nettle and wild garlic quiche

Wild greens quiche

nettle and wild garlic quiche

Super simple and hugely flavourful

Another of the recipes from my wild food in the kitchen talk at Old Dalby WI, this is a really simple quiche that you can chuck all your green bounty into.

Now once I’d admitted that I hadn’t made the pastry for this myself I thought I would have been politely escorted from the village hall by the WI ladies but they very generously did not revoke my speaker’s pass and allowed me to continue!

The amount of pastry from one block of Jus-Rol shortcrust pastry makes enough for one large quiche and 3 mini ones, just saying 馃檪

Wild greens quiche:

a kitchen full of foraged wild garlic, nettles, goose grass and chickweed

Assorted wild greens from a gentle forage

  • A few handfuls of assorted gathered young green shoots. I used: nettle tops, chickweed, dandelion, wild garlic and goose grass, they will shrink right down.
  • 40g butter
  • half a white onion, finely chopped
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons plain flour
  • 200ml double cream
  • 80 ml milk
  • plenty of freshly ground pepper
  • pinch of salt
  • freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
  • 1 pack Jus-Rol shortcrust pastry (or a batch of your own properly made, wonderful shortcrust pastry 馃檪 聽)

1: Wash your greens and blanch in boiling water for a couple of minutes, drain, squeeze out any excess liquid and roughly chop.

blanched wild greens in a bowl

Blanched wild leaves and shoots

2: Roll out your pastry and put into a tart tin with removable bottom, use a bit of pastry to push the sides and base down. Cover with some baking parchment and fill with baking beans and bake in an oven heated to 180C for about 15 minutes.

3: Remove the parchment and beans, gently prick the base with a fork and return to the oven for about 7-10 minutes.

4: Fry the onion in the butter聽occur a low heat聽until soft but not coloured, allow to cool.

5: Mix the flour together with one egg and a little of the milk to form a paste, add the remaining eggs, cream and milk and mix really well.

6:Add the cooled onions and butter and season generously, add nutmeg if using.

7: Arrange the greens over the tart base and then pour over the mixture,

Arrange a few nettle leaves on the top, use gloves!

Arrange a few nettle leaves on the top, use gloves!

8: Reduce the oven temperature to 170C and bake the tart for around 35-40 minutes.

souffle/quiche!

souffle/quiche!

9: Once the tart is baked, trim off the pastry edges to tidy it up ( I haven’t yet done this in the pic above) and serve either warm straight away of allow to cool.

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Simple roasted leeks with smoked Lincolnshire Poacher cheese

Let the leeks shine through

Let the leeks shine through

The humble leek is so often overlooked as a star in its own right. Google “leek recipes” on an image search and you’re met with recipe after recipe of pies and tarts and soups but to simply roast it really allows this wonderful allium to shine.

I always grow leeks in my tiny garden but once they are all devoured I turn to my wonderful growers Bridget and Maureen over the border in Lincolnshire. I buy pretty much all my veg from these fab ladies every Sunday at my local car boot sale as they can’t be beaten on quality, freshness and price.

What better to accompany these Lincolnshire leeks than some finely grated smoked Lincolnshire Poacher cheese, an easy match made in flavour heaven and the easiest of starters or side dishes to make.

The charred outer skins take on a wonderful flavour and texture whilst inside the leek is soft and sweet. 聽A goat’s cheese or Wensleydale would also work beautifully with this dish simply crumbled over before serving.

Roast leeks with smoked Lincolnshire Poacher cheese:

  • a few leeks, trimmed and washed
  • a fine covering of cooking spray (I used Flora olive spray, you can use butter but the spray allows the flavour of the leeks and cheese to be unimpeded)
  • freshly ground black pepper and sea salt flakes
  • a light grating of smoked Lincolnshire Poacher cheese
  • a few sprigs fresh Greek basil
trim your leeks to fit your roasting tin

trim your leeks to fit your roasting tin

  1. Trim the leeks to fit in a roasting tray. Spray lightly and sprinkle over some salt and pepper.
  2. Cook until they look like this

    Cook until they look like this

    Roast in a very hot oven (I use my max setting of 225C) for about 10 minutes or until they look like the above picture.

  3. Ready

    Ready

    Use a microplane to finely grate over your cheese, sprinkle with the Greek basil and serve immediately.

Raw courgette “hummus”

It sounds like its going to be horrid but is really, REALLY good. Win.

It sounds like its going to be horrid but is really, REALLY good. Win.

For the last 2 weeks I’ve been living on juices of fresh vegetables and fruits. Yep, three times a day I fire up my juicer and that’s my day’s food sorted. Yes this sounds pretty weird but a few weeks ago I was feeling so poorly with a bug that was going around that I started to think a great deal about the body’s ability to heal itself.

I figured that my body wants to heal itself, indeed it does heal itself constantly throughout the day and in order to do this it needs me to give it the right nutrients. I decided to try eliminating any bad nutrients (ALL the funs stuff) and JUST give it the good stuff to see how that affected it, if at all.

The yellow courgette hummus is oh so pretty

The yellow courgette hummus is oh so pretty

It was pretty tough to start as I also write for Metro and am commissioned to create a recipe to accompany each episode of The Great British Bake Off so I’ve been baking a HUGE amount of delicious food that I wasn’t able to eat (OK so I HAD to try a bit).

The hardest may have been Pie Week as I made about 20 pork pies and they were all kinds of awesome including this gorgeous monster pork and piccalilli pie with homemade piccalilli…

This pie is the pie of the gods.

This pie is the pie of the gods.

BUT I persevered and I feel SO much better for it. Every now and then I cheat and make something to eat, always raw and packed full of nutrients though and this courgette hummus has become quite a regular fixture on my “cheat” menu. I got the idea from a brilliant book called Eat Yourself Beautiful by Lee Holmeswhich I was sent earlier this year, it’s an absolutely brilliant book and I highly recommend it. In the book Lee uses blanched almonds as the base with the courgette but I prefer the Omega mix and played around with the recipe until I found something that worked for me.

Raw courgette hummus

  • 1 medium courgette, grated (skin and all)
  • 1 tablespoon tahini
  • 1 handful Omega seed mix (available from shops, contains sesame, linseed, sunflower and pumpkin seeds)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • juice of half a lemon
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch sea salt flakes
  • bit of water to loosen if needed

Simply put everything into a food processor and blitz until smooth, sprinkle with some more Omega seed mix.

Humous with zataar and sumac

healthy humous

Like its spelling, everyone has their own way of making humous, I like mine without loads of oil but rammed full of added spices so I can tuck in to mountains of it guilt free. This is a really simple recipe, I vary it slightly depending on what fresh spices I’ve acquired and if guests are about I usually add more olive oil and less water (it’s the chef in me I just can’t help it).

Humous with zataar and sumac

  • 1 tin cooked chickpeas, half drained
  • 2 teaspoons dried garlic granules (sweeter than using raw)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 heaped tablespoon tahini
  • large pinch freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch sea salt flakes
  • 1 tablespoon zataar
  • 1 tablespoon sumac
  • 1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin
  • few tablespoons cold water
  • a sprinkle of zataar, sumac and a drizzle of olive oil to serve
  1. Combine the chickpeas, tahini, lemon, garlic and spices in a food processor.
  2. Blitz and loosen with more water until you have a smooth, creamy consistency. Taste and adjust seasonings.
  3. Scoop into a bowl, sprinkle with the extra zataar, sumac and olive oil and leave to sit if you can for an hour at room temperature to allow the flavours to develop.

Superfood salad with cocoa nibs

superfood salad

Usually if anyone mentions the word “Quinoa” I’m immediately turned off a dish, it’s often made so badly that it resembles a soggy mush of squirly disappointment but if cooked well and combined with some peaky flavours it’s actually rather nutty and lovely and this salad proves just that.

