Dinner Document

rebecca may johnson London and suffolk ............................. recipes and thoughts

Scotch Bonnet and Lime Aioli

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Sam is collaborating in a project about the historical and cultural place of salt cod that focuses on how different communities in Brixton – including Portuguese, Italian and Caribbean – consume it. He decided to make salt cod fritters and I decided to make this to eat them with. Brian at Fish Wings & Tings makes wonderfully light cod fritters with lime and ginger dip, which gave me the idea for this. I wanted the fruity flavour of the scotch bonnet to come through, not just its heat and I think this worked well. Sam’s fritters were really very delicious: packed with fish but still light inside and a crisp exterior. They had a deep savoury flavour and touches of sweetness from red pepper – I’ll get him to give me the recipe to put up here.

Pepper Mash

around 8 scotch bonnet chillis finely sliced

1/2 tablespoon vinegar

2 teaspoons sugar

150ml water

salt

Aïoli

2 egg yolks

2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

2 fat cloves garlic crushed with a pinch of salt

175ml sunflower oil and 75 ml extra virgin olive oil mixed together

juice 1/2 lime

How to make:

Place the chopped scotch bonnet chillis in a small pan with the water, sugar, vinegar and salt and cook for 30 minutes on a low heat, not allowing it to dry out. If it becomes too dry add a bit more water.

If you have a blender, roughly blend the scotch bonnet so it is smoother but still with a bit of texture.

Meanwhile, mix the egg yolks well with the crushed garlic and the vinegar in a bowl.  Pour in the oil very slowly, mixing thoroughly with a fork or a whisk as you go. When it is all incorporated, taste for seasoning, and add more salt if needed.

Stir in a tablespoon of the chilli mix and squeeze in the lime juice. Adjust the heat to a level you find acceptable – they may be some chilli mash left over.

Eaten with:

Salt cod fritters. Followed by pork chops with rice and peas.

Tomatoes and Courgette Flowers with White Cheese, Chilli and a Fried Egg

We had lots of courgette flowers and tomatoes in the greenhouse and I made this for breakfast on Saturday. My mum asked me in detail how I had made it, which I took as a signal that it should be written down.

It is most definitely inspired by the recent acquisition of Diana Kennedy’s Essential Cuisines of Mexico. The previous night we had eaten an excellent supper of meatballs in tomato sauce from a recipe by her.

Ingredients:

a double handful of mixed tomatoes, including an unripe (green) one or two if you have them, chopped roughly

a few courgette flowers, stamen removed, and chopped roughly

1 tablespoon of chipotle sauce or other smoky chilli sauce, or 1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika

1/2 onion, sliced finely

1 garlic clove, chopped finely,

1/2 chilli, seeds removed if hot, sliced

1 teaspoon, vinegar

2 tablespoons, chopped coriander

Garnish

1 fried egg / each

some crumbled white, salty cheese (could be feta, or other –Mexican queso fresco if you can find it)

bit more chopped coriander

How to make:

Fry the onion, garlic and chilli gently in a spoon of oil for a minute or two in a frying pan on a medium heat. Add the courgette flowers and fry for a minute. Add the tomatoes, and the vinegar and the chilli sauce and a pinch of salt and turn the heat down. Cook for minutes or so, so the tomatoes are softening but not totally collapsed. Taste for seasoning and add more salt or vinegar if desired.

Fry an egg, make some toast.

Serve the tomato mix with an egg on top, some crumbled cheese and a slice of toast.

Eaten with:

Black coffee.

Runner Beans with Burnt Onion and Cumin

On the TV some time last year or the year before I saw someone make burnt onion powder to flavour something, and elsewhere I’ve eaten Dal wtih burnt onion garnish (can’t remember). Anyway, I liked it and when I was asked to prepare runner beans from the garden to eat with slow cooked lamb, ghee soaked homemade flatbreads, dal (by my mum) and raitha (by Sam), and I made this.

The sweet beans, burnt tang of onion and crunch and fragrance added by the cumin was a pleasing combination. Everything else on the table was really very delicious.

Ingredients:

A bag of runner beans, as fine as you can find, sliced into 2cm diagonal pieces.

1/2 onion, sliced finely

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

2 teaspoons, cumin seeds

vegetable oil

How to make:

Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and cook the beans until properly tender: probably longer than you think – try 7/8 minutes.

Heat a tablespoon of oil and add the onion with a pinch of salt and cook gently in a heavy pan until they are browning and getting crispy and almost burnt looking. About 10 minutes. When they are becoming quite brown add the garlic and the cumin with another pinch of salt.. Keep on a lowish heat so they don’t scorch.

