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Last week I went to the fishmongers to pick up some fish for tea.  I was thinking along the lines of simple baked fish with crushed new potatoes maybe with some softened spring onions mixed through. 

There were both gorgeous red fleshed new potatoes and spring onions at Unicorn so this has steered my thoughts.  On entering the fishmongers there in the chiller was a box of golden mushrooms.  Wild Scottish girolle mushrooms to be exact.

It was one of those moments where you know instantly that you will be eating them for tea.  So I carefully picked out enough for myself and Mr Rigg.  I also bought a piece of Grouper – never tried it before, looked like a good chunky white fish so I thought I’d give it a go.

The fish was really tasty, with quite a strong flavour.  The mushrooms pan fried in hot butter were incredibly moreish.  And the crushed potatoes with spring onions – it’s the sort of food you could eat straight from the pan (and do when no one else is looking!).

Wild girolle mushrooms, baked fish and crushed potatoes with spring onions

Feeds 2

2 pieces of Grouper (or other white fish)
150g wild girolle mushrooms
New potatoes for 2
2 cloves of garlic
4 spring onions
Lots of butter
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to about 180°C.

Rub the fish in olive oil, place on a baking tray and season with salt and pepper.  Cook in the oven for about 15-20 minutes or until done.

Whilst the fish is cooking, boil the new potatoes in plenty of salted water.

Clean the mushrooms (I used a pastry brush to remove any grit) and tear up any large ones.  In a frying pan heat a generous knob of butter with a splash of olive oil.  Add the mushrooms and fry on a high heat until golden.

Finely chop the garlic and slice the spring onions.

Drain the potatoes.  Put the empty potato pan back on the heat and add some butter.  Add the garlic and spring onions to the butter and cook until softened – don’t let them burn!

Once they spring onions have softened, return the potatoes to the pan and crush them up with the back of a wooden spoon –  you’re not aiming for mash potato, but crushing the potatoes allows all the lovely butter and seasonings to work their way into the hot potato flesh.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

And you’re done – just simply put it all on a plate and eat! 

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I have been really enjoying Sophia Dahl’s TV series The Delicious Miss Dahl.  Last week she made a delicious vegetarian curry and dahl and knowing what a curry fan Mr Rigg is I thought I would make it as a treat last Friday night.

So I got all the ingredients – sweet potatoes, the spices to make the garam masala from scratch etc.  When it came down to making it I followed the recipe and had fun making the aromatic garam masala spice mix by grinding it up in my loved-but-under-used pestle and mortar. 

I seasoned the sweet potatoes and onions as instructed with the the spice mix – but not all of it.  Then I tasted it and couldn’t really taste much, so decided to add in all the garam masala.  On final tasting it just didn’t taste of anything.  I was devasted. 

Watching Sophia Dahl cook this recipe I could imagine how it tasted…and yet there were none of those lovely flavours I had dreamt of.  I am sad to say that the curry was saved by a jar of Patak’s Balti sauce after a quick dash to the Co-op.

In the end it tasted ok, but was greatly lifted by Unicorn’s dahl (divine!) and fragrant rice also care of Sophia Dahl, which was delicious.

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

sorreldhal

Last night we cooked a meal that we’d never had before, and it was delicious.  Over the summer I bought a recipe book called Freshly Pickedby Jojo Tulloh after reading a lovely excerpt from her book in a magazine on how to make the perfect salad.

One recipe I have been wanting to try from the book, is Sorrel dhal.  My favourite grocery, Unicorn Groceryin Manchester currently has big bundles of sorrel, so I thought this the perfect time to try this dish.  They also have a nice deli counter, with olives and hummous and all kinds of goodies (often an incredibly delicious homemade dhal!) and amongst all these I spotted a ‘channa salad.’  It comprised of a spicy chickpea salad – fantastically, Unicorn have a recipe for it on their website.

channasalad

So along with some pitta bread (this was what we had in the freezer) rather than naan, we set about creating ourselves an Indian inspired feast.  The dhal recipe itself was not difficult to make, but I did have a few teething problems – nothing too difficult to fix though.  This was my first foray into dhal making, so it was bound to have a few hiccups.

