Tag Archives: No Oven Required

Have a Cool, Cool Summer

Chilled Cucumber and Fennel Soup. A recipe for summer without the tyranny of measurements.
Chilled Out Soup Eaten Al Fresco

Things are hotting up globally. Most of the Northern Hemisphere is experiencing unprecedented heatwaves, and things weren’t much different for the Southern Hemisphere back in their summer. On days like these, no one wants to introduce more heat into the home by turning on the hob. On the hottest days, it’s even too hot to light the barbecue, or grill, if you prefer.

This recipe has been inspired by both the summer heat, and a recent trip to Madrid, where we had Gazpacho or Salmorejo with almost every meal. I also really like a good Ajo Blanco, but sadly this isn’t the Big Guy’s favourite, so we have this less often.

It’s also the height of the growing season, and my garden is straining with all of the cucumbers that one single vine is currently churning out. There is nothing better, or more tasty than a freshly picked cucumber that has been gently warmed by the sun. I need something to do with them that isn’t slicing them for sandwiches or chopping them into a salad. Of course, I’m romanticising this simple fruit. If the only cucumbers you can get hold of come straight from the chiller cabinet in the supermarket, that will also be perfectly acceptable.

Today, I’m bringing you a light and refreshing no-cook cold soup. This recipe is also a bit of a freecipe, since it will be delicious no matter how much of each ingredient you have. Hot days are not meant for the constraints of weights and measures.

I also want you to feel free to change up the ingredients to suit what you have, and what you like. I guess the main elements of cucumber, yoghurt and herbs are required, but use whatever yoghurt you like – dairy or plant-based. I suspect it will be rather good with a tangy yoghurt made from goat milk, if that’s your thing. If you don’t like fennel, leave it out. If you have mint and basil instead of the herbs listed here, also fine. The chilling time can be substituted by a 10-minute blast in the freezer, by adding ice cubes to the soup, or a combination of both. It’s hot; just do what you like.

Freecipe: Chilled Cucumber and Fennel Soup

Serves: The amount I use here serves 4 as a light lunch or 6 as a starter. If you use fewer ingredients, your servings may vary
Prep Time: 10 minutes, plus as much chilling time as you have

Ingredients

A couple of large (English) cucumbers
Half a bulb fennel, core removed
A small bunch of herbs. I used parsley, dill, and tarragon. Any herbs of your choice will be good here
A small shallot, or about a quarter of an onion, or some spring onions
A garlic clove
Citrus juice to taste. I used the juice of half a lemon. Limes or finger limes would also work well. I suspect yuzu might be interesting. Experiment with whatever citrus in whatever proportions you have
Sunflower seeds or soaked cashews (optional). I chose not to use them in the version photographed here
Natural yoghurt, quark or fromage frais of your choice. Plant-based or the dairy version is up to you. Whichever you use, use the thickest version available, such as Greek-style yoghurt.
A good glug of the tastiest extra virgin olive oil that you have. I used about 5 tbsp for this amount of vegetables.
Salt & pepper to taste.

Method

Slice each cucumber in half lengthways. Remove the seeds by pressing a teaspoon into the pulp and running it down the length of each cucumber half. I set the pulp aside, and ate it with a spoon, having first sprinkled over a little salt, whilst waiting for the soup to chill.

Chop the cucumber, fennel, herbs, shallot and garlic as roughly as your best blender will allow. I have a high-speed blender, but you can also use a stick blender. If using a stick, you’ll probably need to chop the veggies a bit finer to start with.

I personally loathe raw alliums in my food, so I took some of the sulphur compounds away by pouring hot water from a fairly recently boiled kettle over the chopped shallot and garlic. I find this is less important if I were to use spring onions, and honestly, shallots are also much less pungent than their oniony cousins. Skip this step altogether if the raw onion thing doesn’t bother you.

Pulse blend everything you’ve just chopped, the citrus juice and the olive oil to break it down a bit before you add the yoghurt. Once the chopped stuff is broken down, add as much yoghurt or alternative as you want and blend it until smooth. Obviously, the cucumber will provide a lot of water. If you want a thicker soup, add more yoghurt.

For extra protein, and a thicker consistency you can also add neutral-flavoured nuts or seeds, such as soaked cashews or sunflower seeds. If you decide to use these, add them at the same time as the veggies and pulse alongside the rest.

Once everything is smooth, season well with salt and pepper. If you want to be fancy, use white pepper, so you don’t have black specks in your finished soup. Otherwise freshly ground black pepper will be just fine. Remember that the colder the soup is upon serving, the more seasoning you will need.

Chill for as much time as you have. Overnight is best to allow the flavour to develop, but if you haven’t been that organised, as I wasn’t today when I made the soup, make it when you decide you want it; it will be fine. Today I gave it four hours in the fridge. If you only decide that all you want to eat for the meal that’s pending right now is this soup, then give it a quick blast in your freezer, and/or lob a few ice cubes in at either the blending stage or into the finished dish, depending on whether or not your blender can cruch ice. You will need to compensate for the additional liquid with more herbs, citrus and yoghurt.

Serving Suggestion

How you serve this soup depends entirely on your context. For me today, it was a quick and cooling lunch when I was too warm to do much. I had it with some lovely crusty bread, some extra finely chopped cucumber and fennel and a few fronds of dill.

I always recommend an extra drizzle of the extra virgin olive oil that you used before. You could top it with another dollop of yoghurt, croutons baked with the same herbs that you used in the soup, and many other things. If serving for a particularly posh occasion, some edible flowers will be a pretty addition. Maybe you want to add a little chopped boiled egg. The beauty of a freecipe is that you can also garnish with whatever you feel is appropriate.