Finally mix in the drained beans and cook for a minute or so, stirring to coat with the onions. Season to taste.

Eaten with:

Rosé, slow cooked lamb shoulder, flatbreads, raitha, dal.

Sweetcorn, Chicken and Bacon Chowder with Buttermilk

(picture taken in Brixton market by Zoe)

Zoe and I have been thinking about chowder lately - she had sent me a New York Times article about different versions, and after a delicious corn bread baked by our friend Ayca, we fantasised about a dinner party with a big bowl of clam chowder and a fresh loaf of corn bread to eat it with. Walking home hungry from the library, I thought about it again, but realised I couldn’t get clams, so made this with chicken. Buttermilk is lighter than cream or sourcream, and its acidity gives a nice shape to the delicate broth – though cream would still be great, perhaps with a squeeze of lemon to finish.

I cooked this for Zoe and her man Nick Balfe, chef at the superb restaurant ‘Salon’ in Brixton market – where he cooks seasonal, complex, delicate and tasty food. Nick and Zoe were both enthusiastic about this dish.

Ingredients:

4-6 chicken thighs and drumsticks

100g offcuts of smoked bacon, or chopped up sliced smoked bacon

2 cobs of corn, cut off the corn with a knife and reserve the cob

2 cloves, garlic finely sliced

1/2 pint, water

2 bay leaves

150ml, white wine

200ml, buttermilk

6 spring onion tops, sliced into 1cm lengths

pinch of cayenne

How to make:

Season the chicken with salt and pepper and brown all over in melted butter in a large, heavy bottomed pan. Remove from the pan. Add in the bacon and fry for a minute or so and then add the garlic. Cook for a minute or so and then add the chicken back in. Fry for a minute or two. Then add in the water and the wine and the bay leaves. Cook for 10 minutes on a low bubbling heat. Add in the corn and the cobs and cook so that it’s gently bubbling for 20 minutes with a lid on, and then 10 minutes uncovered.

Check the chicken is cooked but cutting to the bone – it should not be pink. Add in the buttermilk and warm through, but do not boil hard. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. Garnish with the spring onion tops and a dusting of cayenne.

Eaten with:

Boiled new potatoes and a green salad.

Roasted Aubergine with Peppers, Melted Parmesan and Basil

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This is a delicious, soft mess of a dish; adding parmesan to the roasting aubergines a few minutes before removing them from the oven and mixing them up gives luxuriant richness.

Serves 3 as a side

Ingredients:

1 aubergine, sliced into 1cm rounds

2 Romero (or red) peppers

100g, grated parmesan

handful of torn basil

1/4 lemon

How to make:

Pre-heat the oven to high. In a roasting tray toss the aubergine slices in some olive oil and salt and lay flat. Add the peppers to the tray. After around 20 minutes remove the peppers when the skin is coming away from the flesh and has split. Continue to cook the aubergines until they are soft. 2 minutes before removing the aubergines spoon a small heap of parmesan on top of each slice, leaving some cheese over.

Meanwhile, peel the red pepper, remove the seeds, tear or cut up, the flesh and place in a serving bowl.

Remove the aubergine from the oven when the cheese is melted and bubbling. Slice the rounds of aubergine with melted cheese on in half and add to the peppers. While still warm, add in extra parmesan grating, tear in the fresh basil, squeeze in the lemon juice and a spoon of olive oil. Season with salt and a touch of pepper. Mix up.

Mozzarella and Tomato Salad with Fennel, Chilli, Garlic and Parsley

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After a swim at the Brockwell Lido I made a selection of vegetarian dishes with Zoe and Henry. I remember having toasted coriander seeds with Burrata at Ottolenghi’s restaurant Nopi when it first opened and it made a big impression on me. I liked the idea of using unexpected aromatics against the sweet, salty gentle milkiness of the cheese. This dressing was good and I think would also work over a grilled pork chop or some barbecued fish. 

Ingredients

2 mozzarella or burrata

around 5 ripe tomatoes

Dressing

1/2 tablespoon fennel seeds

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon chilli flakes

1 garlic clove

2 tablespoons of chopped parsley

1/4 lemon

How to make:

Toast the fennel and chilli briefly in a dry pan. Pound the garlic to a paste in the pestle and mortar with a good pinch of salt and then add the fennel and chilli and pound in. Mix in the parsley, olive oil and lemon juice in the pestle and mortar. Season to taste.

Slice the tomato and arrange on a plate. Season with salt and a touch of black pepper and lay over slices of mozzarella. Drizzle over the dressing.

