Artichoke, spinach and ricotta baked eggs

This recipe basically includes a whole host of my favourite things! I was sat trying to think of what I fancied for a late breakfast one day this week, looked in the cupboard, raided the fridge and came up with this! I loved how the earthiness of the artichokes balances with freshness of spinach and the saltiness of the feta. Marinated artichokes are a thing of beauty and so versatile so it’s always worth having a jar to hand. This recipe is for one person who fancies an indulgent treat but simply multiply the ingredients to share it with others. If you make it for more than one, I would suggest baking them in individual dishes as you simply won’t want other people to share this!

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Ingredients- serves 1
Splash of olive oil
1/2 white onion- finely chopped
1 garlic clove- finely sliced
Approx. half a dozen marinated sliced artichoke hearts
Handful of baby spinach- roughly chopped
2 tbsp ricotta
25g feta
1 large egg
Chilli flakes (optional)

1. Start off by preheating the oven to 180c/ 160 fan. If you are using ceramic baking dishes which are quite thick then you can preheat these too. Take a frying pan and heat a small amount of olive oil over a medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and a pinch of chilli flakes (if using) and cook until starting to soften but not until they are colouring.

2. Take the artichoke hearts and blot with kitchen roll to remove any excess oil. Slice the artichoke into slivers which are going to be easy to scoop up with bread. Add to the pan with the onion and cook along with the chopped spinach. Allow these to have a minute or so to themselves.

3. Next up goes the ricotta into the pan with a small splash of water to loosen it up. Give this a couple of minutes. Crumble in the feta and stir well to combine. Take the baking dishes and spoon the mixture into it carefully. Use the back of a spoon to make a hollow in the centre of the dish and crack the egg into the centre.

4. Bake for around 15 minutes but this will vary according to the size of the egg you use so do check from time to time. In the meantime toast some sourdough bread. When the artichoke is heated through and the egg is done to your liking, serve immediately. I finished mine off with a few more chilli flakes for a little bit more of a kick.

Artichoke, spinach and ricotta baked eggs- light, sumptuous and one of your soon to be new favourites!

 

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Sticky, sweet and spicy Chinese style ribs

When you fancy a Chinese takeaway the lure of the ribs on the menu tends to be strong… well at least in my mind anyway. Try making your own so you can make them as sweet, savoury or as spicy as you want- or all three! A rack of pork ribs is inexpensive and an average sized rack feeds two people so it’s a bargain! Keep your eyes out for a rack that has plenty of meat on it as some can be a little scrawny and that only brings disappointment rather than pure porky joy!

If you cast your eye down the list of ingredients you will notice that one of them is not Chinese, but Korean: gochujang. When I was putting the marinade together I thought what would give a deep chilli flavour but stand up to the other ingredients so it was settled.

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Ingredients- serves 4
2 racks of pork ribs
120ml oyster or hoisin sauce
60ml dark soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
3 tbsp dark brown sugar
2 tbsp runny honey
1 tbsp gochujang
2 cm piece fresh ginger- grated
2 garlic cloves- crushed
1 tbsp ground five spice

1. Ideally the ribs would have around 3 hours in the fridge marinating but overnight is perfect if you have a bit more time. Simply mix together all the ingredients in a bowl and pour most of the marinade over the racks. Cover and place in the fridge to marinate.

2. When you are ready to cook the ribs, preheat the oven to 160c/ 140 fan. Wrap the racks of ribs in foil parcels and make sure they are tightly sealed. Cook in the oven for around 3 hours (depending on the size of the racks). After this time the racks should be tender and flexible so you know they are nearly all set.

3. For the last step, turn up the oven to 200c/ 180 fan. Peel back the foil and brush the last of the marinade over the ribs and cook for a further 10- 15 minutes until sticky and unctuous. Use a knife to separate the ribs and grab a stack of napkins (you’ll need them!); serve the ribs immediately.

Chinese takeaway style ribs- let’s face it, there’s no elegant way to eat these but dive in!

Scallop, king prawn and lobster fregola

Fregola is a small Sardinian pasta shape that is very similar to cous cous and lends itself to a range of recipes. It can be boiled like normal pasta but I have cooked it here like you would a risotto so a little time and patience is needed but it really is worth the effort.

This recipe uses a mixture of all my favourite seafood and is perfect for a special occasion when a little extra luxury and indulgence is needed. Feel free to add in any extras such as mussels or squid which would also be delicious. I chose to use king prawns that still have the shell on as this adds to the flavour and keeps them beautifully juicy and tender.

