Monthly Archives: May 2015

aubergizza and griddled courgettes

Auberg-izza      griddled courgettes

 

Back in the day when I could eat pizza with abandon, I was blasé and took it for granted. I did eat pizza quite often (mmmm Strada) but I don’t think I realised how lucky I was and how much I would miss it when it was gone.

But whenever I am getting forlorn and sad, and wistfully rueing all the delicacies that I can no longer eat (tempting though that is) what I try to do is to stay in the present. And, now that pizza has been banned, I keep on coming up with new ways to scratch the pizza itch. Cauliflower pizza is pretty darn good, and so are roasted tomatoes with oregano. But here’s the latest experiment: aubergizza! Or maybe it’s pizzagine; I haven’t decided yet. I made these for my vegetarian sister-in-law at the weekend and I was planning to make lots of things to go with them. But we ran out of time so I just served them with these griddled courgettes, and a green salad, and it felt like a pretty substantial supper and really quite pizza-like (bearing in mind that I am coming from a starting point of complete pizza-less-ness, that is).

 

Tomato sauce

I made this a couple of hours in advance as it benefits from a bit of long slow cooking but it’s really an assembly job and then the magic just happens in the pan with zero interference.

2 small onions, diced

2 garlic cloves

2 tins tomatoes (it’s really worth splashing the cash on Napolitana ones which are twice the price but twice as nice as many other brands, I think).

Fry the onions in ground nut or rape seed oil (I know I’m coming late to the party but these oils have a higher burn point than olive oil so don’t turn into horrible transfats) until soft and translucent. When they are cooked, gently smash the garlic with the back of a large knife and put in whole for a minute or two before adding the tomatoes then cooking for at least an hour, with the lid off so it reduces a bit and becomes fairly consolidated. Put aside and move onto the aubergines. If you are making this and really feel passionately that olive oil is essential – as I do, actually – you could always add a glug of extra virgin olive oil at the very end, once cooked, just before serving.

Aubergizza

Just to say that a griddle pan is a pretty essential piece of kit for this!

4 medium aubergines (I allowed one per person in case they were so delicious people couldn’t stop eating them – but we had leftovers which is no bad thing).

Tomato sauce

cheddar cheese, grated

Slice the aubergines lengthways into pretty chunky slices (it depends on size of course but I got four slices out of each one). Ideally, you’d put them into a bowl and salt them then leave them with a heavy weight on for at least half an hour before wiping the salt and water away. But I don’t suppose it’s the end of the world if you don’t have time for this. Then put them into a bowl and use your hands to make sure they are completely covered on both sides with rape seed oil. Heat your griddle pan up so it’s really hot, then place the aubergine slices lengthways (you’ll probably have to do this in batches and the pan should be so hot that the aubergines should sizzle as they meet it). Cook one side and then the other, using a fork to make sure they are properly cooked and beautifully branded with sizzle marks. Then remove to cool and  continue cooking the rest.

Once you’ve cooked them all, put the grill on and arrange the aubergines side by side on the grill pan before covering each one with tomato sauce, then cheddar, and grilling them so the cheese melts.

As the cheese was melting, I gridded my courgettes, which I’d basted in rapeseed oil and lemon. If I’d had more time I might have done something a bit fancier with them (some kind of garlicky dressing and maybe built a salad around them), but they were pretty good on their own.

Suddenly-feels-like-summer supper

chicken kebabs with cucumber yoghurt dressinggriddled halloumi skewers

Suddenly, there’s something different in the air. The proof of the pudding is that yesterday I went out without a scarf for the first time since September which can only mean one thing: summer is a-comin’. Before you know it I’ll be liberating my feet and wearing the Lotta clogs that I bought in March in a fit of very previous over-excitement that it might not be winter forever. The other way I know it’s nearly summer is that we had the, ‘Let’s get a barbecue! Or maybe a chiminea? Or something that does both?’ conversation in anticipation of being at the lovely beginning of the chapter of wanting to sit and cook and eat outside in our (quite teeny; very urban) garden. As usual, we couldn’t decide, or commit, so instead we made kebabs and griddled ’em and ate them with the garden doors opening, listening to all our neighbours living it up al fresco. You can only really griddle food (well at least in our kitchen) when it’s warm enough to cook with both garden doors open to create maximum air circulation. Otherwise, you just get smoked out and the house reeks like a kebab-house for days which, no matter how delicious the food was, only induces regret.

