Category Archives: Herbs

Basil

Today I just wanted to share with you some photos I took over these last few weeks. At the start of the summer I bought a couple of Basil plants. At first I wanted to try growing some herbs from seeds but these two beauties were too lovely for me to give them a miss. So I got them and they have been sitting on my windowsill ever since. I have repotted them and they now live in colourful terracotta pots; the first two photos were taken on the day they came home with me. You see, I didn’t want them to die on me before I took some sort of a record. I don’t have green fingers.

Basil (7788)

Greek Basil (7789)Around three weeks ago J noticed a teeny white flower growing on the Greek Basil plant. I read that these should be disposed of (or pinched off!) but again, looking so pretty they almost asked to be in a picture. So before I chopped its head off, I took a snap. And here it is.

Greek Basil Flower (8044)Greek Basil Flower (8046)

Then I did a kinda *off with their heads* thing. Finally I give you one of my favourite suppers of all, courtesy of these two lovelies which have brightened up this house, until we take good care of them that is…Pizza with Mozzarella and Basil (7874)

Pizza with Mozzarella and Basil (7905)

I wrote about and made pizza quite a few times so you can find my recipe and method right here. Hope you like the pictures as much as I do. Enjoy!

Rob x

A simple Greek salad

Greek Salad (6873)So lately I have been reading a number of food and travel books. It’s my new thing. There are times when a recipe book just doesn’t cut it, meaning that you need stories or real-life events behind the food. To me at least, memories make the foodie world that tiny bit extra special. I tend to buy books by the bucket load (this blog is *such a good excuse*) and when I travel I tend to read a lot more. No distractions on the plane, except of course when you have a drunk crazy lady sitting next to you, ranting to the cabin crew about changing her seat because she doesn’t want to sit next to her husband…or when they spill boiling hot tea all over your trousers…yay. Fun. And I don’t sleep much, so I read.

Some time ago I read Amore and Amaretti by Victoria Cosford. I liked it in my first read-through. It was good though I kept it mainly for the recipes. How could I give away a book with Italian food in it? Inconceivable. A real gem I think is Elizabeth Bard’s Lunch in Paris. Loved the whole thing – her writing, the recipes – everything. I think it will feature in a future post, so I’ll leave it here for the time being.

The one I just finished is Falling in Honey by Jennifer Barclay. I was browsing the shops before a flight, feeling hot and bothered after passing through security (they almost undress you these days but anyhow), in a hurry. I just grabbed the first book I saw with an attractive cover, paid for it and rushed off to the gate. In case I didn’t tell you yet, that’s totally wrong when it comes to purchasing books, so please don’t do that. I’m so bad I know; I’m ashamed in fact. I liked Falling in Honey – it’s a good read. Missing the Sun in Surrey (almost sounds like a book title right there) makes the book more enjoyable. The book is home to only four recipes at the back, which is a bit of a disappointment, but hey, I can live with that. I will definitely give them a try.

Greek Salad (6876)I don’t know much about Greek food but J tells me it is delicious. Nothing fancy, exactly how I like things to be and tasty. I do have a Greek recipe book back home in storage; it’s not here with me and I could kick myself for that. However I figured that if the lovely J would tell me about what he ate in Greece I could come up with some very simple Greek-inspired food at home. J doesn’t say much, bless him; he prefers eating. To be honest I didn’t break new ground with the following concoction but I don’t care. I love the following salad. It’s fresh, refreshing and it reminds me of the Mediterranean sunshine that we lack so much of right here. It’s summer on a plate. I chop everything in cubes. If you want the make this like they do it on those beautiful islands, simply slice the tomatoes and cucumbers, and add a sliced red onion. Also you could include sliced green peppers, which to be honest I don’t like much. Serves 2 in a mezé.

  • 1-2 cucumbers, weighing about 400g in total, peeled and chopped
  • 100g feta, cubed
  • 250g cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 2 spring onions, chopped
  • 40g kalamata olives
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 4 tablespoons, and some, good extra virgin olive oil
  • Mint (fresh is better than dried if you have it, oregano and dill will also work well, and sometimes I also use thyme)

All you do is mix everything well in a bowl and have a little taste. Add seasoning if you think you need it. Eat. It. Now. Or take it with you on a picnic. That’s what we did. Enjoy! R xx

For a couple more Greek salad ideas you might want to visit Jamie’s recipe or Deb’s take on this. You will love both.

Dublin Coddle

Dublin-Coddle-(5831)

This brings back so many memories. If I were to ask you: what is the very first thing you’ve ever cooked, what would your answer be? Well, this recipe is where it all started for me. Granted, it’s not a cake and it’s definitely nothing sweet. This is how I learnt though. I never cooked before that point and I never read a recipe in my life. I just opened a book and found the easiest thing I could manage. And I never looked back.

The very first cookery books I bought looked like little leaflets. I never inherited cookery notebooks; that’s because my mum never had one. She is a good cook mind you, but I never showed any interest in cooking, and the recipes are all in her head. What I inherited from her is the love of one pot suppers. If seasoned well, you get plenty of taste with minimal effort. Perfect for busy days, without the need of buying a takeaway on your way home from work.

