Tag Archives: olive oil

Farinata and Friday night Tray of Treats

We used to do our main shopping on a Saturday as this is how things naturally fell, and it coincides with market day. And I do love a market. This meant that, come Friday, the fridge was a little bare and, often, my partner would be away on Friday. He is really good at conjuring something out of nothing in the kitchen, a skill my mother also has but not one that I’ve inherited.

I’m not bad at cooking but I need to a) be in my own kitchen b) have ingredients c) have a plan. Thus it was that, often, on a Friday, I would want and need to pull together a dinner for me and the children made out of not very much. And this is where I invented the Tray of Treats.

This is basically a fun and slightly misleading name for leftovers and bits dragged out of the depths of the fridge and cupboards. Although, these days, it’s become such an institution that we do tend to shop specially for Tray of Treats, back in the day it was crudites, bits of cheese, ham, bread sticks and whatever else could be cut up and look small and canape sized.

This is where these farinata come in. (Farinata literally means a ‘flouring’.) They are great as last minute bread, easy to make, gluten free and need almost no prepping. The slathering of extra virgin oil and salt makes them, so don’t skimp on this bit, because that would be to miss the point of them.

I use a 26cm skillet and it makes two big ones, which you slice up into wedges. Chickpea, or gram flour, is high in protein so these are gut-bustingly filling. These are also great little snacks to serve with a drink of an early evening.

150g chickpea flour

Two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil plus extra for drizzling and cooking – use the best you have

half a teaspoon of baking powder

One teaspoon of salt, plus sea salt for sprinkling

Fresh rosemary sprigs, chopped

Pour the flour, the two tablespoons of olive oil, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl and, using a balloon whisk, whisk through 300ml of cold water. I use filtered water. If you use normal water be aware you might get a bit of scum on top of your batter after resting, if so, just skim it off. I never get it, and you may not.

Whisk this up until you get a batter. Now if you want to make the farinata now, rest the batter for ten minutes and heat up the oven to 240C, if not, put it in the fridge for later and just remember to heat up the oven before you start. The batter keeps for a day or so so you can also make one pancake today and one tomorrow (they are delicious with curries).

When ready to cook, put some extra virgin olive oil – about a tablespoon – in a frying pan that can go in the oven. I know it seems wrong to use extra virgin to fry with, and I don’t normally, but it works here trust me. Spread the olive oil around so it coats all of the pan, let it heat up and then pour half the batter in. When the mixture starts to bubble, scatter over the snipped up rosemary leaves and cook until the sides are golden, then transfer to the oven for ten minutes.

You know it’s ready when it’s crisp at the edge and has a soft centre. Flip it out of the pan (it should come out easily) sprinkle with sea salt and drizzle, generously, with the extra virgin olive oil. And marvel, at how few ingredients can make something so delicious.

My lovely Italian friend Sonia, who is a very talented chef, and from Livorno (where farinata originates, although it’s called torta di ceci there and they sometimes have it in between two slices of bread!), contacted me to tell me that the way I make it isn’t authentic: you shouldn’t use rosemary or extra virgin olive oil as it ‘overpowers the delicate taste of the chick peas’. This is apparently how you do it properly (it’s in Italian, sorry). But I love my way so will continue to do it like that, but, you know, authenticity is important so it’s good to know what one is mucking about with…

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Roast sea bass, with lovely potatoes and vegetables, all done in one tray

This is a deceptive recipe, taken from the BBC Good Food magazine last year. Deceptive because, despite the relatively simplicity of ingredients, everything mixes together to produce something rather good, rather, as my friend Linda would hate me to say, lovely.

(She is not keen on the word lovely, and now, every time I use it, I think of her and the disdain she must hold me in for not thinking of something better, but, to me, when you need to say something is lovely there is no better word.)

Anyway. The price of seabass doesn’t make this a cheap dish*; nevertheless, what you get is something very tasty and that needs very little further accompaniment, save for some green vegtables. So it’s not the world’s most expensive dish, either, and, I would suggest, you can make this for an alternative to a ‘big roast’ for someone who doesn’t eat meat, or is gluten free, and they wouldn’t feel in any way cheated.

You can, and I have, substituted sea bass for cod – as you can see in my picture where there is a mix of the two – but the bass has the edge here in delicate flavour.

This recipe is for two, but you can double or treble it at will.

300g of red skinned potatoes. Important, the flavour of the potatoes is a valuable scaffold to this dish. Wash and dry the potatoes, you don’t peel them, and then slice them very thinly (don’t be a wuss, you don’t need a mandoline) into rounds.

1 red pepper cut into slices

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 rosemary sprig, you’re meant to remove the leaves and chop finely. I go into the garden, pick two or three sprigs and shove them in. This does, however, mean that when I made this recently, my youngest asked why I’d put the Christmas tree in the dinner.