Superfood salad with cocoa nibs

  • 2 handfuls raw quinoa
  • 1 tablespoon powdered veg stock
  • 1 small orange
  • 2 handfuls of frozen board beans, defrosted in water and drained
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa nibs
  • 3 tablespoons salad sprinkle mix (mixture of seeds such as pumpkin, sesame, sunflower, linseed etc)
  • 1 teaspoon poppy seeds
  • 1 handful blanched almonds
  • 1 yellow chilli finely chopped
  • 1 handful of feta, crumbled
  • 1 handful of fresh mint, roughly chopped
  • freshly ground black pepper
  1. Cook the quinoa according to packet instructions but add the stock to the water. Once cooked drain in a sieve and leave to cool completely, this will also help dry it out a bit.
  2. Slice the orange into rounds and sear on a very hot griddle, turning over a couple of times then slice each round into quarters.
  3. Combine everything in a bowl, you can drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil over if you fancy it, leave for at least an hour at room temperature to allow all the flavours to mix.

Kickass parsley and fennel salad

parsley and fennel salad

I had a meeting in Leicester on Wednesday so took the opportunity to head to Radio Leicester and catch up with the wonderful Ben Jackson with whom I do the Food Friday cooking items. Ben had just been at the Chelsea Flower Show the previous day and was telling me about an amazing Lebanese meal he went for in Knightsbridge at a restaurant called Randa,聽he raved about a parsley dish that I knew I needed to go and experiment with.

I’ve been sprinkling this on everything: BBQ’d fish and meat, flat breads smothered in humous and my personal favourite is to dive into it using a piece of crispy smoked bacon as a spoon, yeah, all the ace.

Parsley and fennel salad

  • 1 large bunch flat leave parsley, chopped
  • 1 large handful fennel fronds, chopped
  • 1 red banana shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated on a microplane
  • zest 1 lemon, grated on a microplane
  • juice 1 lemon
  • 2 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 5 radishes very thinly sliced
  • 1 handful cherry tomatoes, cooked on a very hot griddle for a minute or two
  • pinch sea salt flakes
  • pinch freshly ground pepper
  • drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
  • pea shoots, chervil and edible flowers to garnish

Just combine everything in a bowl, stir well and leave for at least 2 hours if you can at room temperature before serving then keep in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Winter salad of charred chicory with Wensleydale, hazelnuts, clementine, dandelion and fennel

Winter salads are pretty kickass

Winter salads are pretty kickass

Well it’s been ages since I’ve had time to post anything, I’ve been off gallivanting down in the South West rather a lot and dashing about working on lots of little projects. Christmas was a time of hedonistic indulgence, I’m still in Christmas mode to be honest, my tree is still up which means by Festive Rules it’s still fine to just eat cheese for breakfast.

I’m always finding chicory in the Reduced Section at the shops, people seem to be a bit nervous about using this bitter leaf, this works in my favour as it means they are always in cheap supply.

I like to use a crumbly cheese, creamy with a bit of tang, a good Wensleydale works really well, don’t go for the cheap stuff though as they have very little flavour. Feta works well as does a fresh ewe’s curd.

Ingredients:

  • leaves from half head of chicory, separated.
  • 1 tsp butter
  • juice from 1 clementine plus zest
  • handful hazelnuts
  • crumbled Wenseydale cheese (feta is also lovely)
  • few young dandelion and rocket leaves
  • fennel fronds
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • tiny sprinkle of smoked salt

Method:

  1. Preheat a non stick frying pan over a high heat, place individual chicory leaves over bottom of pan making sure they don’t overlap. Char then turn over and cook the other side.
  2. Add the butter and orange juice and swirl pan to coat, it will go sticky very quickly. Put leaves on a plate then add the hazelnuts to the hot pan and cook whilst swirling the pan so they heat and release flavours but don’t catch as they will taste bitter.
  3. Remove from heat, crumble cheese over leaves, add toasted hazelnuts, young leaves and finely grated clementine zest then season.

100% spelt flour loaf (with 2 minutes of kneading)

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetMy cottage is old, with thick walls and high ceilings, in the summer its wonderfully cool to the extent that during this August’s heatwave I found myself leaving the cottage dressed for a crisp spring day and would have to instantly turn on my heels once hit with the wall of baking heat and remove a few layers before attempting to start the day again. Where this is glorious during the longer days of the year it’s also pretty damn Baltic come the winter.

I have an open fire in the living room and a wood burner in the dining room, on cold days like today when I’m working from home I’ll get the fire lit as soon as I’m up and about and work from my laptop next to the hearth. Today was one of those days and not one to waste a “day fire” I decided to bake some bread and use the heat to help the dough rise.

I’ve never made a spelt loaf before but had a bag of flour kicking about in the pantry. I had to pop to Tescos to pick up cat food so went and spoke nicely to the bakers who kindly gave me a big block of fresh yeast “we only measure by handfuls, one or two?”.

I’m now a convert to spelt, the loaf is rich and nutty which works so well with the sweet aromatic honey plus, its almost got the texture of soda bread which I adore. Yep from now on this is the loaf for me. It’s not a sandwich loaf though this one, it’s definitely one for spreading with butter and jam or marmite with a nice cup of tea, preferably whilst still warm from the oven.

Spelt loaf recipe:

  • 500g wholemeal spelt flour (I just guessed half of the bag of flour)
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 400ml warm water
  • a chunk of fresh yeast the size of two match boxes (I don’t have scales)
  • 2 tablespoons runny honey
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  1. Put flour into a big bowl, put salt on one side, make a well in the centre.
  2. Crumble the yeast into the water and stir until dissolved. Pour in the well, add the honey and oil and mix with a spoon.
  3. I keep the dough in the big ceramic bowl and just knead with one hand for 2 minutes then lift the dough out, oil the bowl, put the dough back in, cover with cling and sit it in front of the fire for half an hour.
  4. After 30 mins I knock it back, dust it with more flour then put it into a lightly oiled loaf tin. Cover with a layer of cling then back in front of the fire for another 30 mins.
  5. Preheat oven to 200C. Sprinkle more flour over the top of the dough then put in the oven for about 50 minutes or until cooked through out.

I scoffed about half the loaf instantly with salted butter and some homemade quince and vanilla jam. Laziest loaf ever.

Homemade quince and vanilla jam

Homemade quince and vanilla jam

Skirlie stuffed savoy cabbage – total comfort food

skirlie stuffed savoy cabbage-6

I’m on a bit of a veg kick at the moment, when I’ve got loads of work on I tend to cut out meat, pasta and potatoes as I find it gives me much more energy and focus. Every Sunday, if I’m home, I head to my local car boot sale to buy the week’s veg from Maureen and Bridget. I’ve spoken of these two wonderful ladies quite often on here, they live just over the border in Lincolnshire and Bridget grows the most impressive veg and Maureen is the queen of pies, fruit vinegars and lemon curd.

The weather is dreary and wet today which leaves me craving comfort food. Off I went as usual in the driving rain to get my veg and came back with a mountain for less than 拢10: purple cauliflower, romanesco cauliflower, cavelo nero, green and purple kale, red cabbage, purple sprouting broccoli, bunched carrots and tops (the tops make excellent pesto), green tomatoes and a net containing about 12 onions. You can also buy 15kg bags of local spuds for 拢3, these are vegetables of the highest quality picked just the day before and at a fraction of the cost from any supermarket/greengrocer/market trader.

Piles of incredible veg grown just a few miles away for less than 拢10

Piles of incredible veg grown just a few miles away for less than 拢10

My wonderful friend Ben Jackson told me about skirlie early this year when he was round recording Food Friday one morning. His grandmother would make it when roasting a chicken. It took me ages to track down the pinhead oatmeal, I finally stumbled across it in the butchers in Sturminster Newton in Dorset, huzzah! Never one not to make up my own recipe I turned it into a kind of rich oatmeal risotto using chicken fat and stock from the previous day’s roast chicken and instantly fell in love.

