Fresh green asparagus cooked gently with butter, served with some shavings of parmesan. Cook them simply. Don’t overcook; they need to have a bite. They love butter, not too high heat, a squeeze of lemon and some parmesan.
Raw asparagus salad with lemon and olive oil dressing. This is a simple salad and of course you can choose not to bother with the peeling, but it makes for a good contrast of textures. The dressing marinates the asparagus a bit and the Parmesan complements them nicely. As fresh green shoots as you can get – and it’s spring by the mouthful!
These are baked sardine fillets, with garlic, lemon and basil. I’m a bit fussy about sardines – even though I like the taste, like miniature mackerels, with crispy grilled skin – but the bones! The bones! Now the other day my fishmonger had some filleted fresh sardines...
Banana bran muffins with raisins and cinnamon - perfect for breakfast. Most pastries can be frozen when baked and just cool and they will be good as fresh after an hour on the kitchen top. The only problem is they can never, ever win with the competition from a bacon butty…
Salad of cooked and raw beetroot with honey dressing. In the next of my series of how-to-make-hated-vegetables-palatable (see cabbage), let’s tackle beetroot. It never ceases to amaze me that it’s sold ready cooked.
Blueberry buckle cake with wholemeal flour and quinoa and oats topping. That of course refers to the way the topping buckles on top of the fruit in a wavy manner. Very descriptive. I think I’ll adopt it now, especially that the blueberry kind is the most common buckle and that is my firm favourite.
Borodinsky rye sourdough loaf - dense, intensely sour, strong on coriander and dark in colour. It takes forever to rise and doesn’t do much oven spring.
Couscous with raisins, yoghurt and honey, an excellent breakfast idea. Honey and yoghurt are a must though – in fact, another brilliant breakfast is just plain yoghurt with honey drizzled over.
An omelette is such a lovely dish and can take on such different forms that it’s easy to forget it’s just egg. Spinach omelette. Ham and cheese. Just cheese. Chorizo and beans. Throw in some peppers and potatoes and you have a tortilla.
Couscous salad with chicken and red peppers - lovely salad. As with most salads, the ingredients may vary – depending on your fancy and the contents of the fridge. I like to add some kind of cooked, warm vegetables.
Fennel and orange salad. The best thing about raw fennel is that it’s really a wonderful and versatile background for endless variants. I’ve used orange but any other large citrus fruit will do nicely. Ah well, you can even skip the citrus and just dress it with lemon juice...
Galettes made with buckwheat flour (gluten-free), with a classic topping of ham, cheese and a few spinach leaves. Galettes are pancakes – only better. The hardcore version has them fried only on one side, toppings put on top (as you would with toppings), and the sides only nonchalantly folded over.
Granola is basically toasted muesli, no? Not quite, there must be something gooey and gluey to bind it into clusters. Those are the nicest – my recipe below says stir it every now and then...
Basic kimchi made with Chinese leaf cabbage and garlic, ginger and carrots. Kimchi is delicious with fried rice, adding a kick and a hit of sourness to the grain. You can also make kimchi pancakes, kimchijeon, which must be a lot like Japanese okonomiyaki. I haven’t tried the former, have the latter so can happily vouch for deliciousness.
Salmon and spinach baked in a parcel of lettuce leaves. I guess you could use cabbage leaves for this, or banana leaves, or those exotic ones they wrap stuff into in Thai restaurants (the latter two inedible though, just look pretty).
Leek slaw, a simple leek salad with cucumber, seasoned with black pepper and honey. Leeks are good a filler in all sorts of bakes and casseroles. They can convincingly pretend to be onions for people who are not keen on the largest allium. Soups - can I start gushing about my all-time favourite leek and potato? P
Creamy leeks sautéed with wild garlic. Wild garlic, bear’s garlic or ramsons turns up in spring in woody, wet, marshy lands and down in the overgrown part of my garden.
Light rye bread with linseed, sunflower and pumpkin. Rye bread is a totally different story than wheat. Where wheat bread is fluffy, rye is stodgy. While white loaf is crusty, rye is practically all crumb. Wheat best fresh, rye has to stand overnight in order to even slice it.
Oatmeal biscuits, the healthiest cookies, sprinkled with pinhead oats. They are gluten-free and only contain three spoonfuls of sugar. Definitely good for your gut with all the fibre, but oatmeal apparently also lowers bad cholesterol levels while providing bags of nutrients.
