Prawns with Pernod

I’m such a lover of the anise flavour that obviously I’m also a fan of Pastis even if it is seen as a bit of a grandmother’s drink. Now that I’ve bailed out of dry January as as unfair bad performance review just tipped me over the edge in what is already the year’s most miserable month, I may well have a tipple of the stuff tonight. Although pastis is a French liqueur, using anise flavoured booze with prawns is actually more of a Greek tradition. I have fond memories of a lovely restaurant in Thessaloniki where we had prawns with a cream and Sambuca sauce. I saw this recipe in ‘Nopi’ and it reminded me of that dish. However, after Christmas indulgence I didn’t really want the cream so this recipe with just a bit of feta seemed a good trade off.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 600g king prawns
  • 1 tbsp thyme leaves
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 lemon
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 120g feta
  • 1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 fennels
  • 180ml pernod (or any other brand of Pastis)
  • 150ml vegetable stock
  • 70g butter
  • 20g tarragon
  • 1 bag spinach
  • 1/2 tsp sumac
  • salt

Method

1.) Strip the thyme leaves from the sprigs, mix with the 2 tbsp olive oil in a large mixing bowl. Zest the lemon and add to the bowl and peel and finely dice the garlic and add that. Put the prawns in the bowl, mix everything and leave in the fridge to marinate for at least 1 hour.

2.) Chop the feta into cubes and add to a small bowl with the chilli flakes and oregano. Give it a stir and also leave to marinate in the fridge.

3.) In the meantime, finely slice the fennels and the tarragon. Measure out the stock.

4.) After an hour, heat up a frying pan and cook the prawns until they’re pink and set aside on a plate.

5.) Add the fennel to the pan and cook for about 7 minutes until soft. Pour in the stock and measure out the pernod and pour that in too.

6.) Let this reduce to about 1/3, reduce the heat, add the tarragon and butter and let the butter melt to a creamy sauce.

7.) Add the prawns back into the pan then place the spinach on top of everything. Leave for a couple of minutes so the prawns can warm up and the spinach wilts.

8.) Divide up the prawns and fennel mix, sprinkle with sumac. Take the feta out the fridge and spoon a bit onto each plate.

Sprout Salad with Roasted Celeriac

I did make this meal just after Christmas where brussels sprouts were still all the rage in the supermarket but I hadn’t got round to posting it. I love sprouts and they’re great in a salad because they don’t go soggy the day after like lettuce. The salad didn’t quite feel like enough on its own despite the richness of the poached egg and manchego cheese deliciousness. I’ve seen whole roasted celeriac around for a while on social media platforms but I’d always been put off making it just because the cooking time is 3 hours. In actuality, it’s a case of bunging it in the oven and really the only problem is making sure you make it on a day you’re in the house and remembering to plan ahead. It’s a nice healthy accompaniment to the salad and also would work pretty well as a jacket potato substitute. Both parts of the recipe come from the ‘Nopi’ cookbook by Yotem Ottolenghi.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 large celeriac
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 punnet shitake mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp maple syrup
  • 8 eggs
  • 250g brussels sprouts
  • 20g parsley
  • 60g manchego
  • salt and pepper

Method

1.) Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C and prepare a roasting tray.

2.) Wash the celeriac and scrub off the hairs.

3.) Rub all over with the olive oil and 2 tsp salt.

4.) Roast in the oven for 3 hours.

5.) About 30 minutes before the celeriac is ready, boil some water, pour in a pan, place in the eggs and cook for 7 minutes. Prepare a mixing bowl with some ice and water. Once the eggs are done, transfer the eggs to the bowl until they’re cool enough to handle.

6.) In the meantime, prepare another baking tray, slice up the mushrooms, spread out on the tray and stick in the oven for 20 minutes.

7.) chop off the bottom of the sprouts, peel off the outer leaves and discard. Finely slice the sprouts and add to a mixing bowl.

8.) Finely chop the parsley and add to the sprouts. Shave the manchego into thin slices with a cheese slice and add to the bowl.

