Family value

Family value

Theo Michaels

In our new ‘Family value’ series, we showcase how foodies up and down the country are cooking in their own homes. To kick off, we talk to MasterChef semi-finalist and family man Theo about lockdown cooking and seasonal produce. He also shares some delicious recipes, including his wife’s favourite orange cake

Having a Greek-Cypriot background means that food has always played a really big part in my life. Spending time together as a family so often revolved around the kitchen table, from breakfast through to dinner. After getting to the semi-finals of MasterChef in 2014, I realised I wanted to make food my vocation rather than a pastime, and use it as a way of bringing my family and friends together.

‘I take real pride in shopping locally and seasonally, and meat is a treat in our household. We try to balance the ingredients we use in our meal plan, so our tummies are full, but our wallets aren’t exactly empty! ‘While researching my new book Rustica, I became inspired by the way rural communities in Cyprus ate hundreds of years ago — it was sustainable and healthy. Nothing was ever wasted, and ingredients were treated with the respect they deserve. I think we’re coming full circle now, in terms of emulating that way of eating: choosing to cook with produce that’s in season, and making things like Sunday roasts go further by turning the leftovers into soups and pies throughout the week. 

‘Cooking is just as important to me at home as it is at work — I’m passionate when it comes to teaching it to my three kids (shown above). It’s vital for children to learn how to cook from a young age, as it’s a key life skill. My family aren’t afraid to try new things: one of our favourite dinners is seafood pasta and, even with ages that span seven years (from 4 to 11), there are always clean plates all round! One dish we have in constant rotation is my change-your-life-spaghetti traybake — we put all the raw ingredients into a big dish, along with passata and stock, bang it in the oven and it’s all done! You can find it on my new website, fivedinners.com, which is a handy tool for planning all your weeknight meals. 

‘It’s important to get your kids involved in the kitchen and trying new things, especially when you’re spending more time at home. My three recipes here are just right for cooking with them: a winter warming soup for lunch, a quick and easy brunch dish, or my flourless almond and orange cake — perfect for a midweek pud!’


Avgolemono 

‘This is a traditional Greek soup based on egg and lemon’

Serves 6 • Ready in 2 hours 10 mins

Put 1.5kg Co-op British chicken in a large pan for a snug fit but with some space. Add sufficient water or stock to cover the bird by about 5cm (1.5-2 litres) and set over a medium heat. Add 2 bay leaves, 4 sprigs of flat leaf parsley and 1 celery stick, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and cook at a very gentle simmer for about 1½ hours. Remove the chicken from the pan, then set aside, covered. Sieve the cooking liquid over a large bowl and discard the herbs and celery. Return the strained stock to the pan and set over a medium heat. Add 200g Co-op Italian risotto rice, rinsed, and cook for 15–20 mins, or until just tender, then turn off the heat. Shred a quarter of the chicken (enjoy the rest as leftovers) and add to the pan, along with 125ml cold water and 200g Co-op halloumi, cut into 2cm cubes. Finely grate the zest of 1 lemon, then squeeze the juice into a large mixing bowl. Beat in 3 Co-op British free range eggs. Scoop out a ladleful of liquid from the pan and, very slowly, pour into your egg mixture, continuously whisking. Repeat to add 2 ladlefuls in total. If you add the liquid too fast, you’ll cook the egg and it will curdle. Pour the mixture back into the pan, stirring. Taste the soup, add more lemon juice if needed and season. Reheat it over a low heat for a few minutes, stirring continuously, but don’t let the soup simmer or it will curdle. Ladle into bowls, then finish with a few grinds of black pepper, a drizzle of Co-op extra virgin olive oil, and a pinch of lemon zest. Serve the soup with crusty bread.


