Borlotti bean and tuna lunch box

Enough for 2 lunch box portions:Borlotti_Lunchbox

  • 1 tin tuna steak (drained);
  • 1 tin borlotti beans (drained and rinsed);
  • 1/2 small onion (chopped);
  • 1 piece of fennel (peeled from a bulb and chopped);
  • About 8 sprigs of flat parsley ( roughly chopped);
  • Dressing made with olive oil, lemon juice and black pepper.

Mix all the ingredients (except the dressing) together, then mix in sufficient dressing, so that the mixture is moist but not too wet.

As usual, this comes with cherry vine tomatoes, beetroot, spring onions, carrot sticks and oil and vinegar dressing.

Watercress pesto

I had most of a bunch of John Hurd’s excellent watercress leftover so I made this pesto. Based on a recipe from watercress.co.uk – it serves four people with pasta, and according to the recipe, freezes well. So half of it is now in the freezer, and I shall discover if really does freeze well when I use it! I used my Cuisinart Mini-processor to make this (or you could just chop the watercress really finely, using a sharp knife and the grind the almonds and garlic with a pestle and mortar, and then mix all the ingredients together):

  • 1 bunch watercress (wash thoroughly)Watercress_Pesto
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 20 almonds (blanched)
  • 50ml olive oil
  • 50g finely grated parmesan
  • Black pepper and a fairly generous squeeze of lemon juice.

Method

Puree the watercress, garlic and almonds (blanched by steeping in boiling water for about a minute and the peeling away the skins – they have a better flavour than pre-blanched, flaked or ground almonds) in a processor. Add the oil and the parmesan and process until well blended. Add black pepper and lemon juice to taste.

Served here with pasta.

Pork and lentils

This is adapted from a Nigel Slater recipe (from Real Food). Great to eat on a cold day. Enough for 2 people:

  • 3 rashers of unsmoked streaky bacon (cut into short, thin strips)NS_Pork&Sausage
  • 250g pork belly (cut into 2 cm cubes)
  • 3 spicy pork sausages
  • 1 onion (roughly chopped)
  • 2 cloves of garlic (crushed)
  • 300ml chicken stock (made with a 1/2 stock cube)
  • 3 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 bayleaf
  • 100g green lentils
  • Black pepper to taste
  • Lemon juice to taste
  • Chopped parsley

Gently cook the bacon in a large saucepan or cast iron casserole. When the fat begins to run, increase the heat and add the pork, stirring occasionally until it begins to brown. Remove the meat, leaving any fat behind (you may need to cook the pork in batches).

Add the sausages to the pan, brown them lightly and remove.

Add the onions and garlic to the pan, and cook very gently for about 10 or more minutes, until they are soft and golden.

Add the sausages, bacon and pork to the pan, together with the stock, the (whole) sprigs of thyme and the bayleaf. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

Add the lentils and simmer for a further 40 minutes, or until both the lentils and pork are cooked.

Season with black pepper and lemon juice and serve sprinkled with chopped parsley.

Green pea soup

This is looks good (it’s a lovely green colour) and is quick to make. Serves 2:

  • 1 tbsp oilPea_soup
  • 1/2 onion (finely sliced)
  • 2 rashers of bacon (thinly sliced – preferably unsmoked)
  • 300g frozen peas
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • Leaves from 4 sprigs of mint (finely chopped)
  • 2 tbsp double cream
  • Lemon juice and black pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a largish saucepan. Add the bacon and cook (over a medium heat) for 2 minutes. Stir in the onion and cook very gently for 10 minutes.

Add the peas and the stock. Bring to the boil and cook for 3 minutes.

Purée the soup using a hand blender, liquidiser or a food processor. Then add the cream and heat gently to just below boiling point, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the mint, lemon juice and pepper, and serve.

Soda bread

Something based on an Irish recipe for St Patrick’s Day.

