Courgette Sourdough Bruschetta

courgette sourdough bruschettaAs its Zero Waste Week, I thought I should post a quick recipe to use up the last slice or so of the loaf. I’ve been making more bread recently and we frequently end up with a few slices worth being left a little too long to be used for a sarnie. Real bread, that which is made of the simplest of ingredients, tends to not go mouldy, instead going stale first. This leads to it being perfect for a range of different uses as toast. One of my favourite at the moment is bruschetta. A great way to use up vegetables, as well as the bread. We’ve got a few courgettes still, so I used one to top my slice or two of leftover sourdough.

You will need (a snack for one)
2 slices of bread – I used sourdough, but any good bread would work.
1/2 clove garlic
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 courgette
A little red chilli (finely chopped)
1 tsp. lemon juice
salt and pepper

Use a speed peeler to cut the courgette into long ribbons. Place the ribbons on a hot griddle and cook for a minute or so on each side, until they star to have charring on the courgette. Remove them from the griddle and place them in a bowl with the lemon juice, chilli, a little salt and pepper, and almost all of the oil. Allow the courgettes to absorb the flavours, whilst you toast the bread. When the toast is done, rub it with the garlic, drizzle a little oil on it, and top with the courgettes mix.

Raspberry and Rose Cake

raspberry rosewater cakeMy daughter has really got into the idea of baking. She sees both my wife and myself cooking and is pretty into the culinary exploits of the contestants on the Bake Off. Recently she decided she should have a go making a cake by herself (well the placing in the oven bit aside). This recipe is adapted from one in the cookbook of Bill’s Restaurant; for those of you unaware of this small chain of restaurants which started in Lewes, they produce good seasonal food with an emphasis on fresh fruit and veg. The resulting cake is a bit of a show stopper, perfect for a summer tea party.
You will need
Cake
225g caster sugar
225g unsalted butter, softened
4!medium eggs, beaten
1 knife tip of vanilla paste
1.5 tsp baking powder
225g self-raising flour, sifted
Rose cream filling
150ml double cream
1/2 tsp rosewater
4 tbsp raspberry jam
150g fresh raspberries
Rose glacé icing
175g icing sugar
2 tbsp warm water
1 tsp rose water

This makes a two-tier cake, but Matilda made a three tier version by using half as much ingredients again.

Preheat oven to 180°C, lightly butter two cake tins 20cm in diameter and line with baking parchment.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the sugar and butter together till they are pale and fluffy. Add the vanilla paste before slowly adding the beaten egg a little at a time. The mixture may start to curdle, but if you add a teaspoon of flour, it should bring it back together. Mix in the baking powder and half the flour, then fold in the rest. Share out the batter between the cake tins. Smooth the tops, then bake for 20-25 minutes until they are golden, risen and have shrunk away slightly from the sides of the tin. Leave the cakes in their tins for 10 minutes before turning out on to a wire cooling rack.

Whilst you wait, whisk the double cream until it stands in soft peaks, adding the small amount of rosewater as you go. Fold in the raspberry jam, and when the cakes are completely cool, turn one of them flat base uppermost, spread with the cream mixture and scatter with slightly crushed raspberries. Top with the second cake. If you’ve made three cakes, spread more cream and raspberries over the second layer and top with the third.

For the pink glacé icing, mix together the icing sugar, water and rosewater, and stir in the juice from a few crushed raspberries. Drizzle the icing across the cake and top with roses, rose petals and the remaining raspberries.

From the Bill’s Produce cookbook, Cook, Eat Smile.
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The Simple Things

Sitting on the roof terrace of our apartment in Ortigia the other week, espresso in hand, sun on my back, and enjoying the kind of noisy peace you get in a town. It occurred to me that one doesn’t need much to be content – happy even. Around me I could hear the bickering of other people’s children, the buzz of the ubiquitous scooter down the narrow streets and the hovering of the local Nonna. But on that terrace I was at peace. All I needed was the time to sit there and let all that was around, wash over me. It strikes me that that is not a bad plan for life in general. Keep it simple.View from apartment roof panaorama

The Italians certainly embrace simplicity with their food. An octopus salad is exactly that; octopus in the form of a salad, with perhaps a little lemon juice olive oil. Famously, pizza should only ever have three topping ingredients; tomato, cheese and one other. If the produce is of the best quality, why complicate it? The core flavours sing all the better.

A simple tomato salad
Tomatoes – a range of colours and sizes are best. Tomatoes always taste better straight off the vine, and certainly when at room temperature. Don’t keep them in the fridge!
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt & pepper
Basil

Slice the tomatoes into fairly thick slices, before tearing a few basil leaves over them. Season and drizzle with a little good extra virgin olive oil. Serve.

I often struggle with living in the moment and keeping things simple, getting caught up in the logistics of the event or the next meal to be planned. Simple meals need less planning, yet somehow bring more joy. Sometimes the simple things are the best.

