These make terrific vegetarian canapés – or you could make them bigger and serve two or three as a starter. The recipe comes from a Times feature on ‘speedy canapés’ back in 2017 and has been wheeled out for two or three Collier parties since then, so definitely qualifies for inclusion here. The rösti and pesto mixtures can be made up well in advance: all you need to do at the end is the frying.
For the rösti
400g sweet potato, peeled 3 spring onions, trimmed, finely chopped 1 egg 1 tbsp plain flour 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger 10g fresh coriander, finely chopped Salt and freshly ground black pepper 3 tbsp sunflower oil to fry
To make the pesto, place all the ingredients into a food processor or chop finely by hand to combine well.
Place the sweet potato in a small pan of cold, salted water and boil for 5 minutes. Drain, cool and coarsely grate it into a bowl. Add the other rösti ingredients except the oil, and mix well.
Heat a large frying pan with a little oil. Shape a small rösti patty and fry for 1-2 min on each side to check whether more seasoning is needed. Fry the röstis in two batches. Pack each one together densely so it doesn’t break up, and flatten them as they cook, making sure that there is always a small amount of oil in the frying pan. Keep the heat medium-low so that the röstis do not burn. Allow to cool before topping with a small teaspoon of crème fraîche and some pesto on each rösti.
Google this dish and you’ll get a competing array of recipes claiming to be ‘the best’, ‘original’ or ‘the real sailors’ version’. Really, it’s up to you whether you use onions or shallots, add a leek or some lemon zest and finish with butter, cream or crème fraîche. The essential elements are a large pile of well-cleaned mussels and sturdy hunks of bread to mop up the juices.
2 kg mussels 2 shallots, finely chopped 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped 15g butter 200ml dry white wine or cider 120 ml double cream or crème fraîcheor more butter 4 tbsp fresh parsley salt and pepper crusty bread, to serve
Wash the mussels under plenty of cold, running water. Discard any open ones that won’t close when lightly squeezed. Pull out the tough, fibrous beards protruding from between the tightly closed shells and then knock off any barnacles with a large knife. Give the mussels another quick rinse to remove any little pieces of shell.
Soften the garlic and shallots in the butter, in a large pan big enough to take all the mussels – it should only be half full. Add the mussels and wine or cider, turn up the heat, then cover and steam them open in their own juices for 3-4 minutes. Give the pan a good shake every now and then. Discard any that steadfastly refuse to open.
Scoop the mussels out into a warm tureen or bowl and keep warm. Add the cream and half the chopped parsley to the liquid left in the pan and boil briefly. If you’re using butter rather than cream at this stage, whisk it in. Taste and adjust seasoning. Pour the liquid over the mussels, sprinkle with the remaining parsley and serve with lots of crusty bread.
This is a pudding redolent of summer and incredibly easy to make. You can buy your meringues ready-made or whip up your own with any spare egg whites hanging around (from making hollandaise sauce or mayonnaise or custard, say). There are all sorts of meringue recipes out there and I’m not claiming my version below is ‘the one’: it’s simply what I’ve just found among the scrawled scraps of paper that constitute my recipe collection. Equally, don’t feel wedded to strawberries if you prefer raspberries; use some Chambord or Crème de cassis instead of port, or no booze at all; add a dash of vanilla to your whipped cream if you like and wheel out a raspberry coulis too if you feel like showing off.
400g strawberries 1-2 tbsp port 8 meringues 300ml double or whipping cream
Whisk the egg whites until they are beginning to form soft peaks; add the vinegar and continue to whisk. Add the sugar a spoonful at a time and continue whisking until the mixture is stiff and glossy.
Line a baking sheet with non-stick parchment paper. Pipe or spoon the meringue mixture in large dollops, evenly spaced. Bake for 2 hours. Remove and allow to cool. They will keep for ages in an airtight container.
