Wild garlic pesto, asparagus and goats cheese puff tart

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This puff pastry tart makes the most of the seasonal produce around at the moment. The wild garlic and asparagus season in the UK is short so now is the time to get your hands on them and get cooking. Wild garlic is as it sounds- wild! You can forage it (if you’re sure what you’re looking for) but can now be found in some farmers markets or specialist grocers. It can be used in a range of dishes and pesto is only the start and even this can be picked up premade. Failing this, substitute this with a different pesto of your choosing. To ramp up the flavours in this tart, I have also used some Parma ham which I crisped and crumbled over the top for an extra element and texture.

 

Ingredients- serves 4
1 premade pack of puff pastry
3 tbsp wild garlic pesto (see below for recipe)
200g asparagus spears
100g soft rindless goats cheese
4 slices of Parma or Carmarthen ham
1 egg- lightly beaten

Wild garlic pesto
120g wild garlic leaves
1 garlic clove- crushed
15g pine nuts
200ml olive oil
Zest of a small lemon
35g parmesan
Seasoning

1. Get going by preheating the oven to 200c/ 180fan but do check the instructions on the pastry packaging in case this differs slightly. Take the sheet of pastry and place it on a work surface. Leaving a border around the edges of the pastry sheet, use the prongs of a fork to lightly prick the centre of the sheet. This will stop the centre of the pastry from puffing up but will let the edges do so.

2. If you want to make your own wild garlic pesto then simply take the leaves and blanch for 20 seconds in a pan of boiling water. Remove using a slotted spoon and plunge into cold water to refresh it. Take some kitchen roll and pat it dry before roughly chopping. Add all the remaining ingredients to a food processor and blitz and, hey pesto! Sorry… couldn’t resist…

2. Take the pesto of your choice and spread this in the centre of the pastry. Make sure this is as even as possible. Lay each asparagus spear on the pastry and scatter pieces of the cheese in amongst them.

3. In a small pan dry fry the parma ham slices until crisp. Remove from the pan and set aside for a moment; you will find that as they cool they go even crispier which makes the slices much easier to crumble or you can use a knife to roughly chop into smaller pieces.I added the ham topping towards the end of cooking so it didn’t catch..

4. Lastly, use a pastry brush and carefully glaze the edges of the tart with the beaten egg. This will give a wonderful sheen and shine to the tart. Cook the tart for around 20 minutes until the asparagus is tender and the pastry is golden. About 2-3 minutes before the pastry is ready then sprinkle over the parma ham before finishing off. I served this with a simple side salad and new potatoes. Jersey Royals are bang in season so look out for these too. Boil and toss with some butter and fresh herbs.

Wild garlic pesto, asparagus and goats cheese puff pastry tart- a light way to use the best of spring’s offerings!

Chimichurri surf and turf

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Chimichurri surf and turf is the perfect meal for sharing with a table of friends and family and it really does take very little effort. The quantities of steak and prawns are merely a guide so adjust according to appetite! The chimichurri can be made in advance, covered and stored in the fridge until you need it. Chimichurri should have a kick whilst still being able to taste the herbs and other ingredients so aim for a perfect balance. Use the best prawns you can find and afford as the flavour will be unrivalled. Eating shell on prawns can be a fun but messy affair so provide finger bowls for your guests too.

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Ingredients- serves 4
Small bunch of fresh flatleaf parsley
Small bunch of fresh coriander
2 garlic cloves
1 shallot
1 fresh red chilli
4-5 tbsp olive oil plus extra for cooking
Juice of half a lemon
2 tsp red wine vinegar
2-3 sirloin steaks
16-20 tiger prawns- raw and shell on
Salad leaves to serve- I used rocket, spinach and watercress

1. To make the chimichurri, blitz the parsley, garlic, shallot, chilli, oil, lemon and vinegar in a processor so grab your pestle and mortar and give it a good old bash! Set aside until ready to use.

2. When you are ready to cook the steak, take a griddle pan and heat until smoking hot. Season and lightly oil the meat and cook to your liking. I allow 1 minutes each side for your average size sirloin for rare but cook according to your tastes. Remove from the pan and allow to rest.

3. Whilst the steak is resting, cook the prawns. Take a frying pan and heat a glug of oil. Cook the prawns until pink and cooked through. Use some of the chimichurri and toss well to coat the prawns. When the steak is ready, cut into slices. Take a large serving platter and scatter the salad leaves. Place the steak on the platter and spoon over some of the chimichurri before arranging the prawns around. Finish off with more of the chimichurri and serve immediately.

