Category Archives: Feast

Show Some Love This Valentine’s – If You Must

melting moents with grapefruit cream

Melting Moments – When Your Work’s Worth Sharing

I come from a fairly stoical family, who are not big on physical affection. We prefer friendly pats on the back to full-blown hugs.  When I got my A Level results, my Mum had to tell my Dad to give me a hug to show he was proud of me. I knew anyway, and he knew that I knew; but we hugged for my Mum’s sake, and it was awkward. That hug has stuck with me for 20 years, so it just goes to show that it was a Momentous Occasion. We show love through our merciless mickey-taking – and long may it continue!

It will come as no surprise whatsoever to you then, when I confess that I do not have a romantic bone in my body (and whenever I have spare bones hanging about, I tend to make stock from them, so even if I had, it wouldn’t have lasted that long). Cut flowers and chocolates will not woo me (although edible seeds and chocolate as an ingredient would win my heart  in a flash). George, from the Famous Five, was more my style than Cinderella, or Sleeping Beauty. I have never dreamed of fairytale weddings, or handsome princes. My dreams were more likely to feature horses and hansom cabs! The Big Guy and I have never celebrated Valentine’s Day. I think he would love to be a bit more romantic on a more consistent basis, but I don’t like all that soppy stuff.

So, in light of this information, you may surprised to find a Valentine’s post on Edible Things. Not to worry, I am not being inconsistent. We have an organisation-wide meeting on today, and the HR department thought it would be a good excuse to have a bit of a celebration, so they asked us all to show our colleagues some love for Valentine’s, by making each other some fair food.

This set me off in a bit of a panic; if I can’t see what is romantic about a meal for the Big Guy, how was I ever going to come up with something original and interesting for my workmates? So, I turned to Facebook (whilst love may make me queasy, I’m always happy for people to show their likes…) to ask folks over there what they thought. I got some great suggestions but when Emma mentioned melting moments, with a passion fruit filling, I knew this was the perfect thing to serve up. And that I was going to make and blog about passion fruit curd. To me, this is the king of the fruit curds, tart and sweet. Unfortunately, no passion fruits were to be found, so I settled for the next best thing; ruby grapefruit. Once citrus is well cooked, most of it will go orange, so don’t be disappointed to find that you haven’t got a ruby coloured curd.

Ruby Grapefruit Curd

You Ain’t in Kansas Anymore

The curd needs to have time to cool before you use it in the filling, so you should make it the day before you bake the biscuits.

These easy and delicious treats look, and taste impressive. When all’s said and done, what better way to show your colleagues that you are fond of them?

Recipe: Melting Moments With Grapefruit Curd Filling

Ingredients

For the Curd (makes 2 jars):

Zest of one, unwaxed grapefruit

200 ml grapefruit juice

125 g butter

450 g sugar

200 ml beaten egg (about 4)

For the Melting Moments:

125 g softened butter

115 g plain flour

45 g icing sugar

50 g custard powder (or cornflour and a tsp of vanilla extract)

For the Filling:

200 ml double cream

Method

Making the curd isn’t hard, but does require patience. Firstly, sterilise your jars, by washing in hot water and placing in a low oven, or by running them and the lids through a hot cycle on the dishwasher. You can seal curd with cellophane,  but if you use lids, these will need to be boiled as the curd is approaching doneness.

There are two methods for cooking curd – direct and indirect heat. The direct method is quicker, but there is a greater risk of the egg scrambling. Sometimes, with very vigorous whisking off the heat, you can save it, as long as you notice as soon as it starts to curdle. The indirect method runs much lower risk of splitting, but it does take a lot more time. If you want to use indirect heat, you will need to cook the mixture in a double boiler, making sure the water at the bottom does not touch the bottom of the bowl, and check it occasionally to make sure the water has not evaporated.

Whichever method you choose, combine the grapefruit zest and juice, butter and sugar, and heat gently, until all of the butter has melted.

Making the curd - after the egg is added

Curd Away

Over a low heat, slowly add the egg to the buttery mixture, whisking vigourously as you go. When all of the egg is combined, increase the heat to medium, and stir until the mixture is thick and creamy. This could take a while, so settle in with a good book, but make sure you don’t allow the curd to catch on the bottom, and remember to scrape down the sides too.

Once the pouring consistency reaches thick ribbons, put it in the hot jars, and fill to 3 mm from the top. Cover with a wax disc, and seal immediately. The curd will last up to 4 weeks. Once opened, store in the fridge.

To make the melting moments, preheat the oven to 160°C, and line two cookie sheets with baking paper.

Beat the butter until pale and fluffy. Add the flour, icing sugar and custard powder, and mix well. This is a pretty dry mix, but it should all come together. There is no need to bother with seiving the dry ingredients.

Formed melting moments

Not as Flat as a Pancake!

Roll small lumps of the dough into balls. This amount of dough should give you about 26 biscuits. Place them on the cookie sheets, then flatten them with the back of a fork, which you should dust occasionally with icing sugar.

Bake them for 15-20 minutes, until crisp. Be aware that these biscuits should come out of the oven pale, as they will continue to cook, and colour more while cooling. Allow to cool.

Whip up the cream until it is pretty stiff, and stir through 3 tbsp of the curd. You can leave it as swirls through the cream, if you want. Place a little curd on the base of a biscuit, add a tiny dollop of the cream (or you will lose it out of the sides) and sandwich it together with a second. Sit back, and enjoy a melting moment.

In theory, these should last a couple of days in an airtight container, but I’ve not yet been able to test this theory.

