At Thomasina’s table: A must-have, must-use book for busy cooks

By Thomasina Miers

Writer and restaurateur Thomasina Miers has gathered treasured family recipes into a must-have, must-use book for busy cooks.

Grilled halloumi & peach salad

Halloumi is a wonder ingredient, best when it sees a flame. Here I toss juicy peaches with wafer-thin courgette ribbons, nutty almonds fried in butter and slices of halloumi whipped straight from the barbecue to the plate (halloumi doesn’t do sitting around). Ideal for sunshine and the outdoors. 

 

FEEDS 4-6

 

6 small courgettes

4 peaches, cut into thick wedges

big handful of mint leaves, roughly chopped

juice of 1 large lemon, plus extra to taste

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to taste

20g butter

50g skin-on almonds, roughly chopped

¼ tsp smoked paprika

500g halloumi, cut into 1cm slices

 

1 Light a barbecue an hour before you want to eat, or use a griddle pan.

 

2 Using a vegetable peeler, peel the courgettes into long strips, rotating them around as you do and stopping when you get to the seedy centre (you can keep the middles for stewing in olive oil for a soup or side dish). Put the ribbons in a salad bowl with the peaches, mint leaves, lemon juice and 3 tbsp of the oil. Toss well and set aside.

 

3 Put a small frying pan over a medium heat, add the butter and season generously with salt and pepper. Melt the butter and cook it, swirling continuously, for 2-3 minutes until it starts darkening. Add the chopped almonds and paprika and cook for another minute or so until the butter is a dark, biscuit colour and the almonds are golden. Scatter the almonds and butter over the salad.

 

4 Rub the halloumi slices in the remaining 1 tbsp of oil, then place on the hottest part of the barbecue. Grill for 30-60 seconds on each side until char marks appear and they soften. Cut the halloumi pieces in half, toss into the salad and taste. You may want a scrunch more of black pepper, a squeeze more lemon juice or a touch more olive oil. Season appropriately and serve immediately.

 

Mexican crab mayonnaise

 

When I was very little we would sometimes go to stay with my grandparents on our own; when we were good they would take us out for lunch in a restaurant. There was almost always prawn cocktail on the menu and it was my favourite thing in the world (it was pink; I had a thing for pink). I created this recipe in remembrance of those exciting prawn cocktail moments, using crab instead of prawns. Both kitsch and modern, this starter is a winner at the height of summer when crab is at its sweetest.

 

FEEDS 4

 

FOR THE CRAB

2 chipotle chillies

2 medium egg yolks

1 tsp Dijon mustard

400ml mild olive oil

juice of 1 lime, plus extra to taste

1½ tbsp tomato ketchup, plus extra to taste

½ tbsp Worcestershire sauce, plus extra to taste

250g fresh white crab meat

 

FOR THE SALAD

1 apple, finely sliced

1 fennel bulb, outer layer removed, finely sliced

squeeze of lemon juice

55g watercress

juice of 1 lime

extra virgin olive oil

2 avocados

 

1 Snip the chillies open, discarding the stalk and seeds. Place a dry pan over a medium heat and, when hot, add the chillies, gently toasting each side for a couple of minutes until they begin to smell fragrant; take care not to burn them. Cover in boiling water and simmer for 15 minutes to soften. Meanwhile prepare the apple and fennel for the salad and place in a bowl of iced water with a squeeze of lemon juice (to get ahead you can do this an hour or so before you eat).

 

2 Drain the chillies, setting aside the water, and transfer to a food processor. Whiz until puréed, adding a dash of the chilli water to loosen if necessary, then add the egg yolks, mustard and a pinch of salt. With the motor running, very slowly start to drip the oil through the funnel of the processor until the mayonnaise starts to thicken and emulsify, then pour in the remaining oil in a thin stream. Stir in the lime juice, ketchup and Worcestershire sauce and season to taste.

 

3 Stir together equal quantities of the mayonnaise and the crab (the remaining mayo will keep in the fridge for at least a week). Add more lime, ketchup or Worcestershire sauce to taste; it should be smoky and tangy but with the crab flavour shining through.

 

4 Drain the apple and fennel and pat dry. Add to a bowl with the watercress, a few squeezes of lime juice and some olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss and transfer to plates. Halve, pit and peel the avocados, then place half an avocado on each plate. Spoon the crab mayonnaise over the avocados and serve.

 

Warm tortillas with toasted black beans & charred jalapeño hummus

 

I always, always have a mass of cartons and cans of pulses and beans in my store cupboard. In times of hurry, they are a saviour. Whether I am throwing together light, healthy impromptu salads studded with lentils, chickpeas or beans at the height of summer, or it is the depths of winter and I am making baked beans or refried beans with eggs and warm tortillas, I find pulses an essential part of my cooking repertoire. Here classic hummus is given a Mexican makeover, adding delicious, piquant heat. It makes a wonderful filling for the warm tortillas with the charred black beans and citrusy, sweet salad.