To make the actual Eton mess
Hull and halve the strawberries. Mash with a fork a bit so that each half is slightly crushed and some juice accumulates around them. Stir in the port (or other booze) if using. Softly whip the cream and keep chilled. This much can be done well in advance; it’s advisable to delay the actual assembly of the components until the hour before you eat, so that the meringues don’t just dissolve into the mixture. Break up the meringues into bite-sized chunks and fold into the strawberry mush along with the whipped cream. Try not to mix it all up too vigorously – the three elements should ideally be distinguishable, although I have clearly failed to achieve that in the pictures above. Serve in one large bowl or in individual dishes.
Today’s recipe, a memorable component of our summer picnic lunches in Hungary, is introduced by a guest contribution from your father, king of the holiday morning routine. He has thrown in as many original Hungarian words as he can muster – presumably in a bid to convince the Consulate that he knows enough of the language to qualify for citizenship:
“Mornings in Hungary always began with a trip to the shop, in Budapest to the supermarket Kaiser – whose arrival on the Rózsadomb in the late 90s symbolised and emphasised the rapid changes in economy and society – and in Zebegény to The Shop. I never knew its name and it was distinguished from the other shops only by not being The Paddling Pool Shop.
Zebegény is where the memories lie. Out of the car, into the shop, and it was always breakfast food first. Kifli, the crisp Magyar croissants selected from the big plastic bin through a porthole in the side, ever an opportunity for a quick counting lesson for the young. And the 0.9% milk in a bag, often at risk of already souring in the searing heat of the early post-communist days when Sam and Louis were babies. The pastries: csoki, meggy, barack, almás, mákos – pre-departure individual orders would have been issued. And drinks: the uniquely Hungarian taste of alma, őszibarack, or szőlő, in big cartons, and chocolate and strawberry milk. Sometimes we needed to re-up on bear honey in the squeezy bottle.
Then the lunch food: bezhlums, of course, one per person, [editor’s note: the correct name for these is zsömle] and bonfire cheese, eggs rattling in a small bag – no cartons here – and then szalámi and pink meat, párizsi, sliced with unsmiling precision by the crone behind the counter – unsmiling, that is, until one of the babies caught her eye, whereupon she would burst into a stream of unearthly cooing and heavily accented witch-language, only the word ‘baba’ recognisable amid the gibberish. I’d look proud, the baby would look scared.
Finally, day drinks to accompany the meat and bread and cheese: big bottles of szénsavas víz, and fizzy pop, and, of course, sör – sok sör. And once or twice a week we’d buy bigger cuts of meat, for a traditional goulash, perhaps, or some other homely Magyar dish, or lemon chicken; although, truth be told, with the exception of the ritual bográcsgulyás – always a magical night, making and stoking the fire and then gathering in the gloaming to sit on logs to eat around the cauldron – we looked forward to eating out at the Kenderes or in Nagymaros or, occasionally, at the Fekete Sas, as much as we did to cooking and eating at home in Zebegény.
The shopping bags, the big, industrial strength woven nylon bags, weighing a ton, would now be overflowing with the spoils of the day to be consumed, and I would stagger with them, sometimes with a child on shoulders, to get them into the back of the car and return to base to begin eating it all.
The ritual concluded as we arrived home, through the green metal gates, down the little hill to the parking place, and then unloading, the distinctive scent of Hungarian coffee in the air, the table laid by those who had stayed at home, and the sun rising higher over the Danube as we sat outside in the delicious heat to break bread together and discuss the plan for the day – a walk to the kis szikla, some kayaking on the river, perhaps even some rat-hunting in the undergrowth.”
Put the eggs in a pan of cold water. Cover the pan, bring to the boil and, once boiling, set your timer for 8 minutes. When the buzzer goes, drain the eggs, crack each one slightly to arrest the cooking process and then plunge into cold water for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, combine all the other ingredients in a bowl.
Peel the cooled eggs and cut each one in half. Gently scoop out the yolks and mash into the mayonnaise mixture. Arrange the empty egg halves on a serving plate and re-fill each one generously with the herb mixture.