6 Comments

Filed under Feast

Simple, Cleansing Pork Pho

Pork Pho

A Fantasticaly Fresh TV Dinner

I have eaten rather well lately: at new lunch spots with my ladies; a rich lamb tagine, cooked for me by my friend from the Morning Claret; and a veritable feast of dim sum that I cooked up last Sunday, for the lunar new year. I had great fun doing it, but I did learn that it is probably OK to make some things in advance and heat them through on the day. There are so many intricate little dishes to make for a proper dim sum feast. I made char sui pork, with which I then made sticky rice and char sui bao (as well as chicken and mushroom hom bao). I made crispy seaweed (with curly kale), pak choi in garlic, and braised aubergine. I also made these excellent vegetarian shumai that Petra from Food Eat Love posted the other day. They were delicious, and gave me the courage to try other dumplings too. I’ve never quite understood how to tuck up the dumplings, but Petra’s clear instructions just clicked with me, and so I gave them a go. Unfortunately, I need a bit more practice before they look lovely, so there are no photos.

Encouraged by the success of the shumai, I decided to go all out, and have a go at xiao long bao, or the special pork dumplings, that are filled with mince and pork. Mine were loosely based on the Serious Eats Soup Dumplings. Nothing like a good bit of over-reaching to really show your skill. Or the limitations of it, in any case. More practice needed there, too, I think.

Don’t get me wrong, they were delicious, but not that soupy, as I managed to put slightly too much meat in the filling, and so the thin and delicate pastry broke. I’m not going to be put off, however. I was very pleased with them, and I will get better, I’m sure.

I made the Serious Eats stock for the bao, but I deviated a bit from the filling. For one thing, I don’t eat prawns, because I can’t really find any that could be said to be produced sustainably. Instead, I grated in ginger and garlic, and I put coriander through the pork mince.

After all that eating, today I was in search of something cleaner, and simpler. The Big Guy was out for dinner tonight with work, so as well as clean flavours, I wanted something simple, but that was comforting enough to settle in on the sofa with to catch up on some TV.

Having feasted so well at the weekend, I was not without leftovers, particularly the very good stock, and some of the xiao long bao filling. Despite needing the practice, I wasn’t in the mood for more dumplings, so I ventured further south for tonight’s dinner. Just like I deviated a bit from the Serious Eats filling, I have deviated a bit from a traditional Vietnamese Pho, but the resulting soup was just as fresh and comforting as I’d imagined it would be.

Cooking-with-Herbs-300x252

Since this dish contains herbs (and if I’d have had Vietnamese mint, I’d have added that too), and is Chinese/Vietnamese inspired, I have also decided that it is perfect for this month’s Cooking with Herbs, run by Karen at Lavender and Lovage. She is also hoping for recipes inspired by romance for this month, in light of it being Valentine’s day soon. I’m not so sure about all the romance, but I do know this soup is a great way to show yourself some love if you have over-indulged, or if you have a night to yourself.

Recipe: Pork Pho

The amounts given here are enough for one person.

Ingredients

For the Meatballs:

100 g minced pork

½ tsp soy sauce

1½ tsp rice wine

A pinch of sugar

A small clove of garlic, finely grated

A 1 cm piece of ginger, finely grated

Small bunch of coriander, finely chopped

For the Pho

400 ml good stock – I used chicken and pork from Serious Eats. Just chicken stock is also fine, but please don’t use stock cubes

½ tbsp fish sauce

½ carrot, cut into thin batons

1 garlic clove, thinly sliced

2 cm ginger, cut into thin batons

40 g rice noodles

2 spring onions, sliced on the diagonal

20 g mange tout, sliced on the diagonal

1 chilli, seeds in or out, whichever you prefer, sliced thinly on the diagonal

3-4 sprigs of coriander, leaves whole and the stalks finely chopped

Pinch of salt

Juice of about a quarter of a lime

Method

First, mix all of the meatball ingredients together, then roll them into small balls. You want them to be about marble size. Refrigerate for at least half an hour to help them to keep their shape.

Cook the stock with the fish sauce, garlic, ginger and carrots. Add the pork balls, cover and simmer gently for 10 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through.

Meanwhile, cook the rice noodles. When cooked, drain, and add them and the vegetables to a deep bowl. Sprinkle  the herbs on the top.

Season the soup with salt, as required. Pour the soup over the noodles and the vegetables in the bowl, and squeeze in lime juice to taste.

Serve immediately, in front of the TV, and enjoy in peace.

9 Comments

Filed under Feast

From the Last Food of Christmas

Easy, handmade mandarin and dill sorbet

Edible Things Gave to Me
A Sorbet From the Mandarin Tree

I bet a few of you still have some things knocking about after the Christmas holidays. Especially mandarins.

As you may have noticed, last year was the year that I discovered the joys of combining desserts with herbs. People have been putting things like mint, basil and lemon balm in desserts forever. Last year, I mostly branched out into fennel, with my Rhubarb Foolish and Fennel and Strawberry Tarts. This year, I see no reason to stop experimenting.

I got inspiration for this dish from taking a quick break from the Christmas prep and sneaking off for five minutes with a mandarin. I must have still had some dill on my hands from the Gravad Lax. What I ended up with was inspiration. This is a great combination, as if they were made to go together. The dill is actually pretty subtle in this, it somehow seems to enhance the mandarin flavour, making it really sing on your tongue.

Easy way to juice mandarins

Top Tip!

Mandarins can be a little bit hard to juice by hand. Well, hard on the hands anyway, as I found out last year when making marmalade. Their skins are so soft and thin, that if you have any number to juice, it becomes uncomfortable very quickly.

If you have a fancy juicer, all well and good. If not, and you ever have to juice a few mandarins, this tip will save you from feeling that you have juiced more of your hand than you did the fruit. Peel them, then bung them in a jug and juice them with a stick blender. Pour the resulting juice through a square of muslin. You can either leave it to drip through for a few hours, if you want a very clear juice; or you can squeeze it through straight away if you don’t mind a cloudier juice.

