Thick Fluffy Pancakes

These work brilliantly. Sometimes called American style pancakes, but they are very like the pancakes my granny made, I just make them a bit larger.

Ingredients

  • 135g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 130ml milk
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tbsp melted butter (allowed to cool slightly), plus extra for cooking

Method

  1. Put all the dry ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Put the wet (milk and egg) ingredients, except the butter in a jug, and whisk quickly with a fork to mix.
  3. Warm a frying pan with a little melted butter.  You will need to top up with a small amount of butter after each pancake.
  4. Add the wet to the dry and put the melted butter on top. Whisk immediately to make a thickish batter.
  5. (Flours and egg sizes vary. If it’s too runny you will get thin pancakes. But it needs to be liquid enough to spread out a bit in the pan. It can be made dryer by adding a couple of spoons of flour if needed, or a splash of milk if too thick. But the measures given work for most flours.)
  6. You can start cooking immediately. Make a small test pancake. The first one is never right but lets you get the temperature of the pan right. It’s the cook’s treat.
  7. You know when a pancake is ready to flip when you see bubbles appearing on the surface of the batter and the first ones are just beginning to burst. Flip it over. If it’s too dark on the cooked side your pan is too hot.
 Make a small batch of pancakes and keep them warm in a warm oven at about 50C till you are ready to serve. They don’t really keep long so need to be eaten when the batch is ready. This won’t be difficult.

Variants

  • When you add a pancake to the pan to cook drop some fruit into the soft top – raspberry, blueberry etc. This will warm and cook nicely with the pancake. (If you have frozen it’s best to defrost before using. With blueberries, I find submerging them in a small bowl of water is usually enough to hurry up the defrosting. Drain them before doing to the pancake.)
These make great pancakes to serve with thin oven roasted streaky bacon, maple syrup and soft poached eggs.

Indian Egg Roast

This Egg Roast isn’t really a roast at all. The eggs are actually boiled and served in a delicious tomato based curry sauce.

Simple and delicious, and also vegetarian. Boil the eggs as “hard-boiled” as you prefer. 10 minutes gives them fully hard, and 8 minutes with some orange softness to the yolk.
Egg Roast is also a good make-ahead recipe. The eggs just need to be reheated in the prepared sauce just before serving.
Based on a Rick Stein recipe from his excellent book on India.

Ingredients

  • 6 eggs
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil or veg oil if you don’t have
  • 10-12 fresh curry leaves (I keep a plant in the kitchen)
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 250g white onions, sliced
  • 2 dried Kashmiri chillies, broken into pieces, seeds included
  • A thumb of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped finely
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp Kashmiri mirch (adjust this up or down depending on how fiery you enjoy your curry)
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 400g passata (with no added salt/garlic/herbs)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Coriander for garnish

Method

  1. Gently add the eggs to a pan of boiling water and let them cook for about 10 minutes, on the gentlest simmer
  2. When the eggs are ready sit the pot under a running cold tap to cool the eggs and stop them cooking further.
  3. Heat the oil in a suitable pan. When it’s medium hot add the curry leaves and fennel seeds for about 30 seconds toast them.
  4. Quickly add the onions and cook them for about 10 minutes until they are soft and golden.
  5. Add the dried chillies, ginger and garlic and fry them for 3 minutes
  6. Now add the dried spices and fry them, stirring to avoid catching, for about 30 seconds to incorporate
  7. Add the passata and salt and simmer for 10 minutes.
  8. When you are close to serving, add the eggs to the sauce and simmer gently to allow them to heat up again, this will probably take about 5 minutes.
  9. Sprinkle with chopped coriander and serve.
Serve the egg roast with rice or a simple bread like chapati.

Carrot Cake

Carrot cake is always a winner. And the cake stays moist for a few days if covered. The lemon icing really lifts it.
Sometimes this recipe is called a passion cake. Call it what you like – it’s still delicious.

Ingredients

  • 275g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 175g soft light brown sugar
  • 50g chopped walnuts
  • 2 mashed ripe bananas
  • 3 eggs
  • 175g grated carrots
  • 175ml vegetable oil or melted butter, vegetable oil is fine.