Soda_Bread_Tile1

This is adapted from a recipe by Elizabeth David in English Bread And Yeast Cookery. This amount makes one small loaf (enough for 4 people). It is an easy way of producing homemade bread in a short time.

Soda bread is leavened chemically – a much quicker alternative to yeast leavening, using the reaction of soda (an alkali) and yogurt and lemon juice (acid). It is essential to keep these two ingredients apart until you are ready to bake the bread.

  • 300g plain wholemeal flour
  • 3/5 of a level tsp of bicarbonate of soda
  • 140ml natural yogurt
  • 140ml milk
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Warm water (if the mixture is too dry)

Heat the oven to 230C (Gas Mark 8). You will also need a floured baking tray and large heatproof glass basin (to cover the loaf in the oven – this promotes a steamy atmosphere which helps the loaf to rise).

Sift the flour and soda together in a large mixing bowl.

In a jug, mix the yogurt, milk, lemon juice and olive oil.

Pour the liquid into the flour and mix as quickly as possible (add warm water if necessary – you need a dough which will stand up on its own, but which is not too crumbly).

Turn the dough onto a floured surface and form into a round, making it as high as possible.

Place on the floured baking tray, and cut a cross in the top with a sharp knife.

Cover with the large heatproof glass basin and place in the oven for 30 minutes. It will be cooked when a skewer inserted into the loaf, comes out clean. If the loaf needs some further time to cook, remove the glass basin and return to the oven until cooked.

Allow to cool before serving. It’s delicious warm with butter. Freezes well, and can be revived in the microwave.

Served here with chicken liver paté.

 

Marinated peppers

This is a good side dish to add to a lunch of fresh bread, charcuterie and cheese. Enough for 4:

  • 4 large peppers (‘bell peppers’ – yellow and red are the tastiest, but green add some colour contrast)Marinated_peppers
  • 2 tbsp good (tasty) olive oil
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • Black pepper to taste

Claudia Roden (in The Food of Italy (Square Peg)), suggests roasting the peppers (whole) in the oven at 190C (170C in a fan oven/Gas Mark 4) for 30-45 minutes “until they feel soft when you press them and their skins blister and begin to blacken”. I followed her instructions, which are certainly less labour intensive than charring the peppers over a flame (or grilling them).

Once cooked, put the peppers in a pan with a tight fitting lid (or seal them in a freezer bag), and leave for 10-15 minutes. This helps to further loosen the skins.

Remove the peppers from the pan/freezer bag, and remove the skins, stalks, cores and seeds. Reserve the juice from cooking the peppers.

Cut the peppers into large slices, and place in a shallow dish. Make the dressing with the oil, lemon juice and 3 tablespoons of the pepper juice (strained). Season the dressing with black pepper to taste, and pour over the peppers.

Allow to cool and store in the fridge before serving.

Spiced parsnip soup

This is a great ‘winter warmer’. I had quite a few parsnips left over from Christmas and this seemed like a good way to use them up – adapted from a Thomasina Miers recipe – enough for 2 or 3 people:

  • 3 medium parsnips (about 300g)Parsnip_Soup
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 onion (finely chopped)
  • 1 clove garlic (chopped/crushed)
  • About 20 black peppercorns
  • 1 clove
  • 1.5 tsp coriander seeds
  • A generous grating of nutmeg
  • 650ml of vegetable stock (or equivalent using cube/powder)
  • Lemon juice
  • Torn coriander leaves

Peel the parsnips and slice thinly. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan, add the onions and cook gently for 6 minutes. Add the garlic and continue cooking for another 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, finely grind the peppercorns, clove and coriander seeds. Stir the spice mix into the onions, and grate over the nutmeg. Stir-fry for 2 minutes. Stir in the parsnips, and then add the stock. Bring to a boil and simmer for about half an hour, until the parsnips are completely soft.

Prior to serving, blend, add lemon juice to taste, and stir in the coriander leaves.