Tips for using clumped sugar

Rock Sugar

In fact, I’m full of top tips today. When cleaning out the cupboards recently, I came across half a bag of badly-stored sugar, that had got a little damp at some point. As you know, I hate to waste food, so I kept this, knowing that I would find something that it would be suitable for. This recipe is just the thing, because it requires a simple syrup. I just put it in a ziplock bag, wrapped it in a couple of tea towels, and bashed out the lump with a hammer. It wasn’t fine sugar, but I could get the right amount out to melt gently into a syrup. Obviously, it would have been better not to abandon it to its fate in the first place, but I feel good that it didn’t go to waste.

And talking of not wasting food, this recipe also uses another the things that I always have knocking around in my fridge or in the freezer – egg whites. I absolutely love sweet and savoury egg-based sauces, and make all manner of custards, hollandaise and fresh mayonnaises on a regular basis. I am always in need of recipes for egg whites. If you have more suggestions, please do share.

As well as using up all the leftovers, this clean, bright and refreshing sorbet is the perfect antidote for the heavy and rich Christmas foods we have been eating recently. It is also a really easy recipe, to make, even if you don’t have a ice cream maker (which I don’t).

Cooking-with-Herbs-300x252

Coincidentally, this recipe really fits the brief for this month’s Cooking with Herbs, run by Karen at Lavender and Lovage, so I’ve entered it on her blog. There are always so many great recipes there, so hop over with me at the end of the month to have a look.

Recipe: Mandarin and Dill Sorbet

Ingredients

8 mandarins, preferably unwaxed

200 g granulated sugar

300 ml water (and maybe a little more)

about 25 g dill

1 egg white

Method

Wash and zest six of the mandarins, and juice all of them, using the handy method I outline above.

Put the zest, sugar, water and dill in a saucepan. On a gentle heat, melt the sugar, and then bring to a boil. Once it is boiling, cook the syrup for a further five minutes, then leave to cool for ten minutes.

Taste the syrup. At this point, you should be able to taste the dill quite well, but it does come after the less-subtle mandarin punch. If the dill is enough for you, set the syrup aside to go cold. If you are having trouble tasting the dill, add a few more sprigs to the syrup, before you set it aside.

Once the syrup is completely cold, strain it through a fine sieve, add the juice, and make it up to a total of 600 ml with cold water, if it falls short.

Pour the entire mix into a shallow container with a lid. An old ice cream tub is ideal. Freeze it for about 4 hours, until the sorbet is thick and syrupy.

Whisk the egg white to form soft peaks. Put the sorbet mixture into a mixing bowl, and whisk it thoroughly to break up the ice crystals.

Add a little of the sorbet to the egg white, and mix it in thoroughly. Fold the rest of the sorbet to into the egg white.

Return to the container and freeze again. Check it after a couple of hours to see if the egg white has separated a little. If it has, re-whisk it.

The sorbet will be ready after seven hours from when you added the egg white, but stores well for longer. Remove from the freezer 10 minutes before serving.

This should be easy enough to make in an ice cream maker, too. I guess you will need to churn it for a bit, then add the whisked egg white, then churn again. Just follow the manufacturer’s directions for the rest.

17 Comments

Filed under Feast

Pytt i Panna – Swedish Ways With Leftovers

Pytt I Panna

Leftover? Not Any More

Happy New Year to you all, I wish that you’ll get what you need this year.

I rang in the New Year with friends old and new, and some fantastic food made for me by my friend who writes the Morning Claret. As you might expect, this was accompanied by some excellent wines.

I usually start the year with a few resolutions. As the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and I didn’t have the best year in terms of regular blogging last year, I decided that this year, I would settle for simply committing to at least one blog post a week for the next 52 weeks. I already have a few that I want to share with you, and I have some great ideas for recipes that I am going to be testing for you in the near future.

If I get this done this year (with some much improved photography this year, thanks to my new camera the Big Guy bought me), then I will consider this a resolution well met. However, if you made any resolutions, I’d love to hear about some of yours.

Regular readers will know how much I love leftovers. To me they are ingredients to make delicious new dishes from. Pretty much everything can go to making new edible things. I use scraps in my stock, make trifle when life hands me leftover panetone, and even make ice cream from leftover mincemeat (which I think is an idea I got from Nigel Slater, so I won’t be blogging about that). If all other inspiration fails, there is always soup, which is often the best when you tinker about to use up the contents of your fridge.

There is always one dish that you can rely on to use up all the bits and bobs left over from a large meal. For Brits, it is Bubble and Squeak. The Chinese might fall back on a fried rice dish. If you are Swedish, you make Pytt i Panna – literally translated as “pieces in the pan”.

Since many of their meals rely on meat, vegetables and potatoes, this staple is as versatile as bubble and squeak. If you can fry it, it will go in. You can use up leftover cooked veg, or you can use up those sad old specimens that you’d intended to make something with, or the knobbly ones from the veg box that you have run out of inspiration for. You can also use a mix of both, if that is what you have. I would personally not recommend that you use tomatoes in this dish, but they would be rather good, well-grilled and served on the side.You should always have the onion for real pytt i panna, sweating it until it starts to colour, the caramelised bits are what makes this dish so good.

This time, I used up the last of the Christmas ham, made from a wild boar, again because that is what I had. I’ve also made this with beef, pork, leftover sausages, chicken, and a pretty excellent vegetarian version with a nut roast I’d made. I’m sure it would be equally good with turkey, and especially with goose, if that was your Christmas dinner of choice – especially cooked up with the rest of the bits and pieces in some of the lovely goose fat.

As you can probably tell from the description above, the following recipe does not need to be adhered to strictly, it is more of a guideline, based on what I had available on the day. The only two essential ingredients are the potato (sweet potato also works here, as would Jerusalem artichoke and celariac), and the onion, and you must allow both of them to colour, but apart from that just put pieces in a pan, as the name suggests.

This dish is lovely with a fried or poached egg on top. I had it with a side of slow-cooked red cabbage, which was also great.