Variations upon a stew of onions, peppers and tomatoes are found across a range of cuisines. The name we use for our version, Piperade, is of Basque origin, although in a departure from the traditional template I would usually choose red and yellow peppers over green. In Italy, the dish is called Peperonata, while in North Africa and the Middle East it becomes Shakshuka. If we were making it in Hungary we would call it Lecsó, using pointed green peppers and fresh tomatoes (in a ratio of 2:1 by weight) and lots of paprika. It can be eaten at any time of day: with baked eggs for breakfast, for example, or to accompany baked potatoes and sausages for lunch or supper.
1 onion, halved and sliced 2 tbsp olive oil 2 yellow peppers, quartered and cut into fat strips 1 tin chopped tomatoes 1 bay leaf Dried or fresh herbs of your choice and/or paprika / Aleppo chilli / chilli flakes Salt & pepper
In a frying pan for which you have a lid, heat the olive oil over a medium heat. Add the onion, lower the heat and cook to soften for eight minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute. Now add the peppers, stir and cook gently for another 5 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes, bay leaf, dried herbs / paprika / chilli flakes, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, cover the pan and cook for 20 minutes. The timings here are quite approximate and the seasoning options are really up to you. If you have fresh herbs, add these towards the end. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Lamb koftas or kebabs invariably get an outing during barbecue season. They go well with a range of sauces and sides: houmous, aubergine dip, tsatsiki, tabouleh and Greek salad. We’ll often have a spanakopita and skewered vegetables as well, to keep the vegetarians happy. Our go-to lamb kofta recipe – the first one below – comes from Rena Salaman’s trusty book, The Cooking of Greece and Turkey (1987), which is also the source of Greek Walnut Cake. My more recent efforts in repertoire expansion have drawn me to some Ottolenghi recipes, two of which, from Simple (2018) went down a treat during Lockdown 1 and are reproduced for you here. They’re both designed to be cooked in the kitchen – fried in a pan or baked in the oven respectively – but can easily be adapted for outdoor grilling.
Minced lamb and cracked wheat kebabs
Makes about 12
50g bulgur wheat (cracked wheat) 750g minced lamb 1 large onion, grated coarsely 2 cloves of garlic, crushed 3 tbsp chopped fresh mint 1 tsp paprika ½ tsp cayenne pepper 25g pine kernels, chopped coarsely Salt and black pepper
Rinse the cracked wheat and soak it in hot water for 30 minutes. Strain it well, squeezing the water out by hand. Mix it with the remaining ingredients by hand until properly incorporated. Make elongated flat burgers and grill them about 4 minutes on either side.
Lamb and pistachio patties with sumac yoghurt sauce
Makes about 20
60g pistachio kernels 25g rocket leaves 1 onion, quartered (150g) 1 large garlic clove, peeled 500g lamb mince 3 tbsp olive oil Salt and black pepper
Mix together all the ingredients for the sumac yoghurt sauce and keep in the fridge until needed.
To make the patties, put the pistachios into the small bowl of a food processor. Blitz for a few seconds, to roughly chop, then transfer to a bowl. Add the rocket to the processor, blitz to roughly chop, then add to the bowl of pistachios. Continue with the onion and garlic, to form a smooth paste, and add to the bowl. Add the lamb, 1 tbsp oil, ¾ tsp salt and a good grind of pepper. Mix well to combine, then, with wet hands, shape the mix into about 20 patties. They should each be about 5cm wide, 2cm thick and weigh about 40g. [If you’re planning to barbecue rather than fry them, I advise making fewer, larger patties because it’s quite fiddly to turn so many small ones over an open grill.] If frying, allow about 7 minutes to cook the small patties through; bigger ones will take a bit longer on the barbecue.
Lamb and feta meatballs
The pomegranate molasses are a great addition, but if you don’t have any, the dish will work fine without.
Serves 6 as a starter or snack
500g minced lamb 2 tbsp picked thyme leaves 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed 1 slice white bread, blitzed Salt and black pepper 2 tsp pomegranate molasses, plus 1 tbsp extra to serve (optional)
Heat the oven to 200C. Put all the ingredients apart from the oil and pomegranate molasses in a large bowl, add three-quarters of a teaspoon of salt and plenty of pepper, and mix with your hands to combine. Still using your hands, divide the meatball mix into 18 roughly 35g portions and form each into 4cm-wide balls.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan on a medium-high flame, then fry the meatballs (cook them in batches, if need be), for five to six minutes in total, gently turning them throughout, until golden brown all over. Transfer the meatballs to an oven tray lined with baking paper, drizzle pomegranate molasses over the top, if using, and bake for five minutes, to cook through.
