Even though Autumn has now arrived and we saw the equinox appear on Friday, we are still in that “in-between stage” as I call it certainly food wise.
I cooked this recipe on my regular BBC Radio Leicester slot with Ben Jackson a couple of weeks ago. I came up with the recipe because we are still having lovely bouts of sunshine and like in my garden, I am still harvesting the last of the summer vegetables. I still have Courgettes, baby leeks, carrots, beans, lots of herbs and many more to list. Great for me to create even more recipes with in the next few weeks.
I feel at this time of year we are in the middle of wanting comfort food but maybe somedays you still want food that is quick to prepare, healthy and feels light when eating.
This is a great recipe also for using up leftover Roast chicken. So if you usually have chicken for a Sunday Roast, or in midweek then this is a perfect meal to come up with after. I also wanted to showcase how to use pearl barley in a different way rather that just in stews/casseroles and highlight the lovely herbs in this dish. Pearl barley is inexpensive and you don’t need to use a lot of it.
Click here to hear me with Ben Jackson on BBC Radio Leicester showing you just how quick and simple this meal is to prepare.
Warm pearl barley salad with courgettes, leeks and chicken.
- 75g of cooked pearl barley , I cooked mine in a little chicken stock and seasoned with cracked black pepper and sea salt once cooked.
- 2 tbsps of rapeseed Oil.
- 2 knobs of unsalted butter.
- 1 1/2 – 2 Courgettes sliced to the thickness of a one pound coin.
- 2 baby leeks or 1 small leek finely sliced.
- 1 large spring onions or 2 small sized ones finely sliced.
- 2 cloves of garlic roughly chopped .
- Approximately 100g of leftover roast chicken, shredded. ( I used chicken thighs and cooked mine in rapeseed oil with garlic, lemon thyme, oregano, sage, dill and fennel. Plus seasoned. I also added a few slices of lemon.)
- A good handful of fresh herbs such as dill, fennel fronds, fennel pollen and mint finely chopped.
- A few Squeezes of fresh lemon.
- Sea salt and cracked black pepper to season.
- If you want to keep this recipe vegetarian then simply leave out the chicken and chicken stock.
- Fry off your courgettes for a couple of minutes in rapeseed oil.
- Add in your garlic and stir. Then pop in your leeks and cook for a further minute. Again stirring or tossing around the pan allowing your garlic not to stick or burn.
- Add the white parts of your spring onion, stir and then add in your butter. Cook for a further minute.
- By now the courgettes will be cooked and glossy with the butter. Season with cracked black pepper and a pinch of sea salt .
- Add to this mixture your green part of the spring onions and take off the heat.
- Sprinkle in your fresh herbs but save some dill and fennel fronds for serving.
- Pour your mixture into a bowl, add to this then your shredded chicken and pearl barley, Squeeze a little fresh lemon into the mix and give it a good stir.
- Serve into large bowls, add the remaining dill and fennel on top and a little extra squeeze of lemon ( if you like it extra zingy ).
- You can serve this on its own or with some toasted bread ( a batard type ). Use the same frying pan to lightly toast your bread if you do and it will give it wonderful flavour.
There’s nothing more I like that cooking outdoors. Wherever I can do it, I will. Yesterday was in my lovely little garden which is great as I can pick whatever herbs, fruit and vegetables I want. I get really bored of typical bbq food, i.e. burgers, hot dogs, sausages etc…that a lot of us Brits do. So if you are like me and want to cook something easy but a little more adventurous then this recipe will be for you. Especially if you like seafood!
The only thing I would stress is that cooking outdoors, some bbq’s, fire pits, outdoor ovens with have different strengths to how hot they are and how quick things will cook. It also will change in time to how much other ingredients you put in there along with the mussels.
( Serves two as a main course portion )
- A 1kg bag of fresh Mussels ( Mine were Scottish )
- half an onion diced finely
- 1 small courgette diced finely
- A good handful of tomatoes. Sliced in half. I used my own homegrown ones which were golden ones and some piccolo red ones.
- 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
- A few slices of a funnel bulb diced finely and also a few fronds
- A handful of parsley ripped roughly
- a pinch of sea salt
- A good splash of white wine. I used Sauvignon blanc. Plus a good splash for yourself!
- 2 knobs of unsalted butter
- Also I used a branch of bay, thyme and Rosemary to smoke underneath the embers. The smell is amazing!
- De-beard and clean your mussels including taking off any barnacles. Rinse them under cold water.
- Make a bag/parcel with foil and place in your Mussels plus all other vegetables and herbs. Add your wine and place the butter over everything.
- Close up your foil parcel and place onto your bbq.
- This will Cook for roughly 12-15 minutes ( Times may vary ) If you are cooking with just the mussels, it will take less time.
