Category Archives: recipe

Raw green herby sauce and Organic September

bowl of cooked new potatoes with green vinaigrette dressing

This deliciously green sauce or vinaigrette is versatile in many ways. You can use a variety of fresh herbs or salad leaves such as baby spinach/rocket/chives/dill/ mint, and also combine them. Further versatility comes because the green sauce will zazz up many a dish.

Here it is (see pic) poured over new potatoes. Just cooked, the warm potatoes soak up the fresh, green zinginess.

My idea behind this sauce is to put the greens/herbs centre-stage. They do not merely flavour a vinaigrette but positively overwhelm it. By using the greens raw, you get freshness and taste, and as well as many nutrients as possible because they are not lost by cooking. The raw garlic cloves add further immunity-boosting power, and sparky taste.

I use my trusty blender wand to whizz it all up. About £20,  this is an excellent investment, takes up little room in the kitchen and is fab for smoothies. 

Raw green herby sauce or vinaigrette

Trusty hand blender in blender pot full of greens, with gartlic, lomon juice, balsamic and olive oil standing by

The amounts below are approximate. Natural yogurt is also superb whizzed into this dressing. Or add a spoonful or two of tahini. The greens will produce their own moisture as you whizz it all up, but if you want more liquid, add olive oil – not water , which will make it too watery. 

About 50g of fresh herbs/greens 

1/2 raw peeled cloves of garlic, roughly chopped (I use 3/4 cloves) 

Olive oil  3/4 tablespoons to start

Natural yogurt / 1-2 dessertspoons of tahini (optional) 

Balsamic/ lemon juice (half -1 lemon squeezed)

Add the leaves and roughly-chopped garlic to a measuring jug (something with tall sides that will contain the liquid while you whizz).  Add in a couple of glugs of olive oil, and start blending. Add natural yogurt or tahini if desired or more olive oil until sauce is creamy and pourable. Add vinegar or lemon juice, and salt to taste.

The sauce is a glorious green colour.

If possible, use organic, or unsprayed, ingredients.

Why organic?

Growing with nature increases a crop’s nutrient content, and thus its taste. Let your taste buds be the judge of this statement, but your brain may be interested to know that an international team led by Newcastle University found organic crops are up to 60% higher in a number of key antioxidants (nutrients) than ones grown the chemical farming way.

There are two reasons for this. One is related to how the soil is fertilised, the second is how plant fights disease. 

1) Using factory-made chemical fertiliser draws more water into the plant. The crop may grow quickly but is also more sappy than crops grown with natural fertiliser. Food grown the natural way has more density. (Chemical fertiliser is banned in organic farming, which instead uses biological methods, such as composting and crop rotation, to create healthy soil).

2) Plants naturally produce valuable antioxidants to keep disease and pests at bay (which we in turn benefit from when we eat the plant). When plants are sprayed with pesticides, they produce fewer antioxidants because the chemical spray is doing the work for them. (Killing pests with pesticides is a crude way of protecting a plant because it involves lots of nasty chemicals and kills beneficial insects too, such as bees. The organic way is more creative, using a host of natural and biological methods to keep pests away.).

The way we farm affects the food we eat. You get more carrot for your carrot. In fact, the Newcastle team suggests that switching to organic fruit and vegetables may have the same benefits as adding one or two portions of the recommended “five a day”. Just switching a few of your fave items to organic will add nutritional joy to your life. 

So, why not organic your September?

 

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Hard boiled eggs in raw herby vinaigrette sauce

Thank you, my dear acting colleague, Nichola Taylor, from the Barded Ladies, for asking for the recipe.  

Turmeric Tonic 

I love a good tonic.

Here is one I concocted to boost my immune system last week when I played York in six shows over four days (the closest I have come to doing an extreme sport, ever.).

The play was a regendered production (hence me as York) of Henry VI Part 3 by feminist Shakespearian ensemble company, The Barded Ladies.

Things got done with encouragement, creativity and playfulness, rather than dominance and criticism. Made me hopeful: you can run the world  without being a bully.

Here is the tonic recipe, in brief:


I used turmeric root and ginger root. Try health food stores, or greengrocers’ especially Middle Eastern or African ones.