I hope you made the most of your Christmas leftovers, let me know what you did in the comments.

Recipe: Pytt i Panna

Ingredients

5 medium potatoes or leftover boiled potatoes
About a quarter of a cauliflower that was past its best
2 onions, roughly chopped Leftover Christmas ham – I had about 150 g
1 tbsp cooking oil
Knob of butter
Salt and pepper to taste
A small bunch of dill that needed using up

Method

Dice everything into roughly 1 cm sized pieces. Break the cauliflower into small florets and dice the stalks.

If you are using raw potatoes, parboil them until they just allow a knife tip. Blanche the cauliflower in a separate bowl, and drain after 3-4 minutes.

In a large frying pan, cook the onions in the oil until they are starting to colour. Add the potatoes, again, cooking until they have some colour all over.

Add the knob of butter, ham and the cauliflower to the pan, then cook through. If the cauliflower also takes on a little colour,  so much the better.

Season well, and sprinkle with dill before serving.

5 Comments

Filed under Feast

Gravad Lax: Buried Treasure

Gravad Lax with creamy dill sauce

A Christmas Cracker

I love trying food from different cultures, especially as a different take on Christmas food, such as our Aussie Christmas dinner. I guess that by now, Swedish food isn’t so different for me, but I thought I’d share a favourite recipe of mine.

A traditional Swedish julbord, or “Christmas table” is a pretty meat-heavy affair, eaten at 4pm on Christmas eve, after the nation has sprung to life again following their Disney favourite; “Kalle Anka och hans vänner önskar God Jul” or “Donald Duck And His Friends Wish You Happy Christmas”. It is always the same clips, and this is one Christmas tradition I’m not overkeen on, but when in Stockholm…

Anyway, back to the julbord; it groans under a ham, which for me this year was a wild boar one, because the out-laws know I don’t like to eat factory farmed meat; various kinds of inglagd sill ; cold cuts; sausages; lutfisk; spare ribs; and Janssons Frestelse.

In my family, we also often have gravad lax. Also known as gravlax, gravlaks, graavilohi, or graflax depending on where you are in Scandinavia. In any country, it means buried salmon. In times before refrigeration, especially in northern European countries where snow covered the ground for a good part of the year, curing and burying meat was a great way to preserve it. Originally, people would use spruce or pine needles in the cure, but the balance needs to be perfect if your fish is not to end up tasting of a certain kind of disinfectant.

These days, everyone can make this easy recipe; you don’t even need a spade! In fact, you still have time to make it in time for a new year’s gathering, if you are having one. It looks impressive, for relatively little effort, and it is a big hit.

Organic Farmed Salmon

Organic Farmed Salmon

One thing I must urge you is to source your fish well. The increase in popularity of salmon in the last decade or so is concurrent with fish farming, most of which causes horrible environmental damage, due to over feeding and routine, excessive use of antibiotics. At the same time wild stocks are seriously dwindling, due to overfishing, ocean acidification and habitat destruction. In my opinion, salmon should be a treat, eaten very occasionally, so that we can afford to eat the best organically farmed salmon we can, meaning there is no unnecessary antibiotic use, and better care is taken to ensure that the fish are not over fed. This cure also works well for other types of fish, so you could still enjoy the recipe with cheap and plentiful fish, such as mackerel, or herring, so do feel free to experiment.

I made this amount of salmon for a large party, so you can also reduce the amounts of fish you use, but you must have enough cure to really cover the fish, so make a little more of that than you think you might need for the amount of fish that you have.

Recipe: Gravad Lax With A Creamy Mustard Sauce

Ingredients

For the Salmon:
100 g demerera sugar

75 g sea salt

100 g dill

1 tbsp juniper berries crushed

1.5 kg salmon fillet, halved

3 tbsp brandy

3-4 bay leaves

For the Sauce:
250 ml crème fraîche

2-3 tbsp finely chopped dill, depending on how much you like it

2 tbsp wholegrain mustard

1 tbsp runny honey

Salt and pepper to taste

Method

Gravad Lax mix

A Fitting Salmon Send Off

Mix together the salt and sugar until really well combined. Remove the stalks from the dill and chop the rest finely. Mix into the cure with the juniper berries. The cure needs to look pretty green and herby, because you want to get a lot of flavour in there.

In a shallow dish, get some cling film or a cheesecloth, and coat with about a quarter of the cure. Press one half of the fish down well into the cure, skin side down. Rub the cure into the skin, and leave skin side down on the wrapping.

Then you need to load the flesh with the cure. Do this by brushing the flesh with half the brandy and laying about another quarter of the cure over the flesh. Lay a few bay leaves over the fish.

Repeat the brandy and cure on the flesh of the second fillet. Once it is well covered, then lay it on the first fillet, so they are flesh to flesh. If the cure falls out, tuck it back between the fillets.

Rub the last of the cure into the skin of the second fillet. Wrap the fillets tightly together. If you are using cheesecloth, bind it with a series of butcher’s knots, as tight as you can get. The fish will lose liquid as it cures, so it is best to keep it in the shallow dish, unless you really like cleaning the contents of your fridge.

Weigh down the fish, by piling a load of tins on top of a baking sheet on top of the fillets, and placing the whole lot into the fridge. Leave it to cure for 3 days, turning once each day. Rinse off and pat dry with kitchen towel before serving.

What Gravad Lax Should Look Like

The Finished Product

To make the sauce, simply mix together the crème fraîche, dill, mustard and the honey. Season to taste.

Serve with the thinly sliced gravad lax on bread, melba toast or knäckebröd, as a delicious starter or hors d’oeuvre.

11 Comments

Filed under Feast

Super Calamansi-istic

Corn and Calamansi Salsa

Salsa Alidocious!

As you will have seen from my Philippine Tasting Plate, I brought back a few things to use in my home cooking. And what better way to celebrate the recent good weather we’ve been enjoying than to use tropical ingredients?