Skirlie purists look away now as this is my version and it’s the ultimate comfort food.

chicken fat skirlie

My chicken fat skirlie that made me fall in love with it

Ingredients:

For the skirlie:

  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 2 white onions, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 250g pinhead oatmeal (it HAS to be pinhead)
  • 50ml cream sherry
  • hot chicken stock (or veg if you want a veggie version)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • pinch dried chilli flakes
  • 2 tsp dried porcini powder (blitz dried porcini in a coffee grinder)

8 large savoy cabbage leaves

For the b茅chamel: (approx measures)

  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 40g plain flour
  • 400ml milk
  • 1 tsp dried onion granules
  • 1 tsp dried garlic granules
  • 2 tsp dried porcini powder
  • few gratings fresh nutmeg
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 handfuls finely grated strong cheddar cheese

skirlie stuffed savoy cabbage

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to its hottest setting. Blanch the cabbage leaves in boiling water, a few at a time to soften them, if the stalk is very thick at the base cut this out. Leave them to cool.
  2. In a saucepan combine the butter, onion and garlic and cook gently just to soften, don’t colour. Add the pinhead oatmeal and stir well to make sure the butter coats everything.
  3. It’s basically like making a risotto now, add the sherry and some hot stock and stir,once that is absorbed add some more stock and repeat until you can drag a spoon through the mixture and it leaves a trail on the bottom. Add the thyme and seasoning and porcini powder, stir well. You want the oatmeal to still have a bit of bite to it rather than be completely soft. Once it reaches that point simply turn off the heat and leave it to cool a bit whilst you make the sauce.
  4. Make the b茅chamel sauce. Melt the butter, add the flour and stir, cook for a couple of minutes then whisk in the milk, keep stirring and cooking until thickened then add the rest of the ingredients and cook for a further minute whilst stirring.
  5. To assemble take a cabbage leaf and a big dollop of skirlie and make a little parcel by folding over the top, then tuck in the sides and roll the whole thing up. Put in a roasting tray, repeat with the rest. Spoon over the sauce, grate over some extra cheese then roast until the sauce and cheese starts to turn golden.

Spiced roasted cauliflower leaves (and cauli dukkah pops)

Don't chuck the leaves, they are delicious!

Don’t chuck the leaves, they are delicious!

I’m pretty addicted to making cauli dukkah poppers at the moment, but quite often I’ve taken the outer cauliflower leaves off and either given them to the chickens or chucked them in the compost, never again.

Today I kept the leaves and added them to the spice mix and then removed them part way through roasting, they were amazing. The stalk softens, the leaves caramelise and the spices are warming and salty, they lasted all of about 5 seconds, just long enough to snap a quick pic on my phone and they were gone. From now on I’ll be choosing my cauliflowers based on those with the most leaves but if you have a market near you, you will find that most of the veg traders will have a box full of the cauliflower leaves that they have trimmed off and they give them away for free for people’s chickens, free food, aces.

  • 1 whole cauliflower with leaves
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 tsp garlic granules
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • pinch black pepper
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tblsp super dukkah
  1. Preheat the oven to its highest setting, mine is about 230C.
  2. Remove the leaves from the cauliflower and divide the rest into florets. Put them in a large bowl, pour over the oil then add the spices and mix really well.
  3. Spread everything out on a roasting tin and put in the top of the oven.
  4. Roast until the leaves are burnt around the edges then remove and eat. Continue to roast the cauliflower until the florets caramelise around the edges and crisp up, you want them still to be a bit soft.

Ink cap mushroom pasta with pesto and kale and pistachio pangrattato

ink cap pasta with kale and pistachio pangrattato-1

 

It’s my favourite time of the year, mushrooms, fruits and berries are plentiful around our countryside and for the happy forager it’s most definitely a bountiful harvest this year.

When it comes to mushroom foraging you really do need to know what you are doing as it can be a dangerous game of fungi roulette if you don’t. This is why I really love the ink cap mushroom as it’s so distinct in its appearance. The only thing you need to be careful with when eating ink caps is not to consume alcohol with them as sometimes they can have quite an extreme and vomity effect. I’ve gotten away with adding sherry to mine on a few occasions but I certainly wouldn’t recommend it just to be on the safe side.

I’ve also got hugely into roasting kale recently and sprinkling it with homemade dukkah and basically just munching away on it or its also really kickass when combined with green tomatoes and 聽a duck egg.

I’ve been away for a few days working on some pieces for Metro down in Cornwall and Somerset so didn’t have much in the cupboards upon my return. I found some ink caps growing near my sister’s house so picked them before heading home and this is the resulting dish:

Ink cap rigatoni with pesto and kale and pistachio pangrattato

For the pesto:

  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 50g fresh basil plus stalks
  • 50g shelled pistachios
  • 50 grana padano cheese, finely grated
  • few good glugs extra virgin rapeseed oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

For the pasta:

  • 1 aubergine, chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 8 ink caps, brushed to remove dirt and checked for slugs (they like to crawl inside them)
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped
  • drizzle of oil
  • rigatoni pasta

For the Pangrattato

  • few handfuls chopped kale
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • two handfuls of chunks of stale sourdough bread
  • 50g shelled pistachios
  • seasoning if it needs it
  • glug of oil for frying

Method:

  1. Whizz up all your pesto ingredients in a food processor, loosen with oil until you are happy with the consistency and seasoning. Set aside (This will keep happily in the fridge beneath a layer of oil for at least a week).
  2. Put your aubergines and mushrooms on a roasting tray, scatter with the cilli and roast in a hot oven until cooked them remove and set aside.
  3. Make sure the kale is bone dry then roast in the oven for a few minutes until the edges are crispy but there is still a bit of softness in the centre.
  4. Blitz the pangrattato ingredients together until it is like breadcrumbs then heat some oil in a frying pan and fry until crunchy.
  5. To assemble simply stir the aubergine, mushroom and pest into the drained rigatoni and to with some of the pangrattato.
  6. Cook your rigatoni in salted boiling water until al dente.

 

Lychee and Rose cakes & Poppy Bumface gets stuck up a tree

lychee rose cake

Well my posts have been pretty much non-existent as I’ve been away travelling around the UK doing lots of photo shoots recently but I’m back at Wyldelight Cottage and back in my lovely tiny kitchen. Anyone who follows me on Twitter or Instagram (hazelpatersonphoto) will be familiar with my cats, Boris and Poppy Bumface. Poppy Bumface is a very strange little creature, mostly antisocial and with a voice like a drunken docker she’s more Oscar the Grouch than lovable kitty. She’s also never been allowed out of the cottage, up until last Monday that is.

The hot weather has meant that the cottage windows have been open and the ever resourceful PBF had managed to climb up and out of the living room window to the wilds of Melton Mowbray. For a couple of days she came back obediently when called, checking in every 20 minutes or so to make sure the cottage hadn’t upped and left it’s little spot tucked away in the town, all was good. Then on Thursday lunchtime she didn’t come back when I called her. I called and called but no little bell could be heard, no squawking meow. I went round the front of the cottage and could hear her crying. It took me a while to figure out where it was coming from but there she was, up in the big lime tree that grows in the park next to my cottage, she was about 17ft up and she was stuck.

lime tree

I called, I rustled her biscuits, I put tuna at the bottom of the tree and she just wouldn’t budge, she just cried. Now PBF is afraid of being alone, she cries if someone leaves the cottage to pop to the shop and she doesn’t like loud noises. I kept popping out to call her and see if she had moved but nothing. I rang the RSPCA and was told she needed to be up there for at least 24 hours before they will investigate. It was getting dark, the wind was picking up, the tree began to rustle loudly and sway and Poppy Bumface went from crying to howling with fear, it really was awful. I went round to the park (at this point I’m now in my Pyjamas), I’m rattling her biscuits and talking to a tree, it wasn’t my most attractive moment, tears welling up in my eyes and obviously having just split up with my boyfriend that was the exact moment he called: “sorry I can’t talk now I’m being a crazy cat woman in the park” is basically how the conversation went…

I didn’t sleep, her terrified howls carried straight through my bedroom window, in the morning I went out to see her. She’d now moved higher up onto a branch, not just any branch though Poppy had found a nice comfy nest to bed down in and there was a rather angry wood pigeon that wanted it back. There really was no chance of her coming down of her own accord, she just kept going higher and higher.

