Mélange Salad

This recipe fills me with joy. Simple and rustic, yet so beautifully elegant, filling, nutritious and satisfying at the same time. It has its roots in France and brings out the best of ‘whatever you have available’. You could call it a spin on the classic Salade Niçoise or Provençal, or even a Mesclun.. it all depends what you have at your fingertips and how you’re feeling. I call it a Melange, a beautiful medley; an array of colours and a variety of shapes and textures.

Jamie brought us a simple green salad with lemon dressing, and this is my twist for the Food Revolution.

These are the basic ingredients that never fail to put a smile on my face:

  • Green beans, blanched
  • Egg, boiled and halved
  • Grated anything: carrot, turnip, beetroot, cheese
  • Leaves – I like baby gem, lambs lettuce or romaine
  • Finely sliced onion, red or white
  • Radish, sliced
  • Fresh herbs
  • Cucumber, sliced
  • Tomato, sliced
  • Why not pop a few croutons on – you can’t be perfect all the time..

It’s all about variety. Now plate up and dress just before serving.

Dressing

Three parts oil to one part acid is perfect. Try this one on for size:

(for 1 person)

  • 60ml Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Tsp Dijon Mustard
  • 20ml White Wine Vinegar
  • Salt & Pepper

My preferred method is to pop it all in a jam jar and give it a good old shake.

HipstamaticPhoto-487974177.805937

Risotto for Little M

Little M’s Legacy supports Severn Freewheelers (Blood Bikes) and Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research charities. Madison, a colleague’s granddaughter, was just 2 years old when she tragically lost her fight against Leukaemia.

My contribution to Little M’s Legacy was to donate a risotto cooking class and dinner to their charity auction. I hope to also raise awareness; there’s fantastic work being done out there to support present-day treatments, and incredible research to help combat blood cancer in the future.

I want to say a big thank you to the generous couple with the winning bid, I hope you enjoyed your dining experience!

Here’s my recipe for making a beautiful Pea & Mint Risotto for future reference:

Risotto ingredients

 

Ingredients:

(4 people)

  • 60g Butter
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 stick Celery, finely diced
  • 1 Onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves Garlic, finely diced
  • 400g Risotto rice (Arborio, Carnaroli or Vialone Nano)
  • 1 glass White Wine – optional
  • 1.5L Stock (Chicken or Vegetable), hot
  • 100g Peas (fresh or frozen)
  • Fresh Mint, small bunch, finely sliced
  • 100g Parmesan, finely grated, plus extra for garnish
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Lemon
  • Pangrattato (crispy breadcrumbs) – optional
  • Pea shoots/micro herbs/rocket – optional

Method:

I’m going to start by stressing that making a good risotto is all about understanding the look, feel and taste as you cook it; recipes are merely guides and risotto is probably the exemplar of that fact.

Generally, you can make a basic white risotto (risotto bianco) and then flavour it in numerous ways towards the end. The quality of your stock will make a big difference to this recipe.

Using the above ingredients list as your guide, start by gently sweating down your ‘Soffritto’ of finely diced onion, celery and garlic over a low heat for a few minutes with 30g of butter and a swig of olive oil. The vegetables want to be softened, but not coloured.

Add the rice and stir it around for a few minutes until all of the grains are nicely coated and starting to turn translucent.

Add the wine, increase the heat to medium and allow it to cook away before adding your first ladle of hot stock.

As each ladleful of stock is absorbed by the rice, add another, stirring as you go to help the grains cook evenly and release their starch.

Notice how the rice moves in the pan when you stir it and the volume increases. After you’ve added about two thirds of your stock (about 20 minutes), taste the rice; you want the rice to still have some bite to it but not be chalky. Your judgement is critical from this point on, so keep tasting a little rice every few minutes and observing how it looks and moves. You may not use all the stock, and if you run out, just add a little hot water.

