July 2022

Is it really possible that it’s three years since my son, Felix, started University and that this month he’ll be graduating?… It only seems like yesterday when we were anxiously leaving our only child at the University of York! We will be celebrating the end of his university journey in the same way we started it; the night before his first day we enjoyed a meal at York’s ‘Meltons’, since then we have returned to this restaurant whenever we have had the opportunity (review here!). As always, food will be central to our celebration! Food has also been central to my many conversations with Felix during his ‘Uni’ years, as, like a lot of mothers, I like to check that he’s eating well! In fact, when he left home for Uni I gave him a ‘recipe file’, which had several family favourites that were easy and economical for him to make – most of these recipes later ended up on my MenuMistress@Uni pages (here!). Just the other day, after speaking with my Dad on the telephone, I realised that once again, food was central to the conversation; he always asks me what I’m cooking and we usually discuss his lunch. Perhaps it’s a family thing, but it does seem that my life revolves around other peoples stomachs!

During the course of the month not only am I thinking about what my family is eating but also about the recipes that I can share with you!… This month I’ve been thinking of summery dishes, so not surprisingly I’ve taken recipes from cookbooks that are inspired by countries with warmer climes; Spain, Italy, Croatia and Thailand. Menu One is ‘Cod with Tahini Sauce and Chickpea Salad’ from the cookbook by the Spanish restaurant, Moro. Their cooking encapsulates the blend of Arabic and Hispanic flavours found in Spanish food. This recipe with Tahini sauce has Lebanese overtones, it’s wonderfully fresh, and perfect for summer evenings. Menu Two is ‘Linguine with Red Mullet, Capers & Lemon’, in this recipe Angela Hartnett draws from her Italian roots to create a wonderful light pasta dish which is full of flavour. Menu Three is ‘Walnut-Crusted Pork Chops with Figs’, I found this unusual recipe in Rick Stein’s cookbook from ‘Venice to Istanbul’, the fig and walnut pan-sauce is delicious! Finally, a vegetarian option from Thailand, courtesy of Meera Sodha’s cookbook, ‘East’. This ‘Vegetable Thai Green Curry’ perfectly balances the flavours of fresh green chilli and sweet coconut – pure comfort whatever the weather!

Menu One

Cod with Tahini Sauce and Chickpea Salad (Serves 4)

This is a classic Lebanese recipe from the ‘Moro Cookbook’ by Sam Clark.  It’s a wonderfully fresh tasting dish – don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients, believe me, it is super easy to make!

4 thick cod fillets, skin on, about 200g each in weight (or another white fish)

3 tablespoons olive oil

Sea salt and black pepper

1 small bunch of parsley, roughly chopped

2 tablespoons pomegranate seeds (optional)

1 lemon, quartered

Tahini Sauce:

2 garlic cloves

3 tablespoons light tahini paste

Juice of 1 lemon

3-5 tablespoons water

Sea salt and black pepper

Chickpea Salad:

2 x 400g tins cooked chickpeas

1 clove garlic

1 large green chilli, finally chopped

½ red onion, finely diced

A squeeze of lemon juice

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium cucumber, peeled and finely diced

10 cherry tomatoes, halved, seeded and finally diced

1 bunch fresh mint, roughly chopped

1 bunch fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. First of all make the Chickpea Salad; crush the garlic with a pinch of salt to form a paste, then put it into a bowl with the chilli, onion, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and black pepper. Stir well, then add the rest of the ingredients – the chickpeas, cucumber, tomatoes, mint and coriander. Taste for seasoning and chill (for a fresher taste) until needed.
  2.  For the Tahini Sauce; crush the garlic cloves to a paste with a good pinch of salt in a mortar and pestle. Whisk in the tahini, then thin with the lemon juice and finally add a little water until you have the consistency of double cream. Season to taste and set aside until needed.
  3. To cook the cod, place a large frying pan over a high heat and add the olive oil. Season the cod and place it in the pan, skin side up and cook for about 5 minutes. Then turn over and cook for another 4 minutes until cooked through.
  4. Meanwhile put the tahini sauce in a small saucepan and gently bring to a simmer for a minute or so until it has slightly thickened.
  5. To serve, place the fish on plates, spoon over the tahini sauce and sprinkle over the chopped parsley and pomegranate seeds. Serve with the chickpea salad and a wedge of lemon on the side.

