Paella

I’d always thought of paella to be something that I’d only eat in restaurants as it seemed super complex (and expensive!) to make at home. I couldn’t have been more wrong and now it’s become one of my favourite home cooked meals.

Traditionally, some of the ingredients used to make paella are expensive, however using frozen seafood can make a huge difference. Either defrost in the fridge overnight or in the microwave on the defrost setting. You can also add mussels too to the recipe below!

Serves 2

Ready in 40 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 6 prawns
  • 1 chicken breast, chopped into chunks
  • Handful of parsley, finely chopped
  • 50ml white wine
  • Large pinch of saffron strands
  • 75g cooking chorizo, chopped into chunks
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 6 scallops
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 tomato, roughly chopped
  • 50g peas
  • 100g risotto rice
  • 250ml chicken stock

Method:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan. Add the chicken, chorizo and onion and fry for 2-3 minutes. Pour in the chicken stock and white wine and then add the risotto rice. Add the garlic and saffron continue to stir for 4-5 minutes.
  2. Add the tomatoes, peas, prawns, scallops and squid and reduce the heat to low and cover the pan. Leave to cook for 10-15 minutes and continue to stir every few minutes.
  3. Add the lemon juice, parsley and some salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

Salmon Sumac Salad

This salad is my go to dish for a summer picnic or for a packed lunch. I discovered sumac at a Lebanese restaurant a few months back and have been obsessed ever since, it adds a lot of flavour to lemoney dishes but isn’t overly spicy. The quinoa means it’s a salad that is actually filling, unlike most! It keeps well in the fridge for a few days so it’s also a great option for meal prepping.

Overall time required: 20 minutes

Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • 1 salmon fillet
  • 50g quinoa
  • Half a cucumber, chopped into chunks
  • Handful of rocket leaves
  • 3 radishes, sliced
  • 5 tomatoes, sliced in half
  • Vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon sumac
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Handful of mint leaves, roughly chopped
  • Handful of coriander, roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil for cooking and 1 teaspoon for dressing the salad

Method:

    Prepare your quinoa according to the packet. I like to cook it in vegetable stock rather than boiling water for added flavour
    Whilst your quinoa is cooking, pan fry your salmon fillet in olive oil and salt and pepper until cooked through. This shouldn’t take too long, around 4-5 minutes.
    Toss all your vegetables and leaves into a bowl and add the cooked salmon , chopped into chunks. Add in your quinoa once ready.
    Drizzle the olive oil, sumac and lemon juice through the salad and toss so all the ingredients are coated.

Apple and Oat Pancakes with Sambazon Acai Compote

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Prep time: 15 minutes
Makes 6 medium sized pancakes

I was gifted a packet of Sambazon’s acai compote and asked to prepare some delicious pancakes with it.  Sambazon have found that traditional syrup is full of a lot of sugar, so they’ve added some superfood punch to a fruity compote to use as a pancake topping.  The acai bowl has recently become insta-famous worldwide, and their packets can be used to recreate them yourselves at home too. If you’re wondering where their interesting name comes from, Sambazon takes its name from its core goal: Sustainable Management of the Brazilian Amazon. It aims for and represents a positive future of global food consumption that makes a positive impact on local communities and protects the biodiversity of the Amazon Rainforest.

The pancakes are oat and apple pancakes, full of the same warming flavours of an apple pie. I found these went well with the fruity flavours of the compote.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Sambazon Original Superfruit Pack
  • handful of fresh blueberries
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil or coconut oil
  • 45g oats
  • 1 apple
  • 2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
  • 1 egg

Method:

  1. To make your pancakes, put the cinnamon, coconut oil, oats, sliced apple, honey and egg into a food processor and blitz for around 1 minute, until a sort of paste forms.
  2. Spoon on to a frying pan on a medium heat in round circles and cook for about 1-2 minutes and flip and repeat.
  3. To make your berry mixture, in a sauce pan, add blueberries/blackberries and Sambazon Original Superfruit and cook down on medium heat, stirring often until you have a thick syrup.
  4. Spoon on to the pancakes and enjoy!

Tahini & Turmeric Granola Bars

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The Groovy Food Company have developed a new coconut oil, infused with turmeric, which seems to currently be the nation’s favourite spice! This combination makes their coconut oil perfect for adding to curries, stir fries or even granola bars, as I tried myself.  I was sent a jar of their coconut oil and asked to try out a recipe their team have developed for these tahini and turmeric granola bars.  Tahini and turmeric are both ingredients that have traditionally been used in Asian and Middle Eastern cooking, but is gradually becoming more and more popular in the UK.  I must admit, that when I initially read the recipe, I was slightly apprehensive, as these are not ingredients that I’ve commonly used to prepare granola bars! However, the end product was great, you are left with a granola bar full of warming spices, that is not overly sweet.

The Groovy Food Company also have a whole collection of other great recipes on their website using their products.

