A fairly quick and delightful summer salad. A base of new potatoes, raddish, cherry tomatoes and asparagus with a rouille dressing, hard-boiled quail eggs and kippers.

Kippers are smoked Herring from Scotland, but other smoked oily fish like Mackerele will also work well. 

Clean and steam small young potatoes, skin on.

Clean and cut an assortment of raddishes into chunky pieces.

Cut the cherry tomatoes into neat halves.

Blanch some asparagus briefly, then shock in iced water so that it keeps its colur and a little crispness. We use green asparagus for a lack of options, but white asparagus would be good, too. 

Add chives and a light sprinkling of fresh lemon thyme leaves.

Make a rouille: whisk four egg yolks vigerously, slowly adding olive oil until the mix emulsifies into a mayonnaise. Then add a pinch of salt, half a teaspoon of mustard, a crushed clove of garlic, a pinch of cayenne pepper and three pinches of smoked paprika powder. Add a splash of lime juice and whisk, then cool the rouille until it is time to serve. 

Boil quail eggs (6 per portion). They take approximately 4 minutes to boil from room temperature into boiling water. Shock them really well in very cold water, then peel.

To assemble the salad, mix the base ingredients together with the rouille, then add the quail eggs and chunky pieces of smoked fish (kippers, mackerel). Toss lightly and enjoy.

 

Spanakopita is a Greek spinach tarte. This is a slightly up-market version: instead of a flat tarte with a varying degree of density, soggyness and puffyness, our open Spanakopita is baked as a stand-up roll of filo pastry with the traditional spanakopita filling of spinach, feta cheese and pine kernels. 

This makes a generous lunch for two, or a delightful starter for four.

500g frozen leaf spinach
100g Feta cheese
flat green parsley, toasted pine kernels, egg, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, nutmeg

Optional: rich strained yoghurt (strained sheepmilk yoghurt preferred)

Optional: ground almonds

Pack of frozen filo pastry sheets

Begin by thawing the spinach, then squeeze it as dry as you can. Mix it with a handful of flat parsley, chopped, a handful of breadcrumbs, 2 whole eggs. Optionally also add 2 heaped tablespoons of yoghurt. If you can't find strained yoghurt, strain it with a sheet of muslin. Mix this well, best using the hands.

For the filo, prepare 75g slightly salted soft butter. 

Spread out one sheet of filo pastry, brush with soft butter. Optionally, thinly sprinkle some ground almonds across the sheet, then cover with the next sheet. Repeat this process to get three of four filo sheets combined in this manner. 

Crumble the feta cheese and distribute evenly across the filo pastry. Sprinkle with the toasted pine kernels, then add the spinach mix (strain if too wet!) to form an even layer. Now roll the flat cake into a roll, and glue the ends together with buttered filo. Wrap with a sheet of baking parchement if necessary, then cut into thick slices. 

Use the remaining filo to make a little bottom for each slice.

Bake at 190C for approximately 20 minutes. Decorate with a poached quails egg, or edible flowers.

We can't forget the Chisimath, a brilliant but sadly long gone local Singaporean restaurant, best remembered for their friendly service and their salt and pepper squid.

Mine aren't as good but they can be so nice that you may not want to stop eating them.  Nothing wrong with a piece of nice bread, a plate of shallow-fried salt-and-pepper squid and a poached egg. 

This needs everything at the ready, as cooking happens all at the same time, and only takes minutes. 

Clean and trim the squid (I use frozen baby squid and always have some in the freezer). Cut into rings the width of your index finger, leave the tentacles intact but seperate. Drain on kitchen towel. Set aside. 

Cut a thick slice of nice sourdough or Rye bread per person. Rub very generously with garlic, then tomatoe, then olive oil. Set aside.

Mix one spoon of corn flour and white wheat flour on a plate. 

Prepare one egg white on another plate.

Prepare the spice mix on the thrid plate: a spoon of salt and crushed black pepper, 1/4 crushed celery seeds. A tablespoon of finely chopped red chilly and spring onions each. Mix together. 

Get the griddle going and toast your bread nicely. When ready, briefly drain on kitchen tissues.

