South German Potato Salad (vegan optional)
Actually, “Swabian” Potato Salad, but not everyone outside of Germany (and not everyone inside Germany either) knows where the unofficial district of Swabia belongs. You won’t find it on a postcode or town name but it’s an area taking in parts of Bavaria and Baden-Wuerttemburg with about 7 million inhabitants. It has it’s own culinary traditions and specialities which I was fascinated to learn about when I lived in Ulm - a beautiful town on the Danube. Eating new food when you’ve moved to a new country is a bit different from eating new things on holiday. You aren’t going back, so you have to get used to them and work out what you like to eat on a daily basis, and what your friends are likely to serve you.
I’ve always loved the English version of potato salad: perky little new potatoes, rich with mayonnaise, piquant with spring onions and chives, spritzed with lemon juice and sparkled with ground black pepper. I was initially suspicious of Swabian Potato Salad – the potatoes melt almost to a slurry in the stock, there’s no creamy mayonnaise in sight, and it is served at room temperature – how odd is that? But if you come at it from another angle, don’t see it as competition to a much-loved favourite, you will also find this delicious and quite different. It is a perfect accompaniment to a barbeque, it matches with grilled meat or sausages as effortlessly as you might expect from a German dish. It’s also great with cold meat from a next-day roast leftovers or with a big salad.
Try it and be brave. I’m sure you’ll enjoy.
Serves 6 Timings: 1 hour preparation, then time to cool.
Scrub then boil the potatoes in their skins until tender – about 30 minutes depending on their size.
Meanwhile make up the stock in a jug if you are using cubes or powder, or warm it up in a small pan if you are using home made stock. Slice 2 of the shallots and the leek up very finely and put them into the warm stock to tenderise. Reserve the remaining shallot and also slice it up very finely.
When the potatoes have boiled and are tender inside, drain them and let them cool a little and then peel them while they are still warm. As you peel them, chop them in slices and drop them into your serving bowl, adding ladles of warm stock as you go. Don’t use all the stock to start with. When you’ve sliced up about half the potatoes, add the vinegar to the bowl. Go on peeling and slicing potatoes and add them to the bowl along with the reserved shallot. Add more stock until you have quite a loose mixture. Taste and adjust the seasoning – you might need more salt depending on the stock you used and you might need a good grind of black pepper.
Add the parsley and mix, then allow to cool and serve at room temperature.
The salad can be kept in a sealed container in the fridge for at least a day but I wouldn’t freeze it.
Green Beans Curry (vegan)
Another recipe from my neighbour, Asha, who makes such glorious food. It’s called a
“dry curry” – it’s not completely dry but there is no sauce to be mopped up. The fresh green beans still have their snap, and they end up coated in a savoury paste with spicy tomato flavour and the faintest background nuttiness from the coconut. You don’t taste or feel the desiccated coconut, so this can be served even to people who generally avoid the texture of coconut, and it just adds the extra nutrition and slight creaminess. I like to serve it with a dhal or other quite liquid dish for contrast.
I’ve never seen this recipe in a restaurant, so I don’t know exactly where it came from. I’ve seen a Sri Lankan green bean curry that uses coconut milk but that’s a lot more sauced than this version. If anyone knows any more about it, please let me know – I’d be interested to hear.
You can of course add other things to the basic vegan dish – cubed paneer or leftover cooked chicken are lovely mixed into the beans.
Serves 4 as a main dish alongside Makhani Dhal or other Dhal dish Timings: 45 minutes
Ground spices: 2 teaspoons turmeric, 1 teaspoon chilli powder, 2 teaspoons garam masala
Whole spices: 2 teaspoons cumin seeds, 2 teaspoons mustard seeds
Top and tail the French beans and if they are thicker than a pencil, slice them down the middle to make thinner slices – you are cooking them quite quickly so they need to be thin.
Put the beans, the ground spices, coconut, ginger and tomato puree into a microwave bowl with 2-3 tablespoons of water and cook on full power for 6 minutes. You can of course cook them in a pan with only a small amount of water – you are looking to steam the beans quite lightly. When finished cooking, leave them in their pan until the next stage.
In a large frying pan, fry the onion in a little oil until transparent. You don’t want it to brown, so keep stirring and don’t heat too much. Add the potato cubes and continue stirring to warm them through. Add the whole spices and cook to release the flavours.
Tip the beans and any liquid they have into the pan and turn up the heat a bit. Stir through and cook finally for another 2-3 minutes.
