Recipe: Moroccan roast vegetables and lamb in my Big Easy barbecue

I’m loving my Char-Broil Big Easy barbecue. The more I experiment, the more I discover how versatile it is.

Today I’m going to make Moroccan-style roast vegetables – well it is a roaster after all.

It’s a simple dish. Just make sure your veg are cut in similar size pieces – except the little peppers which I kept whole. Then douse in olive oil and cumin and you’re ready to go.

I popped the roasting tray on the rack in the barbecue with the temperature on medium-high and checked them after 20 minutes – well it was my first effort roasting vegetables in my new acquisition.

In the end they need around 30 minutes – quicker than in a conventional oven. Once the veg had cooled, I added the fresh mint leaves and little knobs of soft goats’ cheese on top, squeezed the juice of a lemon evenly over and added a couple of slugs of olive oil. No need to transfer the veg to another dish – any excuse to save on the washing up.

I love cumin and it goes perfectly with these vegetables. And also with the delicious lamb chops we bought from our local butcher around the corner. I used the grill part of the Big Easy for them – cooking for about 5 minutes on each side until they were nicely striped on the outside but still medium-rare inside.

Moroccan Roast Vegetables

Serves 2

1 medium carrot

1 courgette

1 red onion

2 handfuls diced butternut

2 small peppers (I chose one red and one yellow for colour variation)

2 tsps cumin seeds

4 tbsps olive oil

2 tbsps goat’s cheese

A handful of fresh mint leaves

Chop up all the vegetables except for the small peppers.

Toss them in the olive oil and cumin seeds in a roasting dish.

Place the dish on the rack in the Char-Broil Big Easy barbecue with the temperature on medium-high.

Cook for about 30 mins, checking after 20.

Remove from the barbecue and leave to cool.

Sprinkle the mint leaves and goat’s cheese on top of the roast vegetables. Use a teaspoon to dot small pieces of the goat’s cheese over the vegetables. It adds a beautiful creaminess.

Squeeze over the juice of one lemon and add a drizzle of olive oil and you’re ready to serve.

Vibrant vegetables are spiced up before cooking

The final salad topped with mint and goat’s cheese

The lamb chops sizzling on the barbecue grill

Find out more about the Char-Broil range by clicking here.

Next week I’ll be pursuing my self-inflicted challenge to making the perfect (well, extremely good anyway) peri peri chicken. Could cooking it on the Big Easy be the secret to success?

Tasty breakfast ideas with Vita Coco coconut milk alternative

So today I’ve taken up the challenge to come up with a breakfast idea using Vita Coco – a coconut milk alternative which is great for those with dairy intolerances and tastes delicious, too.

Of course, while I was pondering it I came up with two ideas, so decided to share them both with you. One is a more healthy option – a satisfying ginger porridge. Or you could treat yourselves with my tasty cardamom pancakes.

I had the idea of using spices in my breakfast dishes as their health benefits are widely accepted and they add a tasty element of surprise – the perfect way to wake up your taste buds. Plus coconut and spices are wonderful partners.

Ginger porridge with pistachios, raspberries and honey

This ginger porridge has a real zing and ginger’s anti-inflammatory effects can help with muscle pain and soreness, it’s great for treating nausea and is even thought to help lower blood sugar. The pistachios add a nice crunch and the sharpness of the raspberries works wonderfully with the sweetness of the honey. A great way to start your day.

Serves 2

Ginger spiciness goes perfectly with raspberries and pistachios

The ingredients

80g Quaker oats

500ml Vita Coco coconut milk alternative

1 tsp ground ginger

A handful of shelled pistachios

10 raspberries

About 2 tbsps runny honey

The instructions

Pour the milk into a pan and add the ground ginger. Heat to a low simmer and add the oats. Stir until thick and creamy.

Split the porridge between two bowls and top with the pistachios, raspberries and honey.

Add a dash more of Vita Coco if you like your porridge a bit runnier.

Ingredients for a delicious porridge to start your day

Spicy pancakes with cardamom and vanilla

Pancakes always seem like a real breakfast treat. These are spiced up and sweetened with the addition of cardamom and vanilla. I love the taste of cardamom and it’s said to help with digestive problems as well as being a good detoxifier. Ayurvedic medicine swears by the tea as a means of fighting depression. And it’s really delicious in pancakes!

Serves 4

Fluffy pancakes with a touch of exotic spice

The ingredients

140g self raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tbsp caster sugar

1 tsp ground cardamom

130ml Vita Coco coconut milk alternative

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 large egg, beaten

2 tbsp melted butter or olive oil

The instructions

Mix the flour, baking powder, caster sugar and cardamom together in a bowl.