 

FEEDS 4

 

FOR THE TORTILLAS

150g sweet cherry tomatoes

½ peeled garlic clove, crushed with a little salt

small handful of coriander leaves, roughly chopped, plus extra to serve

small handful of mint leaves, roughly chopped, plus extra to serve

½ red chilli, finely chopped (optional)

juice of 1-2 limes

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 x 400g can black beans, rinsed and drained

8 small corn tortillas, or 4 large tortillas, halved

lime wedges, to serve

 

FOR THE HUMMUS

1 jalapeño chilli and 1 pickled jalapeño

1 x 400g can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1 garlic clove

1 tbsp tahini

60ml extra virgin olive oil

juice of 1 lemon

small bunch of coriander (leaves and stalks)

 

1 Prepare the tomato salsa first: finely chop the tomatoes and put into a mixing bowl with the garlic, herbs, chilli, if using, lime juice and oil. Season to taste, then set aside to marinate.

 

2 To make the hummus, put a dry frying pan over a medium-high heat and add the jalapeño chilli. Char all over, turning occasionally, for 10 minutes until completely blackened. Leave to cool, then discard the stalk and seeds and transfer to a food processor or blender with the pickled jalapeño, chickpeas, garlic, tahini, oil, lemon juice and coriander. Blitz until coarse, then add 2-3 tbsp of cold water to loosen the dip, season to taste and blitz again until smooth.

 

3 Place a large nonstick frying pan over a medium-high heat. Give the drained black beans a quick rub with kitchen paper to remove any excess water, then add to the hot pan and cook for 5-8 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally, until the skins begin to split open and the beans crisp up. Season lightly, then transfer to a plate. Return the pan to the heat and warm up the tortillas, wrapping them in a tea towel to keep them warm (or you can warm a pile of them in the microwave, wrapped in clingfilm).

 

4 Put the hummus on the table and let everyone make their own tacos with the warm tortillas wrapped in a basket, toasted beans, hummus, tomato salsa and lime wedges. If you like, serve with Lancashire, feta or pecorino cheese to crumble over the top.

Fish tacos

 

My children are obsessed with these tacos, perhaps because they’ve eaten so many of them with me at Wahaca. They can’t believe that they are encouraged to get their hands dirty and make their own, any way they want. At home I use whatever fish looks good in the market: monkfish tails, cod fillets, haddock or gurnard have all worked well (as long as you pick the bones from the last). You will be amazed at how fast this food can go down; it works a treat when you have a gang of children over for lunch.

 

FEEDS 4-6 DEPENDING ON AGE & APPETITE

 

FOR THE TACOS

600g line-caught cod, monkfish or other firm fish

100g mayonnaise

100g crème fraîche

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 limes, for squeezing

8-12 corn or corn and flour tortillas (2-3 per child)

150g grated Cheddar

fresh tomato salsa (for homemade see the book)

shredded lettuce or the Apple Slaw from the book

 

FOR THE GUACAMOLE

½ red chilli, finely chopped, depending on your children’s taste

½ red onion, very finely chopped

1 small garlic clove

1 tsp salt, or to taste

3 ripe Hass avocados

juice of 1-2 limes, or to taste

small handful of coriander leaves, chopped, or to taste

1 very ripe tomato, deseeded and chopped

 

1) First make the guacamole. Check the heat of the chilli by nibbling the tip furthest from the stem. Most generic supermarket chillies are quite mild but if it is hot, remove the seeds, or leave it out entirely if your children are totally heat-averse.

 

2) Put one-quarter of the onion, the garlic, the chilli and salt in a pestle and mortar and mash to a rough paste. Cut open the avocados, remove the stones and scoop the flesh into a large bowl, adding the onion, garlic and chilli paste. Roughly mash the flesh with a fork, adding half the lime juice as you go. When you have a rough guacamole, stir in the remaining lime juice and onion with the coriander and tomato. Season with plenty of black pepper. If it doesn’t taste delicious at this stage, think whether it might need seasoning with more salt, lime juice or coriander. When you are happy put it in a bowl on the table.

 

3) Season the fish with salt and pepper. Mix the mayonnaise and crème fraîche together and put it in a bowl on the table.

 

4) Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and fry the fish for a few minutes each side until cooked through. Season with a squeeze of lime juice.

 

5) Heat the tortillas in a microwave or a dry frying pan and put them on the table in a basket, wrapped in a tea towel to keep them warm. Place the grated cheese and salsa in separate bowls and add to the table with bowls of lettuce or Apple Slaw. Invite your children to fill their tortillas with whatever they want, then to roll them up into tacos and tuck in.

