Roast Asparagus with Parmesan, and Banting

Asparagus with parmesan

Are you Banting?  No I’m not being weird or misspelling, it refers to HFLC –  the high fat, low carb way of eating.  When we were in South Africa recently everyone was talking about Tim Noakes and his Real Meal Revolution book.  The night we arrived we had supper with friends, a fabulous carb free supper incidentally and were introduced to the idea, among others, of avocado, anchovies and cream cheese for breakfast.  I tried it, totally delicious and not as peculiar as you might think.  This way of eating is all the rage there, tout le monde was either talking about it or doing it and by the way, losing weight on it.   To the point that the book was sold out in most places and I was lucky to find a copy.  The day we flew out I saw a new magazine based on the philosophy at the airport – this is big over there.

Fundamentally you eat fats in their original, purest form i.e. regular milk or yogurt rather than messed around with low fat versions.  Good fats fill you up so you can eat less of them, what you need to keep a beady eye on are those carbs as that sugar can play havoc.  Chicken to be eaten with its delicious, crispy skin, bacon, avocados, cheese…. and you can lose weight.  Sounds like a dream no? It isn’t a pink ticket to go crazy though, vegetables are a huge part of the regime and the recipe section of the book is sensational.

Whilst I can’t tell you I am following this idea, I am interested in something that has gained such a huge following and I will read the book cover to cover.  In the spirit of it however, this weeks’ recipe is something I cook every year when asparagus is in season.  The roasting intensifies the asparagus flavour and the parmesan adds a gorgeous, salty savoury finish.   Quick, make it before the asparagus is over for another year.

Roast Asparagus with Parmesan

1 bunch of asparagus

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Parmesan, grated – as much as you would like

Preheat the oven to 200.  Trim the bottom of the asparagus, either just snap them off where they ‘give’ or peel the bottom third.  Put them on a baking tray, pour over a little olive oil and turn the spears in it.  Season well with salt and pepper and roast for 10 minutes until just singeing at the edges.  Grate some parmesan over them and return to the oven for a further 2-3 minutes until the cheese has just melted and then tuck in.  I sometimes have this for lunch on my own or it could serve two as a light starter (or just do two bunches for a proper size starter!)   A drop of good balsamic is a nice finishing touch.

 

Chorizo and Potatoes

Chorizo and Potatoes 3

Is there anything that doesn’t taste better with a bit of chorizo in it?  I love that rich, spicy flavour and the way it imparts its sunny personality into other ingredients.   Chorizo has great shelf life and is fantastic to have in the fridge for those inevitable moments when you have empty beaks to feed and the cupboard is bare.

This is one of my children’s favourites, unbelievably quick and only uses 5 ingredients.  If you don’t have any potatoes, make Chorizo and Beans (365 things to eat, June 2013) or for a more summery feel, Chorizo, Tomatoes and Green Beans (September 2013).

Chorizo and Potatoes

 

Chorizo with Potatoes

I use the Goikoa Spanish chorizo which I buy in Waitrose, it comes in a 260g horseshoe but any other cooking chorizo would be fine too.

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/2 ‘horseshoe’ Chorizo

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

4 medium new/waxy potoates

Small tin chopped tomatoes, approx 227g

Small handful parsley, chopped

Heat the oil in a pan over a low heat, slice the chorizo and add it to the pan.  Meanwhile slice the potatoes and cook until tender then drain.  When the chorizo is beginning to colour on both sides, add the garlic and cook for a minute followed by the tomatoes.  Let this simmer for 3-4 minutes then put the drained potatoes into the pan, turn them so they are coated with the tomato sauce, finally sprinkle over the parsley.  This serves 2 but is easily doubled, just use the whole horseshoe of chorizo and a normal 400g tin of tomatoes.

