Appetizers

Spinach & Feta Muffins 1024 1024 gastronome

Spinach & Feta Muffins

I have been making these muffins for as long as I can remember. Back in those chilly days on the market stall, customers used to reserve them by the bag full, to save being disappointed in case I’d sold out!

They are so moreish, you’ll wonder why you’ve never tried one before, and yet they’re so simple and quick to make, perfect for making with children when home-schooling is getting a little tired!

I’ve made these in a normal muffin tin, but over Christmas we enjoyed them in mini form, as they make perfect mini canapes. To do this use a mini muffin tin without liners, but make sure to give the tin a little wipe, spray of oil to prevent sticking.

These muffins also freeze brilliantly. Simply defrost for a few hours, then pop in the oven or microwave to warm through.

Mediterranean Tart

Recipe by Gemma SimmoniteCourse: AppetizersDifficulty: Medium
Servings

8

– 10 servings

Ingredients

  • 255g plain flour

  • 3tsp baking powder

  • ½ tsp salt

  • 90g grated cheddar cheese (leave a little for topping)

  • 150g feta cheese, cut into rough cubes (leave a little for topping)

  • 200g frozen spinach, defrosted and fully squeezed so no water remains, then chopped

  • 1 egg

  • 240ml milk

  • 90ml vegetable oil

Directions

  • Preheat your oven to 200C/400F and prepare your muffin tin with paper liners.
  • In a large bowl sift together the plain flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in the grated cheddar cheese, remembering to reserve a little for topping.
  • In a large jug beat the egg with the vegetable oil and the milk, then add the chopped spinach to the jug also.
  • Pour the wet ingredients from the jug into the dry ingredients in the bowl and combine lightly – you want the batter to be nice and lumpy, but no bits of dried flour. Just before you are finished stirring carefully add the feta and remember to reserve a little for topping.
  • Spoon the mix into the papers, be quite generous. Sprinkle with the remaining cheddar and stud with feta cheese.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes until the tops are golden, the feta will be deliciously catching and caramelising on the edges.
  • Allow to cool a little (if you can wait) and enjoy slightly warm, but they are delicious cold, too!

Notes

  • These muffins also freeze brilliantly. Simply defrost for a few hours, then pop in the oven or microwave to warm through.
Super Bowl Nachos Recipe
Super Bowl Nachos 705 1024 gastronome

Super Bowl Nachos

This year’s Superbowl may not feel like it usually does, but that’s no reason to not go for it with super bowl snacks, in fact if anything it’s MORE of a reason! As always with my recipes if you don’t like an ingredient switch it out! I really love our Gastrono-me house beef chilli dolloped onto these nachos, or if you’re a refried bean freak – go on add ‘em! I like to use a lipped sheet pan for our family nachos, it allows everyone to get a good angle to grab, and nice and easy for warming in the oven.

Go Chiefs!!!

Super Bowl Nachos

Recipe by Gemma SimmoniteCourse: Starter, SnacksDifficulty: Easy

Ingredients

  • 200g plain Tortilla chips

  • A bag of shredded mozzarella and cheddar

  • A handful of drained sweetcorn

  • A handful of drained black beans

  • Salsa (the jar variety)

  • Pico de Gallo (see recipe below)

  • Guacamole

  • A handful of Jalapenos

  • A handful of stoned sliced black olives

  • Crumbled feta cheese, this is a great substitute for Mexican Cotija cheese

  • Diced avocado

  • 2 x spring onions sliced

  • Fresh coriander

  • A pot of sour cream

  • Pico De Gallo Recipe
  • 2 tomatoes flesh removed and diced

  • 1 green chill diced, I like the seeds in for heat, but you can remove if wished

  • 1 red onion diced

  • A small handful of fresh coriander chopped

  • A sprinkling of chilli flakes

  • 1-2 clove of garlic chopped

  • Juice of 1 lime

  • A splash of olive oil

  • Combine all ingredients together and chill until needed.

