Week Thirty Seven

If I had to put a positive spin on Covid, it would have to be the appreciation it has given me for the little things in life. Last week I felt incredibly happy just to have my hair cut, whilst the prospect of having lunch with my girlfriends, now that the lockdown rules have been partially lifted, is set to be the highlight of my year! Of course, our lunch is not allowed to be inside a restaurant, so we’ve booked one where it’s possible to eat outside but undercover – perfect for our unpredictable English weather! One of my girlfriends only recently discovered the restaurant we’ve chosen, Wild by Tart, it sounds wonderful – although pretty much anything will seem wonderful after lockdown!…When it was suggested, I naturally googled it and was excited to see that the duo behind the restaurant has also published a cookbook. How could I have missed this publication (and restaurant opening)?!…this is why it’s so good to speak with our friends – the wonderful ‘word of mouth’ (something that, in some ways, lockdown has undermined, as you really can’t beat face to face gossip!). Anyway, I am pleased to say that I have now bought the cookbook and I hope to try out a few of the recipes for Menu Mistress…let’s hope that our lunch is as good as the recipes that I’ve been browsing in the cookbook!…

Actually, this week’s Menu One is another example of why it’s good to chat, as it was through chatting with my neighbour, Karin, that I discovered this recipe, ‘Grilled Salmon in Sweet, Smokey Tamarind Sauce’. The recipe is from the Mexican cookbook by Thomasina Miers, founder of the restaurant chain Wahaca. I’m so glad that I tried this recipe as not only is it delicious but also simple to cook and rather different from the recipes I tend to choose. This is another positive about sharing ideas, it pushes us out of our comfort zones. So, do try this recipe, it really does give a different dimension to a simple piece of salmon. Menu Two is a recipe for a Barnsley chop, I love this double chop cut of lamb as it just needs to be quickly pan-fried – it’s perfect for a quick midweek meal. In this recipe from Tom Kerridge’s cookbook, ‘Best Ever Dishes’, it is flavoured with cumin and coriander, then, at the end of cooking, is sprinkled with orange zest – a simple idea but totally tasty! Finally, Menu Three is a super vegetarian dish that incorporates one of my favourite snacks, courgette chips! ‘Courgette and Cheddar Risotto’ is a perfect springtime recipe, topped with the aforementioned fried courgette; I suggest you make a note of the recipe for these chips, as you will want to make them on their own as a snack – they are seriously good sprinkled with salt!

I hope you enjoy these recipes…watch out for my Tuesday Treat next week!

Menu One

Grilled Salmon in Sweet, Smokey Tamarind Sauce with Avocado Salsa (Serves 4)

In this recipe the combination of slightly sour tamarind sauce with the smoky chipotle is a marriage made in heaven and it is brought to an addictive level with the addition of a little sugar!…It is a seriously good sauce that transforms a simple piece of salmon to an exotic supper. The recipe is from the cookbook by Thomasina Miers, founder of the Wahaca restaurant chain, ‘Mexican Food at Home’. I like to serve this with an avocado salsa (recipe below) and sticky rice.

4 fillets of salmon

For the marinade:

4 tablespoons tamarind sauce

2 tablespoons soy sauce (gluten free if required)

3 tablespoons groundnut or sunflower oil

Juice of 2 limes

4 tablespoons demerara sugar

3cm fresh ginger, peeled and grated

2 garlic cloves, peeled and bashed

1 teaspoon chipotle chilli flakes

Handful mint leaves, roughly chopped

Handful of coriander leaves, chopped

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

  1. A couple hours before you wish to eat, mix all marinade ingredients together. Place the salmon fillets in a shallow dish and pour over the marinade. Cover and chill for a 2 hours, turning halfway through.
  2. When you are ready to start cooking, remove the salmon from the dish – reserving the marinade. Place a large frying pan over a high heat, when smoking hot add a drizzle of groundnut oil. When it is hot, add the salmon fillets, skin side down, and fry for 5-6 minutes.
  3. Remove the pan from the hob and place under a preheated grill and cook for a further 3-4 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, pour the marinade through a sieve into a small pan. Bring to a gentle boil and reduce until it becomes thick and syrupy.
  5. To serve, place the salmon on a plate with the sauce spooned over. It is great served with sticky rice and an avocado salsa (recipe below).

