Lemon and Garlic Cod, Truffled red pepper puree, pearl barley risotto and crispy pine nuts. Pimms Jelly, Avocado mousse and Vanilla and raspberry macaroons.

I’m sure it appears that my house is an endless stream of dinner parties at the moment. This is mostly because my parents have been storing up invitations to dinner until I came home, giving me an opportunity to practise my cooking before next year. This time it was the turn of some very good family friends of ours who I credit for helping further my career with advice and investment. They were the first people to listen to the ideas of a precocious 17 year old and trust me with catering 21st birthdays, engagement parties and even help me out with my brief hamper business. So no pressure with actually delivering something which lives up to their high opinion of me then… I was tasked with creating something not too heavy and of course given the dreariness of the British weather, something enticingly summery to counteract the rain. But then who in England isn’t extremely used to drinking Pimms outside whilst a faint mist of drizzle falls around them?

   

 

Lemon and Garlic Cod, truffled Red Pepper puree, pearly barley risotto and crispy pine nuts (serves 4)

Cod

4 skinless, boneless cod fillets, 4 garlic cloves, 1 sliced lemon, fresh coriander, black pepper, groundnut oil

Pepper Puree 

3 red peppers, drizzle truffle oil, 1tsp dried oregano, 1tsp dried basil, 1tsp chilli powder, 1tsp paprika, 1tbsp lemon juice, 2tbsp white wine vinegar, 2tsp sea salt 

Pearl Barley Risotto 

2 onions, 4 garlic cloves, drizzle olive oil, lemon juice, 3tbsp sherry, 2tsp each dried rosemary, parsley, thyme, 1tsp turmeric, 1tsp chilli powder, Fresh Coriander, 280g pearl barley, 1 stock cube 

75g pine nuts

  1. For the cod, place fillets on a piece of foil. Scatter with chopped garlic, slices of lemon coriander and black pepper (nb NO SALT) and drizzle with groundnut oil. Fold up into a parcel and crimp the top like a cornish pasty.
  2. Roast the Peppers whole in the oven on the highest setting for 20mins, turning halfway, or until skin is blackened slightly and blistered. Leave to cool.

  3. For the risotto, chop the onion and garlic and sauté in oil and a sprinkle of salt until translucent. Add the sherry and some lemon juice followed by the spices. Add pearl barley and cook for 2-3mins. Add 600ml water and stock cube. Leave to simmer stirring occasionally until water has mostly gone and barley is cooked. Add more water if needed. Stir through herbs. Season to taste with salt, pepper and lemon juice. This can be heated up just before serving, if doing this, leave a little undercooked and add more water before heating.

  4. To finish the puree, remove the skin and seeds of the peppers. Using a blender liquidise all the ingredients, adjusting seasoning to taste.

  5. Bake the fish at 180 o C for 7-10mins. Meanwhile toast pine nuts on a medium heat in a frying pan for 3-5mins, then crush in a plastic bag with a rolling pin. To serve, spoon puree onto plates, top with risotto, then fish and finally crushed pine nuts.

  

Pimms jelly, Avocado Cream, Vanilla and Raspberry macaroon

Jelly 

125g sugar, 100ml water, 4 sheets gelatine, 125ml pimms, 100ml lemonade, selection of berries to serve, mint leaves

Avocado Cream 

1 avocado, 2tbsp greek yoghurt, pinch salt, 2tbsp icing sugar, 1tbsp lime juice

Vanilla and Raspberry Macaroons 

2 egg whites, 2tbsp caster sugar, 110g icing sugar, 175g ground almonds, 1tsp vanilla bean paste, 75g frozen raspberries, 1tsp vanilla bean paste, 2tbsp caster sugar

  1. For the Jelly, Bring the sugar and water to the boil and boil for 2-3mins. Meanwhile soak gelatine leaves in cold water. Remove syrup from the heat and add gelatine leaves, squeezed out. Add pimms and lemonade and stir. Pour into 4 teacups. Leave to set at room temperature for 1 hour. Add fruit, leave to set in fridge for 2 or more hours.