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 175c/350f.
  • Get all your ingredients lined up, this makes for easy layering and makes sure that you don’t leave anything out!
  • Tip a first layer of chips into the tin, then start layering the shredded mozzarella and cheddar, the black beans, olives, jalapenos, sweetcorn, salsa, Pico de Gallo and guacamole.
  • Then add another layer of chips on top and repeat with the same ingredients, but this time finishing with a sprinkling of the crumbled feta.
  • Pop in the oven for 6-8 minutes to allow the cheese to melt.
  • To finish, top with the diced avocado, chopped spring onions, more coriander if desired and dollop over the all-important sour cream.

Notes

  • As always with my recipes if you don’t like an ingredient switch it out!
Bloody Hell Mary
Bloody Hell Mary 748 1024 gastronome

Bloody Hell Mary

Bloody 2020, bloody Corona, bloody tiers, bloody hell!

Normally January starts off the year by ringing its moral bell and every magazine article, online recipe, food supplement you glance at all take you in the same direction; ‘a new you’, ‘a new regime’, ‘it’s health kick time’. But I simply can’t bring myself to do it, and is it any bloody wonder?

I am left with a strong feeling of wanting more. More fun, more company of friends and family, more time in restaurants and pubs, more live theatre and music, more travel, and more kindness (always more kindness). That awful year we all waded through was literally crammed full of misery. The balls up of Brexit, the ever long saga of Trump; will he, won’t he go (thank god he did)? The very real horror we all witnessed of suffocating racism on an ordinary street that happened to an ordinary man by the powers that were invented to protect and not to murder. And of course, this devastating ever present pandemic. Who could have predicted last January that by the end of the year well over a million people would’ve died from this cruel and divisive disease? That national lockdowns, mask wearing, antibac, furlough, and zoom meetings would be part of our new vernacular and lives?

So forgive me if I don’t want to make resolutions, or that I don’t want to start a diet at the dawn of 2021. I’m simply not ready to say goodbye to comfort food, sparkly lights, and festivity, even if it was an alternate festivity for most.

I feel a bit like a grumpy, overtired toddler. I feel like yelling and pummelling the ground with uncontrollable sobs of “I want my year back!” “I want to open my restaurant again” “I want to browse in a shop without getting hot and bothered in a mask”, “I want to squeeze my mother-in-law tightly” “I want to visit family and friends in other cities” “I want, I want, I want!” My glorious mother most definitely at this point in the proceedings would’ve swiped the backs of my legs and doled out the phrase “Well I want doesn’t get”.

So, keeping her advice in mind, I’ve decided to self-medicate this despondent mood with a bloody good, Bloody Mary. Since time began it seems that a Bloody Mary has been the perfect panacea for a tumultuous night before. Maybe it’s restorative powers could endeavour to blot out a few of the memories of this dismal year.

In our little ramshackle restaurant on St Johns Street, it was the first cocktail I ever created. With our reputation as a brunch destination, I knew that we had to have this eponymous drink on the menu.

I approached the construction of it from a chef’s point of view, rather than that of a mixologist. Which explains why its recipe has far more in common with a Gazpacho than a cocktail, but that was the only way I knew how. I knew that it needed a good degree of intricate heat to blow away any cobwebs, and of course I knew I wanted it to be decorated like a showgirl, so that when it arrived at the table, the customer knew that their hangover was being treated truly seriously. Standing proudly along with the prerequisite celery stirrer, came a spear of crispy bacon, topped with olives and even a meatball! A drink, a cure, a meal, all in one glass. Who could wish for anything more?

The Bloody’s history is typically a little blurry. Fernand Petiot from Harrys Bar in New York is named as the creator of the original drink. At a time of prohibition a cocktail that used a flavourless newly imported Russian spirit, disguised in highly flavoured tomato juice was probably quite useful when it’s owner and clientele could get sprung at any time.

