Whilst salmon, cod and seabass are go-to fishes for many people, I do like to try and use a good variety of fish in my cooking and choosing fish from British shores, whenever I can. I am proud to create recipes for Sainsburys, who I’ve been shopping with for over 30 years, whose new range of ‘Fishmonger’s Choice’ of fresh fish offers Monkfish, Dover Sole and Whiting which are all in season right now, with more seasonal varieties being added to the range next year.
70% of the fish consumed in the UK is still made up of the five most popular varieties consumed in the UK. Dubbed the ‘Big five’, those varieties are: Cod, Haddock, Salmon, Tuna and Prawns and whilst they are delicious, there are plenty more varieties from our own shores which deserve to be more popular than they are. Monkfish is a firm and meaty fish and a great favourite of mine because it can hold an abundance of spice and pairs well with stronger flavours, sauces and marinades.
I have created this simple recipe using the gorgeous fillets from the Fishmongers Choice range and made a hearty, warming and comforting stew perfect for this time of year. It is super simple, has bags of flavour and a big hunk of bread on the side is all you really need.
In a large pan over a medium heat, drizzle in a little oil and soften the onions until they begin to turn golden around the edges, then add the spices and stir well. Add the squash and stir fry for a few minutes until they begin to soften a little and add the garlic and mix well and fry together for a few more minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking.
Add the chopped tomatoes to the mixture, stir well and reduce the heat to a low setting. Place a lid over the pan and allow the sauce and ingredients to simmer gently for 20 minutes, ensuring you stir it every now and again. After 20 minutes, add the beans, stir once and replace lid and cook for a further 10-15 minutes.
In a separate frying pan over a medium-high heat, drizzle in a little oil. Season the monkfish with salt and pepper and then fry lightly for a minute or so on each side and remove. Don’t be tempted to cook them any longer as they will continue to cook in the tagine sauce.
Remove the lid of the Tagine sauce, stir and then transfer the pieces of Monkfish from the pan, into the Tagine sauce and serve with a final garnish of fresh of fresh parsley or coriander.
Some of the best and most comforting words of all can very often be as simple as “Dinner’s ready!” As the season draws to a close, we still crave the flavours of summer. We’re reluctant to let them go because we know these are the last days of summer. We crave spice, aromatics and exotic flavours that remind us of warmer climes. My Peanut and Harissa Chicken Stew with garlic flatbreads is just perfect for those kinds of days when comfort and flavour are essential.
Slow-cooked chicken, on the bone, for extra flavour with nutty, creamy, piquant peanut sauce finished with fresh coriander and a squeeze of lime, it is the perfect meal for dinner in the summer or winter. A refreshing lime and ginger fizz compliment the meal beautifully and can easily be made a little more ‘grown-up’ with the addition of a little Gin or Vodka.
I’ve partnered with Sainsbury’s to create a perfect recipe to bring everyone to the dinner table, every time.
4 long (or 6 round shallots), sliced very thinly into rounds ½ cm half moons
2 long fingers of fresh turmeric, washed and finely grated or pulverised (skin-on)
3x2 inch piece of ginger, peeled, cut into matchsticks and finely chopped
1 large head of garlic, cloves peeled and bashed but un-chopped
3 mild fat red chillies, sliced open lengthways from stalk to end, but still whole
8 large bone-in chicken thighs, skins removed
1 heaped teaspoon of ground cinnamon
45g (or 3 tablespoons) Harissa
6 tablespoons of crunchy peanut butter
225g tin of bamboo shoots, drained
Maldon sea salt flakes, crushed
Black pepper to taste
Boiling water from a kettle
1 small packet of fresh coriander, very roughly chopped
2 limes, cut into wedges to serve
40g unsalted butter, melted
175g plain flour
100ml full fat or semi-skimmed milk
2 tablespoons of garlic granules
1 tablespoons of fenugreek powder
1 tablespoon olive oil
Extra flour for kneading and rolling
In a large saucepan over a medium, drizzle enough oil to coat the base of the pan and fry the shallots for a few minutes until they begin to soften and become translucent. Then add the grated ginger, bashed garlic and grated turmeric and stir well.