Chorizo and Potatoes 2

 

 

Pepper and Caper Crostini

Pepper Crostini

I love something punchy and full of flavour on top of a crunchy bit of toasted bread and find it an easy prepare ahead canapé to serve with drinks before lunch of supper.  From the super simple garlic rubbed toasts to something that requires a little chopping and cooking.  The basis of this is often some softened vegetables with a good hum of garlic and a bit of sharpness from capers, balsamic or lemon juice.  Courgettes work a treat as do leeks or onions if that is what you have.  The crisp little toasts can be made days ahead and kept in an airtight tin enabling you to make this in a matter of moments.

This time I have used peppers which cook down to silky soft sweetness with very little attention.  Pushed for time you can use jarred peppers but try and find the ones in oil rather than brine.  Use a little of the oil they are packed in for the pan, chop them and then proceed with the recipe.  They will only need heating briefly and marrying with the garlic.

Incidentally, my children who both profess to not like peppers will scoff these with unseemly speed….

Pepper Crostini 2

Pepper and Caper Crostini

2 peppers, red orange or yellow but not green, sliced

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 tablespoon capers

4 slices of toasted sourdough or similar, (rubbed with garlic if you want a bit extra!)

1 small bunch parsley, chopped

Heat the oil in a frying pan and cook the peppers for about 15-20 minutes until soft (or you could do this in the oven).  Add the garlic and cook for a minute then remove from the heat.  Stir through the capers, check for seasoning and then pile onto the slices of toast.  Sprinkle with parsley and tuck in.

 

Blood Orange, Beetroot and Feta Salad

Blood orange and beetroot salad

We are blessed with a fabulous farm shop just down the road and I find myself there often.  This point was proved, rather tellingly, the other day when my husband went in to collect “an order for Anna” to be told “oh yes I know her, she is in here all the time….”..

I do shop there a lot.  Since foxy got our chickens, the next best thing is to see those at Washingpool strutting, pecking and buy their spanking fresh eggs.  When I can’t be bothered to make bread, theirs is marvellous and when I want tip top, super-fresh fruit and veg that haven’t clocked up air miles I go there.  The problem is that I usually come out with more than I went in for.  Faced with amazing produce I am helpless and unable to resist.  So it was this week when I chanced upon fat globes of beetroot still with their frilly green and pink leaves (perfect in a stir fry) and one of my absolute seasonal favourites, blood oranges.

Once home I decided I wanted to combine the sharp juiciness of the oranges with the sweet earthiness of the beetroot.  I added a little spring onion and rocket for peppery bite and some soft salty feta.  It was a delicious lunch.

Blood Orange, Beetroot and Feta Salad

This is how I made the salad you see, it was enough for one but can easily be doubled or tripled.

1 cooked beetroot, peeled and cut into 8

1 blood orange, peeled and segmented

A handful of rocket

1 spring onion, finely chopped

About 25g feta

2 teaspoons rapeseed oil

1 teaspoon cider vinegar

Salt and pepper

Mix the oil and vinegar in a small bowl and add salt and pepper to taste.  Put the beetroot, blood orange, spring onion and rocket on a plate, drizzle over the dressing then add the feta at the last minute so it doesn’t all turn Barbie pink.

Blood Orange and Iced Tea Granita 3

For an unbelievable refreshing light pudding after this seasons hearty, cosy stews try my Blood Orange Granita (February 2013) show here in front of another crisp, cleansing number, Iced Tea Granita (July 2013).

Blood oranges

A final point, why have supermarkets started calling Blood Oranges Blush Oranges….?

 

 

My Favourite Green Salad

Green Salad 1

Happy New Year!  Are you looking for something fresh, green and crunchy? After the Christmas cake which I ate almost entirely myself I know I am.  I love salads all year round and eat them in one form or other several days a week.   However right now my craving knows no bounds.   After what feels like weeks of rain the sun is out and the sky is blue.  Tom and I went for a fabulous walk up beautiful Lewesdon Hill this morning and following a  hose down (Tom, not me) I felt like something healthy, raw (mostly) and fresh to eat.