Some believe its name was derived from Mary Tudor, Queen of England (not to be confused with Mary Tudor buried in Bury St Edmunds. One was his sister, the other his daughter) who, from her historically widespread slaughter of protestants earnt her the gruesome moniker.

Also, fairly unpalatable but slightly less murderous (I hope) is the story that it was the name of a waitress called Mary, who worked in a Chicago nightclub called charmingly the Bucket of Blood. Rumour has it that she regularly had a bucket of water to sluice down the blood from the sidewalk outside the club because of the multiple brawls that happened there every night.

Many other stories abound, but generally its composition is clear – tomato juice to soothe the irritated stomach, salt to replace the electrolytes lost, and of course the vodka to act as the ‘hair of the dog’ (short for “hair of the dog that bit you”) a strange old expression that essentially means ‘like cures like’.

There are numerous delicious derivatives of the drink that inventively use different spirits: some of my favourites are a Bloody Maria with Tequila instead of vodka, a Maria Verde made with a delicious green tomatillo sauce, and of course there’s always a Virgin Mary – sans alcohol – that at Gastrono-me we call a Proud Mary due to its virtuous nature.

So, my resolution is that I shall be seeing in these next few weeks with a Bloody Mary, rather than with a diet plan. No, it may not clean up the mess of the year before, and no it probably won’t cure anything other than my mood, but it may – just may – make me feel a damn sight better about facing 2021.

Cheers and best wishes to you all, and please stay safe x

Bloody Hell Mary

Recipe by Gemma Simmonite
Servings

2

servings
Prep time

5

minutes

Ingredients

  • A large handful of ice

  • 100ml vodka, I favour Grey Goose

  • 500ml Tomato Juice

  • ½ tsp of lemon juice

  • ½ tsp of Harissa paste

  • ½ tsp of crushed garlic (I preserve mine in a little olive oil stored in the fridge for ease)

  • ½ tsp of smoked paprika

  • A good pinch of celery salt

  • A pinch of black pepper

  • A pinch of salt

  • ½ tsp of hot sauce, sriracha works a treat

  • A few shakes of Worcestershire sauce, omit if veggie

  • A dash of smoked chipotle tabasco, if brave

  • Serving Suggestions
  • Always dress your glass with a celery stick for stirring your restorative elixir.
  • But any of these other ingredients would make for a party in a glass!
  • crispy bacon slice

  • A meatball or two

  • olives

  • A gherkin spear

  • Cocktail onions

  • Lime wedge

Directions

  • Place the ice in a cocktail shaker, measure the vodka, tomato juice and then add all the rest of the ingredients, tasting as you go.
  • Because of my slightly unusual ingredients, you have to give this an almighty shake, then strain into a highball glass filled with ice

Notes

  • Always dress your glass with a celery stick for stirring your restorative elixir.
Winter Minestrone 1024 683 gastronome

Winter Minestrone

This is my favourite soup, which if you knew me is a fairly large statement as I’m a soup fiend. I adapt Minestrone for all seasons, so it can be on a constant rotate. In spring and summer, I make it lighter with a choice of seasonal vegetables, I leave out the tomatoes and choose fresh fragrant pesto as the dominant flavour. In autumn when comfort and depth is needed, I favour robust kale, sometimes cavolo nero. And in winter sometimes I look for extra substance by adding a good mixture of beans, such as cannellini or flageolet, or if in a meaty mood a little good rustic Italian sausage.

As well as being beyond delicious, Minestrone is literally the soup that keeps giving. The pasta naturally thickens the soup overnight, and to remedy this, I add another tin of tomatoes and some more stock when rewarming. By doing this I’m rewarded by another fine batch, it’s regeneration properties always reminds of the magic porridge pot book from my childhood, which incidentally I was equally enthralled and terrified by.

I recommend you freeze a couple of portions, for enjoying on cold lazy days when cooking is simply beyond you.

