Snacks and Starters

Prawn Cocktail with Avocado

Hurtling back to the 1970s, this was the dinner party starter that was bang on trend! I don’t know why its popularity waned but it is definitely on the rise again now. I love it – it’s so fast and easy to put together, the sauce is pretty much from bits and pieces in the store cupboard and it tastes great – rich, smooth avocado providing the perfect foil to the fresh, tangy sauce and the plump prawns – yummy. Take a trip down memory lane with this one – it’ll be worth it!

Serves 2 as a starter

What you need…

100g cooked prawns or crayfish tails

1 avocado, halved, stone removed and then sliced

for the Marie Rose sauce

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 tablespoon salad cream

1 dessertspoon tomato ketchup

Squeeze of lemon

8 – 10 drops Tabasco sauce

Pinch of paprika (optional)

Sea salt and black pepper

What to do…

Measure out all your Marie Rose sauce ingredients into a jug and beat together with a fork. Stir in the prawns/crayfish so they are smothered in its loveliness.

Lay out your avocado slices however you fancy and either plop the prawns and sauce on the top or to the side. Again, however you fancy. Season with salt and pepper. Enjoy this simple but lovely starter!

Inspired by…

The 1970s and I think I just played with the sauce until I got it how I like it!

How easy…

Couldn’t be any easier!

 

 

Chilled Lemon Grass and Coriander Vichyssoise

 

This is an absolutely delightful chilled soup: perfect for a starter at a summer lunch or supper party when the weather is hot. It’s light and refreshing, fragrant and elegant; and the combination of the coriander with lemon grass produce a really lovely but delicate Thai flavour. There’s no coconut milk in it, which I was surprised about, but the inclusion of new potatoes provide the necessary substance without the cloyiness that you sometimes experience with coconut milk. Really delicious – give it a go!

Serves 4

What you need…

2 handfuls fresh coriander

4 lemon grass stems

4 spring onions

50g butter

2 medium onions, chopped

275g new potatoes, chunked

150ml milk

Sea salt and black pepper

What to do…

First of all, you need to make a stock. In a large saucepan, pour 850ml water. Pick the leaves from the coriander and chuck the stalks into the water, saving the leaves for later. Likewise, with the spring onions and lemon grass: trim the ends, remove the outer skin, chucking those bits that you would normally discard into the water as well. Pop a lid on the pan, and bring the water to boil before reducing the heat to gently simmer the ‘stock’ for 30 minutes – it is this process that provides the soup with real depth of flavour.

Meanwhile, chop up your lemon grass and spring onions.

Strain the stock into a jug, discarding the trimmings. Wipe out your saucepan and then add the butter, melting it over a low heat. Add the lemon grass, onions and potatoes, pop the lid back on the pan and gently ‘sweat’ the vegetables over a low heat for 10 minutes. Then, add the stock, milk and three quarters of the coriander leaves (retaining the rest for the garnish). Season with sea salt and black pepper, pop the lid back on, turn the heat up so that the soup just starts to boil and then reduce the heat again and let the soup simmer gently for 25 minutes.

Leave the soup to cool and then chuck the lot into your food processor/blender and whizz until smooth. If you want a really smooth, silky soup, strain it through a sieve into a jug. If not, just tip it from the processor into the jug. Cover with cling film and keep in the fridge until you’re ready to enjoy this lovely soup.

Pour into bowls and sprinkle over the remaining coriander leaves and chopped spring onions: delightfully delicious!

Inspired by…

Delia Smith

How easy…

An absolute sinch – takes some time but you can walk away to do other things whilst it’s gathering its flavours. Also, you can make it the day before and keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to garnish and serve: no hassle!

John’s Luscious Barbecued Lobster Tails with Garlic Butter

So, if you fancy a bit of a treat and have the available pennies, this little number is totally indulgent and absolutely gorgeous. The garlic butter essentially sautés the lobster meat and the combination of flavours is out of this world: moist, delicately flavoured lobster and ever so garlicky butter – they don’t compete but just enhance one another. Simply delicious!

Serves 4 as a starter treat

What you need…

1 x barbecue!

2 raw lobster tails

Garlic butter (recipe already blogged), softened

What to do…

Lay the lobster tails, shell-side up, on a good, solid board. Taking your sharpest knife, cut the lobster in half lengthways. Be very careful: the lobster shells are hard and the knife can slip – it’s always nice to continue life with 10 fingers!!!!

