Miso soup

WP_20150111_008 (2)

There is something about miso soup that makes you feel like you are becoming instantly more healthy as you slurp. It is tasty and cleansing and this recipe contains noodles to make the dish a little bit more filling.

Miso soup with noodles, pak choi and mushrooms (serves 2-3)

1 vegetable stock cube

1 inch of ginger, peeled and finally sliced

2 tbsp. (I use 2 small sachets) of miso paste

100g dried rice noodles

1-2 pak choi, leaves cut off and stalks sliced in lengths

2-3 spring onions, finely sliced

100g mushrooms, finely sliced

1. Put the stock cube in a medium sized saucepan with 600ml of water and the sliced ginger and bring it to the boil. Add the miso paste and stir well before adding the pak choi stalks and mushrooms.

2.  Leave this simmering away for about two minutes so that the stalks have softened. Then add the pak choi leaves and the noodles and leave for another minute or so until the noodles are cooked.

3. Serve the soup straight away in bowls and garnish with the spring onion.

Serving Tip: If you leave the dish too long before serving, the noodles may absorb too much water and become soggy so make sure you it the whole lot whilst it is still fresh!

 

A Tempting Tagine

WP_20150118_003

I have always been a fan of using lots of spices in cooking and can feel really frustrated when a recipe includes lots of different ingredients but doesn’t result in a dish full of the flavour I can smell, and expect to taste. This has happened to me on a few occasions when I have made recipes from books that have actually taken quite a while to prepare. So, this week, I was determined to make spices work for me when trying out the new tagine pot I was given for Christmas.

I had chicken thighs in the fridge so chose them as the main ingredient, made up a spice mix of some of my favourite flavours… cumin, coriander seeds, paprika etc…, chose my vegetables from the selection I already had, and started to put them all together. The result: a flavoursome supper that is not overpoweringly spicy, but has a comforting heat and moreish flavour. Satisfying. I was so pleased with the result that I wanted to get the dish on my blog at the first opportunity, so here we are. I hope you like the recipe as much as I did, let me know if you give it a go!

 

Chicken and tomato tagine (serves 2-3)

I have stated that this recipe serves 2-3, which I know might be a bit vague, but it depends who you are feeding. When I made this, two of us had two chicken thighs each and seconds (we are quite big eaters), but you may only want one piece of chicken. Feel free to add a couple more thighs, a bit more stock and a few more vegetables if you want to feed more, you may also want to be a bit more generous with the spices. As long as there is space in your tagine or casserole dish, I say go for it, you can always have leftovers!

Olive oil

4 chicken thighs

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander seeds

½ tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp ground ginger

¼ tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp turmeric

Salt

Pepper

2 white onions

2 cloves garlic

300ml chicken stock

2/3 medium carrots

1 Red pepper

3 tomatoes

A small bunch of fresh coriander

  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C/gas mark 5. Heat the oil in a frying pan or a casserole dish and brown the chicken thighs over a medium heat. They do not need to cook but should be browned all over so turn them at suitable intervals until they are fully sealed.
  2. Meanwhile, finely chop the onions and garlic but keep them separate. In a bowl, mix all of the spices with the salt and pepper and have the mix on hand to add to the pan later. Prepare the stock.
  3. Once the chicken has been browned, remove it from the pan and set aside. Turn down the heat, add the onions to the same pan, and gently fry them until soft and starting to brown.
  4. Whilst the onions are cooking, chop the carrots into rounds and the red pepper into chunks, and prepare the tomatoes. To do this, score a cross at the top and bottom of the skin, put them in a bowl and pour over boiling water from the kettle. Leave for 15-20 seconds before draining and refreshing with cold water. You should then be able to peel the tomatoes and chop them ready for the tagine, discarding the skins.
  5. Add the garlic to the onions and cook for a minute, stirring, before adding the spice mixture and coating the onions in it. Cook for 30 seconds before adding the chicken and coating the thighs in the onion, garlic and spice mixture.
  6. Add the carrots and pepper with the tomatoes and the stock. Turn off the heat and transfer to your tagine, if you are using one. Otherwise, leave it in your casserole dish. Put the lid on whatever pot you are using and move it to the oven. Cook for 40-50 minutes or until the chicken is cooked and the carrots have softened. You may even want to leave it a little longer.
  7. Serve the tagine with couscous and, if you like, a spot of natural yogurt and naan.

WP_20150118_006

Any kind of couscous will go well with this dish, but I made my buttery almond and coriander couscous (posted on 22nd January 2015), which went a treat!