Next, add the chicken pieces and coat them in the onion mixture, then add in the cinnamon, harissa, peanut butter and a generous amount of salt and pepper before mixing well. Pour in just enough boiling water from a kettle to just about cover the chicken thighs, stirring one last time before covering the pan with a lid, reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cook for a further 1 hour and 45 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
To make the flatbreads, melt the butter and combine with the remaining ingredients, except for the oil. Mix until a firm dough has formed. Wrap in cling film and leave to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before dividing into 4 equal portions, rolling into a ball then rolling them out into 4 equal-sized flatbreads and dry-frying them in a preheated frying pan over a medium-high heat for just under a minute on each side. These can be done at the last minute or done ahead of time and simply reheated in a low oven.
Once cooking time has elapsed, add the bamboo shoots to the pan, stir them in and allow to heat for a further 10 minutes before removing from heat.
Serve with most of coriander stirred in last minute and a little on top as a fresh final flourish of flavour along with the lime wedges.
Ghormeh Sazbi is the holy grail of Persian cuisine. It is the one stew I have greatly resisted sharing a recipe for as immediately it will attract hoards of argumentative Iranians who tend to jump all over you with how the recipe “should be”. The plain truth of the matter is that there is no ONE version and every household in Iran has a slightly different recipe. Depending on which part of Iran you are from, you will usually use either red kidney beans, brown beans or black eyed beans and then to add more confusion to the matter, some people add spinach and some people swear (rather angrily) that this should never be done. Some people insist on using chives and others don’t and then there is the whole debate about which kind of herbs to use… some use dried, some use fresh, some use frozen and so you see? There is no finite answer and I, much like Switzerland, prefer to remain neutral and to appease the Iranian Mafia out there, shall just say that this is my version for the Farangis and you know what? It tastes damn good considering nobody cooked in my house and I had to teach myself and furthermore, it took well over a decade to perfect… So peace and love everyone, lets make Ghormeh Sabzi, not war!
For my non-Iranian readership, this is truly a special stew with flavours that you will find intriguing and unlike anything you will have tasted before. If you have ever order anything from an Indian takeaway that has the word ‘Methi’ in it, then this is the very same fenugreek leaf used and it is divine. Best place to get it is either from an Asian or Persian supermarket or online. Buy lots because it keeps for a long time and our regular supermarkets haven’t yet cottoned on to its herby potential.
1kg lamb neck fillets, sliced width-ways into ¾ inch chunks
1 tablespoon of ground turmeric
2 large onions, roughly chopped
100g coriander, finely chopped, stalks and all
100g flat leaf parsley, finely chopped, stalks and all
2 big, generous handfuls of dried fenugreek leaf (not seed/powder)
4-5 dried limes (or 6-7 preserved lemons, halved, pips removed)
2 x 400g tins of kidney beans, drained and rinsed in a sieve
Salt and pepper
Oil for frying
Preheat a large saucepan over a medium heat, drizzle in a generous amount of oil and fry the onion until softened. Add the lamb and seal it, then add the turmeric, season well with pepper and stir well. Add the dried fenugreek leaves and coat the lamb well in it, adding a little more oil if needed. Next, add the fresh herbs and stir fry them until completely wilted so they have turned from a bright vibrant green to a dark and thoroughly wilted almost-forest green, although without letting them burn. It is so important to wilt the herbs down properly as this is what will enable the sauce of the stew to have the right consistency, so ignore everything you know about keeping things green and vibrant, this is the Middle East and we do things differently.
Then, season the whole stew generously with Maldon sea salt (you should check seasoning again about an hour into cooking time) and then prick the dried limes and add them to the pan (if using preserved lemons, add them in just 30 minutes before you serve) and cover the contents with just enough boiling water to barely cover the meat and reduce heat to a low-medium heat and cook for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. I like to check in on the stew after 20 minutes to ensure its not on too high a heat, before leaving it for the remaining cooking time. Do not be tempted to add more water, a slightly thicker herb sauce is what you want to achieve. If your sauce looks like its drying out, reduce the heat (especially if using gas) but also remember that placing a lid on top of the pan will ensure you preserve/increase liquid volume inside the pan.
