Sunday, 26 July 2015

courgette, lemon thyme and gem lettuce summer soup

... influenced by our recent sojourn to Spain, The Viking and I were discussing the merits of cold soup.  The Spanish have their wonderful gazpacho, packed with fruity tomatoes, garlic and peppers it's a great and easy way to eat a healthy bowl of summer flavours... of course the French have something similar in vichyssoise and the humble leek and potato is one of my favourite cold soups... I adore making cold pea soup - oh there's something wonderfully sweet about the little pea that makes a cold soup taste so divinely moreish...  but it's funny how, in the summer months, dishes like soup get neglected.  To be honest, who wants a bowl of steaming hot liquid... but in fact I love soup in the summer.  Cold or hot, it's a great way to get those essential veg into your diet and if you treat them right, don't over cook anything and keep it really simple you can easily serve up a glorious bowl of summer...

courgette, lemon thyme and gem lettuce summer soup
if you don't grow lemon thyme I urge you to try and hunt some down and grow it... even if all you have is a windowsill there's always room for a little pot of this glorious herb.  It does everything regular thyme does but it has an added bonus of a fresh zesty lemon scent so even in the darkest depths of winter you can add the zing of summer to any dish... it goes really well with many chicken dishes and it perks up all kinds of fish dishes really well without being too overbearing.  It's in flower at the moment and the little pale lilac flowers are edible and so pretty sprinkled onto your finished dish... the lemon thyme is part of a medley of flavours here but they make their presence known in a subtle under-current of lemon and thyme in this glorious summer soup packed with my favourite 'allotment' veg... you can throw anything in here but be careful not to overcrowd the bowl, you want to be able to taste those lovely fresh vegetables...

1 bunch (6 or 7 stems) of spring onions - roughly chopped, keeping much of the green
2 courgette - roughly chopped
8 or 9 stems of purple sprouting broccoli - roughly chopped
a large handful of spinach
100g peas - fresh or frozen
1 gem lettuce - roughly chopped
1 litre good quality vegetable stock
butter and olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon thyme
salt and pepper

in a large pan or skillet on a medium heat, gently melt some butter and a little olive oil, then throw in the onions and courgettes, toss them around and let them sweat for a minute or two

add the peas and broccoli, stir and let them also cook off for another 2 minutes

add the rest of the veg and the fresh lemon thyme, stir and place the lid on.  Turn the heat down to low and let the veg sweat away for roughly 5 mins

add the stock and let the soup gently simmer for 8 minutes... let the soup cool for a couple of minutes before serving

linking up with no croutons required hosted by Lisa from Lisa's Kitchen and Jaq from Tinned Tomatoes and also linking up with extra veg hosted by Michelle from Utterly Scrummy and Helen from Fuss Free Flavours and of course i'm also linking it to the brilliant eat your greens bloggers challenge hosted by Shaheen over at A2K

eat and of course, enjoy!

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

blueberry and marmalade eat-from-the-fridge brownies

... oh it's funny being back from holiday isn't it?  You spend those two weeks almost unconscious on a subbed and then WHAM! like a slap in the face you're back into your real life with all the elegance of a sledgehammer on a wedding cake.  It's like the holiday never happened and the only thing you have to show for it is a fabulous tan and you can't really even remember actually lying in the sun.  We managed to get back to the cottage at the weekend but that was more curse than joy as the garden had decided to explode with growth and we spent the whole weekend wading through the jungle it had become, deadheading and cutting back... to be honest The Viking had a bit of a breakdown over the amount of work but once he'd calmed down we actually managed to get quite a bit done.  I was excited because I had a tonne of strawberries that had ripened over the fortnight we'd been away and they were all waiting patiently for us to scoff but I was also slightly upset because my stunning purple gooseberries that were going to be so perfectly ripe on our return had all disappeared.  I'm assuming the birds or some fat mice but it could have been a friendly neighbour or even a passing walker out on the scrump...

blueberry and marmalade eat-from-the-fridge brownies
these are quite frankly the best brownies i've ever eaten and I have eaten a lot of brownies... they weren't supposed to be eat-from-the-fridge but I over-egged it on the blueberries just a little and with 300g worth of the little blighters bursting with juice these brownies where never going to truly set.  So I popped them in the fridge and roughly 5 hours later they were the perfect consistency... fudgy, soft in the middle but crispy on top with little berry bursts in every mouthful... the marmalade and orange zest cut through the sweetness beautifully... utter heaven.

the recipe is actually my classic fail-safe brownie recipe, so i'm not doing anything new here, just adding the fruit...