I rang the RSPCA again, she’s only a kitten and hadn’t had any food or water for 24 hrs now and her little voice had gotten so quiet. I was told to carry on waiting. I decided to bake some cakes for whomever managed to rescue her.

Lychee, Almond and Rose cakes (makes 10)

  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 120g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • seeds from 1 vanilla pod
  • 120g ground almonds
  • 120g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • pinch salt (I use Halen M么n Vanilla sea salt)
  • 1 25g tin lychees, roughly chopped
  • 2 tblsp lychee juice

Lychee Rose Buttercream: (really approximate quantities as I just kept tinkering unit it was right)

  • 200g homemade butter (from Maria at Melton Cattle Market)
  • about 2 mugfuls of vanilla icing sugar
  • 2 capfuls rose water
  • 2 tablespoons double cream
  • 1 capful natural red food colour
  • 1 tablespoon lychee juice

To decorate: edible glitter, gold shimmer spray, edible flowers.

Method:

  1. Put the butter in a mug and microwave it for 30 seconds then leave to cool. In a big bowl combine the eggs and caster sugar and using an electric whisk beat until very light and getting quite firm (about 4 minutes on high power) then stir in the cream of tartar and vanilla sees and beat for another 30 seconds.
  2. In another bowl combine the ground almonds, flour, baking powder and salt and mix well.
  3. Gently stir the cooled butter into the egg mixture being careful not to knock the air out then the butter, then carefully fold in the flour mixture then finally the chopped lychees.
  4. Divide the mixture between muffin cases in a tin and bake in an oven preheated to 180C for about 20 minutes or until skewer comes out clean when pushed through the centre. Allow to cool on a wire rack.
  5. Make the buttercream by beating the butter with an electric whisk until light and fluffy then gradually beat in the icing sugar, add the rose and lychee waters and food colouring and continue to beat and add icing sugar. Add a bit of double cream and keep beating until the mixture is smooth. If it splits just add more icing sugar and bit of cream and keep beating. When the cakes are completely cool splodge a decent amount of icing on top then decorate.

So the cakes were made and Poppy was still up in the tree, except now she was so high I could no longer see her, I could tell she had climbed higher than the cottage roof as her cry was no so quiet. The old lager boys in the park came over to investigate clutching their cans of super strength beer, they wanted to climb up to get her, oh dear this was all going to end quite badly. I stood with them for about 20 minutes saying it was going to be way too dangerous, they were pretty adamant though. They all know mybothr cat Boris as he goes over and hangs out with them on their bench, Boris knows everyone, he has a better social life than I do.

Now at about 23 hours and after another call to the RSPCA Inspector Keith Ellis arrived, I could have hugged him, the CAVALRY! We stood in the garden and tried to spot her, after about 10 minutes she appeared, she was SO HIGH up now, perhaps 40 – 50ft, well above the height of my chimney on the roof, she was now out on a branch. Inspector Ellis called the duty fire chief from Melton Mowbray fire and rescue to come and have a look.

Fire brigadeThe chief arrives, he can hear her but not see her, he calls the truck to come to the park and the boys get out. They can hear her but she is so high up they can’t see her, they go and get the thermal imaging camera…

fire brigade thermal imaging

Then, they spot her. The chief thinks she is too high up to reach but they get the ladder anyway.

melton firemen

It’s pretty rare they do this kind of thing so they were saying that its actually a really good training exercise for them, this made me feel much better.

fire crew rescue Poppy Bumface

As thunder started to rumble a fireman named Dex suits up into a climbing harness and the rescue mission is underway. One of the guys (bottom left picture) mentions to me that when they are called out to talk down someone sat on the edge of a roof they send a fireman that smokes up, apparently most jumpers are smokers and the act of sharing a cigarette bonds the pair together which helps talk them down. He jokes that they should adopt a cat that climbs up and talks down other cats from trees, a smoking cat preferably. Boris volunteers himself by heading over to their equipment and watching on…

boris and firemen

Boris in the centre of the picture supervises the rescue…

Dex comes down the ladder for the grabber then heads back up feeling pretty confident he can get her. It was actually incredibly sweet as I could hear him meowing at Poppy Bumface 馃檪 Then I heard her bell and then very slowly Dex started to climb all the way back down clutching a very frightened kitten to his chest, I very nearly burst into tears.

Dex climbs down carrying Poppy Bumface

Dex climbs down carrying Poppy Bumface

And then after 24 hours stuck up a tree, little Poppy Bumface is down!

cat in tree, cat rescued by firemen, poppy bumface

Dex my absolute hero holding Poppy Bumface, RSPCA Inspector Keith Ellis on right

Hurray for Dex! Hurray for Keith, hurray for all the guys from Melton day shift Fire and Rescue, total stars!

2013-06-18_0009

So Poppy Bumface was rescued and the wonderful day shift from Melton Mowbray Fire and Rescue went off heroically with a tin full of the lychee rose cakes covered in edible glitter and flowers (and with 25% off a photo shoot if they wanted one for them and their families, although I’m totally up for taking pictures of semi naked firemen *if* thats what they聽really聽want!). Poor Inspector Ellis missed out on a cake though so I owe him one, everyone really was wonderful and yes Poppy Bumface is well and truly grounded for the foreseeable future….

Wild garlic, hazelnut and smoky chipotle “pesto”

wild garlic hazelnut chipotle chilli pesto

 

I don’t think that there is any season that I look forward to more than wild garlic season, and this year’s bitterly cold weather and delayed arrival has made it all the more eagerly awaited and welcomed with pretty much fanatic gusto.

This wild garlic recipe is not only a brilliant way to celebrate it’s arrival but it also freezes really well so I make plenty and divide it between freezer bags and lie them on top of one another in the freezer so I can defrost a portion at a time.

You could add some hard cheese to this if you fancy, a good hard British goat’s cheese finely grated in would be delicious but I like to keep it very simple and then I can always grate some over the finished dish. I had a big bunch of parsley so threw some of that in too, it’s said that eating parsley after garlic kills and bad breath but I happily honked of garlic for the rest of the evening.

Use this stirred into pasta, smear all over the inside of a 聽joint of pork belly and roll and roast, stir it through some creme fraiche or mayo for a dip or just eat it with a spoon, this is in your face ace.

wild garlic chipotle homemade pappardelle

Stirred through homemade duck egg pappardelle and garnished with the petals from violas I was dead-heading in the garden

Ingredients:

  • 200g wild garlic leaves, washed
  • 100g parsley (mellows the garlic slightly)
  • 100g hazelnuts
  • 3 chipotle chillies (Edible Ornamentals are British grown and kick ass)
  • big pinch sea salt flakes
  • big pinch freshly ground black pepper
  • enough good oil to get a good consistency (around 100ml ish, I use Cotswold Gold E.V rapeseed oil as it’s wonderfully nutty

Method:

  1. Just put everything in a food processor except the oil and blitz, as the machine goes drizzle in the oil until you are happy with the consistency, taste and adjust seasoning if need be. Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes before using so that the flavours develop.

 

Pea and Bean Salad with Orange Blossom Dressing

pea and bean salad with orange blossom dressing

I always have a bag of frozen peas in the freezer for perking up pasta dishes, fried rice or alongside a bit of buttered fish but I also really love them raw in salads. I got into using french beans in salads last summer when I had a bit of a glut and made a gorgeous yellow courgette and french bean salad, sadly we are still a long way from any beans being ready to harvest in my patch yet but a bag of frozen ones has stepped up and has me feeling that Summer may not be too far away, hell even my mint has poked it’s way through the soil.

Ingredients:

  • 1 romaine lettuce, torn into pieces
  • handful of rocket leaves
  • half a red onion, very thinly sliced
  • few mint leaves
  • handful finely grated celeriac
  • 1 mug full of peas (frozen ones defrosted in water and drained)
  • 1 mug of french beans (as above)
  • few petals of edible flowers, I used frilly pansies
  • 1 tablespoon salad sprinkle mix (I used Spiceway’s Salad Sprinkles)
  • 1 handful shelled pistachios
  • 1 teaspoon blue poppy seeds

For the dressing:

Method:

Simply combine the salad ingredients, whisk together the dressing ingredients and drizzle over the salad just before serving.