Turn the tails over and spray them with a little olive oil. To seal them, lay the lobster tails flesh-side down on a very hot barbecue grill and cook for 2-3 minutes, until the flesh just starts to turn a golden brown. Set aside to cool.

When cool and you’re just about ready to eat, spread lashings of garlic butter over the seared lobster flesh – don’t hold back – particularly making sure that there’s a goodly portion where the flesh meets the shell.

On the barbecue, return the lobster tails to the high heat but this time, shell side down. As the lobster heats up, the flesh will start to come away from the shell and the garlic butter will melt, seep down the sides and then start to bubble, effectively sautéing the flesh in the delicious butter. Cook for 10 minutes. Remove from the barbecue, serve and demolish immediately – that’s the only problem with them – you know you should be savouring the lusciousness of them but you can’t just help attacking them! Watch out for the garlic butter chin dribble!

Inspired by…

My lovely husband,  John

How easy…

Wonderfully easy but should be prepared with a lovely glass of wine.

Chilled out Salmorejo Cordobés

Originating from Cordoba in Andalucia, southern Spain, this is almost more of a purée than a soup, including bread to add substance and richly flavoured with garlic and tomato. Served cold, it is thicker and creamier than gazpacho and is a lovely pink-orange colour. It’s refreshing and tasty, delivers ‘Mediterranean with a kick’ with every spoonful and is somehow luxurious. Garnished with Serrano ham and chopped boiled egg, it also has a bit more about than just a chilled out soup! If we ever have a boiling hot day, this makes for a delicious lunch dish or starter.

Serves 4

What you need…

240ml water

1 dessertspoon salt

75g stale baguette

5 large/plum tomatoes, roughly chopped

1 small onion, chopped

30ml sherry wine vinegar

1½ dessertspoons fresh lemon juice

1 garlic clove, chopped

180ml virgin olive oil

2 hard boiled eggs, chopped

4 slices Serrano ham, chopped

What to do…

Tip the water into a bowl with the salt, stir to mix together and then add the bread, soaking for 30 minutes.

Squeeze the excess water from the bread and set the bread aside.

Tip the tomatoes, onion, sherry wine vinegar, lemon juice and garlic into a blender and whizz until smooth. Add the bread and whizz again until smooth. With the machine still running, gradually add the olive oil – the soup will now turn its lovely pink-orange colour. Pop the finished soup into the fridge for at least 2 hours (it will keep for a day). Divide into four small bowls and garnish with the boiled eggs and ham – deliciously refreshing with more than a hint of the Med!

Salmorejo Cordobes Close up wInspired by…

bonappetit.com

How easy…

Just a bit of blending – one very chilled out soup!

Cheats’ Sausage Rolls

Why oh why do I normally only do these at Christmas?! It’s a criminal offence! No more! Who doesn’t love the fabulous aromas wafting through the kitchen as they cook, who doesn’t admire the sheer loveliness of those little parcels going deliciously golden in the oven and seriously, who can resist one or two freshly baked ‘homemade’ sausage rolls straight from the oven?!

Makes around 50, depending on how big or small you cut them

What you need…

2 x baking sheets, lightly buttered or lined with Bake O Glide

2 x 500g packets of ready-made short crust pastry (I use Jus-Rol)

1 kg sausage meat (from a great butcher if you have one)

Plain flour for dusting

1 egg, lightly beaten

What to do…

Lightly flour your work surface and roll out one packet of the pastry to about 5mm thick.

Take handfuls of sausage meat and roll it in your hands and on the work surface to create long sausages of the meat, maybe 2cms wide. Lay your sausage 5cms away from one edge of the pastry. Using a pastry brush, brush egg either side of the sausage meat and then flip the 5cm edge over the filling to meet the pastry on the other side. Press the edge down onto the pastry and then use the edge of a fork all the way along to help seal the join. Cut the pastry down the new edge so that you have one long sausage roll and then the left over rolled out pastry. Continue this process across the left over pastry to create 3 long sausage rolls. Brush each with beaten egg and then cut to whatever size sausage rolls you fancy enjoying. In each one, stab the point of a small knife into the top, just to let the heat out whilst cooking. Pop them in the oven and bake for 15 – 20 minutes or until they are golden brown.

Whilst they’re cooking, take the second packet of pastry and repeat the process.