Chimichurri surf and turf- a treat fit for any occasion!

Spicy, sticky Korean chicken drumsticks

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Spicy Korean chicken is the ultimate in Asian comfort food. Sweet, spicy and savoury flavours make them one of the most moreish dishes which is perfect for a quiet night in or a party with friends. Just be prepared for them to go down a storm so make more than one batch! Allow a little time for the chicken to marinade in the fridge before you need them so the flavours have time to infuse. The recipe can easily be multiplied depending on how many guests you are feeding and can be used for a whole range of chicken pieces from drumsticks to thighs to wings so get cooking!

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Ingredients- makes 12 drumsticks
12 chicken drumsticks
60ml dark soy sauce
3 tbsp runny honey
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp gochujang

1. Crack on with the marinade in advance by simply combining the soy, honey, rice wine vinegar and gochujang. Simple! Place in a bowl or in a zip lock freezer bag along with the chicken pieces and make sure they are well coated. Chill in the fridge until you need them. A couple of hours is good but overnight is even better if time allows.

2. When you are ready to cook them, they will take around 20-25 minutes in the oven on 200c/ 180 fan. Make sure the chicken is cooked through and the juices should run clear when it is ready. Reserve the marinade and place in a small pan on the hob and gently heat until it begins to thicken. When it is ready brush the chicken drumsticks with the thickened sauce on each side before giving one last minute in the oven. You can also finish them off with a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds if you like. The marinade makes the chicken deliciously sticky and irresistible. That’s all there is to it!

Spicy Korean chicken drumsticks- grab a pile of napkins and dive in!

 

Chinese vegetable spring rolls

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Ah the humble spring roll- a cherished Chinese appetiser that longs to be paired with a sweet chilli sauce or a glossy ginger and soy dip perhaps? Whatever your preference, spring rolls are there to be filled with whatever filling you so choose however a vegetable spring roll is a wonderful thing. I have loved beansprouts since being a child so these are packed with them alongside rice vermicelli noodles that are spiced as well as carrot, sugar snap peas and cabbage. To tell you the truth, I used odds and ends of vegetables that were loitering in the fridge from other recipes so love your leftovers and get rolling!

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Ingredients- makes approx. 12 medium rolls
1 nest of rice vermicelli noodles (optional)
1 garlic clove- crushed
Small piece of fresh ginger- grated
1 tbsp Chinese five spice
2 tsp soy sauce
Handful of beansprouts
1 carrot- thinly sliced or grated
Red cabbage- finely shredded
Small pack of sugar snap peas- thinly sliced
3 spring onions- shredded
3 large filo sheets
1 egg- lightly beaten

1. Start in advance of when you want to serve these as the filling needs to cool before making the rolls. Soak the vermicelli noodles (if using) for 10 minutes until softened before draining well and cutting down. In the meantime, take a wok and heat a glug of vegetable oil. Fry the garlic and ginger for a minute before adding the vegetables, five spice and soy sauce. Cook until softened and add the spring onions at the last minute. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

2. In a large bowl, mix the cooled filling with the noodles. Take a filo sheet and quarter it. Take a spoonful of the mixture and place near one edge of the filo. Lightly brush the edges of the filo with the beaten egg. Bring the edge of the filo over the filling before then bringing the sides in over the ends before continuing to roll. Make sure the end is well sealed so the roll does not fall apart when you cook it. Repeat this process for the remaining pieces of filo.

3. When the rolls are ready to cook, take a wok and add oil so it is deep enough to fry in. When the surface of the oil is shimmering and small bubbles can be seen, fry the spring rolls in batches. They will take around 5 minutes but the bigger the rolls, the longer they will need. Fry until the rolls are golden and crisp. Blot the cooked rolls on kitchen paper and serve immediately. If you have any left (doubtful!) you can reheat in a moderate oven on a baking tray until warmed through and crisped up.

Vegetable spring rolls- a side dish fit for any Chinese feast!

Smoky, spicy roasted chickpeas

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Picture the scene: you’re at home, working for the day perhaps, and your stomach starts rumbling mid- afternoon but, alas, there are no snacks in the house! What are you going to do? Make these smoky and spicy roasted chickpeas of course! In a time where people are more and more health conscious and it’s all about getting your five a day, it can be hard to think of delicious and nutritious snacks but look no further! This is a cheap, easy and relatively quick snack to make that can be made in advance and stored so it is on hand for whenever hunger pangs take hold. If you’re eating them hot from the oven, a little squeeze of lemon juice also lifts the flavour so do give this a try!

