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For Christmas Eve dinner we like to eat a baked Camembert and nothing else.  It is pure indulgence and feels very wicked, but it is a tradition of our own making and it feels like something special.

We bake the Camembert in its box – just take the lid off and pull open the paper.  This time I scored the cheese with a cross, added a little drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a garlic clove, sliced in half and wedged into the cut cheese. 

After about 15-20 minutes it comes out as gooey liquid cheese encased in its rind – which is my favourite part of it.  It goes a bit crispy but chewy at the same time.

Usually we just have a bowl of rustic bread, roughly cut into hunks to dip into the cheese.  This year we also opened a jar of Real Ale chutney to go with it. 

Although I can be a purist when it comes to dishes like this, refusing to dilute the taste of hot runny cheese and bread, I must admit a dab of chutney with it was delicious.

We ate it in front of a cosy log fire…

Does anyone else have Christmas traditions they’ve created for themselves?

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What to eat for lunch when the fridge is almost bare?  My solution is homemade hummous and toasted pitta bread – all which can be made from what’s in my cupboards and freezer.

My homemade hummous is inspired by some my friend Jane made – it’s a simple matter of whizzing together a tin of chickpeas and olive oil, with lemon juice, garlic, cumin, and salt and pepper to taste. 

Today I’ve used 1 medium garlic clove, juice of about 1 small lemon (I find getting the amount of lemon juice right is what makes or breaks this hummous), and about a teaspoon of ground cumin.

Today I’m eating my hummous with toasted pitta breads from the freezer.  Pitta breads freeze fantastically and I always try to have a packet in the freezer ready to toast whenever I’m out of fresh bread. 

They can be easily popped in a toaster or if, like me, you are toaster-less, simply bung them under a hot grill for a couple of minutes on each side.  Beware of hot steam escaping from the pittas once toasted!

Here’s me eating my lunch in my not-so-romantic working space…

If ever there was a winter dish this was it.  I’m pretty sure it must be quite healthy, all those lentils and greens, plus a good dose of garlic.  Anyway…what matters was it tasted fantastic. 

This is one of those meals where the quality of the ingredients really makes the difference.  I used Puy Lentils, organic cavolo nero, and incredible coiled Italian sausages (that I picked up here).

The sausages
These incredible Italian sausages were simply popped under a hot grilled for about 5-6 minutes on each side until they were golden.  I even drained the little amount of amber coloured fat that pooled in the coils into the lentils – waste not want not!

The lentils
The lentils (about 200g for 2) were covered with water, with a bunch of tied parsley stalks, a peeled garlic clove and a bay leaf.  Simmered for about 15-20 minutes until soft, then drained.  I mixed in a splash of sherry vinegar to taste, seasoned well with salt and pepper, and stirred through chopped parsley.  Finally mash the garlic clove and stir in.

The cavolo nero
I’m not a huge cabbage and kale lover, but cavolo nero I have a bit of thing for.  First I chopped it up, popped it into a large pan of salted boiling water and let it cook for 3 minutes before draining.  Cool it immediately with cold water, then squeeze as much liquid out of it as you can.  When you’re ready to eat, gently fry some sliced garlic in oil then add the cavolo nero and stir to warm through.

There is something so lovely and comforting about being able to wander to the bottom of your own garden and pick something for dinner.  Last night I decided to pick some of the yellow sunburst squash that I have growing in my vegetable patch. 

These UFO shaped squash are so pretty – although mine are looking a bit sorry for themselves.  They’ve started to rot a bit where the flower blossomed with all this rain we’ve had recently.  Also, the ones I usually see in my local grocery are much more yellow – mine are a bit pallid!

None-the-less they taste lovely.  So I picked a few and brought them inside to be eaten within half an hour of picking – now that’s pretty special.  Beat that supermarket giants!

For tea we had scrambled eggs on toasted bagel with garlic fried squash, oregano flowers and Gruyère.  Fresh flavours and very tasty – and I love the yellow from the eggs and squash flecked with the purple from the oregano flowers.