Adjust the seasoning – it will need salt and pepper and add the lemon juice.
Serve sprinkled with fresh coriander.
Bombay Potatoes (vegan)
Just spectacular. The family gobbled them up and would have eaten twice the portions. Another lesson in why the simplest things are often the best.
This is a dish you find all over India, so I don’t know why Bombay, now Mumbai, became specifically associated with them. Every family and every restaurant have their own way of doing it – some recipes are more roasted, some have more sauce, some include tomatoes and some don’t. I make a potato and spinach curry that has more sauce, so I decided to make this one dry and crispy. The whole spices are quite important as they give flavour and a little crunch to the dish.
Serves 4 Timings 90 minutes although you can boil the potatoes beforehand
Boil the potatoes for about 15 minutes in water with the teaspoon of turmeric added – the water will turn bright yellow and so will the cut surfaces of your potatoes. Try to avoid splashing the water on your kitchen work surfaces as it will stain. Drain the potatoes – they should be tender but not falling apart.
Heat your oven to 205°C.
In a large oven proof pan or metal oven tray, gently fry the whole spices in 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil until they release their fragrance – about 2 minutes.
Tip the potatoes into the pan and mix well, sprinkling over the garam masala, curry powder and a generous pinch of salt.
Put the roasting tin into the oven for 45 minutes. Every now and then turn the potatoes with a spatula to ensure all the surfaces get crispy.
Serve either as a side dish to another meal or on their own with some fresh relishes and chutneys.
Avocado and Goats Cheese Tart (vegetarian)
Sometimes only something pale, chilled and creamy will do. We can hope for the weather to go with it. This avocado tart is elegant and light. You can make the pastry well ahead and keep it in an airtight tin but the filling should be made and then the tart served straightaway, we all know how avocado goes brown in the air. Not a good look.
Serve alongside a chopped tomato salsa and a light green salad and you have the perfect summer garden lunch for a favoured friend, maybe with a glass of rose alongside?
I made a full pie, which I think looks very nice sliced up, but you could use the same recipe to make individual tartlets which might be easier to serve if you have a garden party for six lovely people.
For the pastry:
For the filling:
Using either your fingertips or the pastry paddle of your mixer, blend the butter into the flour until you have a fine crumb. Add the powdered spices and mix well, then add the egg and bring the dough together. Mix quickly, don’t knead, then wrap the dough and leave in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.
Heat your oven to 180°C. Grease a 21cm metal quiche tin, loose bottom is best. Roll out the dough to fit the tin, drape it over and trim the edges slightly. Line the pastry shell with greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans. Bake the pastry shell blind for about 20-30 minutes until very crisp and light golden. You can remove the baking beans and paper for a few minutes to really crisp the bottom but prick the pastry with a fork to prevent bubbles rising.
Leave the shell to cool. Keep in an airtight container if not using straight away.
For the filling: Halve the avocados and remove the stones. Remove the flesh from the shells with a spoon. Reserve one half (if using the large ones) for the top – slice this one finely. Using a stick blender, puree the flesh from the other avocados with the cream cheese and sour cream, adding a pinch of salt and a squeeze of lime juice.
Spread the puree over the base of the tart and add the sliced avocado to top it. Crumble over the goat’s cheese and serve straightaway with your simple tomato salsa. Enjoy the sunshine!
Devilled Eggs in Lettuce Cups
The perfect finger food, so simple. These are found on all buffet tables in Scandinavia. I generally allow one egg half per person, but you know the hungriness of your own family and friends best. For 6 people I have used 4 eggs in this recipe which gives you some leeway if an egg is a funny shape inside and won’t be stuffed, or to give someone second helpings. Use more eggs if your group of 6 is a hungry bunch and they’ll want two halves each.
This recipe is from my Summer of Six menu, from Malmo to Malaga. Head over to the Summer Garden Party menus for lots more ideas what to feed your friends when you hold a party in the garden and you want something more adventurous than a barbeque.
Serves 6 Timings: 50 minutes – 10 minutes to boil the eggs, 20 minutes to cool down, 20 minutes preparation
Hard boil your eggs: boil for about 10 minutes and then run them under cold water until they have cooled down a bit.
Wash the lettuce and separate the leaves.
In a small bowl mash the anchovy fillets with the back of a teaspoon into the mustard – you will get a lumpy creamy texture. Mix in the mayonnaise and add the butter to the bowl.