Eaten with:

Potato and caper salad; aubergine, melted parmesan and red pepper with basil; green salad. White burgundy wine.

Banana, Cardamom and Walnut 100% Spelt Loaf

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I have just made this as a belated birthday cake for my mum. It took 20 minutes to prepare and is spicy, soft and very moist from the bananas and dates. Walnuts give texture. Excitingly, it can be eaten by some for whom normal wheat is a problem. We will have it with a dollop of cool Greek yogurt like my friend Lily serves at her place, Café Viva on Choumert Road in Peckham. She makes the best banana bread I’ve had in London.

Ingredients:

185g wholemeal spelt flour

180g soft brown sugar

75g, soft unsalted butter

1 egg

1 heaped teaspoon, bicarbonate of soda

4 smallish, ripe bananas

8 dates, soaked in hot water for 15 minutes, chopped up

8 walnuts, chopped up

6 cardamom pods, husks removed and ground up in a pestle and mortar

1 teaspoon, ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon, vanilla extract

pinch of salt

How to make:

Pre-heat oven to 170 degrees celsius. Grease and line a medium sized loaf tin with baking paper.

Mash up bananas, mix well with sugar, butter, spices, vanilla extract, dates, the egg, the salt and the walnuts in a mixing bowl, using a wooden spoon. Sift in the flour and add in any wholemeal bits that get caught in the sieve. Mix thoroughly and spoon into the tin.

Bake for one hour. When a knife or skewer comes out of the cake clean, it is cooked.

Eat with:

Butter spread on it, or Greek yogurt and a dusting of cinnamon.

Stuffed Courgette Flowers with Warm Diced Courgette and Tomato

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In this summer I am spending in Suffolk as I finish my PhD, I’ve been looking forward to the moment when the vegetables that my dad and I have been tending, would be ready to eat. At the weekend there was a thrilling moment when I saw that the delicate, lilac aubergine flowers had come out. Tomatoes are ripening all the time and fresh, bright yellow courgette flowers appear every day. To that, there are bountiful and diverse herbs growing outside: mint, italian parsley, basil, lovage, thyme, marjoram, oregano, tarragon and more. This recipe is a lovely way to engage with many of these summer flavours. It was my first time making this and I was delighted with how little time it took, and how easy and effective it was.

I made up my own batter recipe after reading many different ones, and it produced a very light, crisp result. A deep fryer was not necessary; just having the oil hot and gently turning them worked very well and as ricotta does not melt, the cheese did not ooze out.

Ingredients

6-8 courgette flowers

150g ricotta

50g grated parmesan or crumbled salty goat’s cheese

a small bunch of fresh herbs: basil, chives and parsley, torn or cut small

Batter

200ml lager

2 heaped tablespoons, plain flour

1/2 tablespoon, cornflour

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda

pinch of salt

Sauce (optional)

1 small courgette, diced

2 ripe tomatoes, diced

1 smashed garlic clove

1 tablespoon, chopped parsley

How to make:

Mix the batter ingredients together with a whisk in a bowl and season with salt and put in the fridge.

Mix together the ricotta and herbs and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Remove the stamen from inside the courgette flowers and gently ease in as much of the ricotta mixture as you can into each one with a teaspoon, pushing it as far in as you can. They should be full but not overflowing.

Place a small frying pan or sauce pan on the heat with about 2 cm of sunflower oil in and put on a high heat

Remove the batter from the fridge, turn a stuffed courgette flower well in the batter. Check the oil is hot enough by dropping in a bit of batter - when it sizzles, gently lay the battered flower in, and turn every 30 seconds until it’s golden all over – remove to a warmed plate with some kitchen roll on. Continue until all are done.

– meanwhile – toss the tomato, garlic and courgette together with some olive oil and salt in another pan, for about 5 minutes until softened but not disintegrated. Then mix in parsley and season fully.Eaten with:

Serve the courgette flowers with a spoon of the tomato mix, and a small wedge of lemon.

Sweet-Sour Pepper and Aubergine

This is a simple and not overly sharp rendering of caponata that I made last night for Zoe and Sam. The slightly charred aubergine lends a smoky quality. Other dishes were rosemary and garlic lamb with runner beans, tomato and ricotta, and chicory salad, and Zoe (an old hand) and Sam (who I hadn’t cooked for before) seemed to take pleasure in eating them.

If I make it again I will remember to take a picture.