You don’t want to overcook the peas, so add them and the fresh mint just before the rice is ready. Once you’re happy with the texture, stir in the Parmesan cheese and 30g of butter. Place a lid over the pan, take it off the heat and allow your risotto to rest for a few minutes.

Serve your risotto with your favourite flourishes such as a sprinkle of Pangrattato, shavings of Parmesan, a squeeze of lemon, twists of Black Pepper, a drizzle of Olive Oil, Fresh Pea shoots, Rocket or Micro Herbs etc.

This dish would also work wonderfully adorned with a little crispy bacon or Pancetta.

Pea & Mint Risotto

I know what I’m having for dinner..

Sprouting

Intrigued? I was.

So… what are we actually talking about here, and why would you want to bother with it?

Basically, it’s just germinating seeds so that they become tiny plants. It really is that straight forward.

And you’d want to do this because…..?

Nutritional value.

I want to explain this in the most basic of terms if I can, rather than bore you with the science:

Seeds, grains and legumes are packed with nutrients and are fantastically good to eat. Some of the nutritional value is locked away inside, but the sprouting process increases vitamin content and releases all that goodness for you to digest.

#science (It’s all about neutralising enzyme inhibitors and anti-nutrients such as Phytic acid which binds to the minerals). Google it.

Not sure about it? Have you ever eaten Cress? Delicious isn’t it! Bean Sprouts; they’re just sprouted Mung beans. Growing food indoors without the need for soil – genius. 

Most importantly for me, it’s lots of fun for the kids and teaches them about where food comes from. There’s a certain magic about watching a tiny seed develop and grow. It seems almost unbelievable how much energy is stored in each little seed, just waiting, dormant until the right conditions come along and rekindle life.

Sprouting couldn’t be easier; pop them in a jar, soak them overnight and then rinse them twice a day. Specialist kit makes life even easier and is very reasonably priced. I used a three-tiered system that allows me to rotate ‘planting’ and guarantee a constant supply with minimal effort.

3-tier sprouting system

3-tier watering system

Just pour water into the top and it irrigates every layer.

I even sprouted fenugreek that had been sat in my spice rack for, well, who knows how long. Amazing! All they need is a good soaking to kick-start them back into action. Nature truly is remarkable.


sprouting seeds

A. Vogel are a leading name in the world of sprouting. They grow their seeds organically and don’t irradiate them. Their global support for Jamie’s Food Foundation and the Food Revolution has been truly wonderful, and we’ve been lucky enough in the UK to have recently received donations of sprouting jars and seeds for many of our Ambassadors to take into schools. I can’t wait for term to start again so that I can hear all about the great work that’s going on around the country.

A.Vogel Biosnacky seeds

I’ve tried all sorts and my personal favourite is Alfalfa. It has wonderfully clean, delicate and delicious taste and works with so many dishes.

sprouting alfalfa

To me, there’s nothing like in a simple cheese and sprouted seed sandwich. Heaven.

classic cheese sandwich

ploughman's with sprouted seeds

Pep up your Ploughman’s lunch

salad with sprouted seeds

Jazz up your salad

pasta with sprouted seeds

Sprouted seeds work with so many dishes

seeds ready to sprout     sprouted alfalfa

Have fun!

Wok Fried Eggs

Everyone should have a version of Kylie Kwong’s ‘Mrs Jang’s Home-Style Fried Eggs’ in their repertoire. I’ve been in love with these eggs since discovering them a few of years back; they never fail to satisfy (especially if you need a morning pick-me-up). They sit firmly in my cookbook of emergency medicine for the soul. Crispy, hot, silky, tangy, soft, sweet, spicy, INTERESTING !!!

version 1 of mrs Jang's eggs

The Western world would partner this dish with some form of toast, but I assure you it just wouldn’t work. If anything, I guess you could add rice to make it into a wholesome supper instead. Beautifully appealing, this attractive dish allows you to bring out your artistic flare on the plate and leaves you suitably satisfied without the regrettable, uncomfortable bloating of a traditional British ‘fry-up’. At first glance you ponder what you’re going to eat afterwards, but it’s deceptively filling.