Strapatsada (V)

‘Essentially scrambled eggs with tomatoes and Feta, I’ve added herbs and spices, plus croutons for a satisfying crunch’

Serves 4 • Ready in 35 mins, plus resting 

  • 3 ripe tomatoes, halved
  • 2 tbsp Co-op olive oil
  • ½ green pepper, sliced
  • 3 spring onions, sliced
  • 1 green jalapeño, sliced
  • ½ garlic clove, crushed
  • ¼ tsp ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp paprika
  • ½ tbsp dried oregano
  • Pinch of Fairtrade caster sugar
  • 80g Co-op Greek Feta cheese, broken into large chunks
  • Handful mixed fresh herbs, such as flat leaf parsley, coriander, dill and mint, roughly torn
  • 3 Co-op British free range eggs, whisked
  • ¼ red onion, thinly sliced

FOR THE CROUTONS

  • 1 slice of white bread, cut into 1.5cm cubes
  • 2 tbsp Co-op olive oil
  1. Preheat the oven to 220°C/fan 200°C/gas 7. Start with the croutons: put the cubed bread in a bowl, season and toss with the olive oil; tip onto a baking sheet and bake for 4 mins, until golden and crisp, then remove and leave to cool.
  2. Meanwhile, deseed the tomatoes, chop the flesh, then put in a sieve set over the sink to drain.
  3. Put the oil in a saucepan and set over a medium heat. Add the green pepper and spring onion, fry for 2 mins, then add the jalapeño, garlic, cumin, paprika and oregano. 
  4. After 2 mins, add the drained tomato to the pan, along with the sugar. Season, then simmer until the tomato has broken down, adding a splash of water if it starts to dry out. 
  5. When the tomato is completely soft, turn down the heat and fold in half the Feta and most of the fresh herbs, reserving some to garnish.
  6. Using the back of a spoon, make a few indents in the tomato mixture around the edge of the pan and pour in the egg. Still using the back of the spoon, drag a line from the egg through the tomato mixture, which will fill up with the runny egg. Do this several times, gently and slowly, until the egg is just about set, then remove the pan from the heat and set aside to rest for a few minutes.
  7. To serve, gently slide your strapatsada onto a serving plate, scatter over the remaining Feta, the red onion and reserved herbs, then scatter over the croutons.

Flourless almond & orange cake

‘Oh, for oranges and almonds… sigh. This cake is my wife’s favourite. Despite being flourless, it remains moist, and the puréed whole oranges give it a sharp vibrancy that’s hard to beat. I’ve dressed this up by decorating it, but if I’m honest, most of the time in our house it barely makes it out of the baking tin before we’re cutting away slices each time we walk past’

Serves 8 • Ready in 1 hour 10 mins, plus 2 hours’ boiling, and cooling  

  • 4 oranges
  • Co-op unsalted butter, for greasing
  • 400g Co-op ground almonds
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • 400g Fairtrade caster sugar
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 12 small Co-op British free range eggs, whisked

FOR THE GLAZE AND DECORATION

  • 6 tbsp apricot conserve
  • 1 tbsp brandy (preferably Greek)
  • 250g Greek style natural yogurt
  • 1 tbsp Fairtrade caster sugar
  • 1 orange, separated into segments, plus grated zest of ½ the orange 
  • 1 tbsp coarsely chopped pistachio kernels
  • Grated zest of ½ lemon
  • Fairtrade icing sugar, to dust (optional)
  1. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, add the oranges whole and boil for 2 hours, topping up the water as necessary to keep them fully submerged. Once soft, gently lift them out of the water and leave to cool for 10 mins.
  2. Put the cooled oranges in a blender, skin and all. Pulse until you have a pulp, then pass it through a fine sieve set over a bowl, pushing the pulp through using the back of a spoon. Set aside.
  3. Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/gas 6 and lightly grease a springform cake tin, 22cm across. 
  4. Combine the ground almonds, baking powder and caster sugar in a large bowl. Stir in the sieved orange pulp, add a small squeeze of lemon juice and mix to combine.
  5. Sieve the egg into the bowl and beat until fully incorporated. Pour the mixture into the cake tin, then bake for 30 mins. Remove from the oven and let it cool in the tin.
  6. To make the glaze, put the apricot conserve in a small bowl with the brandy, add 1 tbsp cold water and stir to combine. Brush over the cooled cake to give it a little shine.
  7. Put the yogurt and caster sugar in a bowl and stir until the sugar dissolves. Spoon the sweetened yogurt over the cake, arrange the orange segments on top and finish with the pistachios and a sprinkling of orange and lemon zest. Add a dusting of icing sugar, if you like.

READ MORE 

These recipes are taken from Rustica by Theo A Michaels (Ryland Peters & Small), out now. @theocooks