Tag Archives: peppers

Ratatouille and halloumi tray bake

This recipe came from an excellent and surprising source. My friend Lynda recommended it and it’s The Fast 800 Recipe book. But don’t let it put you off, honestly it’s become one of my most used and loved books for its simple, healthy, quick recipes which you can augment or add to if you’re not fasting. Which I so rarely can…This serves four which you can eat with lovely crusty bread if you’re not carb-avoidant. And who is these days? It’s surprisingly delicious. TBH I’m not a huge fan of ratatouille, or beans and yet this is…yum.

 

Ingredients

2  peppers – not green sorry, de-seeded and cut into chunks

1 medium aubergine or two courgettes

1 onion cut into chunks

3 tablespoons of olive oil

2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

Basil leaves, a small handful sliced into shreds (don’t cry if you don’t have)

1 x 400g can of chopped tomatoes

1 teaspoon of oregano (or use a tin of tomatoes with herbs)

225g block halloumi cheese – slice into eight

A tin of 400g of drained and rinsed cannellini beans

 

Method

Oven to 220C. Place the peppers and aubergine/courgette and onions onto a tray, season with salt and pepper (but not too much salt as the halloumi is quite salty). Mix everything around and roast for 30-35 minutes, turning half way through if you can be bothered.

After this time, take out, stir in the garlic and basil, tomatoes + oregano and beans. Arrange the slices of halloumi on top and back in the oven for about 15 mins. I tend to give it a ‘top oven’ blast for a few minutes at the end. The halloumi should be lightly browned.

Scatter over more fresh basil if you remember and serve with a crisp green salad.

Pasta with roasted red pepper and walnut sauce

This is a super simple, super tasty little dish which you can prep beforehand and then, after cooking the pasta, assemble at the last minute.

Ingredients

3 red peppers (you can also use an orange or yellow one but the red adds a good colour; don’t use green peppers)

75g walnuts, lighted toasted

1 garlic clove mashed

1 tablespoon of pomegranate molasses (nice but not essential, I’ve made it without)

zest of one lemon

20g parmesan

pinch chilli flakes

25g chopped flat leaf parsley

four tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

300g pasta – linguini or tagliatelle are a good shape here

 

Method

You need to roast the peppers for 30 minutes at 220C, and you can do this bit the day before or earlier in the day. Once roasted and cool, skin, de-seed and finely chop the peppers. As you can probably see from my pic, I chop mine very inaccurately and have tiny pieces and sometimes the odd larger piece. It is better if you take the time to really chop the pepper quite finely – so don’t be like me.

I’ve often thought about keeping the juice the peppers exude and mixing it into the pasta later, lessening the amount of oil, but confess I’ve yet to do it because I forget.

If you haven’t already, lightly toast the walnuts for five minutes but watch carefully because we know how readily nuts burn. Finely chop these too.

Once the peppers are all cooled and de-seeded and chopped, you can add in the rest of the sauce ingredients – which is basically all of the rest of the ingredients above save for the pasta. What I tend to do is do the peppers and walnuts and assemble the rest just before dinner time.

But whichever you do, at some point, you need to mix together the other ingredients to make the sauce and then season it. I forget to season something and it’s also okay. The chilli flakes lift it but I add those over the plate as my children don’t like them.

Cook the pasta, or have it cooking whilst you mix together the sauce. Then when the pasta is ready, drain, plonk into a big serving bowl and put the pepper sauce on top. Serve with extra parmesan/chilli flakes if you like. Voila.

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.

 

Roasted pepper, mint and halloumi tart

Don’t you think it’s kinda rich, when someone asks you what they can cook for lunch guests when you’re not one of the lunch guests?

This is how this post came about. My friend Marcus, who I’m going to now name and shame, is having people for lunch and the Barbieri family are not amongst the invited.

Shocking.

But I forgive him because whenever I need a chainsaw, he’s round with his special trousers on, and the chainsaw. He’s also a very good garden photographer who works for all those flash magazines that show garden porn and even though I have almost zero gardening recce skills (‘grass’ and ‘roses’ are the only two things I can name), I do appreciate a beautiful picture of pretty garden things.

So, he asked, what can I cook that’s easy? The two things that came to mind were either Gnocchi and Chorizo, which is delicious and really easy. Or my mint and halloumi tart which I’ve been making for ten years now, ever since I saw the recipe in Sainsbury’s magazine. However, for whatever reason, I’ve never posted about it. Probably because, rather shamefully, I’m a bit possessive about the recipe which is a meanness I have to fight against.

