Posts Tagged: light meals

Feb 10

A touch of Spanish romance – baked scallops with crispy Serrano ham

scallops_560.jpgLight, fresh and ready in a jiffy, this recipe is ideal for Valentine ‘s Day. Scallops are one of those ingredients that are worth taking the time over to find a good supplier – try your local fishmonger for really fresh, tasty, plump little examples. The addition of a touch of chilli is guaranteed to warm your heart!

This fantastic piece of culinary creation comes from my great friend Jose Pizzaros’ book, Seasonal Spanish Food – a must for any food lover, lover or foodie. 

Baked scallops with crispy Serrano ham

Aug 09

What’s up doc – a cracking carrot soup



Well, that’s all folks – it seems summer has slinked over without even a whisper. We’ve had glimmers of hope in the last few weeks but I’m rather resigned to the fact that we’ve had the last of the barbecues (although last year I had one in September). This weather just seems to call for bangers and mash, toad in the hole, roast Sunday lunches and warming bowls of soup.This soup is a perfect example of one that you could change depending on the weather. Ideally it is served at room temperature as a summer soup, but if the day is dull and you need cheering up, feel free to serve it warmed through.

The recipe comes from one of my favourite pubs, The Old Bear, sister to The Albion in Islington, which does one of the best Sunday lunches around.

Carrot soup with toasted hazelnuts and pink grapefruit
Buy the best carrots you can for this, preferably organic – they are the star of the show

Ingredients (Serves 2)

  • 500g organic carrots
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 1 star anise
  • 5g salt
  • 1 peeled clove of garlic
  • 500ml water


  • ½ pink grapefruit
  • 10g hazelnuts
  • 30ml groundnut oil or vegetable oil
  • 10g pitted green olives
  • 5 leaves of tarragon chopped
  • 5 leaves of coriander chopped or coriander microcress


Peel the carrots. Slice them into even sized pieces. Heat a pan and add the butter and when it starts to bubble add the carrots, garlic, star anise and salt. Place a lid on the pan and allow the carrots to soften.

When they begin to soften, add the water and bring it up to the boil; simmer until the carrots are completely cooked.

Remove the star anise. Take the carrots and the liquid and place in a blender, taking care not to fill it too much. Blitz the soup until smooth. Remove from the jug and allow to cool.

For the garnish, warm the groundnut oil in a pan over a medium heat and toast the hazels until they go golden. Tip them out on to a plate to cool down and reserve the oil. Once the nuts are cold take a rolling pin and hit each nut once just to crush it a little bit.
Cut each olive in 8 pieces. Skin the grapefruit and remove four segments. Dice into five pieces.

Serve the soup at room temperature. Pour into a bowl and top with the garnishes; finish by adding the herbs and a little of the oil you kept from the hazelnuts.

Jun 09

A Spanish summer soup


I’m a bit shameless when it comes to asking for recipes. If I’m in a restaurant or a cafe or even at someone’s house I will always ask for one to add to my collection. It’s a decidedly small contingent these days that endeavour to keep a recipe secret. After all, as my friend Jose said when I asked him for his delicious tortilla recipe, food is for sharing.

On this last visit to Spain I had a couple of delicious soups – both classics in the Spanish repertoire. Ajo Blanco is the first, a white, smooth almond and garlic soup sometimes made with grapes. The second, the recipe I have secured for your summer party enjoyment today, is for the inimitable gazpacho. Many recipes call for vinegar, some for bread, but this is a particularly tasty and light version, perfect to start an alfresco meal. This recipe comes from tapas bar El Molinon in Valencia.

Gazpacho El Molinon 

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 1 kg ripe tomatoes
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 red pepper
  • ½ a Spanish onion
  • 1 clove of garlic


Blend the ingredients together in a food processor or with a stick blender, adding a bit of oil and a bit of salt to taste. Once it’s all processed, if it seems too thick, add a bit of water to make it more liquid.

Serve with some home-made croutons.

