Usually what happens when the school holidays roll around is that I have much more time to devote to blogging. Well, not so this time. My dreamy plans of long walks, boozy visits, vigorous runs, lazy lunches and plentiful posts were dashed to pieces by both unfortunate unforseen circumstances and underestimated study commitments. It was, in the end, a rather fraught couple of weeks and I’m actually now rather glad to be back in the bustle of the classroom for a “break” from it all.
I still had to eat though. And I still made sure I ate damn well. So one upshot of my hectic holidays is a backlog of recipes to share. Hooray for bright sides!
A simple one to start with. Ate this every day until the pastry ran out.
Ready made & rolled puff pastry
Optional – blue cheese
- Cut the rolled pastry into a circle or rectangle big enough for you or how ever many you are feeding.
- Slice the tomatoes thickly and place onto pastry layering slightly and keeping a couple of centimetres from the edges.
- Tuck some torn basil leaves in here and there. Season and sprinkle the cheese over the tomatoes if you are using it.
- Brush the edges of the pastry with milk.
- Bake in a 210 oC pre-heated oven for 15-20 minutes until pastry has risen and tomatoes and cooked through.
When I read that Julia and James were holding a food event in honour of the late Keith Floyd, I knew I wanted to join in. News of his death last month sincerely saddened me as his cooking style and recipes and joie de vivre always inspired me and made me smile. Have you read the epilogue in Floyd on France? It’s a short chapter describing a day of eating and socialising in a small French town - possibly Provence, don’t have the book to hand – and it’s one of most uplifting pieces I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. Really. Seek it out.
It was his TV programmes Floyd was perhaps most famous for. I have to admit, I’m generally not into food shows. Don’t have anything against them at all and I do have my favourite celebrity chefs (Jamie!) but watching demonstations of cooking and listening to hints and tips just doesn’t suit my learning style at all. I get bored. Just give me a cookbook and let me start experimenting! That said, Floyd’s programmes were the exception. Perhaps it was the interesting variety of places he cooked in or the variety of people he introduced us too or the alcohol fuelled tantrums or the wry enthusiasm he exuded, I’m not sure. All I know is that half an hour of Floyd flew by in a haze of giggles and scribbled notes.
Back to the blogging event…
It took me a long time to decide what dish to make and post about. Looking through Floyd’s books there were lots of things I hadn’t tried and was intrigued by and more that I had made and enjoyed. Plenty of options then. In the end I settled on a simple tabbouleh not only because there are still plenty of good tomatoes around but also as it was the first Floyd recipe I ever made. I remember hurriedly jotting down the recipe in a Finnish library at a time when I was just, just starting to get interested in cooking. It was successes that came from recipes like this that encourged me to keep cooking and eventually created the food obsessed monster that writer to you all now.
P.S. Must admit, this is no longer the only version of tabbouleh I make. The Ottolenghi version that was in The Guardian recently was really very good and much bolder than the version I’m used to. Still think this is my favourite though.
Tabbouleh (which book this came from and how much it resembles the original recipe I’m not sure! It’s been tweaked from some hastily written, fairly indecipherable notes on the back of a library leaflet.)
1 cup bulgar
5 perfect ripe tomatoes, skinned, seeded and chopped finely
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/2 small red onion, chopped finely
1 spring onion, chopped finely
Big handful of parsley, chopped finely
Big handful of coriander, chopped finely
Small handful of mint, chopped finely
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper
- In a small pot bring the bulgar and 1.5 mugs of water to a boil. Put the lid on and simmer for a few minutes until water is almost absorbed. Remove from heat but keep lid on for 10 mins. Remove lid, fluff up bulgar and leave to cool.
- Mix the tomatoes together with garlic.
- One bulgar has cooled add all of the ingredients to a large bowl and toss well to combine. Taste for seasoning or extra lemon juice or whatever else isn’t quite right.
We ate this last night with lamb and aubergine kebabs and tzatziki. Very good it was too.
This photo relaxes me.
… as a baby Highland cow.
Nam nam nam. Need I say more?
Cumin Roasted Cauliflower
1 large head of cauliflower, cut into florets
1 heaped tablespoon ghee or 2 tblspn vegetable oil
1 tablespoon cumin seeds, ground roughly with a mortar and pestle
1/4 tablespoon coriander seeds, ground roughly with a mortar and pestle
Salt and pepper
- Add the cauliflower to a pan of boiling water and cook for 1 minute. Drain well.
- Heat the ghee in a small pan over a low heat. Add the spices and cook gently for a minute or two being careful not to burn the spices.
- Add seasoning to the oil then toss with the parboiled cauliflower.
- Roast in a 200 oC oven for approximately 15 minutes or until the cauliflower is golden brown.
Though I can’t say I’ve got over my term one fatigue just yet, I feel I have my cooking mojo back at long last. Thank heavens. I’ve been staring at the same squash and the same block of halloumi for weeks now and have had absolutely no idea what to do with them at all.
Then yesterday (my 32nd birthday – not 33rd as I’d thought!) I got Nigel Slater’s new book, Tender, and ideas/inspiration came flooding back. Haven’t actually made anything from Tender yet but I’m very thankful Mr S for getting me out of the rut with his consistently gorgeous recipes and ever soothing chat.
Love ya, Nigel!
Baked Halloumi with Honey and Thyme (Adapted from Real Fast Food)
(serves 4 as a starter or 3 as part of a main salad)
250g block of halloumi
1 tspn honey
1 tblspn olive oil
Palmful of fresh thyme leaves
Pinch of ground pepper
- Pre-heat oven to 200 oC.
- Cut the halloumi into 1 cm thick slices and place on a piece of tinfoil which has been shaped into a tray (edges folded over and up).
- Whisk the honey, oil, thyme and pepper together and brush thickly onto the slices.
- Bake for 10-15 minutes until the cheese has just began to colour.