Remove the first batch from the oven and allow to cool a little on their baking tray. Pop one in your mouth, just to try….maybe another and….another. Remember reluctantly that you’re supposed to be sharing!

Pop them on cooling rack to cool. Slap husband who has just come in and nicked 3!

Repeat cooking and cooling process with second batch. Tasting and husband-slapping optional. Enjoy!!!!

Inspired by…

Christmas cooking (and a picnic on the river this evening)

How easy…

More of a joy thing really!

Smoked Salmon, Prawn and Cucumber Mousse

I was told about this recipe over supper one night (thanks Julie) and immediately looked it up. It is, without a shred of doubt, ridiculously 1970s in appearance but I tell you what, as a centrepiece at a party or as a shared starter with some warmed, fresh bread on the side, it’s absolutely sensational. It also has the added benefits of being ridiculously easy and very quick. Another accolades is that it quite clearly proves that not everything about the 1970s was cringe-worthy!!!! Give this one a go – they’ll laugh, it’ll be a talking point and then they’ll absolutely love it!

Serves 6 – 8

What you need…

1 x 22cm diametre, 4.5cm-deep savarin mould/baking dish, very lightly oiled with rapeseed oil

1 large cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced

400g unsliced smoked salmon, roughly chopped

Juice of 1 lemon, plus extra according to personal taste

200g full-fat cream cheese

450g double cream

Sea salt and black pepper

400g cooked jumbo king prawns, shelled

50g watercress or rocket

6 cooked tiger prawns or large crevettes to garnish (optional)

What to do…

Layer half of the cucumber into the mould, overlapping the slices as you go, until they cover the bottom of the mould. Set aside.

Into your food processor, tip the smoked salmon and the juice of 1 lemon. Whizz until smooth. Add the cream cheese and whizz again to thoroughly incorporate. Whilst the processor is running, slowly add the cream until the mixture is thickened and smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Whizz. Taste. Add more seasoning and lemon juice to taste. Whizz again.

Carefully spoon half the mixture over the cucumber slices. Then arrange half the prawns, slightly overlapping as you go in a circle all the way around the middle of the mould. Cover with the remaining mousse and then arrange the left over cucumber over the top, in the same way as you did the first layer.

Cover with cling film and pop in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or until you are ready to serve.

To serve, run a small palette knife around the edge of the mould just to loosen it a little and then invert the mould onto a serving plate. You may need to gently tap the sides and top (I use a steak mallet!)

Once it’s delightfully plopped onto the plate, pile the watercress into the centre and top with the remaining prawns. Decorate with tiger prawns/crevettes if you are using and serve with wedges of lemon, warm fresh bread and chilled white wine. Simply lovely!

Salmon, Prawn & cuc mousse close up w

Inspired by…

James Martin

How easy…

Really easy and quite the centrepiece of the table

 

 

 

 

Rich and Creamy Hummus

 

I eat loads of hummus – fancy a quick snack – pop some pitta in the toaster and then dig into the hummus – our fridge is never without. So, I’ve been experimenting with different recipes for a while and then tried this one – it’s bang on! But I guess it should be – coming from a book that is all about modern flavours of Arabia. (Whilst the origins of hummus aren’t totally clear, it’s believed to originate from the Middle East and the word actually means chickpea in Arabic). This hummus is rich and creamy but also fresh-tasting because of the lemon juice and the combined flavours of the garlic, dark tahini and chick peas really come through beautifully – the recipe is also really cheap, quick and easy to do. If you like hummus, give this a go. I have also been reliably informed that it is really ‘authentic’!

Makes 2 large dishes of hummus for sharing as part of picnic lunch/mezze.

What you need…

400g can chickpeas in salted water, drained

100ml ice-cold water

4 tablespoons tahini – a particularly good mix is half dark and half ‘traditional’ tahini but the dark version is hard to get hold of

2 cloves garlic, chopped

125g plain yogurt

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Sea salt

Splash olive oil

What to do…

Into your food processor, chuck the lot, excluding just the salt and olive oil. Whizz until smooth. Taste. Season with salt. Whizz. Taste again and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Pour into shallow serving bowls and pop in the fridge (where it will thicken) until you are ready to serve.

To serve, use a spoon to make a groove in the centre of the hummus and pour in a little olive oil. Arm yourself with crudités, warmed pitta bread, bread sticks, crackers, whatever you fancy and dip, dip away!