- After half way through take off and check how far it is cooking. Stir will a spoon and place back on the bbq.
- When everything is cooked through, take off, pour into large bowls and serve with some crusty buttered bread.
Wild garlic is at is peak now for foraging and should be in most places over the UK in flower. I Love wild garlic and this year I have been experimenting more with it. I think people who come into my kitchen recently must be sick of smelling it, or even on me for that matter! ( Never thought about that until now! ) Also what is coming up great in my kitchen garden are the herbs. My fennel has lasted all through winter and is still going strong.
One recipe that really stood out through developing was this one on how quick it takes to prepare and cook. Plus it is super healthy.
I don’t usually buy salmon purely on its cost and sustainability but I couldn’t get Loch trout which I would have used instead. I managed to find some Scottish salmon that was MSC certified which had a lovely taste.
Combining the lovely subtle fresh flavours of the wild garlic and herbs in the couscous makes this dish so light. I didn’t overpower the salmon either, just gives it a little gentle heat against everything else. This dish is perfect for lots of occasions and especially with Easter coming up it’s a lovely alternative if you don’t want to have Lamb or any other meats. One key factor to remember…Do not overcook the Salmon then it will keep it’s lovely flavour and just flake away nicely.
I paired this up with some lovely British tomatoes that look fantastic on the dish but if Im completely honest I don’t think they go with the rest of the dish. They have a beautiful taste roasted though. So that’s your choice on whether you put them on the dish or not.
- 2 responsilbly sourced Salmon fillets ( I used Scottish )
- 1 tsp of dry Harissa spice mix/rub ( I use Spice Kitchen )
- 1 tbsp of rapeseed oil
- Sprinkle of sea salt to season. I use pink himalayan salt on mine but any good quality will do.
Wild garlic and herb Couscous:
- 150g of Couscous ( you might even have more left over for Lunch the next day )
- 250ml of vegetable stock ( boiling water )or enough to just cover the Couscous
- a handful of freshly picked wild garlic leaves, stalks off, washed and finely chopped ( Chiffonade )
- A good handful of fresh herbs finely chopped such as: Chives, mint, green fennel or fronds of, chervil and parsley. If you can’t get the fennel or chervil use a little tarragon or dill.
- A little salt and cracked black pepper to season if needed.
- 1 small red onion roughly diced
- 1 small red pepper diced roughly
- 1 small yellow pepper roughly diced
- 1 stick of celery chopped roughly
- 1 tbsp rapeseed oil
- Small handful of lemon thyme, (if you can’t get this use normal thyme and a little lemon zest at the end of roasting)
- Salt and cracked black pepper to season.
- British Vittoria tomatoes on the side ( optional )
- Preheat oven to 180c fan.
- Place vegetables in a roasting tin/dish with the lemon thyme and place in oven for 5 minutes.
- Place Salmon after 5 minutes in a roasting dish, smother the harissa and oil over it, season and place in the oven also for approximately 12-15 mins or when salmon is cooked.
- Continue cooking the vegetables also.
- Whilst these are in the oven together Pop your dry couscous into a bowl, cover with the vegetable stock and cover with cling film for 10 minutes. Leave aside.
- At this point pop your tomatoes in the oven if you want to use them.
- Then when all is ready in the oven, flake your couscous with a fork and will be fluffy at this point. Then add in your herbs and wild garlic, stir and leave to stand until all dished up together.
- Serve altogether and enjoy!
So, this is my new blog. What do you think?
I thought what a better way to kick start it off but with a recipe that went out on last Friday for one of my regular shows I do for BBC Radio Leicester, “Food Friday” which I have done for a few years now. It’s on my friends show, that of course is the lovely Mr Ben Jackson. I love cooking on “Food Friday” as I love being able to help people think of ideas for the weekend. I normally do something seasonal, inexpensive, fridge raids/leftovers and family friendly recipes. You get the gist.
This dish is a simple recipe for a family of four all put together in one dish.It’s using seasonal ingredients at its best with a little something extra.
You could also have this as a side dish or starter in smaller sized dishes (how I have shown on the pictures). It’s a dish you really don’t need to be accurate with ingredients. You can play around with it a little, i.e if you don’t want to have the chorizo in it, its also great as that lovely parmesan crumb on top gives a special crunch. It would make a great dinner party dish that doesn’t have you slaving in the kitchen too.
It really is a super, simple supper that is inexpensive to make.
Click on this link to hear to me showing Ben and our listeners just how fabulous and easy it is to make.
Half way point!
Depending on how big your dish is, this is based on serving 4 people in a 25cm gratin dish.
- 1 whole head of cauliflower including using some of the leaves. Florets broken apart and sliced downwards to the stalks.
