Samphire with Eggs and Butter

Sipping an early cup of coffee in bed, I admired the view from my bedroom window of flat marshland, grazing cows and the sea beyond. I was staying with a friend in Norfolk for the weekend, just outside the flinty village of Cley. I was intrigued by a rather incongruous and lonely little blue hut that stood opposite the house. A local family of ducks make their way along the road when a car drew up making them dive for safety in a nearby pond. The driver, unimpressed with the pastoral idyll of the scene, got out and promptly dropped off bulging white packages onto the shelves of the hut before speeding away.

Later that morning I went to inspect the “drop”. An honesty jar next to the bags asked for £2 for each. I peered inside and decided to buy one. Our breakfast that day, I decided, was going to be marsh samphire with butter and eggs.

Samphire comes from the original name for coastal plants “Saint Pierre” after the patron saint of fishermen. In medieval Britain samphire was used to make soap and burnt to form glass. It’s pleasant salty flavour, texture and availability have made it part of our diet for centuries. It is at its best between June and September.

My advice is to wash it well and taste it. It will always taste salty but it does differ in strength. If it is mild, it can simply be rinsed and eaten raw in salads or stir fried briefly in butter or olive oil. Trim the woody roots and fibrous stems from the softer green parts.

This samphire was too salty so I decided to blanch it in boiling water poured straight through it from a kettle to get rid of some of the salt.

I plunged it into ice cold water to stop the vibrant green disappearing.

Then it was time to cook, after melting a generous knob of butter with a splash of extra-virgin olive oil into a frying pan I tossed in the samphire. Making three holes with a wooden spoon in the nest of hot, buttered stems I cracked in three eggs. I put on the lid and allowed the eggs to steam inside until just set. Within 5 minutes they were done and ready to eat with hot buttered sourdough toast.

Breakfast is served!

Summer on a plate…

Courgette and Courgette Flower Carpaccio with Ricotta

This is light and lovely with a delicious floral sweetness from the melon. To make the salad even prettier, tear a few bright yellow courgette flowers into the salad if you have them. We have a small melon baller to make the pearls but if you don’t have one simply cut the melon into small cubes instead.

Serves 4–6
For the dressing
½–1 red or green chilli, according to taste, finely chopped
1 small garlic clove, finely grated
finely grated zest of ½ lemon plus extra to garnish
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the salad
3 medium courgettes, thinly sliced
4 round tomatoes, diced or 8 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 red pepper, deseeded and finely sliced
a handful of basil leaves, tough stems discarded
½ honeydew or cantaloupe melon (about 150g flesh), cut into pearls
100g ricotta, drained.

Per serving if serves 4: Total carbs 16.2g, fibre 4g, fat 10g, protein 6.2g, 170kcal

Make the dressing by mixing the ingredients together in a bowl. Season to taste and set aside.

Arrange a layer of courgette slices, tomatoes and red pepper strips onto one large serving plate or individual ones. Pour over a little dressing. Add the remaining sliced vegetables on top followed by the remaining dressing. (At this point the salad will keep for a few hours in the fridge if you wanted to serve it later).

Just before serving, scatter over the basil leaves and melon pearls and top with teaspoon-sized quenelles of ricotta.

To do this squeeze a heaped dessertspoonful of ricotta between 2 dessert spoons into a quenelle, an egg shape with pointed ends.

Use one spoon to scoop the shape out from the other and lay onto the salad. Grate a little extra lemon zest on top and finish with a good twist of black pepper.

CourgetteCarpaccio copy 2

This recipe is from my latest book ‘Around the World in Salads’ published by Kyle Books.
All photography by the wonderfully talented Helen Cathcart.

Stubborn Green Tomatoes

Use them up in this wonderful Indian chutney called Tomato Kasundi taken from our latest cookbook of recipes called The Gentle Art of Preserving. My favourite way to serve this dish is heated with halved boiled eggs, dollops of Greek yogurt and a generous scattering of coriander. It is so tasty and a real pretty dish, I’m going to make three times the amount next time tomatoes are in season.
Makes approx. 6 x 340ml jars

  • 3kg ripe tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons black mustard seeds
  • 2 tablespoons cumin seeds?200g fresh ginger, peeled
  • 100g garlic, peeled?2–3 red chillies, depending on the heat you prefer
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric powder
  • 600ml malt vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons sunflower oil
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 500g soft light brown sugar

First prepare the tomatoes. Make a cross in the bottom of each tomato ?and remove the green core. Plunge into boiling water for 30 seconds–1 minute, remove with a slotted spoon and plunge immediately into very cold water.

Peel off the skins, cut each tomato in half, scoop out the seeds and discard. Chop the flesh roughly and set aside in a bowl.

Toast the mustard seeds and cumin seeds in a dry pan for 3–4 minutes until they start to pop and release their aroma. Tip them into a mortar and pestle and grind to a rough powder. Place the ginger, garlic and chillies together in a food processor and blend to a coarse purée.
Add the spices to the food processor along with approx. 200ml of the vinegar and blend again.
Heat the sunflower oil in a heavy- based pan, scoop in the paste and?fry for a few minutes to release the fragrance. Add the remaining vinegar with the salt and sugar followed by the tomatoes. Bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar, and then reduce the heat and simmer for approximately 2 hours, stirring occasionally to prevent it sticking on the bottom. The chutney is ready when it reaches the trail stage meaning that you can draw a line in it with a spoon and the line stays there.

Taste and adjust the salt and chilli as necessary before bottling into warm, sterilised jars. Seal with vinegar-proof plastic lined lids, label and store the dish in a cool, dark place for up to a year. You can eat this wonderful dish with curries, cheese or heat up and use as a sauce.