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Ingredients- serves 2
200g fregola
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion- finely chopped
2 garlic cloves- crushed
Half a red chilli- deseeded and finely chopped
6 vine ripened plum tomatoes- skin removed (if you like) and chopped
100ml dry white wine
600ml hot vegetable stock
2 lobster tails- shell removed and cut into bite sized pieces
100g small scallops
100g raw king prawns with shell on
Salt and pepper
Handful of parsley- finely chopped

1. Get going by heating the olive oil over a medium heat in a wide pan- I use one that resembles a paella pan and it heats evenly and the finished dish looks great in it. Cook the onion and garlic together until softened but make sure it does not colour. Pop in the chilli and cook for a further minute or two- a pinch of chilli flakes can also be used if you prefer but only a small pinch is needed.

2. Add in the white wine and simmer until reduced by half before adding the tomatoes. Cook until the tomatoes are starting to break down and release their juices. Stir in the fregola and ensure it is well combined with the onion mixture. Now for the stock and stirring! Add the hot stock little by little and, as you would with a risotto, add the next amount when the previous has been absorbed by the fregola. Fregola should take around half and hour to become tender. Stir from time to time; I also covered the pan to keep the moisture in. Towards the end of cooking, check and adjust seasoning to taste.

3. Next up goes the seafood and this could not be more simple. All you need to do is add the lobster tail meat, scallops and king prawns on top of the fregola, cover the pan and steam for a few minutes until the prawns and lobster are cooked through and the scallops are tender. Finish with a sprinkling of parsley and serve immediately.

Scallop, king prawn and lobster fregola- an impressive meal for many occasions!

Chicken yakitori bites

Chicken yakitori is a well known Japanese dish which lends itself to enjoying with an ice cold beer in hand. It is usually cooked on skewers and grilled but I have chosen to break with tradition and cook the chunks of chicken separately on a griddle for extra caramelisation. Most recipes ask you to strain your sauce of ginger and garlic goodness however I found that you don’t need to do this as, if you are careful, the sauce won’t burn and you’re still left with a hit of those fantastic flavours.

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Ingredients- serves 2
250g boneless chicken thigh- cut into bite sized pieces
50ml soy sauce
30ml mirin
25ml sake
1 tbsp caster sugar
2cm piece of ginger- grated
1 garlic clove- crushed
1 tsp cornflour mixed with 1/2 tbsp water

1. Kick off by adding the soy sauce, mirin and sake together before adding in the sugar, ginger and garlic. Heat over a low heat and bring it to a simmer. Cook until the sugar has dissolved and the ginger and garlic are softening. Add the cornflour mixture and cook further until the sauce is thickened and glossy.

2. Take the sauce from the heat and allow to cool. As I say, I don’t strain the sauce as I like the ginger and garlic but you can sieve it at this stage if you like. When the sauce is cool, coat the chicken chunks with the majority of the sauce but reserve a small amount for later. Place the chicken in a covered bowl and refrigerate for at least an hour.

3. When you are ready to get cooking, warm a griddle pan to medium and cook the chunks of chicken until cooked through. This should take around 8-10 minutes depending on how large your chunks are. Halfway through cooking brush the remaining sauce over the chicken. The result should be tender and caramelised chicken. Serve with rice if you like and eat immediately. A flourish of toasted sesame seeds or crunchy shredded spring onion is also delicious.

Caramelised yakitori bites- crack open a beer and enjoy!

 

Duck speck, fig and caramelised red onion pizza

Pizza is one of the ultimate comfort foods but think beyond the classics like margarita and pepperoni and go off piste! Duck speck is a product that not a lot of people may be familiar with but is certainly worth acquainting yourself with it. It’s cured duck breast which is made using a concoction of herbs and spice and the fat content melts away in the cooking process. I pick mine up from Eat Drink Ideas on my local market and they can be found here. The smoky notes from the duck pairs perfectly with the delicate but sweet figs and the savoury onions.

The base of the pizza is traditional but I used a cherry tomato passata which is sweeter than usual passata which worked much better here. You can make your own if you fancy! I also prepared a garlic and rosemary infused oil to drizzle over before cooking to add another dimension and pull the flavours together. Make more than you need and then keep it in the cupboard for next time.

I use a pizza stone at home which I heat for around half an hour on the highest temperature that my oven can muster. Alternatively you can preheat a baking tray and use this instead but make sure you take care and dig out the oven gloves!

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Ingredients- makes a 12 inch pizza
For the dough
250g tipo 00 Italian flour
3g salt
5g fresh yeast
160ml lukewarm water

For the drizzling oil
50ml olive oil
1 large garlic clove- peeled
Small handful of rosemary

For the topping
4 tbsp cherry tomato passata
40g grated mozzarella for pizzas
1 tbsp olive oil
20g butter
1 red onion- finely sliced
1 tsp caster sugar
50g duck speck- cut into thin slices
2 large figs or a few smaller ones- cut into sixths

1. Start off by making the pizza dough in advance so it has plenty of time to prove. You can use a bread hook on a mixer or good old fashioned elbow grease for this. Add the flour into a bowl and add the yeast and salt into two separate sides of the bowl; ensure these do not touch when dry and the salt will retard the yeast’s action. Add the water and bring together to form a rough dough. If you are kneading the dough yourself then this will take around 10 minutes until the dough is ready or 5 minutes with a bread hook. When it is ready, roll into a ball, place on a tray and cover with a slightly damp cloth and leave to prove for 30 minutes.

