Pork chop with gnocchi, prosciutto and broad beans

This is really about the broad beans, a vegetable which I like but which are time consuming to prepare and cook.

They are a seasonal vegetable and they are in the shops at the moment. You need to look for the nice green pods, because the beans inside will be younger. Once podded, you need to cook them for about 5 minutes in boiling salted water and then drain them and let them cool down.

Now you can remove the tough and unappealing-looking greyish outer skins to reveal the nice green insides.

You can make nice bean purées with broad beans, simply whizz them up with lemon juice, olive oil and mint and then use this in the same way you would with hummous. They are also nice mixed with peas and green beans to make a nice side dish.

I used them with gnocchi to go with a griddled pork chop. I fried some diced prosciutto in butter and olive oil and added the beans and cooked gnocchi and made sure they were nicely warmed through. This was then seasoned with some black pepper (the ham is salty enough that you shouldn’t need more salt) and basil-infused olive oil and served with freshly-grated parmesan cheese.

Home-made naan breads

I am always trying to make a better naan-type bread at home, but it really isn’t easy because you cannot generate the heat that comes from a proper tandoor.

It is important to use yeast as a raising agent. I’ve tried recipes that use baking powder, but they just aren’t right.

This recipe used dried yeast.


300g white self-raising flour
150g tub of plain yoghurt (not set)
a teaspoon of salt
2 tablespoons of sunflower oil
2 teaspoons of kalonji seeds
2 teaspoons of dried yeast
2 teaspoons of sugar
130ml warm milk

You add the yeast and sugar to the milk and stir. After about 15-20 minutes it will froth up as the yeast becomes activated.

Add this to the flour and mix in, adding the yoghurt, salt, oil and kalonji seeds. Knead on a floured surface until the dough becomes silky and pliable. Add more flour if necessary if the dough seems too sticky.

Put in a clean bowl and cover. Leave in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat a large frying pan or flat griddle/plancha.

Divide the dough into four and roll out into thin oval shapes.

Cook each bread on both sides for a few minutes each. They should bubble up while cooking.

Spread a little melted ghee or butter over the breads and keep them warm in a foil parcel in the oven until required, but use them quickly. In other words, make sure that your curry is ready to eat while you are cooking the breads.

I served a nice lamb shank and spinach curry with the breads.

Apricot, ricotta and almond tart

Last summer I bottled some fresh apricots in alcohol and sugar. They have been sitting in a kilner jar in the dark of the larder ever since and I thought that it was time to use them.

I lined a buttered tart dish with sweet shortcrust pasty and made a filling of ricotta, ground almonds, some of the preserving alcohol, vanilla extract, caster sugar, 2 whole eggs, 1 yolk and the white of 1 egg. This was pretty much done by eye, so quantities are all guesstimates, but I used a 250g tub of ricotta and added almonds and sugar to make a paste to which I added the eggs.

I topped this batter with halved and stoned apricots and baked it in a 160C oven for about 35 minutes.

We will have this after dinner with some whipped cream and maybe a glass of something sweet to drink.

Tagliatelle with courgettes, tomatoes and basil

Another quick, easy and summery dish.

All you need is some pasta, fresh tagliatelle was what I used, one large thinly-sliced courgette per person, some halved cherry tomatoes, chopped parsley and basil, finely-chopped or grated garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper and some cheese for grating (I used Provolone, but Parmesan is fine).

While you are cooking the pasta, heat some olive oil in a pan and sauté the courgettes until they are soft but not coloured. Then add the tomatoes, garlic and herbs and cook for a few minutes longer. Season and keep warm.

Drain the pasta, saving some of the cooking water, and add it to the courgettes and tomatoes. Add some of the cooking water in the pan and stir.

Serve with more fresh black pepper and grated cheese on top.

Quick and simple chickpea curry

This is something that works well as a side dish but could also be a simple evening meal with some rice or a flatbread with some Indian pickle or chutney.

All you need is one tin of chickpeas which you have drained and rinsed, a finely-chopped onion, a paste made from a big knob of ginger grated together with three nice fat cloves of garlic, a couple of chopped green chillies (I keep the seeds in the chilli), a teaspoon each of ground cumin, ground coriander, ground turmeric and salt, two tablespoons of oil (I like rapeseed oil) and a couple of ladles of tomato passata or tomato sauce. For a larger quantity, just double the amounts.

You heat the oil and fry the chopped onion until it softens and starts to colour. Then you add the chilli, garlic and ginger paste and dried spices and fry for a couple of minutes. Then add the chickpeas and the tomato and carry on cooking, stirring all the time for a few minutes. Then cover, turn the heat down and simmer for about five minutes and serve garnished with some chopped coriander leaves and maybe a squeeze of lemon juice. You could also stir in a tablespoonful of Greek yoghurt, but I like it without.

Another nice option might be to fry some cumin seeds, mustard seeds and fresh curry leaves in hot oil and stir in before serving.

Pakoras and bhajis

I think that most people who like Indian food like onion bhajis and pakoras. They are easy to make. The important thing is to use gram (chickpea) flour to make the batter.

The batter is simple. You mix the gram flour with a heaped teaspoon of powdered turmeric, another of garam masala, a teaspoon of salt and some baking powder, breaking up the lumps that gram flour always seems to form and then you add water, whisking it in to make a thick smooth batter, which you can leave to stand for a few hours.

At this point, I poured off half the batter for pakoras and kept the rest for onion bhajis.

For the pakoras I chopped up a couple of green chillies and added them to the batter, together with some parboiled cubes of carrot and potato, some defrosted frozen peas, some finely chopped and parboiled green beans, some chopped red pepper and a small handful of fresh curry leaves. This was all mixed together and left to stand until required.

The bhajis were even simpler. I just added a couple of thinly sliced red onions to the batter and stirred them in.

I deep fry my pakoras and bhajis in a wok, but you can use a saucepan. I don’t use a deep fat fryer, because you end up with little bits of batter in the oil and that means you’ll have to drain the oil through a sieve to remove them afterwards.

You need the oil to be hot, very hot really and you fry the batter a tablespoonful or so at a time. I always cook the first one on its own and then once I know the oil is hot enough, cook them four at a time, draining them on kitchen paper to remove excess oil. They cook pretty quickly, probably for no more than two minutes per batch.

Unlike the perfectly-shaped ones you are served in Indian restaurants, home-made ones are far mor randomly-shaped, but that hardly matters, because they taste great, either as part of an Indian meal with pickles and relishes or as a snack on their own.

A big box of tomatoes

I bought a big box of tomatoes in the Bristol Sweet Mart in St Mark’s Rd for an unbelievable £1.99, which is such a bargain. I wanted to make a big pot of a simple tomato and onion sauce base.

So, I heated some olive oil in a large pot and added two finely chopped onions and cooked them until they were softened. Then I added the tomatoes, which were just cut in half, or quarters for the larger ones and two tablesppons of salt. This was brought to a simmer and cooked down for about an hour, so that the liquid had reduced a bit.

Then I liquidised the whole thing with a stick blender. The resultant sauce is reasonably smooth but not too thick. By the time I had finished, there was about 4 litres of sauce.

This sauce base can be used for a variety of dishes because it hasn’t been given any flavourings or seasonings that might make it more suitable for one particular cuisine. It works for Italian food, Indian dishes, chilli con carne and anything else that needs some tomato colour and flavour.

I used some of it to make a nice simple Italian supper with Italian pork and fennel sausages, basil, chilli, garlic and pasta.

The rest of the sauce is now in the fridge in plastic boxes. I will freeze most of it and use the rest this week for a number of different things.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 386 other followers