Tag Archives: No Oven Required

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

Asian Flavoured Beans: Not Just For The French

 

Asian Flavoured Beans

Beans and Buns – Getting Out Of A Glut Rut

Defrosting the freezer is often a boring, and much put-off task (although you should do it fairly regularly, to keep it running efficiently). I was forced into doing mine today. It was getting difficult to open the top drawer, and it had been jamming accusingly every time I went in there. There was definitely a sulky kind of Huh! noise when I tried to shove it back in. So I finally gave in to the nagging.

You may be wondering why I am boring you with all of this domestic drudgery (you never see Nigel Slater having to give that fridge with the camera in the back a good clean do you?).  Well, I found some hom bao lurking in there, and knew I had found lunch. These little buns freeze so well, and they really keep. Well worth making a batch when next the baking bug hits you, and freezing those that you can’t manage on the day.

As I wanted lunch to contain at least one of my five a day, I also wanted a suitable vegetable side dish. A quick ferret around in the fridge revealed a lot of unsuitable veg, and many of my home-grown runner beans, which are still coming thick and fast at the moment. I didn’t really fancy a stir fry of carrots, tomatoes and lettuce, so beans it was.

It’s funny how you can get a bit stuck into one or two ways to cook a particular vegetable. For me, runner beans are always about my ever-popular green bean chutney, or gently steamed and served with butter and black pepper. If I have to combine them with something, I go down the Lebanese route, and stew them in a garlicky tomato sauce (also very highly recommended). Something that I have never previously done with them is combine them with Asian flavours.

There are many Asian dishes that have beans in them, although they more commonly use french or yard-long beans. There is no reason that runners cannot shine just as well, especially if they are garden fresh. I wanted to stick with a vaguely Chinese style for these, since they were to accompany the Hom Bao.

This dish would also be great with a tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds sprinkled over the top at the end. As it was a cleaning-out-the-cupboards kind of meal, and I didn’t have any sesame seeds, I just left them out. You can choose which one you prefer.

I was very happy with these beans, which took on the salt and spice brilliantly. It just goes to show that a lot of new possibilities can open up for you if you go a very small way outside your usual recipes. I’m very happy to have another way to use a seasonal glut of runner beans (although it really is never a problem, I love them).

Do you have a favourite runner bean recipe? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Recipe: Chinese-Style Runner Beans

Ingredients

About 400 g runner beans

1 tbsp sunflower oil

2 garlic cloves, crushed to a paste

½ cm fresh ginger, finely grated

2 tbsp soy sauce

½ tsp sesame oil

Method:

String the beans (or grow a stringless variety, and save yourself a bit of time). Slice them diagonally into 1 cm thick slices. Add to boiling water on the stove, and cook over a medium heat until the water comes back to the boil again. Do not salt the water,  it will make the beans grey and there will be plenty of salt from the soy in the finished dish.

Once the beans have come back up to the boil, drain them and set aside.

Heat the sunflower oil in a frying pan or wok. Add the garlic and the ginger and cook until the fragrance of the ginger hits you. Add the beans and the soy sauce, and cook until the soy has thickened slightly.

Remove from the heat, and stir through the sesame oil and the seeds, if you are using them. Serve immediately.

5 Comments

Filed under Farmed

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

Flower Sour

elderflowers

Sweet Little Flowers

Well the elders are in bloom again, and hedgerows all over froth and foam with the delicate white unbrels, almost like the spring tides coming in. This year is a bit later than ususal, due to the length of the Northern hemisphere winter, but now the sunshine has returned, and naure is more than making up for her long sleep.

I love this time of the year, and stock up on elderflowers for cordialsugar, and champagne. All of it delicious, and making the most of the best of the season’s forage.

Elder is really abundant where I live, so there is always plenty to go around during the flowering and fruiting seasons; for us foragers and for the birds.

Elderflowers are not just for the sweet things in life, they are also great in salads, and I have heard of sauces to go with meat. An elderflower sauce is on my list of Things I Want To Experiment With. Like most food bloggers, I guess, I have several such lists – electronically, on paper and in my head. A colleague of mine recently found them in some notes I had taken as part of a work trip, and seemed surprised that I would also be making lists of flavours in between meetings.

