Seared scallops with tarragon salsa verde

scallops
This is a really luxurious and expensive starter. Since scallops are pretty amazing on their own, they don’t need much doing to them. I serve them with a fresh herb salsa verde, which is the perfect complement to the natural sweetness of the shellfish. And don’t cut the orange ‘coral’ off the scallops before cooking them – it’s the tastiest part.
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Cornbread

cornbread
This is one of the simplest breads you can make. You don’t even need to measure anything out accurately – just scoop up the ingredients in a mug, mix them into a rough batter, and bake. It’s brilliant with a nice veggie chilli, and you can customise it to your taste by adding a spoonful of sugar, or sprinkling grated cheese on top. Combining fine and coarse cornmeal gives it an interesting texture and a more corny taste. Whatever you do, it takes about half an hour from raw ingredients to finished cornbread, and it’s delicious served warm from the oven.
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The easiest crab and shrimp gumbo recipe

gumbo
When I started looking for recipes for this famous, yet (to Brits like me) mysterious, Creole dish, I was amazed at just how complicated most people seem to think it is. Take the rather ambiguous ‘roux’ base, for example. Even if you can figure out what it is, there are dozens of different methods for making it and a lot of conflicting advice on when it’s supposed to be added to the dish.

Then there’s the arcane ingredient known as filé powder, which is made from sassafras leaves. Some recipes suggest it’s virtually impossible to get outside of the US, which is complete nonsense. I’d never heard of the stuff before, but five minutes on the internet resulted in a packet of it dropping through my letterbox the next day, from a UK company, for about the price of a pint.

Anyway, this is my cut-the-nonsense version. I make the sauce in one pan and cook everything else in another, then add them together at the end. This way you eliminate 90% of the technical faffery that makes the average gumbo recipe look like something even Heston Blumenthal would dismiss as being impractical for home cooks. Adjust the quantities as you see fit – there’s no right or wrong way to do this, but the recipe below works for me.
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Smoked mackerel and broad bean kedgeree

kedgeree
Shelling broad beans isn’t one of my favourite tasks. Unfortunately this variation on the classic Empire breakfast of curried smoked fish requires that you go a step further and actually remove each individual bean from its outer skin. The skin would give an unwelcome bitter note to the dish, so it mustn’t be left on. If you can’t be bothered with all that, use frozen peas instead. Apart from the merciless flaying of the beans, it’s a ridiculously easy recipe.
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Aubergine and new potato tagine

aubergine-tagine
This one-pot dish is basically a spicy casserole that requires a minimal amount of cooking liquid. The conical tagine lid seems to generate its own microclimate in the oven, so you can cook a lot of ingredients in what seems like a tiny amount of stock, and it won’t boil dry – in fact it will generate even more moisture as the tomatoes start to break down. Serve it with couscous or bread to mop up the aromatic juice.
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Moroccan-style sweet potato puff pastry pie

sweetspudpie
I’m very pleased with this. It took a couple of attempts to get it right but I reckon this recipe is pretty reliable now. It’s fragrant and spicy, thanks to the addition of some ras el hanout spice mix that came loaded with rose petals and chilli (Seasoned Pioneer brand, if you’re interested). Every ras el hanout seems to be completely different, so you might want to boost less potent varieties with a bit of extra chilli or cumin.
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Menemen (Turkish-style scrambled eggs)

menemen
This is what I had with the flatbreads I made the other day. I’m not sure if it’s an entirely authentic version, since I hadn’t heard of this dish until last week, but it went down very well. According to the internet, the real deal should probably contain parsley, but I’m more of a coriander sort of person. It’s a fresh, spicy summer lunch in a matter of minutes.
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