Bring a small pot of water to the boil, add a splash of vinegar and turn down the heat until it just stops boiling. 

Heat a generous amount of olive oil in a frying pan - about as deep as your little finger is thick. Get it pretty hot but not smoking.

Crack an egg into the no longer boiling water.

Now toss the squid in flour, then egg white, then spices. Fry in the hot oil. Since this isn't a deep fryer, you need to move the pieces a little to prevent them from sticking. Just be gentle. The whole thing takes 3...4 minutes; the squid should start to take on a little colour but still be soft and tender. 

Briefly drain squid, egg and bread on kitchen tissue, then plate up. Add some capers for extra kicks and some Balsamic reduction for the good looks. 

 

 

 

Sopa Espirito Santo is one of those quick one-pot wonders which warm body and soul and, for us, bring back lovely memories of the Acores from way-back-then.

Sopa Espirito Santo is a thin tomato soup, served with croutons and a poached egg. Google reveals different and richer recipes; this one here is authentic from distant memory, simple and delicious.

Per portion:

Peel one small to medium-sized onion, slice in thin half rings. Peel and crush two cloves of garlic. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil, and sautee onion and garlic. Quickly dice and add two ripe tomatoes. Give it a good stir, then add 400ml cold water, and bring to a gentle simmer. 

Add half a teaspoon of ground cumin and crushed black pepper, a chicken or vegetable stock cube and salt to taste. 

Let this simmer for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, slice some bread. Rub it with garlic and olive oil, then griddle it until it is crisp. Almost any real bread will do, stale or fresh, just not the British factory "bread" variety. That one won't do. 

Turn down the heat and wait for the soup to stop cooking, then gently crack an egg per portion into the soup. Turn off the heat and let it sit for 6 to 8 minutes. 

Dish out soup and egg. Add the croutons. Optionally, add a small amount of roughly chopped flat parsley. 

 

Croque Monsieur is a ham and cheese toasted sandwich. Croque Madame is the same, with an added fried egg on top. 

I say, forget the ham. Use 3 rashers of dry-cured smoked streaky bacon instead. Fry them in a pan until they begin to caramelize, then leave to cool on kitchen tissue so that they crsip up.

I say, forget the toast. Use a thick slice of Rye or Sourdough bread instead, rub generously with garlic, then rub both sides with olive oil. Fry the bread in the bacon fat until both sides turn golden, then leave to drain on kitchen tissue. 

Crack a free-range egg into the very hot pan. Season with salt, crushed black pepper and a sprinkle of smoked paprika. Egg whites firm, yolk still runny, please.

I say, forget the subtle cheese flavour. Be bold, use blue cheese, or Reblochon, or at the very least use Gruyere. 

Now make a sandwich: bread, then bacon, then cheese, then egg. Optionally top with a few capers or dress with a spoon full of Sauce Bearnaise or Sauce Hollandaise. 

Voila. This is now known as a Croque Man. It's my favourite bachelor meal, but it is so good that even the Missus would like it.

Caldeirada is a one-pot fish stew, simple yet rewarding. You can think of it as a natural progression from the lovely Sopa Espirito Santo, because it starts out very similar: 

Per portion:

Peel and cut a medium-sized onion into thin rings. Peel and crush two or three cloves of garlic. Sautee in olive oil, then add two diced ripe tomatoes and two or three firm and waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks. Add 300ml cold water and bring to a gentle simmer. 

Add half a teaspoon of ground coriander and ground cumin each, and a slightly smaller amount of turmeric, crushed black pepper and hot chilly powder. Also add a chicken or vegetable stock cube. Simmer gently until the potatoes are cooked (approximately 30 minutes). You may want to add some chorizo or linguica sausage (cut into thick slices) after 15 minutes for deeper flavour. 

Meanwhile, prepare the fish. Monkfish is an excellent choice if you're patient enough to clean away all the skins (not just those which the fishmonger will remove for you). Most other whitefish will also work, or you could use seafood from the freezer if you were desperate. Cut in pretty large chunks. 

Cut some stale or fresh nice bread (anything but British standard factory bread) into thick slices, rub with garlic, soak in olive oil and fry on the griddle until crisp, then cut into croutons. 

