Category Archives: Quick

Broad Bean Paté

Oh, we are so remiss in posting here! But I just made up a little recipe I had to share…

I was pretty excited to see a new little grass roots ‘hippy’ food shop, Locavore, open directly across the street from me. After living in Oregon for 10 years, one of the (few) things I’ve missed in the UK was the availability of fresh, local – and affordable – farm produce and meat. I mean, of course it is here, but it is often rather spendy, and the whole local/slow food thing has really only caught on in the more ‘twee’ classes.

In any case, this shop is tiny, but they get a regular supply of things grown locally (including my actual neighbourhood – they’ve been working with the community to build urban gardens). But in addition, they sell wonderful Scottish products like rapeseed oil, oatcakes, highland cheeses, farm-fresh eggs, and perhaps my favourite, delicious local pork and beef sausages, and lamb.

They have also recently started a veg subscription service, another thing I used to partake of in the Pacific NW. For just £5, I get a wee bag of fresh veg every Friday. This is my second week, and I barely dipped into last weeks. Here is the haul from this week – check out the size of the courgette!

That pork & apple sausage snuck into the picture too, jealous? £5 for all that!

I have about double the amount of those massive broad beans adding in last week’s bag, so I decided I might turn them into a hummus-like paté – what a good idea that was! It was very easy too, so here is my narrative-style recipe, as usual without solid measurements:

I split open the pods, then blanched the beans in boiling water for about 5 minutes – it yielded about 2 cups. Rinsed them in cool water, then through them in my food processor with a few leaves from the basil plant I’ve managed to not murder, a heaping teaspoon dijon mustard, the juice of half a lemon, and two big pinches of sea salt.

I pulsed this a bit, then I poured in some garlic flavoured cold-pressed rapeseed oil I got at the shop. It is really nice and rather potent, but if I didn’t have this I would simply use fresh garlic (probably 2 cloves) and olive oil. So the next bit is a process of blending, scraping, and drizzling in oil until you get a nice creamy consistency as you like. Because that rapeseed oil is very garlicky, I switched to olive oil after about 2 tablespoons. In all I think it has about 4ish tbs of oil.

When it was as I liked, I scooped it into a bowl and added a bit more salt, pepper, lemon and a drizzle of olive oil, and mixed it in. How you eat it is up to you, it would be lovely with pita, crudite, tortilla chips… but I spread mine on some lovely fresh walnut bread I had, toasted just to warm.

And oh, hey, look at me, this recipe is VEGAN. Crazy. And it is every bit as good as it looks!



Filed under Difficulty - Dishwasher Easy, Mediterranean, Quick, Summer, Vegan, Vegetarian

Simple Things II: Pan-Seared Tuna

I feel quite certain that Rowan and I are not alone in having busy evenings which are not at all conducive to making meals requiring more than 30 minutes to prepare.  Does this mean that our food should [always] be pre-packaged or pre-prepared?  No indeed!

What I share with you now is a favorite preparation of fresh yellowfin tuna.  Freshness is the first key to gastronomic success in all cases, but most especially when working with seafood.

Let’s start with the fish.  Selecting your tuna (or any other type of fish for that matter) steak or fillet:

Look for vibrant flesh. All fish fade as they age.  Should you select a cut with skin remaining, look for shiny, metallic skin.

Smell it. The smell test is especially important with fillets. They should have no pungent aromas.

Is there liquid on the meat? If so, that liquid should be clear, not milky. Milky liquid on a fillet is indicative of decay.

If the fishmonger lets you, press the meat with your finger. It should be resilient enough so your indentation disappears. If your fingerprint remains, move on.


  • Tuna steaks
  • black sesame seeds
  • mustard seeds (either brown or white)
  • cracked black pepper
  • dried tomatoes, finely chopped
  • kosher salt
  • fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • garlic
  • NOTE – Do experiment with spices that make you happy.  I generally vary the spices each time I prepare this dish.