 

KITCHEN NOTE If we are eating en famille we have exactly the same tacos but I put extra hot sauce on the table for us, homemade or shop-bought. They are also great with the Chipotle Mayo from the book.

Pomegranate glazed chicken thighs with red quinoa salad

 

 

My children love nothing more than opening up pomegranates, to find the sparkling bright pink jewels hidden within. This is a cheering, colourful salad with a satisfying crunch.

 

FEEDS 4

 

FOR THE CHICKEN

1 peeled garlic clove

½ tsp cumin seeds

pinch of black peppercorns

3 tbsp pomegranate molasses (for homemade, see the book)

1 tbsp mild olive oil, plus extra to fry

squeeze of lemon juice

6 boneless chicken thighs

seeds from ½ small pomegranate

 

FOR THE QUINOA SALAD

125g red or white quinoa, rinsed

2 handfuls of gently toasted pistachios, roughly chopped

¼ red onion, finely chopped

seeds from ½ small pomegranate

1 celery heart, finely sliced

1 red pepper, deseeded and finely diced

½ bunch of parsley, leaves and stalks finely chopped

2 large handfuls of mint leaves, finely chopped

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

juice of 1 lemon

 

1) Place the garlic in a pestle and mortar with a pinch of salt and crush to a paste. Add the cumin seeds and peppercorns and crush them too, then stir in the molasses, oil and lemon juice. Transfer to a large bowl, then add the chicken thighs and rub the marinade into them thoroughly. Cover and place in the fridge to marinate for 1 hour.

 

2) Meanwhile prepare the salad. Place the quinoa in a pan with a few pinches of salt and cover with 800ml boiling water. Cover with a lid and simmer for 15-17 minutes. Remove from the heat, drain in a sieve, then sit the sieve on top of the hot pan and cover it with a clean tea towel. Leave to steam-dry for at least 10 minutes.

 

3) Combine the remaining salad ingredients (except the oil and lemon juice) in a bowl and lightly season. When the quinoa has steamed dry, fluff it up with a fork. While still hot, pour over the oil and half the lemon juice, mix well and season lightly. Combine with the other salad ingredients, squeeze over the remaining lemon and mix well. Set aside.

 

4) Add a small splash of oil to a lidded frying pan and place over a medium-high heat. Season the thighs with a little salt and add them skin side-down to the pan when hot. Fry for 2 minutes on each side until golden and crisp. Turn them over once more, add the pomegranate seeds, any marinating liquid and a splash of water. Cover, reduce the heat to low and continue to cook for another 3 minutes until cooked through (the juices should run clear when you insert a skewer). Uncover and leave to rest for 3 minutes.

 

5) Cut the thighs into thirds and sit them on top of the salad, spooning over the cooking juices and pomegranate seeds.

 

Pomegranate meringues with pistachios

 

This is a spectacular pudding of bewitching colours, all blushing meringues, vivid green pistachio dust and the sparkle of pomegranate jewels.

 

FEEDS 6-8

 

4 egg whites

210g caster sugar, preferably unrefined for the colour

3 tbsp pomegranate molasses

60g pistachios, finely chopped

1 large pomegranate

400ml double cream

 

1) Preheat the oven to 100C/gas ¼ and line 2 baking trays with silicone sheets or baking parchment. In a spotlessly clean bowl, whisk the egg whites with an electric whisk until you have stiff peaks. Now whisk in the sugar, little by little by little, followed by half the pomegranate molasses and a pinch of salt, fully incorporating the sugar with each addition until the whites are stiff again, shiny and voluminous (this takes about 10 minutes).

 

2) With 2 teaspoons scoop high heaps of the mix on to the baking sheets, fluffing the tops into peaks. Dust each of the peaks with a sprinkling of the green pistachio nuts, saving half for the final plating. Bake in the oven for 2-3 hours, until the undersides are no longer sticky and peel away easily from the trays. Turn off the oven and leave the meringues to cool inside with the door slightly ajar.

 

3) Meanwhile roll the pomegranate firmly along the work surface, pressing down so that you can feel the seeds ‘popping’ out. Cut the fruit in half over a bowl and tear open to release the seeds into the bowl, discarding the shell and white pith. Blitz half the seeds in a blender and sieve to get a beautiful red juice; keep both seeds and juice for later.

 

4) Softly whip the cream until it is thick but still quite floppy and stir in the rest of the pomegranate molasses. Whisk the cream lightly with a wooden spoon until it just holds its shape; you can do this up to 5 hours ahead and store in the fridge.

 

5) Put everything together just before you are going to eat so that the meringues don’t go soggy. Gather friends to help, it is great fun. Sandwich together the meringues with the cream and lay out on a large platter. Scatter with the pomegranate seeds and pistachios and splash with the brilliant red juice. Bring to the table and bask in glory.