The only compulsory serving suggestion is that this dish is best served on a sunny day, having had the freedom of not needing to turn on any equipment that will add to the heat of the moment.

Storage

This cucumber and fennel soup will store well in the fridge for 3-4 days, so you can make it in advance if you keep an eye on the weather forecast.

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We’re Going on a Bear Garlic Hunt

Allium ursinum or wild garlic, ransoms or bear garlic carpeting the forest floor
We’ll Have to Go Through It!

Allium ursinum goes by many names; Ramsons in North America, wild garlic, in some places, bear garlic in many others – which is derived from its Latin name. In the Netherlands, we call it daslook. It’s native to temperate parts of Europe and Asia and naturalised in many other temperate regions of the world. It grows in deciduous woodland, where it prefers damp conditions, so you can often find it along banks of rivers and streams.

Right now, it’s high season, and wild garlic is abundant and verdant. It’s also in flower, so there is no longer any risk of mistaking it for anything else.

I spent a very pleasant afternoon yesterday with a good friend in the forest where we were looking for a bunch of wild garlic. We didn’t have to look that far, to be honest. When searching for wild garlic, I can often smell it before I see it, but this time, I didn’t need to engage my nose at all. The forest was carpeted in green, with a cloud of white flowers gently bobbing in the breeze above it.

Of course, if you’re going foraging yourself please operate on a safety-first basis. As well as being guided by your senses, it’s best to follow these simple rules.

Allium ursinum, bear garlic, wild garlic with it's typical globes of white stellate flowers. Covered in spring debris.. All parts of this spring plant are edible.
Starry Lights!

Wild garlic is such a lovely treat. It’s far less pungent than its more bulbous cousin and is better on the breath. I love the stuff and make a lot of recipes using it, including this delightful recipe for a wild garlic tart which is great for a picnic or late spring party. You can also make herb butter or cream cheese with the leaves. The flowers are great as a pretty garnish in salads or other light dishes, and the flower stalks can be used anywhere you might find chives.

And knowing a spot means that I don’t have to let them take over my own garden, because they are absolutely prolific. They’re also a great entry point for beginner foragers – just remember if you don’t smell garlic, then don’t eat them.

Wild garlic loves to grow under trees. As such, at this time of year, it’s often covered in pollen and the scales that previously covered the buds of the newly-emerged leaves. This kind of debris is evident on the leaves. Don’t let that put you off. It’s completely normal and rinses off easily. If you pick from the centre of the patch, you won’t need to worry about dog urine that much, but do avoid leaves with bird poo on them.

Today, I’m sharing a pesto recipe that I’ve veganised.

I really recommend giving wild garlic a go. Subtlely flavoured, easy to find and to pick, and if nothing else you get a couple of hours of forest bathing in. What’s not to love?

Wild Garlic or bear garlic pasto, ready to use.
I’ve Got A Jam Jar Full of Pretty Green

Recipe: Vegan Wild Garlic Pesto

Makes a jar of pesto
Prep Time: 20 minutes, plus the time well spent wandering about in the woods

Ingredients

The amounts given below are for one jar of pesto. If you’ve picked more or less garlic, you can adjust the ratio of the other ingredients accordingly for a balanced pesto.

200g wild garlic leaves
Salt and pepper
100 g whole almonds
Zest of one lemon, reserving the juice for when you serve, where appropriate.
120 ml of extra virgin olive oil, plus more to cover

Method

Rinse the wild garlic thoroughly in cold water. You can leave it to soak for a while in the sink if you like.

Meanwhile, bring a pan of salted water to a boil.

When the wild garlic is clean, chop the leaves into three or four pieces across the width of the leaf. This is just to make it easier to blend them later. You can skip this step if you’re in a pinch.

Put the wild garlic into the boiling water and bring it back to a boil, along with any other herbs you’re going to use. You want to blanch the leaves for a few seconds. The leaves will brighten, and the midrib will become floppy. You may need to blanch the leaves in batches, depending on how much pesto you’re making.

Blanching helps the pesto to keep its verdant green colour. Unblanched leaves will tend to brown a little over time. They’re fine to eat, but look much less appealing.

Once you see the subtle colour change, remove the leaves from the water with a slotted spoon, and put them in a sieve. Rinse briefly with cold water to stop the leaves from cooking further. Set aside to cool.

In the same pan that you blanched the wild garlic in, lightly cook the almonds. Add the almonds to the water and return to the boil for 4-5 minutes. Drain them and set aside to cool slightly.

If the almonds that you’re using had their skins on, they are easily removed at this stage. The nuts will pop out of their skins readily if you apply a little pressure to the base once they’re cool enough to handle. If you’re using pre-skinned almonds, then just leave them to cool for 10 minutes or so.

Once cooled, add the nuts to your blender. I find the mini processor attachment that came with my stick blender to be the best size for this amount of pesto, but any blender will do. Blitz the nuts a little. At this stage, they need to be in smallish bits.

Squeeze the wild garlic leaves to remove as much of the water as possible. Too much water will dilute the subtle flavour of the garlic too much and will affect how well it will store.

Add the wild garlic to the blender and pulse a couple of times to combine with the nuts. Add the lemon zest and about half the oil and blitz until the pesto is an even green colour. Stir through the rest of the olive oil and taste for seasoning. You will definitely need freshly ground black pepper, and you’ll probably need to add a bit of salt at this stage.

Slowly add the remaining oil, whilst blitzing a bit more, until the pesto is about as thick as yoghurt. You may not need to use all of the oil I’ve recommended here, it depends on how oily your nuts are too.

Put the pesto into a sterilised jam jar. Cover the top with a little bit more olive oil to form a seal to the air, to help the pesto keep longer.