Mix together the milk, vanilla, egg and butter.

Pour the milk mixture into the flour mixture and beat with a fork until you have a smooth batter.

Heat a non-stick frying pan over medium and add a knob of butter. When it’s melted, add a small ladle of the batter. Wait until it begins to bubble, turn and cook until golden brown.

Continue until you’ve used all your batter.

Serve with blueberries.

This recipe is an entry into the Dairy Free Style Your Breakfast challenge with Vita Coco and Foodies100. See more great breakfast ideas at http://vitacoco.com/uk/

Recipe: Hot smoked salmon in my Big Easy barbecue

Okay summer still hasn’t really arrived in London – sometimes it never really does – but I am certainly not going to let that prevent me from getting out into my garden and lighting the barbecue. Especially now that I have my brand new Char-Broil Big Easy barbecue which has the power to roast, smoke and barbecue. You can read all about the UK’s first three-in-one smoker, roaster and grill in one package here and also discover some lovely roast chicken recipes to try out.

Today I’m getting more adventurous (as promised) and trying something for the first time. I’m going to hot smoke some lovely fresh salmon. First step is to make a marinade and give the salmon 2-3 hours to soak up the flavours.

Getting ready to marinate in front of my CharBroil Big Easy

Honey Jack Daniels marinated smoked salmon

Serves 2

The marinade

3 tbsps Honey Jack Daniels

2 tbsps brown sugar

2 tbsps soya sauce

1 tbsp dijon mustard

Mix all the ingredients and marinate one piece of filleted fresh salmon per person for 2-3 hours

Recipe: Hot smoked salmon

Give the salmon fillets time to absorb the flavours

While the salmon is marinating get your smoker ready. There is a pull out box on the side of the Char-Broil Big Easy where your wood chips go. You can buy a range of wood chips from many places. I got mine from smokingwoodchips.co.uk and today I’m using some of the plum chips.

Measure out the chips you need and soak in water for about half an hour. This is to ensure you get a lot of smoke for your cooking. Drain, spoon the chips into the smoker box and insert into the barbecue.

Light the barbecue and put it on to high. Leave for about 10 minutes or until you can see smoke start to appear.

Fold tin foil into sizes slightly bigger than the salmon, take the salmon fillets out of the marinade and place on the foil. Place on the rack inside the barbecue and cook for about 15 minutes – checking regularly.

The sugar and honey in the marinade will make the skin crispy and add some slight blackening, which I love. You’ll find that the salmon is beautifully flakey and moist inside.

Beautifully soft and flavoursome salmon with chilli corn and potatoes

Today I served the salmon with some Jersey Royal potatoes (they are in season after all) and lovely sweetcorn which I cooked on the grill section of the barbecue above the smoking rack. Plus I made a simple sour cream sauce. Here’s how.

Sour cream sauce

150ml sour cream

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

3 tbsps chopped fresh dill

Mix all the ingredients at least three hours before serving and keep cool in the fridge. This amazing and simple sauce is wonderful with all kinds of fish – and tastes amazing on potatoes, too.

This sour cream and dill sauce goes perfectly with the smoked salmon

Sweet chilli barbecued sweetcorn

2 ears of corn

2 tbsps sweet chilli sauce

A few knobs of butter

Place each ear of sweetcorn on a piece of foil large enough to wrap it in.

Spread the sweet chilli sauce over the sweetcorn with a knife. Add a few knobs of butter to each parcel.

Wrap the corns up fairly tightly and place on the grill of the barbecue which is at the top above the smoking .

Put them in at the same time as the salmon and they will be perfect by the time your salmon is cooked.

 You can read all about the fabulous Char-Broil Big Easy – the UK’s first gas three-in-one barbecue at www.charbroil.eu 

And watch this space for more great alfresco cooking ideas. Next week I’m going to be roasting some vegetables Moroccan-style (yes, in the barbecue) to match with our delicious local lamb chops. My mouth’s already watering just thinking about it.

The taste of Portugal at Bar Douro

Time for some authentic Portuguese dishes at Bar Douro.

I’m having a bit of an exciting time discovering newly created parts of London! Sounds strange, but this City is constantly evolving and today when I walked from Waterloo Station in search of Flat Iron Square everything looked totally different from when I worked in the area a few years back. New buildings had popped up, old ones been demolished, whole streets were closed to construction work…let’s just say I ended up getting a little lost, it was like a brand new world!

Anyway, after some interesting meandering I arrived at the New Flat Iron Square. Wow! There’s a range of food stalls, bars, restaurants all nestling under the arches. The delicious aromas would have been enough to guide me there if I had really got completely lost. Today’s destination is Bar Douro where owner Max Graham has transported local culinary secrets from Portugal and matched them with a carefully chosen Portuguese wine list. He and his family have been making wine and port for two centuries in the Douro Valley (hence the name, I guess). I have spent very little time in Portugal (should do something about that really) so was delighted to learn more.