(Omilord, can you imagine how bland food would be in the UK – without immigrant cuisine?).


Peel the roots and cut up small.

If no roots can be found, use 1-2 teaspoon each of turmeric and ginger.

Add the juice of 4 squeezed lemons – organic ones tend to be smaller but juicier.

(I have just discovered Sunita from squeezed organic Sicilian lemons. I felt a right cheat but it uses no preservatives, so there is no chemical aftertaste).

Stop press: Add black pepper and oil to the concoction to increase  bio-availability of the turmeric. (Thanks, Jane!).

Add runny honey to taste. Whizz all together with a hand blender.

A wide awake tangy taste in smoothies AND a savoury dressing. And, of course, for sipping backstage.

Here is some of the feedback the Barded Ladies production received:

Home-made mayonnaise and Brexit

Elderly woman's hands around a jar of thick, yellow, unctuous home made mayonnaise
I arrive the day before the EU referendum vote. London is hot and sticky, under a heavy grey cloud. Later, there is lightning and Biblical rains.

My 93-year-old mother and I agree not to talk about Brexit. It would be too painful and divisive. She believes the Daily Mail. I think it is the politics of hate.

So, I watch her making mayonnaise, Zimmer-framed yet resolute. I admire her spirit.

My mother Fay has been making home-made mayonnaise since the 1950s.

She would not dream of having shop-bought mayonnaise in her home. Ever.

My mother uses a food processor these days but says nothing (‘scuse pun) beats mayonnaise made by hand, using a fork as a whisk.

My sister Gee (see  pics of her 1974 mayonnaise recipe below) eschews a food processor because it makes the mayonnaise too dense, and uses an electric mixer with the balloon whisk attachment instead. She also (I love this refinement!) whisks in the olive oil by hand, with a fork, at the very end of the process.

Gee also adds a teaspoon of warm water to lighten the mixture, if, she says, she is feeling French.

Fay’s home-made mayonnaise 

The risk factor is curdling – when the oil and egg separate. So make sure the eggs are at room temperature. Emulsify the egg yolks with mustard, then add the oil very, very, very, slowly, drop-by-drop.

Then – once the risk of curdling has passed – pour oil in a thin stream, whisking all the time. You can speed up the streaming of the oil. Add lemon juice or a dribble of vinegar to thin.

If it curdles, do not despair but start again with one egg yolk and add the curdled mixture, again – s l o o o o w l y!

My mum uses 1/2 pint of oil, which equals 10 fluid ounces, of which 7 or 8 fluid ounces is sunflower oil, and the remaining 3 or 2 fluid ounces is olive oil. My sister Gee (who makes mayonnaise without such exact measuring) says in other words: use mostly sunflower oil.

I use organic oils because organic certification guarantees oils have been cold-pressed by mechanical (not chemical) means, ensuring maximum nutrients and top taste. 

Ingredients

2 egg yolks
Two egg yolks is the minimum whether for 1/2 pint or 1 pint of oil. Keep the egg whites in the fridge (or freeze them) for future meringues or cocktails. 

1/2 pint of oil of which most is sunflower oil, with top-up of olive oil

1 heaped teaspoon dry mustard powder (my mother thinks ready-made mustard is sacrilegious but Gee, free-thinker that she is, believes this makes the mayonnaise bitter and swears instead by Dijon mustard.).

2-3 or more garlic cloves cut-up

Using a food processor, electric balloon whisk or a fork, start by combining the egg yolks and mustard. Add garlic. Add oil SLOW-BY-SLOW until the mixture emulsifies. Then, once there is no risk of egg and oil separating, gently add the oil in a thin stream – whisking all the time!

Juice of half – one lemon, as little salt as possible to taste and a light shake of cayenne pepper. (In another departure from the status-quo, Gee adds seasoning – salt (1/2 teaspoon to 1/2 pint of oil) and paprika which is less spicy than cayenne – at the very start because otherwise, she says,  the salt does not mix in properly).

I cannot end this post without adding, for the record:

I am European. I am international. We are one family.

If money and weapons can move freely around the globe, why not people? Especially people displaced by war.

