You will find quick and easy, made-from-scratch recipes made from seasonal ingredients. There are some healthy recipes and quite a few treat recipes too. I cook the food that I love so this is not a comprehensive guide to cookery.
This Prawn Pasta with Sorrel and Chive Butter is an easy and adaptable supper recipe. When fresh sorrel is in season, I make it with my Sorrel and Chive Herb Butter but at other times of the year I either use other herb butters or just regular salted butter. Whatever type of butter you choose, it is a very quick, crowd-pleasing recipe which is good for a week-night supper but is also not out of place if you are entertaining.
Things you need to know about this Prawn Pasta recipe
It is really important to allow time for the fennel and onion to cook slowly and become soft and caramelised (step 1) as this makes a big difference to the taste of the finished dish.
I think my Sorrel and Chive Herb Butter works well with the flavours of the fennel and the prawns. It has a lemony taste which enhances both ingredients. However, if you can use other herb flavoured butter or just plain butter if you prefer.
You can use any kind of pasta for this dish. I suggest using long pasta, such as spaghetti, linguine or tagliatelle as I think this works best wish the buttery sauce. However, if you prefer shorter pasta such as penne, that also works well.
Basic Tomato Sauce – this is an easy recipe for a rich sauce using store-cupboard ingredients. Delicious stirred into pasta as it is and open to lots of variations and additions!
Creamy Mushroom Pasta – this is simple vegetarian sauce combines mushrooms and chestnuts and lots of garlic. It can be used with any kind of pasta but I prefer it with short pasta such as gigli or penne.
Spaghetti with Smoked Salmon – this simple recipe can be made in 15 minutes. Smoked salmon trimmings are combined with fennel and chives and a squeeze of lemon.
Macaroni Cheese – this is a brilliant make-ahead vegetarian recipe which has a secret layer of caramelised onions and a bit of cayenne to balance its rich cheesiness. Topped with a layer of crisp breadcrumbs it is perfect served with a simple green salad.
Other seafood recipes
I love all kinds of seafood. It always seems like a bit of a treat and it is generally very quick to cook. In addition to my seafood pasta recipes, I also have a few others that I make regularly.
I also have a great simple supper recipe, Moroccan-inspired Seafood Stew, which is really quick and easy to make. It is one of my regular week-night recipes but it is special enough to bring out at a dinner party or celebration meal.
Recipe for Prawn Pasta with Sorrel and Chive Herb Butter
350 g (12 oz) dried long pasta (eg spaghetti, linguine or tagliatelle)
Melt the 25 g butter in your frying pan over a low heat. Finely chop the fennel and onion and add to the pan. Season with salt and pepper and cook slowly for around 15 minutes until soft and sweet. Either chop the garlic clove finely or squeeze through a garlic press and add to the mixture and cook for a further couple of minutes.
Add the raw prawns, and the tiger prawns if you are using them, to the pan and fry for around five minutes until pink and cooked.
Meanwhile, boil water in a big saucepan, add salt to taste, and cook your pasta as specified on the packet. This would usually be for around 10 minutes.
When the pasta is cooked, drain it and add it to the frying pan with the fennel, onion and prawns. (It is always best to add the pasta to the sauce rather than the other way around as this makes sure that the balance of pasta to sauce is as you like it.).
Add your Sorrel and Chive Herb Butter to the frying pan, let it melt into the pasta and prawn mixture and serve.
Sorrel and Chive Herb Butter – capture the flavour of zesty spring herbs
Sorrel and Chive Herb Butter is a fantastic way to capture the fresh taste of spring herbs. Sorrel is a leafy plant, with leaves that look a bit like spinach leaves, and has a distinctive lemony taste. It provides a burst of fresh sharp flavour which is so welcome in early spring. It can be hard to find in supermarkets but it is very easy to grow if you have a garden or outside space for a pot. Sorrel was one of the first things that I planted when I moved into my current house – it sits in an unprepossessing spot near the garden fence, needs no attention whatsoever and each year produces lots of leaves from early spring onwards.
Clearly, you can use any herbs that you like to make a Herb Butter. Others that lend themselves particularly well to this kind of treatment are parsley, tarragon (especially good with chicken) and sage (good with pasta). You can play with different flavour combinations to suit your taste. However, I think it is best not to include too many herbs – you need to allow individual flavours to be sing out rather than get lost in a crowd. Also, it is best to stick to soft herbs (rather than woody herbs). Other flavourings that go well in a herb butter include garlic (of course!), chilli, citrus (grated zest of lemon, orange or lime) and spices (in particular nutmeg).
A tasty Sorrel and Chive Herb Butter which can be used to enhance the flavour of pasta and cooked fish and meat.
3 to 4 sorrel leaves
Around 10 chive stems
100 g salted butter (ideally, room temperature)
1 clove of garlic
Black pepper to taste
Finely chop the sorrel and chives. Either chop the garlic clove finely or squeeze through a garlic press
Mash up the butter and incorporate the chopped herbs, garlic and black pepper. This is much easier to do if you have left the butter out of the fridge for half an hour or so.
