Let’s hear it for…the onion!

Let’s hear it for…the onion!

Yes, after a recent post about foods people don’t like, it seemed only fair to look at food which we simply cannot do without. My kitchen always has a good selection of vegetables in stock (or being turned into stock 😉 ), but there is one type of vegetable which if I don’t have then “kitchen, we have a problem“. The humble onion is possibly the king of veggies, since it is used everywhere and by everyone to impart its sweet, savoury, tangy flavour. Once I started thinking about it, it becomes hard to find a dish where onions aren’t a big part. The human race has cultivated and eaten onions for thousands of years, and they have permeated the taste buds of the whole planet…no mean feat for something that makes you cry when you cut into it! Think of any major cuisine which actually avoids onions…no? Funny I can’t either. Whether French, Indian, Chinese or Mexican, no onion…no can do. Be it white, red, sweet, Spanish, shallot or the spring variety (scallions), without them our eating pleasure would be severely affected. Can you imagine a world without them? No pickled onions for your ploughman’s lunch? No crispy onion rings? The French have a reputation for one of the most sophisticated cuisines in the world and so revered is the onion there that they have based their national soup around them. Almost all other nations of the world have an image of the French dressed in Breton shirts, berets and riding around on a bicycle in the guise of…you guessed it, an onion seller! If that isn’t a recommendation...

The Streets of Spain…In London!

It’s not every day that one of the world’s most vibrant and famous food markets goes on tour! In fact it is the first time that market stall holders from The Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria – better known just as La Boqueria – have come to London from Barcelona. For 3 days this weekend part of the Southbank was turned into a mini La Boqueria! The largest area, sponsored by Campo Viejo wines, included a restaurant, bar and wine tasting area. We were lucky enough to get into one of the wine blending classes and the wine makers there shared lots of information about the range of climates, altitudes and soils in the Rioja region. We tried unblended wine – all tempranillo – from the different areas to experience the different aromas and flavours. We also tried the same wine aged in French oak or American oak – the difference was enormous – one quite sweet and fragrant the other much bolder, a great comparison. And then of course there was the food! One of the favourite quick snacks in La Boqueria is meat on a stick – typically 6 different meats for 1 euro. And they had that here in London – albeit 4 different meats for £1! There were lots of delicious meats, salamis, olives, cheeses, oils and chocolates. Some beautifully presented. One of the places we ate when we were last at La Boqueria was El Quim and so I was pleased to see they had a stand and were serving tapas. One of their featured recipes, which is on their site ,...
Spanish Style Chorizo Stew

Spanish Style Chorizo Stew

I love chorizo! Good chorizo, that is, with lots of flavour and none of the gristly bits of the poorer quality ones! This is a yummy rich stew which is ready in about 20 mins. I like it on it’s own but it’s good on a base of couscous, saffron flavoured rice or quinoa too. Make sure you buy all natural chorizo without artificial flavours or additives, and without filler ie “crumb” as it is often called now. For 2 good portions you will need: 1 tblsp olive oil 200g/8oz chorizo for cooking (prob 4 sausages), cut into 1/3rds 2 medium onions, very rough chopped ½ green bell pepper, rough chopped ½ red bell pepper, rough chopped 2 medium carrots, halved & chopped ½ medium aubergine/eggplant, rough chopped 2 cloves garlic (ideally smoked), crushed & chopped ½ 400g/14oz can chopped tomatoes 1 tsp each smoked paprika and crushed pink peppercorns  ½ tsp each cumin, caraway, coriander & sea salt or use Moroccan seasoning for all spices 125ml/4 fl oz red wine Method: Sauté the onion in the olive oil over medium heat in a large frying pan/skillet, till starting to brown. Add garlic, carrots, peppers, aubergine/eggplant and spice. Stir well and continue cooking. In a small separate frying pan/skillet dry fry the chorizo (ie no oil) until cooked & brown, about 6 minutes. Add the chorizo to the vegetables along with the red wine & bubble till wine is evaporated. Add the chopped tomatoes and simmer for 5 minutes. Serve in soup bowls on its own or on a bed of couscous, sprinkle with smoked paprika. Enjoy! Chorizo is ideal if you want to create a...
Cajun Style “Surf and Turf”

Cajun Style “Surf and Turf”

I love the combination of flavours in Cajun cooking and this mixture of spices and herbs creates a pretty authentic version. Cajun food comes primarily from New Orleans and takes it’s unique style and flavour from all the different nationalities that have ruled the area over the years. There is a strong French influence but mixed with spice – delish! The steak and prawns really take the flavours well, and there are some other suggestions for using this mix after the recipe. This is an ultra quick dish that tastes as though you’ve taken a long time to prepare it – always good! And it’s healthy! (You can use defrosted prawns) Ingredients for 2 good portions: 1/4 tsp each: cayenne, paprika, sea salt, mixed peppercorns, celery – all crushed together 1/2 tsp dried thyme 300g feather steak sliced (as though for stroganoff) 6 large/king prawns/shrimp, raw & butterflied or cut in half 1/2 tsp each butter and coconut oil Method: Heat the butter and oil until foaming. Add the steak, shrimp and the seasoning and stir to coat the steak & shrimp. Cook on high, turning often, for 3-5 minutes until cooked to taste. Serve with a mixed salad and baked sweet potato topped with sour cream Or with mashed celeriac and steamed vegetables (as pictured) With this same spice and herb mix you can cook chicken or turkey – either cut in strips and quickly pan fried like the steak and prawn or you can coat chicken breasts or chicken thighs and bake them in the oven. Salmon also takes the cajun flavour well – either pan fried...
Creative Canapes – Quick, Easy Ways to Impress!

Creative Canapes – Quick, Easy Ways to Impress!

Canapes are ideal for stylish entertaining without taking a lot of time and effort. They need to look nice, taste nice (well d’uh!) and be easy to eat. These are healthy too. So much more impressive than opening a bag of tortilla chips and a jar of salsa. These are a few of my favourites which always go down well and which I prepared most recently just this Sunday! These quantities adequately/generously serve 12 guests. Pear & St Agur filled Crispy Prosciutto Cups Ingredients to make 24 cups: 150 g prosciutto, thinly sliced (12 slices), each halved so roughly square 2 ripe pears juice of 1/2 lemon 75 g St Agur or other soft blue cheese Method: Heat oven to 190 C/375F Line small muffin tin with the prosciutto – one half per cup, overlapping any tears, crimping to fit Cook for 10 minutes until the fat is golden and crisp (give them a couple more minutes if necessary) Core the pears and chop up small Mix the pears with the lemon juice When the “cups” are cooked carefully, with a fork, lift them out onto kitchen paper to drain and cool Just before serving fill the prosciutto cups with the pears and top with the cheese Duck Bites with Citrus and 5 Spices Ingredients to serve 12: 525 g duck mini fillets 1-2 tsp duck fat or coconut oil juice and finely grated rind of: 1 grapefruit, 1 orange, 1 lime 1 tsp agave nectar, or to taste 1 tsp five spice powder 1 tsp butter   Method: Marinade the duck in half the juices with all the...