Quick Supper: Smoked Salmon, New Potatoes and Beetroot

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I love cooking but sometimes when I get home from work I just want to make something quickly and unwind – preferably with an episode of “Parks and Recreation” which has only just arrived here on the BBC and is so funny! So that’s where having something you can cook in under 30 minutes and simply cut things that are already edible comes in very handy. Cue new potatoes, a pack of smoked salmon and a pack of boiled beetroot.

I love the colours on this plate: orange, purple and the yellow of the ceramic!

This is a pretty healthy dish but then you can see in the photo below that I dolloped creme fraiche on it! Ha! But look how the white highlights the pink of the beetroot juice!

Takes 20 mins // serves 2

What you need:

400g new potatoes

250g cooked beetroot

200g smoked salmon (oak smoked if possible)

extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper

a few dollops of creme fraiche (optional)

What you need to do:

1. Wash and cut the new potatoes in half or into three if they are big ones.

2. Boil them until tender and you can stick a knife easily into them.

3. Whilst they are boiling cut the beetroot into bite sized pieces, cut the salmon into strips and place them together in a big bowl with the beautifully purple beetroot juice.

4. Drain the new potatoes and mix them amongst the beetroot and salmon in the bowl.

5. Drizzle a bit of olive oli on top with a touch of salt and pepper.

6. Serve and add a couple of dollops of creme fraiche if desired.

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Happy Shrove Tuesday! Sweetcorn Pancakes with Crème Fraîche and Nutmeg Recipe

Sweetcorn Pancake

Have you eaten pancakes today? If pancakes are ever on a menu I dive in. I love them with a simple squeeze of lemon and shaking of sugar to dripping with a melting nutella centre or savoury with goats cheese and tomatoes. Despite being Shrove Tuesday I haven’t actually eaten any today but I made these pancakes with sweetcorn in the mixture recently. I love how versatile pancake mixture is. You can add anything from mashed banana to crushed nuts and eat them with anything too. The possibilities are endless! So, the other day I thought I would make a pancake a little bit like a sweetcorn fritter or patty.

Takes 10 mins to prepare/ 15 to cook/ makes 2 large or 4 small pancakes

What you need:

2 eggs

100ml milk

50g wholewheat flour

A pinch of salt and pepper

200g sweetcorn

A knob of butter

A few dollops of creme fraiche

Freshly ground nutmeg

What you need to do:

1. If you are using frozen sweetcorn cook it for 3 minutes in boiling water.

2. Beat the eggs in a large jug or bowl, add the milk, salt and pepper, a bit of freshly grated nutmeg and stir.

3. Add the flour and stir in well with a fork or a whisk, then add sweetcorn and stir them in well.

4. Put a knob of butter in a frying pan and warm on a medium heat. As it melts, swirl it around so the pan is covered in the butter.

5. Pour or ladle some of the mixture onto the pan. If the sweetcorn is in one pile in the middle gently push them with a fork to spread out more evenly. Cook the pancake for 2 minutes, turn over and cook for two minutes on the other side. Make sure both sides are lightly browned.

6. Remove the pancake once done and repeat with the rest of the mixture.

7. Serve the pancakes in a pile with a dollop of creme fraiche and a sprinkling of freshly grated nutmeg.

You might also like Coquina Squash Pancakes.

Cheese Notes: A Selection from Crumbly and Sticky, to Herby and Guinnessy

A friend gave me a cheesy present for my birthday – a selection of cheeses with a box of the date, hazelnut and sunflower seed toast for cheese by The Fine Cheese Co. The cheeses were delicious and varied and so pretty – just look at those colours and textures! My favourite had to be the Sage Derby, which has been made for a good couple of centuries, as it had a very distinct and delicious sage flavour unlike the Guinness cheddar which was good yet I wouldn’t have imagined that there was Guinness in it. I believe this cheese is known as Plain Porter which combines vintage cheddar with Guinness creating its beautiful mottled look. It looked suspiciously like salame al cioccolato but was definitely a cheese! The Windsor Red is a mild cheddar which gets its vibrant colouring from a dash of wine in the cheese making process, it was very creamy like the Cheddar Truckle. This one had dashes of port and brandy in it. I always enjoy Taleggio, from Northern Italy, and this piece was particularly creamy and sticky. The Cabochon with its beautiful peppery rind was dry and crumbly and tasted like goat’s cheese so probably is made from goat’s milk.  I’m not sure that the spelling was correct on the Sweydale label as I couldn’t find anything about it but a lot of info popped up on the web about Swaledale cheese. It was dry and tasted a little like parmesan. All cheeses and toast are from the International Cheese Centre which is in Victoria, Liverpool Street and Marylebone Stations, London.

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Vietnamese Papaya Salad/ Goi Bo Hoi An

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I spent New Year’s Eve enjoying an Asian themed pot luck dinner with a great group of friends. I love pot luck dinners as you get to try many dishes at once thus satisfying that urge when faced with a menu packed with many scrumptious sounding dishes to order it all! We started with a papaya salad that a friend had learnt at a cookery school on a trip to Vietnam last year. It was so delicious that I could have eaten it all night! But of course the other dishes were great too: peanut, chilli and lime thick sauce; chicken and lemongrass curry and chicken, coriander and coconut curry.

In the papaya salad the ingredients are all raw and the combination of flavours and textures is fresh, fruity, juicy, crunchy, sharp and zingy all at once! What could beat that? Answers in the comments section please!

The original recipe from the cookery school my friend went to calls for beef, onions and shallots but she omitted these at New Year and it was scrumptious as is so I have written the school’s recipe here but without the above mentioned ingredients. However she included carrots so I have added these.