Peel the eggs under running cold water – this helps get the shell off without sticking to the white. Halve the eggs top to bottom, being careful to keep the halved whites whole. To make the whites stand better you can cut a very thin sliver off the underside. Scoop out the yolks with a teaspoon and put them in the bowl with the other ingredients. Mix well. The remaining warmth of the yolks will just melt the butter into everything else and turn it into a creamy paste. Adjust the seasoning if needed, you might want a grind of pepper.
Scoop the mixture into a piping bag, using a big star nozzle and fill each egg half with a generous portion. Place each egg half onto its own lettuce leaf cup and sprinkle a tiny dusting of paprika over.
They’ll keep in the fridge covered for an hour.
Serve as they are on their little lettuce plates.
Gnocchi with Tomato Sauce (vegetarian) – Gnocchi Napolitana
Simple, elegant, frugal and comforting. What more do you want? Learn how to make the perfect gnocchi and pair the little nuggets of potatoey goodness with a lovely sauce. So much better than the ones in packets, or god-forbid, frozen.
There seems to be some magical thinking going around about the way you have to cook the potatoes for gnocchi. Ignore it. Mashed potato is about the easiest substance in the world to generate. Peel a nice potato (not a new potato or a salad potato, use a King Edward or anything that says “ideal for mashing” and you’ll be fine), boil it, drain it, and mash it. That’s it. Add salt, pepper, a dash of milk and a nobble of butter as you mash. Make mashed potato one day for supper (with sausages? For the top of the fish pie?) and double your usual quantity, so you have some left over. Then you can rustle up the gnocchi in no time next day, cook them, and combine them with a sauce you also made earlier. Apparently it’s also good made with left over baked potato, so if you have the oven on for something the day before, bung a few extra spuds in, and then let them cool and scrape out the fluffy inside to use for the gnocchi.
Perfect for after the kids’ swimming lesson when you need something double quick and warming. Make the little darlings dry their hair and lay the table and you’ll be ready when they are.
Also a great meal for school holiday lunches or when they’re studying from home.
Serves 4. Timings: 1 hour for the sauce, can be made ahead. 30 minutes to boil and mash potatoes, can be done ahead. 20 minutes to make the gnocchi and combine with the sauce.
For the gnocchi:
For the tomato sauce:
Make the tomato sauce: fry the onion gently for a few minutes to soften it, add the garlic and the oregano. Fry a few minutes, add the fresh tomatoes chopped up, add the tin of tomatoes. Add a little water if you need it, and the marmite, Henderson’s Relish, salt and pepper. Simmer for about 30 minutes. Cool, blend and sieve. You will get quite a thick tasty tomato sauce with no seeds in it that can be used not only for gnocchi, but as a soup, as a sauce for pasta, etc. It freezes well and keeps in the fridge for a few days, so I often make a big batch when I see tomatoes reduced in price, and freeze portions.
Make the gnocchi: combine the mashed potato with the egg yolk, sieve in the flour, leaving the last few tablespoons out until you see what texture you have. You want a smooth, light mixture. Don’t knead the dough but mix it thoroughly, wrap it and put it in the fridge for 10 minutes.
While you’re waiting, now get the sauce out of the fridge and warm it in a large pan. Put another large pan of salted water on to heat, you want it boiling to cook the gnocchi.
When you bring it out of the fridge, cut the dough into 4 equal parts. Flour your worksurface. Roll each section of dough as if you were making a play-doh snake, into a long thin cylinder. Cut the snake into 2cm sections along the length and then take each piece in your hand and press a fork against one side. This makes those nice parallel lines on one side and a small indentation on the other, which allegedly makes the shape better at holding the sauce. I’m not sure, but it maybe also firms up the dough shape and makes it more likely to hold itself.
Drop the gnocchi into the boiling water – do not overcrowd the pan as the water needs to rise to boiling again quite quickly. I was doing about 10 at a time which seemed to work. The gnocchi will drop to the bottom of the pan and as they cook, they will rise up – taking about 3 minutes for a batch.
When done, scoop them out and drop the cooked gnocchi into the warm sauce. Keep doing that until you’ve done all your dough. Warm the sauced-up gnocchi’s and serve with some shredded basil on top and some grated cheese. Maybe a side salad would complete the picture?
Roman Street Pizza (vegetarian optionally)
You’ll also find this recipe on my Summer of Six menu, from Rome to Rouen – have a look at the other recipes on the menu if you’re thinking about entertaining outside.