As well as the flavours that exist on my lists, or go around in my head, I have a number of different or unusual flavours in my kitchen. For example, I am never without vinegars of all kinds of flavours – raspberry, blackberry, tarragon, rosemary; I even have coconut vinegar since a Filipina friend introduced me to it when she kindly gave me her adobo recipe.

For me, then, it wasn’t too much of a stretch to think that elderflower vinegar would be a great way to keep hold of the elderflower season for just a little bit longer, but without all the sugar.

Try to pick elderflowers on a dry day, in the morning. There will be more pollen and nectar in them, which makes the flavour more intense.

This vinegar is good with salads. I am currently embarking on the 5:2 regimen, because my need to develop great food for this blog was beginning to have a toll on my waistline. I have found that the addition of a few herbs to some of this vinegar is a good way to dress a slad without the need for oil.

You can make marinades with it, and even a couple of drops in some water gives a nice flavour, that is not too sweet.

Elderflower Vinegar

Not So Sweet Little Flowers

Recipe: Elderflower Vinegar

Ingredients

40 g elderflowers

500 ml white wine vinegar

Method

Try to pick the flowers in the morning after a dry spell, in order to maximise the pollen and the flavour.

Remove the elderflowers from the stalks by pulling a fork through the stalks in the diretion of the flowers. You don’t have to be too fussy, as long as you have removed the largest stalks.

Steep the elderflowers in the vinegar, in a non-metallic container or bowl. Cover with a tea towel, and set aside for a few days.

Whenever you remember, give the flowers a stir.

After three days to a week, your vinegar should have reached the strength of flavour that you want.

Bottle up into sterilised bottles. This vinegar will keep well in a cupboard. I cannot resist this fragrant flavour, so the trouble is making it last!

7 Comments

Filed under Found

Dressing Up Your Dinner With Rhubarb

Tilapia Fillet and Rhubarb Vinaigrette

Best Dressed Fish This Season

Following on from my inspiration to pair rhubarb with fennel, I have been doing a few more experiments with rhubarb. I have lifted today’s idea almost wholesale from the Mister Kitchen rhubarb tasting menu. They served a sea bass with spinach and a rhubarb vinaigrette. It was great. Of course, I had to come home and fiddle about with it.

Rhubarb is most frequently eaten as dessert, and I am certainly partial to desserts and cakes with it in. People forget that it is actually a vegetable. It is seldom seen in savoury dishes, although I do know that a few bloggers have been experimenting with salads and as savoury compotes lately, so maybe there is a resurgence of rhubarb as a side dish in the offing. Who knows?

I certainly have a few more ideas that I want to try before my plant goes over this year, or I rest it in preparation for winter. Of course, once I am happy with each of the dishes, I will be sharing them here with you.

The version that I ate at Mr Kitchen had a mild olive oil, finely diced rhubarb and kalamata olives, with the stones pushed out, and the flesh torn into chunks. It was rustic and very simple. And it was delicious with the fish and the greens.

I spent quite a while messing about with various things, including shallots, herbs, black pepper, chillies, and so on. I have come to the conclusion that simple really is best. Shallots and rhubarb are both very astringent, so makes for a very sharp dressing, although that might be because I also acidulated the shallots in lemon juice first to take the rawness out of them. This combination as really an ingredient too far for me, so I ditched the shallots in favour of paring everything down

Raw rhubarb is crunchy and subtle. If you decide to follow my lead and make up a vinaigrette yourself, make sure whatever you use does not over power it. I stuck with very simple flavours for this vinaigrette – in fact it is a classic French dressing, with the addition of rhubarb. It works quite well with a pinch of chilli flakes, and with tarragon or chervil, instead of the mustard. I personally think that it is better with the more grassy olive oils, not the really punchy ones, but you may disagree.

Simple and in Season Blog Badge

 

Since there is nothing simpler than a vinaigrette, and rhubarb is at the peak of the season, I thought that I’d be a bot cheeky and have two entries to this month’s Simple and in Season, hosted by Ren Behan.

I do recommend that you give a rhubarb dressing a go. This one was lovely with salad and great with fish (I served it with tilapia fillet). I bet it would also be perfect with pork or chicken too.