  2. For the macaroons. Whisk egg whites to stiff peaks. Add caster sugar to form a meringue. Fold in icing sugar, almonds and vanilla bean paste. Scoop mix into a piping bag and pipe into circles on greaseproof paper. You may find it easier to draw templates on the paper first. Preheat oven to 210 o C. Drop trays onto a flat surface from a low heat to remove any air bubbles and peaks. Leave macaroons for 20mins to set the tops. Put in the oven for 5mins or until the macaroons start to brown. Immediately turn the oven off and leave for 30mins.

  3. For the filling, Heat raspberries, caster sugar and vanilla paste over a medium flame. Stir and mash the raspberries together as they defrost. Leave to simmer till dark and jammy Remove from the heat. When room temperature, sandwich to macaroons with the jam.

  4. For the Avocado cream, blend all ingredients together and adjust to taste.

  5. To serve, pipe cream onto the jellies, top with a mint leaf and serve macaroon on the saucer.

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Caesar Salad, Pancetta wrapped Cod, Jelly, Ice Cream and Chocolate

Don’t get me wrong, I love my parents dearly. But for two immensely talented and successful people, they are absolutely hopeless at feeding themselves. People think I’m joking when they ask where I learnt to cook and I tell them it wasn’t so much where but why, it was a necessity if I didn’t want to live off fish cakes for the majority of my teenage years. Take this weekend when I came home. I had offered to cook dinner for the parents and the man upstairs, and in return my mum had bought in a shopping order. I had left basic items like stock and dried herbs off the list assuming anyone who isn’t a student, lives in a house full time and presumably eats would have these staples, I was wrong. My mothers response? ‘We had some at christmas’, yes we did, and I used it up, the last time I cooked in our house. My father is I’m afraid no better, while very good at selecting wines for our dinner, he took in the food order and left out most of the veg and salad because they wouldn’t fit in the fridge, the fridge was full of potatoes…. Anyway, for those of you who know how to store vegetables, here is a standard, albeit slightly middle class, quick dinner party menu.

Posh Caesar Salad (Serves 4) 

2 iceberg lettuces, 2 chicken breasts, 4 quails eggs, 10 anchovies, 1 small sourdough roll, 1 egg yolk, 1/3 tsp of English mustard, 1/2 tsp of garlic, finely chopped, 1 1/4 tsp of white wine vinegar, 1 1/4 tsp of lemon juice 1 tsp of Worcestershire sauce, 10g of Parmesan, grated, 120ml of vegetable oil

1. Sprinkle chicken with sea salt, pepper, lemon juice and olive oil and top with 1/2 crushed garlic clove each. Roast for 12-15mins at 180*C, leave to rest. 

  1. Meanwhile boil the quails eggs for 2 1/2mins, then run under cold water to stop the cooking process. When cool, peel and set aside. Cut the roll into croutons and toast on both sides under a grill, seasoned with a little salt, pepper and olive oil.
  2. For the dressing, blend 2 anchovies, egg yolk, mustard, garlic, vinegar, salt and pepper. Slowly add oil whilst blitzing. Add Worcester sauce, lemon juice and Parmesan, season to taste.

  3. Serve drizzled over Iceberg lettuce topped with chicken, anchovies, quails egg and Parmesan slivers.  

Pancetta wrapped cod, pearl barley risotto, garlic mushrooms, crispy kale, Early Grey jus

4 cod fillets, boneless and skinless, 12 rashes pancetta, 100g button mushrooms, 2 cloves garlic, 100g kale, dried rosemary, 320g pearl barley, 2 stock cubes, 1 onion, dried thyme, drizzle of truffle oil, 3tbsp Brandy. 2 earl grey tea bags.