Girls’ trip to Rome – and to the best pizza place in the city. We ate standing up outside; quick fast food, coming out of the kitchen continuously on sizzling trays, cut into slabs, thrown onto paper plates and gobbled at speed. Roman street pizza is different from Napolitan – it’s thicker, fluffy and more bready. Highly satisfying to eat and to make.
Perfect food for kids, great for parties, easy for school holiday or working at home lunchtimes. Adaptable for all diets and one of the healthiest fast meals, who doesn’t love a home made pizza?
Pizza keeps and re-heats so well that it’s worth making a larger quantity than you need on the day, and somehow dough comes out better done in a bigger batch than tiny ones.
Makes 10-12 portions, 2 roasting trays full.
Timings: 30 minutes initial preparation, then 90 minutes prove, then 10 minutes work and another 90 minutes prove, then 20 minutes to cook - about 5-6 hours altogether.
For the dough:
At least 5 hours before you want to eat, start your dough.
Mix all the dough ingredients and turn out onto your worktop to knead. Knead well for about 5 minutes and then leave the dough under a bowl on your worktop for about 10 minutes. Knead again for 5 minutes. You will have a shiny, springy dough which you can already see starting to fluff.
Leave to prove covered in a warm place until roughly doubled in size – about 90 minutes to 2 hours depending on the temperature.
Prepare your tins – I use metal roasting trays or deep square cake tins to cook this. Grease each tin and line with greaseproof paper on the bottom.
Take it out of the bowl, knock it back but don’t knead it much, then put it into your prepared tins, stretching it so that it fills the tin about 2cm deep.
Leave covered in a warm place to rise again. I like to put the tins into a big plastic bag which you blow up at the neck and then seal with a clip. This keeps the dough protected from draughts and happy in its work. At this stage, you can play with the timings – if you want to leave it to rise more slowly, just leave it in a cooler place. You should leave it for about another 90 minutes in a warm place at least, and it will again double in size and become very puffed up.
About 30 minutes before you are ready to cook, start to heat your oven to 240°C. You need to give it good time to warm up so the whole oven is hot – like a real pizza oven. Of course, if you have a real pizza oven, fire it up!
Remove the garlic and the basil from the passata.
Get the tins of pizza dough and handle them carefully so as not to depress the dough.
Carefully spread the passata all over the top of each pizza dough, right to the edge.
Whack them straight into the oven for 10-15 minutes until the passata is starting to crust round the edges.
Bring them out, and scatter on your other toppings. I would recommend not too much fresh tomato, as it is quite liquid and you don’t want the dough getting soggy with the juice. These pizzas are not supposed to be too deeply topped, so try not to go overboard.
Back in the oven for 10-15 minutes to melt the cheese and crisp the toppings.
Bring them out and let them cool for just a few minutes before portioning and serving.
Makhani Dhal, essentially Indian
Rich black earthy lentils cooked very slowly, mixed with a tomato-based masala sauce, and then served with a swirl of cream. Luxurious, essentially Indian. You get obsessed with Makhani Dhal in India, pursuing the perfect dish from mountaintop restaurant to roadside shack, becoming an expert on the accompanying butter naan and losing your waistline and all perspective in the process. The only answer is to embrace the madness and make it yourself.
It’s easy, as most great Indian recipes are; but it takes a long time, as all worthwhile things on Earth also do. This is a special dish, not for everyday. Cooked for weddings, family gatherings and big occasions, so treat it with respect.
You can use either a pressure cooker or a slow cooker for the long cooking, as I don’t think you’ll be simmering on the stove for 8 hours. You could also use a tin each of cooked lentils and beans and skip the long cooking. I think there might be a slight price to pay in reduced depth of flavour and creaminess but I expect you could achieve a perfectly respectable result – if you try it, let me know.
Serves 4 Timings: overnight soaking, 8 hours simmering (or shorter time if using a pressure cooker) and an hour to finish.
Soak the lentils and beans in cold water overnight, topping up if needed to keep the pulses covered with liquid.
In the morning, tip the lot into a pan and bring to a boil, then tip into the slow cooker on high heat. Add the black cardamom, cloves and cassia bark and leave to simmer for about 6 hours.
Using a stick blender, make a paste from the chopped white onion, ginger, garlic, and red chilli.
About 2 hours before you want to eat, (or earlier, the sauce will stand for hours waiting for you to add the lentils), start the masala.
Fry the whole spices in some ghee or vegetable oil until sizzling, then add the sliced red onion. Fry and stir as it turns brown and caramelises – taking about 10 minutes. Add the chopped fresh tomato and the onion/garlic/ginger/chilli paste. Mix and fry together. Add the tomato puree, mix. Put the dry spices into a glass and add a tablespoon of water, mix well and add this to the pan. Mix and fry, stirring, until the fat separates out of the mixture. At this stage, you can leave to cool in the pan until the lentils are done.