Gluten-free Lemon Ricotta Cake

The other day, I was given a load of ricotta which was going to be thrown out. Its use by date was about to pass and therefore was unable to be sold, but essentially it was fine. Given this ricotta mountain, I set myself the task of turning it into delicious food. Ricotta is an Italian whey cheese made from the whey left over from the production of other cheeses like mozzarella, hence its name (ricotta literally means “cooked”). It is a versatile cheese, being used in both sweet and savoury dishes, like the traditional Italian Easter pie, Torta Pasqualina. Given the family’s need for a cake this week, and one which could be used as an impromptu pudding too, I decided to start off by making a ricotta cake; not quite a Sicilian Cassata, but a cake of ricotta, eggs, sugar and a little flour.lemon ricotta cake

You will need
150g softened butter
150g granulated sugar
Zest of 2 large lemons
1/2 tsp. vanilla paste
3 large eggs, separated
250g ricotta cheese
65g gluten-free plain flour, plus a little for dusting
2 tsp. gluten-free baking powder
Dash of Salt
To Serve:
Fresh strawberries, raspberries, blackberries (any berries available and in season)

Preheat oven to 170°C and lightly grease and flour a 20cm spring-form pan.  Beat the butter and sugar, or use the food processer, until light and fluffy. Add the lemon zest, vanilla extract, egg yolks and ricotta cheese and beat until smooth. Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt, before beating into the butter mixture until combined. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff, then gently fold the egg whites into the batter. Pour the batter into the tin, then bake for about 45 minutes, or until a cake tester stuck into the center comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool, then top with your selection of seasonal berries.

How to Make Fougasse

Originally cooked in the ashes of the hearth, and typical of Province, Fougasse is a marvellous bread to eat. It’s pretty simple to make too; combining olive oil with flour, yeast and salt. Traditionally the Fougasse was a flatbread made to check the temperature of the wood fired oven; the time taken for the bread to bake indicated how hot the oven was. That said, it doesn’t need to be cooked in a wood fired oven; a really hot traditional domestic oven is fine.

Fougasse

Fougasse is a great vehicle for flavours, and the allotment is good at providing them at the moment. The red onions, which have been busy swelling over the last few months, are dried and ready to be used; and the woody herbs at the plot are all looking lush and fragrant. So, to combine the flavours of rosemary and red onion, or marjoram and sea salt, makes sense to me. I always think if they grow together (the rosemary and onions look at each other over the allotment path), then they probably will work together in food.

You will need (makes 8)
1kg strong white flour
100g refreshed sourdough starter (this is optional, but adds a depth of flavour)
625ml warm water
100ml olive oil
10g dry yeast
15g salt

For the flavourings
1 red onion, finely sliced and fried until soft and succulent
1tsp. chopped rosemary
1tbsp. torn marjoram leaves
2tsp. sea salt

Mix all the ingredients into a loose dough, then leave to stand for 10 minutes to allow the flour to absorb the water and for gluten strands to begin to develop. Tip the mix onto a work surface, before kneading the dough until the dough comes off the work surface and has lost some of its stickiness. The dough will be sticky, but try not to add any extra flour; your bread will benefit from it if you don’t. Form the dough into a ball, place an oiled plastic sheet over it and leave for 90 minutes to 2 hours to ferment. Tip onto an oiled surface and stretch and fold the dough. Let it rest, covered once more, for a further half hour, the portion into 200g pieces. If including flavourings in the dough, flatten each piece and place a small amount of flavouring (cooked onion and finely chopped rosemary in my case), fold the dough over the filling and ball them up to rest again for a further 10 minutes. Roll out the balls of dough into rough triangular shapes. At this point you can add any toppings you want, gently pushing them into the dough with your fingers. Dust each triangle with flour, then use a sharp knife to cut slashes through the dough. Start with a slash down the middle, followed by diagonal slashes on each side of the centre to form a leaf-like effect. Carefully open the holes a little, stretching the dough as you do, before sliding onto a lined baking tray and baking in a hot oven for 10-12 minutes until golden brown.

Recipe inspired by those of Community Chef and Emmanuel Hadjiandrou.

fougasse

 

 

How to Make Lavender Shortbreads

An English summer afternoon is not a proper summer afternoon without afternoon tea, and afternoon tea is not afternoon tea without shortbread. The sweet biscuit works really well with the addition of a few lavender flowers. The floral notes of the lavender give the classic shortbread a scented twist. Based on the wonderful Mary Berry’s recipe in her timeless Fast Cakes, this is a real teatime treat. lavender

You will need

200g gluten-free plain flour
100g cornflour
200g butter
100g caster sugar
2 tsp. lavender flowers

Heat the oven to 160°C and grease a 20cm round, loose bottom, tin. Cream the butter and sugar, until light and fluffy. Sift the flour and cornflour together and combine with the lavender and the butter and sugar mix.. Knead together and press into the tin, before chilling for half an hour. Place in the preheated oven for 40 minutes, or until a pale golden colour. The gluten-free flour results in a paler finish to normal shortbread, so don’t expect a well browned shortbread. Remove from the oven and cut into wedges, leaving the shortbread to cool in the tin. Lift out onto a cooling rack and sprinkle with a little sugar.