Serving Suggestions and Substitutions

Of course, you can make wild garlic pesto with parmesan or another finely grated cheese if you like, but I’m trying to be a lot more plant-based these days.

You could also choose to use different nuts. Lightly-toasted pine nuts would be fine, for a more traditional Genoese-style sauce. Hazelnuts could be an interesting addition. Use the whole nut, gently roasted in the oven until the aroma fills the air. Then rub the brown skins off as best you can with an old, dry, clean tea towel. I say use an old towel because the skins can stain the cloth a bit. You’ll also probably not get all the skins off entirely, so don’t bother striving for perfection. There is no need to blanch either type of nut in this case.

If you like, you can also add other herbs, such as flat-leaf parsley, or basil. They’ll need blanching in a similar way to the wild garlic, and squeezing out before adding it to the blender.

This pesto is perfect over pasta. You can add it to soups and salad dressings, or even to brighten up a sandwich. If you eat meat, you can use it to coat a little fish or chicken breast before you grill or bake it, or you could use it as a marinade before frying your fish. It’s especially excellent with salmon or other oily fish.

Stir a little lemon juice through the pesto before serving. The amount of lemon juice that you’ll need will vary with the application – you’ll need a little to season it if you’re smearing it in a sandwich, perhaps 1/2 tsp or so. Over pasta, you’ll need the juice of at least half a lemon. Adjust it to your own taste.

I have another couple of recipes that I’ll be using it in over the next few days, which I’ll be sharing with you soon. I’d love to hear where you would use this pesto in the comments.

How to Store

The pesto keeps well in the fridge. If you don’t use all of the pesto at once, then make sure to add a little more olive oil to create an air seal over the pesto. This will help you to keep it for up to two weeks.

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Veganuary Day 9: An Easy Day

Warming Vegan Leek and Potato Soup with Thickly Sliced Buttered Bread
A Recipe From My Student Days

Yesterday, we made ourselves another overnight oats. This time with grated and stewed apple, a teaspoon of cinammon, half a teaspoon of ground cardamom, and quick grate of nutmeg. Another light, but sustaining breakfast for us this morning.

Lunch was yet another soup I’ve been making since I was a student – leek and potato. I peeled and diced a mix of waxy and floury potatoes into fairly small chunks, so they’d cook faster. All potatoes are good in this soup. I washed and sliced up a leek. They went into the pot with a tablesooon or two of olive oil, where I stirred the to coat the vegetables before sweating while a full kettle boiled.

This soup needs a punchy herb. The evergreen rosemary is what I have at this time of year, so that’s what went in: a small, finely chopped sprig. I love to use tarragon when I have it, instead. Once the kettle had boiled, I poured its contents over the vegetables, until they were covered by a centimetre or two. I habitually use a stock cube here, crumbled over the bubbling liquid and stirred in to melt it. Of course, you can use a home made stock instead of the water, but this is muscle memory for me now.

Once the potato was cooked, I mashed the dice a little to thicken the soup, but not enough to remove all of the texture. We ate it piping hot, just as it came.

I was excited by a Chickpea and Orzo Stew with Mustard Greens (NB, this is a New York Times recipe, which is behind a soft paywall), so we made a big batch. I didn’t have any mustard greens, so we substituted spinach. This was fine, but I really think that the mustard greens would be even better. I could use foraged or grown mustards, since they’re such great ground cover for winter. The Big Guy enjoyed this stew, so I’ve got high hopes he’ll like the mustard greens in it better. I will be testing it soon, as the first Jack by the Hedge (Alliaria petiolata) comes back in the early spring.

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Veganuary Day 4: A Speedy Soup

Harissa and Chickpea soup, served with sourdough toast and hummus plus a wedge of lemon for the soup.
Old School Soup

It seems if you’re a vegan that prefers savoury breakfasts, the usual staple is a tofu scramble. There are as many variations of this as there are overnight oats. Maybe. I haven’t actually counted them or anything. We started our exploration with this tofu scramble with dijon. The piquancy of mustard and dijon was always going to be a winner for me, the addition of tarragon is a welcome bonus. It’s a pretty good substitute for scrambled eggs, and almost as quick. I like my eggs on the softer side, the silken tofu isn’t as soft, but it’s a good breakfast in its own right.

I have several soups in rotation that I’ve been making since I was a student. I was not such a good cook back then, and needed to rely on easy and cheap recipes. Today I dragged harissa and chickpea soup from the memory banks for lunch. Like my Smoky Winter Root Soup, I know I got this from a recipe somewhere, but like that soup the details are hazy. It might have been from a newspaper. I don’t know. I’ve probably made it mine in subtle ways in the intervening years. I share what I do with you below.

This evening’s dinner was really lazy. We both managed to work really late and were too hungry to think about cooking, despite having done an interesting meal plan. Luckily, the Big Guy had panic-bought a vegan bolognaise sauce, which we had with spaghetti. And a lot of extra chili flakes, to make it taste of something. In general, I want to avoid this kind of food. It had lentils in, but also a vegan mince/ ground beef replacement. We don’t eat food that processed normally, and I don’t want to start now. However, it has really got me thinking about my own version of a bolognaise sauce in which care is taken to layer similar flavour profiles as a meat bolognaise, without using facon or vegan ‘mince’. More on that soon.

Recipe: Harissa and Chickpea Soup

Serves 3 as a main or 4 as a starter
Prep 10 minutes
Cooking 10 minutes

The best harissa I can find

This soup could not be easier or faster, especially if you use tinned chickpeas. The harissa is the flavour in this dish, so get the best harissa you can find. I get mine from grocers that serve the Moroccan community, so I hope it’s authentic. It’s certainly complex: spicy, fruity and it has umami. You can also get rose harissa, which is further flavoured with rose petals and/or rosewater. You can also use rose harissa in this soup.

