Victoria House, Bloomsbury Square, London, WC1B 4DA
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23rd April 2020 | 28 min read
Diet can have a big impact on your health and well-being during lock down so it’s important to cook dishes at home which will fill your body and mind with vital nutrients.
Our talented Executive Chef, Alistair Dibbs, has been hard at work putting together some recipes for delicious dishes which can be created at home.
Soup doesn’t have to be saved for the colder months, as this fresh summer soup proves.
Place the cucumber on a chopping board and split if down the middle length ways. Using a teaspoon, scoop out the seeds along both halves and discard them. Chop up the cucumber and add it along with all the other ingredients to a blender or smoothie maker. Blend the mixture until it is very smooth, thin it down with a little bit of water if it is too thick and check the seasoning.
For the Tomato Sorbet:
90g caster sugar
70ml red wine vinegar
600g Very ripe plum tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
1 large pinch sea salt
30ml extra virgin olive oil
1 x pinch of cayenne pepper
1 x pinch of smoked paprika
A few drops of Worcester sauce
A few drops of tabasco
Cut the tomatoes in half and remove and discard the seeds. Roughly chop up the halved tomatoes and place them into a food blender along with the garlic. Blend the mixture until it becomes a thin puree and add the rest of the ingredients to the blender and blend for a few more seconds. Push the mixture through a sieve to remove the tomato skin and any stray seeds. Check the seasoning, it should have a strong, slightly sweet and sour tomato flavour with a little heat from the cayenne.
Pour the mixture into a 2 litre plastic container and place it in the freezer. Every 20 minutes remove the container from the freezer and give it a good whisk for 10 seconds or so (this incorporates air into the sorbet and stops it from setting to hard) before placing it back in the freezer. Keep doing this until the sorbet becomes to firm to whisk. The sorbet will take a couple of hours to freeze in total.
Pour the cucumber gazpacho into a chilled bowl. Using a spoon scoop out a ball of sorbet and place it in the centre of the soup. Garnish the soup with some thin slices of radish, mint sprigs and olive oil.
1 x scoop of tomato sorbet
A few sprigs of mint
A few slices of radish
Extra virgin olive oil
Delicious English courgettes are in season right now. If you are lucky you will find courgette flowers for sale too in specialist groceries shops, if not you can make this risotto without the deep fried courgette flowers.
To finish the risotto
For the courgette flowers
In a large, heavy pan heat half the olive oil and gently fry the onion and garlic for around 10 minutes being careful to not let them take on any colour. Add the rice and cook for 2 minutes. Next, add in the wine and cook until it has evaporated. Add the hot stock a ladle at a time, allowing each ladle to be absorbed before adding the next.
While the risotto is cooking, prepare the courgettes to go on top of the risotto. Using a peeler, take one of the cougettes and peel 8 thin strips from its length. Lay the courgetti strips on a chopping board and sprinkle them with salt and a squeeze of lemon (this will cure them). Leave them for 10 minutes and then roll them up into cylinders and set them aside. Dice the other 2 courgettes into squares the size of a sugar cubes, season them and gently pan fry them in olive oil and set aside.
Once the risotto rice is cooked al dente (ie it has a bit of bite left to it) turn the heat right down and add the parmesan, pesto, crème fraiche and seasoning – this will give it that luxurious restaurant taste, and check the seasoning. Set it aside for a few moments while you deep fry the courgette flowers.
To prepare the courgette flowers:
Heat a pan of vegetable oil to 170 degrees (take care when doing this)
Whisk all the batter ingredients together and carefully dip each flower into the batter. Carefully place each flower into the oil and repeat with the 3 other flowers, each one will take about 30 seconds to cook, then flip them over and give 30 seconds on the other side. When cooked remove from the oil and place onto kitchen paper to drain.
To assemble the dish:
Place a portion of risotto onto each bowl. Place the diced courgetti on the top and them place 2 of the courgette cylinders on top of each portion of risotto. Finish with a courgette flower and a final grating of parmesan.
For the roast aubergines:
For the salsa verdi:
To finish the dish:
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees.
Place the aubergine slices on an oven tray, ensuring that they are not overlapping.
In a small bowl mix together the thyme, garlic, olive oil and seasoning. Using a pastry brush if you have one, brush this mixture over the aubergines and then cook them in the oven for around 12-15 minutes until light golden brown.