Once done, gently squeeze the softened limes using a wooden spoon to allow for some of their sour juice to acidulate the stew (Iranians would squeeze extra lemon juice into the stew), stir and serve with basmati rice, for which there is an authentic recipe in my first book Persiana.
The stew will freeze well so IF there are any leftovers, you can do so and keep it for up to 3 months in the freezer, as well as any leftover rice. Freezing rice is fine and I’m not sure where all these myths about not freezing rice, come from.
Easter is fast approaching and as one of our longest public-holidays, I always feel it is one of the best opportunities to get together with friends and family and feast with some wonderful food. Lamb has long been the favourite of Easter and of course, being Persian, it is very much the king of meats in my culture. So, what better way to treat everyone then with a stunning lamb leg, slow-cooked to tender perfection, perfumed with exotic, yet not-so-unfamiliar spices straight from your store cupboard? Just because a recipe is exotic, it doesn’t mean it needs to be unfamiliar or difficult to put together and spices will help you evoke the heady scents of Souks and Baazars but most importantly work beautifully with this wonderful lamb leg.
This delicious recipe uses yogurt to coat and tenderise the surface of the lamb leg as well as allow the spices to hold beautifully to the exterior of the joint. Commonly throughout the Middle East and Asia, yogurt is favoured as a marinade component to keep the meat lovely and moist throughout cooking, as well as tenderise the meat itself.
What I love about slow-cooking lamb is that the meat cooks through beautifully producing, tender, pull-apart meat that pleases everyone. No fuss of having to accommodate those who like, rare, pink or well-done meat… as long as it’s slow-cooked, you’ll have a real crowd-pleaser on your hands. To finish, a spicy, tangy yet refreshing pomegranate and herb salsa compliments the meat beautifully and you can either choose traditional accompaniments like potatoes and greens or be slightly more adventurous with couscous, bulgar wheat, flat bread wraps and yogurt instead. However you choose to serve it, you’ll impress everyone at the table and you won’t need to tell anyone how simple it was to put together.
2-2.5kg leg of lamb
175g Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons of ground fenugreek
2 tablespoons of sumac
2 tablespoons of garlic granules
1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper
Generous amount of Maldon sea salt and black pepper
300g pomegranate seeds
Small packet of chives, snipped finely
Small packet of coriander, finely chopped
Small packet of dill, finely chopped
150ml pomegranate molasses
1 heaped teaspoon of rose harissa **optional**
2 heaped tablespoons of clear honey
2 long shallots, very finely chopped
2 teaspoons of nigella seeds
Good drizzle of olive oil
Generous seasoning of Maldon sea salt and black pepper
Preheat the oven to 160 degrees (or 140 fan-assisted) and line a large baking tray with oven/baking paper.
In a small bowl, mix the spices with the yogurt until evenly combined and coat the lamb leg evenly with the mixture and place onto your roasting tray and cook initially for 4 hours.
Remove from oven and using a spoon, pour some of the pan juices over the lamb to give it a nice sheen and moisten the crust. Then cover the lamb with foil and allow to rest for at least 15 minutes before serving.
Serving suggestion: Shred or pull the lamb apart and serve on a platter garnished with the salsa or serve the salsa on the side.
You can prepare the yogurt and spice mixture and marinate the lamb leg overnight for a deeper flavour, if you wish
Spring is here at last and as Mother’s Day fast approaches, I am busy thinking of all the ways in which I can spoil my own Mum and make her feel extra special this Sunday.
I have been shopping at my local Sainsburys since it opened its doors 33 years ago. Granted, as a 7 year old, sweeties were pretty much the main item on my shopping agenda, but these days, I have expanded my repertoire and rely on Sainsburys for my shopping. So when Sainsburys asked me to create some special recipes for them, I was thrilled and I am so delighted to share my first recipe with you in time for Mother's Day and what better way to celebrate your Mum then with a delicious, seasonal and incredibly easy and impressive sweet treat.