When the lentils and beans are soft, after the cooking time, transfer them and their liquid to the masala pan. Stir well to mix, and heat gently. Add lemon juice and salt to taste, and simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally and topping up with water if it looks as if it’s catching on the bottom of the pan.
At the last minute stir in the cream and add a handful of chopped fresh coriander.
Serve with a butter naan and some homemade chutney – a coriander and chilli chutney, a cooling cucumber and yoghurt raita, or a smooth and smoky aubergine raita.
Wild Garlic and Potato Curry (vegan)
Another seasonal wild garlic recipe to make the most of the delicious harvest before it vanishes back underground for another year. You can substitute spinach for the wild garlic leaves at other times of the year and in that case you might want to add a crushed clove of garlic to the frying onions at the start of the recipe.
As always, please forage responsibly. Take your pick from an area where dogs and walkers don't go, and don't take all the leaves from one plant or denude an whole patch. A little goes quite a long way!
Combine with other curries in different sauces for a Curry Night Feast with friends and family; or make a simple meal with some warm naan and home-made chutneys and relishes.
Chutneys and relishes could include:
Serves 4 as a lunch or as part of a combined curry meal Timings: 30 minutes
In a wide flat pan, fry the mustard seeds and cumin seeds in vegetable oil for a few minutes while they sizzle. Tip in the chopped onion and chilli, and fry for a few minutes. Add the cubed potato and pour in water from the kettle to just cover the cubes.
Mix the powdered spices with some water in a glass to give you a light paste and pour into the pan of potatoes. This avoids you burning the ground spices in the hot oil and gives a more balanced flavour.
Add the lemon juice, a sprinkle of salt and a grind of pepper, then put the lid on and leave over a low heat to simmer for about 15 minutes. The potatoes will absorb the water and flavourings. Don’t let the pan boil dry, keep topping up with a little water if it’s all absorbed. After 15 minutes the potatoes should be tender and cooked and there should be a little flavoured gravy in the bottom of the pan. Add the torn up wild garlic leaves and put the lid back on again for a few minutes as they wilt down and cook.
Adjust the seasonings and serve with plain rice, fluffy naan and your relishes.
Chicory, Orange and Hazelnut Salad (vegan)
This is a lovely light Spring lunch time salad – juicy from the fruit and crunchy from the nuts, with a back note of bitterness from the chicory and tiny sparkles of flavour from the mint. Very refreshing and full of vitamins. If you can’t get chicory, - which is mostly available in shops from January to March - a firm fresh lettuce will do, one of the cos type with strong leaves rather than floppy ones.
The dressing makes a full jar but if you have some left over, it goes well on a straightforward green salad too. It’s worth getting a small bottle of walnut oil if you don’t normally keep it in your salad-oils selection. (we all have one of those, don’t we?) It adds a lovely nutty taste to a French dressing and is high in Omega 3, so has health benefits. My sons don’t eat a lot of nuts, so I think that adding a sploosh to every salad dressing is a good way of getting nut oils into them.
You can eat this as part of a mixed salad table or by itself as a light lunch with some good bread to mop up the juices.
Serves 4 as part of a salad table, timings 20 minutes.
For the dressing:
Roast the hazelnuts by placing them on a tray in the oven at 180°C for 10 minutes. This can be done ahead of time, and the roasted hazelnuts kept in an airtight jar for use in salads, cakes, meringues, snacking.
Chop the hazelnuts roughly into smaller pieces but don’t grind them.
Peel the orange and try to remove most of the white pith, cut the fruit into small chunks. Do this over a small bowl to catch the juice, but you aren’t squeezing the orange.
Separate the leaves of the chicory heads and wash, they’re usually pretty clean but wash them anyway and dry.
Put all the ingredients for the dressing in a jar with a tight lid and shake well. Taste and adjust, you might need to add a bit more salt or a bit more sugar, depending on the sweetness of the juice you used. And you will need to shake well to dissolve the honey through the dressing.
Arrange the chicory leaves on your plate, strew over the orange chunks and then scatter over the hazelnuts. Drizzle the dressing over everything and add some tiny mint leaves for accent.
A Hug from the Kitchen
Healthy, hearty, happy food, for good times and bad. Cheer yourself up, or spread the cheer around your family and friends.