- 1 leek sliced thinly
- 1/2 chorizo ring ( approximately 100g ) chopped into smaller cubes
- cheddar cheese grated, I used a mature British ( approximately 60-70g )
- A sprig of thyme, if the leaves are quite large, chop them finely. My herbs are from my garden so I didn’t need to and just stripped off the leaves.
- 300g carton of double cream ( you may not need to use it all, don’t cover the gratin mix with it )
- 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
- A few knobs of Unsalted butter
- salt and cracked black pepper to season
- 2 slices of bread ( a few days old ) I used wholemeal which gives more flavour
- 2 spring onions chopped roughly
- Salt and cracked black pepper to season
- 2-3 tbsp Parmesan ( Parmigiana reggiano ) grated some in the crumb mix and some for on top
At the finish, bubbling away nicely
- Preheat your oven to 180c fan.
- Blanch off your cauliflower until just starting to soften.
- In the meantime, in a blender/processor blitz together the ingredients for your topping.
- In your chosen dish place a layer of cauliflower at the bottom. Then layer up with your leeks, chorizo, garlic, cheese and thyme. Then finish with cauliflower again on top.
- Pour over your double cream and place your knobs of butter on top. Pop in the oven for 15 mins until things are starting to bubble and brown. Take out and put your crumb topping on. Place back in the oven for another 10 mins.
- When golden brown onto, serve with perhaps some crusty bread, a nice salad and a lovely red wine.
Wheres that red wine and crusty bread?
A couple of weeks back, we had the first fluttering of snow this year and temperatures dropped to actually what it should be in January now… 0 degrees. Hurrah! Finally!
My woolies came out and winter is finally here! I do love winter. I do! I love the snow. Also, putting on those oversized coats that you always say you are going to fit into, snuggling in a huge knitted scarf and wearing a pom pom hat. But simply taking yourself out for a crisp, cold winter’s walk and trying to catch what birds and wildlife you can spot. How lovely?
Here is a photo I took on that Sunday of a beautiful wintery scene in Leicestershire:
We stopped at a lovely area we know where you can just sit and watch the birds feeding. We were thrilled to see a great spotted woodpecker, he was a grand little thing. Neither of us were quick enough to take a picture! We also saw a Jay which was beautiful with his flash of bright blue on him.
But thats just me, I love that. More to the point, the food that you can pair with all this winter bliss is wonderful.
In this weather I crave for hearty stews and soups. Don’t we all surely? Dunking that crusty bread in there is food heaven. But do we all feel they are complicated to make? Or time consuming without a slow cooker?
Well, I thought I would show you a very simple way of doing a casserole. I did it after that winter outing but actually came up with the recipe last year and forgot to write about it! I also shared this recipe with my readers of my weekly column in the Leicester Mercury.
Not all stews and casseroles take forever. With this recipe it’s all in the prep, then into the oven and it does all the work for you, so you can sit back with a large glass of wine in front of the fire.
This is simple, affordable food that will blow the cold socks off your friends and family.
I actually created another recipe from the last bits of veg and juice that were left so I will post that shortly too for you too.
Herby Chicken casserole with winter veg and pearl barley:
– 1 tbsp Rapeseed oil
- Chicken thighs (1-2 per person)
- 1 onion diced
- 1 garlic clove finely chopped
- 1 stick of celery sliced
- 2 carrots diced into chunks ( Veg all the same size )
- 1 large parsnip diced into chunks
- 1/4 Swede diced into chunks
– 1/2 tin of chopped tomatoes
- Chicken stock ( 1 gel pot ) to roughly 1 litre of water
- A tied mixture of herbs of Sage, rosemary, thyme, lemon thyme and bayleaf
- salt and cracked black pepper to season
- a good splash of dry white wine
- a handful of pearl barley
- 1 leek sliced
- 3-4 chestnut mushrooms sliced
- If you want to thicken the sauce slightly at the end, add in a tbsp of chicken gravy granules.
- Cook the pearl barley to packet instructions, drain and set aside to pop in later.
* Preheat oven to 190c.
- Fry off your Chicken thighs just to colour. Pop onto a plate aside. Then in the same fat, fry off your onion, carrots, parsnip, swede and celery for a couple of minutes just to coat.
- Add your garlic into the casserole pot, stir and add the chicken back in with the tomatoes, wine, stock and herbs. Cover with a lid and place in the oven for 30-40 minutes depending on how many you are feeding for.
- After 30-40 minutes check on the Casserole to see if veg is cooking well or may need a little water etc.
- At this same point add in your leeks, mushrooms and pearl barley Pop back into the oven for 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes if you would like your sauce thicker, add in 1 tbsp of chicken gravy granules.Pop back in the oven for 5 minutes.
* After this point, check if it needs seasoning and then you are ready to serve. I served mine with Mustard mashed potato by adding dijon mustard to how you would normally do your mash.