I say ‘version’ as I don’t think I’ve ever made them the same twice, and generally they’re based on whatever I have to hand at the time.

The basic concept is to deep-fry a couple of eggs and top them with an array of complimentary yet contrasting embellishments.

v2 of wok fried eggs

How attractive is this dish? Look at the colours!

The fundamentals are as follows, but beyond that is down to you – mix it up and find your own balance; my preferred version entails shallow-frying and some serious spicing.

Ingredients (per serving):

  • 2 large free-range eggs – duck eggs if you have them
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
  • 1 spring onions (scallions), finely sliced
  • 1 red chilli, finely sliced
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp Furikake (Japanese sesame seed and seaweed seasoning)
  • vegetable oil

Method:

Heat at least 1cm depth of oil in a high-sided frying pan or wok until it’s shimmering hot, but not smoking. Crack the eggs in and allow them to bubble up and go crispy. The eggs may need basting with hot oil to cook the top evenly, but you want to ensure that the yolks remain soft. Remove with a slotted spoon to allow the excess oil to drain. Plate and garnish decoratively with your choice of accompaniments.

Variations could include any kind of hot sauce like tobasco, coriander leaves, ground white pepper, chives, mango chutney, crispy fried onions, even lime pickle. Personally, I like it to be hot hot hot.

You want the outcome to taste fresh and clean, have balance, and leave you wanting more yet deciding you don’t need it.

kylie kwong style eggs

Mrs Jang's home style fried eggs

another version of wok fried eggs

I am mortified that we never got to visit Kylie’s Sydney restaurant whilst living in Australia – I’ve heard great things about Billy Kwong Chinese Eating House, and if this dish is anything to go by, it’s more than worth a look.

The original recipe features in Kylie’s 2007 book ‘Recipes and Stories‘. 

Parmigiana Melanzane

This is a classic construction dish. What I mean is, there isn’t a great deal to it – it’s just about putting down layers and bunging it in the oven.

Like many other layered, oven baked dishes, you can make it ahead. Not only that, I think that they actually work better if you make and re-heat them as the resting period gives it the chance to settle and firm-up so that the layers almost fuse together. It’s so disappointing to cut a lovingly made lasagne or parmigiana at the table, only to see the layers slide apart leaving a sloppy mass on the plates.

Ingredients:

Serves 4

  • 3 aubergines
  • Basil, fresh
  • 250g mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • 100g parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • 1 can tomatoes (400g)
  • 1 white onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Method:

Cut the aubergines lengthways into slices about 1cm thick. Griddle or barbecue them in batches and then set them aside. You want to have nice charred lines on them to maximise flavour.

For the sauce, fry the onion and garlic in olive oil until softened and then add the tomatoes. Feel free to use fresh if you have them. Add oregano and then cook it until the sauce has thickened. Season and then add the vinegar to balance the sweetness and add the all-important little twang.

In a roughly 20cm x 20cm ovenproof dish, spread a thin layer of the sauce. Top this with a layer of griddled aubergine, scatter with a few fresh basil leaves and dot with slices of mozzarella. Repeat the layers and then finish with sauce and top with parmesan. One thing I forgot to do last time was to sprinkle a few breadcrumbs or pangrattata over the top to give it a little crunch.

Bake it in the oven at 180°C for around 30 minutes.

Red wine, green salad and bread (garlic bread perhaps..?)

Aubergine bake

The prettiest spin I’ve seen on this dish was a starter at a restaurant in London with a dear friend many years ago. The Parmigiana was constructed to order, with the aubergine cut into rounds and neatly stacked high on the plate.

Here’s an alternative way to serve it:

Eggplant Parmigiana

As with all my recipes, they are merely guides. Relax, mix it up, experiment and enjoy!