Ingredients

2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil. I don’t usually cook with EV, but this will never get hot enough to reach smoking point, and it adds extra richness
1-2 onions, diced
2 medium carrots, chopped into roughly chickpea-sized dice
1 stick celery, diced
Salt to taste
Several cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced. I like garlic, so I used half a bulb (about 8 cloves) you can between 6-12, to taste. It should be quite garlic-forward
1-2 tbsp good quality harissa. You can use more, if you like
2 400g tins of chickpeas or 400g dry weight of chickpeas, cooked. In either case, you’re going to use the aquafaba/ liquid
Juice of about half a lemon

Method

Warm the extra virgin olive oil a medium saucepan on a gentle heat.

Add the onion, carrots and celery to the pan with a good pinch of salt. Sweat slowly until the onion is barely transluscent before adding the garlic and cooking for another couple of minutes. You want the garlic to permeate the olive oil, but not to brown.

Add the harissa paste. Try and slightly go over the amount you’re comfortable with because it is going to be needed in the final dish. However, it will depend on your tolerance for spice. Stir the paste into the mirepoix, and cook for a minute until the fragrance hits you.

Put the chickpeas and the liquid into the pan. The liquid, or aquafaba, acts as the stock in this case. I prefer to cook my own beans, and do a no-soak method in the pressure cooker, to which I can add aromats, which also helps.

Cover the pan, and cook on a medium heat until the chickpeas are warmed through. Add the juice of half a lemon. Taste for seasoning, you may want to add more lemon juice or a bit of salt, depening on whether the chickpeas were already salted when cooking.

Serve immediately.

Serving Suggestions

This soup is great with toppings. At various times I’ve served this with:

  • Lemon wedges for squeezing into the soup
  • Chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, dill, mint, oregano
  • Green olives
  • Croutons
  • Hot sauce
  • Herb oils
  • Garlic bread – made by baking some bread in the oven , with olive oil and salt. When the bread is nicely toasted, rub a cut clove of garlic all over the face of the bread.

How to Store

This harissa and chickpea soup will store without toppings in the fridge for up to a week.
You could also freeze this soup, for up to three months. I have had the chickpeas break down a bit from the freezer, but not to a mush, there’s still plenty of texture.

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Veganuary Day 2: Veganising the Familiar

Enough Energy for a Workout

Tuesday is a workout day. I have a familiar routine to help me keep up with the habit. A light breakfast with protein, but no egg, walk the dog, then start my exercise regimen. It’s one of the few days I’ll have a sweet breakfast; I’m not normally a fan. Perhaps granola with yoghurt and fruit, or higher protein porridge. None of these are normally vegan.

Today, or rather yesterday, I went with overnight oats. We love this easy, versatile recipe – you can pretty much take your pick of fruit and pairings to make it flavourful. This one is chocolate and peanut butter. I veganised it by using soy yoghurt and almond milk. I was surprised at how sweet soy yoghurt is. My brand wasn’t sweetened, yet tasted like it had honey stirred through it. I’ve shared our tried and true recipe below. It’s very adaptable, so you can use whatever kind of dairy or non dairy you like.

Lunch was a simple (and if I’m honest, a little dull) celariac soup. I sweated some onion, leek, quite a lot of garlic and the celariac, before adding some of my sumptuous scrap stock. When the celariac was soft, we blitzed it smooth with my immersion blender. I served it with some chopped parsley and drizzles of a really good olive oil. It relied a bit too much on the peppery olive oil for interest. And there’s leftovers. Can’t wait!

Also over lunch, I decided to sign up to the Veganuary daily newsletter for the month. It’s actually a fantastic resource, with cookbooks, recipe ideas, meal plans, going vegan on a budget, and that’s just in the first couple of emails. I recommend giving it a shot, especially if you’re new to a vegan diet.

Our meal this evening was enchiladas – a pumpkin chili stuffed in a tortilla, wrapped and cooked in a hot enchilada sauce. I was introduced to enchiladas by an American friend. Her preferred way to cook these is as a casserole – layering the dish with the chili and the the tortillas like a TexMex lasagne. We currently don’t have an oven, so we’re cooking everything in our Ninja Foodi Max (this is not an affiliate link). Just for space reasons, we’re sticking with traditional enchiladas. I make this often, and serve it with lots of cheese and sour cream. Of course, now that’s not possible. Instead, it was topped with some oat milk yoghurt and a home made guacamole. The chili was from the freezer. No doubt, I’ll make it again soon and share the recipe with you all.

Recipe: Chocolate Peanut Overnight Oats

Serves: 2
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Soaking Time: minimum of 4 hours, but overnight is best

This recipe for overnight oats is so versatile, and is put together really quickly. Once you have the basic ratio of oats, liquid and yoghurt, you can change up the flavours with fresh, frozen or stewed fruit. You can change You can use your favourite kind of dairy, whether that be animal or plant-based. You could probably use ready-flavoured yoghurts too. I haven’t personally tried this, but I see no reason why they wouldn’t work.

I’m accustomed to making this with cow’s milk and yoghurt. This time I tried it with soy yoghurt and almond milk, which is why it’s also missing my usual toppings of toasted unsalted peanuts and chocolate shavings – I wanted to really parse down on any potential differences with the texture and flavour. You could also use all oat-based dairy, but I find I crash really badly, and without warning if my breakfast is only oats with no additional protein. You can get around this by adding a couple of scoops of your favopurite protein powder.

