Bagna Cauda Greens

Bagna Cauda Greens, The Plain Kitchen

This is a sort of Bagna Cauda: I add lots of herbs, lemon, a red onion and chilli to it, but it is essentially good olive oil, garlic and anchovies. I often make this to simply dress steamed vegetables, particularly if you are serving the vegetables alongside meat or fish. The sauce will keep well in the fridge if you want to make it ahead: and all it needs is to be gently heated before stirring through your steamed vegetables. Makes for a virtuous Monday meal too, on its own.

Serves 4 as a side


1 head broccoli, broken into florets

1 small bag sugar snap peas

2 anchovy fillets

1 red chilli, deseeded and sliced

3 tbsp olive oil

Juice and Zest of 1 lemon

6 large basil leaves, finely chopped

1 fat clove garlic, microplaned

1 small red onion, finely chopped


Gently fry the chopped onion, chilli and garlic in the olive oil for about 8 minutes: don’t let any part of it burn or catch, take it slowly, and fry gently. Then add the anchovies, and heat the mixture gently until the anchovies have melted away into the oil: this will take about 5 minutes. Lastly, add the herbs and lemon zest. Keep the mixture warm, but don’t let it sizzle.

Steam the broccoli and sugar snap peas for all of 4 minutes: I still like crunch to the veg.

Mix the sauce and steamed greens well, and serve immediately.

Basil Kale & Sweet Shallots

the plain kitchen kale

I do love kale, perhaps not as much as I am told to like it: but I do enjoy it. I suppose, with ingredients that one is forced, or told to love, one tends to shy away from, but I have really grown to love this leaf; particularly when steamed quickly, and served with a good dressing. It’s fantastic, and if you aren’t a kale eater- try it. It may just surprise you.

Serves 2, as a side


200g chopped kale, trimmed of excess stems

4 banana shallots, chopped

1 clove garlic, microplaned

4 tbsp olive oil

15g salted butter

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Zest and juice of ¼ a lemon

Small handful basil

½ tsp salt

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

3 tbsp pine nuts, toasted


Heat 2 tbsp olive oil and the butter in a small frying pan, gently. Add the chopped shallots and garlic, and fry for about 5 minutes, on a slow heat. Add the balsamic vinegar, and fry for only another minute.

In a pestle and mortar, pound the salt, and basil and add the lemon juice and zest.

While the shallots and garlic are frying, steam the kale. Steam quickly, and on a gfats steam, for 3 minutes or so. Remove from the heat, and drain well.

Mix the steamed kale with the fried shallots, and mix again with the lemon basil oil.

Serve on a platter, sprinkled with toasted pine nuts, and perhaps some grated parmesan if you fancy it.,


Beef Marrow Mash

The Plain Kitchen food blog

See? I told you that the salvaged goodness from yesterday’s post would be put to good use. I can only describe the flavour as truffled: I suppose it’s the inherent beef, the meaty flavour in the bones, along with that parmesan and garlic rub which creates this deep, beautiful flavour. When I was preparing this dish, I cursed myself for not making more bones: imagine the actual roast marrow mashed with the potatoes? I am certainly going to have to do that one day, but for now, we must make do with the rendered fat from those bones. The roasting of the two long bones gave a ramekin full of fat, about 60ml or so: along with milk, and a knob of butter, the mash was perfect. I didn’t rice my mash, I simply used an old fashioned masher- next time though, I may use the ricer for a smoother finish.


Serves 4


3 large Maris Piper or similar potatoes, halved

60ml or so of rendered bone marrow fat

Good knob of salted butter

½ cup full cream milk- a little more on hand should you prefer a looser mash

1 tsp Maldon salt

Good grinding black pepper

Handful fresh parsley, finely chopped


Boil the potatoes until done. Drain, and carefully peel the skins off. Discard skins, and add the rest of the ingredients to the potatoes and mash well. Alternatively, using a ricer, rice the potatoes over a bowl containing the ingredients- and mix well. I serve a little extra melted butter over the bowl of mash; purely for aesthetic reasons I will say!

Beetroot & Spinach Gratin with Horseradish

Beetroot and Spinach Gratin, The Plain Kitchen

I still have beetroot from the garden: I tried to ignore that it was still there, sprouting its leaves in the soil, but it ignored me back, and went on growing. I can’t bear to waste it, and of course we love it in salads, and roasted as a side: but it’s now Autumn and something more warming is needed. This gratin does the job: It’s earthy, and made particularly more so by the addition of the spinach, Spinach at this time of year, I feel, is at its best. It can be too soft in the Summer, too pale for me: which is obviously fabulous in salads, but when you want something more substantial, the glossy deep green leaves of Autumn are the ones to go for. I love too how the gratin,  warmed in the often with the soft cheese, becomes a shocking fuschia pink when you spoon it onto plates: absolutely beautiful.

You of course can parboil the beetroot a day before if you feel pressed for time.

Serves 4 as a substantial side, and is particularly good with venison or beef.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.


4 very large beetroot, or 6 medium ones, washed and topped

1 red onion, sliced into rings

2 cloves garlic, microplaned

8 leaves fresh sage

2 tbsp olive oil

100ml crème fraiche

150ml full fat soft cheese

½ cup grated parmesan

1 tbsp horseradish (try to use a good one, that isn’t too over-vinegared. Tracklements is wonderful)

150g fresh spinach, chopped


Place the beetroot in a medium sized saucepan of water. Bring to the boil, and parboil for 15 minutes. Drain, and set aside to cool.

Fry the onion, garlic and sage in the olive oil for 15 minutes on a gentle heat: if it catches slightly, this is ok, but you really want the flavours to amalgamate, and the onion to soften properly, so take it slowly. After 15 minutes or so, take off the heat, and add the cheese, crème fraiche, horseradish and salt and pepper. Set aside.

Peel the parboiled beetroot, and remove any roots or knobbly bits which remain, and then slice each beetroot into circles.

Start layering the gratin in a suitable oven proof dish: lay the beetroot circles on the bottom, then layer some chopped spinach. Spoon a little of the crème fraiche/onion mix on top of the spinach, and then follow again with the beetroot. Continue layering like this, until the mixtures have been used up.

Sprinkle the top of the gratin with parmesan. Bake in the preheated oven for 50 minutes.

The Plain Kitchen: Beetroot Gratin


Black Olive & Sunblush Tomato Tapenade

Black Olive & Sunblush Tomato Tapenade, The Plain Kitchen

 Tapenade is one of the most useful ingredients to keep in the fridge: I mix it with cream cheese for an instant topping on baked potatoes, or I simply stir it through pasta, as in this recipe. It will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days. It is also thankfully very popular with children.

Serves 6


Pasta (Spaghetti or Penne for 6 people)

I use Waitrose “Free From” Penne: it holds its shape well

For the tapenade:

¼ cup capers

1 cup grated parmesan

1 cup black olives

¼ cup sunblush tomatoes

½ cup basil leaves

¼ cup parsley leaves

Zest and juice of ½ a lemon

½ clove garlic, microplaned

½ tsp maldon salt

Good grinding of black pepper

To serve:

8 slices of pancetta, grilled


Grill the pancetta pieces on baking parchment until dark brown and crispy, and set aside.

Put the pasta on to boil: cook per packet instructions.

Make the tapenade by whizzing all of the ingredients together using a hand held blender, until you have a smooth paste.

Stir the tapenade through the drained pasta, and serve in bowls. Crumble the crispy pancetta on top of the pasta, and finish off with a little microplaned parmesan on top of each serving.