Friday, 24 April 2015

tenderstem broccoli vermicelloni with chorizo

... i've been in a relationship for so long now that I don't think i'd know what to do if I had to go on a date.  The thought sends shivers down my spine and I realise how lucky I am when I talk to my single friends and hear the horrors that they have to endure.  Whilst I embrace modern technology I'm so thankful that I never had to deal with the current avalanche of the on-line dating world.  It looks utterly scary and completely alien and I cannot think of anything worse.  So much pressure is placed on compatibility... will I get on with this new person, what will we talk about, will we have anything in common... one of the things that you learn from being in a long-term relationship is that it's not always about compatibility.  Sure, it's nice to know you both like mashed potato but whilst you're busy looking for someone who likes star trek and not laying on a beach on holiday what is actually important is if the person you're with is a decent human being... are they nice to you and those around you.  A good person is a person i'd want to spend my life with... a good person is the person I have chosen to spend my life with...

... it also helps if they're impressed with what I put down in front of them to eat...

tenderstem broccoli vermicelloni with chorizo 
sometimes a simple pasta dish is the best way to taste something as fresh and natural as these stunning tenderstems... the good people at tenderstem sent me a wonderful hamper stuffed with goodies that they say make for the perfect Date Night food... food that compliments the wonderful fresh broccoli that is so tender you can eat it all the way down to the stem.  It’s a great ingredient for so many main dishes and accompaniments, from the most sophisticated to the well as being quick and easy to cook, so I guess it does make it the perfect date night ingredient...   of course I chose to keep it as simple as possible with just a few ingredients and created this vibrant pasta dish.  I really don't eat much pasta at home so for me this is actually a special treat and I love the fact that you each ingredient has it's own clear personality but also works so well together in one.

this recipe is enough for two people

1 packet of tenderstem broccoli - roughly chopped
1 chorizo sausage - chopped
1 medium onion - finely chopped
lots of parmesan cheese - grated
pasta of your choice - I used 250g of fabulous black dog vermicelloni 
a little finely sliced red chilli
olive oil

get your pasta on in the usual way with a giant pot of boiling water and a little salt... I have a large pan that has room for pasta and a steamer on top which I used to par-steam the broccoli

heat a large pan with a little olive oil then throw in the the chorizo and onion and let it all gently sweat and soften, the chorizo will release plenty of red fat which is wonderful

place the broccoli above the boiling pasta in a steamer and let it steam for 3 minutes, then remove and set aside

once the pasta is ready drain it but set aside a cup of the pasta water

throw the pasta into the pan with the onions and chirozo and add a large handful of grated parmesan, half the cup of pasta water and quickly mix it all together, stir in the tenderstem and add a little more pasta water if you feel it needs lubrication before serving

eat and of course, enjoy!

Monday, 20 April 2015

rhubarb and blackberry country cake

... it does't happen very often any more but I love it when the seasons catch you by surprise... one moment you're stewing pumpkin in the slow-cooker or defrosting summer fruits for pie and the next minute you notice the neighbours rhubarb bush is in full growth and it's time to start thieving... I mean asking very sweetly if you can 'borrow' some rhubarb.  Sometimes it's like living in nature's larder  - imagine me skipping like the Easter bunny around the fields plucking wild garlic from river banks and wild berries from the hedgerows... and of course at other times it's like being stuck in nature's freezer when there's nothing anywhere but the barren landscape and only a trip to the local supermarket will suffice.  It's not quite as Edwardian as it sounds, it's not like we have to saddle up a horse and cart or anything, although now I mention it...

rhubarb and blackberry country cake
I was searching for rhubarb recipes at the weekend.  I wanted to do something a little homemade and rustic and Darina Allen's brilliant Forgotten Skills of Cooking came to the rescue.  I love this book.  I feel that in another life I could have written these recipes.  They are so homely and basic yet so beautiful and tasty and 'from the land.'... and she's right about the many recipes being forgotten.  Some classics gently disappear from the table because they're not seen as trendy and this is a crying shame... this cake which is more like a pie is just a ridiculously simple recipe with a gorgeous fluffy pastry made good by using soured cream or sour milk.. the pastry is so much like a scone that I may in fact use it as a scone recipe next time... oh and i've added some blackberries to my pie cake just because they were in the fridge.