Serve hot, with a final tablespoon of pomegranate molasses spooned on top.
Again, if you want to cook these on the barbecue, shape your meat mixture into fewer, bigger and flatter meatballs. You can brush them with pomegranate molasses while they’re on the barbecue and drizzle over a bit more before serving – or not.
After a slight hiatus on the pudding front, here is a recipe for a straightforward but richly aromatic fruit fool. It comes from Sophie Grigson’s Food for Friends (see Aubergine Parmigiana and Chickpea & tomato soup) and makes a great end to an Indian-themed meal, thanks to the cardamom and the orange-flower water, which transport the flavour profile in an eastward direction. The zested lime is my own addition, to provide a contrasting pop of colour.
6 cardamom pods 50g sugar 2 ripe mangoes 1 lime, zested 1 tbsp orange-flower water 300 ml double or whipping cream
Bash each cardamom pod and extract the seeds. Grind these with the sugar until the consistency of icing sugar. Peel the mangoes and remove the flesh from the stones. Cut them up roughly, then place in a food processor with the cardamom sugar, orange-flower water and half the lime zest. Pulse briefly to create a rough or chunky puree. Whip the cream and fold into the mango puree. Pile into individual ramekins or glasses and top with the remaining lime zest. Chill for at least an hour before serving.
It’s useful to have a range of vegetarian starters up your sleeve. This one tastes of early summer but has gone down a treat in December too. The recipe comes from Simple by Ottolenghi who, though not vegetarian himself, has revolutionized vegetarian cooking during the last decade. His newspaper columns and beautiful cookbooks have inspired much repertoire expansion chez Collier, and we are enthusiastic regulars at the local middle eastern supermarkets that stock the ingredients to which Ottolenghi has opened our eyes.
Makes 20-25 fritters
500 frozen peas, defrosted 120g ricotta 3 large eggs, beaten 1 lemon: finely grate the zest to get 1 tsp, then cut into 6 wedges to serve 3 tbsp za’atar 100g plain flour 1½ tsp baking powder 20g mint leaves, finely shredded 200g feta, crumbled into 2cm pieces about 800ml sunflower oil for frying salt and black pepper
For the sauce 300g soured cream 10g chopped mint leaves 2 tsp dried mint ½ tsp finely grated lemon zest ¼ tsp salt
Get the peas out to defrost well in advance, or stick them in the microwave on the defrost setting for about 7 minutes. To make the sauce, simply stir all the ingredients together in a bowl.
Put the peas into a food processor and puse a few times until roughly crushed. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and stir in the ricotta, lemon zest, ¾ tsp of salt and a good grind of pepper. Add the peas and mix well. Now add the za’atar (it seems like a lot but is essential to the flavour), flour and baking powder. Mix until just combined, then gently fold in the mint and feta: you don’t want the chunks of feta to break up.
Pour the oil into a medium saucepan (I use a wok) and place on a medium high heat. Once hot, use 2 dessertspoons to scoop and shape quenelles of the mixture: don’t worry about making them uniform in shape, but they should be about 4cm wide. Carefully lower them into the oil – I manage 5 at a time in the wok – and fry for 3-4 minutes, turning once, until cooked through and golden brown. If they seem to be browning too quickly and not cooking through, reduce the temperature of the oil a bit. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper while you continue with the remaining fritters. Serve warm, with a wedge of lemon and the soured cream sauce.
