Bring me my spear

Bring me my spear

Not quite burning gold but purple sprouting broccoli is edible treasure for Jonny Nicholson, Chef – Proprietor of The Sail Loft in Southwold

Early spring is far from a purple patch for chefs and gardeners; the brassicas are mostly over, the root vegetables might store well but quite frankly we’re getting bored; the game season long since finished, mussels are off the menu but lobster and crab really aren’t about much yet and asparagus is still a good few weeks away; but all is not lost, there is one glorious vegetable to savour.

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Margarita time

Margarita time

Precious downtime from the stove in his busy kitchen means easy comfort food for Jonny Nicholson, Chef – Proprietor of The Sail Loft in Southwold

This month I thought I would take it easy or rather you might with a favourite pizza recipe. It is perfect for nights on the sofa in front of a good film, for the kids on a sleepover, for a light lunch al fresco with salad, and for whenever you feel like taking it easy in the kitchen. Pizzas are the easiest dish to do in a hurry as there are so many cooks’ cheats you can use or you can make the tomato sauce and bake the bases ahead. Below is my idea of a perfect pizza but if you don’t have the time to make the ragù or the dough, there are lots of ready-made alternatives. For the sauce, you can use simple tomato and garlic purée and/or basil pesto (green or red both work well) and for the bases, thinly-cut baguette horizontally is delicious as are naan or pitta breads. You’ll see I make the basic margarita recipe and then top it with raw ingredients, this keeps the flavour and texture in the lovely ham and olives but if you prefer it all baked together, be my guest.

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Man-size happiness!

Man-size happiness!

Spoil your Dads and Grandads this Fathers’ Day with a proper burger, says Jonny Nicholson, chef-owner of The Sail Loft in Southwold

Fast food joints might be obviously quick and easy and the kids love them of course. But whilst their pretty adverts try to convince us how authentic their take-aways taste and other than being convenient on a long journey, I do try and avoid them.

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The Food of Love

The Food of Love

 

All it’s all about shared indulgence come February 14 for Jonny Nicholson of The Bell At Sax’, Saxmundham

Perhaps every day should be Valentine’s Day, not just one day when we celebrate Cupid and his proverbial arrow, but I guess the heartfelt expressions and good intentions on the big day make us appreciate our loved ones even more all year round.

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Bring me my spear

Not quite burning gold but purple sprouting broccoli is edible treasure for Jonny Nicholson, Chef – Proprietor of The Sail Loft in Southwold

Early spring is far from a purple patch for chefs and gardeners; the brassicas are mostly over, the root vegetables might store well but quite frankly we’re getting bored; the game season long since finished, mussels are off the menu but lobster and crab really aren’t about much yet and asparagus is still a good few weeks away; but all is not lost, there is one glorious vegetable to savour.

Late march into mid-April is when purple sprouting broccoli comes into its own. It is sign of spring’s first shoots and for us foodies, a truly delicious way to lighten up our fare as chilly winter wakes up to sun-kissed spring again - stews and casseroles now on the back burner as we start to warm up, hearty soups no longer requisite central heating at lunchtimes and crumbles sidelined in favour of something sweet and light.

This really is a precious seasonal bounty, we have these tender, succulent, vividly purple-green stems, so what to do with them? My first port-of-call if they are in short supply is to celebrate them in all their glory, as you would the first asparagus tips of May (or the second week of April as it was last year around here); waste no time in messing, quickly whip up a contrasting rich creamy egg sauce or buy a good quality pre-made version, perhaps sharp lemony hollandaise or herby béarnaise, put the spears onto simmer and then dip your al dente delights into all that velvety yellowness.  

Sprouting broccoli of either colour is delicious, it comes in white or purple types, not sure why we favour the darker-hued variety more… Answers on a postcard not required.

So what to do with an excess of the shoots, if you are so lucky to be drowning in this culinary gold? I tend to still want to shout about it, serving it up as one of three boiled veggies with the Sunday roast does little for its merits and quite frankly it is a waste. Better to highlight it in a lovely starter or light lunch, or if looking for inspiration to jazz up your midweek supper, try it with alongside a good pasta carbonara or a lovely salt beef potato hash. For your dining delight this month, a simple smoky fish risotto, making best use of several of my favourite ingredients, not just fab sprouting broccoli.

Enjoy! Jonny

Jonny Nicholson, Chef – Proprietor, The Bell At Sax’

 

The Sail Loft, Ferry Road, Southwold IP18 6HQ
Our beachside café-bar-restaurant, proudly using local, seasonal, Suffolk ingredients – find us by Southwold’s dunes near the campsite and lifeboat station. Book for our daily specials: Monday Madness – two courses for £10; Curry-tastic Tuesday; Wednesday Burger Bonanza; Friday Steak Night
W: www.sailloftsouthwold.uk   T: 01502 725713

 

Leek and smoked haddock risotto with streaky-wrapped sprouting broccoli

There are alternative oven-baked risotto recipes with smoked haddock online, worth considering if you don’t have the time to stand and stir. This delicious dish is further improved with a poached egg on top.  

(serves 4)

8 good spears of sprouting broccoli, trimmed

8 wide rashers of streaky bacon

Good rapeseed oil

Unsalted butter

4 good portions of undyed locally-smoked haddock

Full fat milk

1 litre good chicken stock

1 long shallot, peeled and finely chopped

1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped

300g risotto rice such as arborio

100ml dry vermouth or white wine

1 medium leek, very thinly sliced

Two handfuls of washed spinach, baby leaf is best

Parmesan, grated and shavings

Pre-heat your oven to its hottest setting. Simmer the broccoli in salted water for 2 minutes to start to cook it. Allow to cool a little and weap the stems with the bacon. Lay on to a lightly-oiled baking sheet and bake until lightly browning while you cook the fish and start the risotto.

In a snug pan, cover the fish with milk and bring to a simmer before turning off. Leave to cook through while you make  the risotto.

Bring the stock to a simmer. Gently fry the shallot and garlic in a little melted butter and oil until softened and season lightly. Stir through the rice and cook over a medium heat. As it dries up, add the vermouth and stir continually. Once absorbed, add a ladle of stock and turn heat down to low. Keep stirring the risotto and slowly adding stock as it absorbs over 15 – 18 minutes; halfway through, folding in the leek to soften.

Near the end of cooking, mix through the spinach and a good grating of parmesan, then check the seasoning.

Serve the risotto topped with the drained smoked haddock and the broccoli spears, finishing with parmesan shavings.