Icing

  • 75g butter
  • 75g soft cream cheese
  • 175-200g icing sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • grated zest and half the juice of a lemon

Method

  1. Put the oven on at 170C fan.
  2. Prepare a cake tin. I use one about 9 inches/22cm round and with a removable side/base which makes taking the cake out much easier.
  3. Put all the dry ingredients in a big bowl, then add the wet, and mix together well with a wooden spoon until you have a batter.
  4. Put the batter in the tin and place in the oven for about 1 hour. Test with a skewer, if it comes out clean the centre is cooked. If needed, give it another few minutes. Once cooked place on a rack to cool before removing the tin.
  5. To make the icing beat all the ingredients together until creamed. If it’s too wet just add some more icing sugar. The volume of lemon juice can vary a bit.
  6. Once the carrot cake is completely cooled cut it horizontally. Now ice the middle and the top. Re-assemble and try to resist eating it. Impossible.

Freekeh Pilaf

Freekeh is a whole or cracked dried green wheat. It is typically Palestinian/Eastern Med.  It makes a light alternative to Risotto and works well as a side to some vegetable dishes or some grilled meats. I find it’s “lighter” than risotto and makes a good summer alternative.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • 25g butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to finish
  • 150g freekeh (or bulgar wheat)
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground allspice
  • 270ml good-quality vegetable stock
  • 10g parsley, finely chopped, plus extra to garnish
  • 10g mint, finely chopped
  • 10g coriander, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
  • Salt and pepper

Side

  • 100g Greek yoghurt
  • 1½ tsp lemon juice
  • ½ garlic clove, crushed
  • salt

Method

  1. Soak the Freekeh in cold water for 5 minutes.
  2. Soften the onions in a large pot with the oil and butter for about 15 minutes until they are soft and golden.
  3. Add the drained freekeh, spices, salt, pepper and stock to the pot and bring to a simmer.
  4. Simmer for about 15 minutes and then set it aside covered for about 5 minutes
  5. Uncover for another 5 minutes to allow it to cool a bit.
  6. Mix the yoghurt, lemon, garlic and salt as a side dressing
  7. Stir in the herbs to the pilaf
  8. Serve with the pine nuts sprinkled over and a drizzle of olive oil, with the yoghurt dressing on the side.

Celeriac Remoulade

Celeriac remoulade is ideal with cooked ham. Make about 30 minutes in advance. It can’t be made too much longer in advance or the texture changes and it becomes a bit gluey.
This is a slightly sharp mustardy flavour that contrasts nicely with sweet-salty ham. The celeriac retains a slight crunch providing a good texture.

Ingredients

  • 1 average celeriac (about 450g)
  • Lemon, juiced
  • 4 tbsp Mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp double cream or creme fraiche
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped flat leaf parsley

Method

  1. Prepare a working bowl and juice half the lemon into the bowl
  2. Cut the celeriac into matchstick-thin pieces. I use a mandolin for this. Immediately put the cut pieces into the lemon juice to prevent them browning, and the acid in the lemon will start “cooking” the celeriac.
  3. Simply mix the remaining ingredients (mayonnaise etc) into another serving bowl to create a thinking liquid a bit like unwhipped double cream.
  4. Now gently fold the celeriac with some seasoning into the creamy liquid.
  5. Leave it for 30 minutes to become ready.

Serve the celeriac remoulade as an accompaniment to cold cooked ham or other cold meats.

Leek and Potato Soup

Washing the leeks in cold water to remove grit
Washing the leeks

A very delicious and simple no fuss Leek and Potato soup, which has the merit of being veggie. Much better than you might imagine. This is based on a Delia recipe. Lovely warm. Can also be served chilled as Vichysoisse

Ingredients

  • 4 large leeks
  • 1 medium onion, chopped small
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced, about 1cm cubes is fine
  • 50g butter
  • 1 litre vegetable stock (I use Marigold Swiss Vegetable Bouillon, it’s indispensable)
  • 250 ml milk
  • salt and freshly milled black pepper
To serve:
  • Snipped fresh chives or chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons cream or crème fraiche