as an aside, it's frustrating when a cookbook, for whatever reason gets a recipe and method wrong and it's even more frustrating when it's a recipe such as this which is obviously a family recipe passed down the generations... you have no come-back other than the fact that you're left staggering at how odd the measurements are and even though you're attempting to follow the recipe and method to the letter it's glaringly obvious that it's not going to work... now this is quite a simple dish so it was easy to see that the given weight for rhubarb of 700g was way too much but the suggested hour in the oven at 180C really got my goat because that would have clearly ended in burnt pastry and a wasted bake.  I'm not saying i'm perfect but then i'm not Darina Allen...

350g flour
a pinch of salt 
1/2 teaspoon bicarb 
50g caster sugar 
75g butter 
1 egg, preferably free range and organic 
165ml milk, buttermilk or sour milk - I actually used some left-over soured cream mixed with milk
700g rhubarb, finely sliced - I used just under 400g
150g blackberries
egg wash made from a beaten egg and milk
175-225g granulated sugar - I actually only 150g because I like my rhubarb tart
caster sugar for sprinkling 

1 x 25.5cm (10 inch) enamel or Pyrex plate (I actually used a flat pie plate)

preheat the oven to 180C

sieve the flour, salt, bicarb and caster sugar into a bowl and then rub in the butter until you have breadcrumbs

whisk the egg and mix with the buttermilk or soured cream then make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in most of the liquid and mix to soft dough, add the remainder of the liquid if necessary. 

sprinkle a little flour on your work surface, turn out the dough and pat gently into a round. Divide into two pieces and set one aside.  Roll out one piece of dough and place it onto the pie plate but don't trim it.

scatter the finely chopped rhubarb all over the base, egg-wash the edges and sprinkle the rhubarb with the granulated sugar. 

roll out the other piece of dough until it is exactly the size to cover the plate, lift it on and press gently to seal the edges. I don't bother to trim because I love all that golden crust but feel free to neaten it up as you like... Make a hole in the centre for the steam to escape, egg-wash and sprinkle with a very small amount of sugar. 

bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until the rhubarb is soft and the crust is golden. Leave it to sit for 15-20 minutes so that the juice can soak into the crust.

i'm sharing this rhubarb post with Karen from Lavender and Lovage and Janice from the Farmersgirl Kitchen who are co-hosting a brilliant blog hop celebrating The Great British Rhubarb... 

eat and of course, enjoy!

Friday, 17 April 2015

rosanna pink onion tarte tatin

... I imagine the developers of predictive text thought they were building a tool for a better future when in fact they have unwittingly created a monster.  Whilst it's wonderful for those quick corrections of obvious typo's it also manages to both correct and destroy prose in one fail swoop of the keyboard.  I've recently been fortunate enough to purchase a reconditioned MacBook Air which I adore but it comes with many functions that are so beyond clever that i've ended up switching them off.  I know I can do that with the predictive text too but it is a fine balance between useful and frustrating.  If I read back through recent blog posts I am often left with a sense of bewilderment at the strange language and odd words that I clearly didn't mean but that clever old PT slipped under the radar in the name of correct spelling... this usually become most frustrating when i'm trying to write recipes or recipe titles, such as the simple tarte tatin.  It's been named tarte tatin for countless generations.  Not tart satin or air tat-in.  It sends an angry shiver down my spine because it makes me question the validity of my knowledge and makes me assume that one day the tarte tatin will simply disappear forever under the misguided notion of some clever boffins in california...

rosanna pink onion tarte tatin
meanwhile back in the world where i'm not so grumpy I was sent a bag of beautiful Rosanna Pink Onions to play with... i'd never heard of them before but they are quite delightful and so pretty too and even though my recipe called for such a long cooking time that they totally lost their colour they gained a stunning golden hue that I forgive myself for this little indiscretion... plus they tasted wonderful so I can only implore you to hunt them down...

