Stop. Start. But, start with a tradition: a lentil dish on the menu for the first post of the year. Of course it had to be a Yotam Ottolengi’s . Quick, easy and totally delicious, this is a hearty dish that will warm you to the soul in a cold winter day.
Crushed puy lentils with tahini and cumin (adapted from Yotam Ottolengi’s column in The Guardian)
- 200g puy lentils
- 30g unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to finish
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 3 medium tomatoes, cut into 1cm dice
- 25g coriander leaves, chopped
- 4 tbsp tahini paste
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- Salt and black pepper
- ½ small red onion, peeled and sliced very thin
- 2 hard-boiled eggs, quartered
Cook the lentils according to the instructions on the packet,until completely cooked. Then drain and set aside.
Put the butter and oil in a large frying pan and place on a medium-high heat. Once the butter melts, add the garlic and cumin, and cook for a minute. Add the tomatoes, 20g of coriander and the cooked lentils. Cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes,
Add the tahini, lemon juice, 70ml of water, a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper. Turn down the heat to medium and cook gently, stirring, for a few minutes more, until hot and thickened. Roughly mash the lentils with a potato masher, so that some are broken up and you get a thick, porridge consistency. Serve warm with the hard-boiled eggs alongside.
This is supposed to be Northern China style scrambled eggs. Even though
mobile calorie intake units friends were happy to eat it away, I cannot help but feel I didn’t make justice to the original Bill Granger’s recipe. I still blame the wok (or lack of it thereof) for a somehow odd texture. Mind you, this is far to be a total cooking failure. As heard over and over again – it all comes down to flavour… And indeed it was delicious. It is the satisfying, filling and healthy breakfast everyone is sort of expecting in a festive days. Or any other day, for that matter…
- 6 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon Szechuan pepper ground with a mortar and pestle together with one teaspoon of salt
- salt and black pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons light flavoured oil
- 6 spring onions, finely chopped
- 1 small garlic clove, crushed
- 3 medium tomatoes, cut into chunks
- 1 teaspoon sugar
Start to making the Szechuan salt, by crushing the the peppers with a mortar and pestle together with a teaspoon of salt.
Whisk the eggs with a pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper until smooth.
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a non-stick wok over medium-high heat. Add the egg mixture and swirl the pan on the heat for 30 seconds, or until browned around the edges, but still liquid in the center. Transfer to a large bowl.
Heat the remaining oil in the wok. Add the spring onion and the garlic. Stir fry for 30 seconds or until softened. Add the tomatoes and the sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, unit softened but still whole. Return the eggs to the wok and fold gently until set. Remove from the heat and leave to rest for a few seconds.
Sprinkle with the Szechuan salt. Serve with white boiled rice and green leafy vegetables.
Seriously, no need to buy special spices mix in expensive packages with a kilometer long list of ingredients. Making guacamole is as easy as this…
Guacamole with tortilla chips (adapted from Ferran Adrià’s The Family Meal)
Ingredients (for 6)
- 2 ripe tomatos, peeled and diced
- 1 small onion finely chopped
- 3 avocados
- 1 onion very finely diced
- 4 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh coriander
- 4 tablespoons of olive oil
- Salta and pepper to taste
- Tortilla chips
Start by peeling the tomatoes. Put the tomatoes in boiling water and leave for about 10 min. Put them in iced water to quickly cool them down. Pull the skin out of the tomatoes with a small knife. Dice them into very small cubes.
Finely chop the onion.
Pick the leafs out of the coriander stalks and chop them very.
Cut the avocados in half and remove the stones. Remove the flesh with a spoon. Put them in a bowl in mash them with a fork until you have a coarse paste.
Add the tomato, onion and coriander to the avocado paste and mix everything with a spoon until incorporated into the mix.
Finally, add the lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.
Serve with the tortilla chips.
- 3 bleached garlic cloves, peeled
- 2 onions peeled and chopped in big chunks
- 60g cucumber peeled and chopped in big chunks
- 75g red bell peppers seeded and sliced
- 1Kg rip red tomatoes, chopped in big chunks
- 30g of white rustic bread, without crust, torn into pieces
- 120ml cup water
- 6 tablespoons of olive oil, plus extra to serve
- 2 tbsp sherry vinegar
First, peel the garlic cloves and drop in small saucepan with cold water. Bring the water to a boil. When the water begins to boil, take out the garlic out of the water and put into a bowl of ice water to quickly cool it. Repeat twice, always starting with cold water.
