Recipe: asparagus risotto with wild garlic butter and lemon

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This wonderful recipe is actually from last year, but as usual time got away from me and suddenly the asparagus season was well and truly over and it felt too late to post.

This year I think I made it in the knick of time, as the season is drawing to an end, but if you’re lucky to find some nice asparagus, this is the perfect dish to end the season with. It’s both light and warming, fresh and a bit decadent thanks to the browned butter and wild garlic butter. Butter makes everything better doesn’t it?!

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Asparagus risotto with wild garlic butter and lemon, serves 3

2 banana shallots, finely chopped 

1 tbsp butter + 1 tbsp vegetable oil

180 g carnaroli rice

100 ml dry white wine

1 litre vegetable stock

grated parmesan

250 g asparagus

1 tbsp wild garlic butter

1/2 tsp lemon zest 

To serve:

asparagus tips 

two rounds wild garlic butter

1 tbsp browned butter

1/2 tsp lemon zest 

sea salt and black pepper

grated parmesan

Melt butter and oil in a large saucepan on medium heat. Add the shallots and fry for a few minutes without browning. Add the rice and stir with a wooden spoon so it can soak up all the oil and butter.  Add the wine and let it cook for a minute or so. Lower the heat to medium-low and add a ladle of stock. Stir and add more when most of the stock has evaporated, continue until the rice is cooked. I prefer a loose risotto so I don’t let the last ladle fully absorb. Remove from heat and add plenty of grated parmesan and a knob of butter to the rice and stir it in. 

While the risotto is cooking, trim the wooden ends off the asparagus. Save two asparagus tips per portion as garnish and cut the rest into smaller pieces on the diagonal. Boil the asparagus pieces until almost soft in salted water. Drain and add to the risotto just after the parmesan. Cook the asparagus tips al dente in salted water and set aside. Add wild garlic butter and lemon zest to the risotto. Season to taste. 

Divide the risotto between bowls. Arrange the asparagus tips in the middle of the bowl. Drizzle with browned butter. Place the wild garlic butter on top of the aspragus. Scatter with lemon zest and grated parmesan and serve.

Recipe: Asparagus with Burrata, Wild Garlic Oil and Lemon

I was so pleased to get hold of some of my favourite foods during lockdown; British asparagus and burrata. So grateful Natoora opened up their restaurant delivery slots to the public. Because during this period I have lived for food. I took it upon myself to cook every night, make cakes and make sure we could enjoy nice food even though we couldn’t go out to restaurant. So yes, I’ve eaten very well during lockdown, but I have also been mindful, stretching food to go longer, and have mixed expensive foods with very economical dishes.

The best quality asparagus and burrata wouldn’t feel so special if we ate it every day, but you also want to make sure you make the most out of the short asparagus season.

I’m very pleased with this simple dish – which is more an assembly job than proper cooking. And that’s how to best enjoy the freshest of produce, in the simplest of ways. Asparagus with hollandaise or wild garlic mayo are two of my favourite ways to eat it, and now I have a third way: this!

Asparagus with burrata, wild garlic oil and lemon, serves 3

9 asparagus stems (preferably nice and thick)

125 g burrata, at room temperature

1 large handful wild garlic leaves, washed

100 ml vegetable oil

1/2 lemon, the zest

sea salt flakes and black pepper

Trim the wooden ends off the asparagus. Blanch them quickly in boiling water. Drain and fry with a tiny amount of oil in the pan until they’ve browned a little. Mix the wild garlic leaves with oil using a stick blender.

Divide the asparagus among the plates. Divide the burrata. Drizzle with wild garlic oil (approx 1 tbsp per plate). Add lemon zest and plenty of salt and pepper and serve immediately.

London: Modern Greek Food at OPSO

As London restaurants are preparing to open next week, I thought it appropriate to post a restaurant review from a visit pre-coronavirus. I’m so looking forward to eating out again, but sadly some restaurants have had to close their doors for good following the pandemic. So don’t take your favourite restaurants for granted, support them. Now more than ever, as I’m sure we’re all roaring to get back to normal.

