Tomatillos look like little green tomatoes but are, in fact, related to the cape gooseberry (or physalis). They are a staple in Mexican cooking, and with their tart, refreshing taste, make a great addition to all kinds of dishes, especially salsa verde. Once you’ve removed the husk, rinse them well as they are sticky, then chop or blend and add to guacamole, or cook it down with red onion and chilli for the most delectable sauce. I received mine with my weekly Riverford Organic box, but you could also try online grocers specialising in Mexican ingredients.
Strawberry and tomatillo salsa
Delicious with a Mexican-inspired barbecue or grilled fish, this salsa is a lovely alternative to your regular tomato version. Make sure your strawberries are super sweet – the salsa needs it. Tomatillos are a good source of niacin, potassium, and manganese, and are very rich in vitamin C and vitamin K. They also contain iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and copper.
Serves 4 – 6
juice of 1 lime
large pinch of sea salt
1 teaspoon raw honey
1/2 red onion, finely diced
200g tomatillos, finely chopped
400g strawberries, hulled and quartered
small bunch fresh coriander, finely chopped
1 – 2 red or green chillies, chopped (deseeded if preferred), optional
- Whisk together the lime juice, salt and raw honey. Then add the onion and set aside.
- Prepare the rest of your ingredients, then toss with the dressed onions and serve.
This is refreshing and utterly summery. Unlike the British weather. (Here’s hoping the guys at the met office are right about that heat wave…) Poke (pronounced poke-keh) is a Hawaiian staple and can be found in many different guises, with chunks of tuna marinated in soy being the most popular and ubiquitous. This is a meat- and fish-free version and something I love eating whilst sat on my garden chair with the sun kissing my toes. It serves 4 as a starter, but I often eat the entire bowlful for lunch. Whatever you do, only attempt this if you can get your hands on seriously good melons.
Melon & avocado poké with nori crisps
Serves 4 as a starter
Ingredients for the nori crisps
2 sheets nori
white sesame seeds
Ingredients for the dressing
15ml (1 tablespoon) extra virgin olive oil
5ml (1 teaspoon) rice wine vinegar
5ml (1 teaspoon) toasted sesame oil
15ml (1 tablespoon) tamari
30ml (2 tablespoons) lemon juice
1/2 – 1 teaspoon raw honey
1 teaspoon each of white and black sesame seeds, plus more for garnish
pinch of dried chilli flakes (or to taste)
1 shallot, very finely chopped
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
Ingredients for the poké
500g (3 1/2 cups) diced watermelon (or a mixture of melons)
2 ripe avocado, cut into small dice
large handful sugar snap peas, thinly sliced lengthways
1 spring onion, finely sliced
- For the nori crisps: Preheat the oven to 140°C (275°F). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Place two sheets of nori, shiny side up, on a chopping board. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush one sheet with water, then press the other one firmly firmly on top to stick the two together.
- Now brush the uppermost sheet with sesame oil, sprinkle on some sea salt and sesame seeds, and using scissors or a sharp knife, cut the nori into thin strips.
- Arrange the strips in a single layer on the baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until they have turned crispy and dark green. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
- For the dressing: Combine all the ingredients in a jar and give it a good shake. Taste and adjust seasoning.
- To serve: Gently toss together the melon and other poké ingredients with the dressing and serve immediately topped with nori crisps.
It suddenly got really cold. I had the privilege of spending the weekend in the Cotswolds with some girlfriends, where the icy polar wind whipped around our ears and brought tears to my eyes. All we could think of was the warm barn and lovingly cupping some warm(ing) drinks. I returned to London rejuvenated, and in the mood for soup. Not just any old soup, though – a slightly spicy chicken soup!
Ingredients for the spice paste (makes about 200ml)
2 red bell peppers, halved and seeds removed
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
pinch of dried chilli flakes, to taste
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 large or 2 small garlic cloves, peeled
1 teaspoon sweet paprika powder
50g (about 10 halves) sun-dried tomatoes marinated in olive oil
1 – 2 tsp lemon juice
Ingredients for the soup
some olive oil or coconut oil
2 small onions, peeled and finely diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely sliced
4 medium carrots, thinly sliced
2 large celery stalks, thinly sliced
4 large handfuls shredded kale, thick stalks discarded and blanched in boiling water
1.25l good-quality chicken stock, preferably home-made using bones from pastured animals
Small handful shredded roast chicken per person
Cooked beans such as haricot or cannellini
- For the peppers, roast cut sides up in a moderate oven (180°C/360°F) for about 1 hour, or until tender and caramelised around the edges. You could also use good quality ready-roasted red peppers from the deli counter.
- In the meantime, dry roast the seeds in a medium hot pan until fragrant. Tip into a mortar and once cooled, grind into a powder.
- Put all the ingredients for the spice paste into a blender and blend until smooth. Adjust seasoning and set aside.
- For the soup, heat the oil over a moderate heat and sweat the onions and garlic until soft. Add the bay leaf, carrots and celery, and gently cook for another few minutes until just tender.
