Chard, Garlic and Sorrel Tart

Lawks, I love a tart! (Insert Carry On joke here).

Did they ever make Carry On Cooking? I think not. Shame – the double entendre capacity of cooking is immense. Cream puffs and toasted nuts. I saw on the internet the other day a list of saucy Bake Off sayings. I don’t know if Mary Berry really did actually say the words ‘moist crack’ on the TV, but it’s hilarious (if you’re British and have a childish mind) to imagine that she did. 

This is not a comedy tart, it doesn’t raise an eyebrow and say ‘oo madame’ like more showy-off tarts, but it has an immensely satisfying small list of ingredients that meld themselves into a remarkably fine tasting tart. I make mine quite thin, but you can increase the filling or decrease the size of the tin to make it deeper if you want.

A word on sorrel: I don’t think I’ve ever seen it in the shops. Which is a shame as it’s every bit as useful as rocket. The very lemony sharp flavour of the leaves is really useful. If you’ve got a garden and you like growing herbs for cooking, get a sorrel plant or throw some seeds on the ground and it grows like a weed and comes back every year. There are different kinds, a heart-shaped small one (buccleuch, pronounced ‘buckler’) that creeps rather like ivy in cracks in walls or between plants in the ground, and a large-leafed kind that looks very like spinach and is called broad-leaved sorrel. Either will do and will return each spring without you having to do anything.

OR, if the more likely scenario is in play, which is that you don’t have any sorrel, I suggest you zest half a small lemon and put that in instead. Or of course you can always add a tablespoon of herbs you particularly like, such as tarragon, or chervil, or even just chives. 

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Falafel

I first had falafel in Paris in the 1980’s when Cathy, wonderfully glamorously, lived there. We used to visit a take-away place in the cool area of la Mairie and get the now familiar pitta bread stuffed with crunchy cold salads and hot falafel, freshly fried and crispy on the outside, soft and mysteriously spicy on the inside, topped with some creamy and equally mysterious sauce – which I later worked out was tahini. This was long before anyone had opened a falafel bar in the UK. They were exotic and alluring and I felt very well travelled just eating them.

Gung-ho as my family has always been about food, we thought – ‘we can make those!’- and embarked on a few attempts in our kitchen when I was a teenager, using our ancient chip-frier on our even more ancient gas cooker. My memory of this is of infrequent success, mixed with quite a lot of disintegrated chickpea mess floating in the hot oil.  We probably had to make do with a lot of salad for our tea on those nights… I’m afraid we gave up after a while.

For years afterwards my experience of falafel was limited to the occasional take away, either drunk at the end of the night in lieu of a kebab, or from a very decent take away place on Old Compton Street when I lived in London.  More recently I’ve tried a few packet versions where you just add liquid… they were…well…ok I suppose…

BUT, then along came Yotam Ottolenghi. My experience of both eating and cooking falafel was transformed when I started using Ottolenghi’s recipe in his masterpiece of a book Jerusalem. Not only did they not fall apart, they were more delicious than anything I’d had in from a packet, a cafe, or a take-away – drunk or otherwise. 

So here is the recipe that I’m sharing with you. Far be it for me to mess with the legend that is Yotam, but I have to say that I almost double the spices and flavourings, mainly because I don’t make as much mixture as his recipe calls for (there are usually only two of us eating), but I still usually chuck roughly the same quantities of spices that he specifies.

I know, I know, fiddle with an Ottolenghi recipe at your peril, his testing is rigorous and his flavour balancing is unsurpassed. But there it is. I add more flavouring. I can hear the knock on the door from the food police as I write…

falafel-ingredients

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Potato Pancakes

I just love me anything fried. Along with massive salads it’s one of my favourite types of food to eat. I think mum must have made fried things when we were kids, although we weren’t a chip pan sort of a family. Actually, I’m wrong, we did have a chip pan in the 1980’s. Anyway, I digress, here are some lovely potato pancakes to have for lunch. Mum has always served them with some plain yoghurt, and some homemade apple sauce.  If you grind a bit of salt and pepper on your yoghurt and then top with apple sauce it’s just a great combo.

Ingredients

  • 200g potatoes, peeled. (approx 215g unpeeled
  • 50g onion, peeled and grated (messy but better than chopped)
  • 1 egg white, beaten to a froth but not stiff
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cornflour

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Watermelon Salad with Feta Cheese

So, not to be like a record stuck in a groove or ‘owt, but this is very very veeeehy quick and very easy and it’s another of our ‘not-a-recipe-more-of-a-serving-suggestion’ salads.

