Archive for the ‘Easy’ Category

Green asparagus with spring onions

10 June 2021

Some dishes are ideas more than recipes, they creep into our lives unawares.

I have had a few favourite asparagus recipes, and written about them, each time touting their priviledged status and every time I was completely sincere. And here I am, with yet another ‘favourite’. Seasons and appetites change, new preferences do not preclude lasting affections.

I made this simple dish last year, probably guided by the entrails of our fridge: asparagus and spring onions being (again this year) our spring staples. It remained etched in the margins of my cook’s memory. This year, it’s all I’ve wanted to do with asparagus.

Perfect company for an easy barbecue, it could also be cooked on the fire, but our balcony-intended cast-iron grill is too small and barely fits steak for six, so I make it in a skillet on the stove.

Asparagus with spring onions recipe

A rule of thumb for quantities is one third spring onions to two thirds asparagus

Asparagus (see note on quantities above)
Spring onion (see note on quantities above)
Olive oil
Soya sauce
Flaky sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Trim the tough ends of the asparagus stalks; rinse in cold water.

Trim the roots and leaf tips of the spring onions (I like to also remove one layer if it’s starting to wilt). Rinse the onions to remove any grit. With the blunt side of a wide knife, flatten (crush) the spring onions lengthwise.

In a large bowl, combine the asparagus and spring onions with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, a discreet splash of soya sauce, pinch of salt, and lots of black pepper. Toss to ‘dress’ the vegetables.

If using a barbecue, grill the vegetables / if using a skillet, add a bit of olive oil and fry over high heat for 5 to 7 minutes until the vegetables are nicely coloured and still firm.


Coddled eggs

31 January 2021

As a rule I’m against single-purpose kitchen accessories; this is an exception. Coddled eggs are the best thing to have tumbled into my weekends this winter.

These coddled egg cups were my grandmother’s, and I’ve known them all my life. Last summer I brought them home to London from the dusty cardboard boxes in which they’ve slumbered at my sister’s (serendipitous repository of our life and family history) for the past 15-odd years. Forgotten, not forsaken.

A couple of weeks ago, as we pondered brunch for lunch, largely as an excuse to finish the Christmas Stollen, my meandering thoughts jumped to these egg cups.

So, I unwrapped them, carefully scrubbed away 30-odd years of neglect gathered in their grooves, and easily found this recipe. It can be adapted in a myriad ways, as I suggest below.

In the absence of coddlers, a similar result can be achieved by preparing the eggs in ramekins and baking them in a bain marie in the oven. But I think it’s worth getting coddlers, for the sheer indulgence. They are pretty superfluous and already indispensable.

They have changed my weekends.

Happy Sunday!

Coddled eggs method (adapted from this one in Bon Appétit)

In the absence of coddlers, eggs can be baked in ramekins in the oven: preheat the oven to 170C (325F), prepare the eggs with the ingredients as below in individual ramekins, and bake in a bain marie in the oven for about 10 minutes.

Butter
Crème fraîche or heavy cream
Ham or smoked fish (salmon or trout), cut into 1cm (1/2 inch) pieces, or diced (fried) bacon
Chives, cut to your liking: I prefer 1cm strands but they can also be thinly minced
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 egg per person

Place the coddlers in a medium saucepan and fill with enough water to come to about 3/4 of the way up the side of the coddlers. Remove the coddlers and bring the water to boil.

Meanwhile prepare the eggs.

Butter each coddler generously. Add a small teaspoon of cream, a teaspoon of ham (or smoked fish or bacon), and a sprinkling of chives. Carefully crack the eggs into the coddlers. Cover with the same amount again of cream, ham/fish/bacon, and chives. Salt and pepper generously, and close the coddler.

Place the coddlers in the gently boiling water and cook for about 9 minutes, until the egg whites are just set and the yolks still runny.

Cabbage slaw and a miso ginger mayonnaise dressing staple

7 January 2021

More often than not, in winter, this will be lunch.

I could buy January King cabbage for its looks alone — and yes, in food looks do matter, particularly in the dead of winter! — but it is also the mildest and crunchiest and most delicious of cabbages. I discovered January King since moving to London and it now constantly lives in our fridge in winter (except when it disappears too quickly), and has rescued and will save a thousand meals.

Many of which in this house are compiled from bread and cheese and ham or saucisson, pickled herring and smoked trout. Usually some form of raw vegetable (in summer cucumber and tomatoes, later fennel, carrot, kohlrabi!), soup, or salad — in winter sometimes this endive salad or, more often, cabbage slaw, particularly when January King is in season.

But red or white cabbage will also do, and a jar of the miso mayonnaise dressing lives in the fridge on standby so this can come together in a few minutes, the time it takes to slice the cabbage.

Cabbage slaw with a staple miso ginger dressing

January King is my favourite winter cabbage when it is available, otherwise white or red cabbage, or a combination of both.

I try to always have a jar of this dressing on hand in the fridge; it makes a large jar and can be kept for weeks.

