Monday, 31 May 2010

Sandro's Courgette Pie


Whilst art directing our first brochure for Samsonite in Paris we had the pleasure of working with talented photographer Sandro Sodano... it was an excellent week, not just for the incredible photography we produced but also for the wonderful gastronomic journey of Paris that Sandro took us on... we ate in what I can only describe as the best French Italian restaurant in I have ever eaten in.

On our way home Sandro and I got around to talking about cooking and how difficult it was sometimes to create different and tasty meat-free dishes for The Big V, when Sandro suggested I try a dish which his family have made for years and which is served as either a side dish or a main dish depending on who's at the table... it's essentially a courgette lasagne, using crispy coated slices of courgette as the pasta.

It's not a fast make... so only make this when you've got a long afternoon to relax in your kitchen... although you can freeze it perfectly well.  You need time to make a good tomato sauce (something never to take lightly) and then it's a process of flouring the courgette slices, shallow frying them and then layering the dish.

There are some early UK courgettes about... my home grown one's are only just about to flower... so this recipe is perfect for now.


For the slow tomato sauce
2 medium onions - finely chopped
3 tins of good quality chopped Italian tomatoes (fresh is just as good but you need to peel and frankly who can be bothered?)
3 cloves garlic - crushed
a slug of white wine
a slug of ketchum
a slug of balsamic vinegar
fresh rosemary and thyme

Saute the onions in butter and olive oil and let them sweat for a long while (about 10mins on a low heat) and halfway through add the crushed garlic.
Then add a heart slug of white wine and let is reduce
Next add the tomatoes, herbs, ketchup and vinegar and I like to throw in an extra teaspoon of sugar, but this is to your own taste.
Then let is simmer on a very low heat for as long as you've got... 2 hours min.

meanwhile...

Courgette pie filling
3 courgettes
Flour (salt and pepper)
Egg and Milk mix
3 balls fresh mozzarella
a strong hard cheese - finely grated

Slice the courgettes, though not too thinly... I usually get 5 slices from each courgette.
Prepare the flour and egg/mil mix in bowls and when you're ready dip the courgette into the egg/milk, then the flour and shake off any excess.

In a pan, heat the oil...enough so that you're shallow frying and fry 3 slices at a time... don't be tempted to overcrowd the pan as they wont turn golden and they'll go soggy.

2nd layer of the pie

Once you've fried up all your courgettes you should be ready to layer your pie.  I try and go for 3 layers of each...start with a layer of courgettes, then add tomatoes, followed by 1 of the balls of mozzarella which you need to tear up and place onto the layers... add salt and pepper each layer and continue till it's all gone.

30 mins in a medium oven and you have a glorious, golden, molten dish.

I now need a recipe from Dominick in Los Angeles... this will continue my 'photographers receipes' theme...

eat and of course, enjoy!

Sunday, 30 May 2010

ravishing radish


Just got back to The Kitchen and can't believe how, in just one week, everything has exploded!  Look at these whoppers....

Recipes later... need sleep.

A tale of two birthdays

Michelle and the crazies...

We've been away from The Kitchen all week as we've got quite a bit of work on down in the big smoke and i'm really missing being there and cooking but we've been investing in our friends which is also very important... particularly this weekend.

and just like the proverbial double-decker buses... you wait for ages and then 2 birthday's come at the same time!

Michelle and Richard both had their birthday's yesterday and The Viking and I went from North to South London... from lunch with Michelle and a fabulous crowd of noise and madness... to dinner with Richard and my guest chef Peter and an incredible meal with just the 4 of us... and plenty of Prosecco!

the giant table at The Clissold

Michelle's lunch was at The Clissold Arms in Fortis Green and to be honest it was the genius company that i'd rather write about because the food was not up to much... however, we now think we've worked out what we're going to do for my big birthday coming up in September....  The restaurant had created a huge dining table in the centre of the room and everyone just moved around it chatting with friends and catching up.  The waiters had a hard job pinning us down to take orders and then finding us again once the food was ready.  One of the waiters even mistook The V for a lady, asking him what 'madam would like to order'... this was hysterical, least not because The V has a beard and doubly funny because, believe it or not, it has happened before!

I love this idea for my birthday... perhaps we'll hire a private room somewhere and i'll create a menu and we'll all sit around a giant table...then it'll be just friends and no hassle...

One gripe... great menu, lots of choice but ONE veggie option!  And that was tomato pasta goo!  COME ON PEOPLE!!!!

Thanks Michelle... as always... we had a blast!

Then off to South London and a masterpiece meal created by Peter.  He had promised Richard he's make him all his favourite dishes and boy did he deliver!


We started with asparagus wrapped in filo pastry, which was such a simple idea but was so delicious.  The asparagus, which is now in season here in the UK, was perfectly cooked and the pastry was sprinkled with parmesan which was good....


Our main course was cod fillets topped with a crust of bread-crumbs, salad onions and parmesan, served with Dauphinoise potatoes (an Angela Hartnett recipe) and garlic butter sauted tender-stem broccoli, which was a superior way to treat a vegetable!  This was all very good.. we all went silent for a long time!  Peter had even created a veggie version for The Big V, which was the same crust but placed upon a portobello mushroom... delicious!

We then took a seriously long break to play Buzz on the PS2 as we all rubbed our bellies and got our energy levels back... and then back to the dining table and dessert.