Oatmeal and banana smoothie with chia seeds, dairy and gluten free but not free of taste. Briefly – the epitome of what I usually sneer at. Vegan. Gluten free. Dairy free.
Hawaiian poke bowl with yellowfin tuna, seasoned with shichimi togarashi. Originating from Hawaii, it’s a salad/starter/appetiser of raw fish, sliced (which is what ‘poke’ literally means in Hawaiian).
My best porridge: pinhead oats soaked overnight, served with creme fraiche and honey. Pinhead oats are tougher, with more bite, but thanks to that also more satisfying - and actually keep you going for longer: I guess all those pinheads in the stomach take more time to be digested.
Remoulade, or celeriac salad. My version has a little twist – I add carrots and a bit of apple, and a few raisins for the sweetness. Ah well, as if you need a justification for adding raisins to anything! I also julienne the vegetables instead of grating them.
Roasted cauliflower florets with togarashi seasoning and a grating of Parmesan. Roasted cauliflower is very, VERY tasty. Go freehand on it: butter, parsley and parmesan are as good as gochujang, ginger and sesame oil.
Salmon, broccoli and courgette baked with creme fraiche, mustard and dill. One pot wonder – courgettes and broccoli will do for veg, and if you really need a filler, return those spuds into the equation. Tasty. Very tasty.
Salmon fillets with blue cheese topping baked in foil parcels. Easy – fiendishly easy cooked like below, just stick some blue cheese on it, wrap in foil and sling in the oven for ten. And you can even call it fancy: en papilotte!
Baked salmon fillets in maple syrup, soya sauce and garlic marinade. Salmon is pretty versatile and can happily take various treatments – see my recipes for steamed salmon and baked with potatoes. With all the cooking techniques I find the timing is the trick.
Homemade spiced sauerkraut, dead easy, can be made in small quantities. I should be talking all about raw and fermented so I’m side-tracking. Recipes abound, everyone is fermenting like crazy and the reports of all those good bacteria doing wonders to our guts are making poor old sauerkraut blush.
Salty porridge with mixed seed topping and red pepper slices. This is definitely for the brekkie-believers, but it’s porridge sans sugar so will alleviate some guilt. You know, it’s actually very tasty - and can be varied, with spinach, with mushrooms - or bacon of course.
Sea bass fillets baked in a creamy spinach sauce. Spinach is rich in iron and has lots of vitamins C and K. Great stuff. And another good thing about it is that prepared as below, it keeps the fish succulent and moist even if you use defrosted fillets.
Sizzling beef in black bean sauce: a spicy oriental stir-fry with tender beef strips and mixed vegetables. The Chinese have some truly weird and wonderful names for dishes.
Salad of smoked mackerel, avocado, cucumber and celeriac; tasty and super-healthy. Tonnes of omega 3 from the mackerel - and it's mighty tasty!
Spring cabbage salad - cabbage appears to contain more vitamin C than oranges. It’s also rich in vitamin K and anti-oxidants. Eat more cabbage! Only the name is so off-putting… But I have a solution: Sauerkraut. Kimchi. Surkål. Choucroute. Tsukemono.
Pan fried mackerel fillet with sticky sauce. There are two secrets to successfully pan-frying fish. One is a smoking hot pan and the other – the skin of the fish PERFECTLY dry. Otherwise you’ll be scraping the fish bits off the pan forever.
Black rye bread with treacle, seeds and sultanas, easily adapted to be gluten free. Swap the bread flour for a white spelt, in which case possibly replace dark rye with light, so the texture isn’t too ‘short’.
Tuna tartare with chopped gherkins, red onion and a splash of soya sauce. ‘Tartare’, contrary to popular beliefs, originally meant a dish served with tartar sauce. I am fond of the popular belief relating the origins to the Tartar people of Central Asia...
Vegetable egg fried rice, the best homemade takeaway. Fried rice is a freewheeling recipe: anything you fancy goes. Those tiny dried shrimp - gorgeous. Just scallions and beansprouts - why not?
Wholemeal sugar-free ricotta cake with honey and poppy seeds. This cake doesn’t require much lobbying as it has many virtues: wholemeal cake! sugar-free! with poppy or chia seeds for crunch!
Wholemeal seeded sourdough loaf baked in a Dutch oven. It’s a very very decent loaf of bread, crusty all right, with open crumb as they say on expert forums - that’s air bubbles to you and me.
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