2 Tbsps miso
2 Tbsps mayonnaise
1 tsp mustard
A small piece of ginger, peeled and grated
Juice from half a lemon
50ml (scant 1/4 cup) cider vinegar
100ml (scant 1/2 cup) olive oil
Large pinch of salt

In a large jam jar (with a lid), mix together the miso, mayonnaise, mustard, and grated ginger until well combined.

Add the lemon juice, vinegar, and olive oil, and salt, close the lid tightly and shake vigorously until the dressing is emulsified and looks homogenous.

Halve the cabbage, remove any wilted outer leaves, cut the half into wedges, then slice each wedge into thin strips.

Toss the cabbage with a few tablespoons of dressing and keep the rest of the in the fridge for future instant lunches.

Tahini date banana smoothie

29 December 2020

It is the end of year parenthesis. The time, finally, when it is ok to not cook.

The feeling usually nags on Christmas morning. Usually, so much has happened since the 31st of October — Halloween, Thanksgiving, three birthdays in the mix with one on the 23rd of December (!), each, usually, a celebration here with friends, children, family, dinner, parties, … By the 25th, Christmas lunch is the one meal I never really want to cook. (Of course, we always do.) The moment I look forward to is the parenthesis, the in-between time, when the imperatives have receded and all that is left is a nondescript sluggish present of films, puzzles, games, a walk, or forgetting to go out altogether. Having a smoothie for lunch.

This year the listlessness is different. Every period since March has been a parenthesis. The first ‘lockdown,’ hunkered down patiently until everything, it was said, would get back to normal; Summer, a breath, a change of place, but restricted still, different — another parenthesis. Back to London, back to school, this time we are expecting it, we know things will soon change again. This endless succession of unusual times, slipping from one parenthesis to the next, is what we have become accustomed to. We know not to settle, however uncomfortably, into any status quo. Nonetheless the recent sudden shutdown a few days before Christmas, at the outset of winter, feels particularly disheartening. — I know this, too, will be just another parenthesis.

Or at what point does this become the main text? There is a potent urge to resist it. For now, in the gap, I’ve made myself a smoothie for lunch.

Banana date tahini smoothie
Inspired by a smoothie from The Good Egg in Soho during the minute-and-a-half in December when it was possible to go to an exhibition and have lunch in a restaurant.

Makes two large or three medium smoothies

3 small or 2 large ripe bananas
4 dates
4 Tbsps (100ml or 1/4 cup) light tahini
Juice from 1/2 lemon (more according to taste)
3 Tbsps yogurt
4 ice cubes (optional)
150ml (1/2 cup) milk (oat, almond, or cow)
Drizzle of date syrup (optional)

Cut the bananas and dates roughly into chunks and place in a blender or food processor. Add the tahini, lemon juice, yogurt, and ice cubes (omit the ice if you prefer a very thick smoothie). Start blending and add the milk in gradually. Blend until completely smooth. Taste and add lemon juice as needed.

Serve in a large glass with a drizzle of date syrup if you happen to have some.

Leek and lemongrass trout

19 November 2020

Saturday came on the heels of a rather glum Friday when our predicament and the ever-encroaching mid-afternoon twilight seemed to suck most of the bounce out of my step. In which moment it is good to spend most of the drizzly weekend day on the sofa finishing a book.

When, wholly unexpectedly, a friend drops by unannounced bearing an enormous trout that he just caught in Walthamstow reservoirs. The mood was lastingly shifted. It’s ok to wallow for a day; tomorrow, often, things will look up!

Leek and lemongrass trout

One or two trout(s) depending on the size
4 leeks
5 or 6 spring onions
2 lemongrass stalks
1 or 2 fresh chillis
Half a lime
A small piece of ginger
Sunflower oil
Rice wine vinegar
Light soy sauce

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F).

To gut the trout (unless the fishmonger has done it), cut a slit through half of the fish’s belly up to its head and pull out all the insides.

To prepare the leeks: cut off the ends, remove any tough outer leaves, wash any obvious soil/grit, then slice very thinly and wash again in a bowl of cold water. Drain well.

To prepare the spring onions: cut off the ends and remove the outer layer of green. Rinse briefly under running water. Slice the stalks at a slant into disks. Use the same method to prepare the lemongrass.

Rinse, cut open and remove the seeds, and thinly slice the chillis into rings.

Cut the lime into half moons. Peel and slice the piece of ginger.

Drizzle a little oil all over an oven dish. Scatter the leeks in a long oval where the trout will lie. Toss with about a teaspoon of vinegar and a tablespoon of soya sauce. Place the trout on top of the seasoned leeks. Stuff the trout’s cavity with the lime and ginger. Scatter the lemongrass, spring onions, and chillis over the trout. Drizzle again with about one teaspoon rice vinegar and one tablespoon soya sauce.

Place in the oven and bake for 12 to 20 minutes, depending on the size of the trout(s). (With fish I prefer to be extra careful and err on the side of underbaking, and if necessary putting the fish back into the oven for a few minutes.)

Related post:

Trout in a paper package


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