STARTER

GOOD FRIDAY, STARTER, FISH

MACKEREL AND BEETROOT SALAD

This is a salad of opposites.The oily fish is a total contrast to the sweet beetroot, and the raspberry vinegar is just another disparate element. But put all those elements together and you have harmony.The sharp vinegar cuts through both the oiliness of the mackerel and the earthy sweetness of the beetroot. Dill is the ultimate counterpart to mackerel and beetroot and the hazelnuts offer something crunchy. 

Ingredients - serves 4-6 

  • 4 medium beetroot (a variety of colours works well)
  • 300g cooked or smoked mackerel fillets
  • 3 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
  • Small handful dill
  • 50g blanched hazelnuts
  • Sea salt flakes
  • Coarse black pepper 

HELEN CATHCART

Method

Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas mark 6.

Wrap the beetroots individually in foil and roast for 45 minutes, skins on. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Once cooled, peel the beetroots and slice as thinly as possible – using a mandolin would make this much easier.

Arrange the beetroot slices onto a large platter and sprinkle over a pinch of salt and pepper. Flake the mackerel into mouthful-sized pieces and arrange over the beetroot. Drizzle over the vinegar and roughly chop the dill before sprinkling it over the salad.

Heat a dry frying pan over a high heat and, once hot, add the hazelnuts. Fry them, shaking the pan every few seconds, for just a minute or so – when you can smell the aroma of the toasting hazelnuts, they will be ready. Chop them roughly and scatter them over the salad. 

STARTER

GARLIC, ANCHOVY AND OLIVE FLATBREADS

During a walk with my dad one spring, we came across a forest floor of wild garliC. The little white flowers floating above a thick sea of green leaves had an aroma that was so intense – somewhere between garlic and chive.With the find, we made these flatbreads.

Because wild garlic is seasonal, and seemingly rarely sold in supermarkets, this recipe uses normal garlic. It’s actually an improvement on the original: it’s strong enough to retain its own flavour alongside the boisterous hit from the anchovies, which slightly overwhelmed the wild garlic. The lager is used to make the dough itself mainly for flavour. It brings a gentle, fermented depth to the flatbreads, making them even more savoury and satisfying. 

HELEN CATHCART

Ingredients - makes 4

  • 200g self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 130ml lager
  • 4 anchovies from a jar 
  • 8 pitted green olives
  • 4 large garlic cloves

Essential Ingredients

  • Sea salt flakes
  • 6 tablespoons olive or rapeseed oil 
  • Coarse black pepper 

Method

To make the bread, simply mix the flour with 1 teaspoon of salt and the lager. Bring together into a rough dough, then knead on the countertop for a few minutes or until smooth. Leave the dough in the bowl and cover with cling film to rest for 15 minutes.

For the topping, roughly chop the anchovies and olives and finely chop the garlic. Add to a saucepan with the oil and sauté over a low heat for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and leave the avours to infuse into the oil.

Divide the dough equally into four. On a lightly oured worktop, roll out each portion of dough to a circle about 20cm in diameter. Heat a frying pan over a high heat and, once hot, add the flatbreads, one at a time, and fry for a minute or until the topside becomes slightly bumpy. Flip the flatbread over and fry the other side for a minute or so more. You don’t want the flatbreads to be burned, but there’s nothing wrong with a few bits of char. If you’re cooking on gas, remove the  flatbread from the pan – with kitchen tongs – and place it directly onto the flame for 10 seconds. It should swell up slightly. Remove from the heat and stack the flatbreads onto a plate. 

Top each flatbread with the infused oil and serve. 

STARTER, VEGGIE

SQUASH, GORGONZOLA AND ROCKET SPANAKOPITA

Spanakopita, the classic Greek pie made with feta and spinach, is undoubtedly hard to compete with. My version here is totally off-piste in terms of flavour, but it is made, somewhat reassuringly, in the same way. And – dare I say it – I think this updated version gives the original a run for its money. 

HELEN CATHCART

Ingredients - serves 6

  • 750g butternut squash (about 1 small)
  • 550g baby leaf rocket
  • 180g gorgonzola cheese
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 sheets filo pastry 

The Essentials 

  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt flakes 
  • Coarse black pepper 
  • 75g unsalted butter

Method

Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas mark 6. Lightly grease a 20cm sandwich tin.

Peel the butternut squash and chop into 2cm chunks, throwing away the seeds and pulp. Put the chunks into a baking tray and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, a generous pinch of salt and pepper and toss to coat well. Roast for 45 minutes until softened, then tip into a heatproof mixing bowl to cool.

While the squash roasts, heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil over a high heat in a large saucepan. Add the rocket – you may need to do this in batches – and stir-fry until completely wilted down. Allow to cool until cold enough to handle, then put into a clean tea towel and squeeze out every last drop of moisture. Add to the roasted squash pieces and mix together. Pull the cheese into small chunks and add to the bowl along with the eggs and a pinch of salt and pepper. Mix until everything is well incorporated.

In a saucepan, heat the butter over a high heat until melted – don’t let it brown. Unroll the sheets of filo pastry. Paint one sheet with a little melted butter and lay that, buttered-side-up, into the cake tin, allowing the surplus to overlap the sides of the tin. Repeat with the remaining sheets, laying each at a different angle to the next so that the entire tin is covered. Pile the filling into the tin, squashing it down lightly, then fold the surplus pastry up and over it to conceal it entirely. Bake for 30 minutes, until the top is lightly golden and crispy.

This is great served warm or cold, but I would recommend you let it cool for 15 minutes or so after baking. That way, the eggs set, the  flavours mingle and everything is improved. You can cut it into small diamond shapes to serve, but I prefer a hearty triangular wedge. 

Recipe taken from John's book, Perfect Plates in 5 Ingredients. Buy here.