... It's been a bumper time for gifts at Belleau Kitchen recently and I've been very lucky with my haul.     You'll notice in this recipe that i've also listed a balsamic vinegar.  I'm using a wonderfully rich and sweet balsamic called Due Vittorie and I can honestly say it is one of the most delicious balsamic's i've ever tried, i've actually been abusing myself with it over the weekend, not only adding it to recipes such as this along with salads but i've been tonguing it out of the bottle too... i'm filthy I know but it's too glorious not to!

this is such an incredibly simple tart to make... by placing butter and sugar under the onions in the pan i've eliminated the pre-frying in the pan first so it can all be done in the oven... so simple yet it looks so stunning...

roughly 8 medium sized onions - peeled
a few knobs of butter
olive oil
a little golden sugar
fresh thyme
a tablespoon or two of balsamic vinegar
1 sheet of ready made puff pastry (or make your own if you're mad)

i've used an oblong roasting tin as I like the shape and of course the puff pastry sheets come in an oblong shape so there's no wastage - and even less work!

pre-heat the oven to 140C

cut your onions in half... i've cut some from tip to root and some through the middle so that there's some pretty patterns going on in the final tart.

lay some knobs of butter in the bottom of the pan, sprinkle with a pinch or two of sugar and plenty of fresh thyme and lay your onions on top

drizzle with olive oil and place in the oven for at least an hour so that it gently bakes and caramelises the onions

after an hour, take it out of the oven and drizzle a little balsamic over and around the onions then pop it back into the oven for another gentle half an hour.

after half an hour take it out of the oven and set aside a little to cool, then once it's stop steaming, lay the sheet of pastry over the top, brush with egg wash or milk and pop it back into the oven for another 20 minutes or until the pastry has risen and turned golden

remove from the oven and set aside for a few minutes to cool

take a knife and ensure that the edges of the pastry are loose from the pan, then place a plate or chopping board over the pan and quickly flip the whole thing upside down and remove the pan

eat and of course, enjoy!

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Baileys Chocolate Luxe rice crispie squares

... they say that us Brits are obsessed with the weather and to be fair if I look back over this blog I do mention the weather on a regularly repeating's not just the changing seasons that i'm talking about here - which kind of makes sense as this is a food blog and the seasons do make a big difference for what we eat - but the general day to day weather.  We do live on an island on the edge of a large continent in the direct path of both the jet stream and the gulf stream which bring us a mix-n-match bag of weather throughout the year... we can barely plan for a weekend barbecue let alone a picnic in the park or even a walk to the local and this makes us a little obsessed about what's coming next.  if we lived in California we could be guaranteed of endless sunshine and we'd know that on any given weekend we could, with at least 80% accuracy, plan an alfresco meal with friends.  So when the headlines tell us that we're due a three month heatwave starting on Wednesday it's not surprising that we all go a little bit nuts...

... the crazy thing about our weather is that it can make or break us.  We base huge decisions such as planning our wedding days on the weather.  Fashion and drinks brands can win or lose based on the sunshine or snow and a win at an election can be as simple as if the sun came out that day... I love living here and enjoy the green fields and seasons as much as the next man but if we could just have a little fixed date sunshine and heat for the next couple of months that would be nice.  Please.

Baileys Chocolate Luxe rice crispie squares
there's something particularly grown up and a little naughty about these adorable little crispie treats... they are most definitely an after dinner, late night with a coffee type of thing... and I love that about them.  So many cakes and cookies and cupcakes are 'family friendly' which is all very well and good but it's nice to have something just ti ourselves for a change.  I was very kindly sent a bottle of this glorious creamy Bailey's Chocolate Luxe which is like the classic Bailey's Irish Cream but made with Belgian chocolate.  It's pretty much liquid gold in a glass and is crying out to be baked with, so I have...

