Chef and food writer Claire Thomson shares two easy recipes from her recent cookbook New Kitchen Basics
Photography by Sam Folan
Cauliflower, Pine Nuts, Parsley & Capers
This is a wonderful combination of ingredients making it one of the top recipes for a family friendly lunch. Slow-cooking the cauliflower brings out its mellow, sweet and earthy flavour. Use short and shapely pasta such as conchiglie, orecchiette, rigatoni or fusilli. This cauliflower is also pretty spectacular simply piled onto toast as a topping for bruschetta.
• 1 cauliflower, broken up into walnut-size florets
• 50ml (13⁄4 oz) olive oil
• 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
• Pinch of chilli flakes (optional)
• 350g (12oz) pasta
• 30g (1oz) pine nuts, toasted
• 30g (1oz) capers, roughly chopped
• Small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and roughly chopped
• Juice of 1⁄2 lemon
• Generous handful of grated (shredded) parmesan, to serve
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
① Cook the cauliflower in a large pan of boiling salted water for 5 minutes, until soft. Drain well. Return the pot to the heat and add half the olive oil along with the cauliflower.
② Add the garlic and some salt. Give the contents of the pan a good stir, put the lid on and cook for 10 minutes. Then remove the lid (add a touch of chilli to taste, if you like) stir and cook for a further 15 minutes, scraping from time-to-time to stop it catching. Do try to keep some chunks of the smaller cauliflower pieces in the mix – a little texture is a good thing.
③ Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Cook the pasta according to packet instructions until firmly al dente. Drain and return to the pan.
④ Stir the pine nuts, capers and parsley through the cauliflower. Add to the cooked pasta and check the seasoning, adding salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste.
⑤ Drizzle with the remaining oil and sprinkle over the parmesan before serving.
Fried Halloumi with Aubergine & Butter Beans
This is one of my favourite recipes, convivial and exciting. Halloumi is often the default cheesy slab to fry or grill (broil). Served as a meaty substitute at a barbecue, like it so often is, this cheese can lack any real interest, save its characteristic squeaky saltiness. Halloumi can also tend to dry out when cooked. As a result, I think it is essential to serve halloumi alongside something full-tasting and unctuous; something that has a bit of moisture to it. Tomatoes and aubergine (eggplant), cooked with honey and paprika, make this dish just the ticket. Serve with pitta or flatbreads to mop.
• 4 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra to finish and serve
• 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
• 1 x 400g (14oz) can of whole plum tomatoes or 400g (14oz) fresh tomatoes
• 2 teaspoons ground cumin
• 2 teaspoons sweet paprika (not smoked)
• 1⁄2 teaspoon chilli flakes
• 1 teaspoon salt, plus extra to season
• 1 tablespoon runny honey
• 2 large aubergines (eggplants), peeled and finely diced
• 2 x 400g (14oz) cans of butter (lima) beans, drained and rinsed
• Zest and juice of 1⁄2 an unwaxed lemon
• Small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and finely chopped, plus extra to serve
• 450g (1lb) halloumi, cut into 1cm (1⁄2in) slices
• Pitta or flatbreads, to serve
• Freshly ground black pepper
① Put 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a pan over a moderate heat. Add the garlic and fry for about 30 seconds, then add the tomatoes, spices, salt and honey and cook for 2 minutes, until starting to thicken.
② Add the aubergine (eggplant) and 200ml (7 oz) of water and cover with a lid. Reduce the heat slightly to bring the liquid to a simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is lovely and thick and the aubergine is soft and cooked through. Add a splash of water if it dries out before the aubergine is cooked. Check the seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper as necessary.
③ Stir through the butter (lima) beans and cook for 2 minutes more for the flavours to mingle. Remove from the heat and add the lemon zest, juice and the parsley. Mix together, then put to one side to keep warm.
④ Put the remaining oil in a nonstick frying pan over a moderate heat. Add the halloumi and cook each side for about 1–2 minutes, until golden and crisp.
⑤ To serve, add the aubergine and butter beans to a wide serving dish and top with the fried halloumi. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with warm pitta breads.
For more delicious recipes, check out Claire Thomson’s cookbook New Kitchen Basics