Fiery Celeriac Salad

fiery celeriac salad

The first sunny weekend in weeks has been glorious, clear skies and warmth on my face as I clear away the dried leaves from the garden has nudged my tastebuds into craving salads. Celeriac is still going strong in the garden and this quick salad makes a potent accompaniment to some hearty burgers, steak or cold cuts.

Ingredients:

  • half a celeriac, peeled and turned into matchstick size pieces (I use my V-slicer mandolin)
  • 1 tablespoon hot English mustard
  • 2 tablespoons nutty rapeseed oil (I use Cotswold Gold)
  • 1 tablespoon agave syrup
  • 1 tablespoon dried dill
  • 1 teaspoon blue poppy seeds
  • 1 capful orange blossom extract
  • salt and pepper

Method:

Put the celeriac into a bowl. Mix together the remaining ingredients and add to the celeriac, combine well, leave to infuse of about 10 minutes.

 

Easy Easter Baking: Chocolate Mini Egg Swirls

 

Easter mini egg swirls

I love chocolate mini eggs and I REALLY love the fact that Easter means that they’re usually on special offer, I even love them enough to want to get the pastry out and get baking.

If you haven’t bought the book Bread Revolution by Thoughtful Bread yet or borrowed it from the library then I highly recommend it, thanks to that ace book I made the best cinnamon swirls ever which were my inspiration for these little beauties.

Instead of making a dough I just bought a pack of ready made, ready rolled puff pastry, it cost just 拢1 and was brilliant, life’s too short for making your own puff pastry I reckon.

Ingredients:聽Makes about 10 swirls.

  • 150g soft brown sugar (I used dark)
  • 100g plain flour
  • 120g unsalted butter, cubed
  • 25g ground almonds
  • 1 x 375g pack ready rolled puff pastry
  • 300g chocolate mini eggs
  • milk
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla icing sugar

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Combine the sugar, flour, butter and ground almonds in a food processor and blitz until completely mixed and powdery.
  2. Lay out the puff pastry, brush with some milk then cover with the flour mix then dot with the mini eggs.
  3. Roll up the pastry very tightly and brush the ends with more milk to help the seams stick, then using a very sharp knife cut a thick slice (about 3cm thick) then use a second knife to help transfer the slice onto a baking paper covered roasting tray. Repeat leaving about 3cms around each round.

Easter chocolate mini egg swirls5. Bake for 15minutes on the middle shelf then reduce temp to 180C and continue to 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽 聽cook for about 8-10 minutes or until pastry is lightly golden. My oven is really 聽temperamental so just keep an eye on the first batch. Once cooked transfer onto a cooling rack, dust with vanilla icing sugar whilst hot then once again when cold if you have any swirls that made it that long without being snaffled.

Easter chocolate mini egg swirls

Great to make with kids over Easter

Triple Chocolate Fudge War Cake

Yes, it's actually cake

Yes, it’s actually cake

Yesterday was Glen’s 40th birthday and as he has been dreading this for the last 10 years I decided to make him a rather special cake. Now I hate baking cakes and I REALLY hate baking sponge cakes, they are fickle things that don’t like to be fiddled with and the science behind getting them to rise and stay there often goes against all my natural “bit of this, dollop of that” instincts.

Cakes for people who hate baking have got to be pretty kickass in some way as an incentive to actually bake the bloody things. For me this is usually achieved by packing them full of booze and making them ridiculously easy to make, unfortunately I had no booze and all I had decoration wise in the pantry was some crystallised flowers and edible glitter, not exactly the butchest of decorations, so I popped out and bought a bag of toy soldiers instead, aces.

This cake wasn’t without its disasters though, the first one I accidentally made using plain flour instead of self raising so I ended up with an extra flat cake layer (see below pic) to stick on the top (bonus).See, nothing bad really happens when you screw up a recipe as long as the ingredients are nice, and cooked then it will be fine 馃檪 . Halfway through baking I also realised I had no icing sugar for the fudge topping so whizzed up my own by sticking some vanilla pod caster sugar in my trusty coffee grinder- forget regular icing sugar, this is the way forward. Now vanilla pod icing sugar does have a brown “heroin-y” tint to it thanks to the dark sticky vanilla seeds and it’s probably just as addictive (not really, and I don’t advise substititing smack for icing sugar either).

I posted the recipe for my Triple Chocolate Fudge Cake over on DomesticSluttery.com, it’s dead simple so you can have lots of fun with the decorating 馃檪

triple chocolate fudge cake

Follow the recipe on Domestic Sluttery to get the cake to this stage then get all creative…

I picked up a bag of toy soldiers from Co-op for 50p, they have little plastic bases that just needed a camouflage smear of fudge icing before being positioned, a few more Minstrels served as rocks…

 

triple chocolate fudge cake soldiers 3

Then I gradually built the terrain with freshly grated Willies solid cacao bar as soil/leaves…And then a dusting of the vanilla icing for snow…

triple chocolate fudge cake 5

 

My mind created entire scenarios and personalities for them 聽by the time the cake was finished…

chocolate fudge cake2

 

I may have gotten as little carried away with my iPhone…

Defend the CAKE!!!

Defend the CAKE!!!

So there you go, ways to make cake making more fun…cover them in still life scenes.

Chilli Cheese Profiteroles with Chicken Fat Porcini B茅chamel Filling

The secret is all in the rendered chicken fat...

The secret is all in the rendered chicken fat…

Savoury profiteroles are my new friend. Yesterday I picked up a kilo of spring onions from the reduced section of the supermarket for just 65p which suddenly meant I needed to make lots聽of spring onion recipes. Cheese and onion is one of my favourite pairings and as I was looking along the spines of my cookbooks for inspiration I clocked my Secrets of Eclairs book, eureka! Savoury Choux bites! I spent the entire day making lots of different variations, the base of this recipe I created for my Chilli Cheese Bites recipe for Domestic Sluttery and then tweaked it to make these profiteroles.

Now this filling is rather special. Yesterday I also picked up half a dozen skin-on chicken thighs for a creole curry, on a nod *ahem* to healthy living I put a bit of butter in the base of a deep frying pan added a few caraway seeds then put the seasoned thighs, skin side down into the pan and gently fried them (without moving them at all) so the chicken fat rendered out into the pan. The thighs were then lifted out, the crispy skin promptly scoffed as a cook’s perk (all healthy eating notions go right out of my kitchen window the moment crispy chicken skin is about) and the fat poured into a bowl and set to one side whilst I carried on making the curry. This deeply flavoured, seasoned fat also had the added bonus of a gentle caraway flavour and was to form the basis of a seriously naughty porcini b茅chamel filling.

These awesome bites are best eaten straight away and cooked in batches as you need them but you can also reheat them gently if you need to by popping them in the oven at 190C for a few minutes and they will go nice and crispy again and the filling will warm and ooze….