Lemony chicken kebabs with basil and garlic

2 or 3 chicken beasts (depending on how many you want to make

BBQ skewers (which you are supposed to soak for half an hour before using so they don’t burn)

A griddle pan if you have one (which gives those gorgeous char-grilled strips that are probably really bad for you. You could also use a frying pan or grill but this moves it away from scratching the BBQ itch)

For the marinade

These really do taste so much better, and are so much more tender, if you marinade the chicken for as long as you have time to do.

juice and zest of 1 lemon

handful or 2 of basil or tarragon or any herb you like with chicken roughly chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

olive oil and pepper

Put the marinade ingredients into a bowl big enough to hold the chicken as well, then cube the chicken into quite small chunks (I’m paranoid about under-cooking chicken which feels easier to do if you are searing the outside on a very hot griddle, which is why I go quite small, but it is of course up to you). Using your hands or a large spoon, make sure each cube is well coated with marinade then cover and put in the fridge until you are ready to cook, at which point, remove from the fridge then spear the chicken, piece-by-piece on to your wooden skewers. As you are doing this, heat your griddle pan up so it is very, very hot indeed. You don’t need to oil it as long as your chicken is very efficiently coated in the oily marinade. Once your chicken cubes are be-skewered and your griddle is searingly hot, put your kebabs onto the pan, turning when one side is cooked, making sure each side gets seared.

I served these with a dressing made from home-made yoghurt (although you could of course use shop-bought if you are not following the SCD) with some finely chopped cucumber and mint. plus a squeeze of lemon juice and a glug of extra virgin oil.

I have cooked these in the past with  vegetables on the skewers too, which can be delicious, but which can also result in everything cooking at different rates so at least one of the components are not that nice. I remedied this by roasting some courgettes and aubergines with whole garlic cloves in the oven (but I then almost forgot about them,  rescuing them when they were just – just! – on the right side of burnt, as you can see below).

almost burnt roast aubergine and courgette

Lemony halloumi skewers 

I also made some satisfyingly chunky cubes of halloumi, which I cut up then marinaded in the same combo of basil, lemon, garlic and olive oil (not very original on the one hand but, on the other, if it ain’t broke why fix it?), skewered, then griddled.

election night supper

mini burgers and oregano tomatoes

 

What to make when you are having old friends over to watch the election (and catch up on all the goss)? Tiny little burgers of course! So, so, so easy and very relaxed. I just used two 450g packs of organic ground beef mixed with a couple of whisked eggs then used my hands to shape them into tiny little patties. I experimented with embedding cubes of cheddar inside some of them,  which went down really well with  my four year old son, then fried each side for about three minutes each. For the adults, a bit later, I just put slices of cheese on top as soon as I’d flipped, and it melted perfectly. Carb-eaters can have buns (of course! never deprive the carb eaters if you don’t have to, is my rule of thumb.) I just ate ’em neat.

The asparagus is roasted for about 12 minutes, with olive oil salt and pepper. No par-boiling, even.

I just want to tell you about the roasted tomatoes that are centre stage of this picture. I started making them a few years ago when I was hankering after pizza and realised that a lot of that unique pizza deliciousness comes down to the oregano and tomatoes. These tomatoes are just cut in half, salted and peppered then sprinkled – quite generously – with dried oregano and a few slices of garlic, then olive oiled and cooked for about half an hour at 180 degrees. So simple and yet more delicious than seems viable for such a tiny amount of interference. Try it! They go amazingly well with white fish and on the side of halloumi and keep in the fridge for a few days at least. We all enjoyed them so much we almost forgot about the election. Almost.

simple lemon basil and garlic chicken supper

IMG_3535

The main appeal about this meal, when it was in the planning stages, was how super simple it is, because after a long weekend of doing not very much at all I was in a ‘can’t-really-be-fagged-to-cook’ mood. So I just put chopped chicken beasts into a roasting tray and applied a hastily conceived (based on what was in the fridge) marinade then left it in the fridge for a couple of hours while I went to Pilates. The plan was to griddle the chicken on the stove top, which would have been delicious, but as an experiment – borne mainly from laziness – I just shoved the whole tin of chicken, marinade and all, into the oven. And happily, despite the lazy roots, the results were really delicious and the chicken was noticeably tender (left to their own devices, chicken beasts can suffer from being dry, tough and boring but marinading really, really helps).

While it was in the oven and we were drinking Prosecco to say farewell to another Bank Holiday weekend nearly ended (sob!), I fried up some mushrooms in butter, then added spinach and also roasted some asparagus in oil salt and pepper for about 12 minutes on 180 degrees. Roasted asparagus, by the way, are this week’s big discovery: no par-boiling needed; uncommonly delicious. We ate it all with a dollop of my trusty home made mayo, and suddenly it didn’t seem like the end of the world any more that Bank Holiday was nearly over and real life, it was returnin’.

Lemon, basil and garlic chicken beasts

4 chicken beasts

olive oil

4-6 garlic cloves, peeled and gently smashed

fresh basil, loosely chopped

juice of 1 large lemon (sieved)

Chop the beasts into chunks. Place the garlic, some liberal splashes of olive oil and the lemon juice  into the tin then arrange the chicken on top of it and stir. Cover with cling film and refrigerate for as long as you can but at least three hours. Take it out of the fridge half an hour before you cook it, to bring it up to room temperature. Then cook at 180 degrees for about 40 minutes, depending on the size of your chunks (I’m sure there’s no need to suggest this, but if in doubt, cut one in half before you eat to make sure there is no pinkness to be seen).