And what a dessert!  Banoffee Pie!  Individually created pies with a chocolate digestive case which Peter had infused with orange essence. Genius!

What a way to end a fabulous day!

Sunday, 23 May 2010

the mini bbq



Hot hot hot hot hot hot hot! Mark this day, Sunday 23rd May 2010, that the UK officially had it's summer...just this day mind you... not doubt tomorrow we'll be back under a rain cloud.

Well, it had to happen... first barbie of the year and I thought we'd start with something simple to kick it off.  It's funny how we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to 'do' a bbq, marinate the meats, make the salads, invite friends round... all lovely, but quite stressful with the lighting of the coals, burning the flesh but not cooking the chicken.

I think, especially here in the UK, that the moment the sun even peeps out we feel we should all be outdoors enjoying the sunshine and this means barbecue... and for some reason that means a lot of fuss.

It should all be so much simpler... it's just a grill outdoors after all.  Those coals are actually quite easy to light, if you know what you're doing and you're going to cook that chicken anyway, so why not do it al fresco?

Since we've had our log burning stove i've become a dab hand at setting things alight... and those things staying alight and staying hot.  I've now applied this to lighting the barbecue and taking the attitude that it should be hassle free and as simple as turning on the grill.

We've got a tiny little barbecue anyway, it's one of those cast iron open bowls and it always cooks everything up a treat, as long as you treat it and the food well.  I roll up some newspaper and lay it in the bottom of the bowl, then pile the charcoal on top into a pyramid.  This keeps a heat underneath it and really gets it going... you also have to be brave and let the coals turn white with an inner glow before you start cooking... remember: there's no rush... it's an grill not a microwave!



So, inspired by delicious. my new favourite food magazine and with The Viking burning his skin in the sun at the British Superbikes down the road at the stunning Cadwell Park racetrack, I planned dinner...  I marinated some chicken in a thrown-together marinade of olive oil, sesame oil, spring onions, coriander, ketchup, honey and balsamic vinegar.  I did the same for The Big V with some Quorn chicken style pieces (these are a great alternative for those veggies who really do miss their barbecued meats... you've just got to do something with them and I say treat them the same as the chicken!) I also grilled some courgettes, which I love on the barbie...cut into chunks, then brush with oil and lots of salt and pepper.  I roasted some sweet potatoes for half an hour in the oven and we ate it with a simple green salad.

That was it...not thousands of sausages or a million meats, just something for me and something for The V.

eat and of course, enjoy!

Saturday, 22 May 2010

bean, mozzarella and roasted tomato salad



Just thought I'd share what I did with those roasted tomatoes...



... served with the quiche from the recipe below... summer on a plate!

food and me part 1 - mum's the word

me and mum on my 7th birthday with her home-made chocolate train cake!!

It's been nearly 2 months blogging now and I've been thinking about my love of food and my cooking style...

I suppose I would describe my style of cooking as experimental with traditions.  Without casting massive stereotypes I think that my Jewish upbringing has influenced me in a way that food is top priority in life... that should be TOP PRIORITY IN LIFE!  If all else is falling apart around me; should work be slow and money be non-existent, should the rain be ceaseless or the snow thick on the ground, through death and destruction, good times and bad, food comes first.  It's what I think of when I go to bed at night... I plan my next meals whilst eating (something The Viking cannot understand or abide... he comes from a background where food is fuel... something that I find totally alien!) when I wake in the morning and all my social arrangements are planned around food.

I'm even proud to say that food is more important to me than historical monuments... mum often tells (with glee) the story of the trip we took to see Stonehenge when I was about 7 or 8.  I believe we were driving down to Cornwall and had stayed overnight in a hotel close-by so that we could get up early to see these incredible ancient stones.  I was so excited by the fact that the hotel we were staying at had a buffet breakfast that I went to bed early in order to wake in time for food heaven.  In some kind of ghastly nightmare freak of nature, I overslept and totally missed breakfast!  Well... to say that I was upset is an understatement.  I completely ruined the rest of the day for my family, so much so that once we got to Stonehenge I refused to get out of the car saying that 'I didn't want to see a pile of old rocks anyway...' I think in the end they had to find somewhere for me to get breakfast as I was so distraught... even to this day if I find myself surrounded by any monolithic structure an anxiety attack comes on....

I would say that the biggest influence on my style of cooking would have to be my mum.  It's not that she was one of those old fashioned Jewish mothers who was constantly in the kitchen with an apron around her waist making knaidlachs and kreplach (god forbid and far from it... the last thing my mother is, is old fashioned... in fact I'll be publishing her amazing recipe for Marmalade Chicken soon and believe me that's as far from traditional as you get!) it's just that meal times were important to her and having the family together was and still is a big thing... although it rarely happens anymore.

me as a baby (maybe 1971) always with the food...

We grew up in the suburbs of London in the 70's and 80's and mum truly embraced that way of life, if there was a new style of cooking or a trendy dish to try out, she would try it and we'd eat it.  That, combined with a tradition of Friday night meals with family or friends really sparked my love for food.

Mum came down from Hull in the 60's and it seems was ready to try all kinds of food as yet unavailable to her up North, food that we all take for granted now but was relatively new then such as Indian and Chinese... her dad (my grandpa) worked in the Fruit and Veg business on the docks in Hull, so they would always have an abundance of fresh fruit and veg and on occasion something exotic such as a banana or avocado would appear!

