Smart Girls Supper

Two clever little girls with two very big appetites.

Celebrating Spring with Asparagus

Nothing tells my taste buds it is spring more than the clean taste of fresh, seasonal asparagus. Sweet, subtle and delicate, I can’t think of a better way to welcome the new warm spell we have been having – while it lasts. Traditionally blanched I think the true potential of this super green is too frequently overlooked. Asparagus really comes into its own when it is roasted. Simple and super moreish, this will revolutionise your view of this much underestimated vegetable. This alternative side dish is a great match for juicy white fish (pollack is perfect) and sweet roasted or dry-fried tomatoes. A squeeze of lemon on the fish, or a few drops of balsamic vinegar on the tomatoes polish of the meal, best eaten outside to fully appreciate the natural flavours. The tase of the asparagus is so delicate the recipe doesn’t even include garlic, or butter! A rarity with anything I put together. Also, another little tip I wouldn’t usually suggest, but whatever you do, do not drink white wine or champagne with this meal. Something in the wine neutralises the flavour of asparagus and will utterly spoil your supper.

ImageIngredients:

One bunch of asparagus

A generous dousing of olive oil

A few sprigs of lemon thyme

A small pinch of sea salt (the texture combination is sensational!)

Method:

Preheat the oven to 200C. Place the asparagus in a line like on  a roasting tray. Douse the spears in olive oil and toss with your hands to ensure an even coating and sprinkle on most of the lemon thyme, saving a bit to throw on fresh at the end. Place in the oven for 20 minutes until the tips of the asparagus are browned and crispy. Remove from the oven, plate up and finally sprinkle over the remaining lemon thyme. Now you are all done, it really is that simple and so worth it. This is the kind of earthly delight that just makes you happy to be alive. Who knew one could get so sentimental over asparagus? Try it for yourself, you will be surprised by the spiritual enlightenment that comes from sitting in the garden in the fresh spring air with some roast asparagus. Mother Nature’s finest!

By Morgana

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A very green Easter

Easter in our house has always been a big deal (probably because it involves lots of food) so here are a few simple last minute ideas for table decorations. My sister and I rustled this little table situation up in the last couple of hours by painting hollow eggs, collecting moss and ivy from the garden, buying some supermarket tulips and polishing the long forgotten silver. The bunny napkin idea is from Martha Stewart- of course- and there are plenty of chocolate treats hiding in amongst the greenery for in between courses tomorrow!

By Rosie
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Chippy Tea for Leanne

A British classic I am almost too afraid to emulate. It is so simple to do at home and is, even to my surprise, cheaper than the chip shop variety we are so accustomed too. Fish and chips is something I will always relate to my mate Leanne. A Lancashire girl who, one cool autumn day was feeling a little home sick and lamenting the loss of the northern chippy. While I have scarcely been further north than Watford, I see what she means. In general fish and chips in London are somewhat lacklustre. However, that same autumn day – afternoon by this time – I took her to my favourite place in the whole wide world: Borough market. We visited the Fish! Kitchen for some beer-battered seasonal plaice. It is without a shadow of a doubt the best fish and chips I have ever had (apart from my own of course). It is pretty pricey, but I recommend a visit for a little treat. And the portion sizes are certainly substantial for one-between-two, even with my mighty appetite. When I made these chips for her for the first time, I did so with great trepidation. This girl knows her chips. “Mo, these are the best chips EVER,” she exclaimed. She may well have been humouring me, but Leanne is destructively honest the rest of the time, so I shall take it as the truth. Now whenever Leanne goes home and I am left all by myself in noisey old London, I turn to this recipe to console me and remind me that she will be back soon, with a bottle of wine and stories about silly boys. She is a smart girl if ever I met one, a very smart girl indeed.

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Ingredients (Serves 2 as accompaniment): 

Six maris pipers

Copious amounts of olive oil

Good sea salt

Cider Vinegar (malt, if you must)

Method: 

Wash and peel the potatoes. Ever since I invested in a good peeler this has been one of my favourite tasks. So satisfying. Moving swiftly on… Now slice the potatoes into rough chip shapes, I like a chunky chip personally, that way you get the crisp coat and squidgy insides we all dream about. Well, I do at least. Par boil the piece, but for no more than 10 minutes, otherwise they will go fluffy and in this instance that is not what we want. Drain and plaice the potato pieces onto a baking tray and douse with olive oil. You can use other fats, I have tried and they all had there own pros, but with a good homemade mayonnaise olive works best. Now pop into a preheated oven at 200C for 30-40 minutes dependent on how golden you like them. I lean towards the 40-45 mark personally, but that is not to everyones tastes. While they are cooking, check on them every 10 minutes and give the tray a little shake so they get tossed around and get a nice all over glow when they are done. Now sprinkle with a good sea salt, piled high This is how to do 50% of this great classic. Lie back and think of England, or Leanne, and enjoy!

