Simple Seasonal Delights

Tomato Soup is quick and easy to make, tasty and satisfying, especially now when we have quite a few sweet and ripe every day. But you can also use tomatoes bought in the shops or on your local farmers’ market from a wide range of quality and prices.

Wash and quarter the fruit, removing large stalks. Add an onion and one or two cloves of garlic, crushed, a teaspoon of salt. Put to a gentle simmer on low heat until it is melted, then blizz the whole thing.

Finely dice a small onion, then gently fry in a knob of butter and an equal amount of olive oil until golden. Add the soup, bring back to heat and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve with soured cream. Basil pesto, Balsamic vinegar, toasted pumpkin seed or chilli oil also make tasty and visually appealing additions, so does wilted spinach or caramelised feta cheese.

As I said. Quick and easy, tasty and satisfying.

Calamari Fritti

A household and family favourite as far back as my memory reaches, and beyond!

After a number of disappointing experiments with various types of coating or batter, here’s what I settled for.

I use frozen baby squid with bodies between 7 and 10 cm in length, not counting the tentacles. Thaw and clean thoroughly. Although being pre-cleaned, I find the job isn’t always done perfectly so I prefer applying some extra scrutiny before setting the tentacles aside and cutting the bodies into rings. Put on some tissue to take away the excess moisture.

5 of these baby squid make one good sized portion.

Now it is time to start the fryer. I use a small wok or pot with lid and plain vegetable oil, but obviously a real fryer would be better as it is better at reaching and holding the temperature. Shoot for 190 C.

For the coating, mix 4 heaped tablespoons of white wheat flour, four heaped tablespoons of semolina, a tablespon of corn starch. Season with a generous pinch of salt and a sprinkle of pepper.

Toss the squid parts in the coating mix, shake off the excess and set them side-by-side on a board for a few minutes. This allows the coating to stick better.

Then, fry quickly, until the coating takes on a very light golden colour. Be quick about it since the squid cook quicker than the coating; you’re looking at 2..3 minutes at most.

Serve with aioli, salad, fresh bread and white wine and Bob’s your uncle!

Many other recipes include ingredients such as milk or egg. Avoid! At best, you’ll get Calamari a la Romana, more likely you’ll get a disaster.


Muffins, lovely and quickly made, versatile, delicious fluffy muffins.

It couldn’t be easier but since I keep on forgetting the ratio, here it is again:

100 g plain white wheat flour
80 g soft butter
80 g caster sugar
80 g whole milk
1 free range egg
1 teaspoon of baking powder

This is the base recipe, which makes about 6 medium-sized muffins. You might want to double or triple it depending on the occasion.

Whisk butter and sugar, then add milk and egg, then flour and baking powder. Spoon into a muffin tray, paper or silicone muffin forms, filling just over half the height. Optionally add fruit into the mix, such as apple bits or blueberries or gently press into the dough after distributing into the forms (cherries, raspberries, blackberries, and so on).

Bake at 180 C for about 15 minutes.


wp-15436549063524062076298856576597.jpgWell that’s a very simple recipe, but it has a place here because I keep forgetting the correct proportions. For the record:

To make four portions of fruit-crumble-and-custard, mix

50 g butter, soft but not runny,
50 g ground almonds,
50 g white wheat flour and
50 g caster sugar.

Its 1 : 1 : 1 : 1, how hard can it be to remember?

I make this hours before the meal. Bring the four ingredients together with an electric mixer, add a handful chopped toasted hazelnuts at the end, and put in the fridge until it is time to bake the fruit crumble for approximately 18 minutes at 180 C.

Croque Man

20151126094008Croque Monsieur is a ham and cheese toasted sandwich. Croque Madame is the same, with an added fried egg on top.

I say, forget the ham. Use 3 rashers of dry-cured smoked streaky bacon instead. Fry them in a pan until they begin to caramelize, then leave to cool on kitchen tissue so that they crisp up.

I say, forget the toast. Use a thick slice of Rye or Sourdough bread instead, rub generously with garlic, then rub both sides with olive oil. Fry the bread in the bacon fat until both sides turn golden, then leave to drain on kitchen tissue.

Crack a free-range egg into the very hot pan. Season with salt, crushed black pepper and a sprinkle of smoked paprika. Egg whites firm, yolk still runny, please.

I say, forget the subtle cheese flavour. Be bold, use blue cheese, or Reblochon, or at the very least use Gruyere.

Now make a sandwich: bread, then bacon, then cheese, then egg. Optionally top with a few capers or dress with a spoon full of Sauce Bearnaise or Sauce Hollandaise.

Voila. This is now known as a Croque Man. It’s my favourite bachelor meal, but it is so good that even the Missus would like it.

Savoury Clafoutis

DSC_1736.JPGAccording to Rachel Khoo, savoury clafoutis are ze very fashionable dish in Paris. I don’t know how accurate Rachel’s trend monitoring is, but the idea made immediate sense for me.