8.) Make the dressing, in a measuring jug, add 60ml olive oil, the juice of half the lemon, the red wine vinegar, the syrup and a pinch of salt and pepper.

9.) Peel and chop the eggs in half.

10.) Take the celeriac and mushrooms out the oven.

11.) Mix the dressing with the sprouts mixture and divide among 4 plates. Divide the mushrooms among the plates and the eggs .

12.) Slice up the celeriac and place on the side.

Blue Cheese Cheesecake

After the absolute delight that was Yotam’s aubergine cheesecake, I was extremely keen to try his blue cheese cake from his book ‘Nopi’. It did not disappoint. I recommend it best of all warm from the oven but it’s also delicious chilled from the fridge. The base isn’t baked in this recipe before the cheese mixture goes on but I probably would give it a pre-bake when I make it next. The recipe has pumpkin seeds in the base but I used pistachios. Gotta say, the savoury digestive mix is a treat just on its own here – McVities are missing a trick. I would buy savoury digestives for sure. I’ll give the proper ramekin sizes below though I just used what I had in the house which were a bit smaller. I also doubled the amount of base mixture as I like a higher base:cheese ratio. I used low fat cheese too – I honestly prefer the tang of lower fat cream cheese. Serve with a drizzle of honey and a side of pickled beetroot (there is a recipe for the pickled beetroot in ‘Nopi’ but I just used jarred).

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 80g unsalted butter
  • 80g pistachios
  • 10 digestive biscuits
  • 60g parmesan
  • 1 leek
  • 360g cream cheese
  • 170g crème fraiche
  • 80g double cream
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 20g chives
  • 20g basil
  • 100g stilton (or another blue cheese)
  • 4 eggs
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Method

1.) Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C on a fan setting

2.) Wash and trim the leek. Slice thinly.

3.) Heat some oil in a frying pan and add the slices of leek. Cook on a low heat until the leek is softened. Set aside to cool.

4.) Add the butter, pistachios, biscuits and parmesan and salt to a blender and blend into crumbs

5.) Press the crumbs into 8 ramekins of 12cm diameter to form a base (a buttery biscuit base as Greg Wallace would say)

6.) Into a mixing bowl, add the cream cheese, crème fraiche, the eggs and the double cream. Whisk up until smooth. Crumble in the blue cheese.

7.) Peel and finely chop the garlic and add to the cheese mixture.

8.) Finely chop the basil and chives and add to the cream cheese. Give it a stir.

9.) Divide the mixture between the ramekins.

10.) Bake for 25 – 30 minutes until set.

Black garlic roasted Aubergine

As promised, I’ve had a stab at Ottenlenghi’s famous aubergine with black garlic from his Nopi cookbook. This didn’t disappoint. It was just a shame that I wasn’t in Nopi enjoying the cosy ambiance with a surprisingly good glass of Slovakian white wine. I found the black garlic in Waitrose which is an upscale supermarket chain in the UK. It turns black as a result of fermentation over many weeks and becomes sticky, black and caramelised. I’ve since learnt that you can ferment your own garlic using a slow cooker so I might give that a go. I look forward to trying it in a risotto, ramen and even bread.

Serves 3

Ingredients

  • 3 aubergines
  • 70ml olive oil
  • 75g plain yoghurt
  • 5g basil
  • 10g pine nuts
  • salt and pepper
  • 25g black garlic (about 7 cloves)
  • 1/4 tsp harissa (spice or paste)
  • 1/2 tsp pomegranate molasses
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • pinch chilli flakes
  • 1/4 tsp cocoa powder (I used all mine up in my Tiramisu bombe so I subbed it with cacao nibs)
  • 25ml olive oil

Method

1.) Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C

2.) Slice the aubergine lengthways and widthways and then each quarter into 3cm wide slices.

3.) Measure out the 70ml olive oil into a mixing bowl and add the aubergine.

4.) Add some salt and pepper and mix until the aubergine slices are coated

5.) Spread out the aubergine slices on a baking tray and roast for 40 minutes when the oven is ready.