Bring on the Portuguese flavours

The menu’s all about sharing and there’s a mix of snacks and small plates. Patanisca de Bacalhau – salt cod fritters – were light and fluffy with a perfect crunch and just enough fishy flavour.

Tender salt cod fritters with their spicy dip

Gambas a giulho – garlic prawns came with heads and tails on but deshelled for easy munching. Beautifully luscious, this simple dish is one of my favourites. Love this plate too – that blue and white combo totally does it for me.

Bar Douro: garlic prawns

Tasty garlicky prawns to savour

The croquettes de Alheira – croquettes of smoked Portuguese sausage were cleverly presented on this beautiful tile. Alheira is traditionally made from any meat other than pork and has that beautiful smokey intensity, here all wrapped up in a crunchy little bundle. Must find some of these sausages as I think they’d make a great ingredient for cooking with.

Bar Douro: sausage croquettes

Smokey croquettes served on more blue and white

Then from the small plates section we went for the Prego no prato Bavette steak with confit egg. An exotic sounding and looking dish that also came with vibrant spinach puree and matchstick fries. A great combo of ingredients that was sadly served a bit too cold which took something of its deliciousness away.

Bar Douro: Bavette steak

Steak, egg and chips Portuguese style?

We sat at the stylish marble counter (something I seem to be doing a lot of these days), so could watch the chef’s preparations while we sipped on some delicious Portuguese rose.

Bar Douoro: rose wine

A touch of Portugal, with wine, in Southwark

The interior is modern and light-filled with those fabulously Portuguese blues and whites.

Bar Douro: the view

Looking down the counter

Bar Douro: outside

Look for the Bar Douro Sign on the wall and you’ve arrived

As I said there’s a world of food choices outside, too, and plenty of seating space. Perfect for a chilled summer lunch in the sun. I particularly like the look (and aromas) of this Vietnamese food truck.

Bar Douro: what's outside

Vietnamese offerings from the van outside

Today’s price point

And finally, we paid £33 for our four dishes. Wines start from £23 a bottle.

Bar Douro is at Arch 35B, Flat Iron Square, London SE1 1TD

Recipe book review: Saffron Soul

I love trying out new dishes in the kitchen and what better place to get inspiration than from a beautiful recipe book. I often sit on the floor surrounded by cookbooks trying to decide what to cook for dinner. Seriously, I can while away hours in a little food recipe world.

So I’m always delighted when I have a new book to try. I recently went to the launch of Saffron Soul by Mira Manek and was treated to some of her delightful dishes for breakfast. Most notably, the amazing tofu scramble with numeric and spices, topped with pink peppercorns and served with peppered sweet potato wedges and cumin tossed kale. Never has tofu tasted so good, like a spicy version of scrambled egg!

Mira’s quest in this book is to show us how Indian food can be healthy and delicious at the same time. Her range of vegetarian recipes are inventive, tasty and easy to make once you have all the relevant spices. She explains the importance and health-giving values of the main spices used in Indian cooking. For example, turmeric has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, cumin is good for digestion and fenugreek may help control blood sugar levels and cholesterol. And of course they make dishes taste fabulous, too.

I cooked several recipes including the amazing spinach parathas. A recent love of mine – I’d never cooked parathas and was surprised at how well they came out! The cauliflower and pea curry was crunchy and packed with flavour. But my absolute favourite of the dishes I’ve cooked so far is the Gujarati dal, an amazing dish made with yellow split peas and an orchestra of spices.

How to make Gujarati dal

Here’s Mira’s amazing dal recipe. You will note that she says some of the spices are optional – I would advise that you put absolutely everything on the list in as they produce an amazing depth of flavour.

I used yellow split peas which I bought from my local supermarket.

Serves 4-6 as a side dish

The ingredients

200g toor dal, yellow split dal or pigeon peas

1.2 litres boiling water

1 tsp coconut oil

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp mustard seeds

Half tsp fenugreek seeds, optional

1-2 dried red chillis, slit lengthways

2 cinnamon sticks, optional

2 cloves, optional

On quarter tsp asafoetida

10-15 fresh curry leaves

5 fresh tomatoes, chopped or 5 tbsps tinned tomatoes

Half tsp ground tumeric

Half to 1 tsp red chilli powder

1 tsp grated fresh ginger

1.5 tsp sea salt

3 tbsps brown sugar

Handful of coriander leaves, chopped

Juice of 2 fresh limes

The instructions

Rinse the split peas in a sieve under running water until the water is clear, then tip into a saucepan.