Inspired by…

Suzanne Husseini (thanks Denise)

How easy…

Assemble ingredients and whizz – that’s it!

In the Thermomix…

If you’re luck enough to have one of these wonderful machines, just stick all the ingredients into the bowl and then set the timer for 10 seconds at speed 6. Taste, scrape down from the edges, perhaps add a touch more salt and the set the timer for 3 seconds and the speed at 6. Job done!

 

Salmon and Watercress Quiche

This quiche, for my sins, will always be known in our house as ‘on the floor quiche’. My first ever attempt at making a quiche – this recipe – was one week ago when, on completion, I took it outside to photograph it in the gorgeous dappled sunlight, and promptly dropped it all over patio floor! Bad language and wine ensued. Anyway, one week later, I tried again and this time successfully!

Why the reluctance until now to even give it a go? When I was growing up, quiche got really bad PR. I have no idea where the expression, “real men don’t each quiche” came from but it’s always been in the back of my mind. I also had a clear (but totally inaccurate) perception that quiche was bland, heavy, boring and frankly, tasteless, so why would I want to make that?! Turns out, that concept couldn’t be further from the truth. This quiche is light, the pastry is crisp and the filling is nothing short of delightful. I would definitely urge you to throw away any preconceptions you have on the quiche front and give this one a go!

Serves 6

What you need…

1 x 30 x 20cm rectangular tart tin or 1 x 25cm flan tin, either way, spring-form and lightly buttered with bottom lined with Bake O Glide or parchment paper.

1 x large baking sheet

for the pastry

200g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

A pinch of salt

100g chilled butter, cut into cubes

1 egg yolk, beaten

3 tablespoons ice-cold water

for the filling

A little rapeseed oil

3 salmon fillets

Juice of ½ a lemon

A good knob of butter

1 medium onion, finely sliced

200g new potatoes, cut into small cubes and parboiled

50g watercress, leaves picked and tough stalks discarded

2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped

3 medium eggs, whisked

300ml double cream

Sea salt and black pepper

What to do…

Tip the flour, salt and butter into your food processor (fitted with the plastic blender) and whizz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and water and pulse until the mixture comes together to form a dough. Tip out onto cling film, wrap it up and pop it in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Whilst your pastry is resting you can prepare the salmon and onions. Preheat your oven to 200°c / 400°f / gas 6 and pop in a baking sheet to warm up.

Grease a large piece of foil using the oil and place your salmon in the middle. Squeeze over the lemon juice, season with salt and pepper and scrunch the foil together to seal. Pop your salmon parcel onto the baking sheet in the oven and cook for 12 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool.

Melt the butter in a frying pan over a moderate heat, add the onion and cook to soften for 8 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Returning to your pastry: on a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to about 3mm thick and line your tin with it. Trim off the rough edges, prick the base with a fork and pop back in the fridge for another 30 minutes (this will prevent shrinkage during the cooking process).

Take your pastry case out of the fridge, line with parchment paper and fill with baking beans. Pop it onto your hot baking sheet and bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove the paper and beans and return the case to the oven for a further 5 minutes – this will allow the pastry to dry out and prevent a soggy bottom!

Reduce the oven to 180°c / 350°f/ gas 4 and now it’s assembly time.

In a large jug, whisk together the cream and eggs. Season with salt and pepper and add the watercress and dill. Set aside for a mo.

In your pastry case, arrange onions so that they are evenly spread and top with the salmon and potatoes. Pour over the cream and egg mixture and pop into the oven on your hot baking sheet for 30 minutes or until the filling is just set and the top is turning golden brown.

Remove from oven and serve immediately, when it’s room temperature or cold – whichever is your preference – it’s just lovely! Great for a picnic or light lunch with salad.

Salmon & Watercress Quiche close up w

Inspired by…

Camilla Stephens, Higgidy

How easy…

Very easy, very relaxing. Just don’t drop it!

Prawn Saganaki

Ooooh, this is sooooo lovely that I cooked it twice in one week before blogging it – the cooking smells the first time around demanded immediate indulgence so no photographs were taken before we sat down… so I had to cook it again – shame!!!! It smells amazing and tastes even better! Greek in origin, this is a brilliant starter or supper that tastes like it belongs in a gorgeous summer holiday – you can practically feel the Mediterranean sun, smell the lavender carried on the breeze and hear the sea gently lapping on the shore. It’s quick to knock up and is definitely so much greater than simply the sum of its parts.