This is also one of the few recipes that I measure by volume. This is another recipe where the ratio of ingredients is more important than precision.

Ingredients

1 cup unsweetened milk of your choice. You can use an actual tea cup or mug here if you like.
1/2 cup yoghurt of your choice
1 cup oats – I like the texture of rolled oats
2 tbsp peanut butter
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 – 1.5 tbsp maple syrup, to taste

Method

Mix together the milk and yoghurt, and stir until it’s all combined.

Stir through the oats, making sure they’re all coated with the wet ingredients

For this recipe, add the peanut butter and the cocoa powder and combine thoroughly.

Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight.

Serving Suggestion

Enjoy the next morning hot or cold.

You can substitute for any other nut butter you like. or omit it altogether

You can use fruit instead of the cocoa powder.

Toppings of chopped nuts, more peanut butter, raw or stewed fruit would be a great choice.

How to Store

Overnight oats can be made up to five days in advance as part of your meal prep for the week. Store in an airtight container and keep in the fridge.

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Generosity and the Art of Gourmet Camping

Campervan in Mackay Creek DOC Campsite, Fiordland, NZ

Camping Kitchen

As you saw from my last post, the Big Guy and I are in New Zealand. I have to tell you, it is spectacular here, although I was very surprised to find that some of the foraging is pretty similar. It’s autumn, and the trees are groaning with rowan, elder, apples, and the fattest haw berries I’ve ever seen. I wasn’t expecting these plants to be so similar, given how far away it is. I also bought a Forager’s Treasury by Johanna Knox  and on looking through, most of the wild edibles are very familiar from a Northern European perspective. Luckily, it seems that most of the poisonous plants are also the same, which is handy.

We have also been bowled over by the people here. Everyone has been friendly, welcoming and have gone a little out of their way to be helpful. The lady in the supermarket told us how to get the best bargains, and went the extra mile to find out where we might buy harissa. The petrol station attendant caught us up on the international news and gave us a free cookie each.

New Zealand Trout

There Is Such A Thing As A Free Lunch (And Dinner, And Breakfast)!

But by far the nicest thing that anyone has done to date is the fisherman we got talking to. We have a campervan, but in our first days here, we got caught out by jetlag, and simply could not drive onto our intended destination, so we had to book into a motel en route. As is common here, the gentleman in question was friendly and chatty, and we got talking with him over breakfast. It turned out that his parents were both Dutch, so we chatted about the differences in life here and at home. As we were leaving, he tapped on our window and offered us one of his catch. We were stunned, but he very kindly kicked off the gourmet element of our trip with a fresh trout. He had three fresh, and two that were being smoked in a local smokehouse, and he was heading out that day to get some more. This was no small fry, either. He gave us the smallest of his catch, but it still weighed in at just under 3 kg. It really was beautiful.

I spent the entire day thinking about how I was going to cook that trout. My foraging book was helpful, because it mentioned that wood sorrel can also be found here. So, I planned to look for some, and make a cream and sorrel sauce to go with the trout. Unfortunately, where we had chosen to stop for the night, on our way to Milford Sound, offered up no wood sorrel. We had chosen it specifically because we could barbecue there.

Trout and Spring Onion Omelette, with Campers Mayonnaisse

Breakfast, Not at Tiffany’s

Luckily, I had a back up, because I had the foresight to buy some dill when I stopped at a shop for potatoes. So, a plan was born, for a gourmet meal, made with basic equipment, to be served under the Southern stars. We have eaten many gourmet campsite meals since; including succulent lemon and pepper lamb, venison and mushrooms, and even shakshuka for breakfast. But that trout, which served us three hearty meals, plus a little more to pick at was the nicest.

Outdoor Natural Winecooler

Camping Cooler

The first night, we barbecued the trout and served it with a green salad with mayonnaise. Served with a nice local Riesling, that we had cooled down naturally. The the leftovers kept nicely in a couple of ziplock bags in the cool box (which also had a big bag of ice), and made excellent omelette, and went nicely with pasta in a creamy sauce, with more dill.

You can’t get more gourmet, or more generous than that. Thank you very much, kind stranger!

Campsite Trout, Mayonnaise, potatoes  and green salad

Campsite Trout

Recipe: Campsite Trout

Ingredients

1 large trout or salmon

Dill fronds

Lemon slices

2 egg yolks

Juice of half a lemon, plus more to taste

About a quarter of a small bottle of plain oil

Salt and pepper to taste

15 g fennel, finely chopped (I had to do mine with scissors, due to the very blunt knives I was dealing with)

Method

Barbecued Trout

Gourmet Stay

Wash the trout and pat it dry with kitchen towel. Season the cavity of the fish with salt and pepper, and put the dill and lemon slices inside. Barbecue for about 40 minutes on a camp barbecue that is too high off the coals. If you are doing it on the barbecue at home, then you can put the fish closer to the heat source, and so it will take less time. Turn once during cooking, so it cooks well throughout.

Campsite Sauce Equipment

Basic Sauce Equipment

I have previously only made mayonnaise with a balloon whisk, so I was worried the fork would take ages. Now I’m sure this won’t work if you are trying to whisk egg whites for meringue, but the simple fork makes surprisingly speedy mayonnaise.

Whisk together the lemon juice, egg yolks and a little salt. Gradually add the oil. My tip is to add a little, then make sure it is thoroughly whisked into the egg before adding more. This way, the mayonnaise is less likely to split.

Thick and Glossy Mayonnaise

Thick and Glossy Mayonnaise

Once the mayonnaise is thick and glossy, taste it. You may need to adjust for seasoning, and possibly add more lemon juice to get the right balance of flavours.