What classic dressings do you know that might benefit from a little rhubarb?

Recipe: Rhubarb Vinaigrette

Ingredients

About 1/2 stalk very finely diced raw rhubarb

2-3 tbsp Grassy extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp Dijon mustard

Zest of half a lemon, pared

Lemon juice to taste

Method

Once the rhubarb is prepared, Whisk together the mustard, zest and olive oil.

I used lemon with this dressing, because I wanted it to go with fish. You could also team the dressing with orange. Grapefruit works as well, although you will need much less than half the grapefruit zest. Which one you choose is entirely up to you, and you can change it to match your dish.

Add the rhubarb, and season. You will need to taste it at this stage. I found that adding a little lemon juice really lifted this into a great dressing, but the amount that you will need will depend on which citrus you are using, and how sharp your rhubarb is; which will vary with age, size and how long ago it was harvested.

Serve immediately if you can, on fish, a salad, or anything you like really. It does keep for a couple of days in the fridge, but it is better fresh, because the rhubarb will lose its crunch. So simple, there’s no excuse not to give this a go!

6 Comments

Filed under Farmed

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

Young and Foolish

Fennel Rhubarb Foolish

Going Foolish Over Spiced Rhubarb

Today’s inspiration has come from two places. During the rhubarb tasting menu at Mister Kitchen at the Rollende Keukens, I had a bit of a revelation. As part of the main, they had roasted a few chunks of rhubarb and served them with pork, and a slice of their very good sausage. The sausage had fennel seed in it, and I tried this with a bit of the rhubarb, and the combination is incredible.

I came back from the tasting with a head full of experiments with rhubarb, both sweet and savoury, and if they work, you’ll see some of them on edible things soon.

But, I knew I needed to do something with the fennel and rhubarb as soon as possible. I am still playing with this, but one of the first things that I did was to stew some up with a few fennel seeds. This really is amazing. And surprisingly, the fennel seems to sweeten the rhubarb, so you need a lot less sugar. I had this with some plain yoghurt for breakfast.

swallow-recipes-for-life

Then, I saw this Month’s Recipe for Life, held by Vanesther over at Bangers and Mash. This is in aid of Swallows, a charity that supports adults with learning difficulties. Vanesther is much more eloquent than I could be on the subject, so please do check out her site to read more about it.

This month, she has chosen rhubarb, spice and lemon as the three key ingredients this month, and I knew this was the challenge for me. It will be good to share the brilliant combination of rhubarb and fennel as, really, more people should know about this.

I deliberated for a few days as to how I could best bring some lemon into the mix. Then I got invited round to a friend’s with some other fabulous ladies, and it prompted me to come up with the dish I am entering. The dish needed to be simple, mobile (because I was going to take it round to my friend’s) and most of all the lemon needed to balance with the subtle fennel.

The obvious choice would have been a classic rhubarb fool. Fools are pretty nice, but there is also something to be said for a syllabub, which is essentially cream and alcohol, and what’s not to like about that? Some kind souls had left a bottle of Pernod, and one of Limoncello following a party sometime, and then I had the basis for a few experiments in syllabub. Turns out that both of these are pretty good, but the Limoncello just about had the edge.

Whilst thinking about this, I decided to try to add some texture with some candied fennel, which I’ve also been thinking of having a go at for a while. It really does add interest and an additional subtle fennel taste, but it would also work without it. And now you know what the suspense was all about from my last post.

So, here is the recipe for my Fennel Rhubarb Foolish. Not quite a fool, and not quite a syllabub, and there’s not a lot that’s foolish about that.

Fennel Rhubarb Foolish

Not Fool, Not Foolish

Recipe: Fennel Rhubarb Foolish 

This recipe is enough for 5 people if you serve it from a wine glass

Ingredients

300 g rhubarb, chopped into chunks

1/2 tsp fennel seed

Juice of half a lemon

splash water

2 tbsp sugar

250 ml cream

50 g sugar

250 ml greek yoghurt

25 ml Limoncello

Grated zest of 1 lemon

Juice of half a lemon

Candied Fennel

Method

Firstly, lightly stew the rhubarb with the fennel seed, lemon juice, and sugar. Add a splash of water, to prevent the rhubarb from burning as you apply the heat, but be aware that it will give off liquid itself, so don’t add too much, you don’t want it swimming. As I said, the fennel takes the sharpness off the fruit, so don’t add too much sugar, you can always add more towards the end of the cooking process if you need to. Cover the pan, and stew it on a low heat until the fruit just starts to break down. Taste for sweetness and fennel, and add more sugar or fennel seeds (not a lot) if necessary.