I got the idea for this dish from a corn salsa I ate at Tomatillo. As is often the way, restaurant food inspires my dishes. The Tomatillo salsa is nice, but I knew that I could twist it a bit to make it even better.

I was already thinking that it needed courgette. Then I remembered the calamansi that I had packed away so carefully, and that was now residing in my fridge. I knew that I had to try to make the dish that began a while ago, and had now taken root in my brain.

Calamansi

Calamansi – about the same diameter as a 10 p piece (or €2)

Calamansi is a small citrus fruit. You can use them like limes, in salads dressings and to season stocks etc, but they are also a popular drink in the Philippines, as well as being a key ingredient in sisig. They are both sweet and sour at the same time, and have a lot of flavour despite their diminutive size.

They also have a lot of pips. I was going to chance my arm and see what would happen if I planted a few, but I forgot to tell the Big Guy what I was doing, and they got thrown out. Ah well, I know that growing citrus from seed is notoriously unreliable, so I probably saved myself a fair bit of disappointment in any case.

I first made this salsa for a birthday canal boat picnic I held for the Big Guy. It was great as a dip with tortilla chips. I was a little nervous to present it as salsa to that crowd, amongst whom were some Americans who have an in-depth knowledge of all things Tex-mex. I have previously been taken to task for a guacamole, because I had put tomato in it, which apparently makes it pico de gallo, and not guacamole. I have also been told my (Mexican recipe) chile con carne is not a real Chile (but the consensus was that it was very tasty). I needn’t have worried, this went down a treat with everyone on the boat. And no-one objected to me calling it a salsa.

I have since served this at a barbecue, where it was similarly well received, and went equally well as a garnish with my home made burgers as it did with vegan enchiladas. I think it would be great as a salad as well.

I made this with tinned corn, but you could also use fresh a little later in the year, although I’d recommend grilling it in the husk first on either the barbecue or under a hot grill. Then shuck and add to the salsa.

Recipe: Corn and Calamansi Salsa

Ingredients

1 red onion, finely chopped

Juice and zest of 6-8 calamansi (or one lime)

½ courgette, finely diced

1  tin of sweetcorn, drained (or one whole corn cob, grilled and shucked)

1-2 red chilis, deseeded and finely chopped

Small bunch coriander, including stalks, finely chopped

Salt and pepper

Method

If, like me, you dislike raw onion then steep the chopped onion in the calamansi juice and zest for at least 10 minutes before you make the rest of the salsa. The amount of calamansi that you need will depend on the size of your onion. You should ave enough juice to just coat all of the onion. I have made this twice, and needed different amounts each time.

Raw courgette doesn’t taste of much, which puts many people off trying them twice. The secret to bringing out the flavour is to blanch them.  Because these are finely diced, they only need to be steeped in boiling water for about 30 seconds or so. If you like, you could squeeze a little more calamansi juice (or a couple of drops of lime) into the water. Drain immediately, and run under the cold tap to stop them cooking further. Allow to drain completely. The courgette will now taste of courgette, but will still have a bit of bite.

Mix together the onion, courgette, sweetcorn and chili. Season well, and set aside the salsa for about an hour to allow the flavours to meld. Taste, and add more chili, citrus juice or salt and pepper to taste. Stir through the chopped coriander and serve.

2 Comments

Filed under Feast

Procrastination Pâtisserie

Strawberry and fennel tarts

The Kind Of Procrastination That Leaves a Sweet Aftertaste

At the time that I cooked this, I really should have been packing for a work trip. I have also been so busy since I got back; including dealing with a gaping hole in my kitchen ceiling through which my neighbour’s shower leaks, and a recalcitrant landlord; that I have not really had the time to blog. Procrastination is a big theme in my life. Both mine and that of others, unfortunately.

You may also have noticed that I have had a little bit of an obssesion with pairing  things with fennel of late. I had briefly considered strawberries with candied fennel, a long time ago, but instead it became Rhubarb and Fennel Foolish, following some inspiration from Mister Kitchen at the Rollende Keukens.

I had some fennel stewed rhubarb leftover a while back. I had it for breakfast with some yoghurt and the first of the year’s strawberries, and discovered another match made in heaven. The seed of an idea was planted, and then I put off enacting it until I had something else I wanted to put off doing.

Unlike most procrastination, this did not leave me grumpy, nor with the slightly sour taste of panic in my mouth. Instead, it was a delicious treat for the last meal with the Big Guy before I left for the Philippines for a work trip. If only I’d got around to blogging it sooner…

Strawberry and Fennel tart in Profile

A Treat You Shouldn’t Put Off

I’m really very proud of this tart, it tastes like it is full of complex techniques, but it really is pretty simple. Even the crème patissière is not as complex as it sounds, since the flour in it means it thickens much quicker than it heats, so the risk of splitting is much less than with normal custard.

In fact, I thought that this little treat would be  great first entry into the Made With Love Monday blog challenge, hosted by Mark at Javelin Warrior because it was all my own work, and was made and shared with love.

Recipe: Fennel and Strawberry Tarts

Makes 6 small tarts

Ingredients

For the Crème Patissière:

½ tsp fennel seeds

350 ml milk

4 egg yolks

65 g caster sugar

15 g plain flour

15 g cornflour (or use 30 g cornflour)

For the Sable Pastry

25 g icing sugar

100 g plain flour

30 g ground almonds

50 g cold butter, cubed

1 egg yolk

A splash of cold milk to bind

For the Tarts:

15-18 Strawberries

2 tbsps rose petal jelly or  strawberry jelly (not jam)

1 tbsp water

Method

Crème Patissière

Add the fennel seed to the milk, bring to the boil, turn off he heat and allow it to infuse for 20 mins.

Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks and the sugar together until pale. Whisk in the flour and cornflour until thick and glossy.