Back in regular life pre-lockdown Gaby and Ro and I had a lovely girlie night out one Friday. I walked through the city doing errands and taking photos of new to me places before meeting up with Gaby for a drink while we waited for Ro to finish work.

So when Gaby and I arrived at OPSO we took our time and studied the menu properly. And the wine list, which had the funniest wine descriptions in it, and checked out the whole space. The airy interior and mix of high and low tables felt more New York than London, but in the best possible way, and I really liked the modern Greek food idea. I adore Greek food (despite never having been to Greece, which I need to remedy as soon as we can all travel again) but there aren’t many high-end or modern places around where you can sample it.

Enter OPSO. Where you can have the chicest (and most garlicky!) tzatziki you’ve ever come across and enjoying the most delightful small plates while sipping Greek delicious wine. It felt like we were transported to Athens for the evening, and the wine descriptions came in especially handy since neither of us had any knowledge of Greek wines. But I liked the authenticity. And I like trying new things!

All the small plates and starters that we had (we shared everything!) were absolutely delicious, but of course some stood out more than others.

We saw our table neighbours enjoying these little bagel inspired breads and they looked so good we had to order them too! They’re called koulouri and are much fluffier than bagels in texture, but really nice, especially with the fresh goat’s curd it comes with.

Next we had the famous tzatziki and it was amazing! So lovely with to scoop up with the flat bread. Yum!

We also had the dakos salad which was fresh and plump with olive oil. The pitta bread and olives in the background were delicious too. So fluffy!

There were two delicious sounding feta dishes on the menu, but we felt like we could only really have one and decided on the one with honey and kataifi. It was warm and crispy and salty and sweet all at ones and so gooey and lovely, but it almost felt more like a pudding than a starter because of the sweetness.

We made the error of ordering another dish of melted cheese, which was also delicious, but it was too much with two! This one was smokey and melty, but also paired with something sweet so it felt a little bit similar to the feta.

Next we had two main courses to share, which was the perfect amount after all the smaller dishes we’d had. We couldn’t actually finish them but we enjoyed them both!

The lemon and oregano chicken with mash, feta and charred baby gem was really nice, but didn’t feel as interesting as the starters and small plates we had.

The moussaka looked more impressive and was really nice! But my absolute favourite dishes were the tzatziki, the salad (surprisingly as I didn’t even think to order it) and the milk buns with goat’s curd.

Really want to go back and try the other feta dish, the saganaki. And sample the rest of the menu of course!

Can’t recommend enough if you want to try something different! Opa!

OPSO, 10 Paddington St, Marylebone, London W1U 5QL

Recipe: A Classic Croque Monsieur

Inspired by the best Croque Monsieur I’ve ever had, I wanted to try to make this wonderful dish at home. I miss restaurants a lot right now but the best we can do is to try and recreate our favourites at home or support our local restaurant businesses that offer takeaway. Here in the country there aren’t many restaurants nearby so I donned the apron and set to work.

Most important when making a dish like this is to use the very best ingredients. Crusty sourdough bread, good quality cooked (or lightly smoked) ham and gruyere cheese. And to not skimp on the béchamel sauce. It’s really what makes the sandwich.

This is not a difficult dish to make, but it has a lot of steps, so it’s best to prepare as much as you can in advance: grate the cheese, have the butter ready, make the béchamel sauce. Make sure the oven is hot. A little mise en place goes a long way.

I must confess it didn’t rival The Wolseley’s version, but it came pretty close and that’s good enough for me.

Please note I made this for 3 people but have reworked the recipe to serve 2 to make it easier to scale up and down.

Croque Monsieur, serves 2

4 slices good quality crusty white sourdough bread

2 slices cooked ham

100 g Gruyere cheese, grated

25 g salted butter, at room temperature

For the béchamel:

1 1/2 tbsp butter

1 1/2 tbsp flour

500 ml whole milk

a few drops lemon juice

salt and peppar

Start by making the béchamel sauce. Heat up the milk in a non-stick saucepan on medium heat. In another non-stick saucepan melt the butter on medium heat. Stir in the flour and let it cook, while whisking for a minute or so. Add the warmed milk bit by bit and whisk as the sauce thickens. Season to taste and add a few drops lemon juice. Set aside.