- Add the blanched kale and the chicken stock and simmer for a few minutes.
- Adjust seasoning, and serve with shredded chicken, cooked beans and lots of spice paste.
There is nothing quite like freshly podded peas in the early summer months. They are sweet, crunchy and utterly delightful. My little ones adore the process of shelling the peas and then popping them in their mouths, one by one. But don’t let the taste and sensory delight be the only reason you add these tiny gems to your meals. Green peas are rich in protein, fibre, vitamins A, B, C, E & K, and anti-oxidants. They also contain a number of anti-inflammatory phytonutrients not found anywhere else. Later in the season the peas become bigger and starchier, so no longer ideal as a raw snack, but still a wonderfully tasty and nutritious ingredient in many cooked dishes such as minestrone or wilted lettuce.
Serves 2 – 4
Ingredients for the dressing
15ml (1 tablespoon) red wine vinegar
45ml (3 tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped red onion
1 tablespoon tender thyme leaves
generous pinch of sea salt
Ingredients for the salad
140g (just under a cup) freshly podded peas (about 400g of peas in the pods)
4 vine-ripened capri tomatoes, quartered
1/4 English cucumber, cut into chunks and then sliced
4 large radishes, quartered
1 small ripe avocado, sliced
60g sheep or goat milk feta, crumbled
- For the dressing: put all the ingredients into a small jar, screw on the lid and give it a good shake. Set aside.
- Combine all the ingredients for the salad in a medium mixing bowl, sprinkle a little sea salt on the avocado slices, then pour over about half to 2/3 of the dressing and toss gently. Serve immediately.
I love greens and the spear-shaped wild garlic leaves (or ramsons and ramps) are no exception. This pungent member of the allium ursinum family is a wonderful combination of onion, garlic, spring onion and chives, with the added bonus of growing quite abundantly in woods and hedges during the spring months. The leaves can be quite stringy, so I often chop them up finely or process them, cooked or raw. The tiny white flowers are edible too and make for a beautiful garnish. This sauce will surprise you with its complexity, yet comforting more’ishness. Enjoy it with egg dishes (such as the fried egg and beetroot rösti below), stirred through pasta or risotto, and with any combination of cheese and carbs you can think of.
1 medium to large leek (about 200g), trimmed, cut in half lengthwise, sliced and washed
1 – 2 medium cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 bunch wild garlic (about 100g)
1 medium bunch parsley (about 50g), thickest part of stalks discarded
125ml (1/2 cup) extra virgin olive oil
squeeze of lemon juice to stir through just before serving
- Fry the leek and garlic in a little butter (or olive oil, if you keep the temperature nice and low) until tender and caramelised.
- Add the wild garlic and stir until wilted. Remove from heat.
- In a food processor, blitz all the leek mix and the parsley until finely chopped.
- With the motor running, add the olive oil in a steady stream through the chute. Add salt (and perhaps some freshly ground black pepper) and taste.
- At this stage I usually divide the sauce between two jars and freeze one of them. Add a squeeze of lemon juice to the other and have with pasta, egg dishes, mashed potatoes or anything cheesy.
Monday the 23rd of March heralds the start of the first ever Meat Free Week in the UK. This initiative was launched a few years ago in Australia by a team of ethically-minded individuals who wanted to draw attention to the huge amounts of meat eaten in some countries (as a nation, Britain consumes more than double the world average) and the impact this has on human health, animal welfare and sustainability. What great motivation to try out new and exciting meat-free dishes, such as this laksa!
Ingredients for the herb bomb
2 – 4 red chillies, membranes and seeds discarded if you prefer it milder
2 large garlic cloves
3 echalion (banana) shallots, roughly chopped
1 large knob of galangal, peeled and finely grated
one 8cm (or 3 inch) piece of fresh turmeric root, cleaned and chopped (or 2 teaspoons ground turmeric)
large bunch (about 100g) of coriander (cilantro), washed and roughly chopped
3 – 4 kaffir lime leaves, shredded
juice of 1 lime (about 30ml or 2 tablespoons), zest reserved for serving
Ingredients for the broth
400ml (1 can) full-fat organic coconut milk
800ml organic vegetable stock
pinch of kelp
1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into medium cubes
1 red chilli, thinly sliced (or halved and deseeded if you prefer it milder)
large handful of toasted cashew nuts
- Either toss the butternut squash cubes in some coconut oil and salt before roasting in a hot oven for 30 to 45 minutes (depending on their size), until caramelised and tender. Or heat some coconut oil in a saucepan and brown the butternut on all sides before adding some water and “steaming” with the lid on until tender.
- While the squash is cooking, put the ingredients for the herb bomb and some of the coconut milk for the broth in a blender, and blend until everything is finely chopped. Set aside.
- Gently heat the rest of the coconut milk and the stock with a pinch of kelp and a very large pinch of sea salt. Once hot, give it a whisk, then add the zucchini noodles and allow to heat through, to soften.
- Next, stir through the herb mixture. All of it if you dare, or most of it, reserving some to add to the next batch of salad dressing you make.
