Tuesday, 26 February 2013

BBQ Sweet Potato and Caramelised Onion Pie

I tried making a tarte tatin on the BBQ the other day, but found the heat was so intense that the onions and tomatoes cooked too well, resulting in a pie too dark and bitter to really enjoy as intended. For this creation I got the quantities and times just right, but you might want to keep an eye on yours, as BBQs vary considerably in temperature.


  • a medium sweet potato
  • a large white onion
  • balsamic vinegar
  • a handful of fresh thyme or oregano
  • a sheet of ready-made puff pastry

Using a mandolin or very sharp knife, cut the sweet potato into 5-8mm discs. Brush lightly with olive oil and cook on a bbq hot-plate or grill for 2-3 minutes each side, until just cooked through and going golden. Finely slice the onion into rings or half rings and gently fry in a bbq-safe cast-iron skillet, until the raw freshness has gone - about 2-3 minutes - then remove from the heat. Shred over the fresh herbs, then drizzle with 2-3 tbsp of balsamic vinegar, and season with salt and pepper. If the vinegar evaporates because the pan is too hot, add 1/2 tbsp more, and a little water. Layer over the sweet potato discs, seasoning with salt and pepper each layer. Finally, cut the puff pastry to fit your pan and place on top. BBQ for 15-20 minutes, until the pastry is risen and golden, and the onions have cooked into a delicious caramelised base. Serve with greens or a salad.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

BBQ Stuffed Potato Skins

I'd been craving this for a while, for some reason. They were a meal in themselves - although we had a little side salad to offset the sheer decadence of the carb-fat-bacon-tastic skins :)


  • six medium roasting or baking potatoes
  • 4 full rashers of bacon (or 8 streaky, or 3 back)
  • a small bunch of chives or two spring onions
  • 100ml sour cream
  • 120g cheddar or soft blue cheese

Put the potatoes in a pot just large enough to take them all, and top up with boiling water. Simmer for 15 minutes, until just soft enough to pierce with a fork. Remove and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, BBQ, grill or fry the bacon until crispy, then crumble; finely chop the chives or spring onions. Slice the potatoes in half lengthwise and scoop out the cooked flesh, putting it in a glass bowl. Leave a 2-10mm border of cooked potato in the skins, and try not to tear them.

Mash the potatoes and sour cream together in the bowl; stir in the chives/onions and crumbled bacon. Spoon back into the skins, packing the mixture in well. Top with a little grated cheddar or a knob of soft blue cheese. Brush a hot BBQ plate with olive oil and pop the potatoes on for 5-10 minutes, until the cheese has melted and the skins are crispy. (Alternatively, put in a hot oiled roasting tin and roast for 10-15 minutes.)

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Shaved Courgette Salad

I've tried using courgettes in salads for years, always with disappointing results. What I realised recently is that depending on how you slice courgettes, they can either be very watery and limp or crisp and refreshing - cucumber behaves similarly. I believe it's dependent on what the slicing method does to the cell structure, which I surmise must be fairly fragile. Grating courgette bruises the cells and causes lots of water to be released, which is fine if you want to squeeze the shreds out and use them in, say, a cute little fried vegetable cake. For a salad, the perfect way to prepare them is to use a sharp vegetable peeler: hold the courgette upright, and use the peeler to make long thin strips, until you hit the seedy core. Rotate the courgette by ~30 degrees and peel again, until all you're left with is the seedy core, which you can eat raw or discard.

The rest of this salad follows naturally: a heady mix of balanced flavours which would work well as a side dish to anything, or even as a centrepiece with some quality serrano ham (or a strong, rinded goat's or brie-like cheese) and good crusty bread. The smaller the courgette you use, the more flavourful it will be, and the less core there will be to discard.


  • a few large sprigs of mint
  • half a lemon
  • 2 tbsp capers
  • 3 baby or 1 medium courgette
  • olive oil

Rinse and finely chop the mint. Zest and juice the lemon. Peel the courgettes into long thin strips. Combine the courgettes, mint, lemon and a few glugs of olive oil. Season with salt and peper and scatter over the capers. Serve immediately.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Cold Noodle and Tomato Salad

Ironically, the last time I made this was on the hottest day of the year in Cambridge. I think it cracked 28C? Seems very funny in retrospect :)

I just survived my first 40C+ day of the year (I missed the worst while I was away for Xmas), and this salad was as appealing as ever! I threw in a yellow pepper instead of red, cashews instead of peanuts, a few different kinds of tomatoes, and mung bean sprouts instead of broad beans. The essential Thai dressing still soaked into the cold noodles and gave the whole thing that refreshing crisp taste that momentarily makes you forget that you ever felt hot.