While the aubergines cook, make the salsa. In a blender or smoothie maker simply blend all the salsa verdi ingredients together until they are very smooth. The salsa should be the consistency of pouring cream. Add some seasoning if needed- you should be able to taste all the different herbs as well as the zing of the lemon and capers.
If you are using a whole pomegranate, remove the seeds by cutting the pomegranate in half and working over a bowl, bang the back of each half of pomegranate with a spoon. If the fruit is ripe, the seeds will come out easily and fall into the bowl. Wear an apron as this is a messy job.
Discard any juice that comes out and set aside the seeds until needed.
To assemble the dish:
Place the warm aubergine slices on a jay cloth or some kitchen paper to drain off any excess oil. Next transfer them to a serving plate, overlapping them in an attractive way. Then, spoon over the salsa verdi and scatter the feta cheese over too.
Finish the dish with the pomegranate seeds and a sprinkling of the smoked almonds and some mint leaves
Schawarma is perfect for a small outdoor gatherings in the hot weather. It is traditionally threaded onto a large skewer and cooked by rotating it over a powerful flame but this one can be cooked in a hot oven – around 200 degrees
For the chicken
For the salad
For the dressing
Put the cumin and coriander seeds in a small, dry pan and toast over a medium heat for about a minute, until they start to give off their aroma. Transfer to a spice grinder or a pestle and mortar with the peppercorns, and grind together finely.
Mix the garlic and ginger into the spices with the paprika and cinnamon. Put the chicken thighs into a large bowl and add the spice mix, the lemon juice and zest, the olive oil and three tablespoons of yoghurt.
Season generously with salt and rub the marinade into the chicken with your hands. Marinate in the fridge for 24 hours.
The following day, heat the oven to 200C. Put the chicken thighs on a foil-lined baking tray and roast for 20 minutes, turning once, until cooked through (you can check they are cooked by slicing into one – if the juice runs clear then it is cooked – if you have a temperature probe the chicken needs to read 75 degrees in the centre). Leave the chicken to rest for 10 minutes then slice them into strips.
For the dressing:
While the chicken is cooking make the dressing. Crush the garlic and salt with the flat side of a knife. Transfer it to a bowl and whisk in the tahini, honey, oil and yoghurt. Add the water if needed. Finish the dressing with the lemon juice. It should have a distinctive, vibrant flavour with a little sweetness.
For the salad:
Now make the salad. Wash and dry the lettuce and cut it into thin wedges, you should get eight per lettuce. Halve the cucumber lengthways, scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon, then slice diagonally into half-moons. Top and tail the radishes and finely slice them. Gently mix through the dressing.
Transfer the salad to a serving platter and slice the chicken and place on the salad. Finish the dish with some lemon wedges and some additional dressing.
This is one of our all time favourite desserts; it looks very impressive when finished and really evokes images of summer. Perfect served with a good quality crème frache or fruit sorbet.
For the pastry:
For the Pastry Cream
For the strawberries and glaze
To make the pastry:
The pastry can be made in a blender or by hand and the secret of making good pastry is to work it as little as possible otherwise it can become tough.
Place the flour and butter in a blender (or bowl if making by hand) and briefly blitz until they look like breadcrumbs. Next add the sugar, lemon zest and egg yolk until it resembles a stiff dough. Remove it from bowl or blender and place in the fridge for an hour.
Next, prepare your tart case by brushing it lightly with melted butter and dusting it with flour.
Now, throw some flour onto your work surface and roll the pastry out with the rolling pin, rotating it as you go along. The finished rolled out pastry should be about 2mm thick and about 10cm larger than your tart case. Roll the pastry over your rolling pin and carefully lay it across your tart case so it fully covers it and there is some extra pastry all around the case. Press the pastry into the tart case, taking care to push it into the edges and prick the base with a fork all over to prevent it rising. Leave an overhang on the pastry and put it back into the fridge for an hour.
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees. Now to ‘blind bake’ the pastry. Remove the lined tart case from the fridge and place 3 layers of cling film over the pastry and pour around 800g of raw chic peas or rice on top of the cling film. Gather the edges of the cling film together so it forms a bag and cook the pastry in the oven until it is a light golden brown. Remove the ‘bag’ and brush the pastry with the beaten egg and give it a couple more minutes in the oven, then remove it from the oven and leave to cool. Carefully trim the overhand away with a very sharp knife.