 

Unbelievably dark & delicious chocolate cake

 

 

MAKES ONE VERY LARGE CAKE

 

FOR THE CAKE

380g unsalted butter, plus extra for the tins

380g dark chocolate (70 per cent cocoa solids), chopped

380g caster sugar

2 small pinches of ground cinnamon

several large pinches of sea salt

200g plain flour

6 medium eggs

 

FOR A CRAZY BIRTHDAY TOPPING

4 Mars Bars (157g pack)

100ml whole milk

3 tbsp golden syrup

90g dark chocolate (70 per cent cocoa solids), chopped

500ml double cream

3 Flakes, chopped into 2cm lengths

2 packets of Rolos

1 large packet of peanut M&Ms (optional)

edible glitter, as many colours as possible

 

1) Preheat the oven to 190C/gas 5 and butter and line the base of two 20cm nonstick cake tins.

 

2) Melt the butter in a medium pan over a low heat; once melted stir in the chocolate, being careful not to burn it. When the mixture is smooth, add the sugar, cinnamon and salt. Stir until the sugar has dissolved, then sift in the flour, stirring to combine. Beat the eggs, then beat into the chocolate mixture a little at a time until fully incorporated.

 

3) Pour into the prepared tins and bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes until the outside is dark and delicious-looking and a skewer inserted at the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tins for 15 minutes before turning out and cooling on wire racks.

 

4) Meanwhile chop up the Mars Bars and melt with the milk, syrup, dark chocolate and 50ml of the double cream. Whip the rest of the cream until it just holds its shape.

 

5) Sandwich the cooled cakes together with the whipped cream and pour over the Mars Bar sauce. Scatter the various chocolates and the glitter over the surface of the cake in a higgledy-piggledy fashion, getting as many overexcited little helpers as you

Strawberry & balsamic sorbet with dark treacly ginger biscuits

 

When it’s hot outside and you have had plenty to eat, sometimes you need an injection of refreshing, sharp fruit flavours. This is the time for sorbets and granitas to shine. This sweet, acid lemon-and-berry-rich sorbet conjures up Mediterranean summers like nothing else, with its lick of balsamic. Make it ahead of time so that you can reveal it after a fat lunch or dinner and look like a magician. It goes beautifully with the dark, sticky ginger biscuits.

MAKES 1.4 LITRES

 

FOR THE SORBET

3 lemons (1 whole, 2 juiced)

400g caster sugar

900g ripe strawberries, hulled

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

 

FOR THE BISCUITS

170g unsalted butter

175g soft light brown sugar

2 tbsp black treacle

2 tbsp golden syrup

1 medium egg, lightly beaten

220g white spelt flour ¼ tsp ground cloves

½ tsp ground ginger

½ tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

 

1) Remove the pips from the whole lemon and blitz in a food processor with the sugar until reduced to a paste. Scrape the contents into a bowl, removing any pips that have snuck in.

 

2) Purée the strawberries, then mix into the lemon and sugar paste with the lemon juice. Stir in the balsamic vinegar and pour the mix (strained if you prefer to remove the seeds) into an ice cream machine. Churn for about 1 hour, then transfer to a freezer-proof container and freeze for a further 4 hours. If you don’t have an ice cream machine, pour the mixture into a lidded freezer-proof container and freeze for 8 hours, stirring it briefly with a fork every 2 hours to break up any ice crystals.

 

3) Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4 and line 2 baking sheets with baking parchment.

 

4) Melt the butter in a pan with the sugar, treacle, syrup and a few pinches of salt, stirring well. Add the egg and stir it in. Sift the flour, spices and bicarbonate of soda into the butter mixture and stir to combine (it will be a wet and sticky dough).

 

5) Drop tablespoons of the mixture on to the baking sheets, leaving a tangerine’s width between each spoonful to stop them spreading into each other. Bake for about 15 minutes until the biscuits have completely spread out and darkened. They should still be very slightly soft. Let them cool for just a few minutes before prising off the baking parchment and transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Serve with scoops of the sorbet.

 


SAVE 25 PER CENT ON THOMASINA’S NEW BOOK  

 

 

Today’s recipes are from Home Cook: Over 300 Delicious, Fuss-free Recipes by Thomasina Miers, published by Guardian Books/Faber & Faber, price £25. 

 

As well as Thomasina’s introduction and advice on stocking the store cupboard, chapters include: A Comforting Bowl, Small Bites & Salads, Weekend, Feeding the Troops, Date Nights, Everyday Express, Kids’ Food, Sweet Tooth. To order a copy for £18.75 (a 25 per cent discount) until 13 August, visit you-bookshop.co.uk, or call 0844 571 0640; p&p is free on orders over £15.