This is the sort of salad we often have for a weekday lunch, perhaps with the addition of a few chunks of feta, maybe with soup if it is chilly or just good bread.  Whatever the weather we often have this for a weekend lunch alongside a roast chicken, my children invariably picking out the bits they like best.  It makes a lovely change from the usual roast with vegetables and feels a bit lighter – without losing out on the gorgeous golden roast chook.  Perfect with a steak for supper, no need for chips because of the croutons and it is just the thing with any barbecued meat (I know, I know, barely a sign of Spring outside and I am already talking barbecues, I can’t help myself).

Green Salad 4

I suspect you may have spotted the croutons so I must state that this is not diet food per se but it is so delicious, crisp and clean that I would certainly term it healthy.  Whatever, this is the green salad I turn to most often and usually have the ingredients in my fridge. No spring onions or avocado?  No matter, use what you have or what you like best.   This is enough for my lunch just as it is, the croutons, seeds and avocado giving it substance but as ever, it is just a guideline, an idea to share.

My Green Salad

4 slices of baguette or similar, cubed  (a little stale is fine)

1 tablespoon oil

1 small clove garlic, crushed or very finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard

Juice of 1/2 lemon

3 tablespoons oil (I use 2 of good extra virgin olive oil and one of a plain oil)

Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon each of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and pine kernels

1 little gem

A handful of baby spinach

A handful of rocket

2 spring onions, finely chopped

1 avocado, peeled and cubed

Small chunk of cucumber, peeled, deseeded and chopped

Chives, a small handful (parsley, mint or oregano work well or a combination of any)

Preheat the oven to 200.  Turn the cubes of bread in the tablespoon of oil, put in a small tin and bake for 5 minutes until golden, then sprinkle with a little salt.   In a small bowl mix the garlic, sugar, mustard, lemon juice a good pinch of salt and some black pepper.  Slowly add the 3 tablespoons of oil mixing well until emulsified.  In a small frying pan heat the seeds until just turning golden.   Cut up the little gem put it into a large salad bowl with the spinach, rocket and avocado.  Add most of the dressing and toss the salad, you may not need it all but I find this amount just right.  Scatter over the croutons and seeds and trickle over the rest of the dressing if you want.  Snip the chives or other herbs over the top.  Serves 2 for lunch or 2 adults and  2 children as a side dish.

If you are looking for more healthy New Years’ crunch, try my carrot salad which I posted in January 2013.

 

Christmas Salad

Christmas salad

We are fully in the cosy food season.  Immersed in hearty stews, sticky roasted vegetables and pillows of spongy sweet saucy puddings.  Fabulous, I am certainly not complaining and part of me looks forward to this time of year even whilst in the heat (hopefully) of the summer.  All that said however, I can’t go long without a salad.  Not the gentle floppy green leaves of a summer lettuce, festooned with garden herbs type salad.  More a crunchy, zingy colourful number, both sweet and tangy – a salad in its Christmas party clothes if you will.

This is just the ticket for my lunch when I crave a change from my usual warming soup.  Crisp,crunchy and seasonal it would also work perfectly on the side of some cold turkey, ham or goose in the days after Christmas, or really anytime.  I love the jewel like dried cranberries which make anything feel Christmassy, their sweet chewiness is a great foil to the crunch of the apple, carrots and red cabbage.  The sweet and sour dressing brings everything together.  Incidentally I made this with some cabbage left over after making my firecracker red cabbage to freeze in preparation for Christmas Eve lunch – see how even the humble red cabbage multi-tasks at this time of year.

Christmas Salad

The quantities here whilst not vague exactly are not specific measures because really it is up to you – if you love apple, use a big one or two.  If you love dried cranberries use more.

1/4 red cabbage, chopped

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

2 spring onions, chopped

1 apple, cored and chopped

A handful of rocket

A handful of dried cranberries

A handful of parsley, chopped

1 teaspoon dijon mustard

1 clove garlic, crushed

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 heaped teaspoon sugar

Salt and pepper

Mix the mustard, garlic, oil, lemon juice, sugar, salt and pepper.  Taste this dressing and add a little more of anything until you are happy with it.  Put all the chopped salad ingredients in a large bowl, pour over the dressing and mix really well.  Leave for at least half an hour for the flavours to combine.  This will happily sit in the fridge for up to 3 days but I don’t anticipate it will last that long.  Serves 4 as a side.

