Thursday, 27 September 2012

Roast carrot & ginger soup with Wensleydale


5 Carrots, 
100ml orange juice, 1/4 medium ginger root, rapeseed oil. 

Serves: 2 Preparation: 2 hours

Winter is drawing in and we need to carb up! This soup is fresh and zingy with a gorgeous sticky crumble of Wensleydale to finish. When you boil carrots to soften them for soup, the colour always leaches away and they loose that lustrous orange hue. By roasting the carrots they maintain their natural sweetness and don't lose any of the flavour.

1) Peel the carrots and top and tail them, then peel and dice the ginger. Drizzle with a generous glug of rapeseed oil and roast in the oven at 200 degrees for an hour and a half, until the surface begins to colour and they become "bendy"

2) Pulse the carrots in a blender, adding the orange juice about half way through. Thin out with a little water, though personally I like this soup to be quite thick. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3) Transfer to a pan to warm through, and serve crumbled with a little fruit Wensleydale.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Olive Scones


250g self raising flour, 50g butter, 75ml buttermilk, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 10 olives 
Makes: 8 Preparation: 30

Savoury scones are something that I have experimented with quite often for this blog. From stilton and walnut to pesto, the humble scone is pretty easy to sex up. The result of my latest experimentation are these buttery, crumbly scones, stuffed with juicy, tangy olives. Oh my!

1) Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl then rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

2) Pit and halve the olives, then halve again and add to the bowl.
3) Mix the buttermilk in with the dry ingredients until a dough has formed.

4)  Roll out the dough on a floured surface and then fold it in half and roll again. Cut out rounds of pastry with a scalloped cutter and brush with the last drizzles of the milk to help the surface colour.

5) Bake at 200 degrees for 12-15 minutes.

Roast tomato & olive soup


2 lbs tomatoes, 1/2 onion, 1 pint vegetable stock, kamalata olives, butter. 
Serves: 4 Preparation: 1 hour

I love soup. I find all the chopping, stirring and pureeing very soothing, the warm smells that fill the house comforting, and I love ladling out steamy bowls of soup for people to dunk hot crispy bread into, dressing it with ever more creative croutons or swirls of cream and yoghurt. This soup is nothing short of fabulous. The salty tang of the olives brings an extra dimension to the rich, savoury tomatoes - this is definitely not one you'll get bored of!

1) Roast the whole tomatoes and for 20 minutes at 200 degrees, then add to a blender and puree.

2) Peel and finely dice half an onion and sautee in a little butter. Pass the tomato flesh through a sieve, into the pan of onions, then add the vegetable stock.

3) Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally then pass through a sieve a second time to separate the onions.

4) Pit the olives and chop finely. Stir into the soup and serve.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Avocado dauphinoise


1 avocado, 1 large King Edward

potato, avocado oil, cheddar. 
Serves: 4 Preparation: 30 minutes

I absolutely adore dauphinoise potatoes. The taste, the texture, the utter indulgence... I don't know anyone that doesn't like it. (Come on, out of the woodwork with you then! Prove me wrong!) The only thing that ever makes me hesitate about eating it, is the fat content. So much cream, so much cheese... it's so very naughty. I have recently been somewhat obsessed with avocado, and made it my mission to feature it in this healthy alternative to dauphinoise potatoes - less carbs, no fatty sauce, yet no compromising on texture.

1) Slice your potatoes finely with a mandolin or a knife. Brush lightly with avocado oil (you can use olive oil if you don't have any) and bake for 15 minutes on a high heat.

2) Halve the avocados and scoop the fruit from the shell, discarding the stone. Slice into approximately 1/2 centimetre thick slices.

3) I used vintage cheddar for this recipe, a good strong flavour, but this is entirely according to taste. You could use a diet cheddar, but for the right texture, it's really got to be a relatively waxy cheese. Slice about 1/2 centimetre thick.

4) Starting with a slice of potato, layer the avocado and cheese between slices of potato. You could fill a ramekin or individual circle moulds, or make a larger version in a casserole dish.

5) Bake for 5-10 minutes until the top slice of potato begins to crisp, and the cheese has melted. Serve hot or cold.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Lavender madeleines


105g flour, 70g butter, 1 tsp
lavender, 2 eggs, 65g sugar, 1
tbsp honey (I used lavender honey),
1 tsp vanilla essence,½ tsp baking powder 

Makes: 12 preparation: 2 - 4 hours

It's no secret that lavender is one of my favourite ingredients - whether used in sweet or savoury cooking it never fails to impress. Madeleines are a best beloved treat from my childhood - summers in France with these elegant little shells melting in the mouth. I have always loved to make them and especially loved to eat them. Adding lavender adds a more exotic twist to bring out the vanilla in these perfect, sweet sponges.