Something on the side

DSCF3926

Couscous is often my go-to emergency side dish when I need something quick and simple or haven’t planned what is for dinner. Recently I have been making a little more effort to jazz it up, and this example goes really well with curries, tagines, and other dishes that pack a bit of punch.

Buttery almond and coriander couscous (serves 2-3)

150g couscous

Knob of butter

A small handful of flaked almonds

Small bunch of fresh coriander

Salt and Pepper

  1. Put 2 small knobs of butter (each as big as a penny) in a bowl and add 150g couscous. Pour over 200ml boiling water, add a pinch of salt and pepper, and lightly stir. Cover the bowl with a plate or a lid.
  2. Meanwhile, put another small knob of butter (this time about as big as a ten pence piece) in a small frying pan and melt. Add the flaked almonds and coat in the butter. Cook the almonds until starting to brown, stirring occasionally. Set aside.
  3. About 5 minutes after you have covered the couscous, stir in through with a fork, adding a little extra water if necessary. Stir through the almonds and a small handful of roughly chopped coriander leaves.

Enjoy!

Sushi, oh such good sushi!

From top left going anticlockwise: Unagi Nigirizushi, Salmon and Tuna Nigirizushi, Temakizushi
From top left going clockwise: Unagi Nigirizushi, Salmon and Tuna Nigirizushi, Temakizushi

Edamame is an absolute jewel in the Oxford crown (the foodie crown that is). If you live in or near to Oxford- or are thinking of visiting anytime soon- I urge you to try it. This unique, independent restaurant serves Japanese food (albeit at slightly restricted times of day) and houses a brilliant sushi night every Thursday. As a restaurant, it is not pretentious, it is not expensive, it is rather, fairly basic to the naked eye, but it is superb: there tends to be a queue most nights! It is not really the place for an intimate meal with a loved one as you will probably sit around a table with fellow diners, but it is cosy, relaxed and fun.

When it comes to the food, no matter what you think you like, I would recommend tasting a little bit of as much as possible. Particular sushi highlights for me have to be the spicy tuna gunkanzushi (fresh tuna with chilli), the unagi nigirizushi (freshwater eel with a sweet soy and eel sauce), the makizushi rolls (salmon, avocado, cucumber and pickled radish) and the miso soup… so, pretty much all of it! I previously had it in my head that I didn’t like miso soup, but how wrong I was. The soup at Edamame is sweet and salty and delicious, all at the same time. It is home-made, and you can really tell- it tastes so good and is also really good for you… full of antioxidants!

From top left clockwise: Makizushi Rolls, Spicy Tuna Gunkanzushi, Miso Soup
From top left clockwise: Makizushi Rolls, Spicy Tuna Gunkanzushi, Miso Soup

The sushi is priced at about £2-£4 for 2 pieces so you can have as much or as little as you like. I don’t care what you get, but if you have the opportunity, please try it! Just check the slightly unconventional opening times before you go: http://www.edamame.co.uk/.

A tart for two… or four

DSCF29461

I really like pastry, pies and tarts, and when you don’t have heaps of time, using readymade puff pastry to whip up something tasty can make a great hassle free dinner.

I admit it, I have never actually made my own puff pastry, but I have heard several famous bakers say that they don’t normally make theirs either… so I think we are off the hook!

Try this tart for a simple but satisfying lunch or dinner and feel free to play around with the toppings. You can make it as simple or as fancy as you like!

Asparagus and Prosciutto Puff Pastry Tart (serves 2-4)

1 sheet of ready to roll puff pastry (or half a 500g block, rolled out)

3-4 tbsp green pesto

4 slices prosciutto ham

½ a bunch of asparagus (about 6 or 7 spears)

4 sundried tomatoes

150g feta

A few squeezes of lemon juice

  1. Preheat the oven to 220ᵒ/ Gas mark 7. Unroll the pastry or roll it out into a rectangle and score around the edge, leaving a 1.5cm border.
  2. In the inner rectangle, spread the pesto all over with the back of a spoon. I have suggested using 3-4 tbsp of pesto, but use as little or as much as you like.
  3. Rip and scatter the prosciutto across the tart and chop and scatter the sundried tomatoes. Then crumble over the feta cheese. Chop each asparagus spear in half and drizzle with lemon juice before spreading these across the pastry as well.
  4. Bake the tart in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes until the pastry is risen and golden and the asparagus is cooked.

Serve the tart with a side salad or enjoy it on its own.