Once the milk is infused with fennel flavour, bring it back up to boiling point, and strain through a sieve. Let it sit for about a minute. Slowly add to the egg yolk mixture. Don’t add it too fast or the eggs will scramble.

Return the custard to the pan, and bring to the boil, whisking constantly, and pretty rapidly. Once it starts to cloy on the whisk, take it off the heat, pour into a waterproof container, whisk a little more until it is thick. Sprinkle a little icing sugar over the top, so that it doesn’t form a skin.

Cool quickly by dipping the bowl in iced water (don’t get water in the custard). Refrigerate until needed. I did mine the night before I needed it.

Cheekily hoover up the scrapings in the saucepan, like you were 5 again. You won’t regret this step, I promise.

Sable Pastry

Sift the flour and icing sugar. Add the ground almonds. Rub through the butter, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

Mix in the egg yolk. Add very small splashes of milk, until you can just bring the pastry together. You won’t need a lot, this pastry is quite soft.

Wrap the pastry in paper or clingfilm, and allow to rest in the fridge for at least 40 minutes.

Heat the oven to 200°C.

Roll the pastry out thinly. It’s a delicate pastry, it should be really short and buttery when cooked, so don’t add loads of flour when you roll it out. Instead, roll it on a lightly dusted sheet of baking paper (wax side up).

Grease 6 small tartlet tins. I find the ones with the removable bases are the easiest to use.

Line the tins carefully with the pastry. If your pastry is really short, you could make a sausage from it, cut into thin discs, and then overlap some discs and press them together to thin the pastry. Or you could roll it thinly, use a saucer to cut out rounds of the pastry, and slip it into the tart tin using your baking paper. Either way, carefully push the pastry into the flutes of the tin, using a little bit of scrunched up spare dough. Trim the pastry by rolling your rolling-pin over the top of each tart tin.

Cut squares of baking paper (you can use the same stuff you rolled the pastry on) a bit larger than the tart tins, and scrunch each of them up, as if you are going to throw them in a bin. This will help the paper sit better in the tart case, so that you can get the blind bake into all the nooks and crannies, ensuring that none of your pastry can rise.

Gently prick the bases of the pastry cases with a fork. Unscrunch the baking paper, and line the top of the pastry cases. Line thickly with ceramic beans, dried beans or rice and tap on a work surface to get them into the fluting of the cases.

Bake the tartlet cases in the oven for 10 minutes. Then remove the blind bake, and return to the oven for a further five minutes until the pastry is  crisp and lightly browned all over.

Set aside for five minutes, and carefully remove from the tins. Allow to cool completely.

Tarts

Once your pastry and crème patissière are completely cool, you can assemble your tarts. Slice the strawberries in a way you find aesthetically pleasing. Put some of the crème patissière into each tart case, and spread over the base. Arrange your strawberries prettily over the crème patissière.

Make a glaze by heating the rose petal jelly and water gently until the jelly has melted. Mix well, and brush it over the strawberry arrangement.

Enjoy as a slightly unusual treat, with or without friends.

2 Comments

Filed under Feast

A Picnic on Public Transport

Asparagus and Potato Tart

Tarted Up Leftovers

The Big Guy and I are seasoned travellers. If you live in a different country from either of your families, you have to get used to the rhythm of packing, transport, and departure times. Where we can, we take the train; it has a much better rhythm – with a continuity of movement, both in terms of the motion of the carriages, and because there is no hanging about in a departure lounge, or being forced through an array of harshly lit shops. The train gets you where you need to be without fuss; you have space to sit comfortably and to move around.

One of the things that we haven’t got the rhythm of is taking our own food. Although, I do know exactly where all the best places to buy food along the journey are. We have recently returned from one such trip abroad, although this time, we had a leg of the journey on a coach. It was OK, but I will be glad if they ever sort out the troubles on trains run by a certain rail company, which has been unable to run for far too long now.

We decided that we should be better prepared for this journey. Since our usual rhythm was interrupted, I could not guarantee getting to my favourite pit stops. I also had a few ingredients in the fridge that wouldn’t last until we returned. So, the obvious choice was to make something to take with us. A picnic, of sorts.

I had a little of the salad, some cream and some eggs that needed using up from the dinner I made for friends, and a few last sprigs of chervil. As so often happens, the day before I was leaving I woke up and knew that these would be perfect in a tart, with some goat’s cheese. We could have some for dinner that evening, and then we could take the rest as a picnic for the coach the next day.

Like many of the best laid plans, the idea for a nice goat cheese went a bit awry. It was a bank holiday, and none of the usual shops were open, so I had to dispatch the Big Guy to the supermarket. Unfortunately, all they had in the way of goat cheese was some presliced stuff, that could have been any generic cheese. It certainly never has the tang of goat that I was looking for in this dish. Fortunately, he returned with some sharp, crumbly feta instead. This was a much better option, it needed to match the asparagus.

The tart was tasty, filling and survived the journey. So did the salad we had with it, because we dressed it en route from a small jar. This is my top tip for picnic salads – if you dress it before you travel, the salad will cook in the acid, and you will be left with a container full of flaccid disappointment.

Cheese Please blog badgeFour Seasons Food Challenge Chez Foti & Delicieux

I know I have entered my dishes into a lot of blog hops lately, but I couldn’t resist entering this recipe into the inaugural Cheese Please Challenge, hosted by Fromage Homage. Then I heard about the inaugural Four Seasons Food, dreamed up by Anneli at Delicieux and Louisa at Chez Foti. This dish is so apt for both.

This was my perfect public transport picnic, and I didn’t waste anything in my fridge. I’d love to hear what appears on your picnic blanket, or even coach seat when you make food for on the go.

