I love to cook and I love to eat good food.  Alas, the fact that I work 9-5 means that I can't do either as much as I would like, and like many I am often stuck at my desk during my lunch "hour".  My solution is to try to bring my lunch to work as much as I can.  This is my collection of recipes, all made quickly the night before (either as lunch or as dinner with leftovers that can be taken in).  Happy eating.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Meringues with mango sauce and creme fraiche

Legend has it that a properly beaten bowl of egg whites will stay in the bowl if you lift it upside down over your head.  While I am completely confident that this recipe will impress even the most demanding of dinner guests -- or even just dining companions -- I have never tested this theory.  It's sort of like the idea that you test the doneness of spaghetti by throwing a strand against your wall.  Seems like a lot of risk for something that could be achieved by slightly less potentially messy methods.

This recipe was inspired by a trip to the Indian section of my local market.  Amid the ginger, cardamom and limes, I found some Alphonso mango puree.  This golden lusciousness, richly sweet liquid would be sauce enough for some gooey centered meringues.   To balance the dish, some creme fraiche would be needed, and a zesting of tropical scented lime.

The meringues need to be timed correctly so that they remain chewy and soft.  I like to make one large meringue per person, which should not take much more than 30 minutes, but it depends on whether your oven runs hot or cold.

So time the meringues right, dress them well -- beat your egg whites thoroughly -- and there will be no egg on your face...

Meringues with mango sauce and creme fraiche
4 egg whites
1 C. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Mango or other fruit sauce
Creme fraiche
Lime zest

Beat egg whites until they form soft peaks.  Beat in vanilla, then continue to beat, adding sugar 1 tablespoon at a time, until egg whites go glossy and stiff.  

Line a tray with baking parchment and drop meringue onto the sheet, sized according to your wish.

Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes, depending on size.  For grapefruit size meringues, 45 minutes will still keep them gooey inside.  For tangerine size, even 30 minutes might be too much.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009


Cooking is a family affair, and although I don't live with my family, my mother still sends me recipes, my grandmother searches out quinoa or spelt when I recommend them, and even my father gets in on the game.  This particular recipe comes courtesy of a guest appearance by my mother, who cooked up a paella recipe that has been making the rounds of my family.  It looked so good when she brought it to the table that my father made her take a picture and send it to me to post here.

Paella is a perfect dish for a crowd (even of just two).  It's one of those recipes that -- if you're willing to break with tradition -- can be made with any number or combinations of vegetables, meat, and seafood.  Like risotto, the basic concept lends itself fantastically to whatever ingredients you might have on hand.  Seasonal vegetables, chicken, chorizo, shrimp -- they all mingle with the saffron and paprika in a melting pot of Spanish deliciousness.  With all these variations, there's something for everyone.


1-2 T. Olive oil

½ yellow onion, finely chopped

1 bell pepper, red, green, yellow or mixed half and half, cut into strips

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 bay leaves

½ tsp. smoked paprika

½ tsp. turmeric

¼ tsp. cayenne

¾ C. or 150g Paella rice

1/3 C. or 100ml sherry

1 tsp saffron strands

2 C. or 500ml boiling water or vegetable stock

Sea salt

12 mini plum tomatoes

4 small canned or frozen artichokes, thawed if frozen, quartered

10 pitted Kalamata olives

2 tbsp roughly chopped parsley

4 lemon wedges, to serve


Heat oil in a large frying pan (or a Paella pan), then saute the onion for five minutes. Add the peppers and cook over medium heat until soft. Add the garlic, cook for a minute, then add the spices, cook for a minute, then add the rice and cook, stirring, for another two minutes.

Add the sherry and saffron, boil down for a minute, then add the stock, the bay leaves, and a third of a teaspoon of salt. Reduce the heat to low and leave to simmer for 20 minutes, or until most of the liquid has been absorbed.

Remove the pan from the heat. Scatter the tomatoes, artichokes and olives over the rice, cover the pan and leave to rest for 10 minutes.  Taste and adjust seasonings, then sprinkle with parsley and serve with lemon wedges.

Serves 2 very generously, or serves 2 for dinner plus lunch for one lucky person the next day.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Butter bean, Brussels sprouts and potato soup

Maybe because my family didn't like Brussels sprouts, I never had them growing up.  The first time I had one was at a nice restaurant, in my mid-20s, and it was cooked to perfection.   Therefore I missed the revulsion that many people developed for the grayish-green, stinky, mushy sprouts of their childhood, and leapt straight into sprout love.

For a while, we were getting a vegetable box from a local farm that would send sprouts on the stalk.  If you've never seen sprouts on the stalk, only loose in the market, I suggest you search one out.  They are truly amazing.  Each stalk carries a true abundance of sprouts, so for a few months we had sprouts sprouting all over the place.  Luckily, I like them, and I converted my dining partner pretty quickly.  It may have helped that you can wave the sprout stalks around while saying things like "Luke, I am your father."

Sprouts are part of the brassica family, and like their distant relatives broccoli and cabbage, benefit from quick cooking to bring out their natural sweetness.   The problem with sprouts is that their leaves are so tightly packed that boiling tends to overcook the outside without touching the inside.  Fortunately, I got a tip from a TV appearance by Heston Blumenthal.  I trust the science geek chef implicitly in matters such as these, so when he said that the microwave, which cooks things from the inside out, was perfect for the tightly-wound sprouts.  As usual, he was right.  Microwaving Brussels sprouts for a few minutes, then drizzling a balsamic or mustard dressing over the top while warm, is a dish that would convert even the most entrenched sprout-hater.

Butter bean, Brussels sprouts and potato soup

1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 C. butter beans, cooked from scratch, plus cooking liquid
1 medium potato, cubed (approx. 1 C.)
1 C. sliced Brussels sprouts
Vegetable stock to make up liquid volume (depending on how much bean cooking liquid there is)
Salt and pepper to taste

Saute onion until soft, then add garlic and cook for a few minutes.  Add potato, cooking liquid from beans, enough vegetable stock to make up about 4 cups of liquid, and simmer until potatoes are soft.

Add butter beans, then stir in Brussels sprouts and cook just a few minutes, until they turn bright green with no hint of them going to the dark side.

Serves 2
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