Instead of sugar and apples, pears or cherries, use savoury ingredients such as goats’ cheese, cherry tomatoes, girolle mushrooms, Swiss chard, a pinch of rosemary, a spoonful of mustard and a drizzle of chili oil.

Or, if you want to think of in in another way, you can think of it as a quiche without the base. To compensate for the lost support offered by the shortcrust base, you add two spoon full of white flour to the mix – e voila! a savoury clafoutis. Even less work than a quiche, and just as good (but a bit heavier). Here’s how it goes:

Make 1 1/2 pint of a mix from crème fraiche, yogurt, milk, double cream. I suggest using at least 50% milk so that it doesn’t get too heavy. You can also cheat with a small amount of baking soda. Add 4 eggs and one extra yolk.

Whisk in two tablespoons white flour, a teaspoon of good mustard, salt and black pepper to taste.

Pre-heat the oven to 180C and line your favourite baking dish with baking paper. I use a 28cm dish, 3cm deep.

Find all suitable leftovers: Dice or crumble goats cheese, blue cheese, Reblochon or Gruyere cheese. Add cherry tomatoes, olives if you like, Swiss chard. Asparagus might work, roasted peppers most certainly will. Peeled cherry tomatoes will keep it light and moist. Be inventive! Add a sprinkle of rosemary, then pour the batter over it.

Shake the dish a few times to let trapped air escape, then decorate the top with some slices of tomato. I add a generous drizzle of chili-infused olive oil, but that might not be to everyone’s taste.
Bake at 180C for approximately 45 minutes. The time varies with the depth of your dish and the temperature of the batter when you start. It is ready when it has risen over the entire diameter of the baking dish, bubbles a little (mostly towards the edges), and has a lovely golden colour.

Remove from the heat, and let cool down in stages: first, leave on the counter, in the tray, for about 10 minutes. Then lift the whole thing out of the tray, and put it on a cooling rack. Another 10 minutes later, see if you can remove the paper, so that the bake doesn’t get water-logged from the trapped steam.

Serve lukewarm or cold. It’s lovely, it’s like a quiche, but it doesn’t even require making a base: A Saturday lunch winner!

Lamb on Green Pasture

DSC_1555.JPGA nice little amuse bouche, a culinary greeting. I call this a welcome in English.

The little lamb consists of a small white ball of spiced feta cheese spread. It rests on the green pasture, which is made from a walnut pesto, which in turn rests on a small piece of toasted bread – almost like a crouton, just not quite as crunchy.

For the feta cheese spread:

Crush 200g of feta cheese with 75g of butter and a good drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. Add crushed or grated fresh garlic (at least one fresh clove), very finely diced spring onions, red peppers, and finely chopped dill. Salt, black pepper and nutmeg to taste.

Mix thoroughly, let cool in the fridge, then form the little balls and return to the fridge.

Note that the 200g base makes a lot more than what you need for this little teaser. It’s delicious for breakfast, lunch or support on the next day, provided you have fresh bread to go along with it, and you don’t need to meet with customers or other important folk in close proximity.

For the Walnut Pesto:

Chop a small bunch of Italian basil roughly. Toast a handful of walnuts briefly, then put everything into the blender. Add several tablespoons of freshly grated parmesan, two crushed cloves of garlic, a pinch of nutmeg, then add a very generous amount of extra virgin olive oil.

Blizz for a few minutes, and add oil if necessary. It wants to be firm-ish yet runny.

For the bread:

Half-stale white sourdough bread is ideal. Rub the slices with garlic, then with a ripe tomato, then drizzle with some olive oil and toast on the griddle. Cut into thumb-sized portions, ready for two-bite action.

Assemble everything and voila! A little lamb on a green pasture. Welcome to our house. Make yourself comfortable. Glass of Bubbly with that?


Fish On Toast

DSC_1212Quick and simple, and delicious: Smoked salmon and poached egg on toast.

Really simple: Get some crumpets, thick toast or rustic sourdough bread slices. Toast until crunchy. Add a generous slice of good smoked salmon on top of each toast, and top that with one tablespoon of Sauce Hollandaise. Prepare one poached egg per toast, stick it on top of the sauce, and decorate with cress, dill, or crispy fried bacon.

Serve with salad and a dry white wine.

For the sauce hollandaise, simply make a sauce Bearnaise without the tarragon business. Or, to put it another way, prepare a thick custard from 50g butter, 150ml tick cream and 4 free range egg yolks. Season with a generous amount of black pepper, a pinch of salt, one teaspoon of mustard and and two or three teaspoons of white wine or rice vinegar – just be careful with the vinegar so that it doesn’t split the sauce.

Almost too pretty to eat, don’t you think?

Looking at the images years after filing the recipe, I realise that the depicted version shows a Portobello Mushroom instead of a crunchy crumpet. Also good!