185g butter
185g good quality dark chocolate - at least 70% cocoa solids
3 large eggs
275g golden caster sugar
85g plain flour
a pinch of salt
40g cocoa powder
300g blueberries
the grated zest of one medium orange
1 tablespoon marmalade

grease and line a 20cm square brownie pan, pre-heat the oven to 160C

in a pan gently melt the butter and chocolate - do this over a really low heat and stir regularly - take it off the heat before it's fully melted and set aside to cool, stirring again as it melts

in a large bowl beat the eggs and sugar with an electric mix for about 6 minutes until it doubles in volume and becomes pale, light and airy then pour in the melted and cooled chocolate and gently fold in until it's fully combined

sieve in the flour, salt and cocoa and again, gently fold in, then add the blueberries, orange zest and marmalade and fold them in.  Pour the mixture into your brownie pan.

bake on 160C for 25 mins then remove from the oven and let it cool in the tin and then pop it into the fridge for at least 5 hours to fully set - cut into squares and serve

i'm linking these brownies over to the brilliant we should cocoa bloggers challenge which is hosted this month by its founder Choclette from Tin and Thyme as the theme is blueberries.

eat and of course, enjoy!

Saturday, 18 July 2015

pa amb oli with homemade mallorcan rustic rye bread

... as you know, The Viking and I make a regular summer pilgrimage to the Spanish island of Mallorca and for many years we've tended to stick to the simple life.  We stay in my aunt's beautiful apartment and whilst we go for long drives into the beautiful villages in the mountains we tend to keep it quite basic as this is a proper break for us and relaxing means getting into a groove of doing nothing.  It's actually quite a skill.  Neither of us are 'lay by the pool' type of people, in fact generally I can think of nothing worse than a pool surrounded by sun-loungers with other peoples sweaty bodies lying too close to mine (unless i've instigated it of course...) and so perfecting the act of nothing to do doesn't come easy but the routine of a few lengthy games of scrabble, sitting in a cafe by the sea, listening to the sound of the world spin by is an ideal scenario for us... if we're clever this can actually last all day between a few strokes in the sea and more cafe con leche than you can imagine is healthy that by the time the coffee turns into vodka, lime and soda we're more relaxed than we could ever be... follow this with some gorgeous food and you could prick me with a fork because I am done...

pa amb oli with homemade mallorcan rustic rye bread
we basically ate plates of this nearly every night instead of an actual meal... like many peasant dishes it was inexpensive but superbly easy and many people order it with layers of cheese and iberico ham laid on top but with The Viking being a vegetarian we would go for a mixture of the cheese, grilled vegetables and tortilla options and they were so good...  an amazing starter for sharing with large groups but they are also very much like a pizza so would work as a main course too and there are just so many options of toppings to chose from... rye bread is also very low in gluten.  It's not quite gluten-free but for some people it may be a nice alternative to high-gluten breads...

for the rustic rye bread
a type of rustic rye bread is the traditional bread used for this dish but I simply couldn't find an authenticated recipe for the bread we ate or the bread used for pa am oli, all the information I could find was that the dish uses a 'rustic mallorcan country rye bread' so this is what I made.  As usual i've used my favoured 'low-knead' method as this is how I feel confident making bread but feel free to use any method of your choice, the recipe is the same... I have to say this bread is spectacular and tastes very much how I remember the bread tasted in Pollenca.

this is enough for two loaves, simply half the amounts for one loaf but then as I always say, why make one when two is just as easy and delivers double the points!

400g strong white bread flour
400g rye flour or wholemeal rye flour as it is sometimes known
3 teaspoons fact action dried yeast
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons caster sugar
600 ml water
olive oil to knead

place all the dry ingredients into a bowl and stir together, then add the water and bring together with a rubber spatula until you have a sticky shaggy mess - cover with a tea towel and set aside for 10 minutes

after 10 minutes, drizzle a little oil onto your work surface, rub around with your hand and then using your oiled hand lift the shaggy mess from the bowl and place it onto your oiled surface

drizzle a little more oil into the bowl and rub this around the inside of the bowl with your oiled hand and set aside

now knead the dough 10 times and then place it back into the oiled bowl, covered with a tea towel, for another 10 minutes

repeat this 2 more times, each time you will feel the dough getting softer and silkier and it will begin the puff out too

after the last time, place the dough back into the bowl and stretch cling film over the top of the bowl and set aside for at least an hour or until the dough has doubled in size