Finally, chop up the dill. As I said, I resorted to some scissors, because the knives I had were less than sharp, but you chop yours however you like. Add it to the mayonnaise and mix well.

Serve the fish with a nice green salad, some simply boiled potatoes and a lot of the mayonnaise. Best served under the stars, but this is still good, even if you are forced inside by the weather.

 

 

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Blessed Are The Cheesemakers!

I have had a lot of fun with this month’s Cheese, Please! Challenge, hosted by Fromage Homage. This month, we were asked for recipes containing fresh cheese, which we had to make ourselves. I think it is great, encouraging people to develop skills of entry-level cheesemaking, as well as being creative in coming up with recipes to use the resulting curds. I have certainly found it inspiring. There are a lot of fantastic recipes on her blog, so do come over and have a look.

Shaped Mozzarella ball

Cheese Balls

First, I made mozzarella. That was a very interesting experience. My first efforts were a little rubbery, I think because I cooled the water to 80°C, as was mentioned in one of the posts I bodged my recipe together from. The second efforts were with unpasteurised milk, and hotter water, and they were a world apart from the first batch. I could already see the difference between the curds when they were forming in the pan, they were much creamier, and there were a lot more of them!

Curds from Unpasteurised Milk

Rich, Creamy and Unpasteurised

Then I had a go at ricotta, which was disappointing at first, but also vastly improved by using unpasteurised milk. From this I made gnudi, which I have always wanted to have a go at making. They were lovely, and light as a feather. I definitely recommend having a go at this, even if you can’t be doing with making fresh cheese. They were delightful, light and really very tasty. They will go with a lot of different sauces too, so also very versatile.

I smoked some of the mozzarella, which was mostly an experiment. It was successful in terms of flavour, but I think it needs longer between heating the wood chips, so that it has a better chance of staying spherical.

Breakfast Pizza - Bacon, sausage, mushrooms, spinach and egg

Breakfast Pizza

With all this cheese, there was only one thing for it – pizza! Which turned out to be both the perfect party food, and a hearty breakfast. It also had the added benefit of using up some of the whey.

Talking of which, I tried my hand at lacto-fermenting vegetables and making Gingerade; which is what you get when your ambition exceeds the time that you have available to brew the assortment of drinks that you had planned.

Cheese Please blog badge

From 4 l of unpasteurised cow’s milk, I got:

  • 500 g mozzarella (I smoked the cheese that I made from the pasteurised whole milk)
  • 200 g ricotta
  • 3.25 l whey
  • Pizza dough for 20 individual pizzas using the whey
  • Gnudi for 2 adults
  • 2 l lacto-fermented gingerade
  • The raw ingredients for a few more lacto-fermenting adventures
  • Lacto-fermented fennel
  • Lacto-fermented cucumber
  • A load of leftover vegetarian rennet, ready for more cheesey adventures.
  • Hands softer than kittens on a velvet pillow

Next, I think I’m going to try to find some buffalo milk, to make mozzarella di buffala, for that authentic fresh cheese. I’d also like to try to make a washed rind cheese, similar to a brie. I had a very good triple cream one from Neals Yard Dairy that I may try to recreate, if the brie goes well. But before I can do that, I’ll need to bodge up somewhere to age it, unless I can use the fridge?

I have also managed more blog posts in a fortnight than I managed for most of last year. This is a warning though, that I have a few other exciting projects on the go, including a new collaboration, in Dutch, with the Tweakfabriek, where I will be doing some basic recipes, then two different tweaks to make with them. I’m very excited about this collaboration indeed! It does mean that I will not be posting as many recipes as you have seen from me in the last fortnight, but if you’d like to read some more in Dutch (or using Google translate) then watch this space for more details.

For this month, I’ve made the most of new inspiration. I’ve had a lot of fun, with and without guests, eaten well, and learned new skills, as well as a few bodges to make a hot smoker colder. What could be better than that? So, thanks again, Fromage Homage, and here’s to the next challenge!

 

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Land of Milk and Ginger

Lacto-fermented Ginger Ale

Like Lemonade, but With Ginger

Well, I was intending to make three flavours of lacto-fermented lemonade and wittily call this post Lemonade, Three Wheys, but I’m afraid I’ve rather run out of steam and time. So, today you get the latest recipe in my cheesemaking adventures, but it is only one flavour of lemonade – ginger (perhaps confusingly).

If you Google milk and ginger the most common result is a ginger milk pudding, which is a rather soothing-sounding Chinese dish, apparently. Obviously, I did this, and had a look at some of the pictures. It reminded me a bit of junket, which I had to make for some historical food thing for brownies once. I am not a fan of junket. But then again, my junket did not have ginger in it. I am quite fond of ginger, so I may end up giving this a go.

I really wanted to have a go at lacto fermenting ginger beer, but that requires a starter or ginger beer plant, which I didn’t have time for. So, that is the reason that I am going to call this Gingerade. And let me tell you it is no worse for that!

This method is one of two ways to naturally carbonate drinks, without the need for a Soda Stream. The other way is to add yeast. It is also a really healthy drink – the whey has loads of probiotics, which you have to pay a good deal for if you buy those fancy yoghurts. Any bloating that you may, or may not relieve is entirely your own business.

I never really got fed the standard carbonated drinks when I was a child, so I never really developed the taste for them. I’d rather have water, or fruit juice than a fizzy drink (only if wine isn’t an option, obviously!), but I could definitely develop a taste for this. I tried it after three days, so it was lightly sparkling, which I liked a lot. You can get a fiercer bubble if you leave it in the warm for longer. I was happy, so put it in the fridge. It will continue to ferment in the fridge, but at a much lower rate.

