Because it’s always a good time to talk food, let’s have a little natter. For me, as soon as the season changes, which would be now, I can feel my tastes changing. While I will never say no to a rib-sticking slow cooked stew or hot curry, when it gets warmer I want light, quick, easy food. That’s not to say light as in low-calorie (heaven forbid) but just fresher, less cooking time, basic ingredients, less fuss. My repertoire usually includes a no-cook pasta (sort of), some sort of light meat or seafood (I’m not a fish fan but love mussels and prawns), a salad you can make a meal of and a thrown together dessert that requires minimal assembly and elbow work. These are not technically recipes, more rough-and-ready ideas for meals, but they are amongst my favourite things to cook, are ludicrously simple but really tasty and satisfying. * Forgive me for not giving precise measurements, I tend to just throw when I’m cooking and as for quantity, I’m so greedy so always err on the side of more is more.
Fresh Tomato Pasta
* Two to four punnets of fresh tomatoes (Rosa, Cherry, Mixed Exotic) or six to ten large whole tomatoes (try to make sure they’re ripe and full of flavour)
* One or two garlic cloves, peeled (only use two if you’re using a lot of tomatoes and making a big dish for lots of people as you won’t be cooking it, so it’s quite pungent)
* One small lemon
* One or two chillies, seeded or deseeded depending on your preference
* Parmesan or hard Italian cheese
* Olive oil
* Coarse Salt
* Pasta (spaghetti or linguine)
* Optional fresh basil leaves
Boil your pasta and while it’s cooking, roughly chop the tomatoes, grate the garlic, chop the chillies and throw everything into a big bowl. Pour over a few glugs of olive oil, one squeeze of the lemon, some salt to taste. Your pasta should be done by now. Keep aside just less than one cup of the cooking water and drain the pasta. Throw the drained pasta on top of the tomato mixture and mix through. Then pour on some of the cooking water; don’t use all of it at once but bit by bit. You want a bit of a sauce to form but not to drench the pasta/tomato mix. Add a little more olive oil, salt to taste if needed, and grate a generous amount of the cheese. A few basil leaves are tasty and look pretty, but really not necessary.
Greek-Ish Thyme & Oreganum Lamb Chops
* Twelve lamb chops (I prefer loin or rib but really any kind is fine as you’re going to marinade them for a short time)
* Four cloves of garlic, sliced
* Olive oil
* Zest and juice of a large lemon
* Fresh thyme
* Dried (or fresh) oreganum
* Coarse salt and black pepper
Put the chops in a Ziplock bag and smash them with the back of a wooden spoon to tenderise. Put another Ziplock bag around the first Ziplock (to avoid leakage incase there are any small tears). Now to marinade the chops. Inside the bag with the chops, put your garlic, around four generous glugs of olive oil, the zest and juice of the lemon, a generous handful of fresh thyme (dried is fine too, about a tablespoon or two), a tablespoon of dried oreganum or a handful of fresh sticks, a generous teaspoon of coarse salt and grind of black pepper. Now seal up the bag and leave at room temperature for about twenty minutes (longer is fine too, but we’re talking quick meals here). Heat your pan (or the grill) and add a glug of olive oil (if cooking in the pan). Cook them for around three minutes on the first side, then turn and cook for another two minutes on the other side so they’re pink and juicy but nicely browned on the outside, especially the fat. Towards the end, tip all the lovely marinade into the pan or over the chops on the grill until the garlic is just browned. If you’re cooking in a pan and not on the braai, tip in a tiny bit of hot water so a sort-of sauce begins to form. Yum. Serve with a green salad or fresh green beans, just blanched.
TIP I sometimes add a teaspoon of dried chilli flakes and around ten pipless black olives, roughly chopped, to put an Italian spin on the dish.
My Cheat’s Eaton Mess
* Two or three punnets of strawberries
* A punnet of raspberries (optional)
* Two or three bags of plain meringues (I get mine down the road at Melissa’s; sometimes if I’m trying to show off for guests I opt for their Amaretti version)
* Two punnets of double thick cream (250ml each)
* Brown or Demerara sugar (optional)
Slice the strawberries and put into a bowl to stand. In a serving bowl, crush the meringues by hand, crumbling them into biggish and medium chunks. Spoon over the cream and gently mix it through. Add the strawberries and gently mix these through. Scatter the raspberries on top. If you want some sweet crunch, sprinkle a tablespoon of brown or Demerara sugar over the top.
TIP This is a great dessert to take over to friends if you’ve offered to take care of the sweets as it’s easy to transport everything as is and just cut and crush and assemble when you get there. It shouldn’t be made too far in advance anyway.