after an hour pre-heat your oven to 220C or as hot as it will go and place an oven proof pan in the bottom of the oven

oil your work surface and then scoop out the risen dough onto the oil, you want to knock it back with your knuckles and fold it over envelope-style a few times and then, if making two loaves, cut it in half and shape each half into a ball and set aside on a baking tray lined with parchment, for another 30 minutes

spritz each loaf with water, then sprinkle on a little rye flour and rub gently with your hand.  Slash each one with a sharp knife.  Quickly open the oven and pour a little cold water into the tray in the oven and then place in the loaves and bake in the oven for 10 minutes on 220C followed by 20 minutes on 180C.  They will be done when they are risen and golden and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom

set aside on a wire rack to cool

for the toppings
any selection of fresh vegetables such as courgettes, beef tomatoes, red peppers or aubergine
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
2 extra beef tomatoes - very ripe
olive oil
a traditional mallorcan or spanish cheese  such as iberico or manchego  - if you can't get hold of this try a nutty cheddar or strong double gloucester

slice your vegetables quite thickly and then set aside - halve one of your tomatoes

in a large bowl pour in two tablespoons olive oil, a selection of fresh torn herbs such as rosemary, thyme and oregano, salt and pepper

place the cut veg into the bowl and smoosh around with your hands until the veg are nicely coated

place a griddle pan on the heat until smoking hot, turn down the heat to medium and then carefully and relatively quickly griddle your veg... they only need a couple of minutes on each side.  They need a little crunch.

slice the bread into medium slices and grill on both sides

slice a clove of garlic in half and rub the hot toast with the garlic on one side, then taking you ripe tomato, cut that in half and rub it on the garlic-rubbed side of toast.  Do this quite firmly until the tomato breaks apart.  I used roughly a quarter beef tomato on each slice of bread

drizzle each slice with olive oil and then layer the toppings of your choice onto each slice -  it could be simpler

because this dish is so frugal and basic yet tasty I am linking it to the brilliant Credit Crunch Munch hosted by Camilla from FabFood4All and Helen from Fuss Free Flavours

I am also linking it to Bready Steady Go hosted by Jen from Jen's Food and Michelle from Utterly Scrummy

Finally this dish is off the Karen from Lavender and Lovage and her wonderful Cooking With Herbs challenge.

eat and of course, enjoy!

Thursday, 9 July 2015

gin and tonic mini bundt cakes

... just a short post from me today as from the gratuitous holiday snaps that many of you will have seen on my social media pages it's not hard to tell that The Viking and I are officially on our annual sojourn to Mallorca... i've waxed lyrical about the Spanish island many times on this blog.  It is a beautiful place with outstanding food and lovely people - as with any holiday destination you just need to know where to look.  To be honest i've never felt like i've deserved a holiday more than this one and we're thoroughly spoiling ourselves... I will do a little write up of my favourite eats when i get back but until then lets raise a glass or two to the summer...

gin and tonic mini bundt cakes
of course it's at precisely this time of year that one finds oneself sitting in a bar next to the ocean with the waves gently lapping against the deck and a glass of gin and tonic  it's this time of year that thoughts turn to long summer evenings with a glass of gin and tonic in hand, chilling in the shade of a tree in the garden as the bumble bees buzz around the sweetly scented flowers

this recipe is enough for 6 mini bundt moulds and 6 cupcakes or roughly 14 cupcakes

for the sponge
210g unsalted butter softened
210g golden caster sugar
210g self raising flour
3 large free-range eggs
the grated zest of one lime
5 tablespoons tonic water
2 tablespoons Hendrick's gin

for the syrup
5 tablespoons Hendrick's gin
50g golden caster sugar
the juice of one lime

for the icing
200g unsalted butter softened
400g icing sugar
juice and zest of one lime
4 tablespoons gin

pre-heat your oven to 170c and spray your silicone bundt moulds and line a cupcake/muffin tin with 6 cases

place the butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat together until light and creamy

add the eggs one at a time beating in after each egg and scraping down the sides of the bowls with a rubber spatular as you go, then sift in the flour, add the lime, gin and tonic and gently beat in

divide the mixture between the bundt moulds and the cupcake cases till they're about 2/3rds full

bake for roughly 20 mins until they are golden a skewer comes out clean

meanwhile place the items for the syrup in a microwave proof jug and heat until the sugar melts, then stir and set aside

remove from the oven and prick each little cake all over with a skewer, then gently pour a little syrup over each cake... you should add no more than a couple of teaspoons per cake or they'll go soggy - then set them aside to cool completely

for the icing, beat the butter and icing sugar until pale and soft then add the lime juice and zest along with the gin and beat again.  If it's looking too soft simply add a little more icing sugar until it reaches the thickness you feel comfortable icing with.

decorate you cakes however you like and sprinkle over a few little bits of zest

eat and of course, enjoy!