Ingredients:

For the smoky chilli choux:

  • 10 spring onions, chopped
  • 1 dried chipotle chilli, mashed into flakes (I get mine in bulk from Edible Ornamentals)
  • 1 tablespoon rendered chicken fat*
  • 70g butter, diced
  • 175ml water
  • big pinch Halen M么n sea salt flakes
  • 120g plain flour
  • 4 large free range eggs, beaten
  • 100g extra mature cheddar cheese, grated
  • 25g grana padano cheese, freshly grated
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons garlic granules
  • pinch freshly grated nutmeg
  • freshly ground black pepper

For the filling

  • About 100ml rendered chicken fat* (with caraway)
  • plain flour (enough to make a roux, approx 1 mug-ish)
  • milk (as much as it needs to get the right consistency)
  • 2 heaped tablespoons of porcini powder (blitz dried porcini in a coffee grinder)
  • 1 teaspoon powdered veg stock (I use Essential Cuisine)
  • 50g grated extra mature cheese
  • sea salt and white pepper

*how to make the rendered chicken fat is described in the introduction

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 220C. Gently fry the spring onions and chipotle in a tablespoon of the chicken fat for about 2 minutes to soften the onions then put to one side to cool.
  2. Put the butter, water and salt in a saucepan and bring to the boil, remove from heat and dump all the flour in at once, stir vigorously to mix and return to a medium heat mixing constantly for about 2 minutes, the choux will have come away from the sides of the pan and be all glossy. Put the choux into a big cold mixing bowl and leave to cool for a few minutes.
  3. Use an electric whisk to beat the choux mix whist adding the eggs about a tablespoon at a time whist continually beating until all the mixture is combined and smooth.
  4. Add the cheeses, spring onion, grated nutmeg, garlic, thyme and seasoning.
  5. Line a roasting tin with some baking parchment that you have greased with a bit of chicken fat then using a piping bag with a 1cm plain nozzle pipe balls of choux about the size of a cherry tomato all over the tray leaving about 3cm around each one as they will expand during cooking.
  6. Make the filling by heating the fat then adding the flour and stirring for a few minutes to cook out the flour, add the milk gradually until you get a nice thick sauce mixture then add the remaining ingredients, if it gets too thick just stir in more milk.
  7. Bake the choux balls for 10mins at 220C (top shelf in my oven) so they puff up then reduce temp to 190C and continue to bake for about 7 minutes or until they are golden and crispy (don’t open the oven door for the first 10 minutes to avoid them collapsing).
  8. Once cooked use another piping bag to pipe in your filling to the hollow centre or alternatively just slice and fill.

Vegan Soup Mix “Sushi”

vegan soup mix sushi

Yes, yes I know this isn’t sushi, sushi means vinegared rice and this recipe contains neither but it seems the easiest way to kind of describe the dish to non Japanese speakers….

I bought a packet of “soup mix” the other day, it contained various dried grains, lentils, peas etc and cost about 60p for 500g. A friend had been urban foraging and generously given me a beautiful large crown prince pumpkin so these were to form the basis for that night’s dinner. As I cooked the soup mix I kept tasting bits, I wanted it so it was still pretty firm in texture yet soft enough to eat and once it reached that exact moment the idea for this dish was born. Obviously you need to make sure that the mix you use doesn’t contain any ingredients that need pre-soaking or can be harmful if eaten al-dente.

Ingredients:

  • 200g Morrisons own brand soup mix grains and pulses聽
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown miso
  • 1 crown prince pumpkin, peeled, seeds removed and thickly slices
  • 1 tblsp Cotswold Gold rapeseed oil (or other nutty oil)
  • tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp garlic granules
  • 1 tsp nigella
  • salt and pepper
  • red onion, thinly sliced
  • diced cucumber
  • small stick celery, chopped
  • lollo rosso leaves, torn into pieces
  • nori sheets
  • tamari
  • wasabi paste

Method:

  1. Combine the pumpkin, oil, cumin, garlic, nigella, salt and pepper and roast in a hot oven until the pumpkin is soft, set aside to cool.
  2. Cook the soup mix in water that has the miso dissolved in it, cook for about half the packet recommended cooking time, the pulses should still have a good nutty texture to them, drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process.
  3. Add the onion, cucumber, celery and lollo rosso to the soup mix and combine well.
  4. Make a potent dip by combining some tamari with a generous dollop of fiery wasabi and mix well.
  5. Lay out a sheet of nori, spoon over a layer of soup mix/salad and top with a slice of pumpkin, roll then immediately dip in the sauce and eat. Make each one as you go otherwise the seaweed will go soggy.

Buckwheat, Butternut & Pistachio Burgers with Smoky Zataar Sauce

Quick iPhone pic

Quick iPhone pic before diving in…

Last week I started making dinner without knowing what it was going to be, I do this quite often, it’s like any creative process, sometimes you set out with a very clear vision and others the ingredients and cooking processes just gently guide you to the finished dish.

Go back 12 years ago to my first chefs job back at the Royal Mail sorting offices in Bath and my veggie burgers were a surefire hit with the morning crew. I would have been up all night ,alone in the huge kitchens feeding the nightshift, and around 4am would start creating veggie burgers for the roll selection. I always liked to use up any leftover ingredients from the nightshift and the veggie burgers were a great way of doing this, they quickly became known as Hazel’s Erotic Rolls (I also introduced the posties to Banana and Marmite rolls, total winner!).

I’ve been a big fan of Spiceway products ever since I stumbled across them in a farm shop just outside Bath, I ended up using 3 of their blends to make this dish, they’re ace, I reviewed them for Great Food Magazine about a year ago and now my cupboard feels pretty bare without them.

Ingredients:

For the squash:

  • Butternut squash, peeled & diced
  • 1 tblsp rapeseed oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 tblsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp Spiceway Heavenly Herbs
  • 1 tsp dried lovage seeds

For the burgers:

  • 1 mug part cooked buckwheat groats (only boiled for about 4 minutes so it still has a nice bite and is very nutty)
  • The roasted butternut squash mix
  • 3 heaped tblsp ground almonds
  • 1 tsp veg stock powder
  • 1 tsp garlic granules
  • 3 tsp porcini powder (blits dried porcini in a coffee grinder)
  • 1 tsp nigella seeds
  • 1 handful chopped pistachios
  • 2 handfuls Spiceway Salad Sprinkles
  • 2 handfuls baby broad beans (use the frozen ones and blanch in boiling water for just 1 minute)
  • 1 handful chopped carrot leaves
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds

For the dip:

  • 200ml natural yoghurt
  • 2 heaped tblsp Spiceway Zippy Zataar
  • 1 tblsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tbslp agave syrup

Method:

  1. Combine all the roast butternut squash ingredients and roast in an oven heated to 200C until the squash has softened and starting to聽caramelise.
  2. Blitz half of the squash in a food processor (or just mash) then combine the rest with the remaining squash and all the other burger ingredients, if the mixture is too wet add more ground almonds, taste and season then form into burger shapes and chill for 30minutes to help them keep their shape.
  3. Pop the burgers on some greased baking parchment and roast in an oven preheated to about 200C for about 15 mins or until done.
  4. Mix the sauce ingredients together, leave for about 15 minutes for the flavours to develop. Serve the burgers stuffed into pittas with some watercress/salad leaves and drizzled with the sauce.

Comforting Barley and Sherry Soup

barley and sherry soupWhen it comes to quick and easy comfort food to brighten up yet another snowy day there are few things that beat a filling barley soup. It’s basically the soup that keeps on giving as the next day (if you’ve any left) the grains will have swollen and soaked up more of the soothing liquid and transformed it into a rib sticking stew.

If you are familiar with this blog you will already know my love for using a rich, full bodied cream sherry in my dishes, it’s much cheaper than Marsala which I also adore using and kept nice and chilled in the fridge makes for a nice little cook’s tot as the soup gently simmers.

There’s a lot of snobbery about sherry, especially when it comes to cream sherries, I’ve never understood this, it’s often from people who care more about what their food looks like and who made it rather than what it actually tastes like. 聽To those people I say embrace ingredients, ditch the wanky food snobbery and fill your bellies with this really cheap and ace soup/stew/bowl of comfort 馃檪

Ingredients:

  • knob of butter
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp dried fennel seeds (plus extra to serve)
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 mugs of dried pearl barley
  • 750ml- 1L stock approx 聽(I use a mixture of chicken and veg from Essential Cuisine)
  • 1 tsp garlic granules
  • 2 bayleaves
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 courgette, diced
  • 75ml cream sherry (ish)
  • celery salt and white pepper
  • handful of chopped fresh carrot tops

Method:

  1. Melt the butter in a big saucepan, add the carrots, onion, garlic, fennel seeds and cook for a couple of minutes whilst stirring.聽
  2. Add the barley, thyme, bay leaves, garlic granules and stock. Bring to a boil then simmer for about 15 minutes, add more water if needed.
  3. Add the diced courgette and sherry, continue to cook until barley is cooked then season with celery salt and pepper and stir in most of the carrot tops.
  4. Serve topped with a few fennel seeds and carrot leaves

Spring celebratory salad! Beetroot, pistachio, orange flower and yoghurt salad

beetroot, orange blossom, pistachio, greek yoghurt salad

Apologies for the crappy photos today but you get the general idea 馃檪

Yes I know there are blustery snow flurries outside but my tiny veg and herb garden is creaking back to life and this morning was gloriously sunny so I threw together a little celebratory salad using the tender young leaves and flowers that have appeared.