Prep time: 15 minutes
Makes approximately 30 granola bars

Ingredients:

  • 400g rolled oats
  • 100ml agave nectar
  • 3 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons The Groovy Food Company Organic Virgin Coconut Oil infused with turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 6 dates, pitted and chopped
  • 100g pistachios, shelled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Spread oats evenly on a large baking sheet and place in the oven for 8 minutes, until lightly toasted. Set aside to cool.
  2. Combine agave nectar, tahini and turmeric infused coconut oil in a small sauce pan. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add vanilla extract, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, coriander, salt and black pepper and mix well. Add dates and set aside to cool slightly.
  3. Combine toasted oats, pistachios and sesame seeds in a large bowl. Add agave and tahini mixture and mix well to ensure the oats are well coated.
  4. Grease the bottom of an 8×8 inch baking dish and line well with parchment paper. Transfer oat mixture to the lined dish and flatten using your hands (compressing the mixture helps the bars hold together better).
  5. Bake for 25 mins and leave to cool for 15 before transferring out to a wire rack. Allow a further 10 minutes before cutting.

 

Asian Style Pork

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I was recently invited to the Taste of London Festival to sample a 4 course menu developed using Lee Kum Kee’s new sauce range. My favourite dish of the night was easily the sticky BBQ pork dish, and the best bit is, you can buy their sauces and whip up this tasty meal at home.  Compared to the other supermarket brands, Lee Kum Kee’s sauces taste more authentic, and are still reasonably priced. For example, their Premium Oyster Sauce (used in this recipe) is sold at most supermarkets (it’s £2.75 at Tesco).

I’ve adjusted this recipe slightly from the original, as I’ve found this method to be a bit more user friendly when you’re pressed for time, and you still get the same great flavours.  Don’t eat pork? I’ve also tried substituting the pork for salmon or chicken and it works really well too.  The recipe below uses a barbecue, but feel free to pan fry or grill your pork instead. I’ve tried all methods and they all work well.

Prep and cook time required: 20 minutes (plus marinade time)
Serves 2

Ingredients:

500g thinly sliced pork belly
2 tablespoons soy sauce
thumb sized piece of ginger, finely chopped
1 tablespoon Lee Kum Kee Char Siu Sauce 
1 tablespoon Lee Kum Kee Premium Oyster Sauce

Method:

  1. Marinade your pork. Place your pork belly into a bowl and coat in the soy sauce and the ginger. Leave to marinade for at least 30 minutes.
  2. To cook, light your barbecue.  If you are using charcoal, make sure it is fully lit and all the flames have died down, as you want your barbecue to be as hot as possible.
  3. Put the pork slices on to the grill and cook for 2 minutes before turning.  Repeat this process for approximately another 4-6 minutes, or until almost cooked.
  4. At this point you want to add your Char Siu and Oyster Sauce to the pork and cook for a further 2-3 minutes until charred on both sides. Serve with any remaining glaze.

Cooking with Comté

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I was recently invited to a cooking class at L’atelier des chefs on comté cheese.  The class began with some wine and a little introduction to comté and it’s production methods. Comté is a French cheese originating in a fairly remote region in the mountains of Eastern France where there are over 2500 family farms dedicated to producing the raw milk that is used to create comté.  The cows used for producing the milk are only fed with natural feed and their milk has to be processed within 24 hours so it’s extremely fresh.  It is then taken to one of the 150 small village cheese dairies in France that specialise in producing comté, where it is looked after for at least 4 months, and is regularly turned, salted and rubbed in a cheese wheel with brine solution.

It’s a hard cheese that’s from a similar family to gruyère cheese and has over 83 natural flavours that can be detected when tasting it, making it a very versatile cheese that can be added to loads of dishes.

We then had the opportunity to taste three different ages of comté.  In general, the darker the cheese is, the older it probably is, and the older it is, the saltier it is.  Our cheese tasting was followed by a demonstration by chef Laura Pope, of two dishes that she has developed using comté.  First we had the freekeh salad with charred pears, rocket and comté and for the main she made bubble and squeak with melted comté and a fried egg (the recipes can be found below).  We then split off into groups and had a go at making (and eating!) the dishes ourselves.

Freekeh salad with Comté, charred pears & cinnamon, rocket & toasted pecans

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Prep time: 20 – 30 minutes
Serves 4

The freekeh salad was honestly one of the best salads I’ve ever tried! There are so many flavours and textures involved, the freekeh itself has a delicious smoky, earthy flavour, the pecans offer a crunch, the pears a sweet twinge and the lemon a citrusy element.

Freekeh originates in the middle east and is green durum wheat that has been roasted, rubbed and then cracked.  You can buy dried freekeh and prep it yourselves, but we actually cheated slightly and used ready made freekeh by Merchant Gourmet to save time.  It was really delicious and I’d probably buy it again in future because it cuts down prep time but still has a great flavour!  Laura mentioned that we could substitute the freekeh for bulgur wheat or quinoa if required.

