Courgette Fritters

These are special due to the addition of feta cheese and the use of both fresh and dried mint. The perfect side dish or veggie main course.

4 medium courgettes
6 scallions, chopped
8 oz. crumbled feta cheese
small bunch fresh mint, chopped
small bunch fresh parsley, chopped
1 tsp. dried mint
1 tsp. paprika
1 cup flour
3 eggs, beaten
olive oil, to fry

Coarsely grate the courgettes and wrap the gratings in a tea towel for 20 minutes to reduce the moisture. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the remaining ingredients except the olive oil. Season well.

Heat a griddle pan over a medium heat, then brush on some olive oil. Drop small mounds of the courgette mixture onto the pan and cook until browned on the bottom. Flip over and brown on the other side. Serve warm.

Serves 4

Catalan Toasts

Something akin to Italian tomato bruschetta where the tomatoes are roughly chopped, this Spanish version finely chops the tomatoes into a fuzzy mush. They are spread on toasted bread and make a fabulous side dish or easy lunch.

1 large, very ripe tomato (not beefsteak), chopped very finely
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
3 chunky slices sourdough or other rustic bread, halved

Having chopped the tomato, keep  it on the board and add the garlic, mashing them together with a fork. Transfer to a small bowl and add the olive oil. You should have about 1/2 cup. Ideally, leave the mixture to sit for a while.

Toast the bread, spread with the tomato mixture and sprinkle with sea salt flakes.

Serves 2-3

Mussels with Pasta and Tomatoes

These marvelous moules are a jot to make and a delight to eat. By the time it takes to cook pasta, supper is sorted. Place the pan in the middle of the table and serve this family style in large bowls.

Mussels with Pasta and Tomatoes

2 lbs. mussels
8 oz. short, stubby pasta such as macaroni or ditalini
2 tbs. olive oil
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatos, cut across the equator
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. chili flakes
80ml red vermouth
4 tbs. chopped fresh parsely

Clean the beards from the mussels and rub off any debris from their shells. Soak in cold water for 20 minutes, then discard any that are still open.

Cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente. Drain.

While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large, wide pan that has a lid. Tumble in the tomatoes and cook until softened over a medium heat, 2-3 minutes. Tip in the garlic, chili flakes and salt. Stir often until the tomatoes start to melt down and make a juice, 3-4 minutes. Pour in the vermouth and let it bubble up.

Add the mussels to the pan and cover. Cook, shaking the pan a few times, for 3-4 minutes, or until the mussels have opened. Discard any mussels that have stayed closed. Add the pasta, cover and leave for a minute or two off the heat. Uncover, stir in most of the parsley and serve with the remaining parsley sprinkled on top.

Serves 4

Tequila and Lime Chicken

This lovely little chicken dish is packed with citrus flavor and can be roasted in the oven or cooked out on the grill. As with anything marinated, the longer the marinating time, the better!

1 medium chicken, cut into 8 pieces
5 tbs. tequila blanco
zest and juice of 2 limes
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 tsp. sea salt
2 tbs. regular olive oil
extra lime wedges and cilantro, to serve

Put the chicken pieces in a resealable bag or large bowl. Mix together the tequila, lime zest and juice, red pepper flakes, salt and oil. Add to the bag or bowl and squelch everything together. Chill for at least 6 hours or up to 2 days. (If you are really short on time, marinate at room temperature for 40 minutes.)

When you are ready to cook, take the chicken out of the fridge and leave for 30 minutes. Heat the oven to 425°F and arrange the chicken in a single layer in a roasting tin. Pour over half the marinade and cook for 25 minutes. Pour over the remaining marinade and cook a further 25 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to a serving platter. Add a little boiling water to the roasting tin to deglaze the pan. Pour this over the chicken and serve with extra lime wedges and cilantro.

Alternatively, cook the chicken for 20 minutes on a medium-hot grill. Basting with the marinade and turning often.

Serves 4, generously

Baby Eggplant with Oregano and Red Onion

This is a lovely side dish for any grilled or roasted entree.

1 1/4 lb. baby eggplant
3 tbs. regular olive oil
2 tsp. dried oregano
1 small red onion, cut in thin half moons
3 tbs. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. kosher salt
4 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic cloves, peeled and grated
1 1/2 tbs. cold water
few fresh oregano sprigs

Heat the oven to 425°F. Slice the eggplants lengthwise, keeping the stalks on. Pour the 3 tbs. olive oil in a very shallow roasting tin. Sprinkle in the dried oregano, add the eggplant, cut side down and swirl them gently around. Turn them cut side cup and roast in the oven for 15 minutes, by which time they should be tender and turning golden.

As soon as the eggplant is in the oven, put the onions in a small bowl and cover with the vinegar and salt.

Remove the eggplant to a platter. Whisk the onions with the 4 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil, the garlic and water. Spoon them over the warm eggplants, then leave for about half an hour to cool to room temperature. Scatter with fresh oregano leaves to serve.

Serves 6 as a side dish

Mexican Lasagna with Avocado Salsa

Add chicken to the filling for a heartier meal.