Method

Cooking the leeks and potatoes in butter
Cooking the leeks and potatoes in butter
  1. Start by trimming the leeks, discarding any tough or scraggy outer layer.
  2. First, cut the bottom half off each leek (the white bit) a short distance below the point where the leaves splay. This bit doesn’t have any soil or grit and can be quickly cut in half lengthwise and sliced.
  3. Split the top sections in half lengthways and slice them quite finely, then wash them thoroughly in two or three changes of water to get rid of any grit. Drain well.
  4. In a largish saucepan, melt the butter, then add the leeks, onions and potatoes.  Season with some salt and pepper, then cover and let the vegetables sweat over a very low heat for about 15 minutes. You don’t want any colouring or browning.
  5. Then add the stock and milk, bring to simmering point, cover and let the soup simmer very gently for a further 20 minutes – take care, if you have the heat too high the milk in it may cause it to boil over.
  6. Now you can put the whole lot into a blender – leave it to cool first – and blend to a purée.
  7. Blend the soup in batches, then return the soup to the saucepan and reheat gently, tasting to check the seasoning.
  8. Add a swirl of cream or crème fraîche to each serving and sprinkle with freshly snipped chives (fabulous) or parsley.
I like croutons with this.

Aloo Gobi – A Lovely Vegetarian Dish

This Aloo Gobi is based on a Felicity Cloake recipe. It’s fabulous.
You can get harder to find ingredients here Spices of India. This is where I buy less common spices and I bought my Methi and Nigella Seeds.
Generally, I make it with tinned tomatoes though fresh ones might be nice if you can get good ones in summer. Because of the tomatoes, it is slightly acidic. Felicity Cloake suggests adding the juice of half a lime at the end and I omitted as I felt it wasn’t needed. Your mileage may vary.
Cooking the potatoes well before adding the cauliflower is an important point, as the potatoes take a good bit longer to cook. Otherwise, the cauliflower florets can really break up before the potato cooks.
With a decently sized cauliflower, I had a good bit more cauliflower than potatoes, but this was no bad thing. That made me add some more tomatoes and some extra methi etc to balance it out the sauce. I think the quantities flex pretty freely without destroying the recipe. So, if you like it more “saucy” then increase the tomatoes, onion and spices a bit.
I like it quite “hot” and used red Kashmiri mirch chilli, it’s very good. Serving with some nice yoghurt can cool it down and the yoghurt works well with it anyway.
The methi is essential to the Aloo Gobi, the recipe usually suggests adding it at the end. Despite this I do think the curry benefits from being allowed to cool and rest in the fridge overnight after adding the methi; it really seems to develop the flavour.
The Aloo Gobi is delicious served on its own with some bread – your choice – naan, chapati, etc. Or, it is a great side dish for a wider Indian meal.
Though it’s not traditional I liked some frozen peas added for 5-10 minutes at the reheating stage.

Ingredients

  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp nigella seeds (though these look like Onion Seeds, they ain’t – they are different.)
  • 350g waxy potatoes, cut into 2cm dice (remember the larger the potato pieces the slower they are to cook. I think the smaller ones are better too.)
  • 1 cauliflower, cut into florets slightly larger than the potato
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes, or 5 chopped medium fresh tomatoes and 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds, toasted in a dry pan and ground
  • ½-1 tsp chilli powder (I used 1 tsp of Kashmiri mirch, a hot powder, which also gives a reddish colour)
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • 2-4 small green chillies, slit along their length (I left the seeds in)
  • 1 tsp salt (the potatoes, cauliflower and tomato can all stand salt so taste at the end as you may need more.)
  • 1 tbsp methi (dried fenugreek leaves – these are an essential flavour component in my opinion.)
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • Small bunch of fresh coriander, chopped, for serving
  • Yoghurt for serving if preferred

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a wide, lidded pan over a medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the cumin and nigella seeds and cook for a few seconds until they pop, then add the potatoes and sauté until golden. Scoop out the potatoes with a slotted spoon and then repeat with the cauliflower, then scoop this too out into a separate bowl.
  2. Turn the heat down to medium-low, add a little more oil if necessary, and add the onion. Cook until soft and golden but not brown, then stir in the garlic and ginger and cook for a couple of minutes. Tip in the tomatoes, ground coriander, chilli and turmeric and cook, stirring regularly, until the oil begins to pool around the side of the pan.
  3. Add the potatoes back in along with the fresh chillies and salt, bring to a simmer, turn down the heat, cover and cook for as long as it takes to cook the potatoes.
  4. Add the cauliflower only once the potatoes are cooked, and add a good splash of water, cover and cook until both are tender, stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn’t stick and adding more water if necessary. Don’t overcook the cauliflower or it will disintegrate. If you think you will be re-heating then just leave it slightly al dente.
  5. Take off the heat, stir in the methi and garam masala and leave for 10 minutes
  6. Either serve the Aloo Gobi right away with coriander and yoghurt, or cool and fridge overnight, or freeze, all work well. (I really think leaving at least overnight helps massively. The methi seems to work its magic if left for a while.)