Monday, 6 July 2015

super-fast home-made ale, mushroom and pea pie

... what people who don't live in the UK don't realise is that there's a really good reason we obsess about the weather... it's because we never really know what it's going to be like out there.  There are, quite simply, no guarantees.  Even if the weatherman tells us on a Monday that the rest of the week is going to be a searing heatwave it's still likely to be raining and cold on Wednesday... and even though we live on a comparatively teeny island the weather only a hundred miles from where i'm sitting now could be completely different to how it is here.  What it means is that when is comes to the summer the only thing we can plan for is rain.  If you've planned for rain then you'll be OK.  It can be tiresome at times and many a marquee has gone up in defiance of rain that never came but it is truly better to be safe than sorry.  What this temperate climate also means is never quite knowing what you fancy to eat.  If the weather was a constant 30 degrees throughout the summer months you'd know you'd be eating salads and barbecues every day but when those blustery rains and cold fronts blow you start thinking about stews when you know you shouldn't...

superfast home-made mushroom and pea pie
sometimes on a Sunday I want the traditions of a Sunday roast but without the hassle of having to actually do any roasting... it's more of a feeling on Sunday that i'm after... bit of gravy perhaps and some nice green veg.  Last Sunday we were out in the wolds for a bit of a drive to take in some scenery and The Viking mentioned pie... well that was it.  I'd started to rub flour and butter together in my mind and we speedily turned the car around and headed for home.  This pie is super-fast for something so rustic and homemade.  You make the filling whilst the pastry is chilling and resting in the fridge so there's very little down-time. As well as the ale i'm also using some classic Bisto Roasted Onion gravy powder which makes this not only tasty but cuts down a lot of 'gravy-making' time... I have no issue with using these kinds of quick fix classics, I simply don't have the time not to so in total I think it took an hour and a half from arriving home to sitting down to eat which is not bad going for a tasty Sunday lunch...

for the quick herby shortcrust pastry
225g plain flour
110g butter at room temperature
some fresh herbs such as thyme or rosemary - finely chopped
a little cold water to mix

for the pie filling
4 large field mushrooms - cut into large chunks
5 shallots - roughly sliced
100g Quorn mince - (I had some that needed using in the freezer but you don't have to include this)
rosemary and thyme - finely chopped
150ml Bisto Roasted Onion gravy mixed with
100ml dark ale
a large handful of peas

start with the pastry by placing the the flour and butter in a bowl and using your fingertips, crumble it together until it resembles breadcrumbs, then mix in the fresh herbs, salt and pepper and a dash of cold water.  Using a butter knife, begin to stir it together and when it starts to form a ball get your hand in and bring it all together into a dough.

flatten it out into a disk, wrap it in cling film and pop it into the fridge whilst you make the filling

heat the oven to 170C

melt a generous amount of butter with a dash of olive oil in a large pan then throw in the onions and let them gently caramelise for roughly 10 mins and once they're soft and beginning to brown, turn up the heat, add the Quorn if using and the mushrooms, stir them around and let them sit until they start to make a noise, at which point stir them around, add some salt and plenty of pepper along with the fresh herbs and let them sit again until they start to release their juices... turn down the heat, stir again and let them cook until they begin to turn golden and the juices evaporate.

add the ale and gravy and the peas and let the whole dish gently bubble away whilst you roll out the pastry

flour your work surface well and roll out the pastry ensuring you create a large enough piece to cover the pie dish

trim off some thin strips of pastry and pinch them to the rim of the pie dish making a ring of pastry to which you can attach the pastry lid

carefully ladle the filling into the pie dish, brush the pastry rim with milk and lay the pastry on top.  Seal the pastry by pinching it with you thumb and forefinger and then brush the whole lot with milk

bake for 25 mins or until the pastry turns golden

eat and of course, enjoy!

