I am a chef, but I don’t “cook” that much. I shop really well and pretty much “put together”. It’s not that I’m lazy; come Sunday and I’m cooking a ragu, or a roast chicken then stock with the carcass for the freezer, and so on. But as a working mum, I have to cut corners. I soak beans the night before for a soup with herby courgettes. I’ll keep polenta ready to fry. A green tea cake with rhubarb will take a little time, but is an easy pudding-like cake. It’s delicious served warm, so make it before dinner and place it in the oven while you’re eating. When the spring blossom is out and the sun lasts longer these are the kind of gorgeous dishes I want to put on the table.
Fried polenta with broad beans
This would also be delicious with a runny egg or roasted tomatoes.
butter 25g, plus extra for the tin
water 750ml, salted
parmesan 50g, grated, plus extra to serve
broad beans 1 kg (in shells) or 350g frozen beans
garlic 2 cloves, thinly sliced
baby spinach 250g, washed
salt and pepper
chilli flakes 1 tsp
thyme 3 sprigs
lemon 1, cut into 4 wedges
extra virgin olive oil
Butter a 21 x 11 x 7cm loaf tin and set aside. Bring the salted water to a boil, add the polenta and cook until it is thick and clings to the spoon – about 10 minutes, but it will vary, so always check the instructions on the packet. Stir in the parmesan and butter until you have a smooth mixture. Pour the soft polenta mixture into the prepared tin and leave to cool and set for half an hour. This will keep for up to 5 days in the fridge.
Have a bowl of ice water ready. Pod the beans if you are using fresh and bring a small saucepan of salted water to the boil. Drop the beans into the pan and cook for about 2 minutes, until they start to float. Drain the beans and add to the ice water, if the water has warmed up from the beans you can refresh the ice water. You can pop the skins off any larger beans, though this is more of a preference. Put the cold beans into a bowl, toss with a little olive oil and set aside.
Heat a frying pan with 2 tbsp of olive oil, add the garlic and thyme and cook on a medium heat until the garlic begins to colour. Drop in the spinach and cook for a couple of minutes until wilted, stirring constantly. Season with salt, pepper and chilli flakes. Drizzle with oil, turn off the heat and leave the pan on the hob so it stays warm.
Heat a nonstick or seasoned cast iron frying pan with 1 tbsp of olive oil and slice the polenta into 8. Fry until golden on each side (you may need more oil as you go). If you are using a smaller pan, you can keep the polenta warm in the oven.
Divide the spinach between the plates, removing the thyme sprigs, and top with 2 slices of polenta. Spoon over the broad beans, drizzle with olive oil and finish with grated parmesan. Serve with a lemon wedge.
Kohlrabi and avocado salad
I first tried shaved kohlrabi at St John Bread and Wine. It changed my idea of salad forever.
kohlrabi 2, trimmed and peeled
lemon juice and zest of 1
grey salt and flaky sea salt
white wine vinegar 2 tbsp
extra virgin olive oil 2½ tbsp
cobnuts 50g (or hazelnuts), lightly toasted with skins removed
Lightly toast the nuts in the oven on a low temperature for 4 or 5 minutes, remove from the oven, put in a clean tea towel while still warm and rub gently until the outer shells are removed.
Trim and peel the kohlrabi and using a handheld mandolin or sharp knife, slice into paper-thin ovals.
Juice and zest the lemon into a bowl and add the vinegar and sea salt. Add the kohlrabi slices and toss until all sides of the slices are covered with the lemon juice mixture. Set aside for later.
Loosely drizzle each serving plate in a circular motion with 2 tsp of olive oil.
Strain the kohlrabi and reserve the dressing. Drizzle half of the dressing on to the plate with the oil, reserving the other half for the top.
Slice the avocados in half and remove the stones. Take 3 scoops from each half and add to each plate. Place an anchovy fillet on to each avocado piece and then sprinkle with the grey sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Arrange the kohlrabi slices in a loose overlapping pattern leaving some of the avocado covered and some exposed. Drizzle with the remaining half of the dressing. Sprinkle with the hazelnuts. Serve immediately.
White bean soup with courgette and fresh herbs
dried cannellini beans 250g, soaked for at least 12 hours
garlic 1 head, halved plus 2 cloves, thinly sliced
thyme 3 sprigs
salt and pepper
parsley 1 bunch, leaves picked and roughly chopped
courgettes 2, trimmed and chopped into small cubes
basil 1 handful (or green garlic leaves)
extra virgin olive oil
Soak the beans ahead of time, for at least 12 hours (I prefer 24), and then drain and put them in a large pot and cover with about 5cm of water, bring to the boil and then drain and refresh with the same amount of water again.
Take a whole head of garlic and slice it in half down the middle and put both halves into the pot with the beans and water with 2 to 3 sprigs of thyme. Bring to the boil and then bring down to a simmer for 2-2½ hours. Check on the beans occasionally, you may have to add a little more water.
After 2 or 3 hours, check that the beans are ready (they should be tender), strain them and reserve the cooking liquid. Using a food processor, blitz half of the cooked beans and keep the rest whole. Mix the whole beans into the blitzed beans and add some of the cooking liquid to create a soupy texture and season with salt and pepper.
In a small pan, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil and add the 2 cloves of sliced garlic. Drop in the chopped parsley and toss. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add another tbsp of oil to the same pan and add the chopped courgettes. Do not salt as you want them to turn a little golden and soften. Add these to the garlicky parsley and toss. Add the chopped basil or wild garlic leaves and drizzle a little fresh oil and toss again.
Serve the soup immediately with a spoonful of the courgette mixture and a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil. Serve with crusty bread.
Green tea rhubarb pudding cake
This is perfect served warm after dinner with stone-cold cream.
For the pudding cake:
plain flour 350g
baking powder 1½ tsp
bicarb ½ tsp
fine sea salt ½ tsp
matcha powder 2 tbsp
caster sugar 200g
plain yogurt 300g
vanilla bean paste 1 tbsp
unsalted butter 220g, melted
For the fruit topping:
rhubarb 500g, forced or outdoor
caster sugar 100g
blood orange 1, zest and juice (or use a regular orange)
icing sugar 1 tbsp
matcha powder 1 tsp
double cream to serve
Preheat the oven to 170C/gas mark 3. Grease and line a 23cm spring-form or loose-bottom cake tin with parchment paper.
In a bowl measure out the flour, baking powder, bicarb, salt and matcha powder and whisk until combined.
In another bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until smooth and then whisk in the yogurt and vanilla until combined. Slowly whisk in the melted butter until a smooth batter forms.
Pour the wet mixture over the dry flour mix and whisk until combined.
Pour the batter into your prepared tin, using a rubber spatula to get all of the mixture from the bottom and sides of the bowl.
Trim and slice the rhubarb in half down the length and then into 5cm batons and empty into a clean bowl. Add the zest and juice of the orange and toss and make sure all of the batons are covered, pour over 100g sugar and allow to macerate for no longer than 5 minutes. Toss again. Arrange the rhubarb batons on the top to create a loose pattern.
Bake the cake for 40-45 minutes or until springy to touch.
Whisk together the icing sugar and matcha and sift over half of the cake. The cake can be served right away with cream or at room temperature later.
Claire Ptak is a chef, author and owner of Violet Bakery (@violetcakeslondon). Nigel Slater returns in two weeks
Source: Thanks https://www.theguardian.com/food/2020/mar/15/claire-ptak-violet-bakery-recipes-for-spring-rhubarb-pudding-cake-kohlrabi-avocado-fried-polenta