When the potatoes are done, turn down the heat and wait until the caldeirada no longer simmers, finish the seasoning, then add a handful of pitted black olives and the fish. Turn the heat off and wait 10 minutes, then serve with the croutons and a chilled white wine.

Herring Salad is one of those dishes I never quite like when I think of it. But when it is prepared, refreshing and chilled, a feast for the eye and a variety of textures and flavours, I just cannot get enough of it. Just look at it!

And the best of all: this goes perfectly with Bretzeln. Bretzeln and Herring Salad are made for each other, but you might also enjoy it with steamed or baked potatoes.

It's pretty simple to make, but takes some time to prepare all the ingredients:

First, the herring. I buy packs of Herring filets, marinaded in oil. Rinse the oil, pat dry, and cut into large yet bite-sized chunks. One 400g pack will give a generous portion of salad for two (two main meal portions, maybe some leftover for lunch on the following day). The following is on the basis of 400g / two to three generous portions:

Peel two sharp apples (Braeburn or Red Kidds Orange). Cut into eights, then cut those into three or four pieces each. 

Consider filetting one blood orange and one grapefruit. Add the filets (maybe cut in pieces). 

Remove the bitter cores from two Endive salads, cut these into large chunks. 

Remove the seeds from a medium-sized salad cucumber. Feed the skin to the Guinea Pigs, and cut the remainder into pretty chunks.

Very thinly slice one large red onion. 

Very thinly slice one medium-sized bulb of fennel. 

Add whatever else meets your fancy. For example, diced beetroot, rings of romana peppers, salmon roe and hard-boiled quail eggs work well. 

Add a generous amount of freshly chipped dill (minus the stalks!). 

For the dressing, mix 150ml soured cream with a teaspoon of crushed black pepper, a splash of cider vinegar, a splash of olive oil, half a teaspoon of mustard. Mix everything together, the add some more dill tips. 

This needs to rest for one hour. Perfect for making Bretzels! 

Nothing beats a freshly churned ice cream, but these Parfaits come pretty damn close. The best thing is that they can be done and dusted a couple of hours earlier, or even a day or two before the event, so you don't have to worry about anything at all during the meal, or after main course has been served. 

We make them in little conical ramekins of anodised aluminium (~100ml). These take a nice portion size each and are easy to manage both in terms of portioning, freezing and getting out. 

The sweet parfaits are all made in the same manner, but you need to decide which flavour to add. We love a Hazelnut or Pistacho Praline. Crushed and sugared Poppy Seeds were pretty popular, and I guess a generous helping of Orange Oil, maybe with tiny dice of crystalized Orange, would also work nicely. 

To make a praline, shell the nuts. Toast them if you want. Prepare a caramel from 100g sugar, dissolved in 1 tablespoon of water, on moderate heat (and while not stirring). When the caramel turns into the appropriate colour, remove from the heat, add the nuts, then spread the lot thinly on a sheet of baking paper or slilicon. Let cool down completely, then crush in a blender to the desired consistency.

For the parfaits, beat 1 medium-sized free range egg yolk per portion. This takes some while, so it is best to use a kitchen machine rather than a hand mixer. Beat the yolks until they turn very pale from the trapped air. Meanwhile, dissolve one tablespoon of castor sugar with a tiny splash of water and put on moderatee heat just as if you were cooking a caramel. This time, you're done just before the mix gets a colour. 

While the egg yolks are still being beaten, slowly pour in the hot sugar sirup. This will cook the eggs. Keep beating the mix to prevent lumbs and allow the yolks to be cooked evenly.

In a seperate bowl, beat 50ml double cream with 1/2 tablespoon sugar and 1/4 vanilla pod per portion.

Add your flavouring to the egg yolk mix (still beating!), then stop beating and fold in the whipped cream. Distribute into the ramekins and freeze for a couple of hours.

To serve, remove the ramekins from the freezer and very briefly and very gently re-heat. I hold and turn each portion for 15s in my hands, t'is all. Then turn out onto a plate (a cake fork comes handy when pulling the parfait cone from the ramekin), decorate as you will (e.g. more praline dust, fruit or fruit coulis, etc), and serve immediately.