Monday, 24 June 2013

Warm chorizo and rocket salad

This substantial salad is ready in the time it takes to boil the potatoes - about 10 minutes - and is perfect for a cooler summer evening when you don't want hot food but still want something more filling than simply a plate of salad leaves.

What you need:
6-7 smallish new or salad potatoes
1/3rd of a loop of cooking chorizo
A handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
A large handful of rocket
Juice of half a small lemon
A dessert spoon of walnut oil
A crushed clove of garlic
Black pepper

What to do:
Put the rocket and cherry tomatoes in a bowl or on a plate. Cut the potatoes in half or quarters, so they are bite-sized, and boil until tender but firm - about 10 minutes. Slice the chorizo into rounds and fry over a medium heat until it just crisps. Lift out with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. While everything's on the hob, make a dressing with the oil, lemon juice, garlic and black pepper. Toss everything together and eat.

Cook's tips:
Don't add all the lemon juice - start with half, taste and add more if needed. You don't want to overpower the flavour of the walnut oil.

If you're very hungry, add a few shavings of parmesan or a quartered hard-boiled egg.

Watercress is a great substitute for the rocket in this dish.

Sunday, 9 June 2013


I run a fairly thrifty kitchen as I hate waste. If I've had meat on the bone, the bones get turned into stock. I cut the mould off cheese and eat the rest (not that cheese is around often enough for the most part to turn mouldy). And stale bread gets turned into breadcrumbs, which I freeze, or croutons for frisée au lardons. I also use it to make panzanella, a traditional, rustic Italian salad that is the very definition of "waste not, want not" - it doesn't just use up stale bread but overripe vegetables too, turning all the ingredients into a juicy, flavoursome salad. For someone who lives alone, it's an ideal way to clear out the fridge and is surprisingly filling, given its simplicity.

What you need:
Stale bread, enough to make a half-bowl of salad
2-3 very ripe tomatoes
Cucumber, about 10cm, cut into chunks
Handful of black olives
Small handful of roughly chopped flatleaf parsley
Half a ripe red pepper, diced or cut into strips
Olive oil
White wine vinegar or the juice of half a lemon
Salt and pepper
4-5 anchovies (optional)

What to do:
Tear the bread into bite-sized chunks and put in the bottom of a bowl or soup plate. Roughly chop the tomatoes and tip into the bowl, with all the juice, and add the cucumber, pepper, olives and parsley. Drizzle over some olive oil and vinegar or lemon juice, season, toss well and set aside for at least an hour so that the bread has time to soak up the dressing and tomato juices. Add the anchovies just before eating.

Cook's tips:
Good bread is essential - white sliced simply won't cut it. Sourdough, ciabatta, baguette or some other very crusty, dense loaf is what you need here. If the bread is very hard, soak it briefly - about 5 minutes - in a bowl of water, then drain and squeeze it out if you need to.

The tomatoes are the other core ingredient - well-ripened, even to the point of collapse, they provide the juices to soften the bread. Then it's just a case of using up whatever else you have to hand - a little shredded lettuce or some rocket, a few basil leaves, some capers, thinly sliced red onion... You could even throw in some cooked green beans, a few lumps of mozzarella torn off a ball, chunks of leftover chicken or tuna.

I don't bother to mix up a proper dressing, preferring to judge the quantity by eye. If you need to measure up, you need an oil to acidic ratio of 3:1.