Butter each bread slice on one side and place it face up on a parchment paper lined baking tray. Bake in a 200C oven for 5 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and turn the bread slices around so you have the toasted side face down. Spread on a layer of béchamel sauce on each bread slice. Add grated gruyere on two of the slices, followed by the ham. Add more gruyere and sandwich together béchamel side face down. Add a thicker layer of béchamel on the top of the sandwiches and top with grated gruyere. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly. Serve with a tangy green salad (little gem with olive oil, red wine vinegar or plenty of lemon juice and a little salt is all you need).

Recipe: Orrechiette with Wild Garlic Pesto and Charred Broccoli

I made this dish just before lockdown, and then again in lockdown (but the pictures are from the first time I made it). It’s a perfect example of the kind of homemade food I want to highlight right now; inexpensive, nutritious and it allows for substitutions.

I was lucky to get hold of wild garlic even in lockdown (from Natoora and Natoora via Ocado) and it made me incredibly happy. If you live in an area where it grows you might still be able to forage for it, but you can of course use regular pesto (any green pesto in fact) in its place.

I use almonds in my pesto which makes it a little sweeter so charred flavours pair really well. (That’s how I got the idea for this dish in the first place). And the reason I used orecchiette was because I had some in the cupboard, but I also find it’s a good pasta shape to use with pesto. But you can use any similar pasta shape, I think the key here is that it’s not too big or too long.

Orrechiette with wild garlic pesto and charred broccoli, serves 2

250 g orrechiette

3 tbsp wild garlic pesto

mild olive oil

50 g grated parmesan

1 tsp finely grated lemon zest

200 g tenderstem broccoli

salt and pepper

Boil the pasta according to the instructions on the packet. Trim the broccoli. Keep 2 stems whole and chop the others into 2 cm long pieces. Blanch all the broccoli quickly. Drain and transfer to a hot and dry frying pan and cook for a few minutes on each side until slightly charred. Set aside.

Drain the pasta and reserve half a mug of pasta water. Transfer the pasta back to the saucepan but take it off the heat. Add pesto, a little olive oil and pasta water if needed. Mix until every piece of pasta is coated. Add more water if not loose enough and place on heat while stirring for a minute or so if too watery. Add half the parmesan and half the lemon zest. Add the small pieces of broccoli and mix well. Season and place in bowls. Add a long broccoli stem to each bowl. Scatter with parmesan and lemon zest.

June greetings

With everything else going on right now I completely forgot that we entered a new month. May felt like summer but the beginning of June has been rather cold so far. Hope that changes. With this slower pace of life I’m really appreciating seeing the change of time happening outside. New flowers bursting into bloom, some wilted and brown because they had their time in the lime light. And of course the sunshine has helped. But mostly it’s just any sign of time passing that I find so comforting. Because if time moves on, so will we. We will overcome the hardships facing us right now.

This made me think back to June as a child. So different from being a grownup in today’s world. As a school girl in Sweden June was filled with promise. The promise of ten weeks of freedom ahead of you. Of fun times with friends, holidays with the family, trips to the beach, sleepovers, too many ice creams and grazed knees. Summer felt endless and there for the taking. I really hope the school children of today feel similar feelings of hope and excitement even if their summer holidays will be different this year.

June in Sweden also means celebrating Midsummer, which I haven’t done properly since I moved to London eleven years ago, but the Midsummer food is still very special to me. New potatoes with butter and dill, herring (the one kind I like!), the first sweet strawberries… And of course other produce bursting onto the scene this time of year. Peas! Tomatoes! Lettuce!

And that’s why I would like to start with the herring, or rather, the only type of herring I like, which is of the Matjes variety. The brine is a little sweeter and less harsh than some types of herring and it’s just so summer-y in flavour. Using it in a savoury cheesecake is one of my favourite ways to eat it, it works really well as a starter or for a summer buffet.

Another lovely dish with Matjes herring is this nibble with eggs and dill on top of crisp bread. So yummy and even non herring lovers like this!