I can't really remember if her mum, (my grandma) was also a good cook, (although since originally writing this, mum tells me she did baked incredible cakes...) however I do remember she made the most amazing chicken soup and both my mum and her sister, my aunt, are both excellent cooks, and I guess they must have got it from somewhere...

I remember more from my other grandma, dad's mum.  I guess we saw them more regularly, for a longer period into my adulthood.  In fact I am lucky enough to have written down some of her most delicious soup recipes and some of her more bizarre salad recipes, which no doubt I will share with you one day.
We spent most Sunday lunches with grandma and grandpa and my cousins throughout our childhood and lunch was usually some kind of vegetable soup followed by roast lamb or beef with amazing roast potatoes... then suddenly one day grandma went on some kind of freakish health trip and started serving poached salmon and new potatoes... Sunday's were never the same again!

me and grandma in her kitchen (1978)

So as you can begin to see, I come from a heritage of cooks and food traditions which have clearly shaped my cooking style... but I think it's more than just the traditions.  I always loved to cook and experiment in the kitchen... I would even feign sick-days off from school just to mess about in the kitchen.  Mum would often come home after work to find her 'supposed to be sick son' having prepared some weird concoctions, usually with the food processor and usually having created an almighty mess!

As I mentioned, we lived in suburban London, very near to Wembley

We arrived and it was a very different set up to the standard 'flocked wallpaper' type restaurant.  It was a very basic set-up, nothing fancy and with no-one to greet us with a friendly smile at the door we soon realised that we had to help ourselves to the self-service style food.  Not knowing what we were choosing made the whole experience both exciting and rather worrying!  We sat down with our chosen delights only to find what looked like cooked cockroaches in the rice.  It was shocking to say the least and we really didn't know quite what to do... bravely my father approached one of the proprietors and, in a way only the British know how, seemed to apologise embarrassingly for finding the, by now, quite numerous insects.  Of course the proprietor was indignant and quite angry, we shuffled our feet for a while and made noises about the lack of cleanliness and how they should be ashamed, until one of the chef's rushed out of the kitchen with a packet of large dried seed pods which, sure enough, looked like crushed cockroaches but, we were assured , were in fact a spice regularly used in Indian cooking!

Needless to say we ran from the place with our heads hung in shame and my parents fondness for 'food discovery'  placed well and truly into the 'keep it to what you know' category!

Mum and dad would regularly throw dinner parties (it was the 80's after-all) and these parties would be, I suppose, the biggest influence on me to start cooking.  I loved the way she would plan and build for a dinner with friends... traditionally 3 courses, usually starting with a soup and ending with a selection of sweets, such as chocolate and chestnut roulade, strawberry pavlova and the ubiquitous fruit salad.

I would inevitably end up helping mum serve dinner to her guests... carefully carrying each dish to its respective party guest and watching their faces light up with delight as to what was on offer.


One of mum's specialities is her fantastic quiches... these would be served, with an expansive selection of other dishes, buffet style, at larger gatherings, either as large pies, sliced into sections, or as mini quiches.  Her original recipe is from the wonderful Robert Carrier - 'Great dishes of the World' first published in 1963.  It was called Italian Spinach Pie. An insightful and incredible book. She's adapted it over the years to suit changing tastes and trends and I too have adapted her recipe.  It's not one of those ordinary, cheese heavy, acid burning quiches, this is light and creamy, like a souffle in a pastry case!  You can use any combination of vegetable fillings, depending on what's in season or what you have in stock.

Here's my adapted recipe for spinach and mushroom quiche.  It's for a medium flan dish.  I have a large flan case so I use 4 eggs..adapt as you feel appropriate.

First, make your own short-crust pastry... it is so easy and whilst it's resting in the fridge you can make the rest of the quiche...

Ingredients
For the pastry:
8oz plain flour
4oz softened butter or margarine (or 3 oz of butter and 1oz grated cheese)
pinch of salt
tablespoon of water


For the filling:
1 onion - finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic - crushed
a handful of small mushrooms - finely sliced
1 bag fresh spinach (you could easily use frozen spinach)
3 large eggs
10fl oz of double cream
1 small carton of soured cream (or cottage cheese)

to make the pastry simply add the fat to the flour and rub it in until it resembles bread-crumbs, (I will sometimes use 2/3rds butter and 1/3rd grated cheese) then add the a tablespoon of cold water and bring it together with your hands until it forms a ball of dough.  If you want the pastry to be really rich you could also had a beaten egg at the bread-crumb stage and this should be enough moisture to bring the dough together.

place the dough ball in a plastic bag or wrap in clingfilm and place it in the fridge for at least 30mins.

Now, saute the onions and garlic until soft (sometimes I will let the onions really caramelize as they add a wonderful sweetness to the dish) then add the mushrooms and saute the whole lot till it's all full of flavour and nicely coloured.  Add the spinach to the pan and let it wilt with the lid on, then mix it all up.  Plenty of SandP here. Set aside off the heat.

In a bowl beat the eggs and add the creams and whisk furiously till light and frothy.

Roll out the pastry very very thin.  Line the flan dish with it.  Now, you have 2 options here...either blind bake the pastry using baking beans, or as my mum (and hence me also) has always done, don't bother... if you roll it thin enough the pastry will cook in the oven with the filling on top anyway and it remains light...

