Local tapas – Broad bean purée

One of my favourite restaurants is my local tapas place, El Parador.  They have a fantastic and extensive menu of the tastiest tapas I’ve ever eaten, better than anything I ate in Spain to be honest! Despite the length of the menu everything comes out of the kitchen tasting incredibly fresh. I tend to pick a different vegetable dish every time I go, along with my favourite seafood dishes, perhaps something from the specials menu and a plate of padron peppers. I’m never disappointed.

On my last visit I came away with their cookbook, Tapas, by owners Carlos Horrillo and Patrick Morcas. I decided I would make one of my favourite starters from the restaurant, Puré de Habas Verdes, or puréed broad beans with pan-fried garlic, rosemary and olive oil.

The recipe calls for garlic, broad beans, and rosemary, and as luck would have it I am growing all three on my plot. The broad beans were ripe for picking – a little late this year but they made it eventually! I let my plants grow tall, to well over a metre, and didn’t pinch the tops out. Occasionally a few blackfly would appear on the tops and then the ladybird army would move in and take them out (in fact, see my blog header picture for illustration).


I companion planted nasturtiums as they are meant to distract blackfly from the broad beans (and also for their tasty leaves and flowers), but perhaps the ladybirds are super efficient as the aphids have left the nasturtiums alone.


The rosemary used to live on my balcony, but it was taking over so it was the first thing I planted on my plot way back in March. I feel slightly guilty as it used to flower for several months of the year on the balcony and provide a favourite food for any intrepid bees managing to make their way up to the fifth floor.


It is thriving on the plot though. My garlic is about to flower so I decided to leave it in the ground and use some I had in the kitchen instead.

Finally, I got home from the pub on Friday night, refreshed my wheat sourdough, and by Saturday afternoon I had fresh pain de campagne:


Made with British organic flour (decanted into containers but it was probably from Dove’s or Bacheldre).


I really don’t think it gets much more local than that! Recipe from my local restaurant, home-grown ingredients, home-made bread.

The folks at El Parador have kindly given me permission to share the recipe.

Puré de Habas Verdes

Makes 1 litre (I halved the recipe to match my broad bean harvest)

olive oil
8 garlic cloves
Maldon sea salt and cracked black pepper, to taste
5 sprigs fresh rosemary (or 1 heaped tablespoon dried rosemary)
500g broad beans (fresh, frozen or tinned – we use frozen, just make sure you defrost them), husks removed (right now, it’s broad bean season, so use fresh! But frozen broad beans are great quality as they are flash frozen, so use them at any other time of the year)


Heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a large, heavy-based frying pan on a medium heat. Peel the garlic cloves and crush them with the flat side of a broad blade knife or the bottom of a tablespoon. Add them to the pan with a pinch of salt and pepper and stir them around in the hot oil. Turn the heat right down and sauté very gently for 15-20 minutes, or until soft and pale golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and place in a dish to one side.

Return the pan to a low heat, drop in the sprigs of rosemary and season with a further pinch of salt and pepper. Stir the rosemary around in the pan and fry gently until the leaves begin to change colour – about 5-7 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and place in the dish with the garlic. Take the pan off the heat and allow the infused oil to cool down.


When the oil is lukewarm, pour it into your food processor and drop in the garlic, rosemary, and broad beans. Set the processor off at a slow speed and blend to a thick, smooth paste. If it is too thick, add a bit more olive oil. Season to taste. Once done, spoon into a serving bowl and serve immediately, or heat up in a low oven and serve lukewarm.


It tasted just like it does in the restaurant – result!

I followed that up with another recipe from the book, Calamares Adobados a la Plancha (Chargrilled squid with garlic, chilli and coriander), make with British squid and balcony coriander.



Also delicious. I can really recommend going to El Parador if you are in London, and buying the cookbook whether you live here or not! The authors have a really friendly style of writing with lots of helpful tips. I’m sure I will get a lot of use out of my copy even though I can go to the restaurant any time I like.

Billingsgate Barbecue

Something I didn’t mention in my last post is that my classmate Alex is a chef. While we were at the market he bought ten mackerel and a few squid, and we all went back to his place for a barbecue – picking up a few bottles of Chapeldown Flint Dry on the way.

It was early to start drinking but we’d already been up for hours, and it was a beautiful warm sunny day. Alex busied himself in the kitchen, we drank wine in the garden outside, and soon we had a delicious lunch – I have to say it ranks up there with my favourite meals ever.