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Ingredients
1 tin of chickpeas in water
Olive oil
Smoked or normal sea salt
1 tbsp chilli powder
1 tbsp ground cumin
Squeeze of lemon juice (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 200c/ 180 fan. Take the tin of chickpeas and drain them well. Rinse thoroughly with water and pat dry using kitchen roll. Place on a single layer on a baking tray.

2. Drizzle over a good amount of olive oil, about a tablespoon should do, and toss to coat the chickpeas. Sprinkle over the chilli, cumin and coriander before finishing off with a good pinch of sea salt. Roast in the oven for around 40 minutes, checking them from time to time and tossing. Some chickpeas will have more moisture in them than others so these may take slightly longer. Just be careful the spices do not catch or burn so keep your eye on them! Adjust salt to taste. Serve warm from the oven or allow to cool and store in airtight containers until you want them.

Smoky, spicy roasted chickpeas- give your snacks an overhaul this year!

 

Ginger, garlic and chilli king prawns

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The other night time was short and I did not want to slaving away over a hot stove for too long so cue a quick prawn dish! I had a rummage in the fridge and cupboards and knew I was off to a good start when ginger garlic and chilli leapt out at me. King prawns have to be one my favourite things and are always handy to have in the freezer for a quick fix. I recently got bought a box of weird and wonderful ingredients for Christmas and this included sweet potato vermicelli noodles so this was the perfect opportunity to try them. They are much like glass noodles and have a firm texture which is a great contrast to the tender prawns. I kept the noodles simple and stir fried them with some beansprouts and a touch of soy so as to make sure the prawns were the star of the show so read on and get some quick dinner inspiration…

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Ingredients- serves 2
200g raw king prawns- deveined
2 tbsp dark soy
2 tbsp rice wine
1 tsp cornflour stirred into 2 tbsp water
1 tsp chilli flakes
2 garlic cloves- finely sliced
1 inch piece of fresh ginger- peeled and grated

1. Take a small pan and add the dark soy, rice wine and cornflour in water. Heat over a medium heat for a minute or two until if starts to simmer. Pop in the chilli, garlic and ginger and continue to simmer until the sauce is thick and glossy.

2. Lower the heat and add in the raw prawns; toss to coat in the sauce. Cook for around 3-4 minutes until pink and cooked through. Serve immediately.

Spiced chickpea and lentil burgers

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If you’re anything like me, over Christmas you have seen cooked and eaten enough meat to last a lifetime, so by the time January hits you are ready for a change andthis is where these spiced chickpea and lentil burgers come in! These bad boys prove that you don’t need a beef burger to satisfy you. They are also suitable for vegetarians and vegans so there is no excuse not to whip up a batch! These are gently spiced with a nod to Middle Eastern flavours but make them as mild or as spicy as you like. I served these with skin on potato wedges and an array of burger toppings such as salad (for the health conscious), harissa mayonnaise (for the spice lovers) and tzatsiki ( to cool and refresh).

This recipe does not use egg to bind the chickpeas and lentils however if you find the mixture needs a bit of help to come together then sprinkle a little flour into it. Work the mixture with your hands and it will bind perfectly well. An egg would make the already moist mixture too wet and sticky so don’t be tempted to add one!

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Ingredients- makes 4 patties
400g tin of chickpeas in water
400g tin of lentils in water
1/2 tbsp. each of ground cumin, ground coriander and chilli powder
Handful of fresh coriander
Salt and pepper
Squeeze of lemon juice
Vegetable oil
Plain flour

1. Kick off by draining the tins of chickpeas and lentils and giving them a quick rinse. Place in a food processor along with all the other ingredients apart from the oil and flour. Blitz so the chickpeas and lentils are coarse and have retained some texture.

2. Lightly dust a chopping board or work surface with some plain flour. Divide the blitzed chickpea mixture into four and form patties. Place on a tray, cover them with cling film and chill in the fridge for half an hour to firm up.

3. Take a non- stick frying pan and heat a good glug of vegetable oil over a medium to high heat. When the oil is warmed, place the patties in the pan and fry for around 10 minutes before flipping over carefully and frying for a further 10 minutes. Fry until golden and crisp. Serve in lightly toasted burger or brioche buns with all the trimmings.

Spiced chickpea and lentil burgers- all the flavour and not an ounce of meat in sight!