Now, mix the sauted veg with the egg/cream mix and pour into the flan dish and bake in the oven at 180  for about 40mins or until golden and risen on the top.  It shouldn't be eaten straight away.. best to give it half an hour so that it can set slightly and be eaten just warm...not cold and not hot.

There are so many variants of this quiche... as long as you keep to the egg mix you could do all kinds of fillings.  Some of mum's favourites are: Leek and Roquefort, Courgette and Cherry Tomato (slice the courgette and griddle it first for flavour,) Sweetcorn and Spring Onion...

next time: Part 2 - Delia is God!

eat and of course, enjoy




Friday, 21 May 2010

oven roasted cherry tomatoes

the tomatoes before they go into the oven

these are so simple to make but so incredibly delicious, plus I'm loving my new camera so much that i just had to show you these photographs...

the cherry tomatoes are simply covered in olive oil and balsamic vinegar plus I've included a sprig or two of rosemary and thyme and they get roasted in a low oven for a few hours until sticky and sweet and bursting with flavour... and the smell that permeates the house is mouth-wateringly tantalising.  It's a kick that's reminds me of smelling the first ripe tomato on the vine but in a triple-intense way!

after a few hours of roasting

i use them tossed into a green salad, they dress the leaves without the need for extra dressing and as they burst they leave behind a coat of sweet, tomato loveliness that oozes summer... they could be used on pizza, or in a quiche, or simply dolloped onto a chunk of toasted bread for a Mediterranean bruschetta type lunch...marvelous!

eat and of course, enjoy!

see how my garden grows

having scoured the blogasphere i now realise that the photography on my site is just not up to scratch and I need to do something about it... all these wonderful aromas and tantalising tastes cannot be transmitted down the wire but with quality photography I can at least attempt to portray some of the sensualness of the food.

so i'd like to introduce to you, my dear readers, the canon EOSD.  She's a fancy looking beast of a camera and she's not mine.  She belongs to The Viking and i cannot tell you the heartache i've just been through for him to allow me to use it but I believe the results speak for themselves... (or translated: gives me an excuse to do even more cooking just so I can capture the images on the new camera!)

as you can see, Belleau Garden is coming along leaps and bounds... the salads are bunching and I need to think about thinning them out... I even have a couple of radish that look ready for picking, but I think i'll hold on for a week or two more.

I have mini gooseberries budding on the bush and the strawberries are in full bloom with the promise of plenty of fruit to come... my carrots are going crazy and I need to thin them out or i'll end up with tiny carrots like last year..

but i'm most excited about the beetroot... can't wait to bake them in olive oil and balsamic vinegar... what a treat!

Sunday, 16 May 2010

A Family BBQ

It's May...it's Sunday... the sun is out and ...well, that's all the excuse my brother needs to light the charcoal...

What this actually means a disproportionate amount of marinated kosher meats, a vast selection of superior salads and mum gets a chance to make her 4 favourite and best desserts!!!

It also used to mean lots of arguments and someone storming out but we all seem to have grown up of late... although my mum did start the afternoon off with a corker when she mentioned to my dad (they've been divorced for near on 20 years) that she was pleased he 'was also looking rather larger!'  She thinks it was a round-about way of saying that she'd put on weight too but I don't think there's ever a good way to tell someone they're fat...

Along with my dad there was my mum and her partner, my brother, his wife and their kids, Auntie Jeannie, my cousins on my fathers side, with their respective spouses and roughly a trillion more children running loose.  I don't think our family are that different from the norm... essentially these type of events are one long blur of madness, people running in and out, kids screaming, exhausted parents bickering, laughter from everyone and food, plenty of food!

The BBQ was on and blaring from the moment we arrived but my brother is a mean cook when it comes to meat on a grill and I have to say the lamb chops were incredibly tender and perfectly pink and Jo's baked potatoes were the talk of the table. (Crispy and hard skins with soft fluffy goodness within...)

I brought some mini-scones and as I mentioned mum brought her apple strudel, lemon cake, no-flour chocolate cake and her piece-de-resistance, the chocolate roulade!

What I love about gatherings like this is that we all get to talk about family history and seeing that i'm so food focused at the moment I gathered a couple of wonderful food stories about the family which I will share with you at a later date... my French, Great Great Auntie Regina's slow roast Garlic Beef is a gastronomique feast!

But that's for another time... here's mum's chocolate roulade:


It's a classic recipe but over the years mum has worked out the best way for her to roll it, so her techniques may seem odd but they have worked perfectly for years.  Also, the filling is our favourite you could change this to suit tastes... we think the original filling recipe may have used plain cream and dark cherries.


Ingredients

For the roulade:
4 eggs yolks
150g good dark chocolate (at least 80% cocoa)
4oz caster sugar

For the filling:
300m tub of double or whipping cream
1 x 250g tin of Clement Faugier sweet chestnut spread

In a large bowl, beat the yolks with the sugar until soft and light.
Melt the chocolate (mum does this in the microwave but if the idea sends shivers up your spine, then use the classic bowl over simmering water method...) at this stage add 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of hot water to the choc mix, then add it to the egg and sugar mix.
Next beat the egg whites till stiff and then carefully fold them into the mixture.

Line a large swiss roll tin with tin-foil which you should then grease well with butter or margarine.
Pour the mixture into the tin and bake in the oven at 160 for 20 mins then a further 10 mins at 90.

