Spring Menu for Five

I have rarely had a free evening to cook recently because I’ve been working and so when the occasion arose this week, I went mad for luxurious imported and British seasonal vegetables at the curiously named General Store in Peckham – there’s nothing general about it. 

I bought peas in pods imported from Italy (yes!), goat’s curd, wild garlic, a pale pink Georgia O’Keeffe variety of radicchio, regular radicchio…and some other things and made four light courses. The meal can be made with easier to find and less ruinous ingredients too, which I detail below. 

Menu

Podded peas, burnt leeks and lettuce, goat’s curd, wild garlic oil

Grilled radicchio, raw pink radicchio, hazelnuts, fresh orange, parmesan

– 

Spiced chickpeas and cod 

– 

Blood orange creme catalan

 

Dinner Schedule

In the morning, place 400g dried chickpeas in a large bowl of water to soak.

At 6pm or thereabouts (a couple of hours before eating) drain the chickpeas and place them in a large saucepan well covered with water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 2 hours or until tender. Add a good pinch of salt after 1.5 hours of cooking. Drain. 

At around 6.30pm | Blood orange creme catalan

This is a marginally modified recipe from Claudia Roden’s Food of Spain. Pre-heat oven to gas mark 2 or 150C. Squeeze oranges until you have 300ml of juice (I used a mix of blood and regular oranges). Place juice in a saucepan, add 65g of caster sugar to it and stir on a very low heat until dissolved and take off the heat. Separate 5 eggs and freeze the egg whites for another time. Add two whole eggs to the bowl of yolks and beat them together until they are well mixed. If the juice is too hot wait a bit or try to cool by transferring it to a different container – or it will scramble the eggs. When it’s luke warm, slowly pour the juice into the eggs while beating with a whisk. Then pour into six ramekins, little glass bowls or any small oven-safe containers you like. Place the bowls in a roasting tray and add some boiled water from the kettle, so that the water comes to halfway up the dishes. Place in the oven for 30-40 mins, depending on your oven and the size of dish you have. They are done when just set but still wobble a little in the middle but are not liquid. When cool, place in the fridge. 

7.45pm | Podded peas, burnt leeks and lettuce, goat’s curd, wild garlic oil (15 mins to make)

Turn a griddle or frying pan on high, with no oil. Cut a cleaned leek in half and then into one inch long pieces. Lightly oil the leek and season with salt and place on the griddle or in the dry pan. Turn when scorching on the side. Remove when soft and both sides are a little scorched. If you have some, do the same with some gem or round lettuce – the lettuce will take less time. In a pestle and mortar or a blender or a bowl, blitz together a handful of wild garlic leaves with 4 tablespoons of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Use frozen peas if you don’t have fresh ones, and if you don’t have wild garlic, crush one clove of garlic with salt and 3 tablespoons of olive oil, add some finely chopped parsley for green-ness of flavour and colour too if you wish. Pod the peas and toss with a squeeze of lemon, a little oil and some salt and pepper. 

On a large flat plate, place the leeks and lettuce on the plate, distribute the peas, spoon on blobs of goat’s curd (or some creme fraiche/thick yogurt mixed with a little soft goat’s cheese), and then finally spoon over some wild garlic oil. Just before serving toast some bread to have with it and rub bread with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt.

8.15 ish | Grilled radicchio, raw pink radicchio, hazelnuts, fresh orange, parmesan (5-10 mins to assemble)

This would also be good with a mix of cooked and raw chicory. Heat up the griddle pan / any frying pan. Cut the head of regular radicchio into half, half again and half again, keeping the stem bit at the bottom in tact (though cut away any brown bits). Rub with a bit of oil and salt. Place on the griddle pan, turned onto a medium heat. Sit down and eat the first course of peas! 

Check the radicchio, when it’s slightly charred and soft-ish in the middle, take off the heat.Rinse the large plate from the first course, and place the radicchio on it, along with the pale pink radicchio if you have it. Cut off the top of an orange, slice downwards to reveal the orange flesh, removing all pith, then cut into segments to take out the segments, pith free! Place them on the plate, add on a handful of toasted hazelnuts. Squeeze lemon juice, a tablespoon or two of olive oil and salt and pepper over then toss. Top with some grated parmesan. Sit down and eat the second course.

9pm | Spiced chickpeas and cod  (5 mins to prep, 10 mins in oven)

You can also use tinned chickpeas of course. Cut up two pieces of cod loin into 1 inch chunks. In a frying pan or terracotta dish heat up 4 tablespoons of olive oil or sunflower oil on a low heat, add in a tablespoon of tomato paste, 2 teaspoons of coriander seeds, 2 teaspoons of turkish red pepper flakes (biber) and one clove of garlic, crushed up. Fry and stir for a minute. Remove a spoon of the mixtures and toss the cod in it in a bowl. Add the chickpeas to the oil mixture in the pan and stir well. Add a hefty pinch or two of of salt. Nestle the fish in the chickpeas and put in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until the fish is just cooked. To serve, fry one garlic clove, finely sliced and a sliced red chilli or chilli flakes in a little olive oil and spoon over the cooked fish. Check seasoning and add a little extra salt if needed. If you wish, add some blanched kale or spinach to the dish before serving. Serve with a wedge of lemon. Sit and eat this!

9.30 | Blood orange creme catalan

Remove from the fridge and eat!

 

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