Home Cooking Tips From Catering Pros Bitter Lemon Food
Home Cooking Tips From Catering Pros Bitter Lemon Food

Home Cooking Tips From Catering Pros Bitter Lemon Food

Chefs and photographers Lily and Leo are the owners of recipe platform and catering company Bitter Lemon Food. As well as bringing healthy and delicious veggie meals to homes across the UK, they’re also about to launch a series of supper clubs in London. Here, Lily tells us how to recreate some of their signature dishes and drinks at home, as well as her everyday cooking tips.
By Sherri Andrew
Courgette, Pea & Feta Fritters
Courgette, Pea & Feta Fritters

How Would You Describe Your Cooking Style? 

Our speciality is making vegetables taste great and giving people the best recipes to cook with them at home. We love creating delicious dishes and bringing them to life through photography. Our style is simple and impactful – it’s about getting the best flavour and appearance possible with minimal effort. Not because we’re lazy, just because we love cooking at home and want it to be something we look forward to. Sometimes cooking long, elaborate recipes is exactly what you want but not many people have time to do it every night. We usually focus on sharing dinner recipes which use a lot of vegetables in each dish, serving from two to six people. We love recipes that you can serve in the middle of the table, with simple sides like a mixed leaf salad and big bowls of dip. 

Let’s Get Into The Food. What’s Your Go-To, Easy Mid-Week Supper?

My favourites always change but right now, it’s our sun-dried tomato orzo made with a handful of ingredients. It only takes 15 minutes to cook and has so much flavour. I’ve also been known to cook our peanut pad Thai and mushroom stew multiple times in one week. Leo’s favourite is a kale salad with a creamy cashew dressing; he makes it every week. A great, easy side dish to any stew or pasta dinner. 

Which Store Cupboard Products Do You Always Rely On? 

Harissa and miso paste for adding flavour to dishes, cashews for making creamy sauces and dressings, and chickpeas and pulses for adding more substance to salads, curries and stews. We always buy tahini and almond butter for thickening sauces or stews and adding earthy depth to dishes. In fact, we use the same cupboard ingredients across all of our recipes, so we only have to buy a couple ingredients each time we cook. We’ve put together this list of the cupboard ingredients we use across all our recipes on the site.

Are There Any Store Cupboard Essentials You Think People Don’t Know About? 

Cupboard essentials shouldn’t be things that are hard to get your hands on, because when you need them for a recipe, it can be quite disappointing. All the cupboard ingredients we use in our recipes are easy to find in your local supermarket. Saying that, different types of pulses and grains can be something people aren’t that familiar with – ingredients like pearl barley and orzo pasta have become some of our favourite ingredients to use.

What's Your Ultimate Comfort Dish And Why? 

Mushroom carbonara for when I’m in need of something filling and wholesome. We use blended cashews and miso paste to make a really creamy sauce, mixed with parmesan and cooked mushrooms – I could eat it every night. If I’m feeling under the weather, ramen works perfectly. There’s something really comforting about the hot flavoursome broth with some thick noodles and roasted vegetables. We’ve got a great simple veggie ramen recipe, it only calls for a few ingredients to make the ‘cheat’ broth, which acts as an amazing base for the roasted sweet potato and noodles. 

How Do You Make A Really Great Breakfast At Home? 

Every weekend we make a big breakfast in our house for our brothers or friends. It’s probably our favourite meal. Go-tos include shakshuka with lots of feta and well cooked eggs, baked green eggs, courgette fritters or miso mushrooms on toast. They’re all big on flavour and great for groups. We tend to serve breakfast with lots of sides – toasted sourdough, a bowl of smashed avocado or some garlicky grilled tomatoes. I’ll serve this alongside our breakfast smoothie made with banana, oat milk and a squeeze of honey – it’s so simple and healthy but tastes like the world’s best banana milkshake. 

What’s Your Go-To Dish At This Time Of Year? 

I love spring produce; everything starts to become vibrant and colourful again. Risottos are one of my favourite things to cook with seasonal ingredients. Our artichoke, broad bean and spinach risotto really surprises people with its creamy texture and punchy flavour. It’s also a recipe where you can add anything you have at home into the mix – peas, watercress and spring greens would work well. Leo loves our asparagus and onion frittata, which is perfect when asparagus comes into season. It’s really easy and makes a great centrepiece around which to serve salads and dips. 

