This recipe comes from Sophie Grigson. Here the fresh bitterness of chicory is exquisitely counterbalanced with orange and honey. There is a hint of smokiness that comes through the mix, which makes this dish hit so many lush notes that, for such a simple recipe, it’s like a one-man band sounding like a full orchestra. Amazingly delicious.
25g unsalted butter
3 or 4 heads of chicory, halved lengthwise
2 tsp or so honey
Juice of one orange (preferably a tart one of medium size)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 180C. Butter a large baking dish, then pack the chicory halves in a single layer into the dish. Pour the orange juice over along with a drizzle of the honey. Dot the remaining butter over the surface and season with salt and pepper.
Roast uncovered for an hour or so, turning the chicory every 15 minutes. Watch the progress at the end. There should be a thick syrup in the dish that you can baste the chicory with, but it shouldn’t be allowed to stick and burn. Serve immediately.
NB: Don’t use packaged orange juice of any sort. The flavours are concentrated in this dish, and bad orange juice will just taste extra bad. There is simply no packaged orange juice that is any way a substitute for fresh squeezed.
This is quite simply one of my very favourite foods. Starchy, oily, garlicky skordalia crowning sweetly concentrated roasted beets. Skordalia, to be absolutely traditional, should be a quite white paste made with potatoes or bread with the crusts removed. Mine is non-traditional. I like to leave the crusts on the bread I use. The stale bread for skordalia is also commonly soaked in water to soften it up beforehand, but I like to soak mine in dry white wine.
To roast the beets, wrap them in foil individually, or place them in a covered crock, and put them in a medium-hot oven for an hour or so. Once cool, their skins should schlup right off. Slice and serve.
Dry white wine
Extra-virgin olive oil
The proportions are pretty rough, but for a large batch you might use 10 oz. bread to 1 cup olive oil and 6-8 cloves of garlic. Soften up the bread beforehand by sprinkling it with wine. You don’t want puddles, just moistness. Chop the garlic and toss it in the blender, followed by the bread and the olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Add more olive oil or wine if it appears too thick. Pour and/or scrape it into a bowl. That’s it!
I make this salad every year when the asparagus is at its most plentiful. It makes a large batch, but it doesn’t last long. Asparagus and blue cheese are really made for each other – the salty tang of the cheese perfectly counterbalancing the fresh green crunch of the young shoots. This is an ideal and very simple early summer salad.
500g mezze penne or penne pasta
3 bunches slender asparagus (about 750g), cut in segments the same length as the pasta
1 small red onion, diced
150g Danish blue cheese, crumbled
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 C extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
Optional: 1 small bunch chives, thinly sliced, and/or 1 small bunch parsley, chopped
Cook pasta in a large pot of well-salted water. When the pasta is nearly al dente (about 9 mins depending upon the brand of pasta), add the asparagus to the same pot, and cook 3-4 minutes until just done. Drain the whole lot in a colander and cool quickly under running cold water so that it doesn’t cook further. I then transfer the whole lot back to the pot to mix it all up. Add the remaining ingredients and stir together.
Served fresh, the flavours are sprightly and the onions strong. The onions will mellow on the next day, as will the lemon flavour. From the salad’s second day of life, serve it up with a wedge of lemon to restore its bright citrus character.
My partner hates rice pudding, so in our household, leftover rice has a way of making it into patties of various types and soups. Consider this recipe as a base – you can always vary the quantities to suit the amount of leftover rice you have. This makes a healthy plateful of patties.
2 Zucchini (about 350g), grated
2 C cooked rice
200g feta, grated
Juice of 1/2 lemon
4 spring onions, finely sliced
1/2 C plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
4 eggs, beaten
1 T olive oil
Mix all ingredients together. Drop into a hot pan containing a light sheen of olive oil. Fry on each side until nicely browned.
I look forward to Brussels sprouts in autumn very nearly as much as I hungrily anticipate the arrival of asparagus in the spring. This recipe has been a stalwart for many years and never fails to win over sprout-skeptics. It’s all baritone saxophone – big, brassy brassica tones and low, smoky bacon. Sweet, velvety shallots linger like a half-forgotten melody, tipsy with a splash of wine.
500 g Brussels sprouts, cleaned and halved
250 smoked bacon lardons (or pancetta, oh my)
3 large shallots, diced
Cracked black pepper
Dry white wine
In a very heavy, preferably cast iron skillet, fry the bacon or pancetta over medium heat, till it begins to render its fat. Add the diced shallots, then the Brussels sprouts shortly thereafter. Let the shallots caramelize on the bottom of the pan slightly before stirring the sprouts through. Again, allow to rest on the heat till the sprouts brown on one side, then cover the pan with a lid. Turn again a couple of times so that the sprouts are sticky and browned. If things start to stick, deglaze the pan with a splash of wine. Serve forth when the Brussels sprouts are just cooked through and slightly soft.
This dish beautifully accompanies all manner of meats, and is a star vegetable at a Thanksgiving feast.
Now, if you’re sensitive and a bit conservative about things, then please stop reading right now – because this recipe is quite simply naughty and inappropriate.
So let’s you and me just wait a moment while the prudes leave the room.
