There’s definitely a chill in the air. I’m not sure where summer went exactly but I’m fairly confident it ain’t coming back. It was 7C this morning when I woke up (at an ungodly hour for some reason). Is it just me or has this has been one of the worst summers in recent memory? I’m normally quite strict about turning on the heating before 1st of October, but that went out the window last night. When it comes to food, though, I don’t feel quite ready to switch to hearty beef stews, pumpkin soup and large glasses of red wine. I’m still clinging on to lighter, fresher dishes, at least for the time being. This recipe is basically a transitional piece, perfect for when the sun still feels quite warm once the day gets going, but it may well rain later. It’s the food equivalent of a trench coat. But maybe in a bright colour.
This lighter take on a classic chilli is made with chicken and lots of fresh green veg, chilli and lime. A bit of heat and freshness in a bowl! Don’t be put off by the list of ingredients, this is a super simple and quick supper and a perfect way to use up any leftover chicken.
Summer Chicken Chilli
serves 2 with leftovers
You will need:
1 green pepper
1 whole green chill
1 clove garlic
1 banana shallot
1 lime, juice and zest
1 small bunch coriander
1 tbsp olive oil
300g cooked chicken, shredded
1 L good quality chicken stock
1 tin butter beans, drained
150g asparagus tips, cut into bite-size pieces
100g peas, fresh or frozen
100g broad beans, fresh or frozen
spring onion, thinly sliced
1 avocado, diced
lime wedges, to serve
tortilla crisps, crumbled, to serve
1. Begin by blitzing the pepper, chilli, garlic, shallot, lime zest and juice in a food processor or mini chopper along with the stalks from the coriander. Whizz to a chunky paste. Heat the oil in large saucepan and add the paste, stirring over a medium heat for a few minutes until fragrant.
2. Add the chicken and stir for a further couple of minutes to combine. Pour in the chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Add the butter beans, peas and broad beans and continue to cook for about 10 minutes.
3. Divide into bowls and top with the spring onions, avocado, a little coriander, crumbled tortilla crisps and lime wedges.
Over the past few months I’ve been working with Scan Meatballs on a number of different projects including hosting a food blogger’s event and taking over their twitter and facebook feeds in the run up to Sweden’s National Day and Midsummer’s Eve next week. They’ve been a fantastic company to work with as they are keen to promote Swedish food and culture over here in the UK and to get away from some of the more traditional views of Scandi food. As such they’ve given me free reign to create some recipes for them.
Meatballs are perhaps a bit of a stereotype of Swedish cuisine and with good reason: a classic Meatball sarnie is a staple in every Swedish café. I always have one on one of the boats that take you out to the Stockholm archipelago, with a cup of coffee or a cold beer. However, meatballs aren’t just limited to the stereotypes. Families regularly have meatballs for dinner in all manner of guises and Swedish food mags contain countless variations with inspiration from all over the world. And so with this in mind, I’ve created a Meatball Mushroom Stroganoff and a sticky sweet Teriyaki meatball served with rice in crunchy salad cups.
Classic Swedish Meatball Sandwich with Quick Pickled Cucumber
You will need:
1/2 cucumber, thinly sliced
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp caster sugar
pinch white pepper
small handful dill, roughly chopped
1 x 230g pack Scan Meatballs
2 cooked beetroots (not in brine)
2 tbsp creme fraiche
1 tbsp mayo
2 wholegrain or rye bread rolls
To serve: salted butter, salad leaves, radishes, dill
1. Begin by making the quick pickle. In a small bowl, combine the sliced cucumber with the white wine vinegar, sugar, white pepper, a little dill and a pinch of sea salt. Set aside while you make the rest of the sandwich.
2. Cook the meatballs according to packet instructions, either in the oven or on the hob.
3. Dice the cooked beetroot and mix with the creme fraiche, mayonnaise and salt and white pepper. Slice the bread rolls and spread with butter. Top with lettuce, cucumber, beetroot salad and finally the meatballs. Scatter a little extra dill on top, if you like, and serve immediately.
Meatball Mushroom Stroganoff
You will need:
2 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
2 onions, sliced
200g mushrooms, such as chestnut or shitake
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp sweet paprika
1 x 395g pack Scan Meatballs
200ml chicken stock
100g creme fraiche (about 4 generous tbsp)
1 tsp dijon mustard
small bunch parsley, roughly chopped
Rice or pasta
Gherkins or capers, Pickled Red onions, optional
1. Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a large frying pan and gently cook the onions over a low heat for about 10 minutes, until golden and soft. Meanwhile, in a separate frying pan, heat the remaining oil and fry the mushrooms in batches. Set aside.