Shape the herby butter as you wish. I generally roll it into a sausage shape. Then, when you want to use the butter, you can easily cut it into discs. Sometimes, I get fancy and use cookie cutters to shape it into hearts or other shapes.
Put the Sorrel and Chive Herb Butter into the fridge, wrapped in cling-film, until you wish to use it. It will keep in the fridge for around two weeks and can also be frozen if you wish to keep it for longer as it will last for around three months in the freezer.
There are so many uses for Sorrel and Chive Herb Butter – it adds zest and flavour to a great many dishes – but some of my favourites are as follows:
Add on top of grilled meat or fish just prior to serving. It will melt and release all its butter flavour. I think Sorrel and Chive Herb Butter is particularly good with grilled chicken and with grilled salmon or lemon sole.
Stir into cooked pasta to make a quick and tasty supper – see my recipe for Prawn Pasta with Sorrel and Chive Herb Butter. Or you could add some steamed vegetables – courgettes or peas are a good choice – or other sea-food such as scallops.
Spread on some crusty bread and just eat it as it is or add some tangy cheese.
Keywords: sorrel butter, chive butter
Other things you can do with Sorrel
In addition to Herb Butter, there are lots of other quick and easy ways in which you can use sorrel. Some of my favourites are as follows.
Use young leaves in a mixed green salad, along with lettuce, spinach or other greens.
Heat some double cream and add chopped up sorrel leaves to make an instant sauce for meat or fish.
Saute chopped up sorrel leaves in butter for a few minutes and then use as the filling for an omelette. Or you can add the leaves to the egg mixture when making an omelette and fill it with something rich and creamy such as grated cheddar cheese.
Add chopped up sorrel leaves to soup – it goes very well with home-made leek and potato soup or chicken soup – to give instant zest.
This Rhubarb Cake consists of a layer of sweet-sharp rhubarb on top of a light, buttery sponge. It is extremely easy to make and can be used as either a cake or a dessert.
I make a lot of Upside Down Cakes – they are really versatile and can be used as puddings or are great mid-morning with a cup of coffee or with afternoon tea! I usually use them a lot as puddings as they are very quick and easy to do and are fantastic, served with cream or ice-cream, at the end of a meal. Rhubarb Upside Down Cake tends to go down well with those who have past form as rhubarb-haters (such as my eldest son) as the topping is effectively a jam and so is less astringent than in some other dishes and therefore more palatable.
In the past, I have been a bit ambivalent about rhubarb. On the one hand, I liked its sharp/sweet flavour but I also had a lot of unfortunate memories from my school days of pink mush shrouded in lumpy custard…
The turning point in my relationship with rhubarb was when we moved into our current house a few years ago and found a huge rhubarb plant in the middle of one of the flower beds. Over several years, I did my best to kill it and, when this failed, to move it, as I wanted to plant pretty flowers! It resisted all my attempts at destruction and, in the end, in a spirit of defeat, I decided to start trying to use it and looked for tasty recipes. I am now quite pleased that I failed to get rid of it, although it still looks a bit odd in the middle of the flower bed, and have adapted a lot of my favourite recipes, including the one for Upside Down Cake, to include rhubarb.
Rhubarb Upside Down Cake can be served as a cake with morning coffee or afternoon tea or as a desssert with cream or ice cream.
For the rhubarb topping:
300 g (10 oz) rhubarb
180 g (6 oz) caster sugar
50 g (2 oz) butter
For the cake:
125 g (5 oz) butter
125 g (5 oz) caster sugar
125 g (5 oz) self-raising flour
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon milk
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C/gas mark 4.
Wash the rhubarb stalks thoroughly. Cut into small pieces of around 1 cm.
Put the rhubarb pieces, 180 g (6 oz) caster sugar and 50 g (2 oz) butter into your tarte-tatin dish or frying pan and put on a low heat for around 15 minutes. The rhubarb will soften and, initially release a lot of moisture, but by the end of the time the mixture should be syrupy and jam-like in consistency. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool slightly.
Make the cake batter by creaming together the 125 g (5 oz) butter with the 125 g (5 oz) sugar. Add the eggs gradually to ensure the mixture does not curdle. Then add the 125 g (5 oz) self-raising flour followed by the 1 tablespoon of milk.
Spoon the cake batter on top of the syrupy mixture in your tarte-tatin dish or frying pan.
Put the dish into the oven for around 30 minutes. At the end of this time, the cake should be light brown and springy to the touch.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for around 5 minutes. Then, put a plate over the pan, turn it upside down and remove the pan so that the cake is on the plate rhubarb-side upwards. Don’t leave it any longer than this or it will be hard to turn it out as the jammy mixture will solidify as it cools and glue the cake to the pan!