  1. Soak the tea bags in 300ml hot water for at least 1hr. Wrap 3 pancetta rashes around each fish and set aside in a baking tray. Meanwhile place the kale in a baking dish, sprinkled with salt, pepper, rosemary and a small drizzle of oil. Place in the oven at 140*C for 25mins, stirring occasionally, until crispy.
  • .Meanwhile, slice the onions into small pieces. Sauté for 2-3mins in olive oil and salt. Add the pearl barley, thyme then brandy. Add 600ml stock and cook, stirring occasionally for 30mins, adding more water if needed. Season with lemon juice, pepper, salt and truffle oil and set aside.

  • Forthe mushrooms, finely chop garlic and cook in truffle oil for 1min. Add the mushrooms and cook for 5mins over a high heat, set aside. Put the fish on to cook in 140*C oven for 15mins.

  • Meanwhile, make jus. Combine earl grey stock with stock cube, salt, pepper and lemon juice, reduce by about half.

  • Just before serving, heat jus and risotto. Make a bed with the risotto, scatter around mushrooms, place fish on top, drizzle jus and scatter with kale chips.  

  • Grown-up Jelly, Ice cream and chocolate sauce

    A nostalgic nod to my primary school, The Rowans, where we indulgently were given those wonderful ice cream squares, strawberry jelly and chocolate custard, my favourite dessert. We used to mix them all up together in a wonderful synthtic, sugary mess we loved. This thankfully is more refined, very simple and quick and tasty, try adding ginger to the ice cream.

    1 tub vanilla ice cream, 200g shortbread biscuits, 4tbsp maple syrup, Silicone half sphere moulds, 300ml grapefruit juice, 4 gelatine leaves, 200g dark chocolate, 50g sugar, 50ml water, pinch of sea salt.

    1. Let the ice cream soften, until it can be squeezed out of its tub. Use a pastry brush to coat 4 silicone moulds. Crush shortbread in a plastic bag with a rolling pin to fine crumbs. Pour into moulds to coat and shake out so you have an even layer lining the moulds. Scoop ice cream into each mould, using a knife to level the base. Freeze.
  • For the jelly, heat grapefruit juice to boiling. Soak gelatine leaves in cold water, squeeze out and stir into grapefruit juice. Pour into a base lined square dish and refrigerate for at least 2hrs.

  • For the sauce, heat water and sugar to boiling. Stir in chocolate and salt until melted. Chop grapefruit jelly into squares. Serve beside ice cream and jelly in a little jug.

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    London Calling

    It was long ago decided my sister was going to be the rich sister, along the same time as she decided to go into Property and about the time I decided to go into food…. Unfortunately I can’t even claim to be the creative one in the family as she is both musical as well and way more fashionable than I am. What I can do however is cook for her friends when I am up. While my sister is not actually a bad cook, the fact that she was surprised that the list of ingredients included olive oil (which she didn’t have in the house) was possibly a good reason for me to intervene when cooking 3 courses for 8… London is still a little bit of a novelty for me. Having grown up in Oxford and barely ever leaving University in Cambridge during term time it’s still slightly exciting to use the tube, shop in Oxford street and go out in London (although the prices soon wear the novelty down). I was down in London to do a course in Wine course, 48 wines in 3 days (although of course you spit most of them away as you have to be pretty on it for the exam at the end of the 3 days). So now I should be able to tell you quite a lot about all the different grapes, where they come from, what they taste like and matching wines to food. (More on that later)

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    So for the menu I cooked for my sister (aided I might add at this point by my sister’s lovely friend the business whizz, who came early to help. About 2 mins after I first met her she was chopping onions, absolutely brilliant) I made:

     

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    Crunchy Butterbeans

    1. Spread out 800g tinned Butterbeans or Garbanzo beans in an ovenproof dish. Sprinkle over sea salt, pepper, lime juice, paprika, pinch of cinnamon, pinch of cayenne pepper and a drizzle of oil.