Scrambled eggs on toasted bagel with garlic fried squash, oregano flowers and Gruyère

Feeds 2

A couple of small yellow sunburst squash
2-3 cloves of garlic
Olive oil
5 medium eggs
Handful of oregano flowers and leaves
Gruyère cheese
2 bagels
Butter

Heat a frying pan with some olive oil.  Finely chop the garlic and add to the pan – softening it gently.

Thinly slice the squash and add to the garlic.  Fry until soft and starting to turn a little golden and season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, make your scrambled eggs – here’s how I make mine.

Put your bagels on to toast and butter them once they’re ready.

Add the oregano leaves to the scrambled eggs, mix together, then spoon over the bagels.

Take your fried squash and place on top of the eggs and grate over some Gruyère cheese.

Finally, sprinkle over some oregano flowers and eat!

I’m not doing very well at keeping up with … well … updating!  There’s so much I want to share and yet I must find more time!  And so many promised posts and recipes … I haven’t even finished off my food memories of Italy (part 1 and 2), and that was last September!

Note to self: must try harder.

On a jollier note, we had a scrumptious and so SO simple tea of roasted summer vegetables.  This is my idea of cooking, of eating, of tasting.  And what a Nigel Slater way to eat dinner – just a plate of roasted vegetables and some hunks of good bread to mop up the juices.

In my pan of delicious roasted vegetables were the following: baby orange peppers, red pepper, yellow cherry tomatoes, red baby plum tomatoes and homegrown yellow courgette.  All cut into similar sized chunks, drizzled with good olive oil and roasted. 

The added extra that make this dish really simple were liberal dollops of sundried tomato paste, hunks of buffalo mozzarella, finely chopped garlic, a sprinkling of dried herbs, and some good old fashioned seasoning (salt and pepper). 

I also whizzed up lots of fresh basil, extra virgin olive oil, and a good handful of grated Parmesan which was drizzled over everything towards the end of the cooking, and extra served fresh.

All this was munched up with gorgeous foccacia bread from Jane’s Handmade Bread – bought that morning at Abbey Leys Farmer’s Market.

You can’t get better than that!

This is simply divine – if you love fish and chips this is a beautiful alternative.  Get cooking!

Hot fish and chip salad

Hot ‘fish and chip’ salad

Serves 2 hungry mouths

For the ‘fish and chips’
100g white fish (Coley was my choice)
Fine bread crumbs
200g waxy new potatoes
Groundnut oil
Olive oil
For the dressing
Couple of teaspoons of capers
Big bunch of flat leaf parsley
1 generous tsp Dijon mustard
Lemon juice
Salt and pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
To serve
Watercress

Slice the new potatoes in half lengthways and parboil for 5 minutes.  Allow to steam dry for a couple of minutes.

In a large frying pan, heat enough olive oil to cover the base of the pan.  Add the parboiled new potatoes, cut-side down and fry gently – turn when are golden underneath – this should take about 5 minutes.

Fried potatoes

Meanwhile, cut your fish into fingers.  I chose Coley from my local fishmongers – this piece of 100g cost less than £1.50 – what a bargain!  As the fish monger said, “Cheaper than Mr Birdseye!”

Fish fingers

Blitz up your breadcrumbs so they are fine and delicate – I used up some focaccia from last week.  Season the breadcrumbs with salt and pepper.  Toss the fingers of fish in the breadcrumbs to coat.

Before frying your fish – prepare the dressing.  Blitz up all the dressing ingredients adding enough oil to make a loose dressing and enough lemon juice to give it a nice acidic tang.

Lemon caper dressing

In a non-stick frying pan heat enough groundnut oil to cover the fish fingers.  When hot, carefully add the fish fingers – they should bubble and crackle as they enter the oil.  The oil might spit so watch out! 

