Lychee, Mandarin, and Fresh Mint Fruit Salad

A fragrant salad made with perfumed lychees and zingy citrus.  Fresh lychees are best but if you have a can of  lychees gathering dust in the cupboard, this is the way to use them.

8                      Mandarins or fragrant citrus fruit

1lb or 2 tins     Fresh Lychees peeled or canned in syrup, drained, reserve the syrup

30g pack        Fresh mint leaves ( a generous handful) chopped

I                       lime

  1. First peel the mandarins. Then separate the segments and remove any fibrous strand of pith that may be hanging onto the segments.  Put the segments in a serving bowl and set aside.
  1. Peel and de-seed your lychees or  Open the lychee tins. Place a sieve over another bowl and drain the fruit from the syrup. Reserve the syrup.

3.  Add the fresh or drained lychees to the mandarin segments in the serving bowl.

  1. Drizzle a little honey or the drained syrup over the mandarin segments and lychees.
  1. Cut your lime in half. Squeeze one half over the fruit with your hands.

6. De-stem the mint and roughly tearthe leaves. Add to the salad and serve.

English: Litchi chinensis. Français : Litchi c...

English: Litchi chinensis. Français : Litchi chinensis. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Tandoori Chicken Barbecue English Stylee

DSC_0043_4When I say Tandoori, what I mean is ‘English styleee tandoori’ i.e. spiced red chicken that is never going to see even a whiff of a tandoor oven. However, I don’t know many people who’d refuse a skewer of my, two day marinated, lime infused tandoori chicken and our kids just love it.

This is my family recipe and it includes, oh horror, red food colouring! Tandoori chicken is just not as fun without it.  The key to this dish is to marinate the chicken for two whole days, no less, or the flavours will be unable to reach their peak of perfection.

We like to eat it wrapped in flat bread which I make on the Aga.

I inherited an Aga with the house and after eight years I still find it the most infuriating and annoying piece of kitchen equipment known to man.DSC_0042_2_2

How people can wax lyrical over such an imprecise and temperamental fusty old hunk of iron is beyond my comprehension but it makes bloody good flat bread. Rise some dough, roll it out, slap it on the hotplate and voila – great bread.  A tomato and marjarom salsa and a crisp salad finishes this off, with a dressing made from herbs from the garden.DSC_0028_2_3

1 kilo/2lbs             chicken breast, cut into strips

1                            juicy lemon

1/2                        medium onion, peeled & quartered

3 cloves                garlic, peeled

3-5cm                   fresh ginger, peeled & quartered

1/2tsp                    turmeric

500g                       plain Greek yoghurt

3 tsp                garam masala, my mix –

  • 1/2tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2tsp ground fenugreek
  • 1/2tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1/2tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2tsp salt
  • 1 blade mace
  • a grind of nutmeg

1tsp                 red food colouring

8                      Wedges of lime

Cut the chicken breast into strips.

Squeeze the lemon and mix with the masala spices. Pour over the chicken, making sure every piece is coated.

Now chop the onion, garlic and ginger and pound to a paste with a pestle and mortar or use a food processor. Add the turmeric and Greek yoghurt. Now add the spiced chicken and mix well. Leave to marinate in the fridge for 48 hours.

When ready, thread the chicken pieces onto barbecue skewers. I like to pierce each piece of chicken twice so that the strip forms a C shape on the skewer, I then push it down and thread another. Place on the barbecue and cook through, turning frequently. Remove from the heat and finish them off with a squeeze of fresh lime or lemon.

Serve with tomato salsa, chopped chilli, crisp salad and flat bread.DSC_0050_2

Green Goddess Dressing

5 tbsp             Home made or Hellmann’s mayonnaise

3                      spring onions, chopped finely

5 tbsp              flat leaf parsleychopped finely

2 tbsp              chives, chopped finely

2 tbsp              herbs from the garden, chopped finely

2 tbsp              red wine vinegar

1                      anchovy filled (oil packed) chopped finely

Black pepper a pinch of Maldon sea salt

Shake everything together in a jar and pour over crisp salad.

English: Cooking bread in Tandoor.

English: Cooking bread in Tandoor. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Summer dips – beetroot and aubergine/ eggplant

Here are two of my favourite dips to make with Greek yoghurt on a summers day. The beetroot dip was shown to me by a Russian, it contains a hefty amount of raw garlic for such a small dish but he insisted this was how it was made in Georgia. The garlic fest. adds a hot tang to the earthy flavour of the beets, yum.

The aubergine dip is traditionally made by searing a plump, fresh aubergine over flame to give it a smoky flavour. When made like this (rather than in a conventional oven) I would not add the Greek yoghurt but leave the vegetable to star. This has always been known in our household as “poor man’s caviar.”

CDC beets

CDC beets (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Beetroot Dip

4                         medium beets, stalks and root    removed, scrubbed thoroughly

6 large                garlic cloves, peeled and chopped finely

6 heaped tbsp   Greek yoghurt

1/2tsp                  salt or to your taste

sprinkle of           paprika

Steam the beetroot for about 30-40mins or until soft enough for a knife to cut through with ease. On no account boil them or you will lose the fabulous colour. Mash the beets or use a food processor, mix in the other ingredients and serve with tortilla chips.

Aubergine dip

1                        large aubergine/egg plant

1                        lemon , juice of

3 tbsp heaped  Greek yoghurt

2 tbsp                chopped flat leaf-parsley or mint leaves

salt                     to taste

Prick the aubergine with a fork and bake in a fairly hot oven for about an hour until the skin is crisp, or better still barbecue it and scorch the skin.