Moving on to peas. The first ones can of course be eaten raw in salads but in the evening a bowl of smooth green pea soup with bleak roe and creme fraiche is a perfect start to any supper or dinner party.

Lettuce, now also in season, is of course nice in any type of salad, but also like this – as the base for little salmon wraps. Great as a starter, with out without the rice, or even as your main dish!

Asparagus is still in season, but not for much longer, so make the most of it by putting it in a frittata with new potatoes, cheddar and spinach, topped with lumpfish roe and creme fraiche.

Finally the tomato season is upon us. Best served raw with salt and something creamy, this simple caprese salad with burrata is one of my favourite summer lunches. Or starters. It’s just so yummy!

Another really summery and fresh dish is this one with fried pillowy gnocchi, wild garlic pesto, cherry tomatoes and heaps of parmesan.

To finish I would like to highlight the strawberries. In the beginning of the season I like to eat them with cream and sugar, but now I’m ready to enjoy them in different ways. With muscovado ice cream for example.

Or with whipped cream on top of a chewy almond cake. Both lovely ways to end a weekend lunch or evening supper.

Change

Although this is first and foremost a food blog, I still want to highlight a few other things going forwards, to more reflect me; the person behind the blog. I love to eat, think about food and cook. But I also like fashion and beauty, travel, interiors, books and films (as you can see on my instagram). I will incorporate a little of these side interests when I get inspired, but I will also try to address some other topics that I think need to be highlighted.

At the moment, the topic most at the forefront is of course the Black Lives Matter movement. Like so many other people I have read and listened a lot in the past week. I want to learn. Do better. Be more inclusive.

I don’t have a big platform, but I still want to use it in the best way I can. I don’t know how yet (as the blog is a side interest for me; my main focus is my job) but I have a few ideas.

So for now, I just want to show that I stand with the movement. For a positive change.

Recipe: Roasted Cherry Tomato Caprese

As the tomato season is almost here (hurrah!) this post might be slightly redundant, but the tomato season is short and if you can’t get hold of really good tomatoes just yet, then this is a great way to get them to taste more.

I would make this dish with really good tomatoes too though, especially on a colder overcast summer’s day when all you need is something summery and warming.

Although you let the tomatoes cool a little after they’ve been roasted to sweet perfection in the oven I like them to be warm enough to make the mozzarella melt a little, so you can scoop it all up on some crusty bread.

Roasted Cherry Tomato Caprese, serves 2

Adapted from Bon Appetit’s recipe.

approx 200 g cherry tomatoes

2 sprigs thyme

2 garlic cloves, smashed

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

salt and pepper

125 g good quality buffalo mozzarella, at room temperature, torn into large pieces

crusty bread

Preheat oven to 180C. Toss tomatoes, garlic, thyme and oil in a rimmed oven-proof dish and season with a little salt. Spread out in a single layer and roast until tomatoes are bursting and lightly browned, 40-45 minutes. Let cool slightly.

Arrange mozzarella on a platter and spoon warm tomato mixture with juices over. Sprinkle with salt and peppar. Drizzle with more oil if needed. Serve with crusty (preferably still warm) bread.

Recipe: The Perfect Lemon Drizzle Cake

In these strange times I have baked more than ever. Partly because tea and cake in the late afternoon every day has been a lovely ritual in an otherwise chaotic and strange time.

I’ve made some old favourites (my favourite chocolate cake, the yummiest carrot cake, tosca cake and of course a classic Victoria sponge) but I’ve also tried some new recipes. And this lemon drizzle cake recipe, courtesy of baking queen Mary Berry, was of course perfect in every way.

It’s incredibly easy to make (place all ingredients in a bowl and mix) and utterly delicious. I love the crunchy top (finally that substituted bag of granulated sugar was put to good use!) and the perfectly balanced lemon flavour.

My only problem was that I was out of self-raising flour, but it was easily substituted by plain flour and baking powder (2 teaspoons of baking powder for each 150g plain flour) and worked perfectly.

Mary Berry’s lemon drizzle cake, serves 8

Adapted from Mary Berry’s recipe.