As a Classics student with a convenient bolt-hole at the British embassy in Athens, I spent several of my long university summer holidays in Greece, often travelling alone. My go-to evening meal at any local taverna (in Patmos, say, or Loutro or Porto Rafti) was Horiatiki or ‘garden’ salad (Χωριάτικη σαλάτα) washed down with a cold half-bottle of Retsina. Back home, in the kitchen at Gale, I felt flattered to have Greek-salad-connoisseur-status conferred upon me by Granny, and would pronounce with confidence upon the slicing of the feta or the ‘correct’ colour of peppers peppers to use (green). The secret to this dish lies in the simplicity and quality of the ingredients: juicy tomatoes, crisp cucumber (sorry, Zita), creamy feta cheese, good quality extra virgin olive oil and tangy black olives. It’s the perfect accompaniment to a summer barbecue, with or without Retsina, which is definitely an acquired taste.
3 tomatoes, cut into wedges 1 medium red onion, halved and sliced 1 cucumber, sliced into thick half-moons 1 green pepper, sliced or cut into chunks 16-20 black olives (ideally Kalamata) 200g good quality feta cheese, cut into blocks and NOT crumbled 1 tbsp red wine vinegar or juice of half a lemon 4 tbsp (60ml) extra virgin olive oil 1 tsp dried oregano or 2 tsp fresh Salt and pepper
Combine the first four ingredients in a bowl large enough to accommodate them all. Slosh over 3 tbsp olive oil, add black pepper, half the oregano and stir. If you’re preparing the salad in advance, don’t add the olives and feta until close to serving: their high salt content will cause the cucumber to disgorge its liquid and you’ll be left with a watery soup at the bottom of your serving bowl.
When you’re ready to serve, add the olives, vinegar or lemon juice and a little salt to taste. Arrange the feta slices on top of the salad, drizzle with a little more olive oil and sprinkle with the remaining dried or fresh oregano.
This is a relatively recent addition to the family repertoire – a recipe sourced from Olive Magazine when we were wondering what to do with a large basket of broad beans from the garden at Garde. Fresh broad beans are ideal – they’re usually in season from late June to mid-September – but frozen work equally well and will save you some podding time. It is admittedly a labour-intensive meal to produce and it requires a certain amount of fore-planning because the meat is best if left to marinate overnight. We have found Alexa’s ‘quick-fire quiz’ a stimulating distraction to offset the monotony of double-podding the beans: in fact, Louis and I achieved our best ever score in summer 2020 during a nail-ripping hour of podding.
Ingredients 600g lamb neck fillets ½ tsp salt flatbreads warmed, to serve (optional)
BROAD BEAN SMASH 2 tbsp olive oil 1 clove garlic, crushed 300g broad beans 300g, double podded (start with 500g of podded, for which you’ll need 1.5kg fresh broad beans in their pod) handful chopped mint, plus a few leaves to serve handful, chopped dill, plus a few leaves to serve
Method 1. To make the marinade, heat a small frying pan and toast the cumin seeds, coriander seeds, fennel seeds and cardamom pods for a few minutes until fragrant. Cool, then grind to a powder in a spice grinder or using a pestle and mortar. Mix in a bowl with the other marinade ingredients and season. Put the lamb neck fillets in a baking dish, pour over the marinade and leave in the fridge for at least 4 hours or preferably overnight.
2. To make the feta cream put the feta, yogurt and dill in a small food processor. Whizz until smooth, then tip into a bowl.
3. Take the lamb out of the fridge about an hour before you want to cook it and season with ½ tsp salt. Heat the oven to 140C (fan), 160C/gas 3. Cover the baking dish with a double layer of foil and cook for 2½–2¾ hours or until the lamb is crusted and golden. Take out and rest while you make the broad bean smash.
4. Cook the podded broad beans (fresh or frozen) in boiling water for 2 minutes, then drain and refresh with cold water to make them cool enough to handle. Grit your teeth and set to work popping the beans out of their thick, leathery skins by squeezing gently.
5. To make the smash, heat the olive oil in a pan. Cook the garlic for 3-4 minutes or until fragrant, then tip in the broad beans. Stir until well coated, then season. Use a masher to roughly crush most, but not all, of the beans. Season and stir in the chopped mint and dill.
6. Divide the smash between plates. Pull the lamb neck into chunks and toss in any cooking juices, then pile on top of the beans. Sprinkle with more dill and mint leaves, then serve warm with the feta cream.