Also, happy birthday to my lovely middle sister, for whom I promised a recipe website as a birthday present many years ago, and I hope is now enjoying a lovely day :)

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Sweet Potato and Bacon Frittata

The Internet told me to make this one. It was the end of the week, and we were running low on food, and the two things I needed to use up most were a large sweet potato, and a packet of bacon. So I typed 'sweet potato bacon' into Google, and auto-complete immediately suggested 'frittata recipe'. So I went for it! And it turned out wonderfully :) I also served it with a quick courgette ribbon salad from a blog that I simply cannot find again, but I'll cover that in another post.

I think grilled green pepper or even some okra would work better than peas; I might try that next time.


  • a medium sweet potato
  • 3 full (or 6 streaky, or 4 back) bacon rashers
  • 6 eggs
  • 3/4 cup of frozen peas
  • 25g cheddar
  • 1 tsp paprika

Preferably using a mandolin, but a sharp knife and a steady hand will do, slice the sweet potato into 3mm rounds. Brush them lightly with oil and bbq them with the bacon; if you can fit them all on the grill, it should take about 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, break the eggs into a large bowl and whisk in some bubbles of air. Drop in the frozen peas. When the bacon is done, shred it finely and add it to the eggs and peas. When the sweet potatoes are done, make a layer of sweet potato discs at the bottom of an oiled, medium cast-iron skillet. Pour in half the egg mixture, then add another layer of sweet potatoes, then the remaining egg mixture, and then a final layer of sweet potatoes. Grate over the cheddar and sprinkle over the paprika. Cook on the bbq hot plate for a further 10-15 minutes, until set and coming away from the sides.

Any extra sweet potato discs are fantastic to snack on with a sprinkling of coarse salt.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Chicken and Lemongrass Patties

Got home from Zumba and needed a fast, protein-rich meal. Whizzed a stalk of lemongrass and a handful of mint in the new blender and combined it with 500g of chicken mince, then formed the mix into small patties and bbq'd them for 3 minutes a side. Egg-fried some rice and topped the lot with a dipping sauce of soy sauce, sweet chilli sauce and the juice of a lime. That's what I call fast food!

Monday, 4 February 2013

Lazy Stuffed Peppers with Gorgonzola

Peppers are coming into season as the weather properly warms up, so I started looking around for recipes to use up the inevitable giant cheap bags at the market. I found this rather fiddly recipe that had an interesting flavour combination I hadn't tried before. I knew I couldn't be bothered with all that string nonsense, and doubly so when we found a big $1 bag of sweet pointed peppers just beginning to wrinkle into overripe territory. So we skipped all that stuffing malarky, and just bbq'd the peppers into tender, charred strips, made the stuffing separately and laid it over the top. Lovely!

  • 6 pointed or 4 bell peppers
  • 50g pine nuts
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 140g long grain rice
  • 350g vegetable stock
  • 4 spring onions
  • 2 tomatoes
  • handful each of parsley and basil
  • 150g gorgonzola
Slice the peppers lengthwise and remove all the pith and seeds, but leave the stems on. If you are using large round bell peppers, slice them into thirds so that each piece can lie flat on the bbq. BBQ or grill for 5-20 minutes, skin-side-down, until the flesh is sweet and the edges are charred (the cooking time will depend strongly on the thickness and ripeness of the peppers, and the heat of your grill or bbq).

Meanwhile, dry-fry the pine nuts until golden, then set aside. Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and crush in the garlic, then tip in the rice thirty seconds after it starts to sizzle. Stir, fry for a further thirty seconds, then pour in the stock; cover and simmer until the rice is cooked. Finely dice the spring onions and herbs, and dice the tomatoes, then stir into the rice, replacing the lid to let everything wilt a little, and the flavours mingle.

When the peppers are done, place them on a serving plate, skin-side-down. Dice the Gorgonzola and stir it, and two-thirds of the pine nuts, through the rice, but don't completely combine the cheese; allow little pockets to remain. Tip the stuffing onto the peppers and scatter with the remaining pine nuts, and a few torn leaves of basil.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Steak and Chinese Greens

Anther Nigel suggestion: a pan-fried steak atop a bed of Chinese greens with a splash of sweet chilli sauce. Maybe I just didn't 'get' this combination, but I found that a properly-made Thai beef salad takes these flavours and brings them to their proper, lip-stinging height. Admittedly, this was a lot faster to make, but aside from the improved flavours, you can also stretch a nice cut of beef a lot further if you spend the time to make a nice dressing and add some more interesting vegetables. On the plus side, the Malaysian 'Lobster Crackers' (100% prawn, flour and salt!) from the combined grocers' were excellent. Nige didn't suggest a carb and since we'd already combined Thai and Chinese flavours, we improvised! Then headed out to a cool free art display on the Canning River. Took our lobster crackers but they were too noisy to eat, so we got sloshed on homemade ginger beer instead.