Taking the bone out of the squid

Alex preparing the squid

Vegetables ready to be cooked, and tabbouleh ready to be eaten.

Squid and courgettes on the barbecue.

The cooked squid – delicious.

The cooked courgettes and asparagus.

Mackerel cooking on the barbecue. Alex has kindly agreed to share the recipe:

Chermoula (North African marinade for fish but good for veg too!)

1 large bunch of parsley (finely chopped)
1 large bunch of coriander (finely chopped)
garlic (crushed) probably 3-6 cloves depending on taste (I’d sway to high end)
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp sweet paprika
1 tbsp hot paprika
A good dollop of harissa or a few chillis (finely chopped)
Juice and zest of a few lemons
Olive oil
S & P to taste (although of course we all eat no salt because it’s a public health nightmare) [ed – typical food policy student talk!]

Can whack it all in a processor and it is easier but I like the manual way: get everything real fine and add oil till you get a good pastey consistency. Add the lemon juice last so you can taste how lemony you want it. Season to taste, adjust garlic chilli to taste although of course will be less strong once cooked.

The finished mackerel, served with baba ghanoush made with an aubergine we barbecued earlier.

Now I’m having a little taste memory…. mmmmm.

Things I haven’t blogged

Sometimes it’s nice not to blog things. To go to a good restaurant and eat an amazing dinner, and not take pictures of every course. To bake something without getting flour all over my camera. And when you blog for work, which is a pleasure, sometimes blogging for pleasure can feel a bit more like… work.

Recently I’ve started collecting things to blog again. I’ll start with something not-so-recent, another Ottolenghi gem, stuffed onions: (link is to the original Guardian recipe which is the same as in the book, Plenty)


My Riverford veg man, Paul, had raved about these to me a couple of times and I finally got around to trying them when I made lunch for a friend.


They were as delicious as they are beautiful. The innards of the onions were cooked with the leftover vegetable stock and wine from the recipe to become a lovely onion soup, too. These are going on the list of Christmas vegetarian alternatives. I always liked the stuffing more than the turkey.

Cherry clafoutis

Pity me, people, for I am allergic to apples, and stonefruit of all kinds. Stonefruit and the start of the apple season are one of the best things about the fading summer, but for me it can be torture!. I’m not highly allergic, but I get an uncomfortable itching and slight swelling in my lips, mouth and throat. And it doesn’t happen every time. I seem to get along better with organic fruit, perhaps because the varieties chosen for organic growing are different from the most common conventional varieties. So I often ignore my allergy and shove a particularly lucious-looking apricot (or as Helly introduced me to last week, an apricot-nectarine cross – I have no idea what that’s called) into my mouth, only to scrabble through my handbag for an antihistamine moments later.

Luckily, there is one guaranteed way for me to eat stonefruit without a reaction: cook them first. One of my favourite ways of eating nectarines involves halving them and cooking them in a reduction of orange juice and Cointreau; delicious served with marscapone or vanilla cream.

With cherries though, it has to be clafoutis. It makes a great quick weeknight dessert, and the leftovers are great for breakfast the next morning. I leave the stones in the cherries; it means you have to take care while eating but then I think it forces you to savour every bite.

Slightly rubbish photos, I’m afraid, which is why I haven’t blogged this before – I seem to be incapable of getting any photos that reflect how utterly delicious this dessert is.

First you need some cherries; about 300g. Here in the picture you can see 250. It’s not enough – don’t skimp on cherries! Wait until the local cherries come on the market. It’s worth it.


You want them in a single layer on the bottom of your dish. If they just won’t fit you’ll have to pop a couple in your mouth as you go. If you’re not me, this is probably a good idea. If you’re me, sometimes you will give the spares to your cherry-loving flatmate instead. It’s a win-win – that’s all it takes to get her to do the dishes.

Next, whip up a quick batter with 2 eggs, 200ml milk, 40 grams of flour, 40 grams of sugar, and a heaped teaspoon of baking powder. Add a few drops of vanilla essence or cherry brandy if you have it.

Pour it over the cherries:


Stop pouring when the cherries start to float. You don’t want too much batter. Incidentally, once I made this with almond milk and it was really tasty, however the batter was a little more dense.

Stick it in a hot oven (about 180 degrees) and cook for 30-35 minutes or until it starts to turn golden brown on top.