175 g caster sugar

175 g self-raising flour

175 g softened butter

3 eggs

finely grated zest of 1 lemon

¾ level tsp baking powder

For the lemon drizzle topping:

100 g granulated sugar

juice of 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Beat together the eggs, flour, caster sugar, butter, baking powder and lemon zest until smooth in a large mixing bowl and pour into a buttered loaf tin.

Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 40 mins, or until golden brown, shrinking away from the sides of the tin and springy to the touch.

While the cake is still warm, make the lemon drizzle topping. Mix together the sugar and lemon juice, and pour over the warm cake. Leave to cool a little and loosen the sides of the cake, then lift the cake out of the tin.

Recipe: Lockdown Courgette Quesadillas Two Ways

I cooked with courgette a lot during lockdown, as it’s such an inexpensive versatile vegetable. And it turns out, it really works in bulking out your quesadillas.

I made the first version, with fried courgette and coriander, served with soured cream and guacamole, when I was alone in London and liked them so much I made a similar version for lunch a few weeks later.

But this time I also added some ham, spring onions and fresh coriander, simply because I had it to hand, and served the quesadillas with a yummy sauce with creme fraiche and basil I made up on the spot, and lime wedges on the side.

Both versions are equally delicious so why not try both and see which you like better?!

Also, a note on frying quesadillas. For an every day lunch I prefer to fry them in a dry pan, as I think the addition of butter is then too much. But if you make quesadillas as nibbles for a party, when you eat much less of them, they’re wonderful fried in butter (and drained on kitchen towel to stay crispy!).

Courgette and coriander quesadillas with guacamole, serves 1

2 tortilla breads, either corn or flour

1 small courgette, cut in half lengthways and sliced

1-2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander

1 tsp dried chilli flakes

1 tbsp olive oil for frying

salt and pepper

75 ml grated cheddar

To serve:

guacamole (scale down to 1 avocado)

a large dollop soured cream

a few drops hot sauce

Fry the courgette until soft and golden in the oil on medium heat for approximately 5-10 minutes. Add the coriander and chilli flakes towards the end of cooking. Season well and set aside.

Place one tortilla bread on a flat surface and scatter half of the grated cheese on top. Add the fried courgettes and top with remaining cheese. Place the other tortilla bread on top and press down to flatten with your hands.

Heat up a clean frying pan on medium heat and add the quesadilla. Fry until side until golden brown while pressing down with a spatula. It only takes a few minutes! Flip the quesadilla over and fry the other side golden brown. Make sure the cheese inside has melted otherwise lower the heat and fry for a bit longer, making sure it doesn’t burn. Remove to a chopping board and cut into six triangles. Serve immediately with guacamole, soured cream and a little hot sauce.

Courgette, coriander and ham quesadillas, serves 3

6 tortilla breads, either corn or flour

1 1/2 medium courgettes, cut in half lengthways and sliced

1-2 tbsp olive oil for frying

salt and pepper

1/2 bunch fresh coriander

3 spring onions, chopped

2 slices cooked ham, chopped

200 g grated cheddar

To serve:

3 lime wedges

creamy basil sauce (recipe below)

Fry the courgette until soft and golden in the oil on medium heat for approximately 5-10 minutes. Season well and set aside.

Place three tortilla breads on a flat surface and divide half of the grated cheese between them. Add the fried courgettes, coriander, spring onions and ham and top with the remaining cheese. Place the other tortilla breads on top and press down to flatten with your hands.

Heat up a clean frying pan on medium heat and add a quesadilla. Fry until side until golden brown while pressing down with a spatula. It only takes a few minutes! Flip the quesadilla over and fry the other side golden brown. Make sure the cheese inside has melted otherwise lower the heat and fry for a bit longer, making sure it doesn’t burn. Repeat with the other two quesadillas. Remove to a chopping board and cut into six triangles. Serve immediately with lime wedges and the basil sauce (recipe below).

Creamy basil and lime sauce, serve 4

200 ml soured cream

finely grated zest from 1/2 lime

2 tbsp roughly chopped basil

salt and pepper

Mix all the ingredients together with a bowl. Season to taste.