Three flavoursome, fail-proof January recipes to inspire jaded taste buds and worn out cooks.
At risk of pointing out the obvious, Christmas did not cook itself. No major bout of feasting just happens. The food is rich and elaborate, the table resplendent in all her finery. And it’s all wonderful but when January swings around and the last of the table linen is washed, ironed and put away I look forward to a return to simplicity.
Palate cleansing food, fresh and zesty. Clear barley broths glistening with the promise of health, blood oranges and sea bass baked until the skin crisps and plump flesh yields.
If that all sounds too virtuous I do have a little something tucked up my sleeve that’ll rattle the slumbering post-festive desire for decadence……
Chicken, leek and barley broth
This is a nutritious soup that will set the worlds to rights. A meal for midweek or weekend lunch. Easily adapted to make the most of left over roast chicken.
2 free-range chicken legs
1 onion, quartered
1 carrot, quartered
1 stick of celery, quartered
1 bay leaf
100g pearl barley
2 leeks, finely sliced
Put the chicken, onion, carrot, celery, peppercorns and bay in a pan with the water. Bring gently to the boil and simmer for 20 mins.
Drain the stock into a clean pan, reserve the chicken legs and discard the other stock ingredients. Add the barley to the pan and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the leeks, season with salt and black pepper and simmer for a further 15 minutes until the barley is tender but still has a little bite.
Shred the meat from the chicken legs and add to the soup, along with kale. Simmer for another 5 minutes until the kale has cooked. Then serve.
Baked sea bass with potatoes
This is a very versatile recipe. It’s easy to throw together but the sea bass gives the impression and flavour of a meal that’s a cut above your average mid-week wonder.
If you feel inclined you can lob in a few cherry tomatoes. I often think cherry tomatoes can be watery if roasted but when the juice runs out it mingles with the garlic and anchovies – delicious.
450g potatoes, peeled and sliced into round coins about 1cm thick
3tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced
6 anchovy fillets
200g cherry tomatoes
Dried oregano (or a few sprigs of fresh)
2 sea bass fillets
Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas 6.
Evenly space the sliced potatoes in an oven dish, a single layer thick and bake in the oven for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile heat the olive oil, turn the heat to low and add the garlic and anchovies. Cook until the anchovy ‘melts’ into the oil and the garlic softens but doesn’t colour.
Half the cherry tomatoes. Season the sea bass fillets with a little salt and pepper. Take the potatoes out of the oven. Drizzle the garlic and anchovy infused olive oil over the potatoes, lay the fillets on top, scatter the cherry tomatoes as the final layer and bake in the oven for a further 15 minutes. Serve, maybe with some steamed purple sprouting broccoli for flavour contrast and nutrient boost.
Blood Orange Sorbet
This sorbet is a cinch, especially if you have a juicer. No need for ice cream maker though! It is absolutely jam-packed zesty flavour; honestly your mouth will never have felt so alive.
I served this sorbet along with a chocolate cardamom ice cream when friends came round for pre-Christmas supper. My take on festive favourite chocolate orange. It went down so well I was swollen headed with praise.
250g caster sugar
Zest of 2 oranges
750ml blood orange juice (about 6-8 oranges)
1 lemon, juiced
First make the syrup by dissolving the caster sugar in the water. Add the orange zest and leave to cool. Once cool stir in the orange and lemon juice. Decant into a Tupperware or empty ice cream tub and freeze.
If you’re super diligent you can take it back out before it’s completely frozen and give it a whizz in a food processor to ensure an entirely smooth sorbet but really there’s no need. 100% delicious.
I haven’t included the recipe for chocolate cardamom ice cream here but if you want to give it a whirl you can find it in A Good Egg, by Genevieve Taylor.