Jun 09

Tip top tortilla

tort_560.jpgA properly made tortilla is a thing of beauty. Perfect as a light lunch with friends, a simple green salad on the side and a glass of crisp white wine to wash it down. I have a bit of an omelette phobia in general – for some reason they just never turn out right. We all have our Achilles’ heel, and I guess mine is this kitchen staple.
With tortilla, I tended to cheat somewhat. I just bought great slices of it from Brindisa and contented myself with these, safe in the knowledge that there was no way I could do any better at home.
And then, during a long glorious lunch there with Jose Pizarro, head chef of their three restaurants, I managed to wangle their tortilla recipe. He’s one to watch too – a creative, knowledgeable chef whose Spanish cooking is some of the best I’ve eaten. Keep an eye out for his book, which will be out later this year.
The secret, he says, for a perfect tortilla, is in the slow cooking of the onion – its sticky sweetness rounds out the flavour of the omelette. He recommends serving this with allioli.

Potato and chorizo tortilla

Ingredients (Serves 4)

•    7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
•    2 medium white Spanish onions, thinly sliced
•    fine salt
•    5 medium sized floury potatoes such as Maris Piper
•    6 large free-range eggs, beaten

For the chorizo mix

•    1 garlic clove, sliced
•    1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
•    1 small red pepper
•    1 small green pepper
•    125g cured spicy chorizo, diced


Heat the oil in a frying pan and sauté the garlic, peppers and chorizo until the peppers have softened and the chorizo is crispy. This will take about 8 minutes. Drain off any excess oil and set aside.

Heat 6 tablespoons olive oil in a non-stick frying pan and add the onions and season with salt. Gently fry the onions for 20 minutes or so until soft and brown, but not burnt.

Peel and halve the potatoes, and then finely slice the pieces. Add the potatoes to the onions and fry for 30 minutes until they completely cooked. Remove any excess oil with a spoon. Season and set aside.

Add the chorizo mix to the potatoes.
While the mixture is still warm, add the beaten eggs and stir everything well.

Heat a non-stick frying pan with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and add the potato mix. Stir it for 1 minute then smooth it down, and let it fry gently for at least 10 minutes until there’s a beautiful brown crust underneath.
Once it’s cooked on the frying pan side, take a flat lid or plate and place it over the tortilla. Clamp pan and lid together and twist both over together so that the tortilla is now on the lid.

Return the pan to the heat, and slide the tortilla back into the pan. It’s a bit scary to begin with, but practise makes perfect and it’s very easy to get the hang of the technique.

To serve, let the tortilla cool to room temperature. Ideally, leave it for a day before cutting it into wedges.

May 09

Fresh and light – mozzarella with mint and chilli


As we move towards the summer months (until it all came abruptly to a stop this week!) my cooking gets lighter, with less saucing, less starches and stodges – and ultimately less cooked.

I lean towards green salads adorned with good grated parmesan, to bruschetta made so the bread slightly softens in the juice of the tomatoes. I also love cold meats and pickles, bowls of Jersey Royals dotted with butter and hummus and baba ganoush – the smoked aubergine puree that has no equal.

I like to serve up cold platters of these ingredients, arrangements which show colour, texture and serve to appetise with hot ciabatta or pitta on the side.

One of my favourite additions is this recipe – mozzarella with mint and chilli. The milkiness of the cheese cut through with the freshness of the mint and the zing of chilli lends a touch of vibrancy to the cool palate.

Try to use buffalo mozzarella here – its flavour is vastly superior

Buffalo mozzarella with mint and chilli dressing

Ingredients (serves 2)

•    Buffalo mozzarella
•    1 small bunch mint leaves, picked
•    ½ a red chilli
•    3 tbs extra virgin olive oil


Finely chop the mint. Deseed and finely dice the chilli. Add both to the olive oil. Slice the mozzarella into about eight pieces and spoon the oil, mint and chilli over, seasoning with sea salt.

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