I am not saying the EU is perfect (obvs). It needs reform. But, hey, the UK has its own unelected bureaucrats and neo-liberal project. Surely reform (like charity) starts at home?

The Brexit campaign was led by vile hate-filled propaganda which has legitimised hate, unleashing a rise in racist crimes

Many who voted to leave are angry, and this anger (zero hours contracts, underfunded public services and unaffordable housing) is correct. But to conclude the problem is caused by the EU and immigration is a severe misdiagnosis resulting in the wrong medicine, which will only make conditions deteriorate.

Leave is the operative word. I feel the grown-ups have taken leave of their senses. I feel left in the hands of an irresponsible parent consumed by their own crazy agenda.

I am “returning” to the comfort of mayonnaise. 

Hand written mayonnaise recipe

Hand written mayonnaise recipe

Junior doctors strike and Cullen skink

My glam mum aged 93

My mum, aged 93, (her pic, left) made me the traditional Scottish dish, Cullen skink.

She bought the smoked haddock at Whole Foods Market.

“Only use undyed haddock” she commands.

A bowl of home made cullen skink

Recipe for Cullen skink

Here is the recipe my mother uses (added/amended after posting): 

Put undyed smoked haddock (500g) in cold water (300 mls) water, bring to boil and simmer for 8-10 mins until fish is cooked. Remove fish with slotted spoon, and set aside. 

While veg are cooking (below), skin fish, flake into chunks removing any bones, and set aside.
Add 2 chopped onion and 2 large potatoes (or instead of potatoes use Jerusalem artichokes!) with pepper and cook  in the haddock’s cooking water for glorious fish taste until potatoes are soft and tender – about 15/20 mins. 

Take off heat, roughly mash contents, add (450 ml) whole milk and (2g) unsalted butter. Bring to boil, turn down to simmer and gently add fish. Gently, reheat. Serve with chopped chives and if desired, creme fraiche. 

(Or drink it cold from a jar as I did happily on my return train to Bristol).

The next day, I received a call that my mother – and Cullen Skink-maker – had fallen and hurt her head. Luckily she had been able to press her Community Alarm and within five minutes of being alerted, an ambulance team had arrived and had taken her to a large London teaching hospital.

And this the day of the Junior Doctors’ strike – against a new contract that will be: “Bad for patients, bad for doctors and bad for the NHS,” according to the British Medical Association reports the New Economic Foundation.

After a scan, my mother was kept in for monitoring, and a battery of tests to ascertain why she keeps losing her balance.

God bless the National Health Service (NHS).

My late dad was one of its first GPs – see Dr John Winkler’s obituary in the Guardian.

The NHS is free health care for all – the embodiment of the world I want to live in.

God bless the NHS.

Simple oat cake recipe

Good Food oatmeal flour packet and butter with bowl of oatmeal
When I am out-and-about, and get hungry, I need healthy food, such as slow-release carbs for sustaining energy. Oats are the nutritional answer. My oatcake recipe comes from Jane Mannings of World Jungle.

Award-winning social enterprise, World Jungle brings people together creating healthier communities.

African drummers and drums

Based in Gloucestershire, World Jungle also holds regular dance classes, and organises festivals and events including African drumming and dance (see pic) . Dance is a great way to bring people together.

I like this recipe because it only uses two ingredients and there is no fancy pastry-cutting involved.

Simple oatcake recipe

200g fine oatmeal – Jane used Good Food organic oatmeal.
50g butter.

Heat the oven to hot – Gas 7 \ 425° \ 220°C

Squish the oatmeal and butter together with a fork adding a little water to bind into a dough. Roll pastry dough (on a floured board ) as thin as you can without it breaking. Lift the flattened shape, draped over rolling pin, place on a greased baking tray, and bake for 15 minutes. Eat warm, or store in an airtight container for when you are out-and-about.

I might experiment by replacing oatmeal with buckwheat flour, butter with olive oil, and adding salt, or caraway seeds.

What ingredients would you use in your oatcakes?

Knob of butter atop oatmeal in mixing bowl

Fork assembling squidge of oatmeal dough

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Tahini sauce 

Sauce drips in a stream from a spoon

This image and recipe comes from a new book, Lebanese Home Cooking, by Kamal Mouzawak, the founder of Lebanon’s first farmers’ market.