150g dark chocolate - broken into pieces
150g butter - cut into cubes
a large glug of Bailey's Chocolate Luxe
150g Rice Krispies, or other puffed rice cereal

for the drizzle
75g milk chocolate
30g butter
a glug of Bailey's Chocolate Luxe
a little icing sugar for sweetness

butter and line a 20cm square deep-sided tin

place the rice krispies into a large bowl

place the chocolate and butter into a pan and very gently heat until it begins to melt, then remove it from the heat and stir with a spoon until it's all melted

add a large glug of liquor to the chocolate and stir, then pour this all over the puffed rice and stir together until entirely coated - you may want to add a dash or two more of the liquor, then spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and press down to form an even layer, pushing the mixture into the corners and sides of the tin - set aside to cool completely - chill it in the fridge for the ultimate crisp crunch

make the drizzle by melting the butter and chocolate together as before and then adding the Bailey's after it's off the heat... I would suggest adding less Bailey's for the drizzle and maybe even stirring a little icing sugar in to make it a little sweeter as it's nice to have that difference

I am of course entering these little treats into the We Should Cocoa bloggers challenge.  We Should Cocoa is hosted by Choclette from Tin and Thyme and this month has the theme of 'no bake' 

They are also going off to the brilliant Treat Petite challenge hosted by Kat from The Baking Explorer and Stuart from Cakeyboi

eat and of course, enjoy!

Monday, 13 April 2015

roast duck with plums, garlic and sweet potato

... it's funny how we go through phases of the things we like.  Up until a couple of years ago I was most definitely a red wine guy and then, for some unknown reason I simply couldn't drink it any more and moved onto white... it may have been a change in season or a change in me but for a while I would much prefer a chilled glass of white.  I think it may have a little to do with what I was eating with the wine.  I found that my choice of drinking white wine was because I wasn't necessarily eating with the wine and that red wine was too heavy to consume on its own at the bar or chatting with friends... and it's true for me as i've now found that if i'm sitting down to a wonderful long evening meal I will much prefer a glass of red.  It seems to set the mood as it has a mood of it's own and can bring so many more layers to the meal.  My palate has also matured, even in the past decade and I understand wine a little more now that i'm not just drinking to get tipsy, i'm actually looking for a wine that I enjoy and that compliments the situation... I sound proper grown up don't I?

... this Friday 17th April is World Malbec Day and to celebrate i've been working with the good people at Kumala Wine to develop a recipe that compliments their delicious Reserve Malbec...

roast duck with plums, garlic and sweet potato
Sometimes people can be intimidated by duck but treated this way using the thighs and legs the meat is rich and tasty and can be roasted slowly without drying out. It's such a simple dish to assemble with very little prep work but you end up with a beautiful and very mature dish.  The plums are the perfect accompaniment to the fruity deep notes in the Malbec and also work well to cut through the richness of the honey-glazed duck.

serves 4
4 duck legs and thigh portions - these can be purchased ready-portioned from the supermarket
4 plums - stoned removed and quartered
1 large sweet potato - peeled and roughly chopped
2 sticks of celery - roughly chopped
1 fennel bulb - roughly chopped
1 courgette - roughly chopped
1 large bulb of garlic - unpeeled and cut in half through the middle
salt and pepper
2 teaspoons honey
2 twigs of fresh rosemary
2 twigs of fresh thyme

pre-heat the oven to 140C

place all the chopped vegetables into an oven-proof dish or roasting pan, season well with salt and pepper and sprinkle over the fresh herbs.  Place the duck portions on top (skin up,) sprinkle well with salt then cover the whole dish with foil and bake slowly in the oven for 1 hour

after an hour carefully remove the foil, turn the duck portions over, turn up the oven to 180C and roast for another 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and carefully turn the duck portions back over.  There should be plenty of duck and plum juices in the dish so take this opportunity to spoon the juices over the duck, then drizzle each one with a little honey and roast again for another 15 mins or until the skin is a glorious golden brown.