Winter Minestrone

Recipe by Gemma SimmoniteCourse: MainDifficulty: Medium
Servings

6

servings
Prep time

10

minutes
Cooking time

35

minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp of olive oil

  • 25g butter

  • 2 cloves garlic minced

  • 2 tsp of sugar

  • 1 large onion, finely diced

  • 3-4 carrots, finely diced

  • 4 sticks of celery, finely diced

  • 1 courgette, finely diced

  • 2 tbsp tomato puree

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 1 glass of red wine

  • 3 tins of chopped tomatoes

  • 1 tin of flageolet beans, drained

  • 1.5 – 2 litres of vegetable stock, as instructed on tin.

  • 125g spaghetti

  • 2 handfuls of roughly chopped savoy cabbage

  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • Grated Parmigiano Reggiano to serve, or Pecorino if vegetarian.

Directions

  • Melt the butter and oil in a large saucepan, then add the minced garlic.
  • Add all the diced vegetables and sweat down until they soften.
  • Add the tomato puree and give a good stir, then add the wine, sugar and bay leaf
  • Cook until the mixture is beginning to get ‘jammy’ and needs liquid, approximately 10 minutes.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes, beans, made up stock and season, cook for a further 12 minutes, then add the spaghetti, cook for a further 6 minutes.
  • Add the cabbage, check seasoning again and cook for a further 15 mins
  • Serve with grated parmesan if desired

Notes

  • Grated Parmigiano Reggiano to serve, or Pecorino if vegetarian.
Roasted Red Onion Soup with Welsh Rarebit Toasts 1024 792 gastronome

Roasted Red Onion Soup with Welsh Rarebit Toasts

Being a child of the seventies and eighties, I’m a natural sucker for a French onion soup. The thrill of seeing molten cheese on a floating toast was (and still is) my idea of heaven, married with the umami rich depth of the ‘oniony’ broth it was unlike anything I had ever tasted before – it was Wales in the seventies after all! French Onion Soup was one of the first things my husband and I attempted for our first dinner party when we were young out of work actors living in a tiny flat in South London, oh the sophistication.

It was with memories of this that I thought I decided to try a riff on the classic. I wanted to try roasting red onions and to update the usual melting gruyere with another part of my history – Welsh rarebit. Rarebit is really just an elaborate cheese on toast with many recipe variations if you care to search the internet, but this is one that I grew up with in Cardiff and the one that we still serve at our restaurant Gastrono-me in Suffolk today.

By using red onions and red wine the soup becomes more intense in flavour and colour, and I think embodies autumn’s rich hues perfectly.

Roasted Red Onion Soup with Welsh Rarebit Toasts

Recipe by Gemma SimmoniteCourse: MainDifficulty: Medium
Servings

6

servings
Prep time

20

minutes
Cooking time

35

minutes

Ingredients

  • 750g red onions sliced

  • 4 tbsp of olive oil

  • 30g butter

  • 1 large glass of red wine

  • 1 tsp of dark soy sauce

  • 1tbsp of balsamic vinegar

  • 2 tsp of sugar

  • 2 sprigs of thyme

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 1-2 cloves of garlic minced

  • 1 litre of vegetable stock

  • Salt and ground black pepper

  • ½ French stick for rarebit toasts

  • Welsh Rarebit Mix
  • 200g of extra mature Cheddar cheese, grated

  • 3 tbsp of milk

  • 1 tsp of English mustard

  • 1/2tsp of white pepper

  • Salt to taste

  • 2 egg yolks

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 230C/450F/gas mark 8
  • Put the onions in a large ovenproof crockpot, pour over the olive oil and roast for 25mins or until the onions have softened and begun to char at the ends slightly
  • Remove from the oven, and transfer to a medium heat on the hob.
  • Add the butter, red wine, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, sugar, thyme and bay leaf and minced garlic
  • Stir constantly until jammy and caramelised
  • Pour in the vegetable stock, and season to taste, cook for a further 15 mins
  • Meanwhile make the rarebit mix. Add the cheddar, mustard, salt and pepper to a bowl and beat well. Add the egg yolks one at a time, with a little of the milk and beat well after each addition. Continue until you have a golden well incorporated mix.
  • When ready to serve, cut the bread into 6 rounds and toast lightly under a hot grill
  • Dollop on the rarebit mix and grill until the toasts are puffy and bubbling hot
  • Pour the warmed soup into bowls, and top with the melting cheesy rarebit toast
Gem’s Vegan Sausage Roll 1024 924 gastronome