 

Tomato Bruschetta (summer on toast)

Anna May everyday Tomato bruschetta

Is this the taste of Summer?  I think it might be.  It is also one of the simplest and most rewarding.  All you need is a loaf of sourdough (or similar), a pile of tip top, super ripe, full of sun juicy tomatoes, some really good olive oil, garlic and a few herbs if you have them.

My family love these and we eat them several times a week when the tomatoes are on top form.  I toast the bread, chop the tomatoes and then set up a production line – a plate full of these bruschetta are always greeted with delight and never hang around.

I urge you to make these.  The toms in my garden are still a little small and green but the ones at my local farm shop are perfect right now (Washingpool Farm Shop in case you are near the coast on the Dorset/Devon border this summer, superb shop and worth a visit).

Surprisingly these also work for a picnic, just toast the bread at home and then take the tomato mixture in a tub.  When you get where you are going rub some garlic over the toasts (undressed sourdough stays crispy for ages) then top with tomatoes and drizzle with a little of the oil.  Tuck in with your toes in the grass or better still the sand and remind yourself what summer tastes like.

Anna May everyday Tomatoes

Tomato Bruschetta

It is difficult to be exact as I don’t know the size of your sourdough but this is a guide.  This amount would serve 4 with drinks before lunch or dinner but I bet they will want more.

1/2 loaf sourdough

Tomatoes, around 300g

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 clove of garlic peeled and halved

A splash of red wine vinegar

Pinch of salt

Fresh marjoram or basil of you have some to hand

Slice and toast the sourdough.  Finely chop the tomatoes and put in a bowl with the oil, vinegar, a pinch of sea salt and some black pepper if you like, stir.  Rub the toasts with a cut side of garlic, top with the tomato mixture.  Pour over any remaining oil and sprinkle with the herbs.

 

Summer Lunch, home or away (Part 1)

Anna May everyday kebab lunch

So, here we go, the season for eating outside, barbecues and picnics is upon us.  If the  weather would oblige that is.  We need things to eat that work inside, cooked in the garden or taken on a picnic without having to completely revise the menu or shopping list if the weather turns against us.  Here’s what we have.

First, lovely juicy chicken kebabs which can be grilled or griddled at home or barbequed outside.  A bulghar wheat and roasted veg salad with a punchy dressing is easily transported in a tub and put into pitas, wraps or rolls along with chicken, some herby green sauce and garlicky  yogurt.  Then, a sticky ginger cake is easy to take out and about or can be transformed at home into a glorious rich pudding with the addition of a quick butterscotch sauce and vanilla ice cream.

Anna May everyday kebab plate

I would marinade the chicken on Friday when the nippers are at school (it is the work of minutes), make the cake and roast the vegetables for the salad then too.  On Saturday make the flatbreads if you are homebound and have time on your hands and children to entertain or buy wraps and get on out there.

The above is not a lot to transport but along with some chilled grapes and drinks for the children and icy cold wine for you makes an absolute feast.

Chicken Kebabs

4 Chicken breasts, skin off and cubed

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 lemons juiced

3 cloves garlic crushed

Sprig of rosemary and/or thyme

Pinch of chilli flakes (optional)

Give everything a good mix and put in a bag, I use those ziplock ones, or a bowl and cover with cling film.  Put it in the fridge for a couple of hours or overnight.  Thread onto skewers (remember to soak them if they are wood so they don’t catch fire) and then cook on your barbecue or under the grill until cooked through.  Season with salt then wrap in a flat bread or put in a pitta, add the sauces suggested below and tuck in.

To serve, flatbreads or pitta, garlicky yogurt (see Lamb Meatballs October 2012), rocket, fresh herbs (we like marjoram/oregano and mint), fresh herb sauce (recipe to follow) and chilli sauce, phew.