remove from the oven, spoon over the juices once more and then you're ready to serve... this dish can be simply served as it is with all the roasting vegetables or alongside some creamy mash and fresh greens such kale or spinach

the good people at Kumala have also created a little gecko character who supplies us with his special #GeckoHacks through their Facebook page... they're all food related but my favourite is the old herbs in ice cube trick -it's pretty simple but as the gecko says..."Add a few weeks' life span to leftover herbs by putting them in an ice tray, covering them in oil and freezing. When you're ready to cook again, simply add the ice cubes to your frying pan and they're good to go!"

eat and of course enjoy!

Saturday, 11 April 2015

spring quiche

... one day when I finally give up the big smoke and retire to the country I will open a little deli that sells gorgeous homemade goodies... it will be a simple and humble place, hopefully somewhere where weary folk can rest their tired bones and refresh on my good, simple but tasty food.  Maybe i'll run a couple of little cookery sessions on how to bake chicken thighs or low-knead bread but I know it'll be a happy place which allows dogs to snooze in the sun whilst their owners walk around the garden where they'll stare enviously at the herb and vegetable patch that The Viking has cultivated so beautifully over the years...  I'll sell proper freshly ground coffee served by people who have been trained how to make a decent cup and i'll serve proper loose-leaf tea in pots.  I will ensure there's a couple of decent vegetarian dishes on the menu that don't involve copious amounts of goats cheese and mandarin and i'll make decent door-wedge sandwiches fat with fillings... I will also serve the best quiche you'll ever eat...

spring quiche
the season has never quite begun until quiche is served don't you find... of course this is a ridiculous statement to make but in all honesty the quiche doesn't usually make its appearance until a few days of sunshine have warmed the land a little at least and here in the UK the past few days have been utterly glorious so there's no doubt that it's the season for quiche.  This quiche is phenomenal and it's the reason I make this same quiche, with different fillings, every year.  It's a recipe slightly adapted from the quiche my mum always served and still serves to this day at all family functions or summery Sunday's.  It's a stunning quiche that freezes beautifully and which both the vegetable fillings and the cream mixture can easily be changed.  If you're not a fan of cream try cottage cheese or creme freche.  If you're not a fan of leeks try mushrooms, spinach or salmon.  Whatever you try, try it.  You won't regret it.

for the pastry
250g plain flour
100g butter
50g finely grated strong cheddar cheese
water to mix

for the filling
6 or 7 Spring onions - chopped
1 medium leek - finely sliced
15 nettle tops
11 asparagus spears
butter and olive oil
fresh chives - finely chopped
salt and pepper
4 eggs - beaten
150ml single cream
100ml soured cream

i'm using a 25cm, 3cm deep fluted tin with a loose bottom which i've greased well

start with the pastry by rubbing the butter into the flour in a large bowl until you have something resembling breadcrumbs, stir in the grated cheddar then add a tablespoon or two of cold water and bring together into a dough with your hands, you may need to add a little more water to create the dough but you will feel how 'short' the pastry is.  Wrap in cling film and pop in the fridge for at least 30 minutes

carefully pick the nettles... you'll need rubber gloves for this... when picking nettles you only want the top 4 leaves of smaller, younger plants.  I pick them a place them directly into the tub of my salad spinner so I can wash them directly after picking whilst I still have the gloves on... then spin them and set them aside till you need them

place the asparagus in a large bowl, boil the kettle and pour the boiling water over the asparagus and set aside

in a large pan gently melt a generous amount of butter with a little olive oil and throw in the spring onions and the leeks and plenty of pepper and let then sweat for a little until they begin to soften, then add a little salt, then turn up the heat a little and saute them further, then add the washed nettles, stir then add the blanched asparagus, place the lid on, turn off the heat and steam for another eight minutes until cool