Fish fingers

The fish fingers should take a couple of minutes to cook through and start to turn golden.  Drain on paper towel when cooked.

Add a good handful of watercress to your plates.  Add the fried potatoes and the fish fingers.  Finely drizzle with generous amounts of the dressing.  Serve additional dressing in a bowl for people to add as they like.  Eat straight away!

This recipe is inspired and slightly adapted from Nigel Slater’s ‘Real Food’.

Hot fish and chip salad

Hot fish and chip salad

Hot fish and chip salad

Warm Winter Salad

Somehow I think a dish like this for dinner won’t fill us up – certainly not a hungry man.  But it does.  And it’s incredibly satisfying and you’re not left wanting more.

Our winter salad leaves came from the ever wonderful Unicorn Grocery and our eggs were the loveliest organic free range eggs from Abbey Leys’ broody bunch.

Here’s how to make it…

Warm Winter Salad

Warm salad of winter leaves, crispy pancetta and a poached egg

Serves 2 for a scrumptious dinner or a light lunch

Couple of handfuls of winter leaves
6-8 thin slices of pancetta
2 eggs
Half a ciabatta loaf
1 clove of garlic
Squeeze of lemon juice
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Tear up the ciabatta into bite-sized pieces and spread out on a baking sheet.  Thinly slice the garlic and sprinkle over the ciabatta, along with a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and some salt and pepper.  Bung in the oven for about 5 minutes or until the ciabatta starts to go golden.

Whilst the ciabatta is crisping up, put a pan of boiling water on ready to poach your eggs.

Place your salad leaves in a bowl and squeeze over some lemon juice, drizzle on some extra virgin olive oil and toss well.  Sprinkle over a pinch of salt and some freshly ground pepper.

Once the 5 minutes is up, quickly remove the baking tray from the oven and lay the slices of pancetta on top of the ciabatta.  Pop back in the oven for about another 5 minutes or until the pancetta is crispy.

Meanwhile, poach the eggs.  This is how I poach eggs:

1) bring a pan of water to a simmer
2) I add a dash of white wine vinegar to help the eggs as I’m never confident without it!
3) carefully crack your egg into a small ramekin so the yolk doesn’t burst
4) using a spoon, I start to rapidly mix the water to create a whirlpool effect in the middle
5) carefully pour the egg into the centre of the pan where the whirlpool is and pray that it holds together! 

Usually I just judge by eye when the egg is how I like it – with a runny golden yolk.  I do one egg at a time.  For a more accurate way to poach eggs I’d suggest Delia.

Whilst your eggs are poaching, start to plate everything else up.

Pop a good handful of dressed winter leaves onto your plate.  Follow this with a scattering of the crunchy, garlicky ciabatta croutons.  Next I lay over the crispy pancetta.

Finally, as the eggs are ready carefully remove them from the water with a slotted spoon and let them drain for a moment.  Gently rest the poached egg in the nest of leaves, croutons and pancetta and dust with a little sea salt and black pepper.

Now cut open that beautiful orb encased in its fluffy white cloud to let that silky golden yolk dribble down over the croutons and pancetta.  Yum-ee.

Warm Winter Salad

troutsupper

Over the bank holiday we had a delicious meal with my family with trout caught by my little brother.  You may remember this post back in May when he caught me a trout for my birthday which we barbecued on one of the only warm summer evenings we’ve had this year!  Well, my mom had three that he’d caught when we went to visit for the weekend.

My mom and I served the trout with a herb butter, garlic roasted smashed potatoes, grilled tomatoes and green beans.  The locally caught trout were cooked simply in the oven covered in foil.  I disappeared into my mom’s garden to gather up a selection of herbs to make the herb butter – chives, thyme, sorrel, oregano, mint – you could use any mixture you wanted.  I also picked a couple of calendula flowers and snipped the petals into the mixture, this flecked the herb butter with vibrant orange streaks. 