- Divide the noodles between 4 bowls, top with cooked butternut squash and ladle over the hot broth. Finally scatter over the chilli slices, nuts and lime zest.
When my little one awoke with a temperature the other day, the chicken in my fridge was only ever destined for one thing: ultra-nourishing bone broth. Making broths (or stock) is one of those kitchen tasks that gives the impression of being very time-consuming and ultimately not worth the effort. This could not be further from the truth, however. Stock made with the bones of healthy, pasture-raised animals is not only useful (add it to stews, soups, sauces and grains) and more delicious than stock cubes, but also much more health-supportive.
“Real stock” (for lack of a better expression) contains minerals (calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulfur and trace minerals) in a form the body can absorb easily. It also contains the broken down material from cartilage and tendons, like chondroitin sulphates and glucosamine, that are beneficial in treating joint pain. The gelatin found in bone broth is a hydrophilic colloid that attracts and holds liquids, including digestive juices, thereby supporting proper digestion. It also keeps hair and nails healthy. Many reasons to start adding this pantry basic to your repertoire.
Ingredients for homemade chicken broth
1 whole organic, free-range chicken carcass, with some meat left on the bone and cut into smaller pieces
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 large onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 celery stalks, washed and coarsely chopped
1 leek, washed and sliced into chunks
1 bunch parsley, stalks only (reserve leaves to add for the final 10 minutes)
2 bay leaves
5 fresh thyme stalks
5 black pepper corns
- Place all the ingredients in a large pot and cover with fresh filtered water.
- Bring to a boil, and remove any scum that rises to the top, then reduce the heat to a simmer.
- The stock needs to simmer for at least 4 hours, but preferably 8 hours or more.
- Once your stock is ready, strain it as soon as possible and use immediately, refrigerate or freeze.
- For a quick and tasty meal, season with salt and pepper, and add thin slivers of raw purple and green asparagus, spring onions (or salad onions), sugar snap peas, red pepper and carrot. I usually also add finely grated fresh ginger and fresh chili.
Note: The vinegar helps leech the valuable minerals from the bones into the stock water.
One of the tricks I often rely on to encourage the whole family to eat more vegetables is to offer crudités before the main meal – when everyone is starting to feel really hungry. Another is to incorporate vegetables into as many dishes as often as possible. Here is a recipe that will give you the opportunity to be most cunning and do both!
1/2 cup haricot / cannellini beans, soaked for at least 24 hours in filtered water
2 cloves garlic
1 small onion, peeled and halved
1 bay leaf
Small (2cm or 1”) strip kombu / kelp
500g golden beets, washed and peeled
1 tablespoon coconut oil
5 to 6 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves picked
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 – 2 lemons, depending on taste
1 teaspoon sumac
- Bring the beans, 1 garlic clove, onion, bay leaf and kombu to boil in a pot with enough salted water to generously cover the beans. Simmer until beans are tender, skimming off any froth that forms on the surface.
- While the beans are cooking, toss the beets in the liquid coconut oil, add the thyme leaves and season with salt and pepper. Roast in a moderately hot oven (160°C / 320°F) for about 40 to 50 minutes, or until the beets are tender.
- When the beans and beets are both tender, add them to the bowl of a food processor, together with the tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, the other clove of garlic and salt and pepper. Use the bean cooking liquid if you need to thin the dip a little.
- Sprinkle over some sumac just before serving.
Spring is a time for new beginnings and fresh starts. A season that teases translucent slivers of green from all but the darkest corners. So it is with great joy that I too am breathing life into a new chapter: welcome to the FoodFights journal! And what better way to kick off, than with spring’s darling, wild garlic. Sought after for its leaves, rather than its bulb, wild garlic is delicious in salads and pestos, sautéed or mixed into stuffing. Also known as ramsons, broad-leaved or wood garlic, and bear’s garlic, this wild relative of chives is mostly found in woodlands near bluebells. The tiny white flowers are also edible and oh-so-pretty!
1 large leek, sliced in half length-wise and washed
2 heads romaine lettuce, washed and roughly chopped
150 – 180g wild garlic, roughly chopped and little white flowers reserved
2 medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed clean, cubed and cooked in a little water until tender 2 cups / 500ml fresh chicken stock
small bunch of fresh basil
1/2 cup / 125ml goat’s yoghurt or kefir (optional)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper Goat’s milk feta cheese
- Slice leeks into half moons and sauté over gentle heat in a splash of good quality extra virgin olive oil.
- Add the lettuce and wild garlic, and sauté another few minutes until wilted.
- Add sweet potato and stock and bring to gentle simmer for a few minutes.
- Blend in a blender until smooth. Add basil and pulse a few times. Try to
- Stir in the yoghurt or kefir, if using, and garnish with crumbled feta and wild garlic flowers.
Note: It is important not to heat any cooking oil past its “smoke point,” the temperature at which it starts to burn, as this will influence flavour and decrease nutrient content. However, anything more than a gentle heat will damage extra virgin olive oil’s precious phytochemicals and plentiful nutrients that have been preserved by the cold extraction process.