Thursday, 2 July 2015

orange zest swiss roll

... there's been a bit of a hoohah in the local village.  This year, as regular as clockwork the Aby Village Show will take place on the 16th August and this year, as regular as clockwork the locals of Aby and Belleau have eagerly awaited the arrival of the little paper pamphlet that gets hand delivered through their doors but this year, not quite like clockwork, an audible gasp of consternation and surprise could be heard from the good folk of these two small villages of the Lincolnshire Wolds... you see as they turned the double-sided, folded to A5 printed sheet to discover which of their favourites they'd be baking they noticed that gone was the Victoria Sponge!... Gone was the fruit pie and GONE... dear reader... gone was the scone... I realise this is an act of unthinkable disaster but it is the sad truth.  In an effort to be more 'down with the kids,' the powers that be (Ann from number 6) have shaken things up a bit.  Quite honestly they've barely strayed from the path with this one and added the classic Swiss Roll and Bakewell Tart to the category list instead... all though quite frankly how they can take the beloved scone from the proceedings is beyond my... utterly beyond.

orange zest swiss roll
this is an absolute classic with a teeny twist in that i've added a dash of orange blossom water and some orange zest to the mix... other than that this is pretty much how it should be.  Some recipes call for a layer of cream or butter cream but the rules are the rules and i'm informed by the pamphlet that this should be a Swiss Roll with jam filling.  End of.  Wether it's a winner will remain to be seen...

125g golden caster sugar plus extra to dust
3 large free-range eggs
125g plain flour plus extra to dust
1 teaspoon orange blossom water
the zest of one orange
½ jar of strawberry or raspberry jam

pre-heat the oven to 200C. Lightly brush the base of a 33cm x 23cm Swiss Roll tin with vegetable oil. Cut a sheet of greaseproof paper to fit the base of the tin exactly. Brush the paper with a little more oil, then dust with a mixture of caster sugar and flour.

put the sugar and eggs into a large bowl and whisk with an electric hand whisk for 10 minutes, until pale and thick.

sift half the flour into the mixture and fold in very carefully until no traces of flour are left. Repeat with the remaining flour. Fold in a few drops of orange blossom water and the orange zest.

gently pour the mixture into the prepared tin and use a spatula to smooth it evenly into the corners.

bake for 10-12 minutes, until golden and risen and just firm to the touch then set aside.

lay out a damp tea towel on the work surface and lay a piece of greaseproof paper on top. Dust the greaseproof paper with caster sugar. Run a knife around the edge of the warm sponge and turn it out on to the sugar-dusted paper and then peel the paper off the back of the sponge.

ensure the jam is easy to spread by stirring it vigorously with a spoon and then pour it out onto the sponge and spread out evenly, leaving a little border of clean sponge all around.

make an incision about 1cm in from the short edge near you, being careful not to cut through the cake - this makes it easier to roll up and then start rolling, using the incision to help you make the first turn. Use the paper and tea towel to help you roll tightly.

once rolled wrap it in the paper and tea towel and lay it seam-side down until cold.

trim the ends before serving...

eat and of course, enjoy!

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Simply Eggcellent #5 - how do you like your eggs in the morning?

... with the popularity of last months 'anything goes' link-up I thought i'd set a little bit of a theme for July...  For many, eggs mean just one thing - breakfast.  They have been a mainstay of the morning meal for hundreds of years and they can be served in such a multitude of ways that it seems fitting to single out the morning to celebrate eggs.  Some would say there's nothing more basic than a fried egg but then other would suggest that there's even an art to frying - do you have it 'easy over' or 'sunny side up'.  I like my eggs scrambled for breakfast.  I like a nice buttery thickly folded scrambled egg with perhaps a slice of bacon or some salty mushrooms, served with a crunchy sourdough toast... but if i'm eating brunch I always go for an eggs benedict or eggs florentine served on a lightly toasted muffin a drenched in a thick hollandaise sauce... utter luxury but well worth it as that golden yolk glides through the warm creamy hollandaise and soaks into the bread... and usually my beard...

kale and avocado breakfast muffins

...but it doesn't have to be the plain egg-on-its-own that we're celebrating, any breakfast or brunch item is worth putting forward... the muffin is a wonderful breakfast cake, or perhaps a quiche for brunch, or how about baked eggs... or banana pancakes... oh joy, it's going to be utter heaven!

banana pancakes

how to take part in the simply eggcellent bloggers link-up

it's really easy to take part; all you have to do is create a beautiful breakfast or brunch recipe using free-range eggs, post it up on your blog and then link back to this post... if you include my simply eggcellent badge in the post and use the link tool below I will collate all the posts at the end of every month and produce a special round-up of entries...

feel free to tweet and instagram me your pictures using the #SimplyEggcellent hashtag and I will retweet and like all those I see... you can find me on social media @belleaukitchen

the ubiquitous 'full english'

eat and of course, enjoy!



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