Sunday, 24 June 2012

Lemon and fresh basil linguine with Belper Knolle

Ever since before we bought a house and moved into it, one of my "not exactly requirements but sort of on the back of my mind" was to have a big windowsill where I could put herb pots to grow. You see the previous house had absolutely none of that, the kitchen window (being the most appropriate one) was very low, reaching behind the cupboards (which means it pretty much took a body-builder to open it!) and had no sill, and in the other rooms the windowsills (if any) were 4cm wide. Not even enough space for one of those tiny cactus pots...

So finally, when we bought our house, and although that was not a deal-breaker, I was happy to notice a VERY big and wide windowsill in the kitchen, tiled as well (extra useful if you spill water over the plants and the wall, like I do!) and I set about finally buying and planting my herbs. I had a sad-looking deadling of a basil, which when taken out of his miniscule pot grew to extremes, and also some rosemary, thyme and mint joined him soon after. And I got them pretty red pots too, as I wanted a black, white and red theme for the new kitchen.

I, of course, wanted the herbs more for eating, rather than decoration, so I thought I would soon deplete them, but they have been growing so fast and well that I keep having to dig out recipes that require lots of them to use them up, as I hate cutting off bits and throwing them away just to keep them healthy.

Being Greek I love basil, and the way it makes a whole room smell when you "rub its head" affectionately (yes, you'll see most people, grannies and children alike, in Greece "caressing" basil when they pass by it to release the scent and enjoy it!) and lemons are also so deeply ingrained in my culture that if something's edible, you'll find a Greek squeezing lemon juice on top of it, from bread to meat/fish/vegetables, to olive oil (to make a dressing), to fried potatoes, absolutely anything.

This pasta caters to two needs, firstly my basil's "coiffure" and secondly my love for lemony things. Since the other half is not that keen on lemon, while he's away for a long trip to the US between jobs I took advantage and made this one-pot wonder quite a few times, it's so simple and quick, and even vegetarian (knowing me, that's shocking!). Try it, with some ground Belper Knolle on top (a very nice parmesan-ish kind of Swiss cheese wrapped in a layer of pepper, I discovered it one day in a Swiss cheese stall in the Borough Market), or even some za'atar sprinkled in the sauce, and you will not be disappointed. Plus you might have to get a basil plant and slaughter it frequently, to satisfy your need for more of this pasta!

Lemon and fresh basil linguine with Belper Knolle
Source: Adapted from NOMU

Serves 2

  • 200g linguine (preferably fresh)
  • 125ml cream
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 25g grated parmesan
  • A few pinches of za'atar
  • A big handful of fresh basil leaves, roughly torn by hand
  • Grated Belper Knolle (or parmesan and black pepper)

Boil the linguine until al dente. Drain but keep a couple of spoonfuls of the water in the pot, and return the pasta to it. Pour in the cream, lemon zest and juice, parmesan, za'atar and basil, and mix well on gentle heat until the cheese is melted.

Put in a bowl or plate, grate some Belper Knolle on top and enjoy!

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Mixed nut, dried fruit, coconut and chocolate granola

Ah... something healthy finally. It's been a couple of months since I've been feeling like I've been eating quite badly, and a recent "your body fat percentage has increased by 5% in the last two years" in my health check report didn’t help in appeasing the evil spirits in my head, so I decided to stop my usual easy-access morning cereal (mainly chocolate based ones, I hate cereal so I have to make it somehow more appealing, although with the things you read on the packs, even the healthiest-looking ones have tons of sugar and salt in them) and start making my own again.

When I first arrived in London back in 2006, I remember I was making every couple of weeks my favourite muesli (I wrongly called it that, as I realise now it's baked, so the right name is granola!) but I hadn't made any in years, and it's something that I really used to love, it's healthy, has no sugar or salt, and kept me going for quite a while in the mornings.

Lately I've been feeling quite heavy and slow, it's not just food-related, but also the nasty weather (with a break of 2 weeks of sun) we've been having, which makes you want to curl up next to the radiator, and eat lots of crappy things, and the fact that my country, Greece, is getting slowly destroyed to the last bit. Depressing news always abounded about it, but now they're everywhere I look, in every newspaper cover when I go to the office kitchen to have my lunch, in every internet news site, and even in all my friends' facebook walls... So it's not that difficult to get down with all of that, and the potential doom and gloom of not having a summer at all for the next 3 months...

To give myself a boost, I decided to buy some ingredients and start making this granola again, at least this way I would feel a bit less guilty about eating rubbish for breakfast, and maybe it would help lift my spirits a bit as well. I always use Greek honey, firstly to try and support my country (we export so little...), and secondly because I love its more intense, almost treacly taste. In Greece you can get thyme honey, which is even better, if you manage to spot some in a deli in the UK, or if you travel to Greece, buy some and you'll remember me. Thyme honey aside, this granola is very simple, quick to make, and keeps very well in a sealed jar/box/tupperware – that is if you don't devour it in the first few days (and need to make more!)

Mixed nut, dried fruit, coconut and chocolate granola
Source: Inspired by a Rowse honey recipe

Serves 2

  • 250g jumbo oats
  • 100g mixed hazelnuts, almonds, cashews (or other nuts of your choice)
  • 50g coconut chips
  • 100g butter (melted)
  • 100ml Greek thyme honey
  • 50g mixed dried fruit & raisins
  • Two handfuls of chocolate drops

Line a big deep tray with greaseproof paper (I use a turkey baking tin). Mix all the ingredients together, apart from the dried fruit and chocolate, and place in the tray.

Bake in a preheated oven at 160°C for 20-25 minutes until golden, stirring every 5-10 minutes to make sure nothing burns and the honey doesn't all get stuck in one place.

Take out of the oven and leave to cool completely. Add the mixed dried fruit and chocolate drops, mix again, and place in a jar or plastic container with a tight lid. This will keep for about a month, in room temperature. 
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