2. In the meantime you can make the drizzling oil. Simply pour the olive oil into a small pan, add the rosemary and garlic; give the garlic a light bashing first to release the flavour! Heat the oil until small bubbles start to form on the bottom of the pan and remove from the heat. Allow to cool and set aside.

3. For the caramelised red onion, take a small pan and heat the oil and butter together over a medium heat. Add in the onion slices and cook for 10-15 minutes until translucent. Add the sugar and cook for a further 5 minutes until cooked down and sticky; remove from the heat and set aside.

4. When you are ready to cook the pizza, preheat your oven with either a pizza stone or tray to the hottest it can go. Roll out the dough as thin as you possibly can and place on the tray or stone. Using the back of a spoon, spread the passata on the base before sprinkling with the grated mozzarella and caramelised red onion slices. Distribute the sliced duck evenly followed by the fig segments. I placed these so the cut sides face upwards which looks great on the finished pizza. Drizzle with a little of the rosemary and garlic oil and pop in the oven for 10 minutes until golden, bubbling and irresistible!

Duck speck, fig and caramelised red onion pizza- put down the takeaway menu and get kneading!

Spiced lamb kofta with quick pickles and yogurt dressing

When the sun starts coming out, minds start turning to BBQ weather and when the first opportunity will be to eat al fresco. Well fingers crossed this will happen very soon but in the meantime there is no reason you can’t enjoy these lamb kofta indoors. Kofta are easy to make and children can also help out! I served the lamb kofta layered on warmed flatbread along with pickled cabbage, carrot and chillies drizzled with a cool, refreshing yogurt dressing. I will admit that I did use shop bought flatbreads on this occasion to save time but feel free to make your own if time allows.

I have separated the recipe into its constituent parts so you can plan ahead. the dressing and pickles can be made ahead of time. The dressing can sit in the fridge overnight but I would tend to make the pickled carrot and cabbage on the day so they retain some crunch.

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Ingredients- serves 4
For the kofta
400g lamb mince- I used 20% fat mince
1 small red onion
2 garlic cloves- crushed
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
1/2 tbsp chilli powder (optional)
Large handful of fresh mint leaves- finely chopped
Salt and pepper to season

For the pickles
1 small red cabbage- shredded
1 large carrot- grated
3 tbsp.white wine vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp caster sugar
Jarred mild to medium green chillies

For the yogurt dressing
100ml plain Greek style yogurt
Handful of fresh mint leaves- finely chopped
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves- crushed
1/2 tsp salt

1. Get started by making the dressing. All you need to do is combine all the ingredients, cover and leave in the fridge  until you need it. Simple!

2. Again, the kofta recipe itself is also straightforward. Take a pan and a very small amount of vegetable oil over a medium heat. Add in the onion and garlic and cook until softened. Remove from the heat and cool. Take the mince and add the spices. mint and seasoning to it. Chilli can be added if you like a bit more heat but it is delicious without so you can taste each spice. When the onion and garlic mixture is cool, add this to the mince and use your hands (clean of course!) to squidge and squish it until firm. Cover and place in the fridge for half an hour whilst you do the pickled veg.

3. I pickled each vegetable separately so each retained its colour. Take two bowls and add the cabbage to one and the carrot to the other. Add 2 tbsp white wine vinegar and 1 tbsp sugar to the cabbage and 1 tbsp vinegar and 1/2 tbsp to the carrot. Mix well to combine and set aside for at least half an hour; stir from time to time.

4. When you are ready to get cooking simply shape the kofta into small balls or sausage shapes; make sure they are as unform in shape and size as you can so they cook evenly. Heat a little oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the kofta and cook for around 10 minutes until golden on the outside and cooked through. Sometime I like to start them off on the hob and then finish them in the oven which also frees a bit of hob space up if you need it. For this heat the oven to 200c/ 180 fan and cook to finish them off.

5. Now for the assembly! Take 4 flatbreads and reheat either in a dry, hot pan or griddle. Place one on each person’s plate and layer with the pickled vegetables, kofta and yogurt dressing. This is perfect for feeding a crowd as everyone can load up their own flatbread as they like. A little crumbled feta is also a delicious addition!

Flatbreads loaded with spiced kofta- roll on BBQ season!