Serves 4 as a main meal and 6 as a starter

What you need…

A good splash of rapeseed oil

1 red onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

Pinch of chilli powder

1 star anise

6 large, ripe tomatoes, chopped

Sea salt and black pepper

800g raw king prawns

50g feta

A small handful of parsley, roughly chopped

What to do…

Heat the oil over a moderate heat in a frying pan. Add the onions and garlic and sauté for a couple of minutes until soft but not brown. Stir in the chilli and the star anise, then add in the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, cover and simmer gently for 5 minutes.

Next, add in the prawns and cook for a few minutes until they are pink, stirring occasionally to ensure even cooking throughout. Remove the star anise.

Crumble over the feta and scatter the parsley on top. Serve immediately with a nice chunky doorstep of good, fresh bread – just yummy!

Tip…

I just love this dish but if you wanted to be a little more authentic, replace the rapeseed oil for olive oil and the star anise for 3 tablespoons of ouzo. If you choose to do the latter, you’ll need to cook it off for a bit before adding the tomatoes to dispel the alcohol and reduce the liquid. However, star anise worked really, really well (weirdly, I didn’t have any ouzo in the house!)

Inspired by…

The Traveller’s Table

How easy…

Soooooo happy that I happened upon this ridiculously easy recipe!

 

Summer Mediterranean Vegetables

 

I love salads and make a huge variety of different ones – mixing traditional and new ingredients with influences from all over the world – but even though there is never a boring salad in our house, sometimes it’s nice to have an accompaniment to the barbecue that isn’t salad and this ticks that box, delightfully! I’ve entitled it ‘Mediterranean’ but that’s just what the aromas and flavours felt like to me but no matter how you describe this Mary Berry-inspired dish, it’s quite delicious and a really lovely change.

Serves 6 as a side

What you need…

1 large roasting tin

1 x 25cm shallow round ovenproof dish, lightly buttered

2 aubergines, sliced

2 red peppers, deseeded and sliced

500g courgettes, trimmed and sliced

6 tablespoons olive oil

2 red onions, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

500g passata

1 teaspoon caster sugar

A handful basil, chopped

50g Parmesan, grated

3 large tomatoes, cut into wedges

4 teaspoons thyme leaves

Sea salt and black pepper

Note…

When I tried this, there were only 3 of us, so the ingredients were halved, hence the smaller dish in the photograph. Ingredients above are for the full recipe, for 6 people.

What to do…

Preheat your oven to 220°c / 425°f / gas 7.

Chuck the aubergines, red peppers and courgettes into the roasting tin, drizzle over 4 tablespoons olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Pop in the oven for 15 minutes and then give them a quick mix about before putting them back in the oven for a further 10 minutes or until lightly browned and just soft throughout. Set aside to cool.

Reduce the oven to 200°c / 400°f / gas 6.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a large saucepan, add the onions and fry over a moderate heat for 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Tip in the passata and sugar and then season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, pop on a lid, reduce the heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes, until the onions are soft and the sauce, thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the basil.

Spoon half the sauce into the base of your ovenproof dish and then top with half the roasted vegetables, ensuring an even mix of the aubergines, peppers and courgettes. Sprinkle over the cheese and season with salt and pepper. Spoon over the rest of the sauce, covering the vegetables and then top with the remaining roasted vegetables, arranging them in a spiral pattern if you like. Finally, plop/arrange the tomato wedges on the top and sprinkle thyme over the lot. You can sprinkle more Parmesan over if you fancy (I did).

Cover with foil and pop in the oven for 25 minutes, whilst you clear up and pour a glass of wine. The smell will be amazing!

Serve your lovely summer Mediterranean vegetables with barbecued meat or fish or as light lunch or supper with a great doorstop of fresh bread. Whichever way, just yummy!

Tips…

I use Waitrose Cooks’ Ingredients’ frozen and chopped garlic just because peeling and chopping fresh garlic is a faff.

I didn’t have any passata so just whizzed a 400g tin of chopped tomatoes in the food processor – this was just for 3 of us but I used all of the tomatoes and the dish tasted great.

Inspired by…

Mary Berry

How easy…

As is my want: very, very easy and quite delicious!