Whilst its baking, grease another large sheet of foil and place it on a flat surface where it wont have to be moved for a while.

Now the tricky bit...

Once baked, take it out of the oven and turn it over onto the greased foil and leave it, with the baking tin still on top for at least 8 hours... so bake in the morning and go to work, or bake in the evening and leave it overnight.

Now you're ready to assemble; whip the cream and stir in the chestnut spread.
Take off the baking tin and carefully peel off the foil that lined the tin.
Spread the cream mixture evenly onto the surface of the roulade and then, using the excess foil, roll the roulade into shape.  It should be able to be slipped neatly onto a plate.

Ta Da!  A classic to impress and enjoy for many years to come.

eat and of course, enjoy!





Sunday, 9 May 2010

Pea and Pernod Risotto

sometimes those big traditional Sunday roasts are just too much to deal with, especially if it's just you... but I still want something packed with flavour and not too tricky to make... it is Sunday after-all and I don't want to slave away at the stove.

My Auntie Jeannie made a version of this for me and The Viking when we visited her and lovely James at her beautiful house in France.  It seemed to be one of those dishes that simply melted into existence, took moments to make, yet packed a punch of flavour and aroma and tasted as though it had taken an age to create.  The Pernod adds a wonderful aniseed hit to the dish adding a depth that the fennel alone wouldn't give.  I guess this dish will always remind me of that wonderful May holiday... I remember it was weather like we're having now.. some sun and some cloud.  Hot when you're outside but we needed a fire and a blanket, playing scrabble in the evenings... glorious!

We'd spent that particular day wine tasting... something that The Viking didn't really care very much for, in fact there was an embarrassing moment when, noticing The V's face, the chateau owner even asked him if he'd prefer a beer!

We then came back to the house and Jeannie brought out a plate of incredible local cheeses, a selection that went from mild through to blow your socks off!  The wine we had bought was opened and James totally dispelled the myth of wine snobbery for The Viking... (we all got very drunk!)

Jeannie didn't put peas into her risotto but I think they seem to lift the dish and add a wonderful splash of colour.

Ingredients
butter and olive oil
1 medium onion - finely chopped
1 medium fennel - finely sliced
1 cup full of peas
a good risotto rice (arborio works fine) - see the package for per person measurements...
a splash of Pernod
a glass of white white
veg stock
freshly grated parmesan

Heat some butter and olive oil in a large deep pan, saute the onions for 5 mins and then add the fennel and saute until both are soft and translucent.
Next add the rice and stir it all together letting the rice soak up all the juices.
Now add the white wine and let that soak into the rice, then add a splash of Pernod.
Once this has soaked in start adding the stock ladle full at a time, each time stir the risotto until the liquid has reduced... this may seem laborious but in-fact I love this bit... the rice turns really creamy and there's something calming about the whole process... and it really doesn't take long.
Keep going, tasting as you go, and once the rice is al dente, throw in the peas and give them another minute, then taste again and if the rice gives, you know that it is ready.

In my opinion the dish should not be dry, the rice should be floating in a creamy soup... at this point you add the grated cheese.. I like tonnes of this but you can add as much or little as you like... stir it in and serve immediately.

The aniseed aroma that rises from this pot will make your mouth water and hopefully hit that Sunday feeding frenzy spot!

eat and of course, enjoy!

Friday, 7 May 2010

super-fast election day noodles

between being glued to the television and the computer i've barely eaten today... it's just too exciting... we've been watching the results come in throughout the day and now we have a hung parliament it makes it even more nail-biting...

...so we needed something super-fast for dinner. Healthy, quick and tasty... and what's quicker and fresher than a stir-fry?

this dish is nothing fancy and I really shouldn't even need to write down the ingredients or how to make it but here goes...

Ingredients
groundnut oil
sesame oil
4 spring onions - sliced
2 garlic cloves
handful of fine green beans - sliced
handful of chestnut mushrooms - sliced
handful of finely sliced cabbage
handful of fresh shelled garden peas
fresh coriander
star anise
fennel seed
garlic salt
soy sauce

fresh buckwheat noodles

crush the spices in a pestle and mortar... (I tend to keep some in an air-tight container for such emergencies but this is not the freshest way to keep spices)

place a wok or large pan on the heat and let it really heat up before you do anything... then add some groundnut oil (sunflower will do if you don't have this.)
stir-fry the onions, then the crushed garlic, then the mushrooms, flipping or stirring the mix as often as you can.
then add a teaspoon of the spice and continue to stir.
add the green beans and the cabbage and continue to stir or flip the pan, never letting it stick, just heat up
add the fresh noodles, a swig of soy sauce and a dash of sesame oil and continue the flip/stir thing.
a minute before they are ready add the freshly shelled peas (frozen is just as good) and some freshly torn coriander.

I counted 6 minutes total to make this dish... then back to the election... where's Simon Cowell when you need him?

eat and of course, enjoy!

Coconut Macaroons

continuing to put to bed the rumour that I am indeed a little old lady wearing an apron in my country kitchen....

gloomy weather back again, miserable news on the television and I need these light fluffy clouds of love...

...plus we sent cakey gifts to clients today and I felt like I needed some of the love!

We have friends coming for tea and these are so easy and quick to make but are so impressive. Plus I had left-over egg-white again from making the rhubarb ice-cream and I hate to waste food.

