After a very tough, ridiculously busy few months at work, the Easter holidays have finally arrived. To say I’m happy would be the understatement of the year. It so good to have room in my head once again to take in the world. And to think about blogging too. I’ve been away from this space so long, it feels a little odd to be writing a post once again. Shall sort that out in the coming weeks by posting often.
Spent the first four days of the holiday on the west coast with friends. As if celebrating with us, the skies, which had been heavy and slate grey for weeks and weeks, broke out in brilliant blue for the whole weekend. A perfect backdrop to the fantastic time we had indulging in lots of good food and wine and then walking it all off on the hills and shores of Skye and Lochalsh.
Back home now and, really, I feel brand new.
I will be back. Hopefully sooner rather than later…
Leakey’s is an enormous second hand bookshop and cafe in Inverness. Chock-a-block full of really old, kinda old and not-at-all old books and prints and maps and photographs, it’s a perfect place to spend an afternoon browsing and reading and buying in between big bowls of soup, coffees and lovely traybake cakes.
If you’re coming to Inverness, I reckon Leakey’s should be at the top of your “To See” list.
A bright but blustery Sunday morning has turned into a rather dark, threatening afternoon. Icy plops of rain are falling and the bare birch trees across the road are swaying in an increasingly strong wind. I don’t mind though. Marco’s been walked and I’ve already been for a run. There’s nothing I need do other than read my book (The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler), drink peppermint tea and make soup for the week ahead. Nice.
Today’s soup will be a wintery minestrone (this one). More often than not, however, I’ve been making the below soup. It’s David’s current favourite. He likes his soups hearty and, in this weather, so do I.
Chorizo, Spinach and Chickpea Soup
150g chorizo, skinned and chopped into small cubes
2 celery sticks, chopped finely
2 onions, chopped finely
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tspn smoked paprika
½ tspn cayenne pepper (optional – really not necessary if your paprika is spicy)
½ cup brown rice
400g tin of chickpeas, drained
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
500g frozen, chopped spinach (Whole leaf is fine too but it will need to be defrosted then chopped finely first. Fresh spinach should be chopped finely first too.)
1.5 litres of stock (ham for preference but vegetable or chicken is fine too)
- Add a splash of olive oil to a large pan. Throw in the chorizo and cook over a medium heat until the chorizo releases its fat. Add the onion and celery and cook for a further 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the garlic and smoked paprika. Cook for a couple more minutes then add the chickpeas and brown rice. Stir well.
- Finally, add the tomatoes, spinach and stock. Simmer gently for an hour then taste for seasoning. It’s unlikely to need salt but a grinding of pepper would be good.
Parsnips last week, parsnips this week. I’m in a parsnip place right now…
I often like to make Bill Granger’s LA Burgers on a Saturday night. They’re lovely juicy patties made with pork mince and fennel then topped with roasted peppers and rocket. He recommends serving them with sweet potato chips (non-Brits: I’m talking about fries here not crisps) and, sometimes, I do. But they never get crispy enough for me to be able to dip in ketchup. Not good. Normal chips, which I generally love, ruin the freshness of the meal for me, however. It’s a dilemma…
No, it’s not! Parsnip chips are the way to go. Garlic and rosemary parsnip chips, to be precise. I’m a fan. Think you will be too.
Garlic and Rosemary Chips
(serves 2 as a side)
2 large parsnips
1 tblspn olive oil
Pinch of salt
Pinch of peppercorns
¼ tspn chopped rosemary
1 small garlic clove
- Preheat oven to 200 oC
- Peel the parsnips and cut into chips half the length of the whole veg and half an inch wide.
- In a mortar and pestle, bash together the peel garlic clove, rosemary, peppercorns and salt to form a rough paste. Stir in the olive oil then toss the parsnips with the mixture.
- Lay the parsnips out on a baking tray making sure you don’t crown them. Put in the oven for 20-30 minutes, turning occasionally, until golden brown.
My favourite cookbook of last year was undoubtedly Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Everyday Veg. Lots of lovely workable, unfussy ideas for veggie meals and snacks. It’s barely been off my cookbook stand since I got it and is already covered in splatters and splodges of various foodstuffs. Always a good sign.
One of the recipes we’ve come back to time and time again is the Lentil, Parsnip and Watercress Salad. Unusual combination but it’s a cracker of a dish.
Simply toss around 5 peeled and roughly chopped parsnips in a little olive oil then roast for 25 mins in a 200 oC oven until golden brown and slightly caramelised. Meanwhile boil 125g of puy lentils in water with a couple of bay leaves and an onion. Drain, remove the bay and onion then toss the hot lentils with a honey, garlic and mustard dressing. Allow the lentils and parsnips to cool a little (the salad is best warm rather than hot) then top with generous handfuls of watercress.
We dished this up for a couple of lunch guests recently with a Spanish tortilla, rye bread and hummus.