This gorgeous rhubarb and pistachio cake is the perfect treat to celebrate Mothering Sunday with the whole family. It is not too sweet and that beautifully vibrant, pink rhubarb adds such a lovely tangy flavour to the cake as do the pistachios. Being Persian, I always turn to pistachios when I want to make something particularly special. For us, pistachios are the King of nuts and they add such wonderful texture and flavour to both sweet and savoury dishes.
The best thing about this cake is that is falls in line with my ethos… Simple and easy to prepare yet always impressive and full of flavour. You can add your own twists to this recipe by making a little cream cheese frosting with a few pistachios and washed pink rose petals or serve with custard, whipped cream or vanilla ice cream for extra indulgence.
However you choose to serve it, you’ll win Mum over this year… and let’s face it, everyone loves cake and Mum most definitely deserves it! **Though she won’t resist sharing her cake with the family and that’s why she’s so special to us.**
3 large eggs
250g caster sugar
Zest of 2 oranges
1 heaped teaspoon of vanilla bean paste
250g self-raising flour
150g unsalted butter, melted
400g rhubarb, ends trimmed and then cut diagonally into 1cm thick slices
150g pistachios, very finely chopped in a processor
Preheat the oven to 170 degrees (or 160, fan assisted) and line a square baking tin with oven/baking paper.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, vanilla paste and orange zest together until evenly combined. Add the flour and incorporate, followed by the melted butter and mix well until the batter is smooth. Add the rhubarb slices and the pistachios and mix until all evenly combined.
Pour the cake mix into the cake tin and smooth over the top to make sure batter is evenly distributed and surface is nice and flat. Then place in the oven and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until lovely and golden brown on top. Insert a skewer/knife into centre and ensure it comes out clean. Allow cake to cool and serve with clotted cream or vanilla ice cream.
(Makes 1 x 6 inch)
Who doesn’t like fried potatoes? I am yet to meet someone who doesn’t. Chips aside, sometimes you want something a little more delicate and Rösti does the job beautifully. I made this gorgeous golden disc for breakfast with a nice poached egg but you can of course scale up and multiply recipe by 4 to fill a large frying pan and make it the main event or at last, a rather pleasing side dish to perhaps some fried halloumi or a roast chicken? You catch my drift, I’m sure you don’t need the advice.
I large potato, yes you can use waxy ones, but I used red-skinned potatoes
1 teaspoon of chilli flakes or Pul biber for a softer kick
1 teaspoon of black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon of ground fenugreek powder
6-8 chive stems, snipped
Ghee (clarified butter) or vegetable/coconut oil
Peel and coarsely grate the potato and season very generously with salt (remember you won’t be eating all the salt as we will be extracting moisture and discarding the salty liquid) mix well and leave for 5 minutes, whilst preheating a small frying pan or a large one, if easier, over a medium heat.
Mix the potato again and then empty into a sieve and really squeeze every last drop of excess moisture out of the mixture. Once very dry, add the chilli, fenugreek, mustard seeds, chives and generous mill of black pepper and mix well using a fork until all the ingredients are evenly combined and distributed.
Add a couple of tablespoons of ghee into the pan and tip the potato mixture into the centre and flatten out into a 6 inch round disc, smoothing eggs with a spatula is desired but pressing down gently to fix a nice smooth and even surface. Cook for 5-6 minutes on each side (every heat source varies, so just don’t let it burn) and turn carefully half way through (using a plate on top of the pan to flip it over and slide back into the pan, helps)
Once nice and golden brown on both sides, serve and enjoy.
Inspired by my favourite Thai dish of Ped Krapow, this is my Eastern take on the humble Thai classic. Minced meat is so underused except for burgers and I absolutely love using it for stir-fries because it’s cheap and cheerful and holds whichever flavours you want to throw at it without the possibility of getting over-cooked. If pork is not your thing, use beef, turkey, lamb or chicken mince and even soya mince, too! Great with basmati and wild rice or served with lettuce wraps, too.