Next, make the pastry cream:
Place the milk, cream, vanilla and lemon zest in a pan and bring to the boil.
In a bowl whisk the egg yolks and sugar together and then add the cornflour and flour in too.
Slowly pour the half of the contents of the pan onto the bowl with the yolks etc in. Give the bowl a whisk and then pour everything back into the pan containing the rest of the milk. Place the pan on a low heat and whisk continually for 5 to 10 minutes until the contents of the pan has thickened up and you cannot taste the flour anymore. Make sure there are no lumps and pour the contents of the pan into the pastry case evenly – you want the pastry cream to come up to half a centimetre from the top of the pastry. Let it cool down and then place into the fridge for 2 hours until it has set firmly.
For the strawberries and glaze:
Place the jam, water and lemon juice into a pan and warm it through, ensuring it’s fully mixed. Leave it to cool down a little.
Wash the strawberries and carefully dry them, and cut them horizontally across the thick end so they sit straight. Working from the middle outwards place the strawberries onto the pastry cream very closely so they are touching each other.
To finish, gently brush the strawberries with the thinned jam glaze and leave in the fridge for an hour to set before serving.
Cooking ‘en papillote’ means cooking in a paper bag or parcel. It is an incredibly simple but effective way of cooking fish as it’s quick, healthy and keeps the nutrients in the food.
Preheat your oven to 190 degrees.
Lay the baking paper on your work surface so the longest edge in nearest to you (landscape) and fold the two shortest edges together to make a crease down the middle of the paper. Unfold it so the crease remains and you can use it as a guide. Place the paper in an oven tray large enough to accommodate half of it.
Next, place the carrot, spinach and fennel into a bowl, season it with the salt and pepper and add half the olive oil. Remove the vegetables from the bowl and place them onto the paper.
Now place the fish on top of the vegetables and add the olive oil, seasoning and chopped herbs to the top of the salmon and finally place the lemon slices on top of the salmon.
Pull the top half of the paper over the salmon and seal it up by folding it over so there are no gaps.
Place the parcel into the oven and cook it for around 12 minutes. You can test that the fish is cooked by inserting a knife through the top layer of paper into the fish. If it is cooked the knife will come out hot.
To serve – carefully open the parcel (be careful there will be lots of steam) and gently push the contents on to a plate, or if you are feeling lazy place the whole parcel onto a plate and eat it straight out of the paper.
This strikingly colourful but simple salad really is a must try during those sunny, early summer days. Heritage tomatoes have just come into season and there are many varieties you can try including the San Marzano and Bulls Blood varieties from Italy which get out vote.
For the salsa Verdi
To make the salsa verdi, remove and discard the stalks from the herbs and roughly chop them. Place them in a blender with the rest of the salsa ingredients and blend for around 20 seconds until very smooth. The salsa should be a vibrant bright green. Set aside.
Pre-heat your grill on maximum heat. Place the goat cheese disks on a metal tray and briefly grill them until the goat cheese turns golden brown.
Place 10 of the sliced tomatoes in the centre of each plate and season with the salt and pepper. Overlap them to form an even circle.
Next cut the red gem into thin wedges and mix it with the olives and artichokes and add a couple of spoonfuls of the salsa verdi in too, then place this mix on top of the tomatoes.
Using a spatula place, the grilled goat cheese on top and finish the dish with a couple more spoonfuls of the salsa verdi around the plate and a scattering of capers.
This perfect summer is healthy and packed with vibrant flavour and colour. It also takes just 10 minutes to make.
For the Salad
Bring a medium sized pan of water to the boil and add half a teaspoon of salt to it. Place a bowl of iced water next to you to plunge the vegetables into as soon as you remove them from the boiling water.
Its best to cook each variety of vegetables separately. First, cut off the last 5cm from the base of the asparagus and discard it – this is usually the woody part of the asparagus and is not nice to eat.
Then carefully place the asparagus spears into the boiling water and cook for three minutes exactly. Remove the asparagus with tongs and place straight into the iced water. Cut the asparagus into pieces of about 5 cm.
Cook the mange tout and peas in the same way.
Once all the vegetables have cooled down remove them from the iced water and place them in a colander to remove the excess water, then place them into a bowl.