You can either serve immediately when it is warm or leave to cool to room temperature.
You will need a cast iron tarte-tatin dish or a cast iron frying pan which can be used on the hob and also can be put in the oven.
This is a companion to the recipe for Rhubarb Gin and offers an alternative for those who do not like gin or who do not drink alcohol. Children love it too although sometimes more when they are not told that it has rhubarb in it! There are many recipes for Rhubarb Cordial but this is the very simplest and requires minimal skill or time to make although you do need to leave it overnight before you can enjoy it. It is very versatile and can be used to make non-alcoholic drinks or used as a flavouring in alcoholic cocktails. It can also be used as a flavouring in cooking when making cakes and puddings. As with the Rhubarb Gin, you can add additional flavours to your taste – some are suggested in the recipe but feel free to improvise!
Sweet and zesty Rhubarb Cordial is an easy way of capturing the flavour of rhubarb for use in drinks and food recipes.
1 kg rhubarb stalks
600 g caster sugar
1 litre of water
Juice of 1 lemon
If you wish to try different flavours you could add one of the following additions: 1 vanilla pod or other spices (cardamon and star anise go well with rhubarb) or 5 slices of fresh root ginger
Wash the rhubarb stalks thoroughly. Cut into 3 cm pieces.
Put the rhubarb pieces, sugar, water and lemon juice in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Then allow to simmer for 10 minutes until the rhubarb is very soft.
Take the saucepan off the heat and allow the mixture to cool.
Strain the mushy juices through a muslin-lined funnel into a bowl or jug. It takes a while for the juice to filter through and the process can be done overnight in your fridge.
The juice that has filtered through the funnel is your Rhubarb Cordial and is ready to use.
The Rhubarb Cordial will keep in a sterilised bottle in your fridge for around a month. Alternatively, you can freeze it – best to do this in ice-cube trays – and it will keep for up to six months.
To sterilise your bottle, you can wash in warm soapy water, rinse thoroughly and then dry off for around 15 minutes in an oven set to 140C/120C fan/gas 1.
Rhubarb Cordial is very versatile and can be combined with soda or tonic to make a non-alcoholic drink or added to a glass of prosecco or added to gin or vodka as a flavouring for cocktails. It can also be poured over vanilla ice-cream to make a quick pudding and used as a culinary ingredient to add flavour.
Traditionally used to make rhubarb crumbles or rhubarb fools, its sweet and sour taste makes a wonderful flavouring for gin. Love it or hate it, rhubarb is now in season. Cheap to buy in the shops and probably over-abundant if you have a rhubarb crown in your in your garden.
In the past few years, there has been an increase in the popularity of flavoured gins, including rhubarb, produced by niche producers and selling for a premium in supermarkets. I think home-made and traditional is best in terms of both flavour and price, so why not try making your own? It is simple to make and, if you do it yourself, and you can play with flavour combinations to produce fantastic variations such as rhubarb and vanilla gin, rhubarb and ginger gin or rhubarb and orange gin. You may think about other combinations – it is all about producing something that suits your taste!
(If you don’t drink alcohol – or are looking for a drink to suit teetotallers or children – check out my recipe for Rhubarb Cordial)
Adding the flavour of fresh rhubarb to gin creates a fantastic drink that is good either on its own or as a base for cocktails.
Ingredients (basic recipe):
1 kg rhubarb stalks
400 g caster sugar
800 ml good quality gin
If you wish to try different flavours you could add one of the following additions: 1 vanilla pod or 5 slices of fresh root ginger or 5 pieces of thin orange peel
Wash the rhubarb stalks thoroughly. Cut into 3 cm pieces.
Mix the rhubarb pieces thoroughly with the sugar in a large bowl.
Spoon the rhubarb and sugar into a sterilised jar. Leave for 24 hours to allow the rhubarb to macerate in the sugar and release its juices.
At this stage, you can add additional flavour ingredients if you wish. Simply add a vanilla pod, fresh root ginger slices or thin orange peel (taken from an orange using a potato peeler avoiding the pith) to the jar.
Add the gin to the jar of rhubarb and sugar. Shake thoroughly to ensure it is mixed.
Leave in a cool, dry, dark place for four weeks.
At the end of that time, the gin is ready to drink! You can strain the gin into sterilised bottles through a muslin cloth held in a funnel and it will keep for approximately six months. Alternatively, you can leave the rhubarb pieces in the gin but, if you do this, you must drink it quickly as it will turn bitter after a couple of months.
Although it only takes 20 minutes preparation time, you will need to allow 24 hours for the rhubarb to macerate in the sugar and, once you have added the gin, it will take a further four weeks to allow the flavour to develop.
Rhubarb Gin can be drunk on its own, combined with soda or tonic or used as a based for Rhubarb Gin Cocktails. It is also good poured over vanilla ice-cream to make a quick pudding.