500g minced pork, I like the 15-10% fat ratio
3 teaspoons of ground turmeric
4 fat garlic cloves, crushed
2-3 tablespoons of chilli flakes (or 2-3 fresh long red chilies if you prefer)
30g-50g fresh coriander, roughly chopped
3-4 tablespoons of fish sauce (or just salt to taste, if preferred)
Preheat a large pan over a medium-high heat. Drizzle in enough oil to lightly coat the base, then add the garlic and immediately add the pork, turmeric and chilli flakes and move fast to quickly incorporate the ingredients without burning the garlic. Stir fry the pork until fully cooked (about 8 minutes or so) but don’t let it burn. Then add the fish sauce and a generous mill of black pepper and mix well. Remove from heat and stir in the coriander. Serve with rice or lettuce leaves.
For Iranians, stew is really the cornerstone of Persian cuisine. Always served with steamed Persian basmati rice (simplified recipe in my first book, Persiana) the stews are traditionally mostly lamb based and use either herbs, tomato or sometimes pomegranate molasses as a sauce base. This is one of my favourite stews and although I know many Brits are celery-haters, the celery here is so delicate, so soft and mild in flavour that it really has a completely different flavour to uncooked celery. This is one of my favourite stews and it is really simple to make and something special and different to anything else you’ll eat, so I do hope you will give it a try.
1kg lamb neck fillet, cut widthways into 2cm thick pieces
2 large (or 3 small) onions, finely chopped
2 heaped teaspoons of ground turmeric
2 head of celery, washed, leaves & ends trimmed and cut into 2 inch long pieces
300g flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
3 heaped tablespoons of dried mint
Juice of ½ a lemon
Maldon sea salt freshly ground black pepper
My best advice to you is to make this either the night before you need it or the morning of the evening you wish to serve it as sometimes herb based stews do really benefit from the process of cooling down completely.
Preheat your largest stock pot or casserole dish over a medium heat. Pour in enough vegetable oil to generously coat the base of the pan and begin sweating off the onions, not to colour them but just to soften them until translucent. You do not want to brown the onions (or the meat, for that matter) as we don’t want to encourage any brown colouring into this dish.
Once the onions have softened, add the diced lamb and quickly coat them in the onion mixture, then add the turmeric and dried mint and mix well until the meat is coated evenly with both. Next, add the chopped parsley and this is where you need to pay attention. You need to wilt all the parsley completely, without burning/browning it. This takes about 5-6 minutes or so and does requires stirring and mixing every few minutes to ensure that all the parsley is wilted down properly, then add the celery and soften the pieces well for about 10-12 minutes, by which stage, the parsley will have lost its vibrant green colour and the celery would have soften and become less rigid. Add the lemon juice, a generous amount of salt and black pepper and mix well before pouring over hot water from a boiled kettle, but only just enough to barely cover the ingredients. Cover the pan with a lid, reduce heat to low and cook for an hour, stirring occasionally. Then remove the lid, adjust salt level if desired and cook for a further hour and a half.
If following my advice of cooking this in advance, simply reheat the stew on a low, gentle heat for 20-30 minutes and serve with basmati rice. “Noosh-e-jan” (Bon appetit) as we say in Persian.
My name is Sabrina Ghayour and I’m a cake-a-holic. My social media is littered with evidence of my love for all things cake yet I must confess, I wasn’t always the most confident baker. In fact, I spent much of the first 30 years of my life being absolutely petrified of baking as it just doesn’t allow for my own style of ‘bunging and chucking and winging it’ cooking. However, since I became a Chef, I asked myself “What kind of Chef can’t bake?” so I worked very hard to understand the basic principles of bread, cake, pastry and general baking and I now bake confidently without any drama (most of the time) This simple bake is a favourite as we all end up with soggy, limp, feeling-sorry-for-themselves-looking bananas and guess what? It’s those dark bad-boys that really do make the best cake! Being Iranian, I always have nuts knocking around the house (its virtually law in my culture) and I have learned to stock up on 70% dark chocolate for baking emergencies. Super simple but of course you can change up the flavours/ingredients as much as you wish!