We don’t believe in iceberg lettuce and tomatoes with no dressing. That’s not salad, that’s just assorted fibre on a plate. Yet somehow, despite all the fancy places to eat in the UK and the transition from spam and sprouts to quinoa and coulis that’s occurred in the last twenty years, lots of people still think that salad is boring and worthy. Sometimes those people come round to our house and eat a salad and go: ‘wow, how did you make this?’ and the answer is – …’er we chopped it up and put literally TWO things on it’.

And then you’ve got taste, interest, AND HEALTH.

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15-minute Lemony Pasta with Smoked Salmon and Kale

My writer-friend Chad made this for a working lunch for us one day, using homegrown kale from the garden at the lovely home she shares with her partner Kath, and I was immediately hooked by the strong and satisfying flavours. I demanded to know how she made it and then had it three times over the following two weeks – I couldn’t get enough of it. Since then it’s become one of my favourite ‘when your brain is still on the train’ meals. Getting off a commuter train from London is about as compatible with cooking a large meal as…er… duh…can’t think of anything smart cos my brain is still on the train.  (Geddit?)

Anyway. When your inspiration is as lame as that joke, this meal will fill the gaping void.

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Ricotta Gnocchi

This recipe comes from Gennaro Contaldo – or rather, Gennaro’s mother – and I saw him make it on a BBC programme, Two Greedy Italians. It’s incredibly simple and it literally takes 15 minutes to make.

There is one very, very important thing to remember – I got this from watching Gennaro – and that is to ensure a lightness of touch. Don’t handle the dough as you would a bread dough, or even a pastry dough. Be quick and light, using fingertips wherever possible, never holding on to it for more than a couple of seconds at a time. This ensures that the dough remains light and doesn’t turn into a sticky icky goo.

Ricotta gnocchi ingredients

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Guacamole

This is what you do when you bought a rock-hard avocado ten days ago, left it in a bowl to reach ripe perfection and then forgot about it so now it’s starting to look a bit old and tired.  There are lots of different ways of doing guacamole and you can experiment with them, of course. This is what I do. Nice and simple.

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Broad Beans with feta

This is, like many salads, just a question of putting some things together and creating joy on a plate.  It’s very similar to the Flageolet Beans salad.  But different.

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Tricolore Salad

There are hundreds of pictures of this already on the Interweb Of All Things, but we make no apology for putting it on our blog, because we eat it all the time and it’s an important part of the Definitely Not Boring Salad campaign that we have going on. And like all the salads at Life is Jam, it’s really easy. I sometimes have it just on its own with some bread for lunch, or I serve it with several other salads for a lunch spread for a few people.

The mozzarella doesn’t have to be anything posh, I just use the value own-brand kind from the supermarket, which is about 50p, and will be enough for a salad for four. Or you can cut some off and leave the rest in the fridge in it’s little bag for up to three days.

Like a lot of salads, it’s not really a recipe, it’s a serving suggestion. 

  • Slice some avocado, sprinkle a squeeze of lemon juice on it, which not only adds a little edge to the taste but also stops it going brown.
  • Slice some nice ripe tomatoes, and slice or break up some mozzarella. Make it all look nice on a plate if you’re into things looking nice.
  • sprinkle with salt and plenty of pepper, drizzle generously with olive oil, and scatter some fresh basil on.

That’s it folks. There’s no excuse not to make this SOON. Unless you don’t like avocado. Or tomatoes. Or mozzarella.

WINGS

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Fresh Tomato and Coriander Salsa

Here is a tangy and coriander-fragrant salsa made with fresh tomatoes. It’s very easy, like all salsas. It goes brilliantly with tortilla chips, like all salsas. We have another salsa recipe which is made with tinned tomatoes and different herbs, the recipe is here. We like salsa and tortillas. Can you tell?

A brief word on chilli:

I use chilli flakes quite a lot, as you get used to how hot they are. But fresh chillies are very variable, sometimes you could eat a whole one and it tastes about as hot as a red pepper. Sometimes you taste a tiny bit and your mouth is on fire for forty-five minutes. So if you’re going for a fresh one, I BEG YOU to test it before it goes in.  Here are the rules:

  • Try a tiny little bit and see how hot it is. 
  • Remember that it gets hotter the closer to the stalk it is.
  • Be very wary of the seeds, as they’re the hottest bit.  I usually scrape them out unless the chilli tastes quite mild or I really need the extra heat.
  • The RED HOT RULE is that you can add more, but you’ll ruin the dish if you add too much

Tomato Salsa Ingredients

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