Simple Tomato Sauce – A Freezer Essential

This is based on a Rick Stein suggestion and works very well. It’s a great simple tomato sauce which freezes nicely in portions. I always have portions in the freezer.
It’s flavoured with bay leaf and having fresh bay leaves really helps. Every garden should have a bay tree, they are easily grown in pots by the back door. It can be jazzed up by adding basil or oregano (dried or fresh) when using to add a different flavour edge.
I use tinned tomatoes and they work well. If you have fabulous ripe fresh tomatoes they would work too (you need to skin them) but I don’t think it will work so well with supermarket water balls…. This is probably a good way to use up that tomato glut at the end of the season if you grow your own. If using fresh from the supermarket, you might find some tomato puree helps the colour and flavour a bit. The tinned approach is tasty, easier and less work.
Did you know that most tomatoes sold in our supermarkets are grown in water (a system called hydroponics)? This is where buying organic can make a difference. The Soil Association certify what is organic, which they do by certifying the soil. So tomatoes that are organic have to be grown in soil.
It’s quite possible to grow all the ingredients in your own garden (assuming you have somewhere like a greenhouse for the tomatoes.) The onions, garlic and bay leaves are all grown easily at home. Get started with some garlic, it’s the easiest.
I find this sauce useful for:
  • Being the tomato base to smear on top of a pizza before adding other toppings
  • As a sauce for pasta. A simple cooked pasta with this sauce and a sprinkle of parmesan with fresh basil works really well.
  • As a basic sauce, it’s acceptable to most kids with pasta as it doesn’t have any “bits” or anything green.
  • Great with homemade ravioli, perhaps stuffed with ricotta and herbs.
  • Rick Stein uses it in a Spanish lamb stuffed aubergine recipe which is really nice. So can be added as a bit of a cheat to some minced beef or pork to make a quick ragu for that emergency guest situation.
Oil… yes, it’s a lot of olive oil (no need for extra virgin) but it gets blended into a smooth sauce and emulsifies nicely. Trust me, it’s fine.
I usually make a bigger quantity and freeze portions in labelled freezer bags. One piece of work, many meals.
Ingredients
Single
Double
Olive oil (don’t waste extra virgin)
125ml
250ml
Onions
250g
500g
Garlic cloves
2
4
Tinned tomatoes (400g tins)
1
2
Bay leaves
3
6
Water
150ml
300ml
Salt
1 teaspoon
2 teaspoons
Sugar
1 teaspoon
2 teaspoons
Method
  1. Sautee the onions in the olive oil till soft. Do not brown/colour/crisp, so a low heat works best and this will take 15 to 30 minutes. Start this first and then look out the rest of your ingredients.
  2. Make the garlic to a paste and add to the onions for the last 5 minutes to cook off.
  3. Now add everything else and bring to the gentlest of simmers.
  4. Cook for 45 minutes to an hour, until the sauce and oil have cooked together and reduce to be a bit thicker.
  5. Remove the bay leaves
  6. Allow to cool and then blend in a food processor or blender. You end up with a slightly orange looking tomato sauce that tastes delicious.
  7. Make in advance and freeze or fridge till needed.
Portion Thoughts
For an 8-year-old, I find that 80g of dried pasta and 140g of sauce works well. That might leave room for that essential scoop of ice cream afterwards.
For an adult 120g of dried pasta, you might want about 180-200g of sauce, depending on how wet you like your pasta and what else you are adding. Eg. pan fry some courgette chunks quickly and add to the sauce along with some fresh oregano.
The 140g portion size works well with a portion of 6-8 homemade ravioli.
Oh, if you’re defrosting from a freezer bag then don’t put the bag of sauce in the microwave. The oil in the sauce will melt the bag and you will have an awful mess. Just sayin’.
If you run the bag under the cold tap you can remove the sauce from the bag quite easily and either melt in a pot or heat in a microwaveable bowl.