Risotto for a Thursday night

Risotto is a really versatile dish than can be light and refreshing in summer or warm and comforting in the colder months. It is a great way to try out different flavour combinations, use up what you have in the cupboards, or just enjoy your favourite ingredients.

Using butternut squash and smoked mackerel in this recipe makes it quite filling and full of energy. The sweetness of the butternut squash works really well with the oiliness of the fish and adding some rocket on top or on the side of the plate gives the whole meal a bitter twist that taste great and adds colour to the plate. Try adding some dried chilli flakes to the butternut squash whilst it is roasting for an extra kick.

WP_20140731_009

Roasted Butternut Squash and Smoked Mackerel Risotto (serves 2)

Oil

Salt and pepper

½ butternut squash

1 onion, finely chopped

1 clove of garlic

150g risotto rice

1 glass white wine

1 litre vegetable or chicken stock

1 tbsp rosemary (fresh if possible)

1-2 fillets smoked mackerel

1 bag rocket

Parmesan

WP_20140731_005

  1. First things first, heat the oven to 200°/Gas Mark 6. Whilst it is hotting up, put a roasting tin with a glug of olive oil on the middle shelf.
  2. Meanwhile, peel and chop the butternut squash into chunks, about 1.5cm cubed, and once the oven is up to temperature, remove the roasting tray and add the butternut squash to it. Toss the squash in the oil and season with a sprinkling of salt, pepper and the rosemary. Return to the oven to cook for 30-40 minutes until soft and crispy round the edges.
  3. To start the risotto, gently fry the onion on a low-medium heat in a little oil. Use a medium-sized saucepan or a casserole dish that can be used on the hob. When it has softened, add the garlic and a drizzle more oil. Fry for a minute before adding the risotto rice and the herbs.
  4. Stir everything around the pan so that the rice is coated in the oil. To add extra flavour and richness, pour in a glass of white wine and let the rice start soaking it up!
  5. After a few minutes, add your first ladle of stock and give the mixture a good stir. You will need to stir the risotto throughout cooking to avoid it sticking to the bottom of the pan. Let the rice soak up the stock before adding another ladle. At this point, check on the butternut squash and toss the pieces in the oil, herbs, and chilli if you are using it.
  6. Continue to add stock and stir the risotto until the rice is fully cooked through. In total, this should take about 30 minutes from your first ladle. If the rice has soaked up all the stock and is still not cooked to your liking, add more or you can use hot water if you have no more or only need a little bit extra.
  7. Now, you are nearly done, so tear the mackerel fillets into the risotto and add the now cooked butternut squash. I used two mackerel fillets but, if you don’t want the fishy flavour to be too strong, use one.
  8. Give everything a good stir and leave to sit with the lid on for a minute before plating up. Sprinkle over a little pepper, a handful of rocket and grate some parmesan on each plate before serving.

Risotto does need a bit of babysitting but it is so worth it when you get a good one!

Not much, but a lot of mussels

DSCF3304

I love flavour and can sometimes get a bit obsessed with adding lots of different ingredients to things to make them as exciting as possible. However, millions of ingredients is not always what is needed and sometimes I need to remind myself that using just a few ingredients can give you just as much to savour.

This summer we visited the Isle of Mull and, on the drive to the campsite, stopped at a harbour to buy some fresh mussels… with only a few ingredients in a cool box in the back of the car, we cooked the mussels simply and they were beautiful.

DSCF3296

Mussels with Tomatoes and Chorizo (serves 3-4)

2kg mussels

½ onion

1/3 of a horseshoe of chorizo

2 or 3 tomatoes

Salt and pepper

Chunky bread (to serve)

  1.  Wash the mussels thoroughly and pull off their beards and barnacles. If any are open and don’t close when tapped, discard these.
  2. Chop the chorizo into chunks and fry in a little oil until the edges start to crisp and set aside.
  3. Add the onion to the pan with the chorizo juice and soften. Chop the tomatoes and add them to the pan. Season with a little salt and pepper.
  4. After a couple of minutes of cooking the tomatoes, add the mussels to the pan. Cover with a lid and give them a good shake to mix everything up. Cook on a medium heat for about 4 minutes.
  5. Take off the lid and check to see if the mussels have opened. If they have not, re-cover, shake, and leave them a little longer. If they look good to go, then add the chorizo and stir it in.
  6. Serve with some good chunky bread. This will be excellent to mop up all the juices.

Although I note that this serves 3-4 people, it would be, and was, a sizeable feast for two campers with good appetites!

DSCF3306