Gem’s Vegan Sausage Roll

This is not a Greggs Vegan Sausage Roll… This is Gem’s Vegan Sausage Roll

I couldn’t believe the other day when using up some pastry from the freezer that I’d bought for Christmas, that it was inadvertently vegan. Who knew that the buttery tasting, flaky pastry was in fact sans animal products? Don’t you just love discovering an unlikely item is in fact vegan?  I remember doing a celebratory circuit on the day I discovered Oreo’s were in fact vegan!

So, having discovered my favourite go to pastry was vegan as well as vegetarian, I knew immediately what I wanted to try, and that had to be a great tasting vegan sausage roll. Now please don’t get me wrong, on more than one occasion out shopping, a Greggs vegan sausage roll has had my back – soothing hunger pangs and filling a gap instantly for which I am eternally grateful. But I do yearn for something a little less dry, and a little more indulgent, and I knew it was completely achievable with the great vegan sausages in the supermarkets nowadays.

By simply applying some extra herbs, seasonings, and onion to the filling it tweaked the taste and turned a simple snack into something absolutely delicious. These rolls were packed full of flavour, ‘meaty’ but not in an off-putting way, and thanks to the pastry, flaky, light and utterly moreish.

They were so easy to make too, I urge you to give them a try. How about popping a few in the freezer, great for lunch boxes or for those times when only a sausage roll is what you fancy!

‘Better than Greggs’ Vegan Sausage Roll

Recipe by Gemma SimmoniteCourse: starterDifficulty: Medium
Standard size rolls

4

servings
Prep time

30

minutes
Cooking time

25

minutes

Ingredients

  • Shop bought ready rolled puff pastry, make sure it’s vegan – I used Jus-roll 320g

  • 6 vegan sausages, uncooked and must be the type with a casing – I can recommend Richmond Meat Free Vegan Sausages and Naked Glory Meat Free Vegan Sausages.

  • 1 whole onion, diced finely

  • 1 x ½ tsp of English mustard

  • 1 pinch of white pepper

  • ½ tsp of sage

  • ½ tsp of smoked paprika

  • ½ tsp of turmeric

  • ½ tsp of garlic powder

  • ½ tsp of onion powder

  • A good grind of rock salt and black pepper

  • A little Coconut oil for glazing, I promise the coconut flavour disappears.

Directions

  • Skin the sausages, I promise it’s quite easy when you’ve discovered how to do it once, and then mash with the diced onion.
  • Add the mustard and all of the herbs and seasonings and mix well.
  • Carefully unroll the pastry, it’s a good idea to remove this from the fridge 30 minutes before you’re ready to use it. Cut in half lengthways to make two long strips.
  • Halve the sausage mixture and lay each half along the long edge of one of the pastry strips, in a long sausage shape.
  • Lightly fold over the pastry to encase the mix and paint a little coconut oil on the seam to seal, finishing with seal underneath. Do the same with the rest of the pastry and sausage mix. If you want to make cocktail sausage rolls slice them into the desired size now.
  • Score some slits on the rolls with a sharp knife, and then brush all over the rolls with more coconut oil for a glossy coating.
  • Transfer to a lined baking sheet and bake at 180c for 20-25 mins or until golden and crispy.