Lebanese Home Cooking, from Quarto Eats, has all my favourite food words in its title. In the 1980s a friend took me to a Lebanese restaurant in Soho and I was knocked out. Every dish appealed in new, refreshing ways. Tahini, beans, yogurt, lemons, olive oil, garlic. These are now my favourite ingredients. Versatile and health-giving, they are always in the kitchen.

(My posts on making home-made yogurt and hummus both of which I eat almost daily).


Writing about the Lebanese market founded in 2004, The New York Times says that Souk El Tayeb (“market of good”): “reconciles Lebanon’s warring factions through their common love of their food.”

Kamal Mouzawak writes: Food is a window – “the best way to look into people’s lives.”

Make food, not war.

Kamal Mouzawak is full of practical wisdom and inspiring encouragement. The recipes are simple. He says souk food is easy and fast – how I like to cook.

Tahini sauce – Tarator 

Garlic 1 clove or more

240g tahini (sesame paste)

Juice of 3 lemons

1 tablespoon of olive oil.

Crush garlic with little salt, add to tahini in the bowl, and add the lemon juice. Tahini will thicken so continue stirring with a fork and add more lemon juice if needed. The mixture will be smooth. Season with salt to taste, blend in olive oil and serve. Good over dark leafy vegetables.

Fava bean stew – foul medamass

I love the addition of quartered lemons to this fava bean stew.

120g small brown beans

1 onion peeled halved

Garlic

Handful split yellow lentils

1 lemon plus juice of 2 lemons

80 ml olive oil

Ground cumin and salt.

Soak beans overnight. Drain. Add onion halves, garlic and lentils. Add water to cover by 2 fingers. Cook beans for several hours to be mushy. Add quartered lemons 20 minutes before the end. Take off heat and add lemon juice, olive oil, cumin and salt to taste.

Souk food – soul food.

PS On the subject of tahini sauce, I came across this amazing recipe by UK chef and co-owner of Wahaca, Thomasina: Tagliatelle with blue cheese, tahini and caramelised onions. Straining the yogurt and adding tahini makes this into a luxurious and creamy dish, yet it is light too. Comfort food – recommend!

The original recipe (serves 4-6). Here follows my mini-version:

Cook 900g sliced onions slowly (25 mins) in 4 teaspoons olive oil + 30g butter. Cook 450g pasta (I use buckwheat noodles), adding 300g frozen peas in the last three minutes of cooking. Drain pasta and peas but keep 250ml of the cooking water. Strain 450g of Greek natural yogurt. (I added the residual ‘yogurt water’ to the pasta cooking water because I hate waste.).

Put pasta in a bowl. Beat reserved pasta water into strained yogurt, and season. Then add to pasta, so it absorbs sauce for a few minutes. Add more of the cooking water gradually until you have a “silky pile of pasta”. Crumble 100g blue cheese over your luxurious pasta pile, and top with the caramelised onions.

Exterior of Byblos with yellow awning with lettering, Mezza of Lebanon

And, finally, a picture of Rafic’s (see comments) Lebanese restaurant in London. Mezza of Lebanon (1968 – 2004) was at 262 Kensington High Street, near Holland Park.

Making chicken soup from scratch

Raw high-welfare chicken and cut-up carrots and red onion covered with water in a panThe secret of chicken soup is to use raw chicken.

By all means, use a cooked chicken carcass to make stock but if you want to make healing chicken soup, start from scratch with raw chicken.

I used two legs from Abel and Cole high-welfare chickens.

Add a cut-up onion and carrots. Cover with water. If you use loads of water, it will dilute the soup. But just covering the chicken and veg with water will create the right concentrated amount.

Bring to the boil and simmer for about one and a half hours to two hours until the chicken is tender and falls away from the bone.

The next secret – imparted by my mother – is not to let the precious liquid boil away. So keep a lid on the pan. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Strain to drink the healing soup – this article explains why chicken soup has healing properties.

The beautifully-tender chicken and vegetables will make another meal.

It is simple to make, and will bring strength.