Scoop out the soft flesh, chop with a knife then mash with a potato masher. Squeeze in the lemon juice, stir in the yoghurt. Add the chopped herbs and serve. Excellent on toast or eaten with crisp flat bread.

Lao Marinated Barbecued Chicken

I’m moving – follow my new Lao Food site


I’m moving – follow my new Lao Food site

In Laos these marinated chicken pieces are flattened between split bamboo sticks and barbecued on a wood fire. This tasty salty-lemony-sweet treat is a particular favourite at festivals as the sticks make it easy to devour the smoky chicken on the trot. This is a real winner if you allow it to marinate for long enough and you will eat every morsel from the bones.

6 chicken breasts with bone and skin attached, or better still, 6 poussin, flattened spatchcock style

4 tablespoons of paa dek water or fish sauce if desperate

4 teaspoons of sugar

1 tablespoon of vegetable oil

4 large cloves of garlic, peeled

3 stalks of lemon grass, sliced finely

1 birdseye chilli (optional)

4 tablespoons of light soy sauce

  1. Place the chicken pieces on a board and cut three slashes of 1cm deep into each chicken breast with a sharp knife. Place them in a wide bowl. Wash your hands.
  2. Take a small bowl and mix the sugar into the fish sauce by stirring vigorously to dissolve the sugar.
  3. Peel the garlic, slice the lemongrass and (if using, slice the chilli in quarters and wash your hands afterwards or beware the consequences when you touch your mouth or eyes).
  4. Take a pestle and mortar and place the garlic, lemongrass and chilli in the bowl.
  5. Pound the mixture for about five minutes until it makes a rough paste, (add a little more fish sauce/sugar if it is too dry to pound).
  6. Add the fish/sugar liquid and the oil.
  7. Pour the mixture over the chicken and rub all over the pieces, getting into every crevice. Wash your hands and leave to marinate for 24-48 hours in the fridge.
  8. Meanwhile put the light soy sauce, into another wide bowl.  When ready to barbeque, place the chicken in the soy sauce and slop it around in the soy.
  9. Barbecue until juices run clear, turning regularly. Check often to avoid burning.  The result is extremely tasty. Serve one poussin/breast per guest with sticky rice, chilli jaew and soup pak greens.

Baby Slow Worm

We found a beautiful baby slow worm today as we cleared around our apple trees.

Our daughter picked it up carefully.

Despite looking like snakes, slow worms are legless lizards that give birth to live young.

It wrapped itself around her warm fingers.

To become a live ring.  It felt so content that it closed its eyes and began to snooze.

We let it go.  They can live as long as twenty years.

Anguis fragilis Linnaeus, 1758 English: Slow-w...

Anguis fragilis Linnaeus, 1758 English: Slow-worm close to Nismes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wild Garlic Flower Tempura

DSC_0026_5Wild garlic, also called ramsons or wood garlic, form fragrant spring carpets in woodland areas. We picked bagfuls yesterday and then made a feast of garlic flower fritters followed by garlic pesto pasta. They are easy to find, just follow the smell of garlic in the air and look for their shiny ovate leaves and white balls of little star-shaped flowers.


Wild Garlic Flower Tempura

The plant is related to chives, and the leaves are much milder than bulb garlic and can be eaten raw. The flowers are also edible and have a peppery flavour.  For these fritters, I like to enrich my batter with a bit of coconut milk but you can make the batter without it.  Wild garlic has a short season, so we like to make the most of them. I’ve listed more ways to use them below this recipe.

Tempura paste  

150g plain flour

100ml coconut milk (use water if you prefer)

100ml ice cold water

1 egg

1 tsp salt

a dash of soy sauce

Heat vegetable oil in a wok or deep pan to sizzling hot while you mix the batter.

Just before serving, beat the egg thoroughly in a bowl, add the coconut milk and the iced water and sift in the flour, salt and soy. Stir gently, then dip the flower heads one or two at a time into the batter.  Shake off excess batter.

Wear rubber gloves or an oven glove, hold the end of the stem and dip the flower head in the hot oil (being careful 180C!) until lightly browned. Remove to a paper towel to drain for a moment. Then place on a platter and serve with dipping bowls of soy, sweet chilli sauce or garlic mayo.

Wild Garlic pasta pesto

Wild Garlic pasta pesto

Seasonal and delicious, here are some other ideas on how to eat wild garlic:

Pesto – Whizz the leaves with pine nuts, grated Parmesan and olive oil to make pesto. Or add pancetta, egg  to make  a variation of wild garlic carbonara.

Rice – Wild garlic risotto

Mash – Chop the leaves and mix them into mashed potato.

Fish – Wrap the leaves around fillets of buttered trout and bake gently in the oven. They also work well with smoked fish.

Mayo – Chop the leaves into sour cream or fresh mayonnaise and use as a dip

Salad – Use whole leaves in salads and decorate with the flowers.

Sandwiches – Add the leaves to cheese or ham and mustard sandwiches.

Soup – Wild Garlic and potato soup.

Spinach – steam with spinach they can be a bit watery steamed alone.

Puree – puree with oil and use as a drizzle or dressing.

Scrambled eggs – chopped into creamy scrambled eggs, divine.

Butter – flavour butter with chopped leaves.

Frittata – one of the best

Hummus – tahini, chickpeas, wild garlic


Keep a jar of lovely green pesto in the fridge to extend the season

Cream cheese – chop into cream cheese, reform and wrap the cheese in the leaves. Slice.

Bluebells and wild garlic

Bluebells and wild garlic (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The origins of many place names such as Ramsey Common, Ramsdale and Ramsbottom are derived from this old English word, Ramson and were named for their abundant growth of wild garlic.  It’s a sign of our times  that so many are now covered in concrete.