2. Tip in the meatballs into the onion pan and fry for about 5-7 minutes, until golden. Add the garlic, thyme and paprika cook for another couple of minutes.
3. Add the stock and creme fraiche and simmer for about 10 minutes, until thickened. Sitr through the dijon mustard and add the mushrooms. Season to taste before sprinkling with chopped parsley. Serve with rice or pasta as well as some pickled red onions, gherkins or capers.
Teriyaki Meatball Salad Cups
You will need:
300g Jasmin or Basmati rice
2 tbsp honey
3 tbsp soy sauce
4 tbsp mirin
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
small thumb fresh root ginger, grated
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp cornflour
1 tsp olive or rapeseed oil
1 pack Scan meatballs
4 Little gem lettuces, leaves picked
3 spring onions, finely chopped
2 tbsp toastec sesame seeds
Small handful corriander, roughly chopped
1 lime, cut into wedges
1. Cook the rice according to packet instructions. In a small bowl, whisk together honey, soy sauce, mirin, rice wine vinegar, grated ginger and garlic. In a separate and even smaller bowl, mix the cornflour with 1 tbsp of water, stirring until milky and all lumps have disappeared. Add to the teriyaki sauce and set aside.
2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and add the meatballs. Fry for about 5-7 minutes, until just starting to go golden. Add the sauce and heat through over a low heat until thick and really sticky – a couple of minutes.
3. To serve, lay out the remaining ingredients on your table. Let everyone help themselves to make the lettuce cups by topping each leaf with a spoonfull of rice, a couple of meatballs, spring onions, sesame seeds and coriander. Squeeze over a little lime and dig right in.
Agretti and Artichokes
It seems like ages ago now, but for almost two glorious weeks around Easter I was in Italy on what can only be described as a gastronomic tour to give both Elizabeth David and Elizabeth Gilbert a run for their money. It was also a most efficient holiday as I managed to spend time with my husband, my family and friends all in one trip. We started in Rome, without plan or agenda, simply walking the streets in search of new sights and good food and wine. On our first day we gave the Easter crowds a wide berth by avoiding the Centro Storico and Vatican. Instead, we headed to the neighbourhood of Monti, with its quieter streets, more peaceful squares and treasure trove shops. This was followed by a walk to Said chocolate shop, which has been producing treats for the Romans since 1923. After stocking up on truffles and Easter eggs, we nipped in for dinner at Pastificio San Lorenzo across the road. An excellent place to try a few dishes that veered away from the pasta/pizza fare of the centre of town and the perfect place to people watch over an aperitivo.
After this city break and in the midst of the Easter rush, we escaped to the countryside. After surviving what was possibly the most terrifying taxi ride of my life (our driver felt he was quite capable of turning around and chatting to us at length while speeding down the motorway), we picked up our car at the airport and drove up through Lazio into the heart of Umbria and where my Dad is gradually semi-retiring. We met him in his tiny little village near Orvieto, perched at the top of a hill with views stretching out into Tuscany.
Umbria is sometimes overlooked by tourists, but this relative quiet really only adds to its charm. It is known as the il cuore verde d’Italia (the green heart of Italy) because of its verdant hills and agricultural abundance. It certainly seemed like everywhere we turned there was wonderful produce – from the olive groves and vegetable patches around the village we were staying in, to the nearby vineyards and saffron fields. Over the Easter period there were plenty of markets in the nearby towns and villages, manned by proud farmers showing off their produce. We particularly enjoyed a blustery afternoon spent in Citta della Pieve, tasting salame, cheeses, beers and hog roast panini.
After a few peaceful days in Umbria, I waved goodbye to my family and headed up the country to Florence, where I met a group of girlfriends for a long weekend. Walking around the city was a strange experience, it seemed like there were ghosts of a past life on every corner, echoes from a long time ago. I lived in Florence for a year when I was 16, my father’s infatuation with Italy brought the whole family there at the turn of the millennium. I went kicking and screaming, not wanting to leave my friends and established life behind. Of course when we moved from Italy year later, it was in further floods of tears. I’d fallen hard for the city, the weather, the people (Italian boys, of course!).
