Claudia Roden’s Sweet and Sour Minty Grilled Courgettes

Serves: 4

One of my favourite BBQ tricks is to toss sliced zucchini with oil, chilli and garlic and to grill alongside the chicken, pork, whatever.

It dials things up and shows a bit of effort.

This dish goes further and the addition of the ricotta is wonderful.

Nat absolutely loved the sweet and sour of the sauce and of course, it can all be prepared in advance.

Ingredients

3 courgettes (zucchini), cut lengthways into 1cm-thick slices
Olive or sunflower oil
100ml white wine vinegar
50gm sugar
1 tbsp dried mint
Salt and black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil, to serve

Whipped ricotta

250gm smooth ricotta
1 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Grated zest of 1/2 small lemon
Salt and pepper, to taste

Method

  1. For the ricotta, whip the ricotta with the oil, lemon zest and season.
  2. Preheat a grill to high. Brush the courgettes with oil on both sides and sprinkle with salt. Grill on the BBQ or on a griddle pan for about 10 minutes until tender and lightly browned in places.
  3. Heat the vinegar and sugar with the dried mint and some pepper in a small pan over a medium heat, stirring until the sugar melts, then simmer for 2 minutes to reduce it a little. Arrange the courgette slices side by side on a serving plates pour the vinegar dressing over them and add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Serve with the whipped ricotta.

Claudia Roden’s Spelt and Tomato Salad

Serves: 6

Nat and I love farro; an ancient Mediterranean wheat species.

And it is definitely back in vogue based on the number of salads featuring farro we have cooked the last few years.

As with many (all?) of her recipes, this salad is simply a charming honesty of ingredients. Entirely satisfying to the point that I kept reaching for spoon after spoon.

There is a suggested variation which, whilst I have not cooked, I’ve listed below. It’s the next farro adventure.

Variation

Omit the tomatoes; instead, mix in 50gm raisins (soaked in water for 30 minutes), 50gm lightly toasted pine nuts and the shredded leaves of 3 basil sprigs and 3 mint sprigs.

Ingredients

250gm pear farro or spelt
200gm baby plum tomatoes, halved
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1/2 – 1 lemon, to taste
Bunch of flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
Salt and black pepper

Method

  1. Soak the farro or spelt in plenty of cold water for 30 minutes. Rinse, drain and put it in a pan with plenty of water to cover. Bring to the boil and simmer until tender, adding salt towards the end. Drain and put it in a serving bowl.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.

Claudia Roden’s Tagliolini with Lemon

Serves: 2 – 4

Nat and I had this Sicilian dish as the starter of a slow lunch and what a way to start.

It hero’s lemon and it is just “incredibly delicious” as Claudia puts it in her book Med. Absolute lemon simplicity, especially with a fresh pasta as we did.

And completely elegant.

P.S. Nat wasn’t entirely sure this dish was type-up-worthy. She very much liked it, though found it very much on the lemon side. Nat suggested adding some fresh chilli to cut through.

I absolutely love lemon so this was a home-run for me, though we both agreed, as a starter only.

Ingredients

200gm tagliolini
Salt
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
6 tbsp double cream
Salt and black pepper
Grated Parmesan to serve

Method

  1. Cook the tagliolini in boiling, salted water until al dente.
  2. In a serving bowl, mix the lemon zest and juice with the cream and add salt, to taste.
  3. When the pasta is cooked, drain and mix with the sauce.
  4. Serve with plenty of Parmesan and a few good cracks of pepper.

Claudia Roden’s Spicy Roasted Carrot Salad

Serves: 6 – 8

This Moroccan starter is particularly delicious.

I served it as a side and wow, you could do a whole lot worse.

I only did half the carrots asked for in the recipe and so of course the spicy cooking sauce was doubled. Absolutely no regrets.

Serve it with some labneh and this would literally pair with anything.

Ingredients

1kg medium carrots, peeled
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 – 3 tbs olive oil
1 tbs honey
Juice of 1/2 – 1 lemon, to taste
Chilli pepper, to taste (optional)
Salt and black pepper
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil, to serve
3 tbs roughly chopped coriander

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c.
  2. Cut the carrots in half, then cut them in half so that you have wide sticks.* Put them in a baking dish.
  3. In a bowl, put the cumin, coriander, cinnamon, ginger, garlic, olive oil, honey, lemon juice and chilli (if using). Season, mix very well and pour over the carrots, turning with your hands until they are coated all over.
  4. Bake for about 1 hour until the carrots are tender, turning them over once. Leave to cool.
  5. Serve at room temperature with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of coriander.

* I used baby carrots and so did not cut.

Claudia Roden’s Stuffed Peppers with Breadcrumbs, Anchovies, Olives and Capers

Serves: 6

What a simple, elegant way to kick off a meal.

