. Start adding the melted butter to the eggs in drops at first, mixing/whisking as you go, then slowly drizzling the rest. You need to keep mixing the sauce until thickened.

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5. Add the finely chopped tarragon leaves.

Poached eggs

1 tbsp vinegar
couple of pinches of salt

All you need to poach eggs successfully are spacious enough pan, spoon for stirring boiling water, slotted spoon for removing the egg from the water, a bowl for the cooked eggs to let excess water drain out. I tend to break the egg into a cup, to have one ready to be cooked as soon as one comes out of the boiling water.

1. Put vinegar and salt in the pan, pour water and bring to boil. Stir in the centre with a spoon, and immediately pour egg into the eye in the center. This, together with the vinegar and salt will hold the egg together.

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2. Cook for 3 minutes, and remove from the water with a slotted spoon. I tend to put the egg in a bowl first, to drain excess water, before plating it, otherwise you’ll end up with a soggy plate of food!

Asparagus and bacon

1. Prepare the asparagus, by peeling the stalk half of them.

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2. Wrap the asparagus with the bacon, and place on a tray together with individual bacon rashers. Heat the grill, and grill the asparagus under medium heat for about 10 minutes, turning half way through.

Plate all ingredients for a tasty breakfast or brunch!

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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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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.

Roasted red pepper soup

This tasty soup is light and healthy, and just seeing the vibrant colour makes you want to tuck your spoon in.

5 red peppers
1 large onion
4 garlic cloves
450g tomatoes
900ml chicken stock, click here for recipe (or for vegetarian version, vegetable stock)
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil
salt
black pepper

1. Cut the peppers in half, and core and deseed them. Place on a foil lined oven tray, skin side up. Brush with 2 tbsp olive oil, and grill under medium to high temperature for about 10 minutes, until the skin is getting black, and peppers soften. Remove from the oven, wrap in the foil and let cool for about 10 minutes.

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2. Boil some water. Dip the tomatoes in the water for about 30 seconds, and take them back out. We are not cooking them at this stage, this will just allow for the skin of the tomatoes to come off easily. Peel and chop the tomatoes.

3. Peel and roughly chop the onions, and peel and finely chop the garlic. Fry the onion in 1 tbsp of the olive oil for 5 minutes until they become translucent, then add the garlic and fry for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, stock and vinegar.

4. Peel the blackened skin off the cooled peppers, and roughly chop them. Add to the other ingredients and bring to boil. Cover with a lid, lower the temperature to simmer, and cook for 30 minutes. Set aside to cool, then purée into a smooth soup.

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5. Pour the soup back in the pan, re-heat, and season to taste.