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By Morgana

French Rabbit for Ben

Epicurus believed we need two things two live a full and happy life: Food and friends. Now that is a philosophy I would happily sign up to. So for the next few recipes please permit me to go all girly and gooey and dedicate them to some of my very best friends. This rabbit recipe is my version of a French classic and always makes me think of one of my oldest and closest friends, Ben. One of those infuriating people people who is good at everything he turns his hand to without having to try. He is also a a great laugh and a some would argue, a bit of a dreamboat. Much like the French. So here is a lovely little toast to him in the form of a slow cooked mustardy rabbit (inc. pictures of the lovely roses that adorned the table while I ate it, they were just too glorious not to include). Sante!

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Ingredients (Serves 2/1 if ravenous):

One Rabbit, in pieces

Two white onions (I used shallots as they are in season)

One large carrot

Two cloves of garlic (always)

Two tbspns of dijon mustard

Two tbspns wholegrain mustard

150ml Dry white wine

150ml Water

Two tbspns olive oil

Flour to coat the rabbit pieces

Pinch of salt

Pinch of ground black pepper

A bay leaf

Parsley

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Method: 

Slice the onions, garlic, and carrots (leeks can also be added, but are not a necessity) and soften them in a large pot in half the oil. Mix the dijon and wholegrain mustard together with the rest of the oil. Smother this paste over the rabbit pieces making sure they have an even coating. Then cover them in flour, again ensuring it is evenly spread. Now brown he pieces of rabbit in a frying pan before transferring them to the pot with the vegetables. Boil the wine in a separate pan for a very brief while to remove the alcohol and add this and the water to the pot. Now simmer away for around one and a half hours. The smell of this on the stove is enough to melt any heart, much like my friend Ben. Steady now ladies. Top with chopped fresh parsley, et voila. Bon appetit, c’est delicieux!

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By Morgana

Kiss My Artichoke

One would be hard pushed to argue that anything is better than the humble roast potato, but I am going to give it a go. Fluffy in the inside with an invitingly chewy, golden coat, roast jerusalem artichokes are my new thing. They accompany anything – pictured here with a juicy slab of early season mackerel – or are a superb stand-alone treat for dipping. They have an earthy, nutty flavour with just a little sweetness which makes them an extra special addition to any supper.

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Ingredients (Serves one as a side/nibble):

Four jerusalem artichokes

25g butter

Pinch of salt

Squeeze of lemon

Generous handful of fresh parsley

Two garlic cloves (I know, it’s an addiction)

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Method:

Melt the butter on a low heat on the stove. Cut the artichokes in half and place them on the bottom of the pan so the inside is facing down. Leave to bubble away until the flat underneath of the artichokes begin to colour. Then throw on the salt, thinly sliced garlic and half the parsley and roast at 200C for around 40 minutes. Once done they should be a gorgeous golden colour and be super soft inside. Toss them in with the rest of the fresh parsley and squeeze a lemon over the lot. Et voila! As simple as that.

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By Morgana

Kebab Shop Chicken

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My new obsession is chicken thighs, I may be well behind the crowds here but I am so fed up of eating dry, overpriced breast meat. thighs are cheaper, tastier and retain their moisture much better than their booby counterpart.

This looks quite unappealing- I’ll give you that, but try this delicious kebab style chicken dinner and I can almost guarantee it’ll become a firm favourite. It can be adapted to make a healthy supper, served just with salad and yogurt, or can form part of a more indulgent treat, piled on top of flatbreads, drenched in mayonnaise and served with chips and cheese. In the summer you can turn the flavour up another gear and cook the chicken over a charcoal BBQ.