now your pastry should be ready, roll it out and line your greased quiche pan. Scrunch up some baking parchment and then lay this into the pastry case and pour some baking beans on top. Blind bake for 15 minutes on 150C

once your pastry is turning golden, take it out of the oven and set aside whilst you beat the eggs into the cream... pour leek and nettle mix into the pastry case followed by the cream egg mix and then lay the asparagus on in a random fashion and  bake on 160C for about 15-20 minutes until golden and risen, set aside on a wire rack to cool.  The quiche should easily slide out of the tin.

eat and of course, enjoy!

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

lemon, polenta and almond passover cake

... on Sunday the 10th May I will be taking part in the Bold is Beautiful march in central London.  Bold is Beautiful is the new philanthropic campaign by the wonderful people at Benefit Cosmetics.

Founded in 1976, their philosophy has always been that women are their most beautiful when they feel strong and confident. With the launch of the Bold is Beautiful project, they are spreading that philosophy beyond the beauty counter.  Throughout May if you go for a Brow Wax at any Benefit counter in the world 100% of Benefit's profits of the Brow Wax will go to charities supporting women and girls such as the brilliant Look Good Feel Better and the outstanding Refuge... as many of my regular readers will know The Persuaders has a close relationship with Benefit Cosmetics so The Viking and I are proud to help promote this brilliant endeavour...

...the march in London is the official launch of this new campaign.  We'll be marching from Cavendish Square through Marble Arch and Wellington Arch and then up into Soho and down Carnaby Street finishing up back at Cavendish Square.  There will be much frivolity along the route with mini-make-overs, sing-a-longs and even a marching band... we start at 10am so do come and join us if you can.  You can apply for a place and download all the information you need here on the Bold is Beautiful website

lemon, polenta and almond passover cake
with all the over-exuberance of Easter what with the chocolate and the bunnies and the simnel cake it's easy to forget that we're also celebrating passover... passover is the Spring festival for those of the Jewish persuasion which celebrates the Jewish slaves escape from the pharaohs in Egypt... it's the story with Moses and the parting of the Red Sea and the story that there was no time to allow the bread to rise in time for their escape and so un-levened bread is served during passover to commemorate this.  It's not just un-levened bread that we make, there's actually a whole industry grown up around the creation of products that don't contain yeast or any rising agents.  It's actually a coeliac's dream as there's no wheat flours allowed.  It means that there's a whole special section of baking that has developed over the years to create delicious cakes and treats... the most passover popular cake is an almond chocolate cake that I have made on this blog before but this lemon and polenta cake is a little fresher and to be honest i've pretty much had my fill of chocolate recently...

this recipe is an adaptation of the one in Nigella's How to be a Domestic Goddess.

for the cake
200g soft unsalted butter
200g caster sugar
200g ground almonds
100g fine polenta
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
3 large free-range eggs
zest of 2 lemons (save juice for syrup)

for the syrup
juice of 2 lemons
125 grams icing sugar

grease and line the base and sides of a 23cm springform cake tin with baking parchment and pre-heat the oven to 180°C

in a large bowl beat the butter and sugar with an electric whisk until pale 

mix together the almonds, polenta and baking powder, and beat some of this into the butter-sugar mixture, followed by 1 egg, then alternate dry ingredients and eggs, beating all the while.

finally, beat in the lemon zest and scrape the mixture into your prepared tin and bake in the oven for about 40 minutes

the cake is cooked if a cake tester comes out cleanish and the edges of the cake begin to shrink away from the sides of the tin. 

remove from the oven to a wire cooling rack, but leave in its tin.
make the syrup by boiling together the lemon juice and icing sugar in a smallish saucepan.

prick the top of the cake all over with a skewer and pour the warm syrup over the cake. Leave to cool before taking it out of its tin

eat and of course, enjoy!



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