Once the dhal was made, we served it up on plates with warm pitta bread and the channa salad.  It was more delicious than I was expecting, incredibly comforting, a wonderful blend of gentle spices and hot chilli, and all vegetarian.  Even N was pleasantly surprised and wolfed the lot down.

Below is the original recipe from Freshly Picked, with a few tweaks that I made whilst cooking it.

sorreldhal2

Sorrel dhal

Feeds 4

450g chana dhal or split yellow lentils (we used yellow split peas)
3 thick slices of ginger, unpeeled, smashed with the handle of a knife
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 – 1 tsp salt (use this as a guideline, I seasoned it until it tasted the way we liked it)
a pinch of garam masala (I used a generous pinch)
a knob of butter
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and flattened with the flat side of your chopping knife
2 green chillies, deseeded and finely sliced (I used one small green chilli as we don’t like too much heat)
a bunch of sorrel leaves, sliced into ribbons

Put the chana dhal into a saucepan and cover with about a litre of water.  Bring to the boil and remove any scum.  Add the ginger and turmeric and cook for at least 1 1/2 hours.  

Caution, if you are not experienced in using pulses, like me, check on your pan regularly.   I set my timer for 30 minutes as the cooking time on the packet of split peas said 40 minutes – I didn’t check on it during those 30 minutes and it boiled dry – an almost disaster!  I simply added more water and carried on cooking it until it was the ‘thick puree with the pulses very soft to the touch’ that Jojo describes later.

If you are following Jojo’s recipe…

Keep your eye on it during the last 30 minutes and add a little more water if it is too dry, stirring occasionally.  You are aiming for a thick puree with the pulses very soft to the touch.  Add the salt and garam masala.

Just before you are ready to serve the dhal, heat a knob of buter in a heavy frying pan.  Add the garlic and the chillies, quickly followed by the sorrel. 

Cook the sorrel down gently for 5 minutes until it starts to disintegrate.  Tip the whole mixture into the pan with the cooked dhal. 

At this point, I tasted the dhal and adjusted the seasoning to our taste.  This involved adding some more salt, and a couple of other ingredients: a little lemon juice to enhance the lemony flavour from the sorrel (perhaps I didn’t add enough) and some Tabasco sauce to increase the heat a little.

Add a little hot water from the kettle if it looks too thick.  Stir well and set aside until you are ready to eat it.

Jojo recommends that this dish goes well with sour chickpeas and chapattis (both recipes included in her book, Freshly Picked) for a simple Indian supper.  This is an utterly lovely book and I would recommend you go out and buy it and add it to your collection – it will become a family favourite!

freshlypicked

P1120396

I’m going to start my weekend posts with a fresh, vibrant salad that will help you spring into summer.  This salad was dreamt up from standing in the aisles at my favourite grocery – it uses the produce that was freshest and just said ‘eat me!’

It is so simple – just peas, radishes, cherry tomatoes and spring onions.  Now I know that my cherry tomatoes are way off even flowers forming, but these cherry tom’s were from Sicily, which I appreciate isn’t very local, but they were ruby red and calling to me.  So anyway, less rambling, more recipes and I hope you try this one out – especially if your radishes are bulging out of the soil like mine.

P1120394

Pea and Radish Salad

Feeds about four hungry mouths

Couple of handfuls of fresh peas
Bunch of radishes (about 10)
200-250g cherry tomatoes
3 large or 5 small spring onions
Cider or white wine vinegar
Salt

Finely slice and chop the spring onions and place them into a pretty serving bowl.

Sprinkle over the onions a good scattering of salt and a couple of glugs of vinegar – mix well (the vinegar and salt pickles the onion slightly, which takes the edge off that strong onion taste).

Slice the cherry tomatoes in half and add them to the onion – you can also sprinkle a touch more salt over the tomatoes (it intensifies their taste).

Set the onion and tomatoes aside, grab a bowl, find a comfy seat and take your time to pod those peas. This is a job, which is not really a job, it is a moment to yourself, a chance to slow down and dream. Sat on my granny’s terrace, podding peas and preparing string beans are some of my best childhood memories.

Cut the radishes into quarters, and add them and the peas to the salad. Give the whole thing a good stir and serve. You could add a grinding of fresh pepper, a glug of extra virgin olive oil, but it really doesn’t need adulterating. If you use fresh, quality ingredients then this salad will sing without any extras.

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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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