Bella Carter leads a successful catering business Simpkin & Roses, and is a fantastic chef and mother to two children. In the wake of Covid-19 she and her husband are delivering nutritious frozen food and fresh grocery boxes all over London and the home counties. You can read all about Bella in her interview here, gain 15% off all orders for the month of April*, and get a taster of her wonderful recipies below....
My fruit bowl was overflowing with lemons leftover from a job cancelled last minute due to the corona-virus. We had a few whisky sours between us, but I was reminded of the phrase ‘when life gives you lemons, make lemonade’.
So the children and I did, and here is how:
8 lemons – washed and dried
150g golden caster sugar
Using a potato peeler we peeled the lemons, discarding the bitter white pith. We put the zest into a large jug and squeezed the juice into it, adding the sugar and stirring well. We then boiled 3 pints of water and poured it over the lemon mixture (now would be a good time to add any other aromatics you might like, some rosemary or some raspberries to make pink lemonade). We left it to cool and infuse over night and then tasted it the next day. It was sensational and is still going strong a week later. I’m keeping it in a sealed bottle in the fridge. We water it down a bit too as it is pretty intense but makes a really refreshing drink with ice.
Now we are holed up at home with the children, tag teaming, home schooling them and simultaneously starting a new business doing contact less deliveries of our creations and grocery boxes to people’s doors.
We are so lucky that our wonderful butcher and greengrocer are still delivering fresh and fabulous produce and with it we are cooking up some really healthy, comforting, and nourishing dishes and soups to help people through this time. On the days that Hugh delivers our packages my home schooling mainly consists of cooking classes with the children who really enjoy getting involved where they can.
I have been concentrating on using store cupboard ingredients and also odds and ends from the freezer (like my berry smoothie ice lollies which are made from a bag of mixed berries which had been lurking in my freezer for well over a year!) I also really like to try not to make life too complicated by making hundreds of different things, we tend to all eat the same.
We decided to make some pea pesto which can be made so simply with frozen, sweet Petits Pois. Later on in the season there will be lots of lovely fresh peas waiting to be podded which the children love doing.
Pea and spinach pesto
150g or a cup of peas – I prefer petits pois as they are sweeter and don’t need cooking. Just thaw with some boiling water and drain.
A handful of baby spinach
A big handful of basil leaves
1 clove of garlic
1 tablespoon of pine nuts
50g grated parmesan
I use a blender to make this, it is the easiest way and leaves no trace of peas or spinach leaves. Blitz all the ingredients together and add a few tablespoons of olive oil until it reaches your desired consistency. I don’t usually put salt or pepper in for the children but will add it later when creating our supper.
The children love this most of all stirred through pasta with some more Parmesan over the top and some cherry tomatoes too. They have had it on top of baked white fish which goes down well too.
I keep the rest in the fridge after using a spoonful to make our lunch of fresh asparagus, which is just starting to appear, topped with a softly boiled egg with the pesto as a dressing.
1 bunch of English asparagus, washed well to remove the grit and with woody ends snapped off.
2 eggs boiled for 6 minutes, plunged into cold water and peeled carefully.
A spoonful of pesto let down with a bit more olive oil and salt and pepper ground into it.
Cook the asparagus in boiling, salted water for 3 minutes (alternatively you can roast or BBQ it very easily too if you toss it in olive oil first). Divide between two plates, top with your perfectly boiled egg and drizzle with the dressing. Shave more Parmesan over the top. Eat with some fresh bread for lunch. Makes a lovely starter too.
Another day and another salad. I get a vegetable box delivered once a week and love thinking of different ways to use the vegetables without having to go to the shops to buy anything else.
1 large sweet potato peeled and cut into small chunks
1 leek sliced
1 red chilli sliced
I tossed these in some olive oil and roasted in a 170oC oven until the sweet potato was soft, checking and turning regularly so that they didn’t catch and burn. I then saved half of the mixture in a bowl for another time. The sweet potato I was using was big and I had other ideas forming for later.
Then in a salad bowl I tossed together:
Handful of halved cherry tomatoes
Big handful of baby spinach leaves
Shavings of Parmesan
Sweet potato/leek/chilli mixture
Spoonful of pesto
Squeeze of lemon and salt and pepper
This made a delicious lunch with a crisp glass of white wine in the sunny garden.
The reserved sweet potato I planned to make into a store-cupboard one pot number for supper. One of our frozen dishes we make now for delivery is a bit like this but uses aubergine and is totally vegan and gluten free, and so suits even the trickiest diets.
Prawn and sweet potato quinoa curry with coriander and ginger
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon coriander seeds/mustard seeds/cumin seeds – whatever you have lurking in the cupboard
1 thumb ginger grated or sliced thinly
1 tin of coconut milk
The reserved sweet potato etc
Some defrosted prawns
A handful of baby spinach
A squeeze of lime
100g or a large handful of quinoa
Heat a little oil and toast the curry powder and seeds in it, stir in the garlic and ginger. Add the coconut milk and stir in the quinoa. Simmer for about 15 minutes until the quinoa is cooked adding more liquid (water is fine or use stock if you have it) if it needs it, to prevent it from drying out. Then simply stir in the sweet potato, prawns and lastly the spinach. Wait until the prawns turn pink and it is ready. Taste it and add some lime juice, some salt and pepper, and serve with some fresh coriander. Delicious topped with some yogurt too and any lime pickles you have lurking in the cupboard.
The children love making pizza and we have a fabulous BBQ which we can turn into the perfect pizza oven. I do them too in the oven with similar results, just not quite as crisp bottomed. The tomato sauce is so easy to make and although I favour buffalo mozzarella we are used to just using up whatever we have in the fridge so we have made some cheddar ones and blue cheese too is popular.
600g strong flour
7g sachet of easy bake yeast
Glug of olive oil
Large pinch of salt and teaspoon of sugar
Enough hand temperature water to bring the dough together. Approx 500ml but add slowly.
Put all the dry ingredients in a bowl and stir. Slowly add the water and olive oil and knead together for about 5 minutes. It really doesn’t have to be longer, we have impatient kneaders and have tried and tested this! Add more flour if it is too sticky.
I divide it into four balls at this stage and leave them to double in size on a floured surface. This could take a couple of hours. Then dust a surface with flour, even better if you have semolina or polenta, and roll out your four pizzas. Top with tomato sauce, cheese and whatever you have to hand! Wilfy even demanded peas on his the other day with blue cheese and salami, it was a hit!
Then transfer to a boiling hot oven or pizza oven. I turn my oven up to 250oC which seems to do the trick.
Here is the recipe for simple and delicious pizza sauce:
1 tin of tomatoes
1 glug of olive oil
1 big pinch of salt
1 clove garlic
Blend it with a stick blender and that is it!
Simpkin & Roses are offering TROY readers a generous 15% off your first purchase in our shop. It is valid for the whole of April 2020. They deliver within the M25 on Thursdays and Fridays. Delivery to the Home Counties can be arranged - please contact them to discuss.
Coupon code TROY420 (enter during checkout)
Deliveries can be arranged on behalf of anyone you know might be in need - simply enter their details for delivery during checkout.
All deliveries are contactless.