French Onion Soup

For this year’s Food Revolution Day, Jamie Oliver shared ‘10 recipes to save your life‘ – learn how to master these dishes and you can successfully cook nutritious food for yourself and your family for the rest of your life.

As Ambassadors for the revolution, we’re all about inspiring others, sharing skills and knowledge, and helping people to build confidence in the kitchen.

My alternative to Jamie’s Minestrone Soup is the one and only French Onion Soup. It’s a fantastic example of how you can transform a humble ingredient by concentrating the flavour. You have a couple of options here: make a relatively quick and acceptable soup, or show it the love, give it the time and attention it deserves, and make a beautifully deep, complex and truly sensational bowl of joy.

brown onions

Ingredients:

  • 500g brown onions
  • 50g butter
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 glass white wine
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • Splash of cognac or brandy (optional)
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 1.5 litres beef stock
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • 150g Gruyere cheese
  • ½ baguette

 

Method:

Finely slice the onions and sweat them in a pan on a very low heat with the butter, sugar and a little olive oil for about an hour until beautifully soft, caramelised and almost melting.

sweating onions

Increase the heat, add the garlic and thyme and cook for a few minutes before carefully flambéing with the cognac/brandy if using.

Stir in the flour and cook it out for two of minutes.

Add the wine and let it bubble away and reduce by a third.

Add the beef stock, season and simmer for a further 30 minutes.

Serve the soup with Gruyere-topped croutons – they’re essential.

I like to make the croutons by frying garlic-rubbed slices of baguette in a pan with butter until golden, but you can just toast them or bake them in the oven to dry them out. Pop them onto the soup, grate Gruyere cheese over the top, and slide everything under the grill or into the oven until gorgeously molten.

Enjoy!

Onion Soup

Seabass with Samphire & Lemongrass Butter

Here’s my twist on Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution fish recipe. Using very similar skills to his classic pan-fried salmon and vegetable dish, I’m mixing it up a little and showing how you can create incredible variations in flavour.

If you’re buying whole fish and filleting it yourself, make sure you look out for bright, clear eyes.  The brighter the eyes, the fresher the fish. My children are fascinated by the whole process and we’ve luckily avoided any squeamishness by making it the norm whilst they’re still young.

Samphire is the asparagus of the sea. Delicate, tender, delicious.

I’ve chosen to accompany the fish with Swedish Hasselback potatoes. They’re really easy to make, and I love how this little twist transforms the humble potato to make it super-crispy and delightfully moreish.

The lemongrass butter gives everything a clean and zingy lift. You can make it ahead and store it in the freezer for future use; it’s stunning on charred corn on the cob.

Ingredients:

(serves 2)

  • 2 Seabass fillets
  • 150g Samphire
  • 100g Butter, softened
  • 1 Lemongrass stalk
  • 1cm Ginger
  • 1 Parsely sprig
  • 1 Tbsp Ponzu
  • 6 Small waxy potatoes (you may wish you’d cooked more though…)
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Olive Oil

 

Method:

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

To make the butter, remove the tough outer leaves of the lemongrass and finely slice the core with the parsley leaves. Peel and grate the ginger into a bowl and mix it together thoroughly with the lemongrass, ponzu, butter, parsley and pepper. Tip the butter onto a sheet of greaseproof paper and form it into a log shape. Wrap it up like a Christmas cracker and pop it into the fridge so that it firms up.

The potatoes need to be evenly sliced without cutting all of the way through, so that they fan out when cooked. The more slices, the crispier the results. I use a wooden spoon as a jig to hold the potato in place and stop the blade. You’ll find it easiest with a very sharp, thin bladed knife.

wooden spoon jig

Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a roasting tray with a knob of butter and then carefully add the potatoes, making sure that they’re nicely coated. Roast for about 50 minutes until beautifully golden and crispy.

Slash the skin of your fish. This will help the heat to penetrate the thickest part so that you have evenly cooked fish.

Seabass fillet

Heat a non-stick frying pan and add a little oil just to coat the surface. Season the fish before placing it skin-side down into the pan, pressing it down for the first few seconds to prevent it from curling up. Cook the fish for 3 to 4 minutes without touching it or moving it around. Once the skin is golden and crispy, gently turn it over and cook for a further minute.

seabass

Steam the samphire for just 3 minutes and dress it with a squeeze of lemon juice.

Rock Samphire

Assemble your dish, topping with a slice of the lemongrass butter. Don’t place the butter directly onto the skin as I have done below if you want to keep it nice and crispy.

seabass with samphire and lemongrass butter

As always, recipes are merely guides; mix it up a little, adapt to your tastes and build on the foundations to satisfy your soul. The next time I cook this dish I’m going to focus on the Swedish angle and switch the lemongrass for some form of dill sauce.

 

 

Chilli con Jamie

Yesterday I had the absolute pleasure of cooking for a lovely group of school mums on their annual get-together in The Cotswolds.

A dear friend had asked if I’d like to cater for the event, and together we hatched a plan to use this as an opportunity to raise awareness for the Food Revolution and Elizabeth’s Footprint – [Natalia Spencer is walking the entire 6,000 mile coastline of the UK in aid of Bristol Children’s Hospital following the sudden and tragic loss of her beautiful 5-year-old daughter Elizabeth.] 