Peel and cut the vegetables into large chunks and put them into a large bowl. Add the tomatoes into large wedges and put in a bowl with the onions, cucumbers, and bell peppers. Add the bread, torn into pieces, then pour over the water. Process everything together using a hand-held blender, about 5 min until is well combined. Add the olive oil, sherry vinegar, salt and pepper and blend the soup until smooth and creamy. Chill in the fridge before serving (at least 2 hours). Serve the gazpacho with a plus an extra drizzle of olive oil. If you want, you can add cured ham, finely chopped egg, tuna, croutons, chopped pepper…..
If you had lived in Zurich for long enough, you will have quickly learnt that if the sun is out, you have to leave home and in enjoy it while it is there. God only knows when you will be able to enjoy again walking down the street without having to resort to several layers of clothing. It could be next day, but it can also be in a week, in a month or next year (if ever!). This Summer, it was even more extreme than usual. After a few weeks of sheer desperation, we found ourselves enjoying each quasi-summer day like it was the last one. And, many times it seemed like that indeed it was, and that we all would be condemned to an existence plagued with cashmere cardigans, heavy scarfs and thick stockings…. So, in a nutshell – there was not really a lot of opportunities for cool dishes. Except, maybe this one, from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty. An italian classic, converted into a ubiquitous dish:tomato-mozzarella-basil dictatorship. But, this one has a twist – roasted fennel seeds – which makes it outstanding. Not the usual watered stuff you get so often here in Zurich…
Marinated mozzarella and tomato (adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty)
For the salad
- 250g mozzarella (use buffalo mozzarella for best results)
- 4 ripe tomatoes, cut in wedges
For the marinade
- 1/2 tablespoon of crushed roasted fennel seeds
- grated zest of 1 lemon
- 15 basil leafs shredded
- 2 tablespoons of chopped oregano
- olive oil to taste (or a mix 1:1 of olive oil and rapeseed oil)
- 1 garlic clove crushed
- salt and pepper to taste
For the marinade
First, put the fennel seeds in a small frying pan and heat until they start to pop. Drop them in a mortar and grind them until you have a chunky powder.
Combine all the marinade ingredients in a small bowl and mix well. Drop in the shredded mozzarella (shred the cheese and the basil with your hands, for an extra touch of rusticity).
Set aside for a about 20min
For the salad
In a plate, put the marinated cheese and the tomatoes side by side. Drizzle with a bit more olive oil, if necessary and serve.
Fly-in-fly-out to Barcelona… A little less than 11 hours in town, which allowed to fit in enough time to do my thing, touch the Mediterranean and buy proper ham at the airport free shop. And, by proper ham, I mean jamón ibérico de bellota [acorn Iberian ham], the dark red meat marbled with veins of fat which only the free range black Iberian pigs who feast on acorns can have. It is only the finest of cured hams and is considered one of the best delicacies in the world. Well, let’s make it clear – it actually is. I have seen otherwise serious gown up almost shed a tear when they tasted. As M. eloquently put it “the kind of thing that makes worthwhile years of studying just to be able to afford it”. And, if I may add, instrumental to cope with endless hours of corporate drama.
In any case, once the precious ham was acquired, carefully transported into Switzerland and put to rest in the fridge, I still had to figure out how to serve it. It was not just a question of dropping it in a hot plate… This ham deserved the best ingredient to compliment its nutty rich flavor and bring the best out of it. Since I had just been in Barcelona, it seemed totally logical to serve it with tomato bread, a combination of flavors made in heaven, known in Catalonia as pa amb tomàquet. It is said to be the most popular dish of their cuisine, and you may find different versions and lines of thought. Toasted or fresh bread? Garlic, or no garlic? Rub the tomato or use a pre-made mixture? Grate the tomato or puree it? I just avoided all the metaphysical question by resorting to my ex-Spanish Mother-in-Law strong recommendations.
Iberian ham and tomato bread (pa amb tomàquet amb pernil, Pan con tomate y jamón)
- Finely sliced cured ham
- 1 garlic teeth, peeled and cut in half
- Slices of toasted rustic bread
- Tomatoes (I used cherry tomatoes, as they taste of something. When in Spain, I would have probably used regular grape tomatoes.
- Olive oil to taste
1. Grate the tomatoes into a bowl.
1. Toast the bread for a few minutes, until is warm and slightly crusty
2. Rub with the half garlic.
4. Drizzle with olive oil
5.Spread the grated tomato paste to taste
6. Put the ham slices on top
A few weeks ago, I posted the
watered down light version of this dish. A dinner party loosely inspired in Spanish cuisine prompted me to do the actual thing, with all its condiments, red wine and olive oil. Mind you, for extra slow-home-made-cooking points, the meatballs were rolled by hand with all love and care by T. and myself. It seemed like a lot of food, but at the end all it was left was the meatballs used for this snapshot. And, I had to hide it in a dark corner of my fridge.