First of all there’s the simple matter of the zucchini. The British, with their characteristic reserve (no sex please, we’re British), refer to the zucchini as a courgette, as though a soft consonant and a diminutive ‘ette’ suffix will gloss over the fact that the zucchini – with its racy z and two c’s plumped up like bums or breasts – is quite simply the most carnal of vegetables. Linger at the greengrocer’s and exchange meaningful glances with passersby near the zucchini and you’ll see what I mean. They’re, how shall we say, longer than they are wide in a most useful way.* So please don’t call it a courgette. Give yourself up to the pleasure of the zucchini.
It’s not just the less-than-innocent zucchini that makes this recipe inappropriate, though. Zucchini bread, that staple of the Methodist bake sale, is generally a polite, restrained and penitential enough baked good to express proper Protestant virtue. It simply doesn’t taste voluptuous enough or provide enough moisture to lead you down that broad, easy road to hell. Well this one does. This is a zucchini bread that wants to be cake. And it wants you to eat it.
2 1/2 C plain flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp mace (or nutmeg if you have no mace)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 C sugar
1 C vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 T pure vanilla extract (yes, that’s a tablespoon)
2 tsp lemon zest (and there’s that racy z again)
2 C coarsely grated zucchini (about one well-endowed zucchini)
1 C walnuts, crumbled and toasted
Preheat oven to 170C/325F. Butter and flour two 8x4x2 1/2 metal loaf pans.
Whisk flour, cinnamon, allspice, mace, salt, baking soda, and baking powder in a medium bowl to blend and set aside. Whisk sugar, vegetable oil, eggs, vanilla extract, and lemon peel in a large bowl to blend. Whisk in the flour mixture. Mix in the zucchini and walnuts. Pour batter into prepared pans.
Bake breads until tester inserted into centre comes out clean, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes. Turn breads out onto a cooling rack and cool completely before slicing.
This stores fairly well, though generally it doesn’t last long. I usually freeze one loaf and eat the other. It might be tempting to add dried fruit such as raisins or apricots, but they will just sink to the bottom.
*12 August 2012: Just as if to prove a point, my neighbour Lucy, who is a transsexual prostitute, dropped in today. When she saw the pile of zucchini I’d brought in from the farmer’s market, she pointed and said, “You know what those are good for, don’t you?” I doubt Lucy has ever actually eaten a zucchini.
This simple vegetarian dish is so fragrant with basil that it strongly piques the appetite. It makes an excellent primi piatti before a secondo of fried fish. Either red or white wine to accompany is appropriate. We drank a 2007 Jaboulet Côtes du Rhône, and ate the pasta simply with a side dish of watercress.
500g penne or tortiglione pasta
1 400g tin of cannellini or flageolet beans, drained and rinsed
1 large garlic clove, finely minced
500g ripe tomatoes, diced
a handful of pitted Kalamata olives, quartered lengthwise
1 small bunch fresh basil, julienned
salt and pepper
dry white wine
This is a very quick sauce, so start it only a few minutes before your pasta is al dente. Heat a dash of olive oil in a large skillet. Add garlic and beans and, stirring, heat them through, adding a dash of white wine at the last. Add the tomatoes, olives, basil, salt and pepper, and leave the flame on only just long enough for the tomatoes to be lightly heated. Pour the sauce over the pasta, drizzle lightly with extra-virgin olive oil, and top with grated Parmigiano Reggiano.
This is the finest, and possibly the simplest recipe for this dish I have found. The hint of cinnamon in the sauce plays off the nuttiness of the Parmesan magnificently, and the whole is grounded, of course, in the eggplant. So fundamental is eggplant as a fruit that it is a kind of base element. ‘Eg’ in the periodic table of fruits and vegetables.
The name ‘eggplant’ derives from the round, white variety of the fruit, and it is certainly more fun to say than ‘aubergine’. Alan Davidson tells us that the word ‘melanzane’ derives from the Latin mala insana – ‘apple of madness’. Perhaps appropriate, as this recipe is madly delicious. And the eggplant is a member of the Nightshade family. Serve it with good, crusty bread and a simple salad. We had a very smooth red from the Marca Trevigiana that gave the whole ensemble a delightful velvety character.
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 X 400g tins chopped tomatoes (a quality brand, please)
1 cinnamon stick
1 small bunch of basil, julienned
4 medium eggplants/aubergines/apples of madness
3 balls of mozzarella, sliced
The apples of madness should be grilled or broiled for this. Slice them lengthwise about a finger-width thick and brush them with oil. Grill them until they are completely tender. Some charring is desirable.
While they are grilling, heat the oven to 180C.
For the sauce, heat about 2T of olive oil in a pan and fry the garlic until it is lightly brown. Add the tomatoes and cinnamon (standing back, as the hot oil and the tomatoes tend to react energetically) and simmer for about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the basil.
Remove the cinnamon stick and spoon some of the sauce into your largest ovenproof dish. Layer up the eggplant slices, mozzarella, and sauce as you would a lasagne. Cover completely with sauce, and cover with a generous grating of Parmesan. Bake for 30-40 minutes.
Just about any vegetable may be roasted, it seems. Okra really benefits from this treatment, as it turns out less slimy. The okra needs to be small and tender for this recipe, as roasting magnifies the woodiness of larger specimens. I will try this in the future with tomatoes, as a roasted version of stewed tomatoes and okra.
about 250g okra per person
salt to taste
pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 225C. Top and tail the okra. Toss with a drizzle of olive oil and the salt and pepper (Maldon sea salt and fresh cracked pepper, naturally) in a baking dish. Roast for about 15 to 20 minutes until the okra is lightly browned. Serve up right away.