Anna May everyday Minty ginger cake

Here is the Ginger Cake out and about, I will post the recipe later in the week.

 

Ham hock, parsley and lentil salad

Anna May everyday ham hock salad

I have to admit to a little scepticism about lentils in my youth and am ashamed to say thought they were only for those who might also knit their own sheep’s milk yogurt.  How wrong I was and I can remember the lentils that won my heart all those years ago.  Following a birthday treat to the theatre (Miss Saigon) we went to a French restaurant in the West End.  One of the starters was lentils with little bits of bacon and a creamy vinaigrette.  I don’t know why I was led to this choice but I was and it was heavenly.  Now my larder wouldn’t be without these useful pulses and while the Sausages and Lentils (April 2013) may be a little cold weather number, this salad is perfect whatever the season.

I confess I haven’t been simmering any hocks for my shredded ham.  If I had it would have been perfect for a pea and ham soup or risotto and you should keep the stock if you find yourself cooking said cut.  No, so determined am I that spring is imminent that I have put away such warming and comforting types of soup.  I bought this ham hock at Waitrose and it is very good.

This is a little more substantial than the summery lettuce salads which await us but has a suitable zip from the lemon and mustard in the dressing and verdant pep from the parsley which is more an ingredient than simply a garnish.

Ham hock, parsley and lentil salad

100g puy lentils

180-200g ham hock, shredded

20g flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped or torn

2 spring onions, chopped

Handful of rocket

Juice of half a lemon

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon dijon mustard

Pinch of sugar

Cook the lentils in boiling water, they will take about 10-15 minutes but check as they do vary.  Once cooked drain and leave to cool.  In a medium size bowl mix the mustard, sugar and lemon juice and then add the olive oil slowly, taste and season.  Put the lentils, ham hock, spring onions, parsley and rocket into the bowl with the dressing and give it a good mix.  Turn onto a serving plate.  This would do 2 adults for lunch with some nice bread alongside.

Anna May everyday ham hock salad ingredients

Late Autumn Salad

There has been some super chilly weather with both sleet and snow yesterday, winter would seem to be on the way.  Today however brings beautiful bright sun and clear blue skies not seen for a week or two.  It is days like this when I am torn between cosy warming soup or a rich stew for my internal heating and clinging to the remaining autumnal days with a salad.  Not a light summery salad of warm ripe tomatoes and fresh garden herbs, more a chunky robust salad, a meal in itself rather than a little something on the side, as they say.

A rummage around in the fridge yields beetroot and rocket.  Further search offers up feta and so, we are away.  This salad is both earthy and fresh, salty and sweet, soft and crunchy.  If beetroot is really not your thing and I blame those deep purple vinegary orbs served at school for putting so many people off this fabulous vegetable, then roasted butternut would be an excellent alternative.  Haven’t got any rocket, then dark green peppery watercress would be ideal.  Seeds, schmeeds, pumpkin, sunflower, pine kernals – it doesn’t matter, as long as the balance is retained you can customise at will.

Beetroot and Feta Salad

4 medium size beetroot (nearer snooker than tennis ball ideally)

3 tablespoon olive or rapeseed oil

2 good handfuls rocket

100g feta, roughly crumbled

2 spring onions, sliced

A handful of pumpkin seeds

1 – 2 teaspoons  red wine or cider vinegar, to taste

Pinch of sugar

Preheat oven to 200.  Wash and quarter the beetroot (no need to peel), put in a small roasting tin with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, tumble together and cook for 1 hour.  Toast the pumpkin seeds in a hot frying pan until just colouring and put on one side.  Put the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a small bowl, mix with the vinegar, sugar and season with salt and pepper.  When the beetroot is cooked remove from the oven and allow to cool a little.  Gently combine the beetroot, feta, rocket, spring onions and the dressing, divide between two plates and sprinkle over the toasted pumpkin seeds.   Serves 2.

It strikes me this might be rather good with some roast chicken, not piping hot from the oven but allowed to cool until just warm.