Carrot Sultana Salad

Lovely carrot sultana salad, based on one from my Lebanese book. Works well with middle eastern dishes and Indian. For me it’s actually got a Chinese sort of flavour, I think because of the toasted sesame seeds, ginger and spring onions.
Quite simply, it works with everything. Great with barbecues where you want a range of salad types and textures, with grilled meat or fish.
The modern plump “ready to eat” sultanas/raisins that are not fully dehydrated work well.
Quantities are approximate as with all salads you will want to vary to taste and preference.
Ingredients
  • 5 medium carrots
  • 100g of nice sultanas, you could use raisins
  • Chopped coriander to taste
  • 2-3 teaspoons of grated ginger
  • 3 spring onions
  • Drizzle of balsamic vinegar to taste
  • Teaspoon of runny honey
  • A Generous tablespoon of sesame seeds, which you have toasted in a dry frying pan.
Method
  1. If you have one, use a mandolin to julienne half of the peeled carrots, then grate the rest coarsely. You could just grate all of them, it depends what sort of texture you want. I like the crunchiness of the little carrot julienne in my salad. Texture is important.
  2. Add all the other ingredients and mix
  3. The finished salad needs to stand for at least 30 minutes for the flavours to get to know one another, don’t rush it.
For your carrot sultana salad to work you really just need to adjust the ingredients to taste. I think it needs a bit of vinegar and a bit of sweetness. If it’s too sweet add a teaspoon of white wine vinegar, too sour add a bit more honey.
Some toasted peanut, cashew, or pistachio might be a welcome addition.

Spanakopita – A Classic Greek Dish

My brother put me on to this and it’s a tasty lunch or dinner, best veggie I think. It is an easy Greek filo pastry based pie and can be prepared a bit in advance. Serve at room temperature, or just lukewarm.
It’s really a traditional spinach and feta Greek “pie”, but can be varied in many directions. The dish is traditionally veggie but I suppose you could put some minced lamb in it and some Middle East type spices? Probably a hanging offence in Greece.
I use my loose bottomed flan dish that I also use for quiche. It works well and makes removing the finished pie much easier.
I find I have more filo than I need for one. You could get two spanakopita from a pack. Don’t think it would freeze well from a cheese/egg perspective so you’d need to eat them both from the fridge over a couple of days.
Lovely served with a nice salad.
Ingredients
  • A pack of filo pastry
  • Small butternut squash
  • 120g of young spinach, wilted and drained. Use a sieve or muslin/tea towel.
  • 200g Feta chopped up, there need to be cubes of cheese, probably about 1.5cm square
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 50-75g melted butter to coat the filo
  • Mint leaves chopped (careful not to overdo as it can be a bit too minty), some basil wouldn’t go amiss
  • Optional – some small chopped courgettes.
  • Courgette flowers for decoration or you can put some in the pie if you have enough.
Method
  1. The butternut squash needs peeled and cut into 2cm chunks. Coat in olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast it at 180C fan for about 30-40 minutes till cooked. A bit of colour is no bad thing.
  2. Mix the cooled butternut squash with the eggs, cheese, spinach, herbs. Season well with salt and pepper.
  3. Cover the bottom of the flan dish with a sheet of filo then brush it with butter. Put on two more, coating them with butter and rotating them a bit so that all the sides of the dish are covered.
  4. Tip the filling into the dish and level out.
  5. Fold the edges of the filo base back over towards the middle
  6. Now cover with about another 3 layers and any loose scraps of filo, buttering each piece.
  7. Decorate with some courgette flowers, coating them in butter, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
  8. Cook at 180C fan for about 20 minutes, more or less depending on how golden it goes
Best served lukewarm or at room temperature, probably with a Greek salad. The Spanakopita can be kept chilled overnight in a fridge. It also reheats to crisp up the soggy pastry.
The filling is easily varied:
  • Leaves could be rocket, horseradish, chard, kale
  • Cheese could be gorgonzola or any other cheese but not sure how well some would work. Experimentation carries a risk.
  • Herb could be mint, basil, thyme, tarragon, fennel, oregano, dill, parsley
  • Squash could be carrot, could add some finely chopped onion, probably cooked off slightly for best results.
  • Mix and match veg as you wish just be careful not to add something too wet, or that needs a lot more cooking. In which case, pre-cook and/or drain.