This combination arose when I had a slightly alarming craving for a kebab shop dinner. We all know that an organic, free range kebab shop is going to be hard to find- so instead I made them for dinner. This can be easily prepared the evening before and put together in a flash for a filling, satisfying supper.
Serves 4
4 Tbsp of mayonnaise (recipe can be found here, try adding a mashed bulb of garlic after roasting in the oven till soft)
Hot chilli Sauce, to taste
4 Flatbreads
2 large sliced tomatoes
500g of grated chedder cheese
1 Red onion Finely sliced
1 small shredded white or pointed cabbage
4 portions of chips (preferably homemade and cooked in goose fat!)
8 High welfare skinless chicken thighs, diced
1 cup of olive oil
3 Lemons
1 tsp Oregano
1 tsp Cumin
4 Cloves of Garlic, crushed
Salt and pepper
1 tsp of Chilli
1 tsp Paprika
Finely shred the cabbage and onion and layer in a deep dish, topping each thin layer with a little of the juice of one lemon and a good sprinkling of sea salt. Continue to layer until it is all used Find a small plate which fits inside the dish and can act like a slightly too small lid, and pop a weight on top. The added pressure will help accelerate the pickling process. Put into the fridge and allow to pickle and go soft for a couple of hours, or indeed over night if you have the time and patience.
Combine Olive oil, juice of 2 lemons, garlic, spices, a good pinch of salt and pepper and coat the chicken in the mix. Cover and allow to marinade for at least an hour, and preferably over night.
Cook chips if using.
Heat a large frying pan and cook the chicken in two batches to avoid stewing it. You won’t need oil because the chicken is already coated in it, Fry for 10 minutes, until brown and cooked through.
Heat flatbreads, spread mayonnaise all over, pile on some cabbage and onions, top with a good amount of chicken and finish with some tomatoes and chilli sauce.
By Rosie

Poor Girl Gourmet

Puy lentils are a kitchen cupboard god send. They are known to the French as poor man’s caviar, and if its OK by the French its OK by me. They are easy to cook, cheap to buy and will keep your tummy contented until tea time. Ideal for keeping you cosy before spring finally manages to shake of this cold snap. Utterly addictive and more traditional with good Toulouse sausages, but pictured here with a rather substantial duck leg. Dijon mustard is a perfect companion, but a salsa verde will also work if you can’t handle the heat.

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Ingredients: 

Good bacon/lardons

Carrots

Onions (I used banana shallots)

Vegetable stock

Olive oil

Garlic

Puy Lentils

Method: 

If the puy lentils are in a tin they are pot ready, if they are dried you will have to soak them over night. Cut the carrots into tiny chunks, the smaller the better. Put them in a pot on a medium to low heat with a healthy dose of olive oil (this recipe does not skimp on that liquid of the gods). Once they have softened a little finely slice and add the onions. These will not take long to soften and once they start to give, throw in the lentils and garlic, finely sliced or crushed. Sprinkle in a teaspoon of vegetable stock power or half a stock cube and leave to bubble away on a low heat. Slice the bacon in to cubes and fry in a separate pan and add them to the mix. leave to bubble and all the  flavours to infuse for approximately half and hour to forty minutes. Now you are ready to plate or, even better, bowl up. A final drizzle of olive oil on top perfects this hearty peasant supper.

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By Morgana

Let’s Talk About Pork

Recently I decided to take my aforementioned butchery ambitions to the next level and went on a one day course at London’s Ginger Pig butchery. The shop provides customers with expert knowledge on how to prepare and cook the meat with the care it demands. And boy, does it demand. This was some of the best pork I have ever tasted. So tender and full of flavour. Something terrifying supermarket excuses for meat rarely achieve. It was also, without a doubt, some of the most fun I have ever had. Ever.

Unfortunately, it transpires that the majority of people who undertake a one day butchery course are somewhat lecherous, lonely middle-aged men. Luckily for me however – the youngest in the room by at least 20 years and the only female there not with her husband – I happened to be the best one in the room with a knife. I have never been happier to be told that I was “top of the class”. The first to master the butcher’s bow (my new favourite party trick, butcher’s bow bracelet anyone?) the neatest knife skills, and the quickest to finish.

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I was most astonished, and most proud of myself when it became apparent I was the only person in the room, barring the professionals, who was willing to hold the pig’s head. Granted it did look a bit Hammer House as one of the cheeks had been removed and the teeth were visible, but I was flabbergasted. You will eat it, you will cook it, you will come on a course teaching you how to carving it up, but you are afraid to touch it? Scaredy cats.

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While my experience at the Moxon Street Ginger Pig shop in Marylebone was preposterously positive, the same can not be said for every butcher’s shop I go into. While having a conversation with one (very male) butcher, extolling the virtues of duck over other game birds, I told him about my course. “What made you do it?” he asked politely. “I am really keen to learn, I want to be a butcher,” I replied. My response was met with an unsettlingly long burst of hysterical laughter followed by the assertion: “Yeah baby, and I am going to be an astronaut!” Well sir, I am Morgana Edwards, challenge duly accepted. If you are wondering what I did with the beautiful boned joint pictured above, it was lovingly roasted. And yes, the crackling was perfect thank you very much. The ribs are hiding away in the freezer ready for my 2013 BBQ debut.