Next wash the baby gem and then cut each one into 6 roughly equal wedges and add to the vegetables. Next chop the herbs and add them to the bowl too. Season liberally with sea salt and fresh ground black pepper.
For the dressing
Place the mustard, white wine vinegar and honey in a bowl and mix together. Next, whisk in the oils slowly and then add the crushed hazelnuts and check the seasoning, thin the dressing down with a few drops of water if too thick.
Add about a third of the dressing to the vegetables and check the seasoning.
Place it into your serving bowls and garnish with the sliced radish and feta if desired. Finish with a splash of olive oil, some extra mint leaves and scatter round some more hazelnuts.
A firm favourite in LABS House, this dish is healthy, vegan and full of colour and flavour. To get the perfect hummus, ensure you soak the chickpeas in plenty of water and then use a food processor to blend the hummus to get it super smooth.
For the roast cauliflower:
For the Cous Cous:
For the humus:
To finish the dish:
Cut out the central stem of the cauliflower and cut the rest of it into medium sized pieces (florets).
Reserve about 100g of the cauliflower for the cous cous.
Toss the remaining cauliflower in the seasoning, spices and oil and place on a baking tray with a few drops of water and roast in the oven at 175 degrees until just cooked and a light golden brown.
Remove from the oven and set aside.
Place the cous cous in a bowl. Bring 300ml water to the boil and pour over the cous cous and add the olive oil, lemon juice and seasoning.
Leave for about 30 minutes until the cous cous has absorbed the liquid and has cooled to room temperature.
Next place the reserved raw cauliflower in the blender and blend until it is the texture of breadcrumbs. Squeeze out any moisture and mix into the cous cous and set aside.
Place the dried chickpeas into a pan and cover with 300ml fresh cold water. Bring the pan to the boil and simmer gently for about an hour, until the chickpeas are very soft.
Next pour the chickpeas along with about 50ml of the cooking water into the blender and add the other ingredients. Blend until smooth – it should be a vivid yellow colour.
Check the seasoning as you may need to add a little more lemon juice or salt.
To assemble, place some of the hummus in the centre of the plate, next add three tablespoons of the cous cous, then place three or four of the cauliflower florets on top of the cous cous. Finish the dish with some of the smoked almonds, a few pomegranate seeds and the watercress. Serve immediately.
Sometimes the classics are the best and this version of a Caesar salad is tasty, healthy and very easy to make. The key to a great Caesar salad is getting the dressing just right. This one packs a punch with Dijon mustard, Parmesan and anchovies in the mix. If you are not partial to anchovies, these can be omitted. There are also a couple of twists that in this version – cut the baby gem lettuce into wedges for some extra crunch and poach the eggs to add a warm element to the dish.
For the dressing – makes around 300ml
(can be made in advance and kept for several days in the fridge)
First make the dressing
On your work surface place a clean tea towel on top of an empty saucepan. Select a mixing bowl that will comfortably sit on top of the pan – the pan and tea towel will hold the bowl steady to free up both hands so you can make the dressing – you will also need a whisk.
Finely chop the garlic and anchovy and add it to the bowl. Add in the yolks, parmesan, mustard and lemon juice. Whisk it all together for a few seconds to incorporate a little air into the mixture.
Next, very slowly pour in the oil as you continue to whisk. The dressing will start to thicken as the oil is added, you can add a few drops of water to the dressing if it gets very thick. When finished, the dressing should be slightly thinner than mayonnaise. Check you are happy with the seasoning and set aside.
Cut the bacon or pancetta into pieces of around half a centimeter (these are known as lardons). Fry these in a hot frying pan without any oil until golden brown, then drain off the fat and set the cooked bacon aside.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees or gas mark 6 and drizzle the olive oil over the chunks of bread. Cook in the oven until lightly golden brown and crunchy, then remove the bread from the oven and cool down.
Poach the eggs next.
Place a medium sized pan of water on the cooker top and bring to a rolling boil. Add half a teaspoon of salt and a large spoonful of vinegar to the water. Next carefully crack the eggs into the water one at a time and turn the heat down so they are slowly boiling. Cook for around 3 minutes, until the whites are set but the yolks are still soft. Next remove carefully from the water and drain on a clean tea towel.
Assemble the salad.