1) Add the lavender and butter to a milk pan, allowing it to melt slowly and infuse the butter with the maximum flavour. Add in the honey and stir through.

2) Whisk together the eggs, sugar and vanilla for 2-4 minutes until the mixture is pale and just beginning to stiffen.

3) Sift together the flour and baking powder, then fold with a spatula into the eggs. Once combined add in the flavoured butter.

4) Put the mixture into the fridge to rest for an absolute minimum of one hour. For best results leave for 3 hours, but this can be kept overnight if you are preparing for guests.

5) Rub a light layer of butter onto your madeleine pan, then using a tablespoon scoop a quenelle sized portion of batter into each shell dip. Some people recommend to use a piping bag - personally I feel that madeleine batter shouldn't be handled any more than you can help, otherwise they lose the lightness so I would advise using a spoon.

6) Bake in the oven at 200 degrees for 12 minutes. If you're able to watch them bake through the oven door this will help you to learn whether your batter has been over handled or the moulds have been overfilled. The heat will initially cause the batter to settle into the mould but it should never spill out at the sides enough for the madeleines to touch. It should quickly bubble up into the classic "humped" shape without the centre breaking the bump like a volcano.

The madeleines should slide straight out of the mould and have a light, springy texture with slightly crispy edges. They're best eaten immediately, otherwise the sponge becomes denser.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Honey & pumpkin frozen yoghurt


Rachel's organic Greek yoghurt with honey, 1 pumpkin, 1 tsp ginger, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp allspice, 1 tsp brown sugar.
Makes: 1L preparation: 4 hours

I must admit, I have never been a fan of frozen yoghurt. I love yoghurt, adore it in fact - as you've probably noticed, I cook with it a lot! But ice-cream is an indulgent, creamy affair - not a healthy virtuous experience!
Since becoming pregnant, I have been even more conscious about what I eat, and a craving for something chilled and sweet shouldn't mean that I pile on the pounds, and thus - my attitude to frozen yoghurt changed.
This is fabulously creamy and has a fabulous Autumnal flavour. It's perfect served with my ginger & pumpkin tarts.

1) Cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds and pith with a spoon. Make sure all the stringiness has been removed. Peel away the skin with a chef's knife and cut the flesh into cubes.

2) Transfer the pumpkin to an ovenproof dish with a lid, and add the spices and sugar. Shake with the lid on to coat the pumpkin, and roast in the oven with the lid on for an hour. The trick to roasting it with the lid on, is that you retain every bit of the pumpkin juices and flavour.

3) Puree the spiced pumpkin in a blender (or by mashing thoroughly), and allow to cool.

4) Whisk the yoghurt in with 100g of the pumpkin and put in the freezer. (if you cannot get hold of 

5) Every 3 minutes for 2 hours, whisk the pumpkin yoghurt to ensure that linear ice-crystals do not form. After 3 hours, this should be completely frozen and ready to eat.

Ginger & pumpkin tart


1 Pumpkin, 
1 tsp ginger, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp allspice, 1 tsp brown sugar, ginger biscuits, butter. 
Serves: 6 preparation: 1 hour 30 minutes

It's Autumn now, the season of comfort and spice, and given that I have a number of fabulous American readers, I wanted to try my hand at some Thanksgiving style recipes... but Everything Goes With Toast style!
Pumpkin is a wonderful vegetable - but I must admit, I've only ever made savoury meals such as soup, bread or cannelloni with it. This pumpkin pie has a soft, sweet filling and fabulously crispy tart case - perfect with my honey & pumpkin frozen yoghurt.

1) Cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds and pith with a spoon. Make sure all the stringiness has been removed. Peel away the skin with a chef's knife and cut the flesh into cubes.

2) Transfer the pumpkin to an ovenproof dish with a lid, and add the spices and sugar. Shake with the lid on to coat the pumpkin, and roast in the oven with the lid on for an hour. The trick to roasting it with the lid on, is that you retain every bit of the pumpkin juices and flavour.

3) Puree the spiced pumpkin in a blender (or by mashing thoroughly), and allow to cool.