3 small-medium sized bananas
3 large eggs
225g caster sugar
2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons of vanilla bean paste
225g self raising flour (or plain flour with 2 small teaspoons baking powder)
225g butter (salted/unsalted, either is fine)
50g-75g broken walnut pieces
100g 70% dark chocolate, still in packet, bashed on a hard surface until turned to ‘rubble’
26cm rectangular ovenproof dish or a 22-24cm round spring mounted cake tin
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees (160 fan) and line your baking vessel with some scrunched up oven paper, smoothed out to fit into corners/curves.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon together. Then squish the bananas using your hands, straight into the mixture and use a fork to mash them as smooth as possible.
Then add the flour and mix well, add the (cooled) melted butter and mix well into the ingredients a smooth batter is formed. Add the walnuts and lastly the dark chocolate rubble and combine until evenly incorporated.
Pour the batter into the lined dish and bake the cake for about an hour (or more, if needed, as ovens vary greatly) Check to see if cake is cooked by inserting a skewer or small knife and if it comes out clean of batter, then job done. Allow the cake to cool and enjoy! I find this cake if wrapped in cling film and kept in an airtight container, lasts for 4 days easily… But in all honesty, I have never known cake to last that long with the hungry folk, in any house. It’s just what people have told me!
Everyone knows that nothing adds more sparkle to a feast than pomegranate seeds, liberally scattered over salads, roasts and so many dishes and desserts, it no longer feels like Christmas without them. This cheese filled, gem-studded beauty is the perfect centrepiece for a cheeseboard or finger food buffet… oh hell, grab a bottle of fizz, put on your best onesie and split this with a friend, who am I to judge you? The centre is made of soft goats cheese with chives, sumac, orange zest and a little pul biber (mild) chilli flakes; add some crackers or my favourite Peter’s Yard crispbreads and you’re entirely good to go.
350g soft goats cheese (and yes Chevre will also work, if you wish)
200g pomegranate seeds
50g pistachio slivers or 75g roughly chopped pistachios
2 heaped teaspoons of sumac
15g chives, sniped or thinly sliced
Zest of an unwaxed orange
1-2 teaspoons of Pul biber / Aleppo pepper
Generous mill of freshly ground black pepper
Excluding the pomegranate seeds and pistachios, mix the remaining ingredients together in a mixing bowl until evenly combined. Tear off a large sheet of cling film and using a spatula, scrape the cheese mixture out of the bowl and into the centre of the cling film, forming it as best you can into a ball shape. Then gather the four corners of the cling film together and pinch the cling film just above the top of the ball and form a ball shape as best you can. Refrigerate the ball for 30 minutes or even better, freeze it for about 10 minutes.
Remove the ball from the fridge/freezer and begin studding the ball with pomegranate seeds. Use a fish slice to transfer the ball onto your desired serving plate (which you can also use to refrigerate it, until needed) and scatter pistachios on top and around the base, studding the ball with a few pieces wherever you can. You can make this from the night before and cover loosely with a little cling film. Refrigerate before serving and serve with crispbreads, crackers, mini toasts and even chicory leaves, if desired.
This is a great alternative to the classic Christmas Turkey stuffing and although it is a bit more Persian-inspired, it still ticks all the boxes flavour-wise, to go hand-in-hand with a traditional Christmas Turkey. I was making my Sour Cherry and Lamb meatballs at The Modern Pantry 4 years ago as part of my ‘Passage to Persia’ dinner series and Chef Anna Hansen was so impressed by the recipe that she asked if they could use it as a stuffing for their Turkey at the restaurant. Naturally I was thrilled and so I owe this twist to the lovely Anna, really. I prefer my stuffing on the side, either in slices or rolled into balls. How you use this recipe is entirely up to you but I promise you, it’s a winner.
750g pork mince (don’t use lean, 20% fat is best)
3 good handfuls of stale white bread, crusts removed, softened in a little milk (3-4 tablespoons)
2 long/banana shallots, finely chopped
30g fresh dill, finely chopped
30g fresh coriander finely chopped
150g dried, sweetened sour cherries or cranberries if easier
100g pistachios, roughly chopped
2 heaped teaspoons of turmeric
2 heaped teaspoons of garlic granules
2 heaped teaspoons of ground cumin
2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
Maldon salt and black pepper
In a large mixing bowl, combine all your ingredients together with a generous seasoning of salt and pepper and work the mixture aggressively for several minutes to ensure everything is evenly combined and there are no unmixed areas of pink meat remaining and the bread is smoothly incorporated into the stuffing.