The following is my take on Dublin Coddle, a charming rustic little dish from one of my favourite places in the world. You will have around 4 servings here but you can scale it up or down depending on how hungry you are or how many people you want to feed. You need:

  • 8 thick pork or beef sausages (or a mix of both)
  • 4 back bacon rashers
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped (or leave whole and unpeeled to squish them up later. They will taste so sweet!)
  • 2 onions, roughly chopped
  • 4 to 6 large potatoes, cut into slices (not too thinly)
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage
  • pepper, to taste
  • 1 to 1½ cup good chicken or vegetable stock
  • 3 tablespoons fresh parsley, roughly chopped
  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C. In the meantime, place the oil into a shallow pan and quickly brown the sausages on all sides. Put them into a warm bowl and set them aside until needed. Cook the bacon quickly and also set this aside.
  2. Sweat the onions and garlic (if chopped) for around 5 minutes in that same pan. Arrange the uncooked potato slices in an ovenproof dish. Now place the onion mixture over the potatoes, together with lots of pepper and the dried sage. Add the sausages and bacon in the pan and pour in the stock. (Now is the time to add the whole unpeeled garlic cloves if you choose to use the garlic in this way.)
  3. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour. Serve immediately and divide the parsley between each serving, with plenty of crusty bread to mop up the juices. I would go for soda bread though to make the meal completely Irish! (Click here for Paul Hollywood’s recipe.)

One of the easiest and heart-warming recipes out there. I love it. Enjoy!

Rob x

Being good: Lentil Soup

Lentil-Soup-(5993)

There’s no denying it: I love food and spending time in the kitchen, but sometimes there is a limit, even for me. I don’t feel guilty about it – I used to but not anymore. J and I eat well throughout the week. Dinner prep is easy and quick most of the time anyway but I try to make every meal as varied as possible. Again, sometimes within limits, because you cannot be superwoman everyday. If you are, I applaud you. Really. No sarcasm here.

Times like these call for easy solutions, especially when I’m eating alone. I find that there’s no joy in that but it happens sometimes when J is abroad for work. He found a recipe by Alton Brown for lentil soup a few years back and we come back to it repeatedly, changing the ingredients according what we have in the fridge at the time. You know that I love a good steak, but there’s plenty of room for hearty soups in my life as I’m sure there is in yours. It might not be attractive, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good; and comforting.

I remember one day, quite a few years back (I think I must have been 6 or 7 years old), when my mum and I went over to my grandma’s house. My nan had a large blue kitchen with a huge table in the middle. I opened the pantry and found two packets of small round pasta. I poured some water in a pan, emptied the packets of pasta into the water and swirled it around with a wooden spoon. I had no idea how to switch on the hob (thank goodness for that), so I left the pasta just there, imagining it was cooking. By the end of the afternoon this concoction was a gloopy mess; it would not magically turn into pasta soup obviously, but it was my creation and I felt so proud of it, until my nan told me off.

Fast forward almost 30 years, and this memory has stuck with me ever since. Every time I make an easy soup I am transported back in time to that sunny kitchen. For the life of me I cannot copy and paste the link onto this website so I’m giving the recipe here. It’s just a guide. What I don’t suggest though is adding potatoes. You will end up with cement. Take it from me: been there, done that and I won’t do it again!

Don’t be intimidated by the last ingredient. You can use a number of spices instead. I go for ground cardamom, ground ginger or even sumac. You need:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 1 to 2 carrots, finely chopped
  • 1 to 2 sticks of celery, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 450g red lentils
  • 400g can of chopped tomatoes (optional)
  • 2 litres chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala (you can use mixed spice or cumin)
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom, ground ginger or sumac (Alton suggests ground grains of paradise but stick to my suggestions if you don’t have it.)

All you need to do is sweat the onions, carrot, celery and salt into a large pot. (You need the salt to soften the veggies.) Add the lentils, tomatoes, stock and spices. Stir to combine the ingredients. Turn the heat up till everything comes up to a boil, then reduce heat and let it simmer for 30 minutes or until the lentils are tender. If you want to, blend everything with a stick blender. (I would invest in one of these.) Taste and add some more seasoning if required. Serve hot. Enjoy!

Rob x

Runner beans

Rainbow-Trout-with-Runner-Bean-and-Chorizo-Salad-(6295)

A few weeks ago a very kind friend gave me some runner beans. Shame on me I didn’t know exactly what they were! I know it’s stupid. I can see you rolling your eyes. In my defense though, I never really seen them, or ate them, neither here nor in Malta. (I could have been living on Mars…) On the rock (what we *Maltese*, not *Maltesers* please, sometimes affectionately call our little island) you can get broad beans, known as ful, almost everywhere. Many like to eat them raw, shelled of course, with their outer coating removed. There’s something therapeutic about doing all this while watching your favourite tv show. (Like CSI perhaps?) In Malta you can find them cooked in minestra (a variant of the Italian minestrone), simply cooked with garlic and tomatoes, or in our famous bigilla, a tasty concoction which has cooked beans as the base ingredient, crushed, to which you add olive oil, garlic, chilli if you like spice and any herb you fancy. Anne and Helen Caruana Galizia suggest using either marjoram or mint – the latter grows like you wouldn’t believe in Malta. (See The Food and Cookery of Malta, Pax, 1999.)

We were talking about runner beans…? Yes. So I didn’t know what to do with them. J kept telling me that they don’t need to be shelled, but I would’t listen. I did eventually though and after doing some quiet research (quiet because he didn’t see me, ha!) I simply washed them, sliced them diagonally, sort of diamond-shaped, finally chopped an onion, squashed two cloves of garlic, chopped some chorizo and some fresh parsley, lightly cooked everything up in a pan and bam, it’s ready.

In the meantime I had a couple of rainbow trout in the oven and there you have a great meal on the table in 30 minutes. The same method and ingredients can also be used with any kind of green vegetable. Kale is fantastic and full of good things, and broccoli too. You won’t have any excuse not to eat your veg or 5-a-day. Enjoy!

Rob x