  • rinse fish lightly in cold water and pat dry
  • combine mustard seeds, pepper, garlic, and finely chopped tomatoes & cilantro
  • rim the outer edges of the tuna with the spice combination
  • place a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat; the pan is ready for the oil when a hand hovering over the pan (about 1 or 2 inches) feels warm
  • add the black sesame seeds to one side of the steak along with the kosher salt
  • place enough olive oil in the pan to coat it and allow to heat;  your pan is ready for your fish when a hand hover over the pan feels so hot that it is uncomfortable.  Note: Be mindful of olive oil’s low smoking point. You will want to watch the pan carefully once the oil is placed.

Place fish with sesame seeds down in the hot pan.  WATCH closely!  The goal is to sear the tuna without cooking through.  As it cooks you will see the pink flesh begin to turn brown.

    Once you have achieved the searing level you desire, turn the fish and sear the other side briefly.  Ensure that a line of pink remains visible to you on the side in order to achieve a nice rare-medium rare preparation.

      Last night, I served the tuna with a long grain brown rice, some cilantro puree, and a simple arugula salad (lightly dressed with D.O.P Monti Iblei olive oil and celtic fleur de sel)

      As Shaker Elder Joseph Brackett might have said of this meal:

      Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free,

      ‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
      And when we find ourselves in the place just right,

      ‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
      When true simplicity is gain’d,

      To bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d,
      To turn, turn will be our delight,

      Till by turning, turning we come round right.

      Cail Bruich!



      Filed under Quick, Seafood

      Simple Things: Pasta with Spinach, Bacon & Sun-dried Tomatoes

      In my younger days, I used to go through a lot of effort to make perfect pasta sauces… long-simmering marinaras, or alfredos that were quietly and slowly heated to perfection. And while those are still worthy chores, in my harried existence now, I much prefer fast and fresh. Most of my pasta dishes now are of the ‘toss together’ variety – pick a few ingredients, boil the pasta, toss it all together.

      And ingredients are in fact key. I know I am not alone in feeling the economic crunch these days. But I find if I ‘invest’ in a few really nice ingredients here and there, it goes a long way to making me feel like things aren’t quite so dire. For example, spending an extra £/$ or two on a lovely flavoured Dijon that I can then use to season my sauces and salads is for me a worthwhile expenditure. And as a condiment, it goes a lot further than splurging on a dinner out, or even a really choice cut of steak (Alas!).

      So, with that! I popped in the lovely little deli on my street, and picked up some nice imported pasta (egg pappardale) and a little wedge of parmigiana to make with some things I already had: sun-dried tomatoes, capers, good olive oil… and everyone’s favourite: bacon!  Oh, and spinach.  You know, to be healthy.

      Step 1: Cut up some bacon (I used 3 strips of back bacon) and cook in a non-stick skillet over medium-high until starting to brown.

      Step 2: Toss a whole big bag of spinach in on top, cover, and wait a couple minutes for it to wilt.


      Step 3: Uncover, stir, add a dash of olive oil, the tomatoes (and their oil!), a tablespoon or so of capers, stir... cover and remove from heat.

      Meanwhile… boil the pasta of your choice – Al Dente, always!!

      Pasta done? Toss in a nice big bowl (see top pic), drizzle with olive oil, top with the yummy mixture. TOSS! Add fresh grated parmigiana. TOSS!  “Plate up”, top with a bit more cheese, then serve with a bottle of San Pellegrino, a vanilla scented candle, and two 19th century volumes of Dante!

      Bon appétit!


      PS – I should say that you should obviously mix this one up however; not everyone likes capers (I love ’em!) and the tomatoes and bacon are perhaps salty enough. I’ve also been known to make this with baby roma or grape tomatoes, sliced in half and cooked in some olive oil and garlic with the capers tossed in at the end; then with slices of prosciutto torn up (not cooked) and tossed into the pasta.

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      Filed under Bacon!!!, Difficulty - Dishwasher Easy, Dinner, Italian, Mediterranean, Quick