I’m really not in a rush to do anything at the moment. It’s hot, work is winding down (a little bit anyway) for the summer and I have a holiday on the horizon. I’m making the most of the long and light evenings before autumn sneaks up on us and taking the time to cook at a leisurely pace.
These aren’t super speedy suppers but they don’t take ages either. Part of the enjoyment of assembling them is taking your time, perhaps with a glass of something, while you have a chat or listen to some music.
Aubergine, roasted vegetables and giant couscous with pistachios
This is great to make if you have friends coming over and the uncomplicated recipe means that you can chat away as you chop. It makes a lovely lunch or a substantial supper.
Preheat the oven to 190C and thinly slice half a fennel bulb, a red onion and a courgette. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle on a teaspoon or so of fennel seeds, plus a tablespoon of olive oil. Roast for 15 minutes, then add a handful of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half, and roast for another 10 minutes. Preheat the grill to a high setting and place the aubergine on the highest shelf. Grill for about 10-15 minutes, turning every so often, until it is soft, then set aside to cool. Meanwhile, boil a pan of water and cook 50g of couscous for about 10 minutes. Drain, add to a bowl, and mix in some lemon juice and a tablespoon of olive oil. Now, place three big handfuls of spinach in a bowl and make a dressing consisting of one tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, a thimbleful of white wine (if you have any to hand), a tablespoon of olive oil, plus salt and pepper. Add most of this to the bowl and massage the leaves. Add some chopped cucumber, halved cherry tomatoes and black olives to the leaves and drizzle over the rest of the dressing. Slice the aubergine in half and serve with the couscous, roasted vegetables and salad. Garnish with a handful of pistachio nuts and some fresh mint and parsley.
Broad bean, pea and radish salad with mint puree
Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as a side
This is a fresh and light dish and all the ingredients are in season right now meaning that they taste so much better. You can add boiled new potatoes if you’re really hungry and it would work well with feta cheese if you’re veggie and roast lamb and anchovies if you eat meat
Pod 500g broad beans and 500g peas. I’d recommend doing this as you watch something on TV (I caught up with Celebrity First Dates). You’ll need to double-pod the broad beans, which essentially means removing the ‘jackets’ or leathery skins of the beans. It’s a bit of a faff but reveals the true flavour (and vivid green colour) of these little guys. Preheat the grill to a high setting and thinly slice half a fennel bulb, place in a small baking dish and cover with two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar which will offset the sharpness of the fennel. Grill for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile boil a pan of water and steam the broad beans for 2-3 minutes. Now add the peas and steam for another 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. To make the puree, take 3-4 tablespoons of the peas and broad beans and place in a food processor. Add 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and a few finely chopped mint leaves. Chuck in some spinach too if you have any. Blend until smooth, adding a small amount of water. Place the peas and broad beans in bowls with some salad leaves, the grilled fennel, some sliced radishes and top with the mint puree. Garnish with a few extra mint leaves.