You can either use the stuffing as normal now or do as I’ve done and pushed it neatly into a 26cm ovenproof dish and baked it in a preheated oven at 180 degrees fan for about 35 minutes or so until lightly browned on top. You can of course roll them into balls and I’d suggest cooking them for a little less if rolling them into balls about the size of standard stuffing balls 1.5 inches in diameter.
Georgian food is one of the lesser known culinary cultures of the East. I cannot think why as the dishes I have tried have been absolutely wonderful and pose no threat to those with less adventurous palates. Flavours ate familiar, simple and comforting; the kind of food that pleases everyone and doesn't involve any advanced level of skill or a ridiculously long list of ingredients. Flavours and dishes feel very similar to some of Persian and Ottoman cuisines and no doubt we all borrowed flavours and dishes from each other at one stage or another in history. The most important thing is that their food tastes good and its easy to make at home. Kharcho is a wonderful chicken stew, slow cooked until the chicken falls apart and the depth of flavour is really wonderful. Perfect comfort food for the wintery weather we are having. Heck, perfect comfort food, any time of year really.
8 large chicken thighs, skins removed
2 large white onions, cut into ½ centimeter thick half moons
4 bay leaves
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 heaped teaspoons of paprika
6 large ripe tomatoes
2 long red chillies (spicy ones)
3 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
Small bunch of fresh coriander, finely chopped
Small bunch of fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
Small bunch of fresh tarragon, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat a large pan over a medium heat, drizzle enough olive oil to coat the base of the pan well and add the chicken thighs and fry them until golden brown. Add the onions, bay leaves, garlic, paprika, tomatoes and vinegar and mix well. Season generously with salt and pepper and split the chillies lengthways (keeping stalk in tact) and add to the pan. Using boiling water from a kettle, add just enough hot water into the pan to cover the chicken and cook for 2 hours, stirring occasionally and checking seasoning, then add in the fresh herbs and stir well and serve. Great with rice or bread.
Once in a while, happy accidents happen in my kitchen. Usually they happen when I find myself in a spot of bother and need to come up with a quick meal using store cupboard ingredients, together with what I may or may not, have in the fridge. A lucky bonus that these ingredients are in season, but genuinely, aside from the Cavolo Nero and mushrooms, everything else was found in my spice rack and store cupboards.
The addition of artichokes and chick peas, might sound a bit like the salad shouldn’t ‘work’ as a combination… but it does, very much so. As ever with my recipes, take what you like from it and use as much or as little as you like and of course add in your own bits (like bacon or pancetta, which would both nothing short of marvellous in this warm salad) and serve as a starter, side dish or main course.
500g Cavolo Nero cabbage or Kale, cut into 2 inch thick strips, width-ways, discarding tough stalks
250g Chestnut mushrooms, thinly sliced
400g tin of chick peas, drained and rinsed
285g jar of artichokes in oil, drained and oil set aside for use
10 cooked chestnuts, each sliced into 3 pieces
1 teaspoon of ground coriander
½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon of turmeric powder
½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon
Maldon sea salt and black pepper to taste
Preheat a large saucepan over a medium-high heat and allow the pan to get nice and hot. Once hot, add the mushrooms, stir briefly and then do not be tempted to stir them for a few minutes. This will encourage all the natural water content out of the mushrooms, preventing them from being soggy and instead browning them nicely and encouraging a lovely nutty flavour. After a few minutes have passed, then drizzle a good amount of the olive oil from the jar of artichokes (about 2-3 tablespoons roughly) and stir the mushrooms well, lifting any that may be stuck to the pan base and add the spices and mix in well.
Next, add the Cavolo Nero and stir fry until the leaves cook and soften and turn a vibrant, deep glossy green. Add the chestnuts and chickpeas and a generous seasoning of salt and pepper to taste and stir well to evenly incorporate all the ingredients. Taste the dish, adjust the seasoning and serve. Crumbling feta into this would literally be heavenly, but adding quinoa, barley, brown rice or bulgar wheat to the salad would also make a meal of it too!