Baked honey feta dipping pots

Gavin WrenRecipes, Small Bites, Spreads & Dips, Starters

baked honey feta dipping pots
Beautiful, charming simplicity. There’s a lot to be said for it. Some of the worlds greatest and most prolific inventions are also the most simple, like the spectacularly simple paperclip, coat hanger or hula hoop. Apple products are also noted for their simplicity of approach and elegance of operation, hence their incredible commercial success. But behind that simplicity is a lot of careful thought and work, as Albert Einstein said “Any fool can make something more complicated”, however simplicity is where the genius lies. This is a great concept to carry into the kitchen with you, especially if you’re trying to devise some recipes, so that you err on the side of simplicity. I’ve always had a tendency to add extra flavours to try and resolve the taste of a dish, but that isn’t where the really good home cooking recipes come from, because simple, tasty, balanced dishes will always…

Autumnal warm beetroot and chestnut salad

Gavin WrenMain Dishes, Recipes, Starters, Vegetarian

autumn beetroot and chestnut salad
Don’t make this recipe. Understand? Just don’t do it. It’s self harm, it’s painful, agonising and frustrating. Don’t get me wrong, it tastes fantastic and I’ve been looking forward to remaking it for the blog so I could eat it again. It’s really easy to put together, only a few ingredients and if you use pre-cooked beetroot and chestnuts then it really is an honest 10 minute make. But the real pain comes if you use fresh chestnuts, when it’s sweet chestnut season and the leaves are falling from the trees, creating burnt orange quilts under shaded woodland. Amongst the damp, soft ground you’ll find spiky balls that make hedgehogs seem like fluffy cuddle monsters. These contain those sweet, sweet chestnuts, the ones that when roasted over a hot fire taste of pure winter. Should you manage to hoodwink your way past the vicious thorny outers to the inner sanctum…

Anchovy sweetcorn butter

Gavin WrenFish & Shellfish, Recipes, Side dishes, Starters, Vegetables

Anchovy butter with sweetcorn
Some people have similarities to vegetables. I don’t mean that in a rude, insulting way, but in an genuinely characterful or aesthetic way. People can look like aubergines, eggs, asparagus, all sorts of things. My girlfriend seems to think I look like a sweetcorn and apparently I have an affinity with them as they (my sweetcorn family) all wave at me as we drive down country roads lined with fields of tall sweetcorn plants. I do admittedly have a certain understanding of sweetcorn, because when I was young, my Dad used to grow rows of them on his vegetable patch in our garden. As a youngster I learned how to tell when they’re ready to pick, waiting for the silky strands to darken and checking the corns are milky when pierced. Of all the vegetables that sprung from that patch of land, sweetcorn was the homegrown vegetable which I noticed…

Chargrilled aubergine bites

Gavin WrenFish & Shellfish, Recipes, Small Bites, Starters, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian

Chargrilled aubergine rolls
As I’ve had a bit more time on my hands this year I’ve been spending it doing the things I enjoy, one of which is burning aubergines. Rather than being some kind of sado-massochistic lachanophobic (fear of vegetables) passtime, it’s an activity that actually enhances this abundant fruit of summer. Not too long ago I shared my recipe for baba ghanoush, a dish whose success is dependent on your ability to carry out the utter incineration of an aubergine. If you think that ‘just a bit crispy’ is fine, you’re wrong, it needs to be burned beyond help, way past the point that you think it’s still edible. It seems that aubergines do something quite special when they get burned. Rather than curl up, or cry and run their finger under a cold tap, they embrace the heat, lounging like a latino lothario, they just lay back and soak it…

Sun dried tomato tapenade

Gavin WrenRecipes, Side dishes, Spreads & Dips, Starters, Vegetarian

sun dried tomato tapenade
Tapenade used to be one of those ‘things’ that I didn’t understand. It smells and tastes beautiful, and evokes romantic visions of lazy mediterranean lunches, but I never really knew what to do with it. Showing a stereotypical Britishness, I was confused because it’s not a chutney or a pickle, it’s not a jam and it’s not Marmite. I would see it on supermarket shelves and in delis, but leave it behind. I’d see it with some mustards whilst at lunch but wouldn’t know where it goes. Then eventually, my tapenade maturity arrived and I realised it goes with lots of things, and it’s an ingredient that makes simple pairings spectacular. There are loads of ways you can use it, my favourite uses for tapenade are the following:
• With cheese
• Mini crostini with a dollop of tapenade
• Larger crostini spread with tapenade and topped with other ingredients…

Asparagus with preserved lemons

Gavin WrenRecipes, Side dishes, Starters, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian

Griddled asparagus with preserved lemons
Today’s recipe is so simple, it’s hard to think of a reason not to try it. If you were already planning to cook some of the lovely fresh asparagus that’s in season at the moment, then this simple addition adds a cheery extra dimension yet almost no extra work. And if you can’t get preserved lemons, even though the ‘cooks selection’ at many supermarkets now stock, they’re incredibly easy to make, so you could have a go yourself. In fact, I can begin to feel a blog post coming on… Have you ever searched for recipes based on number of ingredients involved, working on the assumption that less = easier life? Well that’s what I wanted to do here. If this dish had less ingredients, it would only be asparagus left, and I’m not sure where the semantics of the word ‘recipe’ draw their line, before it no longer qualifies…