Ingredients:

  • 250g freekeh (either ready made or cooked according to the packet instructions if cracked)
  • 2 to 4 just ripe pears (depending on size – you want about 400g in total)
  • 1 tablespoon light olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 50g rocket leaves
  • 100g pecan nuts (without shells)
  • Zest of ½ lemon and juice of 1 lemon
  • 45ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 200g 12-14 month aged Comté, cubed

Method:

  1. Toast the pecans: heat oven to 160℃ fan / 180℃ normal and lay the pecans out on a baking sheet, then toast for about 10 minutes, until they give off a rich aroma – but do not let them burn. Let them cool, remove a handful to leave whole and then roughly chop the rest.
  2. Add the freekeh to your salad bowl.
  3. If the skin of the pears is rough and thick, peel them – if not, you can leave it on. Cut them into eighths and cut out the cores. Toss the pears in the oil, cinnamon and a little salt and black pepper. Heat a griddle pan over a high heat for a few minutes and then char each side of the pears so that they have griddle lines and are warm all the way through – you don’t want to overcook them or they will fall apart. Chop half the pears into cubes and leave the rest for later.
  4. Mix the lemon zest, juice and olive oil together and season with salt and pepper. Mix this through the freekeh and mix in the rocket leaves, the chopped pecan nuts, the cubed pears and most of the Comté. Lay the pear slices on top and scatter over the remaining Comté and pecans.

Bubble & squeak with melted Comté and fried egg

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Prep time: 20 – 30 minutes (depending on whether you have leftover mashed potato)
Serves 4

Bubble and squeak is a great way to use up leftover potato and vegetables.  It’s also warming and comforting so is the perfect meal for winter (or most of the year if you live in the UK!!) We added cavolo nero and comté which tasted delicious melted! We topped the dish with a fried egg.

Ingredients:

  • 400g cavolo nero
  • 60g unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon sunflower oil, for frying
  • 900g cooked mashed potato
  • 8 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced
  • 200g 18 to 24 month aged Comté, coarsely grated
  • 4 eggs

Method:

  1. Cut out the central rib of each leaf of cavolo nero and discard, then cut the leaves into wide strips. Melt 30g of the butter in a saucepan and add the cavolo nero, a splash of water and season with salt and black pepper. Turn heat up high and stir the cavolo nero to coat it in the butter, water and seasoning, then turn the heat down to medium, cover the pan and cook for about 3 minutes, until it is wilted, giving the pan a shake every now and then. Drain off any excess liquid.
  2. Heat the remaining 30g butter and about ½ tablespoon oil in a large non-stick frying pan over a high heat, then tip in the potato and spring onion and fry. As it cooks, you want it to brown and char slightly – make sure to spread it out over the base of the pan and keep breaking it up and scraping the bottom of the pan so that the lovely, crunchy brown bits are mixed in.
  3. Mix in the cavolo nero and then the Comté and turn the heat down to medium. When the Comté starts to melt, stop turning the mixture over – just press it down every now to flatten the surface and cook over a low heat until it is golden brown on the bottom.
  4. Meanwhile, in a separate frying pan, heat ½ tablespoon of oil and fry the eggs over a medium heat so that the whites are set but the yolks are still runny – season each egg with a little salt and black pepper as they are cooking. Place the four fried eggs on top of the bubble & squeak and serve in the frying pan for everyone to help themselves.

I was sent home with a slice of the comté cheese wheel and have been adding it to salads, pastas and several other dishes, it’s such a versatile cheese and I’m glad I discovered it!  If you want to get your hands on some comté, it is sold in several cheesemongers and supermarkets in the UK (such as Waitrose). See their website for more details at www.comtecheese.co.uk

Fluffy Buttermilk Pancakes 

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Prep time:  10 minutes plus overnight refrigeration
Makes 6-8 medium sized pancakes  

Pancake day is right around the corner! So I felt it was only right to share with you a new pancake recipe I discovered at a pancake making workshop last week, these really are the best American style pancakes I’ve ever tried, and the secret seems to be in the buttermilk, as well as the fact that the batter should be refrigerated overnight before cooking. Yes, it’s a bit of a faff, but totally worth it when you taste the finished product. So get prepping tonight, ahead of the big day!

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Ingredients: 

  • 360g buttermilk
  • 180g whole milk
  • 6g vanilla essence
  • 380g self raising flour
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 12g baking powder
  • 3G bicarbonate of soda
  • 75g melted butter

Method: 

  1. Weigh out all of the wet ingredients (besides the butter) in a large mixing bowl, followed by the dry ingredients.
  2. Mix the wet and dry ingredients with a whisk until it’s not lumpy, then slowly add in the melted butter.
  3. Mix again until all combined and the batter is ready. Refrigerate overnight/at least for 2-3 hours.
  4. When you’re ready to cook, add a dash of oil to your pan (you don’t need a lot if you have a non-stick frying pan) and leave to heat up slowly.
  5. Once the pan is hot and the oil starts to sizzle, pour in your batter according to whatever size you’d like your pancakes to be. You can even buy one of these pancake rings if you’d like your pancakes to be perfectly round!!
  6. Once one side of your pancake has browned (you’ll be able to tell as it will lift off the pan with a spatula), flip it so the other side is cooked through.
  7. Stack and dress your pancakes with whatever toppings you like. My go to toppings are maple syrup and chocolate chips. But you could also try berries, whipped cream, Nutella, bananas, crushed nuts or even a savoury option like bacon.