Easy Wins - A Surefire Winner!

Easy Wins – A Surefire Winner!

Easy Wins – A Surefire Winner! – Wouldn’t it be a sensible idea to have a cookbook that looks at those key ingredients we all use, and delves deeply into each one: capers for example. Well, I have one for you!  I don’t know about you, but I really love capers, and in Easy Wins by Anna Jones, she has a whole chapter on them. She goes into the types available, storage, pairing, favourite uses, where to buy as well, of course, as giving some delicious recipe ideas. These include an ice cream – yes – and also a cocktail using caper brine. Some 12 different ingredients receive Anna’s detailed treatment, but there’s also a lot more to this wonderful book. 

Easy Wins - A Surefire Winner!

Distilling her 20 years of experience, Anna inspires us how to layer flavour and texture. And there’s practical advice on how to season, plus plenty of ideas for invaluable vegetarian swaps, as well as how to reduce waste and use less energy when cooking. Her hero ingredients all last a long time, are relatively affordable and easily available. All the recipes are, as usual, choreographed and carefully thought out so that they take the least time possible. Dotted through the book are recipes from some of her friends and favourite cooks. 

Anna Jones is a cook, writer, the voice of modern vegetarian cooking and award-winning author of bestselling One: Pot, Pan, Planet; A Modern Way to Eat; A Modern Way to Cook and The Modern Cook’s Year.  According to Anna: “These simple ingredients, shown a little bit of love and attention, come together to make more than the sum of their parts. This to me is an Easy Win. A little moment of kitchen alchemy that reassures me. Recipes that are reliable sources of joy in a world that is ever-changing”.

This Cauliflower Caponata recipe is seriously good – I’ve cooked it a number of times now and it’s a firm favourite.

Easy Wins - A Surefire Winner!

Cauliflower Caponata   SERVES 4

1kg cauliflower, broken into roughly 4cm florets.

3 red onions (350g), peeled and cut into eighths.

3 sticks of celery, cut into 2cm pieces.

extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

2 x 400g tins plum tomatoes 

100g stone-in green or black olives, stones removed (I use a mixture of both) 

3 tablespoons capers

50g raisins

½ a bunch of parsley (20g), leaves picked

warm bread, to serve.

‘Caponata is a masterclass in balancing sweet, sour, and salty. It’s most often made with aubergine, which you must fry in lots of olive oil first, making it less of a weeknight situation. This buttery cauliflower version is all done in the oven and to me it’s just as good as the aubergine version. It has the texture of a stew and can be eaten warm as an antipasto, as is most common in Italy, or on toast or tossed through pasta.’

Preheat the oven and roast the cauliflower.

Preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan. 

Put a cauliflower, broken into roughly 4cm florets, 3 red onions, peeled and cut into eighths, and 3 sticks of celery, cut into 2cm pieces, into a large, high-sided baking tray with a tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar and a little sea salt and pepper. 

Toss to coat, then roast for 25 minutes, until everything is slightly charred and starting to soften. 

Turn the oven down to 200°C/r80°C fan.

Add the rest.

Add 2 x 400g tins of plum tomatoes, breaking them in your hands as you do so, along with 100g stone-in green or black olives (stones removed),

3 tablespoons capers and 50g raisins. Give everything a good mix, mashing slightly with a fork, and return to the oven for 40 minutes, or until everything is soft and sticky.

Finish with the vinegar and oil.

Once ready, and while the mix is still piping hot, add another tablespoon of vinegar, toss through a handful of parsley leaves and serve. Finish with a very generous dousing of extra virgin olive oil to bring it all together.

Easy Wins - A Surefire Winner!

Courgettes Agrodolce with Sticky Onions. SERVES 2 AS A MAIN, 4 AS A SIDE

5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus a little extra to serve.

4 small or 2 regular courgettes (500g), cut into 1.5cm-thick rounds.

1 red onion, peeled and thinly sliced.

4 tablespoons red wine vinegar 1 tablespoon golden caster sugar 

1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes, plus extra to serve.

1 clove of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced.

½ a bunch of mint (15g), leaves picked

250g ricotta

‘Agrodolce means sweet and sour in Italian. In Italy there are so many ways of using this contrast of flavours to bring out the most in ingredients. Here I’ve used courgettes, but this technique would work for aubergine, thinly sliced butternut squash or fennel. The hit of vinegar which might feel angry on its own is offset with a little bit of sugar, which mellows the acidity and rounds off the flavour. I’ve written this recipe to serve 2 people, but it can easily be doubled, though you will need to fry the courgettes in a few batches.’

Fry the courgettes.

Heat a frying pan over a medium­ high heat and add 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. Season 500g courgettes cut into 1.5cm-thick rounds with sea salt and fry them for 3-4 minutes on each side or until blistering and golden brown, then remove with a slotted spoon on to a plate.

Cook the onion and add the agrodolce Add 1 thinly sliced red onion to the same pan and lower the heat. Fry for 10 minutes until soft, then add 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar,

1 tablespoon golden caster sugar and 1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes and return the courgette pieces to the pan.

Cook for a few minutes, then taste and season and divide the courgettes and onion between two plates.

Season and finish.

Sprinkle over 1 peeled and thinly sliced clove of garlic and a few more dried chilli flakes, tear over the leaves from half a bunch of mint and drizzle with a little olive oil. Season 250g of ricotta with salt and pepper and spoon it next to the courgettes. Extracted from EASY WINS: 12 flavour hits, 125 delicious recipes, 365 days of good eating by Anna Jones (Published by 4th Estate on 14th March, £28). Photography by Matt Russell.

The Seasoned Gastronome

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