4) Crush the ginger biscuits and stir in a little melted butter. Press into tart cases and fill with the pureed pumpkin. Bake for 20 minutes in the oven, and serve hot or cold.

Double spinach pasta


400g Spinach, 150g Seeds of
Change spinach pasta, 1 wheel camembert 
Serves: 2 preparation: 15 minutes

I adore spinach, in my humble opinion there can never be too much of it on the menu, and when I was sent some Seeds of Change spinach pasta as a gift, I knew exactly how best to serve this. A gentle ooze of Camembert, the fresh softness of spinach - absolutely glorious. This recipe couldn't be quicker, or more simple but it's absolutely perfect in its simplicity.

1) Put the spinach pasta on to boil for 8 minutes in hot water.

2) Slice the lid from the Camembert and scoop out the cheese. Add to a pan with the spinach and stir on a low heat until a smooth sauce has formed.

3) When the pasta is ready, strain and add to the sauce, stirring through until it is evenly coated.

This works served hot, or cooled as a pasta salad - though I hesitate to use the word salad to something so indulgent!

Cauliflower cheese pizza


1 Cauliflower, 1 white onion,

1 glass red wine, pinch basil,
pinch parsley, pinch oregano, 100g passata, cheddar cheese, 2 eggs, 2 tablespoons parmigiano,  
Makes: 2 pizzas preparation: 1 hour

I've been working on quite a lot of recipes recently for those who are gluten-free - substituting spelt or polenta for rice or flour, and when I heard about the concept of cauliflower pizza base I just had to try it. I had a suitable guinea-pig in mind: The Husband's best friend who HATES cauliflower and loves pizza.
It worked perfectly - he and The Husband scarfed down the first pizza and asked me to make them a second one. It didn't smell, taste or feel like cauliflower and was utterly moreish! This works best with a thin, crispy base, but if you want a thicker base - eat with a knife and fork as it will be fairly soft!

1) Remove the leaves and slice the stem of the cauliflower right down to the base, leaving a star shaped core.
Cut the florets from the cauliflower, leaving as little stalk as possible, and blitz them all a blender until they resemble fine crumbs.

2) Transfer the cauliflower crumbs to a microwaveable dish and microwave for 3 1/2 minutes. Stir through and then microwave for a further 3 1/2 minutes.

3) Allow the cauliflower to cool enough for you to be able to handle it, then squeeze over a sieve, compressing the cauliflower until as much liquid as possible has been removed. You really do need to get this dry - I achieved this by also squeezing with kitchen roll to soak out more of the liquid.

4) Once the cauliflower crumbs are dry, season with salt, black pepper and stir in the parmigiano and whisked eggs. press onto a baking tray / pizza stone into the desired pizza stone and bake for 15 minutes on high until it begins to turn golden brown. Using a fish slice or pallate knife turn over the pizza dough (it should maintain its integrity, but you can always flip it upside down onto another baking tray) and then bake for a further 5 minutes.

5) Top with pizza sauce (as per previous recipes: sauteed onion, cooked off in red wine, passata and herbs) and a layer of grated cheddar, then return to the oven to bake for a further 5-10 minutes.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Roast pepper stuffed with spinach, feta & puy lentils


La 1 bell pepper, 100g spinach, 10g puy lentils, 50g feta, nutmeg
Serves: 1 preparation: 30 minutes

When I became a vegetarian all those years ago, I needed to seek new protein sources which did not involve soya or mushrooms, both of which I'm horribly allergic to. Puy lentils are packed full of protein and soluble fibre, iron, potassium and zinc. They're low in fat and for the newly pregnant (me! By the way I did a pregnant!), they're high in folic acid too. A definite super food and like spinach, they needn't be boring just because they're virtuous. The stuffed pepper is the healthy alternative to a pie in my opinion. You can fill them with just about anything, and without pastry most fillings are healthy, delicious and super low maintenance to prepare. A pepper is a marvellous thing. I like to pre-roast them before stuffing them and roasting them again until the skin is almost completely blackened and has infused the centre with luscious tangy juices. In this case the tang of the feta, the melting soft spinach and the texture of the lentils makes this a real power-lunch for me, hot or cold!

1) Slice the top from the pepper (do not discard the lid) and scoop out the core and seeds. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes at a high heat.

2) Steam the spinach for 4 minutes, then carefully squeeze out as much as the liquid as possible.