Ingredients
3 large egg-whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
150g caster sugar
45g ground almonds
pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
375g shredded coconut (or dessiccated if you can't find shredded)

preheat oven to 170.
beat the egg whites until just frothy, then add the cream of tartar and beat again till you have soft peaks.
add the sugar teaspoon at a time until firm peaks are formed and the eggs are nice and glossy.
gently fold in everything else

spoon the mixture onto a baking sheet covered in baking parchment (should get 9 large macaroons,) be generous with the spooning as you want large opulent fluffy cakes...

bake for 20mins... but watch them as they'll turn golden really quickly.  They'll feel soft when you first take them out but as they cool they will solidify slightly and be delightfully chewy.

... the smell that fills the room is a totally tropical hit!  delightful!

eat and of course, enjoy!

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Rhubarb and Honey Ice Cream

Tracey still had an abundance of rhubarb... all this from one little plant... but it's beginning to flower, so before it goes to seed I thought i'd have one last go at a rhubarb recipe... something I can keep for a while.

This is a classic vanilla ice cream recipe using egg yolks which i've adapted to suit what I had in the fridge!

I've not added any sugar to the stewing rhubarb as I think there's enough in the custard mixture and anyway I love the tartness it brings to the dessert.

Ingredients
8 stalks of rhubarb
4 egg yolks
100g caster sugar
1/2 pint milk
tub of creme fraiche
2 tsps honey
a drop of vanilla extract

In a bowl over a pan of gently bubbling hot water, beat and mix the egg yolks and sugar together until they thicken and warm through.  Heat the milk and add this gently to the egg mixture whisking it till it thickens. Add the vanilla and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, wash and cut the rhubarb into small chunks and stew until it collapses, then whizz with a hand blender.

Once it's all cooled down, mix it together along with the creme fraiche and the honey.

At this stage, if you're clever, you'll bung the whole lot into an ice cream maker... but i'm not so fortunate, so I placed it into a plastic container and froze it for 30 mins, then whisked it with a hand whisk, then froze for another 30 mins, then whisked once more before its final big freeze.

Eat and of course, enjoy!

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

chocolate dusted shortbread bistcuits

If i'm not the size of a house by the end of the summer it'll be a miracle... however I did just get back from a glorious, if not strenuous, hour and a half bike ride through the wolds, so I am deserved of something sweet.

These shortbread biscuits come in handy as they literally take seconds to make (and seconds to eat) yet give an instant home-made sugar hit.

Inspired by Alys Fowler and her edible garden, although she made lavender shortbread... our lavender isn't in flower yet, so a cocoa dusting was the next best thing

Ingredients


4oz butter at room temp
2oz caster sugar
6oz plain flour

in a large bowl and using a wooden spoon, cream the butter and sugar till light and fluffy.
add the flower and continue to stir until it comes together roughly, then use your hands to form a dough.
dust your rolling surface with cocoa powder and roll the dough out into a thick sausage shape.
slice into rounds and bake in the oven on 150 for about 30 mins or until golden brown

let them cool... but not entirely cold, they are too good not to eat slightly warm...

eat and of course, enjoy!

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Dinner at The Railway Tavern

Out across the pasture, beyond the bubbling trout stream, we're blessed with a really wonderful pub.

Situated in the next village of Aby, we can actually see the Railway Tavern from our cottage... which is handy when you're desperate for a drink... the mental leap (as well as the physical one) is not too far!

It is truly the heart of the community.  The owners, Keith and Dawn along with their daughter Holly are the social barometer of our lives... when times are tough, they are there with a friendly smile, a cheap pint, and a comforting ear to be bent... when times are good, their doors are open to all, with a cheesy disco on New Years Eve, a good selection of quality wines and the best, home-cooked pub grub for miles around.

Their organising of events such as the local Olympics (and Winter Olympics) are hysterical fun but it's their food that really drives me there.... and believe me, we've walked through fog, wind, snow, rain and a torrential river to get there...

Classic dishes like fish, chips and mushy-peas... and we're talking fresh Grimsby fish, wonderfully light and crispy batter and good quality, proper chips. Great pies and lasagnes and a truly original vegetarian recipes that put some London chefs to shame.

Dawn (a one-woman kitchen miracle) will even make you something special if you can't decide what you want from their extensive menu...  often, The Viking will have a home made mushy-pea pie that she whips up in seconds! (Why do vegetarians dishes always get over-thought and end up with some daft goats-cheese tartlet or tomato goo, when all they want is for the chef to make them what we're all eating - just without the meat...?)

They often do a themed night like the St Georges Day feast, where Dawn will cook up a selection of classic English dishes, or a Gourmet Night, where she will bring out all the stops and get creative in the kitchen.  Local, seasonal produce is always a given, with pheasant and other game regularly on the menu during the shooting season.

Her home-made apple crumble is a particular favourite of mine and she knows that I like it cold with cream... her crumble is always thick with topping and never too sweet.

Keith, a fine figure of a man, is perhaps the cheeriest bar-keep in the world... I can honestly say, even in the gloomiest of times, I have never seen him down... and they've had gloomy times.  Now is not the best of times to run a public house (they say that one closes every week in the UK...) and 2 years ago we had terrible floods locally and their pub was ruined, totally flooded, which meant nearly 8 months of closure... the loss of business would have closed many pubs down and turned many off from re-opening but not Dawn and Keith.