The butter is easy to make – simple whip up some softened butter, add in the chopped up herbs and optional edible flowers, add a good amount of black pepper and salt.  Add a dollop of the herb butter to your cooked trout and watch as it melts and oozes down over the delicate pink flesh.

troutsupper2

My mom’s garlic roasted smashed potatoes were delicious – the softness of crushed potatoes, the crispy bits that had been roasted, and all of it infused with a yummy mild garlic flavour.  Simply parboil your peeled potatoes.  Drain and roughly mash up – just to break them up a bit.  Pop the smashed potatoes into an ovenproof dish, sprinkle over some minced garlic, a couple of sprigs of rosemary, and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Bung in the oven and cook for about 30 minutes until the potatoes are cooked and slightly crispy on top.

troutsupper3

augustsummersalads

So when the sun briefly appeared last week, our stomachs grumbled for the delights of fresh summer salads and dinner on the patio.  I whipped up three easy salads – I call them salads, but in fact they could also be side dishes, or part of another meal – some toast and cheese.

My three ‘salads’: Piemontese Peppers, Marinated Green Beans, and a Mixed Tomato and Basil Salad.

piemontese peppers

Piemontese Peppers

*These are my version of Tamasin Day-Lewis’ Piemontese Peppers, minus the anchovies as we didn’t have them, and done under the grill…I couldn’t wait 40 minutes for them to cook in the oven!*

Feeds 2 as part of a meal

1 red pepper
couple of small tomatoes (cherry ones are great)
1 clove of garlic
some feta cheese
extra virgin olive oil
sprig of thyme
salt and pepper

Preheat your grill on a medium setting.

Cut your pepper in half and carefully remove the stalk and seeds.  Halve them again and place on your grill pan.

Dice up the tomatoes and pop a few chunks into each quarter of pepper.

Next, thinly slice the clove of garlic and add a couple of slithers to the peppers.

Sprinkle over some thyme leaves, followed by a good drizzling of olive oil and season with salk and pepper.

Bung under the grill and cook until soft and starting to char at the edges (don’t forget about them like I did or you’ll have to remove some of the more singed bits!).

Remove to a plate and crumble over some feta cheese.

Serve warm or at room temperature – also a great dish you can prepare ahead of time and pop in the fridge until you’re ready to eat.

piemontese peppers3

Up next: Marinated Green Beans

P1130905

A beautifully delicate and fragrant dish for a Friday night.  Last night we made this yummy fish dish, which is so so quick and so so easy.  I realised it would be a great meal to make for friends, as it doesn’t involve slaving away for hours and doesn’t require you to spend time when your guests are with you beavering away in the kitchen.

P1130913

The mint and spring onions for the dressing came from our garden, and the mackerel from Out of the Blue fishmongers in Chorlton.

P1130873

Grilled mackerel with a lemon and mint dressing

Feeds 2 hungry people

4 mackerel fillets (ask your fishmonger to fillet two whole mackerel for you)
4 spring onions, roughly chopped
1 tbsp capers (drained and rinsed if salted)
small clove of garlic
handful of mint
1 lemon (zest and juice from half)
Lots of extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

Turn your grill on high.  Cover a baking tray or grill pan with foil and pop on the mackerel fillets skin-side up.  Season with salt and pepper and bung under the grill for about 3 minutes on each side.

Whilst the mackerel is cooking, prepare your dressing.  Bung into a food processor the spring onions, capers, garlic, mint, lemon zest and lemon juice.  Blitz until finely chopped.  Taste and season with little salt.  Pour in enough extra virgin olive oil to make it a thick dressing consistency and stir well.

Serve the grilled mackerel drizzled with the lemon and mint dressing, and a pile of buttery crushed potatoes.

P1130907

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Eat the Earth

I love food, especially locally grown and seasonal food. This is my place to share my food finds and the food I like to eat.

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All pictures are my own unless stated. I would kindly ask that you don't use them elsewhere unless you ask permission first. Many thanks x

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