3) If you use dried puy lentils - these will need to be cooked first for about 45 minutes (personally it's one of those ingredients I'm quite happy to buy canned. Merchant Gourmet's are FANTASTIC), to prepare canned - strain away the brine and combine with the spinach along with a little salt, black pepper and freshly grated nutmet.

4) Layer the feta, spinach and puy lentil mix into the pepper, packing it down tightly until it is full to bursting. Replace the lid and return to the oven to roast for a further 10 minutes, then serve!

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Beer dip


200g cream cheese, 20g cheddar cheese, 1/2 cup beer
Preparation: 1 hour

When making a pot of Mexican mole, one of my favourite ways to serve the leftovers is with nachos and cheese. This beer dip makes the most fabulous topping. Cool and malty and super simple to make.

1) Whip the cream cheese and the beer until smooth and season with salt to taste.

2) Stir through grated cheddar and refrigerate for at least an hour until it has set.

Butter roast pepper & aubergine al forno


1 aubergine, 1 bell pepper, 75g passata tomatoes, butter, pasta, cheddar, 1 white onion, 1 glass red wine.
Serves: 4 preparation: 30 minutes

It's possible to make a fabulous pasta sauce with little more than tomatoes and butter - thick and glossy with little need of seasoning. I've taken those principles and applied them to make this unbelievably wonderful, indulgent pasta sauce. Words cannot describe the combination of pepper, tomato, butter and aubergine - made richer with wine and onion this is a feast for every sense.

1) Slice the aubergines to half centimetre thick discs and sprinkle with salt. Leave to rest until you see dark juices beading the surface, then wipe away with kitchen towel.

2) Slice the top from a bell pepper and remove the core and seeds. Roast in the oven until the skin has almost completely blackened and pulse thoroughly - skin and all - in the blender.

3) Peel and finely slice a white onion and sautee with a little butter until completely soft. Add the red wine and cook off, then transfer to the blender with the pureed roast pepper and blend to incorporate.

4) Put the pasta on to boil - the sauce can take 2 cups to serve 4 or 3 cups to serve 6 if you add an extra 15g passata.

5) Melt a little butter in a frying pan and add the aubergine slices (I cook 4 at a time), turning immediately to allow them to soak up the butter evenly. Sizzle until the butter browns and is completely soaked up by the aubergine before turning again - then continue turning until the surface of the aubergine colours and the skin changes to a vibrant, shiny purple. Repeat for all the aubergine slices, then cut them in half.

6) Transfer the roast pepper and onion mixture to a pan along with the passata and stir through on a low heat. When the pasta is cooked, strain and stir into the sauce along with the aubergine slices.

7) Spoon the pasta and sauce into an ovenproof dish and top with a layer of grated cheddar. Personally I think a sharp vintage cheddar is perfect here, if you preffer those milder, waxy cheddars this will leave you with a greasy layer on the pasta once it is cooked so I would use grated mozzarella and a sprinkling of parmeggian instead. Bake for 5-10 minutes on a medium heat until the cheese is golden bubbly and serve with salad.

Spicy peanut & butternut squash soup


1 butternut squash, 1 tablespoon peanut butter
 (I like Whole Earth Foods), 1/2 pint vegetable stock, chilli flakes
Serves: 2 preparation: 35 minutes

I love soup. I find all the chopping, stirring and pureeing very soothing, the warm smells that fill the house comforting, and I love ladling out steamy bowls of soup for people to dunk hot crispy bread into, dressing it with ever more creative croutons or swirls of cream and yoghurt. This soup is velvet smooth, voluptuously thick and has a fabulous kick of chilli and savoury peanut butter to match the clean sweetness of the butternut squash.

1) Peel and the butternut squash, discard the seeds and cut into chunks. Roast in the oven in a covered dish at 200 degrees for 25 minutes.

2) Strain the butternut squash (do not discard the juice) and pulse thoroughly in a blender. Add the pureed butternut squash and juice into the vegetable stock along with the peanut butter and summer for 5 minutes.

3) Season with salt, black pepper and chilli flakes before serving.

Pancetta, pea & avocado soup

175g pancetta, 1/2 pint ham stock, 300g garden peas, 1 avocado.
Serves: 4 Preparation: 20 minutes

A while ago, I posted a recipe for a fabulous vegetarian soup - pea & avocado which is made with vanilla yoghurt and marrowfat peas. It's thick, rich and velvety and not as sweet as you might expect. Recently I was looking for a new soup idea for a dinner party and thought of mixing the fresh sweetness of garden peas with perfect piggy savoury notes and revisiting that lovely thick avocado texture. Give it a try.