What About A Fresh Salad Idea? 

We tend to do a creamy dip or dressing as the base, layered with fresh vegetables and then topped with something crunchy or indulgent – it works so well every time. My favourite salad right now is our roasted aubergine and chickpea salad with harissa cashew cream – it has a bright orange creamy dip spiced with harissa on the bottom, topped with roasted aubergines and crunchy chickpeas, then topped with crumbled feta and spring onions. It looks and tastes so impressive but is really simple to make. Another great one is the broccoli and courgette salad with pea purée, topped with roasted green vegetables and fresh salad leaves. 

Are There Any Tips You Can Share For Good Vegan Cooking? 

Grains and pulses add so much texture to dishes – in black bean stews, chickpea curries and pearl barley salads for example. There are also several everyday ingredients that can really bring vegan dishes to life, including miso paste, harissa paste, sun-dried tomatoes, tahini, almond butter and balsamic vinegar. Nuts and seeds are also a great way to create thick, creamy dressings, sauces and dips which can complement any roasted vegetable in vegan dishes. Personally, we don’t use meat alternatives, or even tofu in our vegan recipes. Instead, we look at it as bringing out the best flavours and textures vegetable have to offer.

Easy Onion, Asparagus & Feta Frittata
Easy Onion, Asparagus & Feta Frittata
Creamy Parmesan & Kale Salad
Creamy Parmesan & Kale Salad

Asian Food Is Delicious But Can Be Tricky To Do Well Yourself – Any Tips? 

Good, flavoursome dressings, broths and sauces are all key to good Asian cooking at home. If you get the flavours right, they can really bring the rest of the dish to life. Having the right ingredients is key to getting the right flavours, and they’re often hard to replace with other things. Our favourite cupboard ingredients to use include miso paste, brown rice vinegar, mirin, tamari and toasted sesame oil. 

What Are Some Of Your Top Dinner Party Dishes? 

The best menus feel a little fancy or fun but are still easy to either prep ahead or make quickly so you’re not spending all of your time in the kitchen away from your guests. We make an incredible pulled aubergine ragu that really impresses friends because of its pulled texture and delicious flavour from the combination of tomatoes, harissa and balsamic. It also has lentils which give it a real meaty feel. Mushroom tacos are also great to cook when people come over, if they want something fun they can put together themselves. We usually serve them with spicy hot sauce, crunchy lettuce, some yoghurt and guacamole – they always go down well. 

Simple Veggie Ramen
Simple Veggie Ramen
Roasted Aubergine & Chickpea Salad With Harissa Cashew Cream
Roasted Aubergine & Chickpea Salad With Harissa Cashew Cream

What Are The Best Starters To Prepare In Advance? 

Soups make a great starter – you can make one look really impressive by topping it with a drizzle of olive oil or yoghurt, roasted nuts and seeds, garlicky croutons, chopped chives, peppers, chilli flakes, feta or goats curd. Plus, you can make them ahead of time and just dress them up when you’re ready to serve. Our chestnut soup with a roasted walnut crumb is really popular. If you want a super easy starter, you can’t go wrong with burrata with sun-blushed tomatoes. Simply chop the tomatoes, top with a whole burrata, and sprinkle with toasted pine nuts and a drizzle of thick balsamic vinegar. 

What’s A Simple Pudding That Still Impresses? 

Berries are ideal when they come into season – we’ve made lots of delicious cakes which use berries in the batter to create a great fruity flavour. We also have a tub of simple homemade salted caramel ice-cream in our freezer all year round in case we don’t have time to make a pudding. It’s only requires four ingredients, a whisker and a tub to make – no churning necessary. You can always pair it with ingredients that are in season too, like berry compote or fresh fruit. Also, a semifreddo will always impress guests. 

What About Cocktails? What Would You Recommend For A Party? 

My favourite cocktail is a good whisky sour, while Leo loves a negroni. He keeps all of the ingredients in our drinks cabinet at home, ready to make for when anyone takes him up on the offer. It’s a great cocktail because you can keep all of the ingredients in the house and you only need a shaker and some ice. He made a ‘British Negroni’ recently, using British spirits which was a very cool twist. 