I will definitely be trying to lacto-ferment ginger beer, and other lemonades, So I may be able to use my witty post title after all, and of course, I will be blogging the efforts. I’m also going to have a go at alcoholic ginger beers too, and why not – makes a change from Belgian beer for me, for sure!

I tried it today, in the my sunny spring garden, which is the perfect setting for this drink, in my opinion. Well, until I can have it with ice in the summer, of course!

Spice Trail Blog Badge

As well as this appearing as part of the Cheese, Please! Fresh Cheese Challenge (which really has been the gift that keeps on giving for me this month!) roundup, which I will be posting tomorrow, I’m going to have a second bite of the cherry at this month’s Spice Trail hosted by Vanesther of Bangers and Mash. Mostly because I really do love ginger, but also because I covet those beautiful little spice tins that are being offered as a prize this month. I can only hope, but this month there is a lot of stiff competition, with a lot of entries, many of which I have bookmarked for later.

Recipe: Lacto-Fermented Gingerade

Ingredients
30 g ginger
Juice of 2 lemons
150 g runny honey
1 tsp rock salt
4 tbsp fresh whey
2 l water

Method

Sterilise enough bottles to hold 2 l of gingerade. I used the sterilisers from my home-brew, which I find the easiest method for the types of bottles that I used. If you use wider necked bottles, then you can run them through  a hot dishwasher cycle, or wash them and put them in a low oven, as you might for making jam or lacto-fermented vegetables. At the same time, sterilise a funnel that fits into the top of the bottles that you are using.

Finely grate the ginger. I used a microplane, but if you don’t have one, use the finest side of a box grater. Mix the grated ginger with the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl, making sure that the honey and salt are really dissolved in the lemon juice before you add the water and the whey.

Before bottling, stir the gingerade well, so that you can be as sure as you can that there are bits of ginger and lemon pulp in each bottle. Fill each bottle with the gingerade. You will need to leave about 5 cm at the top.

Leave to start to ferment in your living room or kitchen. You may need to get it started by tipping the bottes over once to stir things up once or twice a day. Be careful, because once it starts to ferment, the pressure will build. After three days, test to see if the carbonation is to your liking. If it is, then store in the fridge. Remember that it will continue to ferment in the fridge, but at a much lower rate.

Serve on a sunny day. Maybe at a picnic (serving suggestion).

This recipe makes slightly more than 2 l of liquid. I used up the rest in a rather fantastic raspberry coulis, but you might just as well drink it, or add it to stewed apple or even rhubarb. Very good indeed.

 

 

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Under the Milky Whey

Fresh Whey and Vegetables

Chop A-Whey!

A quick look on Pinterest reveals that you can lacto-ferment pretty much anything – from garlic to hummus. I saw fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, beers, mayonnaise, BBQ sauces and even mustard on there. Apparently it is amazing what won’t be improved by bunging in some whey.

As you know, I happen to have quite a lot of whey taking up all the space stored very carefully in my fridge.It is the yellowish liquid in the photo above, and it is the by-product of making your own cheese, or straining yoghurt.

Apart from the miracle of being the new superfood, due to all the probiotics; you can feed whey to animals, use it as a fertiliser, make various toiletries for skin benefits, and body builders dry it then consume it by the bucket load.

You can also soak beans, or grains in it before cooking, use it instead of the liquid in pancakes, cakes, and bread (or pizza dough). soups, and stock. You can even add it to shakes and use it as a cheese starter in some kind of lactose Inception.

Whatever you do with it, you should not pour it down the sink. Apparently, it can de-oxygenate water systems. So, for this reason, and the fact that I hate waste, I’m going to use mine. Don’t worry, it also freezes really well, so if you can’t get through it all, you can keep it for later.

You may have noticed that I enjoy a nice pickle, go crazy for chutney, and take pleasure in preserves. It is only natural, then,  that I should have a go at lacto-fermenting as a novel way of preserving food, and as a way to use up leftovers. I’ve had a good dig round the internet, including over at the lovely host of Cheese, Please!, who lacto-fermented cucumber and carrots to come up with the following recipes.

For the first, I wanted to be able to make a direct comparison with a pickle that I already know. I make pickled fennel a lot, based on the River Cottage Preserves book, so I used the same aromats and dill here.

The second lot are inspired by a friend of mine who makes amazing pickled cucumber from a mysterious Asian salt. I have no idea what this stuff is, but it is hot, sour and sweet at the same time. I have tried to recreate this with the whey – we’ll see where we get to.

Apparently, lacto-fermenting is pretty long-lasting, but depends on how strong the cell wall of the thing you are preserving is. You can expect the fennel to last between 4-6 months in cold storage, and the cucumber to last up to 3. The fermentation will continue, even in cold storage, so it is something to be aware of, and date the jars well before you store them in a cool, dry place.

 

Lacto fermented fennel and cucumber

Perfectly Preserved

Recipe: Lacto-Fermented Vegetables

Ingredients

For the Fennel:
1 tsp mixed peppercorns
1 tsp coriander seed
1 tsp fennel seed
1 bulb of fennel, cored and thinly sliced
Fronds of dill
100 ml whey
300 ml boiled water, allowed to cool
1 tbsp rock salt

For the Cucumber:
1 tsp mixed peppercorns per jar
1 tsp juniper berries per jar
1 large cucumber, in 3 cm slices on the diagonal
1 red chillies, sliced on the diagonal but seeds left in
Fronds of dill
200 ml whey
600 ml boiled water, allowed to cool
1 tbsp table salt
1 tbsp sugar

3 jam jars

Method

Sterilise your jars on a hot cycle in the dishwasher, or by washing in hot soapy water, drying and placing in a low oven for an hour.