Recipe: Asparagus and Potato Tart

Ingredients

For the Pastry: 

100 g plain flour

50 g cold salted butter

Really good grinding of black pepper

1 egg yolk

For the Filling:

100 ml cream

4 eggs

small bunch chervil, very finely chopped

100 g of leftover asparagus salad, or 3-4 small salad potatoes and 5 asparagus spears cooked until just tender, and cut into 5 cm chunks

2 spring onions, sliced finely

90 g feta cheese

Method

Season the flour. I wanted this pastry to taste peppery, the rest of the tart can hold its own. Don’t be afraid of adding  more pepper than you think.

Rub the cold butter (it needs to be fridge temperature) into the seasoned flour until you have a breadcrumb consistency. Add the egg yolk and bring together into a dough. If you need to, you can add a little bit of cold milk to make it all come together. Add a splash at a time.

Form a disc with the dough, and cover it with cling film or foil, and leave it to rest in the fridge for 20 minutes to an hour.

Heat the oven to 200°C. Roll the pastry out thinly on a floured surface. Carefully line a greased flan case with the pastry, and press into the sides or fluting with a small offcut of pastry in a ball, to avoid any tears or holes, you don’t want the filling to leak and burn on the bottom.

Prick the bottom of the pastry all over with a fork. Line the pastry with greaseproof paper, and add a good layer of blind bake – this can be ceramic beans, dried beans or rice – to give some weight help keep it flat and thin. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the pastry looks dry and is beginning to brown on the sides. Remove the blind bake, and put back in the oven to allow the pastry to cook all over to a light golden colour.

While the pastry is browning, whisk together the cream, eggs, and chervil.

Once the tart case is cooked, remove and turn the oven down to 180°C.

Pick the salad over to remove any leftover capers and cornichons. Scatter the rest over the tart case, so that you get pretty even cover. Then scatter over the spring onions and crumble the feta around, again, so that the coverage is quite even.

Pour the eggs and cream over the rest of the filling, shaking the case a little, to ensure even distribution. Return it to the oven and bake for a further 30-40 minutes, or until the centre is just set, but still has a little wobble if you shake it.

As with all quiches, this is great served hot or cold, but if you want to serve it warm, let it rest for about 10 minutes after it comes out of the oven, so that the filling does not ooze all over the plate.

9 Comments

Filed under Feast

First in, Best Dressed

Asparagus Salad, Chervil Dressing and Asparagus Mousse-Stuffed Chicken Ballotine

Made for Each Other

I may have already mentioned how inspired I was by the Rollende Keukens (only once or twice…). I ate so many good things there, that I am now experimenting with.

Nestled in amongst the stalls, was the Bar d’Asperge, which sold all manner of brilliant dishes with asparagus; from the Dutch classic – white asparagus with ham, egg and a bechamel sauce, to grilled green asparagus, pasta salad and all manner of other things. I was in search of something on the healthier side to counterbalance all the barbecued goodies that the Big Guy was queueing for. We were both also hungry, so I wanted something substantial, too.

Asparagus Salad with a Delicious sour cream & chervil dressing

A Healthy Option – Fresh Asparagus Salad

I came across this lovely salad, which contained potatoes, white and green asparagus, mushrooms, capers and cornichons. As the lady served it to me, she smothered it in a dressing, casually mentioning it was home-made. It was good – creamy, rich and spiked with chervil. Asparagus and chervil: if ever a herb were meant to go with a vegetable, it would have to be these two.

I tried many things at the Rollende Keukens, but to be honest, I don’t remember much else from the first day that I went there. This salad, and this sauce have consumed the rest of my memories. I knew I had to recreate it, and I knew that I would need to do a bit of research first. A lot of the sauces I looked at were stock based, and thickened with cream. This dressing certainly had sour cream, but was sharper and fresher than that.

I thought that you would need the thickness of a mayonnaise to give the sauce its consistency. I also knew that a shop-bought mayonnaise would make it too claggy. Then I remembered that it was perfectly possible to make mayonnaise yourself, and I could make it at the thickness that I felt appropriate. And so, a homemade mayonnaise with a neutral-tasting oil was my starting point, and it went really well from there.

This salad, and the sauce went perfectly with the chicken ballotines that I stuffed with asparagus mousse. I am not a fan of white asparagus, so I left it out. The original salad also had silverskin onions in. I am not a huge fan of these, either, as I prefer the sharp tang of a home-made pickled onion to the sweetness of these tiny alliums.

I hope that you have a go at this sauce, I know a lot of people are put off by making a mayonnaise, but with this amount of oil, there shouldn’t be a problem, as long as you add the oil in very small amounts, and whisk it well in between so that it all of the oil is incorporated into the emulsion before you add the next lot.

Herbs on Saturday Blog Badge

As this dish makes use of one of my favourite herbs, I’m entering it into Herbs on Saturday, by Karen at Lavender and Lovage, which is being hosted this month by Anneli at Delicieux. You probably won’t come across chervil in the supermarkets, so look out for it at markets and farm shops. Or, even better, get hold of some seeds; it is one of the easiest of all of the herbs to grow from seed, the flavour is more intense, it has beautiful white flowers that are also tasty and will seed itself quite happily – if you don’t eat all the flowers first.

Asparagus Salad and Chervil Dressing

This recipe serves 4 people

For the Dressing:

1 egg yolk

1 tsp Dijon mustard

Lemon juice to taste

100 ml sunflower oil

100 g sour cream

15 g chervil, finely chopped

salt

For the Salad:

The proportions that I mention here are approximate. You can also adjust or add to your taste, things such as silverskin onions, hard-boiled egg, different mushrooms (Morels would be great if you can find them), spring onions, and probably many other things.

250 g small salad potatoes

100 g chestnut mushrooms

400 g asparagus (white, green or both)

2 tbsp capers

50 g cornichons

Chervil leaves to garnish

First make the dressing. Start with an egg yolk in a mixing bowl. Add the Dijon mustard, a pinch of salt and a good squeeze of lemon juice, and whisk together well. I did this by hand, because the heat from a food processor or stick blender is enough to scramble one egg yolk. You need a little lemon juice, because the you are essentially making an emulsion, and the acid helps to stabilise it, and stop it splitting. Don’t worry if you don’t think it is enough, you can add more later.