    2. Roast in the oven 190oC for 30mins, then turn down to 160oC and roast until crunchy, checking every 10mins to stir.

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    White Gazpacho

    1. Lay out 100g flaked almonds on a baking tray lined with foil. Toast at 200oC for 8-10mins until browned. Roast 2 heads of garlic at 200oC for30-40mins and then set aside to cool. Slice 100g white grapes in half and freeze with 100g quartered slices of cucumber.

    2. Cut 375g white grapes in half and place in a bowl with 375g of chopped, skinless and seedless cucumber. Pour over 360ml natural yoghurt, a pinch of salt and pepper, 360ml water, 300g ground almonds, 360g sourdough bread, crust removed and torn into pieces and the roasted garlic cloves. (The best way to do this is using a serrated knife and slice of the bottom of the head of garlic and squeeze out the insides) Mix and leave overnight to marinade.

    3. Blend the fridge mix together and season with salt, pepper and sherry vinegar to taste. Serve garnished with frozen grapes, frozen cucumber slices, flaked almonds and drizzle of oil.

    Giant Couscous Paella, Roasted Cod, Crispy Ham, Pea Puree

    1. Lay 140g Serrano ham (or Proscuitto) on a single layer on a lined baking tray nd roast for 6-8 mins at 200oC,, separate, cut into strips and leave to cool.

    2. For the pea puree take 400g frozen peas, add 125ml vegetable stock, 3-4 garlic cloves, a bunch of mint, bunch of parsley and 2 tbsp Greek yoghurt. Blend together till smooth, season to taste. Refrigerate till ready to use.

    3. For the Paella, soften 2-3 onions with 4-5 finely chopped garlic cloves and a pinch of salt in 2tsp olive oil. Add a splash of white wine, 4-5 strands of saffron, 1-2tsp paprika, 1-2tsp cayenne pepper and 2-3 red peppers cut into strips. Add 300g giant couscous and stir to coat for 2-3mins. Add 400ml stock and cook 8-10mins until the couscous is cooked.

    4. For the cod, put 8 cod fillets skin up in a roasting tin, season and drizzle with olive oil. Roast in the oven at 200oC for 8mins until just translucent and the skin is beginning to crisp.

    5. Place pea puree on the plate, put a circle of paella in the centre and top with the fish and crispy ham.

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    Lime Sponge, Lime, Tequila and Salted Caramel Syrup, Avocado mousse and White Chocolate Mint leaves

    1. For the Syrup (1). Place 150g sugar in a pan. Add 50ml water, a large pinch of salt, 1 lime juice and zest. Bring to the boil and DO NOT STIR. Let bubble till it begins to turn very light orange, remove from the heat. Pour a little syrup into 8 greased, foil mini pudding basins. Leave to cool.

    2. For the Sponge. Beat 170g sugar and 170g butter together until light and fluffy. Beat in 2 eggs, vanilla essence, zest of 1 lime and 1tsp cinnamon for 2-3 mins. Fold in 170g self raising flour. The mix should be pale yellow and not too thick, if it is too thick add a little milk. Spoon batter into the 8 pudding basins, filling up to halfway. Bake in the oven for 12-15mins at 140oC or until golden brown and cooked in the middle (check using a metal skewer, if it comes out clean the cakes are done. Set aside till ready to use.

    3. For the Mint Leaves, Melt 100g white chocolate in a microwave in 20sec bursts. Pick individual mint leaves and pat completely dry. Dip the leaves in the mint and place on a greased, foil lined tray, place in the fridge to set.

    4. For the mousse, mash 2 avocados and blend with 300g Greek Yoghurt (blending creates a lighter texture than just mixing). Add a small bunch of mint, a pinch of salt, 2-3tbsp of icing sugar and lime juice (to taste).

    5. For the syrup (2). This syrup needs to be clear so make the syrup as step 1 but take it off the heat before it gets any colour and it should be thinner. Add 50ml white tequila. (This should be used warm)

    6. To serve, turn out the sponges and drizzle with the warm syrup. Serve with the Avocado mousse and white chocolate mint leaf.