Ingredients

1 aubergine, sliced into 1/2 cm rounds

2 red peppers

1 green pepper

1 tablespoon of capers

juice 1/4 lemon

1 tablespoon, wine vinegar

olive oil

How to make:

Heat the oven to high. Rub the peppers whole in a small amount of oil and put in the oven. Cook until soft and the skin is fractured, then remove, set aside and peel when a bit cooler. Cut into chunks and remove the seeds. Place in a bowl.

- while they are cooking -

Toss the aubergine rounds in salt and olive oil, then fry over a high heat until slightly charred on each side and soft in the middle.

Halve the aubergine slices and mix with the peppers, capers, lemon juice and vinegar and seasoning of salt and pepper.

Eaten with:

Bread, two delicious wines brought by Sam and Zoe.

Aubergine and Minced Lamb with Cinnamon, with Cucumber and Dill Salad

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After a week of racing boats in Suffolk and an intensely brilliant weekend in London I was exhausted and sorted myself out by making this. It is an inexpensive way of cooking meat and was breeze to make. Henry and Fez, who ate it with me, cleaned the pan with bread despite having just eaten a great volume of chips, initially assuring me they would not need food – so I felt it was worth recording.

Ingredients:

250g lamb mince

1 aubergine, cut into 2cm cubes

1 courgette, cut into 2cm cubes

4 tomatoes, blanched and peeled (if you can be bothered) and chopped roughly

150g tinned tomato (around 1/2 can)

1 onion, finely sliced

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

300ml water

1 teaspoon, sugar

2 teaspoons, ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon, cumin seeds

a hefty pinch of chilli flakes (your heat preference)

1/2 lemon

Garnish ( if you want)

1/2 lemon

tablespoon  of chopped parsley

a bowl of natural yogurt

How to make:

In 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and over quite a high heat in a large, deep frying pan, seal the mince until browned then remove and set aside.

Add the onion to the same pan with 2 tablespoons of oil and cook for two minutes over a medium heat while stirring. Add the garlic and the spices and cook for a further 5 minutes until caramelisation is happening – the garlic and onions are browning, but not burning.

Add the aubergine and courgette and fry for 5 minutes, adding a little more oil if needed. Add the tomatoes, the tinned tomatoes, the sugar, a good pinch of salt and the mince. Cook for 1 hr 30minutes, uncovered on a low heat and just bubbling and add some more water if it gets too dry. It is done when the aubergine is very soft and the mixture is moist but not swimming in liquid. Taste and season well with salt and a bit of pepper. Squeeze some lemon in at the end for a touch of acidity.

Serve with more lemon, and some natural yogurt and parsley if you wish.

Cucumber Salad

1/2 cucumber, peeled and sliced finely

2 teaspoons of chopped dill

1/2 tablespoon of vinegar

1/2 tablespoon of olive oil

pinch of sugar

good punch of salt

How to make:

Mix everything together and arrange on a plate. Check it has your preferred seasoning and acidity and adjust if wished.

Eaten with:

Chopped gem lettuce salad, extra lemon and bread.

Hazelnut and Shropshire Blue Salad

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A few months ago I enjoyed a butter lettuce and hazelnut salad with house salad cream at Hoi Polloi in Shoreditch. This, made at home with lettuce picked from the garden is inspired by that one, but has a different dressing and the addition of Shropshire blue cheese, as I ate it for lunch, rather than as a side.

Ingredients

Some fresh, soft lettuce

a tablespoon of toasted hazelnuts

two tablespoons of crumbled blue cheese, such as Shropshire Blue

a few sliced spring onion tops

a few slices of cucumber

Dressing

1 teaspoon, creme fraiche

1 teaspoon English mustard

1 teaspoon of runny honey

a small squeeze of lemon juice

2 teaspoons, vinegar

1.5 tablespoons oil (rapeseed, olive or sunflower)

salt and pepper

How to make:

Arrange the salad ingredients on a plate. Mix the dressing together thoroughly and taste for seasoning. Drizzle the dressing over the top.

Tinned Tomatoes

A domestic blade is effective

in puncturing the metal,

and a drop of red

runs

over and out and down the

ridged side.

They had hung  

among rolls of green

that tumbled under the hottest star,

east from here:

Dotted across weak furry stems, wan blossoms

bloom, growing globes of

Chartreuse

that become

Vermillion. Bobbing fruits

greedily suck the

loamy dirt

of its liquid,

swelling more and more

and more until

it cannot be borne,

and

they must come off

either by force,

or a fall.

Before the indefinite move to

blacked-out,

airless and

sealed cylindrical confinement,

a calculated application of fierce heat ensures that

translucent,

blood-red

skin separates

from collapsing,

ripened flesh

and they are drowned

–  and presented

in their own juices.

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