Are You A Fan Of A Cheese Plate? If So, What Goes Into A Great One? 

Yes! We spent quite a bit of time researching what cheeses make the best cheese board and came to the conclusion that cheese fits into four categories – aged, soft, firm and blue, and that it’s important to have a mix of all four categories, as well as taking a few other things into account like sweetness, creaminess, freshness, and strength. Here’s what goes into ours:

Hard: Comté. Hard, creamy and nutty at the same time. You can buy comté depending on the months it has aged – the longer it has aged, the more flavoursome it becomes. 

Sweet: Chèvre. A soft, creamy goat’s cheese that develops more taste the longer it ages. It has a sweet taste like nutty caramel, and is delicious spread over a fresh slice of baguette or on crackers with a drizzle of balsamic. 

Creamy: Valencay. It’s made up of a distinctive ash-coloured pyramid, stuffed full of really creamy white cheese. The taste is delicate and moreish, and the texture is almost mousse-like, making it perfect to spread over crunchy crackers with some spiced chutney. 

Gooey: Mont D’or. A lot of people use camembert for their gooey, dipping cheese but we personally prefer this. Its rich, earthy flavour is perfect served hot and bubbling in winter. We like to stuff it with garlic cloves and eat it with a spoon or pieces of bread and raw vegetables to dip in. 

Strong: Cheddar. The wonderful thing about cheddar is every cheddar tastes so different; the mild ones can be crumbly and delicate, while the strong ones can really blow your mind. One of the best UK farms producing cheddar is Keen’s in Somerset. All the milk they use is from their own cows and they do everything by hand, using zero machinery to create a true artisan cheese. 

Blue: Stilton. Another amazing British cheese, stilton has a strong, full-flavoured taste that really fills your mouth with salty, fruity flavours. Traditional potted stilton looks impressive on a cheeseboard and always gets finished in our house.

Smelly: Époisses. A famous saying about this cheese is that it ‘smells like hell, tastes like heaven’ which I agree with. My favourite way to have this cheese is piled high on a warm piece of bread on its own – it doesn’t need anything else. 

What Three Kitchen Tools And Gadgets Couldn’t You Live Without? 

Firstly, my Nutribullet for blending dips, sauces, smoothies and curry bases. We’ve tried other blenders but this one is our favourite. We do also have a food processor for harder things, but they can be quite expensive. We also couldn’t live without a good chef’s knife, one that’s sharp and reliable will make chopping so much more enjoyable. I’ve spent years trying to find the best knife and have a few Japanese ones. Our favourite knives are from a company called Flint & Flame – they’re reliable, sharp and easy to use. Lastly, good quality pans are very important. We have two Le Creuset pans that we use for everything. They’re expensive but a great lifelong investment. 

Do You Have Any New Food Discoveries To Share? 

I’ve recently become obsessed with olive oil brownies. All brownies need a good amount of fat in order to make them gooey, and usually that comes in the form of butter or coconut oil, but I’ve been making them with olive oil recently. The liquid nature of the olive oil means the brownies are super moist and mixed with the right amount of chocolate and sugar, create the ultimate rich brownie that stays fresh for days. 

Tell Us About Your Top Three Cookbooks… 

Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat  by Samin Nosrat breaks down the key elements of cooking and how they come together to create great flavour. I’ve used this book so many times and although I’ve got my own take on the elements in there, it has helped me to understand cooking more. The Science of Cooking by Dr Stuart Farrimond is a fascinating book about why things happen to our food in the cooking process. Wine Folly by Justin Hammack and Madeline Puckette, is another great book if you’re getting into wine and pairing it with food – it goes into detail about the different grapes, as well as the different countries and regions they come from. They introduce you to the different flavours in wine and how they go well with different types of dishes. Even if you can’t pick up the flavours they explain, it’s a great way to deepen your understanding about different wines and what you like or don’t like. 

Tomato & Red Pepper Shakshuka
Tomato & Red Pepper Shakshuka

For more recipes, visit BitterLemonFood.com and follow @BitterLemonFood. You can also buy tickets to the next BYOB supper club here

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