What resulted is the most heavenly floral salad of colour, scent and flavour that is sure to pull the tastebuds into their Spring wardrobe and look to the longer days with great anticipation of what the garden is to bring throughout the year.

Ingredients:

  • handful of watercress
  • 2 cooked beetroot in vinegar (just the stuff from the supermarket that comes in a pack in the fridge) quartered
  • 1 tablespoon red onion, very finely chopped
  • greek yoghurt
  • young leaves and petals from the garden (carrot tops, fennel fronds, lemon balm, mint, dandelion, sorrel, chard, chives, celery, beetroot, pansy, primrose)
  • whole shelled pistachios
  • 1 capful orange blossom water
  • drizzle agave syrup

Method:

Pile the watercress, beetroot, leaves and onion on a plate. Dollop over some greek yoghurt, sprinkle over the orange flower water, drizzle the agave then scatter pistachios and petals over the top.

beetroot, orange blossom, pistachio, greek yoghurt salad-2

Winter Veg and Seed Salad

 

Brighten up your Winter

Brighten up your Winter

Winter and salads shouldn’t be such ace buddies but they get along like a warm cosy house on fire. The fresh winter veg is crisp and refreshing with a nice winter earthiness that is kicked up a notch with bright citrus flavours from jewel-like ruby pomegranate seeds and a squeeze of clementine.

Yesterday morning was spent at a very cold and wet Melton Mowbray cattle market with the very lovely Rupal Rajani from BBC Radio Leicester. Rupal is vegetarian so was obviously delighted (not delighted one little bit – sorry Rupal) when I took her around the game auction. As we walked into the Fur & Feather shed we spotted a man with a huge fluffy grey rabbit sat on a bag of feed. The rabbit was beyond adorable, we both fell in love with it. Just as Rupal was getting her phone out to take a quick pic the man grabbed it, flipped it upside down by the neck, stuffed it in his coat and disappeared out into the rain. As we moved further into the shed people were busy stuffing shot birds from the game auction into carrier bags and holdalls, yeah this wasn’t the nicest place for a vegetarian (again…sorry Rupal).

I’m hoping I made up for all of this by making her a lovely winter salad, just to show that I can cook without the addition of dead animals really.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 red cabbage, shredded (I use a speed peeler for this)
  • 1/2 red onion, very finely sliced
  • 1 large jerusalem artichoke, pared into wafer thin strips using a speed peeler or box grater if you don’t have one.
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • juice of 1 clementine
  • 1 apple finely sliced into matchsticks
  • 1 pear finely sliced into matchsticks
  • handful pumpkin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon blue poppy seeds
  • chopped fresh parsley ( or mint/coriander/fennel fronds)
  • seeds from 1 pomegranate
  • drizzle of raspberry vinegar
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method:

Just combine everything in a big bowl and leave for a minimum of 30 minutes (I leave mine overnight).

 

Cider and Cheese Fondue for BBC Radio Leicester’s Food friday

mmm melty cheesy boozy goodness…

So last Friday was my turn to do BBC Radio Leicester’s Food Friday piece with the fabulous Ben Jackson and what better way to kickstart my morning than cider and cheese. I was a *touch* hungover after an unexpected but very much welcome few glasses of wine the night before and as it turns out, cider cheese fondue is in fact a seriously good hangover cure!

I always have a blast when Ben comes to visit, he is so passionate about food, cooking and particularly local food that we spend most of our time swapping food news, stories, new food finds/cookbooks we’ve found and basically just immersing ourselves in a month’s worth of goings on. Then I cook, we laugh, I usually add lots of booze to something and we eat, good times.

Here we are making cider and cheese fondue (1hr40mins into the show) where I actually use the phrase: “Hey it’s Winter, lets get our booze on”, yeah thats me with a hangover, yeah I have no shame.

Good local cider and ace cheese are the solid foundations to a heavenly gooey dish, fancy giving it a go? Here’s how (you could even cook along to us making it by clicking on the blue link above, totally interactive, so techno hip):

Cheese and Cider Fondue:

Ingredients:

  • 500g grated cheese (I used 100g Emmental, 200g Sparkenhoe Red Leicester, 200g Smoked Lincolnshire Poacher)
  • 聽1 tablespoon corn flour
  • 450ml cider (I used local Scrambler sparkling cider)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • pinch dried thyme
  • few slivers garlic, fresh or dried
  • 1 teaspoon dried onion granules
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Calvados
  • 1 heaped teaspoon porcini powder
  • pinch dried chilli flakes
Method:
  1. Grate your cheese into a bowl, add the corn flour and mix well.
  2. Combine cider, thyme, garlic and lemon juice in a saucepan and bring to boil. When boiling reduce heat and add a handful of cheese. Stir in until its melted.
  3. 聽Keep adding cheese one handful at a time, stirring constantly until all the cheese is used.
  4. 聽Add your onion granules, nutmeg, black pepper, porcini mushroom powder and chilli flakes then stir in your calvados.
  5. Serve hot with chunks of crusty bread, boiled new potatoes, crisps, chunks of ham, chips, whatever takes your fancy!

Smoked Rum and Ginger Cheesecake for the Domestic Sluttery Pudding Club

This month’s Domestic Sluttery Pudding Club is all about cheesecake (last month was chocolate and I made Sex Pots), my favourite pudding of all! This cheesecake takes a bit of prep in as much as you will need to get things infusing for few days before you make them but that takes pretty much zero effort and once done you can knock this together in minutes, PLUS you get the most incredible smoked rum to use in cocktails 馃檪

This recipe uses a fresh unpasturised sheep鈥檚 curd made by Homewood Cheese, it’s wonderfully fresh and creamy and therefore perfect for this recipe.聽 If you can鈥檛 get hold of ewe鈥檚 curd however you could use ricotta instead.

聽To make the smoked tea rum: (5 days before dessert required)

  • 250ml golden rum
  • 12 strands good quality Lapsang Souchong tea

Simply pop the strands into the rum and leave to infuse for a minimum of 2 days. I鈥檝e said use 250ml rum as it keeps forever and just gets better with time so it’s there for the next time, it’s also amazing in cocktails!

Ingredients:

  • 聽100ml Smoked Tea Rum
  • 50g sultanas (go for the jumbo ones)
  • 100g stem ginger biscuits
  • 30g unsalted butter (melted)
  • 150ml whipping cream
  • 150g fresh sheep鈥檚 curd
  • 1 jar stem ginger in syrup
  • 1 big sprig fresh rosemary

Crystallised rosemary (optional)

  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 egg white
  • fine white caster sugar

聽3 days before you need you dessert:

  1. 聽Place your sultanas in a cup and pour over the smoked tea rum making sure all the sultanas are covered.聽 Cover the cup with cling film and leave to infuse for 3 days.聽 This may seem a long time but after 3 days the sultanas will be so plump that they pop when you bite into them releasing a burst of flavour.
  2. Take a clean sprig of rosemary and push it into the centre of your jar of stem ginger and syrup in order to infuse.

The day before:

  1. Dip the remaining sprigs of rosemary into the egg white, then using a small sieve (a tea strainer is perfect) gently dust the rosemary with the caster sugar, coating evenly but lightly. Lay the sprigs gently on a baking sheet and leave overnight in an airing cupboard in order for it to crystallise.