Here’s the hard part: you have to take it out of the oven and leave it to cool for a bit. It will sink down a little in the middle, that’s ok. Serve with lashings of single cream.

Sumac-spiced aubergine schnitzel

A few months ago I impulse-bought some sumac, and then completely forgot to do anything with it. I’ll freely admit that I’d never used it before and although I really liked the smell, I wasn’t sure what to do with it.

So I did a bit of googling and found a recipe for sumac-spiced aubergine schnitzel, from (of all places) the Daily Mail.

I like aubergine, and I like pretty much anything coated in breadcrumbs and fried, so I was definitely already onto a winner here.

But when those breadcrumbs are combined with lemon rind, aged Parmesan, sumac, mint and parsley, it elevated the dish to something truly delicious.


I’d let the aubergine get a little old and wrinkly, so the outside slices (with the most skin) were a little tough to eat, but the inside slices were still good.


This was a bottom-of-the-fridge exercise but I ate it with some slightly wrinkled (and none the worse for it) cherry tomatoes, and some very spicy baby greens from my balcony. Those greens (mustard, rocket, mizuna etc) were so spicy they needed absolutely no dressing.

This one’s going into regular rotation, I think. The problem on the blogging front is I have so many recipes in regular rotation that it can be hard to try something new. Every time I get my veg box I look inside and think “cauliflower, that’ll do for the Ottolenghi cauliflower fritters. Cabbage can go into Parmesan skin soup. Cavalo nero – woohoo! I get to make tagliatelle with cavalo nero again! Potatoes – I’ll make another tortilla and I’ll use the rest to make some smoked mackerel fishcakes”. I’m stuck in a rut. It’s a rut of utter deliciousness. The changing seasons just give me a chance to make old favourites again.

Then again, there are some things I make all the time that I’ve never blogged. The fishcakes, for example, which I make constantly. Stay tuned for my next post, I’m finally going to blog my favourite summer dessert.

Courgette tarts – recipe

It’s courgette season, which means time to come up with 101 ways to use the delicious and prolific summer squashes so we don’t get completely sick of them, because we’ll miss them when they’re gone!

I thought I would make some little courgette and goat cheese tarts for a quick summer supper. The days are so hot at the moment it’s all about things that cook in as little time as possible!

Unfortunately this did require turning the oven on, but they did not take long to cook. I bought ready-rolled puff pastry from the supermarket. This is not the weather to make pastry in, and even the ready-rolled stuff was quite difficult to handle in the heat, despite being chilled in the fridge first.

The pictures are from my first batch. I improved them in the second batch but didn’t take any photos.

You need:
Ready rolled puff pastry
Tub of soft goat cheese
Two courgettes
Thyme, and/or oregano – whatever you have fresh and on hand
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

First mix some thyme/oregano and lemon rind into the soft goat cheese (the first time I just sprinkled it on top – mixing it in worked better). Slice the courgettes as finely as possible. You can do this crosswise or lengthwise.

Cut squares of pastry and then scored a line about 2cm in from the edge of the squares and about halfway through the pastry.


Then spread the goat cheese mix on:


Then layer the courgettes on top of the goat cheese. I did one layer in the pictures but I think it works better with two, if you can stop them sliding off the edges. It’s important to keep them within the scored line.

Season, brush with a decent amount of olive oil, then cook in a hot oven until the pastry has puffed up and turned golden brown.


Serve with a salad. It’s also lovely with some parmesan shaved on top.



In Australia and New Zealand, it is traditional to have a meal between breakfast and lunch called morning tea. It is very common to stop work at 10:30 or 11 to have a cup of tea and a snack, usually a cake or a biscuit of some kind.

There are a lot of biscuits that are unique to New Zealand and Australia:

    • Afghan biscuits, which you may think would come from Afghanistan but they don’t. They are a chocolate- and cornflake-based confection with chocolate icing and half a walnut on top
    • Belgium biscuits, which don’t come from Belgium but are two cinnamon-flavoured biscuits with jam sandwiched between them and pink icing
    • Shrewsbury biscuits, can you guess where they are from?  That’s right, nowhere near Shrewsbury.  They are different from the British biscuits of the same name, instead they are two biscuits with jam sandwiched between them and a hole in the top one so you can see the jam.
    • Anzac biscuits, which are based on oats, coconut, and golden syrup
    • Ginger kisses, two soft ginger-flavoured biscuits with a cream filling