Avocado Salsa (Serves 4)

This a cross between a salad and a sauce. It is great as a side dish for fish, particularly with the recipe for Salmon in Sweet, Smoky Tamarind Sauce (above), or simply served with some tortilla chips!

1 ripe, but firm avocado, diced

5 cherry tomatoes, deseeded and diced

½ red onion, diced

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 rounded tablespoon fresh coriander, chopped

A few drops of Tabasco sauce

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Simply combine the ingredients together in a bowl, adding seasoning to taste. Cover with cling film and leave to one side for an hour to allow the flavours to develop.

Menu Two

Barnsely Chops with Cumin, Coriander & Orange

(Serves 4)

These lamb chops are a super quick meal to cook – they are great on a week night when you really don’t have the time or energy to think about cooking. The cumin and coriander, with the lovely zing of orange, really make this easy dinner extra special, serve simply with potatoes or rice and some steamed greens or a green salad. I found this recipe in Tom Kerridge’s cookbook, ‘Best Ever Dishes’, and it’s definitely one of those!

4 thick Barnsley chops

4 tablespoons cumin seeds

4 tablespoons coriander seeds

Vegetable oil

15g butter

juice of 1 lemon

finely grated zest of 2 oranges

sea salt and black pepper

  1. In  a dry frying pan, toast the cumin and coriander seeds until they are lightly toasted (a few minutes). Crush the seeds finely in a pestle and mortar, then sieve them on to a plate to get rid of any woody bits.
  2. Push one side of the chop into the spice mixture making sure it gets a good coating. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat a little oil in a frying pan over a medium-high heat. When it is hot place the chops in the pan so that they are standing on their outer fat side, cook until the fat runs out and the skin starts to brown, then pour off this fat.
  4. Turn the chops, seasoned-side down, and cook for  8-10 minutes, until dark brown and caramelised. Turn the chops over and cook for a further 2-3 minutes for medium-rare lamb.
  5. Add the butter and lemon juice to the pan, and baste the chops with the buttery juice. Remove to a plate to rest for 5 minutes.
  6. Serve the chops with the grated orange zest sprinkled over.

Menu Three

Courgette and Cheddar Risotto with Courgette Fries (Serves 4)

This is my new favourite risotto…I’ve always loved courgette fries, so a risotto topped with them is heaven! The pea shoots are a delicious garnish, they add a lovely fresh, sweet flavour and look beautiful!

For the risotto:

275-300g courgette, grated

1 small red onion, finely chopped

150g Carnaroli risotto rice

500ml hot vegetable stock

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

50g butter, cubed

100g mature Cheddar cheese, grated

Olive oil

Sea salt and black pepper

Pea shoots to garnish

For the Courgette Fries:

1 courgette

150ml milk, for dipping

4 tablespoons plain flour (gluten free if required)

Sunflower or groundnut oil for frying

  1. First of all prepare the courgette fries. Cut the courgette into thin batons (removing centre core of seeds). Place the flour in a lidded container, and put the milk into a bowl. Dip the courgettes first in the milk then put them in the flour, put the lid on the container and give them a good shake so that they are evenly covered (shaking off any excess flour), you may want to do this in batches. Place the floured courgette batons to one side whilst you start the risotto.
  2. Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and fry the onion until it has softened, about 2-4 minutes. Add the rice and give it a good stir so that they are completely covered in the oil, cook for about 2 minutes until they are slightly opaque looking.
  3. Add a ladle of hot vegetable stock to the pan, stirring. Gradually add more stock, ladle by ladle until each one is absorbed. Continue cooking in this way, stirring, for about 20- 25 minutes until the stock is absorbed and then rice is al dente (with some bite). Add the grated courgette and the parsley, cook for 2 minutes and then stir in the butter and 50g of the cheese, season to taste.
  4. Meanwhile fry your courgette batons: Generously cover the base of a small frying pan with sunflower oil or groundnut oil, heat over a high heat until very hot, then fry the courgettes, in batches, for a few minutes until golden and crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon to drain on kitchen roll and season with salt.
  5. Place the risotto on plates and top with the courgette batons, then sprinkle the pea shoots around the plate. Serve with the remaining grated cheese.

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