So... last night, when we couldn't be bothered to open the fridge, The Railway Tavern was there.  Fish, chips and mushy-peas for me and Brie crumble for The Big V.

Nice!

Monday, 3 May 2010

Tastes of Lincolnshire part one - cheese

This is my first Taste of Lincolnshire themed food blog.

Over the next few weeks I'm going to highlight some of the fabulous produce we have here in Lincolnshire and offer some recipes using my favourite items. I'll include meat, fish, vegetables, cheese and i'll probably do a baking blog using local flours and eggs etc.

I'd love some feedback and suggestions of other products and recipes, so feel free to add comments here or on my facebook page: Belleau Kitchen on facebook

I think there's probably no better place to start than with my favourite food stuff, cheese.

I love it! If I could exist on bread and cheese alone I would die happy (very quickly of cheese induced coma, I imagine) and there's been more than one occasion when i've tried...

I've highlighted two local cheeses of distinction; The Lincolnshire Poacher and Cote Hill.

The Lincolnshire Poacher is produced on our doorstep in Ulceby by F.W. Read & Sons and it's a hard cheese similar in texture and taste to a West Country Cheddar but has a slightly sweet, fruity and nutty taste... they do an extra mature version which, I feel, has quite a kick and a smoked version which i'm not crazy about (never been a fan of smoked cheese) but The Viking really likes.  They have also just started making a Lincolnshire Red, which is similar in taste to a Red Leicester but has a more mature and  creamy quality.

You can see more about their produce and where to purchase here: Lincolnshire Poacher Cheese but I have seen it recently at The Queens Park Farmers Market in NW6 in London, so I know it's widely available.

Cote Hill are newer to the market although they've been producing milk for years.  They make 2 cheeses; the Cote Hill Yellow (yellow belly) which is a continental style ball of cheese with a yellow waxed cheese, similar to Edam, but yellow not red and not quite as rich. Then there is their star performer as far as i'm concerned, which is the Cote Hill Blue.  The Blue is a mild, creamy, blue veined cheese and is just wonderful eaten by itself or in something like a leek and blue cheese quiche (recipe coming soon.)

You can read more about the product and where to purchase here: Cote Hill Cheese

As far as today is concerned i'm going to use the Poacher and  i've gone for something really simple but delightful, that really show's the flavour of the cheese and includes another very local product... nettles.

Now is really the time for eating nettles, they are everywhere but still young enough to be fresh and not too stalky.... be really careful when picking them, wear gloves for goodness sake and only pick off the tips.. the fresh, mint green bits.... and remember, they will continue to sting until they've been heated, so wear gloves until they come out of the pan!

Lincolnshire Poacher and Nettle Top Rarebit


a little butter and olive oil
60g of nettle tops
100g creme fraiche
2stp grain mustard
1 tblsp beer
100g grated cheese

Take 4 slices of fresh bread, something thick like soda bread or granary and toast on both sides.

Heat the butter and oil in a pan and wilt the nettle tops in it for about 3 minutes until it looks like spinach, add some pepper.

Let is cool slightly, remove it from the pan and roughly chop it before you mix it into the rest of the ingredients in a bowl.

Spread thickly onto the toast and place under a grill until golden and bubbly.

It has a wonderful salty tang and makes a perfect lunch...

eat and of course, enjoy!

Saturday, 1 May 2010

from sugar to spice

how quickly it turned from Spring back to Winter!  One minute the sun was streaming in through the windows, the doors open with a balmy breeze gently blowing into the house and the next minute the wind changed.  The gloomy, heavy and slightly angry looking clouds swept over and the cold... oh the cold... I am literally sitting here with a blanket wrapped around my legs whilst The Viking sleeps in front of Indiana Jones (not that we had Mr Ford was in the room, you understand... it's just we were in a Sunday afternoon movie kind of mood... even though it's Saturday)

We are even contemplating the log fire... I know!

so I felt a pot of warming stew was in order for tonight so i've raided the old vegetables in the fridge.   This really is the kind of stew you can add anything you have to.  As you'll see, what I have is a mixed bunch, but this would take any medley of vegetables, just start with an onion and if there are no vegetarians in your household then use a good quality sausage and cook in exactly the same way.... anyway this is what i've come up with:

Veggie Sausage and Green Lentil Stew


1 pack of veggie sausages - cut into thick slices (i used Quorn but any brand will work)
1 onion - roughly chopped
3 stalks of celery - roughly chopped
1 leek - roughly chopped
a handful of mushrooms cut into chunks
1 carrot - roughly chopped
1 sweet potato - roughly chopped
handful of fine green beans - roughly chopped
a cup of green lentils
rosemary and thyme
S&P

For the stock:
2 glasses of red wine (one for you and one for the stew ha ha!)
a good quality vegetable stock
a teaspoon of gravy powder (yes I know this is cheating but you're using it for its thickening qualities rather than it's flavour
a glug of ketchup (the number one secret ingredient of most chefs - I read that in a book...)