Then slowly add the oil, a little at a time. Make sure that it is well incorporated into the egg before you add more. Keep doing this until the oil is finished, or you think that you have a fairly thick mayonnaise. The exact amount that you’ll need will depend on the size and the age of the yolk.

Once you have a thick mayonnaise, whisk in the sour cream. Stir in the chervil. Season with salt, and taste to see if it is sharp enough for your tastes. If it isn’t, squeeze some more lemon juice into the mix. Set aside to allow the flavour to develop.

Boil the potatoes until they are just tender. Drain and set aside to cool.

Cut the mushrooms into quarters, grind over some black pepper and salt, and fry in a little oil or butter until the mushrooms have given up their moisture.

Break off the woody ends from the asparagus, and cut into 5 cm chunks. Blanche in boiling water for no more than 3 minutes, you want the asparagus to retain some bite. Refresh in iced water, or by running the pieces under a cold tap. Drain, and add to a salad bowl.

Cut the potatoes in half. I did mine on the diagonal for interestingly shaped salad. Add to the salad bowl, along with the mushrooms, capers and asparagus. If the cornichons are really tiny, add them whole. If they are slightly larger cut them in half lengthways, or into large chunks. Stir well.

Serve garnished with chervil leaves and with a generous helping of the dressing.

5 Comments

Filed under Feast

A Mousse Ate In a Windmill (In Old Amsterdam)

Asparagus Mousse and soft poached egg on sourdough toast

Twist on a Breakfast Classic

This year is the first year that I have been able to harvest my own asparagus. As you must, I planted four crowns two years ago, and it has been an agonising wait. I also thought that I’d been a little over zealous with the first harvest. I waited until I had a good few stalks, and before they got too long, then I plucked them all with the eagerness of a beaver who had just been presented with his own river that runs through a hardwood forest. I had the first batch simply steamed, and accompanied by a soft-boiled egg.

And then I waited. And waited. And the anxiety rose. And I started to worry that, having waited so long to crop them, I had been too impatient or greedy and that I would have to plant more crowns and wait another 2 years.

Asparagus Shoots Coming Anew in My Garden

Hope Springs Eternal

And then I went into the garden this morning, and was delighted to find this stalk poking its way through the soil and mulch. I will have more home-grown asparagus again this year, after all.

I had a few friends round to dinner at the weekend, which coincided with my panicky dearth of my own asparagus. But, I really wanted to  make asparagus the star of my main course, given that it is only with us for such a short time. So I dreamed up a main course that consisted of an asparagus salad, and a ballotine of chicken, stuffed with asparagus mousse. I have to admit, the food was lovely, seasonal and fresh, but my ballotine-making skills definitely require honing. They were not the most beautiful, and one or two lost some of the stuffing. But my guests enjoyed them, so I guess that is what matters.

Chicken Breast Stuffed with Asparagus Mousse

A Total Farce!

I also made far too much mouse for the number of chicken breasts (and, indeed, guests) I had. So, the next morning, I cooked up the rest in a water bath, and had it for breakfast on some sourdough toast and topped with a poached egg. It was a great breakfast. I can also imagine this mousse served as a starter, with crayfish, or maybe even lobster, if you want to push the boat out.

Simple and in Season Blog BadgeOne Ingredient, Asparagus How To Cook Good Food Blog Badge

I can’t get enough asparagus at this time of the year, and of course, there is never any waste, because I always use the woodier ends to make soup. I can eat them simply, or in recipes. But I’m always looking out for new recipes to make and to inspire. We have a few more weeks of the season left, so if you have some great asparagus recipes, link them up in the comment section. I’m also entering this into Ren Behan’s Simple and in Season, since there is nothing more seasonal than asparagus right now; and into One Ingredient, hosted this month by Laura at How To Cook Good Food since it is really appropriate right now.

Recipe: Asparagus Mousse

Ingredients

700 g asparagus

2 small shallots, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, sliced thinly

1 tbsp oil

100 ml cream

2 eggs

20 g chervil

Plenty of salt and pepper

Method

Remove any woody ends from the asparagus, by gently snapping them. As I have mentioned, no need to waste this bit, it may not be good to chew in a dish, but makes a great soup, or you can add it to vegetable stock, for an additional chlorophyl hit.

Cut the asparagus spears into 3-5 cm lengths, and blanch in boiling water for about 2-3 minutes, depending on the width of the stalks. Refresh immediately under a running tap, or in iced water. You don’t want them to continue cooking, as they do cook for longer later in the process.

Soften the shallots and the garlic in the oil, until they are translucent. Keep them moving, so they do not catch. I always find that shallots will burn much quicker than onions. Once they are done, blend up with the asparagus, and the roughly chopped chervil. If you want to be really cheffy, you’d blend them then pass them through a drum sieve or something similarly fine. I am less cheffy, and was perfectly happy to have a bit of texture in my mousse, so I blended it up as fine as I could get it in my food processor.

Asparagus mousse of the right consistency for stuffing

Stuffing Thick

Beat the eggs and cream together, and stir in the asparagus mixture. The mixture should be pretty thick for a stuffing, but you could thin it with a little more cream if you intend to make a mousse. Season it really well. It will need it.

Then you can either use it to stuff meat, which should be poached gently in water or stock; or you can put it into greased ramekins or dariole moulds, and cook it in a bain marie until it is just set. The time you need will depend on the size of your mould. It took me about 20 minutes, but I was using pretty large ramekins.

If you have greased your dish well enough, you should be able to turn it out. I did this, but decided that I wanted to serve it on toast, and you’ll find it also spreads nicely.

10 Comments

Filed under Feast