On the day:

  1. 聽Crush the stem ginger biscuits and add the melted butter. 聽Stir to combine then divide the mixture between 4 glasses and push down gently to even off using the back of a spoon. Pop into the fridge to set whilst you make the next layer.
  2. Whip your cream until it will happily stay stuck to a spoon when held upside down. Stir in in the sheep鈥檚 curd and make sure it is evenly mixed then stir in the sultanas and rum. Take your glasses out of the fridge and divide the mixture between them carefully pushing the cream down onto the biscuit base to avoid air gaps and leaving room at the top for a layer of rosemary ginger syrup.
  3. Pour over the syrup then top each dessert with a small sprig of rosemary. 聽The beauty of making these in glasses is that as your spoon travels through the layers you pick up all the flavours, and its a lot less faff than using dessert rings!

Cobnut, Pistachio and Mung Bean “Pesto”

Mung bean pesto, are you mad? Well, perhaps a bit but this makes sense. This morning I took a lovely joint of Welsh salt marsh lamb out of the freezer for dinner later then headed to my cupboard. I’ve been cultivating a few jars of sprouting mung beans for about 4 days now, and as I was giving them all a bit of a drink this morning I had a nibble. As I munched away I looked at my joint of lamb and a thought occurred to me: the mung beans tasted very similar to the fresh cobnuts that I’ve neen nibbling on for the last week. I’d basically nibbled away pretty much the whole lot that was destined for a lovely pesto to go with the lamb.

Along with a distinct nuttiness, mung beans have a grassiness to them that would really bring out the flavour of the meat. That was it, the food processor was out and the tasting began. Bits of this and bits of that were grabbed from the garden and what resulted was an incredible green sauce that not only made my Welsh lamb sing like C么r-y-Traeth but will be making tomorrow’s pasta dish swoon.

Ingredients:

  • 4 handfuls sprouting mung beans
  • 1 handful rocket leaves
  • 2 handfuls parsley
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 red and 1 green chilli and seeds
  • 1 handful fresh cobnuts
  • 3 tablespoons ground almonds
  • 1 handful pistachio nuts
  • lots of freshly ground black pepper
  • Halen M么n smoked salt flakes
  • zest of 1 lime
  • juice of half a lime
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Just throw everything into a food processor and blitz, loosen with the olive oil until you get a consistency you are happy with. Serve spooned over lamb or stir into pasta with a raw fresh egg yolk and top with grated Grana Padano cheese.

Green Tomato and Grape Ketchup

I get really excited at this time of year because it’s when I get to make my ketchups for the coming months. You can get red tomatoes all year round but for me its their younger, tarter selves that I crave.

This ketchup is so easy to make. I was given a big bag of seedless grapes so decided to throw them in too and it turned out to be a brilliant addition. I stuck to green fruit and veg for this one in order to get a nice green ketchup.

Ingredients:聽(I made about 3L)

  • big glug of olive oil
  • 7 white onions
  • 2 kg green tomatoes
  • 100g fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 6 spring onions
  • 1.5 kg green seedless grapes
  • 4 green chillies
  • big bunch parsley and stalks
  • 1 handful coriander seeds
  • 2 handfuls fennel seeds
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 7 crushed green cardamon inner pods
  • 2 big pinches salt
  • 400ml vinegar ( a mix of cider & white wine)
  • 400g聽sugar
  • ground pepper

Method:

  1. Put your oil, chopped veg and spices in a giant heavy based pot and cook until softened.
  2. Blitz using a stick blender or food processor then sieve twice to get it all lovely and smooth.
  3. Add your vinegar and sugar to the sieved ketchup and return to the heat, reduce until you reach a nice thick consistency( do remember though it will get even thicker as it cools), adjust seasoning then decant into sterilised bottles.

French Bean and Yellow Courgette Salad

Finally my courgettes and french beans are ready to be picked! This quick salad really shows them off in all their glory. The lovely Bridget has just made a fresh batch of her incredible raspberry vinegar and it is absolutely perfect in for this dish. If you don’t have a lovely Bridget who makes awesome raspberry vinegar then you should definitely try Womersley’s Raspberry Vinegar which you can buy online.

Ingredients:

  • French beans topped and tailed
  • yellow courgettes thinly sliced to the same shape and size as the beans
  • mint leaves
  • fennel fronds
  • white poppy seeds
  • onion flowers

For the dressing:

  • Halen M么n salt flakes
  • heaped tablespoon English mustard
  • 2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
  • glug of extra virgin olive oil
  • few grinds black pepper

Method:

Pop your french beans into a pan of boiling salted water for just 4 minutes then blanch in cold water and dry. Combine with your courgettes, herbs and poppy seeds. Put all your dressing ingredients into a jam jar and shake to mix then pour over your veg and mix well, sprinkle your onion flowers over the top.

Fragrant Rose & Spiced Apricots with Sheep’s Curd & Pomegranate Molasses

Pretty and dead easy to make

I headed over to the Farmer’s Market this morning to check out the new arts and crafts section and picked up 6 plump, ripe apricots for 拢1. I’m much more of a savoury kinda gal and will always choose cheese over pudding so I put together this savoury apricot concoction. It’s beautiful in its simplicity and combines sweet roasted apricots with floral rose, warming spices, creamy sheep’s curd and fresh zingy herbs. I’d run out of my Super Dukkah so cobbled together a new blend from whatever I had in the pantry, and you know what, its bloody good too! The Meadowsweet pollen is currently drying in my kitchen, I had a few bunches leftover from making my Rose and Meadowsweet syrup last week and the pollen is absolutely wonderful sprinkled over soft cheese so figured it would make a welcome addition.

fresh, sliced and doused in rose water then part way through roasting

For my Cobbled Dukkah:

  • coriander seeds
  • cumin seeds
  • cardamon seeds
  • almonds
  • sunflower seeds
  • sesame seeds
  • poppy seeds (blue and white)
  • Halen M么n spiced salt
  • chili flakes
  • sumac

I just ground everything together and just kept adding ingredients until I was happy with the taste then popped them in a jar.

For the rest:

  • 6 ripe apricots
  • few tablespoons rose water
  • saffron
  • wild flower honey
  • pomegranate molasses
  • dill fronds (vital)
  • baby salad leaves from the garden: sorrel, rocket, beetroot, chard
  • mint leaves (I used ginger mint)
  • violas
  • meadowsweet pollen (picked from a field and dried in the kitchen)

Ready to roast

Just slice the apricots in half, remove stone and lay in a roasting tin. Sprinkle over your rosewater, dukkah, a few saffron strands and a drizzle of honey then cover with tin foil and roast in a hot oven for about 25 minutes or until they are lovely and soft. Once soft and lovely remove the foil and roast for another 10 minutes to caramelise the top and reduce the syrup in the tray.

To serve just drizzle pomegranate molasses (it’s lovely and sour) on a plate, crumble over some soft creamy sheep’s curd, sit your sweet roasted apricots on top, drizzle with the syrup from the roasting tray, sprinkle with more dukkah and the meadowsweet pollen then just scatter your mint and herbs over the top. The dill is amazing and you really do need it. I would have really liked some flatbreads with this but alas I was feeling far too lazy to make any. After I took the photo I sprinkled some coconut powder over the entire dish, this totally rocked.

Fiery Carrot and Beetroot Slaw

The beetroots that I planted this time last year are still providing me with plenty of leaves and veg but I need to make space for this year’s planting so I’m eating a lot of them at the moment*. 聽I also have a massive amount of carrots at the moment so this coleslaw was thrown together to tackle the bounty. 聽Beetroot has a really earthy flavour so it can take other strong ingredients being thrown at it so the dressing has a big kick.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large beetroot, peeled and V-Sliced into matchsticks
  • 6 carrots, prepared as above.
  • 1 finely sliced red onion
  • poppy seeds (blue and white)

Dressing:

  • 1 heaped tablespoon hot english mustard
  • 1 tablespoon Ikea Dill sauce
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons mirin
  • sea salt flakes and freshly ground pepper

Make your dressing, pour it over the rest of the ingredients, mix and eat, simples.

*Eating beetroot can give you a bit of a fright when you go to the loo, your poo is purple! Don’t panic, it literally 聽scares the crap out of me every time!