    As for cakes and slices, we have:

    • Lamingtons (I freely admit these are Australian in origin, but widely available in New Zealand tearooms) – a square of sponge, dipped in raspberry jelly or chocolate icing and then coconut
    • Apple slice, two squares of shortbread with a stewed apple filling
    • Ginger crunch, with a ginger-flavoured biscuit-y base and thick ginger icing topping
    • Custard squares, two slices of mille-feuille pastry with a thick layer of custard in between, and coconut icing
    • Tan squares, a biscuit base topped with caramel and then a layer of crumbled base on top
    • Chocolate caramel slice, a biscuit base topped with caramel with a layer of chocolate on top

    Really, the list goes on and on, so if I’ve forgotten anything please someone jog my memory. Yesterday I went round to Vixie and John’s place with my Edmond’s cookbook (the one cookbook no New Zealander has been without for the past 100 years), to make yoyos.

    Yoyos possibly have the coolest name of all New Zealand/Australian biscuits. They are formed of two thick buttery biscuits with a butter/custard filling in the middle. When I left yesterday I managed to smuggle a couple out with me, and have them for morning tea this morning:



    175 g softened butter
    1/4 cup icing sugar
    vanilla essence
    1 1/2 cups plain flour
    1/4 cup custard powder

    50g softened butter
    1/2 cup icing sugar
    2 tablespoons custard powder

    Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Mix all of the ingredients together, then roll teaspoonfuls of the mixture into balls. Place these on a baking sheet and flatten with a fork. Bake for 15-20 minutes.

    While they are baking, mix all the filling ingredients together. Once the cooked biscuits have cooled, fill with the butter filling.

    Soooo rich but so good. Enjoy!

    Rhubarb Yoghurt Cake

    Rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb. It’s the season, so rhubarb being one of my favourite foods of all time it’s all rhubarb, all the time chez moi.

    I bought four bunches of rhubarb at the farmer’s market for the princely sum of £4. Now I get the fun of finding creative ways to use it all up! Crumble is my absolute favourite, but it is off the menu this week.

    First up we have rhubarb cake:


    Yes, I know, the first rule of food blogging is to only take attractive pictures. This one was taken at night, poorly lit and very poorly styled, and the cake is just not that pretty. BUT it was disappearing quickly so I wasn’t sure if I’d get another opportunity to photograph it, and according to my flatmate it’s my best cake yet. So I couldn’t go without sharing the recipe.

    Rhubarb Yoghurt Cake

    1 1/4 cup unrefined brown sugar
    100g butter, softened
    1 egg
    1 cup natural yoghurt
    2 1/4 cups flour
    1 tsp baking soda
    1/2 tsp ground ginger
    1/2 tsp cinnamon
    3 cups chopped rhubarb

    About 3 tablespoons sugar
    1/2 tsp ground ginger
    1/2 tsp cinnamon

    Preheat oven to 200 degrees (180 fan-forced). Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl. Add the egg and mix well., then stir in the yoghurt.  Mix the dry ingredients together and gradually add to the liquids. Add the chopped rhubarb and stir to mix.

    Pour into a prepared 25cm cake tin. Mix the topping ingredients together and sprinkle liberally over the top of the cake. Bake for about an hour, until a skewer or knife inserted into the cake comes out free of cake batter.

    Serve warmed, with a dollop of yoghurt.


    Last night I made a delicious quiche. It didn’t survive long enough to take pictures but I thought I would post the recipe anyway:

    Bunch of organic leeks
    Handful of organic cherry tomatoes
    1 packet vegetarian bacon
    4 large organic free range eggs
    1/2 cup sour cream or creme fraiche
    Grated cheese
    Wholegrain mustard
    1 packet pre-rolled flaky pastry

    You can make the pastry yourself but for a weeknight dinner it’s just not quick enough! Line a 20-cm dish with the pastry and chill. Slice the leeks and cook in olive oil until soft. Chop up the bacon and add to the pastry case along with the cooked leeks. Beat the eggs and add the sour cream or creme fraiche, a dollop of mustard and a grind of black pepper. Pour this over the bacon and leeks. Halve the tomatoes and arrange them around the top of the quiche, and sprinkle a handful of grated cheese over the top. Cook at about 200 degrees C for about 30 minutes or until a knife comes out clean. Tastes good cold too if it lasts that long!