A lightly stuffed Romano pepper, with a fragrant, Mediterranean stuffing of anchovies, olives, capers, parsley, breadcrumbs and olive oil.

This was the first recipe I cooked from Claudia Roden’s new book Med and I am in love. As I type, I am eight recipes in and each has been such a great, simple example of how a few ingredients and flavours can bring so much joy.

This dish could very easily be prepared in advance, mixing the breadcrumbs and parsley with the balance of the stuffing at the last minute.

Lovely.

Ingredients

3 Romano peppers, cut in half lengthways and seeded
6 anchovy fillets in oil, drained and chopped
6 good quality black olives, such as Kalamata, pitted and chopped
1 tbs tiny capers in brine, drained and squeezed
Small bunch of flat-leaf parsley leaves chopped
40gm fresh breadcrumbs
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 150c. Line a roasting tin with foil and arrange the peppers cut-side up on the foil. Roast for about 30 minutes until they are soft. Leave to cool.
  2. Mix all the remaining ingredients together to make a stuffing. When the peppers are cool enough to handle, put a little stuffing into each and serve at room temperature.

Gordon Ramsay’s Home-made Gnocchi with Peas

Serves: 4

Nat cooked this one for a simple lunch a little while back and the gnocchi is probably the best I have had.

Entirely incomparable to something you would get in a pack, dry or otherwise. We have previously used Anne Burrell’s gnocchi recipe as our go to, though the addition of ricotta here means that when pan fried, the creaminess against the golden, crunchy exterior is just melt-good mad.

The pea sauce is subtle and just a lovely pairing.

A few years ago, this is the sort of thing a hatted restaurant might put up. A real nod to simplicity.

Open a bottle of white, serve with a salad (we served it with this Gordon Ramsay salad) and you have a home lunch you’ll be grinning at.

Ingredients

2 large floury potatoes
50gm ricotta cheese
90gm plain flour
1 large egg, beaten
1 thyme sprig, leaves only
Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
Grated Parmesan cheese to serve

For the sauce

Olive oil, for frying
Freshly ground black pepper
150gm peas, podded if fresh, defrosted if frozen
Butter
1 thyme sprig, leaves only
Zest of 1 lemon

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200c. Bake the potatoes in their skins for 1 – 1 1/4 hours until tender the whole way through. Remove the flesh from the skins (while still warm) and mash until spoon – use a potato ricer if you can. Mix in the ricotta, a pinch of salt and white pepper and the flour. Make a well in the middle, add the beaten egg and begin to combine the mixture with floured hands. Work in the thyme leaves and continue until a smooth dough has formed. (Be careful not to overwork the dough or it will end up too dense and won’t expand when it goes into the water.)
  2. Cut the dough in half and shape each piece into a long cigar shape about 1.5cm thick. Using the back of a floured table knife, cut each length into 2cm pieces to make ‘pillows’ of individual gnocchi. Gently press each one in the centre using your floured finger. The dent will hold more sauce and allow the gnocchi to take on more flavour.
  3. Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Add the gnocchi, tilting the pan from side to side briefly to stop them sticking together, then simmer for 1 1/2 – 2 minutes until they start to float. Drain the gnocchi and leave them to steam-dry for 1 – 2 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, start to make the sauce. Heat a frying over a medium-high heat and add a little olive oil. Add the gnocchi to the hot pan with a pinch of salt and black pepper and sauté for 1 – 2 minutes on each side until nicely coloured.
  5. Add the peas to the pan with a knob of butter and the thyme leaves. Toss to heat through, then add the lemon zest. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese.

Gordon Ramsay’s Roasted Red Onion Vinaigrette with Green Bean Salad

Serves: 4 – 6

This Gordon Ramsay salad is as simple as it is wonderful.

It’s meaty which is at odds with all of the green leaf salads I serve up; making it almost a meal in itself.

Which made sense when paired with a wonderfully delicate gnocchi that Nat served.

The vinaigrette itself would go just wonderfully with green leaves, adding some volume and texture. And of course, the wonderful flavour of the roasted red onions.

I love finding a new vinaigrette and this is the latest. Enjoy.

Ingredients

125gm runner beans
125gm French beans
125gm sugarsnap peas
Roughly chopped mint and parsley

For the Vinaigrette

2 red onions, peeled and halved
150ml extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for roasting
2 thyme sprigs
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
50ml sherry vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

  1. First make the vinaigrette. Preheat the oven to 220c. Place the onions in a roasting tray with a little olive oil, the thyme, garlic and a little salt and roast for 25 – 30 minutes until the onions are completely cooked and have a nice roasted flavour.
  2. Remove the onions from the tray and chop into a rough dice (you want the dressing to have a rustic texture). Mix the onions with the 150ml extra virgin olive oil and the sherry vinegar and season with a little salt and pepper to taste.
  3. To make the salad, blanch the beans by plunging them in boiling, salted water for 1 1/2 minutes until their rawness has been removed but they are still crunchy. Refresh immediately in cold water, then remove and out onto kitchen paper to absorb the moisture. Cut each bean into bit-sized pieces. *
  4. Put the chopped beans into a large bowl, stir in the red onion dressing and toss with the parsley and mint. Serve immediately in chilled bowls.