So first, in a large stew pan, fry the sausage slices till golden brown and set aside, then fry the mushrooms and set aside. (the frying of both these ingredients adds flavour and texture to the finished pot, it's the equivalent to browning the meat in a regular stew)

next, in the same (but empty) pan saute the onions in some butter and olive oil, then add the rest of the veg and the herbs (except the green beans as these are nice to add some colour and freshness later on) and let it all sweat  on a low heat, with the lid on for about 10 mins.

next add the glass of wine to the stew and let the whole thing simmer for a moment in the red wine.

now add the sausages and mushrooms back into the pan with a pint of good veg stock to which you've added a teaspoon or so of gravy powder and a glug of ketchup.

then, on goes the lid and on a very low heat let it stew for 30 mins, at which point you add the lentils, the green beans and a little more stock.

now, at this point you have 2 cooking options... officially it will be ready to eat in another 30 mins, but you want to let it stew on a low heat for as long as possible.  You could even put it into the oven on a low heat and let it cook away happily, making sure it doesn't dry out.  What I like to do is cook it for an hour in the morning and then heat it up again for a long slow hour before I want to eat it that evening - or even the next day for more flavour!

perfect for a miserable spring evening... bring on the rain.

serve into bowls eat and of course, enjoy!


sugar rush.....Ottolenghi meringues

I think I must have a sweet tooth today.  That, combined with a surplus of egg whites left over from the Rhubarb Bars I though meringues were in order... and who better to advise me on how to make the perfect meringue than those lovely boys at Ottolenghi, famous for their large fluffy cloud like clusters of sweet, crunchy, melt-in-the-mouth nuggets of heaven!

We had to endure IKEA yesterday so we deserve these treats.

I've adapted their Pistachio and Rosewater meringues into Coffee and Almond, mainly because The Viking was making a fresh brew of coffee and all I had in the cupboard this morning was almond flakes...

They're actually incredibly easy to make yet they look like they've been crafted by the gods in some kind of cloud kitchen on Mount Olympus.

Ingredients 
500g caster sugar
250g free-range egg whites (6 eggs)
2 tsp of freshly brewed coffee
handful of crushed almond flakes

Preheat the oven to 200 and bake the sugar on a baking tray for about 8mins or until the sugar is hot.

While the sugar is in the oven place the egg whites in a bowl and when the sugar is almost done start to whisk them until they start to froth up. (The book tells you to use a good free-standing electric mixer, not a hand whisk as later you have to whisk for 10 mins and the mixture gets quite stiff... I only have one of those daft had whisks but I borrowed Tracey's double hand whisk and that did the job perfectly...)

Carefully pour the sugar into the whisking egg whites, once it has all been added, add the coffee and continue to whisk on high speed untill the eggs are cool (about 10mins.) At this point it should keep its shape when you lift a bit from the bowl and should look silky.  You can now taste it and add more coffee as desired.

Turn down the oven to 110 and prepare baking sheets with parchment paper and spoon dollops onto them... make sure you leave plenty of space around each meringue as they nearly double in size!  Be as messy as you like it all looks fabulous when it comes out of the oven.

Sprinkle the almonds on top and place it all in the oven and leave for 2 hours.. let them cool when they're done...you know they're ready when they sound hollow to the tap but they should still be gooey inside.

Delicious filled with whipped cream with sweet chestnut puree or hot chocolate sauce!

eat and of course, enjoy!

Rhubarb Bars

one of my favourite blogs is called 'cook and eat' which has fabulous recipes and even more wonderful photography...


... I couldn't resist this recipe for Rhubarb Bars for which you need to make a rhubarb curd!


Rhubarb Curd


400g rhubarb (about 10 - 15 stalks)
65g sugar


6 egg yolks
150g sugar
a pinch of salt
50g unsalted butter cut up into chunks


Wash and chop rhubarb into 1/2 inch chunks. There is no need to peel, but if your stalks are particularly large, you might trim off any tough parts. Stir the rhubarb and 80g of sugar together and let sit for about 10 minutes. Place in a medium sized pot with about 1/4 cup of water and cook over low heat until you can no longer see whole pieces. Turn off the heat and let cool to room temperature. Blend to a smooth puree if you desire (this will remove any remaining little stringy bits, but it isn’t necessary).


In a double boiler (or a bowl over boiling water), whisk the egg yolks, remaining sugar and salt. Whisk until well combined and warm. Add about 1 cup of the stewed rhubarb and the lemon zest. Keep stirring until the mixture is warm again. Check for taste and add more of the pureed rhubarb until you get the desired flavor and color. Remove from heat and stir in the butter chunks.
If you are not using the curd immediately, let it cool to room temperature and then store refrigerated for up to a week.
This recipe makes more curd than you’ll need for the Rhubarb Bars.


Rhubarb Bars


4oz butter at room temp
130g plain flour
50g sugar
a pinch of salt
Place the butter, flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a mixer. Start on low speed (to keep the flour from flying everywhere), stir until it resembles course crumbs. Then increase speed slightly and continue to mix until a soft dough forms. It’s kind of magic.
Take the dough and press it into a 9″ x 5″ baking dish. Let rest at room temperature for about 15 minutes, and then bake until it is lightly golden, about 20 minutes. While the dough is baking, finish preparing the curd.
Pour the enough curd onto the crust to make a layer a little less than 1/4 inch thick, and bake for another 10 minutes, until the curd has set. Cool to room temperature. Refrigerate if desired (it’s easier to slice when chilled, but not necessary). Dust with powdered sugar before slicing if you’d like.


Oh my god they are simply delicious!
Eat and of course, enjoy!

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