Every street in central Florence brought back a memory, a conversation I had forgotten, a person I’ve lost touch with, a smell or a taste I can’t quite seem to place. It was eery and a bit sad, but also wonderful to be reminded that yes, this did actually happen half my life ago and it was great and came to shape who I became as an adult.
Not least in terms of food. I had a wonderful friend that magical year in Italy, called Hannah. She was the daughter of the priest at the American Church in Florence (who from what I could tell spent most of his time marrying Japanese tourists, even answering the phone with a cheery ‘moshi moshi!’) and she was in the year above me at school. She had bright pink, red or purple hair (depending on the week) and cooked like a goddess. It was the first time I had met anyone my age who loved food and loved cooking to that extent. Before living in Italy, I’d been a bit embarrassed by my love of food and kept it hidden and separate from the rest of my life. It was something I shared with my family and only revealed to friends at the occasional school bake sale.
But Hannah made it not only seem like the coolest thing in the world (I remember watching in awe as she chopped a peach sans chopping board, delicately segmenting each slice in the palm of her hand), but also a viable career option – she always knew she wanted to be a chef and eventually open a restaurant or bakery. Even at that young age she was taking birthday cake orders from all the moms at our school. Although I haven’t seen her in many years as she now lives in Texas, from what I understand from social media she is well on her way to making that a reality.
My year in Italy was sandwiched between the two summers I worked at Lisa Elmqvist in Östermalms Hallen, Stockholm, gutting icy herring and rolling meatballs all day long – hard, physical and sometimes monotonous work creating those classic Swedish dishes. And I loved it. So I guess that year when I was 16 cemented my future in food. I went about it in a pretty round about way, but got there in the end.
I was immensely fortunate in my choice of travelling companions over that weekend. We all share an obsession with good food and drink and so rarely went for more than an hour without eating, drinking or at least planning where our next meal was going to be. Highlights from the weekend included the Cantinetta Verrazzano for the most delicious focaccia (the truffled mushroom was out of this world) fizz and coffee taken standing up at their pastry-laden counter. The Enoteca Fuori Porta was also well worth the hill climb for a favourite for crostini and lengthy wine list. Then there was the piazza Santo Spirito for nightlife and watching the world go by. I also managed to pick up some wonderful curtains and prints from the monthly Santo Spirito antiques market.
Of course, I had to fill whatever small scraps of space in my suitcase with loot from the Italian supermarket. Olive oil, parmesan wedges, dried mushrooms, biscotti and sauame all came with me. As did a paket of curious greens that caught my eye in the vegetable aisle. I wasn’t completely sure what it was, but decided to take a risk and do some research when I got home.
It turns out I hit the jackpot – agretti, or ‘barba di frate’ (Monks’ beard) has all but sold out in the UK, I later found out. It is quite delicate and subtle in flavour that is slightly spinach-like. Cooked properly it has a lovely bite, a bit like samphire. It likes classic italian flavours – garlic, anchovies, lemon. Although it’s not so easy to get hold of, it is well worth picking some up if you do happen to stumble upon it. I also had to take some artichokes back as they were absolutely everywhere we went and wonderful to cook with. The recipes below are inspired by these ingredients and the simple, delicious dishes that Italy is so renowned for.
Agretti with Chilli, Ricotta, Caramelised Lemon and Pine Nuts
You will need:
Large bunch agretti
2 tbsp olive oil
1 chilli, finely chopped
20g pine nuts, toasted
small handful greek basil leaves
1. Remove any tough ends of the agretti before plunging into a large pan of boiling, salted water. After about a minute, drain and season with salt and pepper as well as a drizzle of olive oil.
2. Cook the spaghetti according to packet instructions. Meanwhile, strip the lemon of it’s zest using a zester or a sharp knife to create little shards of zest, avoiding any pith. Heat a little olive oil in a large pan and cook the zest until golden and beginning to caramelise. Set aside.
3. Drain the pasta and toss in little olive oil. Add the agretti, lemon zest, chilli and ricotta as well as a squeeze of lemon juice. Season and serve, topped with pine nuts and basil leaves.
Roman Baked Artichokes
You will need:
4 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tbsp grated pecorino cheese
4 tbsp fresh breadcrumbs
4 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tbsp chopped oregano
2 tbsp chopped basil
juice and zest of 1 lemon
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus a little extra
4 medium sized artichokes
150ml dry vermouth
1. Preheat the oven to 200C. In a small bowl, combine chopped anchovy fillets, minced garlic, pecorino, breadcrumbs, herbs, lemon juice and zest. Add the olive oil and mix to form a thick paste.