2 sea bass fillets

25g pitted black olives, sliced or halved

half a lemon, thinly sliced

basil leaves to scatter (don’t fret if you don’t have them, the dish can survive without)

You need a large baking dish. Note that if you are making this for lots of people, you need lots of oven capacity, and more than one baking tray, as it’s important you space out the potatoes so they crisp up. This doesn’t mean each and every slice needs its own zone, but they shouldn’t be crammed together – gently overlapping is what you’re aiming for. The more crammed together they are, the less the moisture can evaporate and the soggier the potatoes will be. You want something that’s crisp on the outside, soft on the inside and for this to happen the potatoes need space, man.

Oven to 180C.

Lay the sliced potatoes onto the baking tray with the pepper slices. Drizzle over one tablespoon of the oil and scatter over the rosemary, add a pinch of salt and a good grinding (snigger) of pepper. Toss everything together, rearrange so that they take up the maximum amount of tray space and aren’t all bunched together and roast in the oven for 25 minutes. Turn over half way through. If the edges aren’t brown, give it a bit longer than 25 mins.

Then, arrange the fish fillets on top of the potatoes, scatter over the olives, and place lemon slices on each fillet. Drizzle the fish with the remaining oil.

Roast for a further 7-8 minutes and you’re done.

*Waitrose sells frozen farmed seabass fillets for £4.39 for two (at time of going to press).

A nice healthy lunch, that’s largely an assembly job

 

I eat insanely well during the week. My lunches are not calorie controlled, but because I tend not to eat dinner, I really pack my nutrients into the first half of the day.

This is a lovely lunch. It’s healthy but delicious; easy and you can of course customise it however you want. I tend to bake bread in the morning, so this is a good time to put some veg in the oven to roast it for lunch later on. I use red onion, peppers, squash, a good tablespoon of olive oil, some herbs. Whatever veg I have.

Come lunch time I either use some sourdough or, more frequently, some of these delicious flat breads: I buy the organic wholemeal version. They’ve got very few, natural, ingredients and also, unopened, keep for a few weeks so good to have in. Although I make my own flatbreads occasionally, I often just want a quick lunch and this enables me.

When I’m ready to eat I heat up my flat bread in a flat frying pan, then top it with some Tracklements Chilli Jam or Stokes Red Onion Marmalade – just spread a bit around. Then scatter some lettuce/spinach/rocket leaves atop, plus some avocado. Scoop up your roasted veg, top with some suitable protein if you so wish – goat’s cheese, crumbled feta, dry-fried halloumi, sardines etc. Scatter over some toasted nuts/seeds if you like, drizzle with olive oil. Eat. It’s delicious and you feel really good afterwards.

 

A nice healthy lunch: aubergines, tomatoes, feta

This is the sort of lunch that can expand to fit anything from 2-4 people on the quantities below. And it’s easy to augment it to feed even more. Quantities are fast and loose.

1 aubergine, sliced, brushed with olive oil and griddled

A good handful of cherry tomatoes, halved

100g or so of feta, crumbled

A few basil leaves, torn or chopped

A tablespoon/glug of extra virgin olive oil

A handful of pine nuts, dry fried for a few minutes in a frying pan

All I do is have everything at room temperature (if you haven’t just cooked the aubergines), lay the aubergine slices on a big plate, and then just scatter the other ingredients on top. Easy and delicious. If it’s hot outside and you have time, put the olive oil over the tomatoes, season and scatter the basil atop and leave out in the sun (away from elks and birds) for half an hour.

Yum.

Rosemary, polenta and olive oil biscuits

IMG_2679These won’t be to everyone’s taste, but I loved them. They’re easy to make, almost impossible to get wrong (unless you chucked them on the floor or something) and unusual. Like rosemary shortbread but with the advantage of no butter at all. I gave these to my father waiting, waiting, for him to say “too rich, too much butter” (this is what he always says about all my baking). So i could pounce and say “aHA, no butter in these NONE NONE and by the way, that New Year’s Even when I said I wasn’t out in a club aged fourteen I WAS and I’ve sustained the lie over thirty years.

Ahem. Exorcising a few ghosts there. I think this would be lovely with some rich vanilla ice cream or maybe a very strong espresso.

The recipe is here, on the Easy Living site. I have to say, I was very much not impressed with Easy Living the magazine in recent times. It had gone all silly and light weight; but they really lost me when they described women who breastfeed (and, I suppose, go on about it?) as breastfeeding Nazis or the Breastapo (I can’t remember which, but you get the idea). This is such an offensive term and belies a real ignorance of history.

I complained, and some flippety gibbet replied, completely not understanding my point. That was it, it was over for me and Easy Living.

The magazine has since folded but exists on line and its recipes are really good, and definitely worth checking out, even if the rest of the content, in my opinion, is as sustaining as a rice cake.