6.) In the meantime, in a pan lightly toast the pine nuts until golden brown and set aside in a bowl.

7.) Make the dressing in a blender – add the garlic, 25ml olive oil, harissa, cocoa, chilli, pomegranate molasses and lemon juice and blitz. Alternatively, mash up the garlic in a pestle and mortar, move to a container and whisk with the other ingredients.

8.) Once the aubergine is done, put back in the mixing bowl, add the dressing and gently mix

9.) Let rest for an hour to cool to room temperature and soak up the flavours.

10.) Just before it’s done, chop up the basil.

11.) Spread some yoghurt on the serving plates, lay across the aubergine and sprinkle with the pine nuts and basil to serve.

Baby Squid with Almond tarator and lime relish

For Valentine’s Day we decided to make a three course meal between us. I was delegated the starter and I wanted to make something a bit more special (also I was excited to use my new Nopi cookbook). I chose three different recipes I liked the look of to have a back up plan in case I couldn’t find the baby squid. Fortunately Waitrose did not let me down (Waitrose are like M&S but fancier) and I got three baby squid for £1.61. I hadn’t heard of a tarator before but on researching I’ve found that it’s a Bulgarian soup. Tarator is normally made with yoghurt so this is quite different as it’s made with bread soaked in milk. It also takes a whole bulb of garlic so maybe have some chewing gum on hand for after. I was making this for two of us so there was tarator left over but it’s kind of hard to downscale. Don’t skip the lime relish as it really cuts through the garlic and makes the dish come together.

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 3 baby squid
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • salt
  • 75g sourdough bread (I used a light rye boule as there was no sourdough in the store)
  • 180ml whole milk
  • 1 large head of garlic and 1 clove
  • 75ml olive oil
  • 90g almonds (flaked or blanched)
  • 2 tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1/4 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/4 tsp dried chilli flakes + pinch
  • black pepper
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • 3cm ginger
  • 2 tsp tamarind
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 2 limes
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 5g coriander leaves

Method

1.) Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C

2.) Get a baking tray (small) and cover with foil. Cut the top off a bulb of garlic. Drizzle with 1 tsp of oil and sprinkle with salt. Wrap the garlic with the foil and once the oven is hot, bake for 50 minutes.

3.) To make the spice paste, toast the 1/4 tsp cumin seeds, 1/4 tsp coriander seeds, 1/4 tsp fennel seeds, and the 4 cardamom pods in a pan on a low heat. When starting to smell fragrant, remove the cardamom pods and bash in a pestle and mortar to remove their skins. Throw away the skins, add the other spices and grind until fine.

4.) Peel the garlic clove and crush it with the back of a knife. Peel the ginger and chop up. Add these to the pestle and mortar and bash to a smooth paste. Remove to a bowl and stir in 1 tsp oil and 2 tsp tamarind paste.

5.) Toast the 90g almonds lightly and then add these to the bowl of a food processor.

6.) Weigh out the bread and tear into chunks into a bowl. Pour over the milk and leave to soak for 30 minutes.

7.) To make the lime relish, slice off the skin from the lime then cut out the fleshy segments of the lime. Squeeze the juice from the leftovers in with the segments and discard. Chop up the coriander leaves and add. Sprinkle in some chilli flakes and tsp oil. Give it a stir and leave to infuse.

8.) Measure out 75ml olive oil and add to the food processor bowl.

9.) Once the garlic is roasted, pop out the cloves from the skin with a spoon and add to the food processor bowl.

10.) Pour in the sherry vinegar and when the bread has been soaking for thirty minutes, add this to the bowl.

11.) Blitz until a thick sauce is formed and transfer to a small pan. Heat up on a low heat.

12.) In another pan, heat up some oil and add the baby squid. Cook on one side for 3 minutes. Turn over and cook for another 3 minutes. (Mine were slightly frozen still). Once cooked, chop the squid into rings and add to the bowl with the spice paste and mix.

13.) Serve up some warmed through tarator on plates, top with the squid and spoon on some lime relish on the side.