2. Cut off about 2 cm of the artichoke tops and rub with the leftover lemons. Pry oven the individual leaves and stuff with the herby breadcrumb mixture. Sprinkle with a little olive oil and the vermouth. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 45 minutes, until tender. Uncover for the final 10 minutes to allow the artichokes and breadcrumbs to crisp up. Serve with chunky bread and a crisp green salad.
Almond milk Braised Shoulder of Lamb with Cannellini Beans, Fennel and Baby Carrots
You will need:
1/2 shoulder of lamb, approx 1kg/2 lb 3 oz
3 fat garlic cloves, cut into slivers
2 green chillis, finely chopped
1 tbsp chopped parsley stalks
1/2 tbsp cumin seeds, toasted and lightly bashed
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
300ml/10 fl oz almond milk (unsweetened)
1 tin cannellini beans, drained
baby carrots, to serve
flaked almonds and chopped parsley leaves, to serve
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160 fan/gas 4. Using a small knife, make little incisions all over the meat and insert the slivers of garlic. Mix together the parsley stalks, cumin seeds, lemon juice and zest, smoked paprika, olive oil and 1 tsp of salt (preferably sea salt) in a small bowl to form a thick paste. Rub this all over the lamb.
2. Place the onion and fennel in a roasting tray, season and pour over the almond milk. Sit the lamb snugly in the tray. Cover with tin foil and roast for 1 hour, basting a few times, then remove from the oven and tip in the beans. Continue to roast for a further 30 minutes, uncovered, until tender. Leave to rest for 10-15 minutes then scatter with chopped parsley and flaked almonds. Serve with steamed baby carrots, still slightly crunch and, if you like, some of the beans, fennel and milk whizzed into a thick sauce.
Kale has had some brilliant press lately as a cure-all superfood. Whoever does its PR deserves one hellova pat on the back. I mean, it’s a cabbage. And although delicious, who ever thought that a cabbage could have so much appeal? Yet somehow kale is everywhere now- in juices, salads, stews and even crisps. A fad, perhaps, but this leafy veg actually deserves it’s moment in the limelight- it’s full of beta carotene, Vit C, K and calcium. It has a gorgeous, earthy taste and is genuinely versatile- steam it, bake it, have it stir fried, boiled, juiced or massage it (really) with some olive oil, lime juice and salt for a few minutes to tenderise it, then add pine nuts and cranberries for a salad worthy of a Californian health fanatic.
I’m putting my two cents in with my recipe for Kale pesto. My take has chilli and rosemary in it, for extra punch. I also bake the garlic and chilli in the oven first as I find this adds a lovely smoky flavour. This recipe makes a large amount- it should last you all week. Have it with pasta, gnocchi, drizzled on baked aubergine, roasted sweet potatoes or butternut squash, mixed with a little water for a salad dressing, spread on toasted bread or a homemade pizza, in sandwiches, mixed with mince and made into burgers, stirred through peas with a little goats cheese, in a potato salad, as a dip, dolloped on soup, with white beans, lamb, fish, chicken or swirled through mash. Your pick.
Frequent readers of this blog (all two of you) will note that there’s been a small change to the way I write recipes- I’ve now added imperial measurements, which I hope will be useful.
You will need:
200g/7oz kale (approx 1 bag), woody stems removed
4 garlic cloves
2 long red chillies
3 large sprigs rosemary, leaves picked and finely chopped
1 lemon, juice and zest
25g/1/2oz Parmesan, grated
50g/1oz pine nuts, toasted
150ml/5fl oz extra virgin olive oil
1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. Place the garlic cloves (still in their skins) and chilli on a small oven tray and bake for about 20-25 mins, until the chilli is starting to char and the garlic is soft. Allow to cool completely.
2. Meanwhile, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the kale and simmer until just tender, about 3-5 min. Drain very well, squeezing out any excess water.
3. Place the kale, rosemary, lemon zest, Parmesan and pine nuts in the bowl of a mixer (or use a handheld blender). Squeeze the garlic out of their cloves and add these along with the chillies, removing the seed if you like. Whizz to a paste, then slowly drizzle in the olive oil with the motor running. Add lemon juice to taste and a little water if very thick.