Notes

  • If you are going to freeze some for a rainy day, you can stop after stage 5. Then when you want to use them, glaze before baking, no need to defrost first.
  • Alternatively, you can cook them fully and freeze when cool, these will then only need 10 minutes or so to reheat in a hot oven before serving.
Beer Battered Avocado Tacos 819 1024 gastronome

Beer Battered Avocado Tacos

This recipe is a great and most delicious way to use up slightly unripe avocados. This recipe won’t work with ‘bullet hard’ avocados though, those avos will have to cuddle up with some bananas for a little while to speed up the process!

Simply by deep frying avocados in a lightly seasoned beer batter, you will create the tastiest dish ever. These mouth-watering tacos are light and crispy on the outside, yet flavourful and buttery on the inside. Serve them in soft flour tortillas filled with fresh corn and black bean salsa, crispy cos lettuce, pink pickled onions, and an addictive smoky chipotle crema.

When making this recipe you will have way more salsa and crema than you need, but this is a GOOD thing! Use both the crema and salsa in a breakfast burrito (recipe to follow soon…) or simply add them to any favourite salad or prepared rice to really zing them up.

These tacos have become a best-seller at Gastrono-me, too often the vegan option in restaurants are a bit holier than thou! Vegans want to kickback too and enjoy something ‘junky’ and this recipe is a good choice for that – spicy, deep-fried and ‘creamy’ thanks to the immense chipotle crema.

Hope you make these; they are utterly addictive…you have been warned!

Beer Battered Avocado Tacos

Recipe by Gemma SimmoniteCourse: MainDifficulty: Medium
Servings

4

servings
Prep time

20

minutes
Cooking time

10

minutes

Ingredients

  • For the Chipotle Crema
  • 250g vegan plain yoghurt

  • ½ tsp of chipotle paste

  • 4 pieces of roasted red pepper preserved in oil

  • 3 shakes of Tabasco smoky chipotle pepper sauce

  • ½ tsp of smoked paprika

  • ½ tsp of minced garlic

  • ½ tsp of salt

  • A pinch of chilli flakes

  • For the Corn and Black Bean Salsa
  • 6 tomatoes, deseeded and the flesh diced

  • 2 small red onions diced

  • 1 lime squeezed

  • 198g tin of sweetcorn

  • 400g black beans

  • 1 tbsp of olive oil

  • ½ tsp of minced garlic

  • Handful of chopped coriander

  • A sprinkle of chilli flakes

  • Salt to taste

  • For the avocado tacos
  • 2 avocados, sliced into chunks

  • 125g plain flour

  • 1 ½ tsp of baking powder

  • ½ tsp of salt

  • ½ tsp of smoked paprika

  • 165ml of lager

  • 1 tbsp of sriracha sauce

  • For serving
  • 8 mini flour tortillas

  • Pink pickled onions (Waitrose sell these)

  • Cos or any crispy lettuce sliced

  • Sriracha Sauce or hot sauce of your choice

  • Spring onions & chopped chives to finish

Directions

  • To make the Chipotle Crema, put all of the ingredients into a small food processor or blender, blitz until smooth, then pour into a jug and chill until needed.
  • For the salsa, combine all the ingredients and season to taste.
  • For the beer batter, measure the flour, baking powder, salt, smoked paprika into a bowl and whisk just to ensure they are combined. With the whisk incorporate the beer gradually, until you have a smooth batter.
  • Prepare the tortillas by warming in a dry frying pan or wrap in foil and warm together at 175c/ 350f for 10mins. When warmed, fill with lettuce, a spoonful of chipotle crema, and top with a large spoonful of corn and bean salsa.
  • Dip the avocado chunks in the prepared batter, and carefully lower into the hot oil. Move them around after 30 seconds to ensure they are cooking evenly and not sticking together. I tend to fry this amount in two batches as to not lower the temperature of the oil and to ensure supreme crispness. Fry for a further minute.
  • Arrange the battered avocado pieces in each tortilla, then top with pink pickled onions, drizzle with sriracha and sprinkle over spring onions and chives to finish.

Notes

  • You will need a deep fat fryer preheated to 175c/350f