Menu Two

Linguine with Red Mullet, Capers and Lemon (Serves 4)

This is the type of pasta dish that cooks in minutes but really impresses. It has lovely fresh flavours, which you will remember long after eating it!…

400g linguine (gluten-free if required)

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 x 70g red mullet fillets, each cut into 5 thin strips

½ red chilli, seeded and chopped

1 garlic clove, chopped finely

25g capers

150ml white wine

Grated zest of 1 lemon

1-2 tablespoons lemon juice

Small handful basil leaves, torn

1 tablespoon parsley, chopped

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Cook the linguine according to the packet instructions until al dente.
  2. Meanwhile add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a frying pan and quickly fry the fish over a medium-high heat for a minute or two until just cooked. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  3. Add a further tablespoon of oil to the pan and sauté the chilli and garlic for a couple of minutes. Then add the capers and white wine, allow to bubble away for 2- 3 minutes before returning the fish to the pan. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Drain the linguine and add to the mullet. Sprinkle over the grated lemon zest and the lemon juice to taste – you probably will not need all of it. Finally toss in the herbs. Serve immediately!

Menu Three

Walnut-Crusted Pork Chops with Figs (Serves 6)

This is an unusual dish from Rick Steins cookbook ‘From Venice to Istanbul’, this particular recipe originates from Croatia. Not only are the chops crusted with walnuts tasty, but the buttery fig sauce is delicious!…

6 large thick-cut pork chops

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

100g walnuts, finely chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

40g butter, softened

125ml white wine

200g dried figs, finely chopped

125ml chicken stock

To finish:

30 g butter

1 tablespoon parsley, roughly chopped

Juice ½ lemon

  1. Season the pork chops with salt and pepper and score the flesh with a sharp knife. In a shallow roasting tine mix the cinnamon, nutmeg and walnuts, add the olive oil to make a paste and roll the chops in the nut mixture, pushing the crumb into the flesh.
  2. Melt the butter in a large frying pan and brown the chops two at a time, being careful not to burnt he walnuts. This will take a few minutes each side. Then return all the chops to the pan, cover with a lid and cook over a low-medium heat for about 10 minutes.
  3. Remove the pork chops to a warmed plated and cover with foil to keep them warm. Deglaze the pan with white wine, reduce by half, then add the chopped figs and chicken stock and season to taste. Finally, whisk in the butter, parsley and lemon juice.
  4. Serve the pork chops with the sauce spooned over.

Menu Four

Vegetable Thai Green Curry (Serves 4)

There are numerous versions of this popular curry, but I’ve been particularly impressed by this recipe from Meera Sodha’s cookbook ‘East’ – do try it! It perfectly balances the flavours of fresh green chilli and sweet coconut – pure comfort whatever the weather!

Although this is a vegetarian recipe feel free to throw in some chopped chicken breast or some prawns towards the end of cooking!…

For the paste:

4 green finger chillies, roughly chopped

3 lemongrass sticks, tough leaves discarded , roughly chopped

4 fat garlic cloves, roughly chopped

1½ tablespoons galangal paste, drained

2cm ginger, peeled and chopped

1½ teaspoons salt

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

8 kaffir lime leaves or 1 teaspoon lime zest

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

½ teaspoon ground turmeric

Rapeseed oil

For the curry:

2 medium aubergine (600g), cut into 2cm cubes

2 courgettes (400g), cut into 2cm cubes

400ml tin coconut milk

1½ teaspoon sugar

100g broccoli, cut into small florets

100g mangetout

To serve: Steamed Jasmine rice

  1. Put all the paste ingredients into a blender with 2 tablespoons of rapeseed oil and 2 tablespoons of water. Blend until as smooth as possible (adding more oil or water if necessary).
  2. Over a medium-high heat put 2 tablespoons of oil into a large frying pan (which has a lid) and when hot, add the aubergines in a single layer (you may need to fry them in a couple of batches). Fry for 8 minutes, turning often, until tender and lightly browned. Transfer to a plate.
  3. Drizzle more oil into the hot pan and cook the courgettes for 4 minutes, again, turning often, until almost tender and lightly browned. Transfer to another plate.
  4. Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan and when hot add the paste stir-fry for 4 minutes, then slowly add the coconut milk and 200ml of water, and mix. When the milk starts to bubble add the sugar, cooked vegetables, broccoli and mangetout. Simmer for 6 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
  5. Serve in bowls with steamed Jasmine rice alongside.

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