New Resolutions……

Happy New Year! 
I know its February-where did January go? January’s often a month that drags but this year my feet hardly touched the ground, with work, family commitments and the shared stresses of my daughters mock exams. One certainty in the New Year, is the threat of the common cold. I’ve made it my mission this month to eat super healthily, drink plenty of fluids and get plenty of fresh air. It cant be good to be inside all of the time, even when its a bit chilly. So far, I’ve managed to ‘dodge the bullet’ and remained ‘cold’ free.
I’ve also been hoping for some snow. I love the way it’s so bright and muffles the sounds of the street. We had a brief flurry recently, but sadly it didn’t settle, still, there’s always next year.
Soup is the perfect thing to have when it is really cold outside. I have this romantic vision of clutching a mug of soup, standing outside in the snow. To date I’ve yet to do that, but maybe next time we have a winter wonderland I will.
Summertime is my favourite time of year, and I really love all the sunshine foods that available, but I don’t just confine them to the summer, and so on a dull grey February day, of which there is usually plenty, I make this colourful soup.

Roasted Tomato Soup with Basil Puree (serves 4 generously)
1.8kg ripe tomatoes (you need to feel them!), halved
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, crushed
4 bay leaves
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
4 medium onions, sliced finely
4 sticks of celery, sliced
1 medium head of fennel, sliced
1/2 fresh chilli, deseeded (more if you like it fiery)
2 tsp tomato puree
2 tsp honey
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and black pepper

Basil Puree
60g fresh basil leaves
1/2 tsp sea salt
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp good quality balsamic vinegar

  • Preheat the grill.
  • Place the tomatoes cut side up on a baking sheet.
  • Grill until soft and darkening at the edges.
  • 
Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5.
  • Heat the oil and then add the garlic, herbs and the remaining vegetables.
  • Cook until the vegetables start to soften and then transfer to a roasting tin or baking dish and roast for 30 minutes until soft.
  • 
Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
  • 
Blend until smooth along with the grilled tomatoes, tomato puree, honey and lemon juice, until it is a smooth pouring consistency, adding water if needed.
  • Sieve the mixture to separate the pulp.
  • Heat gently and season to taste.
  • Garnish with a swirl of basil puree.

To make the basil puree

If you have a mini blender, puree the basil with the salt, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
If not use a pestle and mortar, crushing up the basil with the salt first before and the rest of the ingredients.

Spicy Chickpea and Tomato Soup with Pesto- serves 4

“I run because if I didn’t, I’d be sluggish and glum and spend too much time on the couch. I run to breathe the fresh air. I run to explore. I run to escape the ordinary. I run…to savor the trip along the way. Life becomes a little more vibrant, a little more intense. I like that.”

Dean Karnazes, Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner

Continue reading “Spicy Chickpea and Tomato Soup with Pesto- serves 4”

“A world without tomatoes is like a string quartet without violins.” – Laurie Colwin

One of my favourite salads to make with tomatoes is Panzanella.  Their is something special about the mixture of textures, although traditionally made with stale wheat bread, I have adapted it by using a gluten free bread roll. This recipe has been inspired by a salad in Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute cookbook. I have added avocado because, well, I love them, which is justification in itself.
I only make Panzanella when I’m on holiday, when I have time to relax with a glass of wine and eat a leisurely lunch in the
sunshine.

Continue reading ““A world without tomatoes is like a string quartet without violins.” – Laurie Colwin”

Slow Cooked Roast Lamb (Serves 6)

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Eating al fresco is, for me, one of the most enjoyable things to do when the sun is shining, sharing food and wine with family and good friends.  Particularly special after the long grey winter months that we have in England, and one thing that really gets me in the summery mood is fragrant roast lamb. I think it stems from holidays in Greece, exploring the wonderful landscape, fragrant with the scent of oregano, the warmth of the sun on your back.

As much as I love cooking, I don’t want to spend a sunny day in the kitchen preparing Sunday lunch, so I either barbecue the lamb or cook it slowly in the in the oven.

Crispy roast potatoes and roast vegetables make the perfect accompaniment, and add beautiful Mediterranean colours to your plate.

1 leg of lamb, around 2.3kg

For the spicy rub
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tbsp. sea salt (the flaked kind)
1 tbsp. cumin seed
1 pinch smoked paprika
1 tbsp. dried thyme
2 tbsp. olive oil
250ml water

  • Place all of the rub ingredients except the oil butter in a mini processor and blend; gradually add the oil until you have a thick paste. (If you don’t have a mini processor, you can use a pestle and mortar, crushing the garlic and salt together and then adding the herbs and spices and then the oil as before).
  •  Place the lamb in a roasting tin and rub all over with the spice mix.
  • Place in the oven for 35 minutes.
  • Take the lamb out of the oven (make sure you close the oven door, to keep it at a constant temperature) and add the water to the roasting tin, and then baste the lamb with it.
  • Roast for 3 hours, basting every hour. If the liquid evaporates too much, just add some more.
  • After 3 hours are up, remove the roasting tray from the oven, and rest for 10 minutes.

My Roast Potatoes (serves 6)

1.5 kg Potatoes
4 tbsp. Olive oil
My Secret Kitchen Lemon & Chipotle
Spiced Sea Salt (or salt and pepper)

  • Bring a large pan of potatoes to the boil and then cook until a fork will scratch the surface of the potatoes and make ridges.
  • Meanwhile heat the olive oil in a small pan.
  • Drain the potatoes and shake in the pan or in a colander until the edges are ‘roughed up’.
  • Drizzle the oil onto the potatoes and toss them a little.
  • Place them in a roasting tin and season with My Secret Kitchen Lemon & Chipotle
Spiced Sea Salt or salt and pepper.
  • Roast for 30 minutes at 160C and then 35 minutes at 200C (or 1 hour at 200C, if you’re not cooking the lamb)

Roast Vegetables (serves 4-6- it depends how hungry you are!)

1 red pepper, cut into chunks
1 orange pepper, cut into chunks
1 punnet of cherry tomatoes
2 bunches of asparagus, bending until the woody parts snap off- discard these ends
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 lemon, quartered
A sprinkle of OLD BAY® with Lemon & Herb Seasoning

  • Toss all of the vegetables and garlic in olive oil and place in a roasting tin.
  • Sprinkle OLD BAY® with Lemon & Herb Seasoning, or salt and pepper.
  • Add the lemon quarters to the tin and bake for 30 minutes at 200C until soft and blackened around the edges.

Timetable for the whole meal if you serving it at 1.15pm:

8.30    Preheat the oven at 160C
8.45    Cook the lamb for 35 minutes
9.20    Baste lamb
10.20  Baste lamb
11.20  Baste lamb
11.50  Add potatoes
12.20  Remove lamb and keep warm- turn oven up to 200C
12.25  Add vegetables.
1pm    Remove everything from the oven and serve on a platter.

(If the potatoes or vegetables aren’t cooked enough- don’t panic, pour yourself a glass of wine and cook them for a little longer!)