There seem to be so many wonderful things in season at the moment. There’s all the summer abundance of fruit, berries, leaves and beans. Then there’s the exciting prospect of a more autumnal harvest right around the corner- blackberries, figs then eventually pumpkins, apples, cobnuts and game. So much to enjoy and so much to look forward to!
My greengrocer has been coming up trumps. I don’t know if the area is attracting a more discerning vegetable consumer (a belated Olympic effect, perhaps? The East End seems to be getting more gentrified by the minute), but suddenly I’ve got heritage tomatoes, baby aubergines and chanterelles on my doorstep. There are also beautiful courgettes, including the fat, yellow variety.
I think these in particular warrant a celebration and what better way than by turning them into the main affair? I first tried a version of this dish at Leiths for our ‘creative red mullet’ day by pairing thin strips of courgette with basil oil and pan fried fish. I love red mullet, but the courgette ‘pasta’ was a real revelation. I recognise that this may seem like diet food in disguise and I suppose it could be, but I promise you won’t miss the carbohydrate. However, if you do want to make it even healthier, tone down the olive oil.
You will need:
200g baby tomatoes
1 yellow courgette
1 green courgette
100g baby spinach
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 small red onions, sliced
handful of basil, torn
extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon, juice and zest
Sea salt and pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 190 C. Slice baby tomatoes in half through their middles (they look prettier that way) and place on an oven tray. Drizzle with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast until cooked through and beginning to caramelise, approx 20-25 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, make your courgette tagliatelle. Use a wide peeler (like a speed peeler) to create thin slices of courgette, moving around the vegetable to get the right shape. You only want the outer, more dense layer of courgette (and the beautiful skins)- do not use the middle, water-logged seed-y part. You’ll end up with a long, rectangular bit of courgette, which you can discard or save for soups or stir fries.
3. Gently fry the onion until just soft. Add the garlic and spinach and heat until the spinach has just wilted. Off the heat, add the roasted tomatoes, lemon zest, basil, a drizzle of olive oil and season.
4. In a separate frying pan, add the strips of courgette with a splash of lemon juice and another drizzle of olive oil. You don’t want to fry the courgette as such, merely heat the strips through- the bite is part of the appeal.
5. Plate up the courgette and top with the tomato and spinach mixture. Finish with a grating of Parmesan and wolf down.
We’ve been up to our elbows in life and flat admin here at ASH HQ. Lots of late Spring cleaning- out with the old, in with the new. Well, less of in with the new, actually. Mostly chucking out the old in overflowing bin bags destined for the tip.
For hot, sorting days you need something quick and easy that you can eat standing up, spooning into your mouth between outbursts of ‘ I wanted to keep that!’ Panzanella is excellent throw-together weekend food. This Italian bread and tomato salad is summery and fresh, but still satisfying enough to fuel lugging and lifting. And although I’m not suggesting that heritage tomatoes are easy to come by, my local (not fancy) greengrocers has recently started stocking them, so they can be found if you look out for them. Of course, normal tomatoes would work just as well- ideally plump, ripe ones on the vine.
Controversially, I’ve added Dijon mustard to my recipe. It is by no means traditional, but I love mustard in my salad dressings, so I’ve added it here for a bit of peppery sharpness. Taste your tomatoes before you make the dressing, if they are a bit under-ripe and don’t have much in way of sweetness, perhaps replace the Dijon with some balsamic for some sugar with that acid hit.
A final note on storing tomatoes- there is nothing worse than biting into a cold, firm tomato. For this recipe, take them out of the fridge and let them come to room temperature.
You will need:
1 red onion
600g mixed heritage tomatoes (or vine tomatoes)
1/2 sourdough baguette (or other crusty bread)
Extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
large handful basil, torn
1. First, slice the red onion finely. Place in a bowl and pour over the juice of half a lemon. Mix thoroughly, cover, and set aside for about an hour. The onion will loose its rawness and turn a beautiful, vibrant purple.
2. Chop up the tomatoes- it doesn’t have to be especially neat. Place in a large bowl. Tear the bread into chunks and add these to the bowl along with the onions, drained of the lemon juice.
3. Mix together the dressing to your liking. Mine was about 1 tbsp lemon juice to 3 tbsp olive oil and 1 tsp Dijon, along with plenty of salt and pepper. Toss these over the rest of the ingredients and leave for a few minutes before finally adding torn basil leaves.
I’m lucky to live just the other side of the park from the Deli Downstairs in Victoria Park Village (or Lauriston Village to use its proper name). It’s a wonderful place to pop in for a treat- they do beautiful pies, quiches, sausage rolls and cheeses. I’m a fan of their black pudding scotch egg. You can also bring your own bottle to fill with some red or white from Borough Wines. But the real reason why I love it is because it stocks the odd unusual ingredient that is just a bit harder to source- wild garlic or goats curd for example. Or a bag of pearled spelt grain for the bargainous price of £1.50.
I’d never cooked it before, but this ancient grain turns out to be fantastic stuff. It has a slightly nutty flavour, but much more neutral than something like pearl barley, which I always think tastes like musty, damp socks. You simply boil it until tender and then use it as a side dish, instead of rice or in a salad as you would do with cracked bulgur wheat or couscous. I decided to go down a more risotto-esque route by stirring in some creme fraiche, feta cheese, lime zest and thyme. Along with a colourful salad of tomato, peppers and chorizo, this made for a satisfying supper which I highly recommend. You just might have to pop down to South Hackney to get all the ingredients.
I had my friends Rory and Vicky round for dinner about a month ago and had a craving for this dish, which is an adaptation of one my mum used to make when I was younger. I think she’s forgotten all about it, which is fine because I can claim it as my own!
It’s ridiculously easy and can be accompanied by a wide variety of things. I paired it with tagliatelle with lots and lots of Parmesan and some tenderstem broccoli to make a big meal out of it but you could just as easily turn it into a lighter dish with a few leaves or perhaps some couscous? I think rocket would be particularly good here (again with lots of Parmesan). Definitely a maximum result for minimal effort dish.
You’ll need (sorry, no measurements here, very laissez-faire this time I’m afraid):
Chicken breasts (one per person, vary other ingredients accordingly)
Goats cheese (the soft kind)
salt and pepper
First off, mash some soft goats cheese with a teaspoon or two of olive oil, some chopped up sundried tomatoes, olives and a handful of torn up basil. Season to taste. Adjust ingredients to your liking.
Stuff the chicken breast with the cheesy tomato mixture and secure it shut with toothpicks or brochettes or string- whatever you have to hand and find easiest. It doesn’t have to look pretty! Put onto a greased ovenproof dish and brush with some olive oil. Put into a preheated 200 degree oven. Leave for about 20 min but it will vary depending on your oven, so do check it after about 15 min.
The chicken should be juicy and the filling should be gooey and saucey. Scatter with some olives and basil. Any remaining filling can be used on bread, with pasta, veg or red meat. It’s versatility personified. Or poultrified, if you will.