For the sauce:

1 tbs. garlic flavored olive oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 red pepper, seeded and chopped
2 green chilis, chopped with seeds
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 tbs. finely chopped cilantro stalks
2 x 14oz. cans diced tomatoes
1 tbs. ketchup

For the filling:

2 x 15 oz. cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 x 15 oz. can corn, drained
2 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
8 10″ soft, flour tortillas

For the avocado salsa:

2 avocados, halved and cut into 1/4″ cubes
1 scallion, thinly sliced
3 tbs. chopped green jalapenos
salt, to taste
1 tbs. lime juice
1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves

Heat the oven to 400°F. slipping in a baking sheets at the same time.

To make the sauce, heat the oil in a saucepan and add the onions, peppers, chilis and salt. Cook gently for 15 minutes and, once soft, add the cilantro stalks. Stir in the tomatoes, then rinse out one can with water and add this too. Add the ketchup and let everything simmer while you make the filling.

Mix the beans, corn and most of the cheese together in a bowl.

Start to assemble by spooning about one third of the sauce in an round, ovenproof dish and smearing it about, then layer on 2 tortillas so that they cover the sauce overlapping slightly, like a Venn diagram. Add a third of the bean mixture, then about a quarter of the remaining sauce and 2 more tortillas. Repeat.

Finally, add the last layer of beans, nearly all the remaining sauce and the last 2 tortillas. Spread the last bit of sauce on top and sprinkle with the reserved cheese.

Place on the baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes. Let it rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing it like a pizza. Serve with the avocado salsa.

For the salsa, stir together all the ingredients and check the seasoning.

Serves 8

Pork Steaks with Port and Figs

Nigella calls this “Pig and Fig” for obvious reasons. The best part is the rich and syrupy port laced pan sauce.

6 soft, dried figs
175ml Tawny part
1 tbs. plain flour
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. around cumin
1 tsp. sea salt flakes
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
4 thick-cut pork loin steaks
1 tsp. regular olive oil
2 tbs. butter
few drops Worcestershire sauce

Put the figs in a small saucepan, pour over the port and bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and let them bubble for about 10 minutes. The figs should be soft and swollen and the port reduced by about half. Remove from the heat.

Mix the flour, spices and salt in a freezer bag. Drop in the pork and shake to coat evenly.

Over a medium-high heat, war the oil and butter in a heavy-based skillet that will fit the pork snugly. Add the pork and cook for 2 minutes per side, or until cooked through. Remove to a plate.

To the skillet, add the figs, port and Worcestershire sauce. Over the heat, let it bubble for about 30 seconds, or until rich and syrupy. Pour over the pork and serve.

Serves 2

Yogurt Carton Cake

There is something completely charming about this cake. It begins by emptying a yogurt pot, then measuring the remaining ingredients using the pot. It is called “Chambella” in Italian and typically eaten for breakfast.

1 x 6oz. plain whole-milk yogurt carton (2/3 cup)
3 eggs, separated
1 carton vegetable oil (2/3 cup)
2 cartons caster sugar (1 1/3 cups)
2 capfuls vanilla extract
zest of 1/2 lemon
2 cartons plain flour (1 2/3 cups)
1 carton corn starch (2/3 cup)
confectioner’s sugar, for dusting

Heat the oven to 350°F and grease a 9″ ring mold or savarin tin.

Scrape the yogurt out of it’s carton into a large bowl.  Beat in the egg yolks, then slowly beat in the oil. Add the vanilla and lemon zest. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour and corn starch. Beat the egg whites into stiff peaks and fold in gently.

Fill the prepared tin with the smooth, soft batter (it will come to the top). Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the edges come away and a cake tester comes out clean. Let the cake sit in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Dust with confectioner’s sugar to serve.

Japanese Shrimp

According to Nigella, this quick and delicious meal makes her feel, “smug and holy”!

2 tbs. water
2 tbs. sake
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tbs. lime juice
1/2 tsp. wasabi powder or 1 tsp. paste
2 tsp. garlic flavored olive oil
2 scallions, thinly sliced
8 oz. shell-off large shrimp (fresh or frozen)
salad leaves, rice or noodles
fresh cilantro, to serve (optional)

Stir together the water, sake, salt, lime juice and wasabi.

Heat a small wok or skillet and add the olive oil and scallions. Stir about for a minute or two, then tip in the shrimp. Cook for 3 minutes or until they start to turn pinkish.

Add the liquid mixture and bring to a bubble, then cook for another 3 minutes stirring the shrimp in the sauce until completely cooked through. Serve over salad, noodles or rice with fresh cilantro, if using.

Serves 2

Buttermilk Roast Chicken

Paired with New Orleans Cole Slaw, this is THE PERFECT picnic!

12 chicken drumsticks and/or bone-in, skin-on thighs
2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup plus 2 tbs. vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, skins removed and bruised
1 tbs. crushed peppercorns
1 tbs. kosher salt
1 ts. maple syrup
1 tsp. ground cumin

Place the chicken in a large freezer bag and add the remaining ingredients except for the 2 tbs. of oil. Squish it all together and marinade for at least 30 minutes. However, chilled overnight is better.

Heat the oven to 425°F. Shake the marinade off the chicken and place in a foil-lined roasting tin. Drizzle with the remaining oil. Bake for 30 minutes until golden and cooked through. Alternatively, you can BBQ them over a medium heat for 8-10 minutes per side.

Serves 6