Meatballs in rich tomato sauce (adapted from Carlos Horrillo and Patrick Morcas’ Tapas: Simple Flavours, Striking Combinations)
For the meatballs
- 650g of minced pork and beef
- 2 pinches of very finely chopped fresh rosemary, thyme, mint, basil, tarragon, coriander and oregano.
- 1large egg
- small yellow onion, finely diced
- 1 red chili, finely chopped (or to taste)
- 300g fresh breadcrumbs
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Enough olive oil to coat the baking tray
For the tomato sauce
- Olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion finely chopped
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and finely sliced
- 1 stick celery, finely diced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 70mL ruby Port
- 250mL red wine
- 3 cans of 400g-chopped plum tomatoes
- 10 fresh basil leaves
- 2 bay leaves
1. Preheat the oven to 180 oC.
2. Put all the meatball ingredients in a large bowl, and season all the salt and pepper. Combine with your hands until you have a consistent mixture which allows you to form the meatball.
3. Start rolling the meatballs with your hands.
4. Put a generous amount of olive oil in baking tray
5. Drop in the meatball, stirring them to coat them evenly.
6. Put the tray in the oven for 30min, or until the meatballs are all golden brown. Do not forget to stir them occasionally to cook them in all directions.
7.While waiting for the meatball, start the tomato sauce. Place a large, deep sided saucepan on a low heat and pour in enough olive oil to coat the bottom. Add the sliced vegetables and season with salt and pepper. Fry gently until they are soft and start to color.
8. Poor in both wines, and bring to boil.
9.When the wine is boiling and has reduced to half the volume, drop in the tomatoes. Season again, and bring to boil, stirring at all times.
10. Turn the heat to low and let simmer for about 15min.
11. Once the meatballs are cooked, fold them in the tomato sauce. Let it simmer for 10min more. (in reality, what I did was to do the tomato sauce and the meatballs in advance. On the day of the party, I combined them both while cold. Then, I slowly warm them. It actually tastes better, as the flavors combine and develop).
Another MaMafalda Pinto Leite’s Cozinha Para Quem Não Tem Tempo [Cooking for those who have no time]. It is quick, easy and a spectacular combination of flavors. I was a bit too slow, but the author probably only set up the alarm clock once she got all the ingredients prepared. Still, it is worthwhile doing it.
Fish wrapped in ham with crushed peas and warm tomatoes
- 4 rosemary springs
- 4 white fish firm fillets (I used fresh cod)
- 4 prosciutto or jamón slices
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 leek cut in slices (only the white parts)
- 2 tomatoes finely chopped
- 2 cups of frozen peas
- 1/2 of vegetable or chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons chopped minth
- Salt and pepper to taste
Put the rosemary springs on top of each fish fillet. Pepper it. Wrap each fillet with one ham slice.
Heat half the olive oil in a frying pan in medium-high heat. When it is hot, put the fish in, and cook for 4 minutes or until it is done. Transfer to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm. Fold the tomato into the same frying pan and cook for about 1 minute or until it is warm.
In the meanwhile, heat the other half of the olive oil in a medium size sauce pan. When it is pipping hot, fold in the sliced leeks and sauté until they are soft. Poor in the stock and let it boil. Then, add the peas and bring to boil for about 6min. When ready, add the mint, salt and pepper to taste. Crush the peas.
Serve the fish together with the tomato and the crushed peas.
Comfort food for a bitterly cold day… For the this dish, I pulled recipes from 2 different books. The meatballs are a modified version of Carlos Horrillo and Patrick Morcas‘ take. The tomato sauce is the famous tomatada by David Leite I use ever so often.
Spaghetti and meatballs in a tomato sauce with basil
Ingredients for the meatballs
- 2 yellow onions, chopped
- 500g ground beef and pork
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1 teaspoon dried persil
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- Salt and pepper freshly ground
- Olive oil to taste
- Flour as needed
Ingredients for the tomato sauce
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil
- 2 medium yellow onions cut in half lengthwise and sliced into thin half moons
- 2 springs fresh flat leaf parsley
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 garlic gloves minced
- 1 kg very ripped tomatoes, seeded and chopped* (or a couple of canned tomato, preferably san marzano, chopped, juices reserved).
- 2 to 3 tablespoons of double concentrated tomato paste, to taste
- 1 small fresh medium red hot chilli pepper, such as Serrano, stemmed, seeded and chopped (it optional. Sometimes, I just add a few drops of piri piri sauce).
- Freshly grounded salt and black pepper to taste.
- Fresh basil
- Boiling water
- A little bit of olive oil
Heat the stove the 190 oC (=375 oF).