If there is a lot of liquid, strain it off. Don’t throw it away, it is great to macerate strawberries and raspberries in, or to use instead of a simple syrup in some cocktails.

Set the stewed rhubarb aside to cool. Meanwhile, whip up the cream, sugar and lemon zest until the cream forms soft peaks. Add in the yoghurt, and fold it through. A classic syllabub is usually just cream and wine, but I wanted this to be slightly more substantial, hence the yoghurt.

Once the cream and yoghurt is well combined, add the lemon juice and the limoncello. Taste to make sure it tastes lemony enough for you, but not so lemony that your face puckers like a disapproving octogenarian. Add more lemon juice or limoncello to taste.

Finally, layer up in wine glasses, with rhubarb, candied fennel, the syllabub, a dollop more rhubarb and the candied fennel stalk to finish. Then bore your friends while you take photos and they wait hungrily for a lovely tagine (that was made by my friend, not me at our dinner party).

7 Comments

Filed under Feast

I Want (Fennel) Candy

Candied Fennel

Sweet and Fresh

Having been inspired to start blogging again, I have been making the most of recent inspiration for the next few Feast posts. The cooking and recipes, as always, are my own, but credit for the dishes are definitely due elsewhere. I take a magpie approach to food, often finding shiny little pieces here and there. Maybe one day I’ll enter the 21st century and get myself a smart phone, but for now, I forage for ideas, as well as edibles, and record them all in a series of notebooks, which I have to go digging through in order to remember the inspirations. Does anyone else do this? Please tell me that I am not the only one scribbling things down furtively in restaurants, shops and even the street. For me, it is like foraging and farming in note form, and as much of an obsession as they are for me in real life.

I’m sure we are all familiar with candied peel, and even crystalised angelica, if you are fond of cake decoration. These days , it seems that candied vegetables of all nature are appearing on both sweet and savoury dishes in restaurants and pop ups up and down the country. One of the first, and the one that instantly caught my magpie eye was candied fennel. I have also seen candied celery and beets (especially chioggia beets) among other things on menus, although I find the idea of them much less appealing.

Fennel is one of my favourite vegetables, and I love it in risotto, soup, and salad, braised, roasted and raw. This is a great way to use the tougher outer leaves and stalky bits if you are not keeping them for stock, too.

This version is really simple, despite my fears that it may require multiple exposures to sugar syrups of varying strengths, it isn’t the case. I kept mine plain, but they are also good served as sweets, and sprinkled with sugar.

Today’s recipe was inspired by Simon Rogan, who is a far better forager and cook than I could ever hope to be. I can’t remember where I first heard about it, but I suspect it was on a cookery programme, because  I have written down “candied fennel, Rogan. V. interesting, possibly for strawberry tarts? Experiment”. I finally got round to making this, as part of an even wider experiment, that does not involve strawberries or tarts of any kind, but you’ll have to wait until my next Feast post to find out more about what I wanted them for. This cliffhanger is not quite of Eastenders Duff Duff proportions, but hopefully, you’ll want to keep reading.

Recipe: Candied fennel

Ingredients

50 g sugar

50 ml water

1 tbsp lemon juice

Half a fennel bulb diced

Method

Make a simple sugar with the water, sugar and lemon juice. Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved.

Add the fennel. Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer until the fennel is translucent, but retains some texture. It took me about 15 minutes, but it depends on the size of the dice,  and how much bite you want them to have.

Remove from the heat, and strain off the cooking syrup. Don’t discard this, it is perfectly good for other uses, and you know it’s a shame to waste such a tasty sauce.

Put some greaseproof paper, wax side up on a baking tray, and spread the fennel dice out into a single layer. Allow to cool on the tray, then store in an airtight container before use.

Enjoy them on their own, with sugar or as part of something delicious.

2 Comments

Filed under Feast