1) Bring the ham stock to a simmer, then add the garden peas and cook for 5 minutes. Strain the peas from the stock (do not discard) and pulse in a blender thoroughly.

2) Pass the peas through a sieve and back into the ham stock to separate the flesh from the skins - this helps your soup to be smooth textured. It might seem like a lot of fuss but trust me - it's worth it!

3) Add the pancetta and allow to cook for a further 5 minutes. The soup shouldn't need seasoning due to the savoury ham stock and pancetta but taste it, and add salt and black pepper if required.

4) Halve the avocados and scoop the fruit from the shell, discarding the stone. Pulse the avocado in the blender and stir into the soup before serving with a dollop of Greek yoghurt.

Beetroot hummus


1 beetroot, 1 can chickpeas,

1 clove garlic, orange juice, orange zest, Rachel's Organic Greek Yoghurt. 
Preparation: 35 minutes (plus soaking time if using dried chickpeas)

I adore hummus, Adam Sandler's Zohan has NOTHING on me! I had thought until recently that my ginger hummus was the best adaptation, but this beetroot hummus is absolutely marvellous and really does have the most fabulously exotic colour. 

1) If you are using dried chickpeas leave them to soak in cold water for a minimum of 6 hours (ideally 10-12) and cook them for 1 1/2 hours, changing the water frequently to avoid a bitter aftertaste.

2) If using canned chickpeas drain them and rinse well with cold water. It's entirely your choice whether you shell the chickpeas first - personally I prefer a bit of texture - but to shell them - Pour over boiling water and let them sit for 1 minute before straining, then pinching them gently to slide the chickpea from the shell.

3) To prepare the beetroot, wash it and slice off the stalks and leaves. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes. Carefully peel the beetroot with the nick of a knife.

4) Roast one clove of garlic in the oven for 10 minutes, then squeeze out the pureed garlic from the skin.

5) Place your chickpeas into a blender along with 1 tablespoon of greek yoghurt, a tablespoon of orange juice, salt and black pepper, the beetroot and the garlic and pulse thoroughly.

6) After blending thoroughly, stir through a little orange zest.

Cider & sage roast chicken soup


Chicken, sage leaves, 1 maris piper potato, 1 can cider,
chicken stock, onion
Serves: 4 Preparation: 2 hours (including chicken roasting time)

Despite being a vegetarian, I have a healthy respect for chicken soup. I've been making it all my life for people that I love, when they're sick or just deserve a treat. When we have people over and I roast a chicken for dinner, The Husband is usually more excited about the soup he knows I'll make than the luscious, juicy chicken itself. This soup, following my cider can chicken recipe is velvet textured from the potato, delicately flavoured with sweet sage and cider and stuffed chock full of melt-in-the-mouth chicken.

1) Peel and slice a white onion, and add to a stock pot along with the chicken carcass (ensure any good meat remaining is removed to add to the soup), the remaining cider from the can the chicken was sitting on and 1/2 pint of water. Simmer for 30 minutes and strain the liquid into a separate pan.

2) Set the liquid to cool in the fridge for an hour, then skim the fat from the surface. 

3) Blend the leftover slices of potato and add to a pan along with some leftover chicken meat, and the stock jelly.

4) Simmer on the hob for 30 minutes, seasoning with salt, pepper and more chopped sage to taste.

Cider can chicken


3 maris piper potatoes per chicken, 1 can cider per chicken, sage leaves, butter
Preparation: 2 hours

When I roast a chicken, I stuff the cavity with pierced lemons, filling the inside with fragrant steam to make the meat moist and succulent. Cider can chicken works on the same principle - flavouring the chicken with the sweetness of the cider and sage. The French method of slicing potatoes to cook in the chicken juices makes a wonderful roast meal.

1) Massage a little butter into the skin of the chicken and stick sage leaves to the skin of the chicken.

2) Pour 1/3 of the cider out of the can, add some chopped sage to the remaining cider, then spread the legs of the chicken and sit it on top of the can. Press down until the chicken is balanced.

3) Cut the potatoes into cm thick slices, then arrange around the chicken.

4) Roast in the oven, basting at intervals to crisp up the skin, then remove carefully from the can and carve. Save the cider, some of the potates, chicken and the carcass to make stock for soup.

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