Serves 6 // Takes 30 mins

What you need:

For the salad –

150g lettuce

150g green/ yellow papaya (grated)

150g tomatoes – seeds removed and cut into thin strips

150g carrot – cut into thin strips

75g cucumber – seeds removed and cut into thin strips

4 fresh red chillies – finely sliced with seeds removed

For the dressing –

Juice of 1 lime

1 tbsp fish sauce

3 tsp brown sugar

1 clove of crushed garlic

For the topping –

2 tbsp peanuts – crushed

75g fresh mint leaves

75g fresh coriander leaves

40g Asian basil

What you need to do:

Like most Asian dishes there are a lot of ingredients that need a lot of laborious slicing but it is well worth it.

All you need to do is prepare the salad ingredients as listed above, mix the dressing ingredients, toss the salad in it in a bowl and sprinkle the topping over it.

You can find information on the cookery school here. Thanks for the delicious dish and recipe Isa!

      

      

Find more Asian recipes on Conker and Indigo here and here.

Sweetcorn Soup

My head always pops up like a meerkat on alert when I hear of or see sweetcorn soup on a menu. I lived in Hong Kong as a child and sweetcorn soup was one of my favourite dishes. On the soup note, on a recent visit to Moro, Exmouth Market EC1R, I had a ridiculously good fava bean soup. Whereas the sweetcorn soup of my childhood was a thininsh one with bits of sweetcorn in it the fava bean soup was of a thick purée like consistency. I wondered if I could make a sweetcorn soup with a similar consistency. The result is certainly thicker (I added cannellini beans to contribute to the texture and add a slightly meaty hint) but not smooth as sweetcorn by nature is a bit bitty rather than the smooth squishy texture of cannellini beans – elegantly put. I think if you have a really good blender it would become more smooth.

Takes 5 mins to prepare // 20 mins to cook // Serves 2

What you need:

Half a white onion

50g butter

500ml boiling water

1 vegetable stock cube or 2 teaspoons of stock powder

50g cannellini beans

300g frozen sweetcorn

4 dessert spoons sour cream

Dried chilli flakes

What you need to do:

1. Chop the white onion into small pieces.

2. Put half the butter in a small pan, add the onions and soften them at a low heat.

3. Boil a kettle and pour 500ml of the boiling water into a jug with the crumbled stock cube. Stir then add to the softened onions.

4. Turn the heat up a little and add the frozen sweetcorn and cannellini beans (I prefer using frozen to tinned sweetcorn as the kernels remain plump and hard).

5. Simmer for about 6 minutes. Take off the heat and pour the sweetcorn and beans with a bit of the stock into a food processor and blitz for 30 seconds.

6. Return the blitzed corn and beans to the pan, add the remaining butter, a dollop of sour cream,  stir and continue cooking for about 3 minutes.

7. Turn off the heat and ladle the soup into bowls. Add a drizzle of sour cream on top and a sprinkling of dried chilli flakes.

Speaking of corn there is a very interesting section in Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma about just how much corn is present in our lives without even eating it. It’s made into corn syrup which, other than being present in many foods such as soft drinks and even bread, is used to create the glossy sheen on the covers of magazines. If you are interested in where our food comes from and how the food industry has changed our diets this is a very interesting and revealing read.

Hot Udon at Koya, Soho

    

Last night I went to Koya, 49 Frith Street W1D, for dinner with a friend. It’s a popular Soho noodle place with snaking queues outside the door even on a Monday night. As soon as I walked in I could understand its popularity, it smelled amazing! We sat at the back at a bar right by the open kitchen so could see everything being chopped and cooked. The menu is mainly of dishes of the thick but light udon noodle. This special noodle originates from the Sanuki region in Japan and is often eaten with simply a few drops of soy sauce. Koya’s menu also had some variations of miso soup such as mushroom and walnut which I found rather tempting but I opted for the salmon tempura hot udon and was thrilled to see a side of tempura on the menu so ordered that to sprinkle on my dish. My friend had the mackerel and green leaves hot udon and was very satisfied with her choice. I will definitely be heading back soon.

Koya is open every day and does not take bookings but is worth the wait.

Secret Vegetable and Herb Garden

Someone who wasn’t invited for dinner stopped by for a clandestine snack.

Perhaps I still have Olympics on the brain but I think these plants look like they are raising their arms in victory after winning a race!

I live in the Islington area of London which is a pretty affluent area full of great restaurants, some of the best furniture shops in town, Camden Passage which is a hot spot for antiques, and Regents Canal. It has its fair share of yummy mummies but hasn’t quite reached Nappy Valley status. I love it. However, it used to have a bit of a rough reputation. There was an estate very close to my home which caused a lot of problems for the local community, so much so that a cab driver dropping me home recently asked if I had problems with this specific estate as he certainly had heard about its rough reputation. I hadn’t really been aware. During this shady patch a community association was formed to clean up the area and rid the reputation it had unfortunately obtained. The local square which used to have the debris of boozy and probably druggy activities was cleaned up, new flowers were planted, borders were tended to and a herb and vegetable garden was planted. This garden is for anyone who is a resident to help themselves to – such a great idea. Of course I’m not going to tell you where it is though. I want the chives all for myself!! Miaow!

Also, I love (said with a lot of oomph) taking photos of plants hence the multiple photos of cavolo nero – its bubbly yet strong surface is a structure to admire, don’t you think?! I once made a vegetable arrangement from them which I posted several years ago here.