Place the baby gem in a bowl and gently mix through 2 tablespoons of dressing per person, lightly seasoning with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Transfer the gem to the 4 serving bowls. Scatter the croutons and bacon on top and add the poached egg. Finish with some more freshly grated parmesan cheese and serve immediately.
This wonderfully fresh and healthy soup is ideal for this time of year when peas are just coming into season. It is not only bursting with flavour but is also rich in vitamins A, C and antioxidants. This version ham which goes really well with the peas but you could easily substitute a small chicken for the ham and shred the cooked chicken breast into the soup.
Place the ham (or the chicken) in a medium sized pan and cover with cold water, add the onion and place on a high heat and bring to the boil.
Next, turn down the heat and place the lid on top of the pan and cook for around an hour. The internal temperature of the meat needs to be at least 75 degrees, so check this with a temperature probe. If don’t have a probe then insert a knife or metal skewer into the centre of the meat, press it against your hand and if it is very hot then the meat should be cooked.
Once the meat is cooked, gently remove it from the pan place it on a tray to cool down a little.
Bring the stock that you cooked the meat in back to the boil and pour the peas into it, boil the peas for 5 minutes on a high heat.
Add the spinach and mint to the pan and cook for a further minute. This short cooking time is vital to preserving the vibrant green colour of the soup.
Pour the contents of the pan into the blender and blend for 30 seconds or so ensuring that the lid is on tightly. Blend the soup until it is very smooth, then add the butter and blend for a few more seconds. Check the seasoning, and add a little salt and pepper if needed.
Pour the soup into bowls and garnish with the olive oil.
Now gently pull the ham or chicken into strands and add to the top of the soup and finish each one with a drizzle of olive oil and a few leaves of mint.
This recipe was originally created for a special dinner hosted by Hazel Wallace, part of Beating Hearts, and is quick to prepare. Mackerel is a great source of omega-3 fatty acid, protein and vitamin B12, and this dish works well as a lunch or light dinner.
For the Soy & Lime Dressing:
(If you have extra dressing left over, it keeps well in the fridge for up to two weeks)
Make the dressing first:
Place the ginger, garlic, honey, soy sauce and lime juice into a food processor and blend until smooth. Slowly add in the oils until all oil has been absorbed and the dressing has thickened.
Set the dressing aside.
For the rice:
Place the rice in a medium sized saucepan and rinse under cold water for ten minutes.
Next, cover the rice with cold water and bring it to the boil on a medium heat. Reduce the heat to a slow simmer and cook until the rice is tender – this will take around 15 to 20 minutes, top it up with a little more water if needed. Do not be tempted to boil it vigorously as this will split the grains.
When the rice is cooked, drain off the water and add the olive oil, chopped herbs, salt and lime juice and taste check.
Place the rice back into the pan with a lid on to keep it warm.
For the Mackerel:
Gently score the skin of the mackerel four or five times and lightly season with sea salt.
Next heat a medium sized frying pan or griddle pan on a medium heat and add a splash of olive oil. Its important for the pan not to be too hot as this will cause the mackerel to shrink once it touches the pan.
Place the fish skin side down in the pan and cook until the skin is a light golden brown and crisp. Turn over and cook for one minute on the other side.
Add a squeeze of lemon juice to finish it off.
For the bok choi – prepare this while the mackerel is cooking:
Wash the bok choi in cold water and cut it in half, length ways.
Bring a medium sized pan of water to the boil and add a pinch of salt. Cook the bok choi in the water for one minute, then remove it from the water and add a plash of olive oil and a sprinkling of the sesame seeds.
To assemble the dish:
Place a quarter of the rice in the centre of the plate, add the fillet of mackerel on top of the rice, then place the two halves of bok choi against the Mackerel. Spoon over some of the dressing and garnish with a wedge of lime. Enjoy!
Victoria House, Bloomsbury Square, London, WC1B 4DA
90 High Holborn, London, WC1V 6LJ
15-19 Bloomsbury Way, London WC1A 2TH
136 High Holborn, London, WC1V 6PX
15 Southampton Place, London, WC1A 2AJ
LABS Atrium, Stables Market, Chalk Farm Rd, London, NW1 8AH
Camden Lock Market, Chalk Farm Rd, London, NW1 8AB
54-56 Camden Lock Place London NW1 8AF