The mint and halloumi tart looks tricksy but it isn’t really. You can do it in stages, and I suggest you do. It absolutely isn’t something to start cooking an hour before your guests come. If that’s the sort of time you have then the gnocchi dish can be knocked up in ten minutes.

You can – and I do – make the pastry for this tart the day before. You can indeed cook the tart (it needs to be baked blind) the day before. You can also make the mixture the day before, keep it in a covered bowl, and an hour before your guests come, you bring the two together, pouring the mixture into the tart case and putting it in the oven. This tart tastes best when it’s about half an hour out of the oven: warm not hot. Anyway here we go.

the pastry

200g plain flour

25g polenta (I use the easy cook one that comes in packets but any kind will do, it’s to give the pastry a good crunch and I urge you not to leave it out)

125g butter, diced

1 egg

1 teaspoon of olive oil, just regular not virgin

For the filling

3 red peppers, now by all means buy some red peppers, roast them skin them and slice them up yourself but otherwise just by a jar of roasted peppers and cut them up if they’re not already cut up.

1 x 15g fresh mint, chopped up into nice small bits

1 x 250g halloumi, drain any excess liquid off, coarsely grate (the grating is my least preferred job)

3 eggs

284ml of single cream or half cream half milk which is what I use

freshly ground black pepper

to make the pastry

Put the flour, polenta and butter in a food processor and pulse briefly.

If you haven’t got a food processor you can do this bit with your hands, rubbing the butter into the polenta and flour whilst gazing out of the window or something.  Add the egg and then oil (just enough to bring it all together and remember it may take a bit of time to come all together) and it should all come together into a ball. If you do this in a processor, as I do, it comes together in about a minute. Don’t overwork it.

If you do this in a processor you should really take out the pastry and finish it off with your hands, take it out when it’s almost a ball, starting to clump, so you don’t overwork it. Less is more with pastry, it’s not a Versace dress we’re working on.

Shape the pastry into a disc and put in clingfilm or in a bowl or whatever and put in the fridge to let it rest for about 30 mins. You could easily leave it for a day or two if need be. But what I do, increasingly, is press it into the base of my pastry tart tin now, see below.

When you’re ready to cook the base, take the pastry out of the fridge. You need a tart tin. I know what you’re thinking, what size? I don’t know and I’m too lazy to go downstairs and measure mine.

Okay. It’s about 23cm, it’s one of those fluted numbers. I have two, a ceramic one and a tin one with a removable base and which I use depends on nothing more than whim.

Preheat the oven to 190C.

Now, you’re meant to roll out the pastry. I never do for bases of things. I take bits of pastry at a time and flatten them over the base and sides of the tin. This is very unorthodox but as I’ve mentioned before, I have cold hands and a cold heart so in my kitchen, this means the pastry gets worked less than if I rolled it out. Plus, you know, strictly speaking you should never put an Italian woman in charge  of a rolling pin.

When the base and sides are covered, line the base with foil and put baking beans in.

This isn’t the same as baked beans. Baking beans weigh down the pastry so it doesn’t rise. I’ve had baking beans since I was seven. I think mine are made of something highly toxic like lead but these days they are ceramic.

Cook the pastry case in the oven for fifteen minutes. Then take it out, take out the foil with the beans, and put the now naked case back in the oven for another 5 or so minutes.

Remove and cool the case. At this stage you can store it in the fridge, or a cool place like a larder if you’re posh, for a day or two.

Now to the the filling which, if you are making this tart all in one go you could have made whilst the tart case was cooking. If not just make it in advance and store it covered up in the fridge.

You basically whisk up the eggs, grate the halloumi, mix with the eggs, ground black pepper (you don’t need salt as the halloumi is salty enough), chopped mint, cream and lastly mix in the peppers.

It’s at this stage, when everything is mixed together, that you can store the mixture in the fridge, covered up, for a day. But when ready to cook, poor it onto the tart base, level out, stick in oven for 30-35 minutes until it’s nicely brown on top. Take it out and leave it for about 30 minutes. You can eat it cold too of course. But, it’s particularly delicious eaten warm with a crisp, slightly bitter salad. Or steamed asparagus, a new potato salad, etc.

You can also take it on picnics or sliced up in a lunch box.

Sorry for no photo of an actual one I’ve made (it’s a photo of a photo, shocking), but I’ll take one next time I make this baby. [Several years on and I still haven’t taken a photo of mine.]