Some of the best tips and advice I picked up during my day out at the butchers were how to spot good pork and bad pork:

If a pig is stressed just before slaughter, it’s muscles will tense up, making the meat tough and tasteless.

If you see pork that is either a very pale pink/white colour, or that has little red dots on the flesh it is not good. Do not buy it.

This is a sure sign that the poor piggy was not happy and unhappy meat leaves a distinctly unsavoury taste in the mouth.

Butchery updates to follow, over and out…

By Morgana

Favourites Only Flapjacks

There are a few dishes I make which fall in to the category of what my mother calls “love me” food. Mushroom risotto, slow roast lamb shoulder, and a few other sneaky recipes all have astonishing consequence and should be shared with care. I recommend they are made only for favourites. This avoids any unrequited awkwardness. No-one wants that. These flapjacks recently caused someone to declare their everlasting love for me. Luckily he was a good friend, so  I wasn’t in too much trouble. I have to be honest though, sometimes I make these with no intention of sharing and am instantly transported back to my school days. All muddy kneed and ruddy cheeked. They were some of the best years of my life, making these little treats extra special. For me, anyway. Make with love, share with caution.

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Ingredients (makes loads):

100g porridge oats

110g jumbo oats

15g fine ground oatmeal

75g butter

75g soft brown sugar

4 desert spoons of golden syrup

Method:

Preheat the oven to 150C. Place the butter, sugar and syrup in a saucepan on a low heat and stir until combined. Weigh out all the oatmeal and combine them in a bowl. Now you can bring the dry oats with the sticky sweet mixture and stir until all the oats have a nice even coating. Pour the mixture into a 20cm baking tray and cover in tin foil. This stops the top going tooth-crackingly solid. Place in the middle of the oven for 45 minutes. Once done, remove from the oven and leave to cool for 15-20 minutes. When ready, turn out and allow to cool again for the same amount of time. Then you are cut into the proportions you like. I like nice chunky squares and should really add a second warning, it’s impossible to have just one…

By Morgana

Sunday Brunch

Today my flatmate left for Mexico so I found myself lying lazily in bed all morning feeling sorry for myself. However, London didn’t totally let me down, the sun is bright today and so I dragged myself out of bed in search of something to make me feel less stroppy at being left behind in winter.

The next best thing to lying on a beach in 30 degree heat is recreating that feeling of summer. I find the best way is to surround myself with yellow. So I headed to Waitrose to buy myself some daffodils. While I was there I spotted asparagus from Mexico- fate. I bought it and covered it in a yellow, buttery sauce. Daffodils and hollandaise are sure to content both body and soul.

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If you fancy yourself some of this summery sauce it’s actually surprisingly easy. Hollandaise has a reputation of being complicated and hard to get right but I am of the opinion that anyone can do this with this easy recipe. More butter-surprise!

Ingredients (selfishly for one):

A bunch of asparagus

1 whole egg

1 egg yolk

40g of butter (sorry)

1 tsp of dijon mustard

A good squeeze of lemon and a big grind of fresh black pepper.

2 tbsp of cold water

Boil a pan of water and make a bain-marie by using a bowl, bigger than the pan opening, resting on top of the water, but not touching it. Add the egg yolk, cold water, mustard and pepper. Whisk together over the steam from the bain-marie until thickened, this should take a couple of minutes. Once thickening, start adding small cubes of butter while still whisking, keep going till all the butter has been used. You can up or down the butter depending on how much sauce you’d like to make. Once all the butter has been added squeeze in some lemon to taste, remembering this will also thin it. If you like a thick sauce you could forego some of the water at the start.

Once the sauce is finished, take the bowl off and add a whole egg to poach in the ready and waiting water. Some form of white vinegar in the water will help keep the egg together, leave for three-four minutes and the rolling water will take care of the rest. Use a slotted spoon to remove from the pan and dry on some kitchen towel.

Pour a little water into a shallow frying pan and add the asparagus. Cook for a couple of minutes, until bright green and tender.

Pile the asparagus in a plate, topped wit the egg and sauce. I also added some chives for an oniony punch, but equally as yummy without.

And here are my flowers. Happy Sunday everyone, hope you’ve all done little else but eat and read and other appropriately Sunday-ish pastimes

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By Rosie