Prepare the vegetables, and boil the water for your fermenting liquid.

To the sterile , still warm jars, add the relevant spices, then layer up the vegetables, making sure to get a layer of dill fronds in between them as you go. Pack them as tightly as you can.

Mix together the whey, water and salt, as well as the sugar for the lacto-fermented cucumber. Fill the now packed jars with the fermenting liquid, up to 3 mm from the top of the jar. Screw on the lids tightly and store in a cool dark place for between 3 days and the maximum time for the vegetables.

I intend to leave these for about a month, before I try them. When I do, I will be sure to let you know what I thought.

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Fresh Cheese – In the Gnudi

Ricotta Gnudi and Tomato Chilli Sauce

Naked Food

Following on from my cheese making efforts, I thought that I could have a go at making ricotta. Literally translated as “twice cooked”, ricotta is right up my alley, as a way to reduce waste, and maximise leftovers. So I set about gently heating the whey left from my mozzarella to 92ºC,  and left it to cool to about 60ºC, before straining it through a thick muslin. I was so dismayed to find that it yielded next to no additional curds – 35 g to be precise.

35 g Ricotta

Bitter curds

Convinced it was something I had done badly, I turned to Google for reassurance. Whilst the technique was sound, it appears that the whey is acid, which is not conducive to making ricotta, which needs a “sweet whey”, or one that is produced from bacterial coagulation, instead of one brought on by acid. I probably should have done a bit more homework on that before I started, it would have saved time and gas!

Not one to be put off by such things, I bottled up the whey for later use. And made more mozzarella with unpasteurised milk. Having nothing to lose, and because I wanted the whey from this batch, I decided to try and extract more curds in the only way I knew.This time, I also strained it through cheesecloth, although I found that I couldn’t squeeze this out, because the curds simply fell through it.

The difference was amazing, I got 200 g of fresh, soft curds! Whilst it is perfectly possible to make cheese with any kind of milk, I think using unpasteurised milk pays off, if you can get it. I may also have a go with milk powder just to see if this is a cheaper alternative. Plus I have a lot of rennet that I need to use up now.

I have always fancied having a go at ricotta gnudi – soft Italian pillows, not dissimilar to light gnocchi. Gnudi (pronounced nyoo-dee) are, as the name suggests, “naked” ravioli. That is; they are the ravioli filling, naked of its customary pasta. They are best served with the simplest of sauces. The Big Guy and I were both coming down with colds, and so I wanted some chilli spikes in this sauce. I wavered over chilli, garlic and olive oil; but in the end settled on a tomato sauce with chilli, in order to take it from a starter to more of a main course with the addition of a nice green salad.

As well as a delivering a lovely pasta dish, my inner four year old enjoys sniggering when I announce what is on the menu. Reports that such pronouncements were accompanied with an impromptu dance of joy are totally unfounded. Cheese Please blog badge As you have probably guessed by now, This is yet another entry for the Cheese, Please! fresh cheese challenge. I have enjoyed myself this month, and you know I hate waste, so I’m determined to use up every last bit of the milk.

Recipe: Ricotta Gnudi With Tomato and Chilli Sauce

Ingredients

For the Ricotta:
Whey from making any type of cheese, the best being sweet whey from bacterial coagulation, otherwise unpasteurised acid whey will be good.

For the Pasta Sauce:
1 tbsp oil
½ red onion, finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped, removing the seeds are optional
1 clove garlic, crushed to a paste
250 g tomatoes, chopped
Salt and pepper

For The Gnudi:
200 g ricotta
Zest of one lemon
Good grind of black pepper
1 tsp thyme leaves
40 g parmesan, plus more for garnish
1 egg, lightly beaten
Approx 70 g plain flour
Large knob of butter, 1 tsp and the thyme stalks for cooking

Method

Heating whey to 92ºC to make ricotta

It’s Getting Hot in Here

Make ricotta by heating the whey gently to a temperature of 92ºC. You will need to watch it, especially as the temperature exceeds 85ºC, because you do not want this to boil over, unless you especially like cleaning. Allow the whey to cool again, to a minimum of 60ºC, but preferably lower.

Strain through a sieve lined with a cheesecloth into a container large enough to hold the whey. Keep this for more things later – such as some pizza dough, other bread, stock, soups, and something else I have up my sleeve for later this week.

What you have left is ricotta. You will need to use a spoon or a spatula to remove it from the cloth. If you have left it to dry long enough, you may have to crumble it off. This is great in sweet and savoury dishes – I’ve even found recipes for ice cream. What you do with it is up to you.

For the sauce, sweat the onion in the oil until translucent. Add  the chilli and the garlic to the pan, and allow to cook for a minute. Next, add the tomatoes, and cook them down on a low heat, stirring occasionally to prevent them sticking. When the sauce is thick and the gnudi are ready,  season to taste.

While the sauce is cooking, make the gnudi. Mix together the ricotta, zest, thyme, pepper, parmesan cheese and the egg. Gradually add the flour, and mix in until the mixture forms a ball. It may take a bit more or a bit less than 70 g flour.

Shape the gnudi with wet hands. A lot of people shape them into balls, but I liked to form more elliptical gnudi. Put them on baking paper, or another non-stick surface.

Get a deep pan full of boiling water with the salt, butter and thyme stalks in. It is important to have the pan at a rolling boil. Put the gnudi into the water and cook for about 5 minutes. When they are cooked, they will float. Drain with a slotted spoon, and add to the sauce. You may also need a tablespoon or two of the water that you cooked the gnudi in to loosen up the sauce.

Coat the gnudi with the sauce, then serve immediately with a sprinkling of extra parmesan cheese.

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