Add the measured boiling water and boil for 1 hour on a medium-low heat until the dal is a porridge-like consistency.

With a hand-held electric whisk, whisk the dal so that it becomes completely smooth or blend it in a blender until smooth.

In a large, non-stick saucepan melt the coconut oil, then add the cumin and mustard seeds and fenugreek seeds. When the mustard seeds have popped, add the dried red chillies, cinnamon sticks and cloves. Add the asafoetida and curry leaves, then the tomatoes and stir for a minute.

Add the ground turmeric, red chilli powder, grated ginger, salt, sugar and coriander to the tomato mixture and stir.

Pour in the blended dal, squeeze the lime in and leave to simmer on a low heat for 10-15 mins until it turns orange-brown.

Taste the dal and add more lime or sugar, as required.

My copy of Saffron Soul is bookmarked with several slips of paper, ready for my next Indian vegetarian feast. This is a book I know I am going to be returning to frequently. And here’s how to win one of your own.

Reader giveaway

The prize

One copy of Saffron Soul by Mira Manek worth £13.20.

How to enter

Tell me what your favourite Indian spice is in the comment section of this post.

Terms and conditions

Competition only for residents of the UK.

Closing date for entry will be Sunday 28 May 2017 at midnight.

The winner will be chosen at random after the closing date.

The winner will be notified by email.

No cash alternatives to the prize will be offered. The prize is not transferable.

The editor’s decision is final.

Saffron Soul by Mira Manek is published by Jacqui Small, an imprint of The Quarto Group. Out now.

Available from all good retailers. Photography credit:  © Jacqui Small

To find out more, visit www.miramanek.com

Competition: Win £25-worth of Amazon vouchers

Competition: Your chance to win Amazon vouchers

As summer approaches (at least I hope it’s approaching, it’s definitely on the chilly side at the moment), we’re all thinking about our much-longed-for summer holidays. Wherever I go, one of the greatest holiday joys for me is that that time for totally uninterrupted reading. How I love picking up a book and putting it down (or not) when I want to – or even when it’s finished if it’s that good.

Ever since I learned to read as a small child, a magical world opened up to me. I spent most of my childhood with my nose in a book. Not so great for my social skills, but hey, I was happy. As such a voracious reader, going on holiday could be something of a challenge. A suitcase full of books can be on the heavy side. Of course that’s no longer a problem with my trusty Kindle which goes everywhere with me and is always packed with potentially exciting reads.

Almost as much as I enjoy the holiday reading, I enjoy making my choices. There’s so much on offer and I obviously have my favourite genres. So to get out of that zone of always reading the same type of book, I try to pick at least one that is set in or near the area I am visiting. Sometimes it’s an almost otherworldly experience, like when I read Room with a View in Florence – it felt a bit like I was living a double life in different centuries.

I generally choose novels rather than factual tomes on the area, though of course this is also a good idea – an easy chance to learn – it all seems so much easier to absorb those facts when you’re sitting in the middle of them.

For great tips on picking your perfect holiday book, click on holidaygems.co.uk

And here’s a taster from my past and present reading lists to inspire you. Can you guess where I’m going on holiday this year?

Plus your chance to win £25 to spend on amazon.co.uk – time to stock up on those summer reads.

If you’re still undecided on where you want to spend some time this summer, have a look at www.holidaygems.co.uk

Some past favourites

Room with a View by E M Forster made Florence seem even more magical.

Competition: win Amazon vouchers

A Long Finish by Michael Dibdin added a touch of adventure (and horror) to my trip to Tuscany

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon made Barcelona seem much more intriguing.

Competition: Win Amazon vouchers

Some ideas for this year

Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica by Sara Wheeler

The Boy in the Blue Pyjamas by John Boyne and Oliver Jeffers

The Honorary Consul by Graham Greene

 

The prize

£25 of Amazon vouchers to spend on anything you like on amazon.co.uk

How to enter

1 Follow eatingcoventgarden.com by entering your email in the box at the top in the right hand column.

2 When you receive the email (which should be immediately), confirm that you want to subscribe.

3 Answer the following question in the comment section of eatingcoventgarden.com

Which city is Bridget Jones’ Diary mainly set in?

A London

B Madrid

C Hong Kong

D Nairobi

Terms and conditions

Competition only for residents of the UK.

Closing date for entry will be Sunday 21 May 2017 at midnight.

The winner will be chosen at random after the closing date.

The winner will be notified by email.

No cash alternatives to the prize will be offered. The prize is not transferable.

The editor’s decision is final.

Find holiday inspiration by visiting www.holidaygems.co.uk