So, deep breath, what do you cook for fourteen…?

I needed something hearty, a little bit special, and above all something that wouldn’t be a logistical nightmare given Chipping Campden is a 40 minute drive from Cheltenham.

Delectable and transportable; it’s got to be a slow cooked chilli. It just so happens that I recently acquired a cast iron, 12 litre, Staub Cocotte (dutch oven)..

Let’s not reinvent the wheel here – I know a man who’s nailed this dish, so please do check out Jamie’s tried and tested recipe here: http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/beef-recipes/chilli-con-jamie/

The only tweaks I made were to scale up the quantities to make it go a bit further. I used 3kg of brisket, 5 cans of tomatoes, 750ml fresh coffee and 3 tins of kidney beans etc.

3kg beef brisket

Trimming up the beef takes a little time but once it’s all in the pot you can pretty much sit back and leave it alone for a few hours. If you’re interested, I chose to use a combination of Ancho and Pasilla chillies which were rehydrated in strong coffee.

Ancho and Pasilla chillies

I wrapped a couple of towels around my impractically heavy cast iron pot and carefully stowed my precious cargo in the passenger footwell.

Seeing a rainbow over Chipping Campden as I made my way down the quiet country lanes really made my day. I had to stop the car and take a moment to fully appreciate the world around me, basking in the horizontal early evening sunlight and cherishing every aspect of the quiet, rolling countryside. I wish I could have captured it for you Natalia.

I want to extend a huge, huge thank you to all you lovely ladies for donating a whopping £200 to Elizabeth’s Footprint – I’m so pleased you enjoyed your dinner :o)

Chilli con carne

Harissa Houmous

Love Houmous (or hummus even)?

Fancy a little twist to spice things up?

How about a super-simple Harissa Houmous for a change; my twist on Jamie Oliver’s Simple Houmous recipe

Harissa is the North African equivalent to Gochujang or Sambal Oelek chilli pastes.

Ingredients:

  • 400g tin of Chickpeas
  • 1 tbsp Tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 1 tbsp Harissa Paste
  • 1 Lemon
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil

 

Method:

Rinse and drain the chickpeas in a sieve or colander, and place them in a food processor. Add the tahini and harissa with about 1 tbsp of olive oil. Squeeze in half of the lemon juice, pop the lid on, and blend away.

You may need to scrape down the sides of the bowl and add a touch more oil, water or lemon juice before blending it to a smooth consistency. Always be sure to give it a little taste and adjust to your liking – you shouldn’t need to add any salt as you would with plain houmous, but you may want to adjust how much harissa you add.

Serve with vegetable crudites or sliced pitta breads.

Now, if you fancy having a go at making your own Harissa paste, here’s how.

Harissa Hummus

Superfood Cereal

Jamie Oliver recently published his ’10 recipes to save your life’ – if you can master these simple recipes, you can feed yourself and your family for the rest of your life. We’re bringing you easy twists on each of these recipes to extend your repertoire.

My twist on Jamie’s DIY Oaty Fruity Cereal is to guild it with delectable flourishes that are both stunningly beautiful, and wonderfully nutritious.

The basic cereal is ridiculously easy:

  • 100g dried fruit, such as sultanas, raisins, dried apricots
  • 50g mixed unsalted nuts, such as almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts
  • 50g mixed seeds, such as pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, poppy
  • 400g porridge oats
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

Just roughly chop the nuts and dried fruit, give it all a mix, and serve with milk or natural yoghurt.

Now here’s my list of nutrient rich tweaks that you can pick and choose from to elevate this simple breakfast bowl. The health benefits of superfoods are much debated – above anything, these little treats are both interesting and tasty:

  1. Goldenberries – these are dried Physalis (Physalis peruviana) or as they’re also known, Cape Gooseberries, Ground Cherry or Capuli. High in iron and fibre, they’re both tart and sweet.
  2. Bee Pollen – tiny little pollen pellets that have been packed by worker honeybees!
  3. White Mulberries – (Moras alba) – Delicious dried fruits and a good source of protein, fibre, iron, vitamin C and K.
  4. Blueberries – or ‘star berries’ as the Native Americans called them. Rich in antioxidants such as anthocyanins from their blue colour, they truly are a star of the fruit world.
  5. Cacao Nibs – the basis of chocolate without the dairy or sugar added, these are simply smashed up cacao beans. (Note that Cocoa has been processed further at a higher temperature).
  6. Coconut shavings – containing lauric and caprylic acids, the fruit of the ‘tree of life’ acts as a natural antibiotic.
  7. Goji Berries – also known as Wolfberries, they are dense in minerals and contain selenium, vitamin C, B2 and A, iron and polysaccharides (antioxidant). These berries have been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years.

Give it a mix, add your milk or yoghurt and enjoy the variety!

Winter, my 5-year-old daughter, thoroughly enjoys creating her own “bowl of deliciousness” as she calls it, raiding all the kilner jars and balancing her breakfast just how she likes it.

superfood cereal mix