Place a large heavy base, non stick frying pan on a low heat with 2 dashes of olive oil. Add the sliced onions, a pinch of salt and pepper then sauté gently until soft and tender. When it is done add the minced garlic and let it fry for a 1 minute more. Set aside to cool.
In a bowl combine the meat with the herbs, the eggs and the caramelised onion. Once the mix has aggregated, roll the meatballs with your hands. Roll them in flour so all the surface is coated.
Place a large heavy base, non stick frying pan on a low heat with 2 dashes of olive oil. Gently brown the meatballs, about 5min, adding more olive oil if needed. Reserve the frying pan.
Place the meatballs in a baking tray coated with olive oil and put it in the stove for about 30min or until they feel solid.
In the meanwhile, start the tomato sauce. Use the frying where you browned the meatball. Add more oil if necessary, and heat the oil until it shimmers. Add the onions, parsley and bay leaf and cook until nicely golden, about 15min. Add the garlic and cook for 1 min more.
Turn the heat to medium low, stir in the tomatoes and their juices, the tomato paste and chilli pepper, if using. Bring to a simmer, cook, lid ajar, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down, about 30min.
Once the tomato sauce is done and the meatballs are out of the stove, you will need to combine both. Just drop gently the meatball in the frying pan, making sure the surfaces are coated. Let it simmer gently for about 20min.
In the meanwhile, boil spaghetti. Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil. If cooking dry spaghetti, use a mimimum of 500ml of water for each 100g. of dry spaghetti. Once the water is boiling, you will need to add the spaghetti. Reduce the heat so that the water is on a slow boil. Let it cook as said in the package. When ready, drain and add some olive oil to avoid sticking.
On a plate, put the spaghetti and on top the meatballs and the tomato sauce. Add a basil leaf for decoration and extra flavor.
Another Spanish classic… Very much like the tortilla de patatas [potato omelette], there are many versions and interpretations. And, as you might guess from previous posts, the best empanada is going to be the one cooked by the proverbial Mother-in-Law… Actually, at some point, I had scribbled down a recipe that had been in someone’s family for generations. But hélas!, I lost it during one of my many moves. I ended up to use the one Carlos Horrillo and Patrick Morcas have on their Tapas: Simple Flavours, Striking Combinations book.
All in all, it is not exactly easy to get this dish right. The filling is relatively straightforward, but the pastry requires a certain level of skill and commitment. Although this might sound like scratching a chalkboard with nails to some, I ended up using pre made pastry, to avoid any culinary catastrophes… In any case, it is an awesome combination of flavors and textures, which reminds me of home and many bohemian nights out.
Savory tuna parcels (empanadillas de atún)
For the filling
- Olive oil
- 2 medium onions finely sliced
- 1 large red pepper, finely chopped
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- 225g tomatoes coarsely chopped
- 350g of good quality tuna (in olive oil), drained
- 8-10 good quality black 0lives, stones removed
- Small pinch of saffron strands. soaked in 2 tablespoon hot water
For the pastry
- pack of ready rolled puff pastry
- 1 beaten egg
Place a large heavy base, non stock frying pan (or wok) on a low heat with 8 dashes of olive oil. Add the sliced onions and pepper, a pinch of salt and pepper then sauté gently until soft and tender.
Add the chopped tomatoes and give everything a good stir, then simmer gently until all the ingredients have reduced to a thick sauce.
Add the tuna, olives, saffron and another pinch of salt and pepper, Summer everything together, stirring regularly until you have a tick, rich sauce. Set aside to cool, and then refrigerate for 2 hours.
Preheat your oven to 200oC/400oC/gas mark 6
Lightly flour your work surface and place the rolled puff pastry on top. Using a sharp knife, cut the pastry into 12cm squares and arrange them on several greased baking sheets. You will need 8-12, depending on how many people you are going to serve. Gauge it so you have enough pastry to wrap the filling. If the pastry is too thin the parcel will burst and all the ingredients will spill out. Some spillage is fine. If the pastry is too thick, it will not allow the flavours of the filling to come through.
Put a dollop of the tuna mixture, a ball shape roughly 5-6cm, in the middle of the square, and then dab the edges of the suare with eaten egg, Bring up the corners of the pastry to the centre and press them together to form a peak at the top. Glaze the tops with beaten egg, and then in the oven for 20min, or until golden brown. Serve hot, warm or cold.
Alternatively, you can put the pastry in the a rectangular or square baking tray, allowing the wall to be coated about 5cm. Put the tuna mixture on it, and put another sheet of pastry on top. Close the edges, sealling with beaten egg. Glaze the top with beaten egg.