* Or microwave in a suitable container with a little water.

Our Thali by Maunika Gowardhan

Serves: 6 – 8

Every time Nat and I jet off on a holiday, I have a tradition of giving her a card and a new cookbook in the lounge.

We were headed to Vanuatu (our favourite place on earth) which oddly has no Indian restaurants of any fame. (Essentially, we have never stepped foot in and trust me, we’ve eaten everywhere in Port Vila.)

So the latest book was Thali by Maunika Gowardhan.

A brilliant, colourful book of dozens and dozens of side, mains and breads to make a Thali: a big plate.

We cooked seven dishes – all vegetarian – and it was a triumph.

Flavours so unique and serious. Each of them complimenting the other. The sum of its parts. So sophisticated.

We didn’t do a sweet, though I really appreciate how you could and probably should.

Start the night before, bring out the tray and your friends will fall off their chairs.

Life’s good.

And the dishes:

Spicy Stir-Fried Garlic Potatoes
Spicy Sweetcorn with Ginger and Green Chilli
Kidney Bean Curry with Cardamom, Ginger and Chilli
Andhra Aubergine, Coconut and Tamarind Curry
Paneer Koftas in a Creamy Spiced Tomato Curry
Wholemeal Flatbreads
Rice to serve

Maunika Gowardhan’s Wholemeal Flatbreads

Makes: 12

These flatbreads – known as Phulkas – are a softer, smaller version of a classic Indian chapatti.

Going forward, they’re a must for any Indian feast we cook.

Though the real takeout is chapatti flour.

The texture of the Phulkas was just so on-point. Something I know (having done some reading at least) cannot be achieved with white or wholemeal flour.

(Read about this dish as part of a grand thali we recently served.)

Ingredients

250gm chapatti flour, plus extra for dusting
2 tbsp ghee, plus extra to serve
Pinch of salt
3/4 c water

Method

  1. Put the flour in a mixing bowl with the ghee and salt. Now add the water a little at a time, mixing with a spoon or your fingers until it starts to come to together. Knead well (we used a Kitchenaid),to form a smooth dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap (cling film) and leave to rest for 20 minutes.
  2. Divide the dough int 12 equal size balls. Flatten each ball and dust with a little flour. Using a rolling pin, roll out each one as thinly as possible to around 12.5 cm.
  3. Heat a griddle pan or fry pan over a medium heat, until hot. Add one of the rolled flatbreads and cook for 30 seconds, then turn it on the other side cook for a further minute. As it begins to puff up, turn and cook the first side again for a further 30 seconds, pressing lightly with the back of a spatula.
  4. Remove from the heat and spread over the ghee. Cover with a clean tea towel and keep warm while you make the rest.

Andhra Aubergine, Coconut and Tamarind Curry by Maunika Gowardhan

Serves: 4

This is a lovely dish to be served alongside an Indian menu. The tamarind brings a sourness that is offset by the creaminess of the baked eggplant underpinned by a subtle nuttiness that the coconut adds.

All around a great side dish that won’t disappoint.

(Read about this dish as part of a grand thali we recently served.)

Ingredients

2 aubergines (eggplants), cut into 1/4 batons lengthways
6 tbsp vegetable oil
1 c cup of grated coconut
2 heaped tbsp Greek yoghurt
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 cm cinnamon stick
10 curry leaves
1 white onion thinly sliced
3 garlic gloves crushed
1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground tumeric
1 tbsp tamarind paste mixed with 250ml water
2 tsp sugar
Salt, to taste
Coriander to serve

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C, put aubergines in a roasting tray and coat with 4 tablespoons of oil coated. Roast for 20mins. Meanwhile, put the coconut and yoghurt in a blender and blitz into a paste. Set aside.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a saucepan on medium heat. Add mustard seeds so they start to crackle then add in the cinnamon stick. Fry for a few seconds then add in the curry leaves and onion, fry for about 10mins so they are soft and starting to turn golden. Add garlic paste and fry for 30 seconds.
  3. Reduce heat to a low and add the coconut paste and remaining ground spices. Fry for 5 mins then add in the tamarind paste/water, sugar and salt.
  4. Bring to a simmer and add the cooked aubergines. Cover and cook over lot for about 8 mins until the sauce is thick and coats the aubergines. Garnish with coriander.