Dealing with the June Drop – How to Make Mint Sauce

One of the most frustrating things about growing any crop is when, for the sake of improving the quality of yield, you have to remove fruits or seedlings. To me this seems to be wrong. I know thinning seedlings means that the plants that remain have more space to develop and grow healthily, but the very fact that I’ve nurtured them to that point means I feel a sense of attachment and of lost potential. That’s why, whenever I can, I use the thinnings in meals. When it comes to apples, nature, as if to ensure I don’t get lazy and just let things go, steps in with the ‘June Drop’. The annual time of year when the apple tree chooses to drop a few of the extra fruits, self regulating to give those fruit that remain the best chance of forming properly and going on to ripen to their potential.

I know its July, but the drop has only just happened in earnest and the apple trees at the plot have a scattering of undersized, under ripe, apples in the grass below. Unripe apples are not a culinary highlight of the year, but they do have one great asset. Pectin. Like the super-sour crab apple, these dropped fruits are full of pectin and when tempered with sugar they are also light on flavour. As such they can be used in preserves to produce a beautiful herb jelly. This month has also seen a mint infused takeover of the allotment. The ever invasive herb has spread its refreshing leaves between and beneath almost al of the top half of the plot. So in effort to capture the mintiness for later in the season when mint suffers in the baking heat, I made mint jelly. The perfect accompaniment to roast lamb, and infinitely better than the supermarket fluorescent green version.

mint jelly

You will need (makes  jars)
500g unripe apples (cooking apples would do the job if apples are actually in season)
1 bunch of mint
Granulated sugar
30ml white wine vinegar

Chop the apples roughly; if they are small, then just chop them in half. Add to a pan with the bunch of mint and enough water to barely cover the apples. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 45 minutes or so, until the fruit is very soft. Pour the contents into a scolded jelly bag and leave to drip overnight. Don’t be tempted to squeeze the bag, or poke it, as this will effect the clarity of your jelly.

straining the pulp

Measure the strained juice, before adding the sugar. For every 200ml of liquid you will need 150g of sugar. Return the liquid to the cleaned out pan, with the addition of the vinegar. Heat to boiling point, stirring to ensure the sugar is dissolved properly. Continue to boil for 10 minutes or so, until the setting point is reached. For this I use a jam thermometer and wait until the bubbling liquid gets to 104°C, before removing from the heat, skimming off the scum, and then pouring into warm, sterilised jars. Once sealed with a lid, the mint jelly will last up to a year. Not that it will last that time, as it’s an irresistible accompaniment to lamb.

mint jelly

Favourite Five Raspberry Recipes

We have been overrun with raspberries at the allotment this year. The summer fruiting varieties are providing us with a delicious crop at the moment, and the autumn canes are looking like they will continue the harvest when they come to fruition in late August/September. The taste of raspberries is a very evocative one for me, harking back to picking raspberries at my Grandpa’s house; but its also a great one to put into foods, somehow being both sharp and sweet at the same time.favourite five Raspberry Smoothie – Raspberries go brilliantly in a smoothie. Just whizz a large handful of berries with a banana, a few spoons of yoghurt and a drizzle of honey. The resulting drink is perfect for breakfast, snacks, or as a speedy pud for kids’ teas.

Raspberry Friands – I’ve only just discovered these recently, but they’re a great little cake. What’s more, they use raspberries from the freezer, so you can use up a glut you’ve frozen earlier in the year. Basically a mix of egg whites, ground almonds and sugar, they are also gluten free! To see the full recipe read the post I blogged earlier in the month.raspberries and coffee Raspberry & Blackcurrant Ripple Frozen Yoghurt – I love ice-cream and I’m a fan of frozen yoghurt too. Not possessing an ice-cream machine, I’m always reluctant to make it, but this recipe is a doddle. Combine  500g thick yoghurt, a knife tips worth of vanilla paste and 50ml maple syrup in a freezable container and freeze for 2 hours. Remove and pulse in food processor with 125g raspberries. Refreeze for a further 2 hours. Pulse the frozen mix again and pour back into the container, before drizzling blackcurrant cordial (I made my own last year, but you want a concentrated one) over the frozen yoghurt. Take a fork and move it through the mix, creating a ripple effect. Return to the freezer for another hour or so, remembering to remove it from the freezer 30 minutes before you want to devour it.

Raspberry & Rosewater Cake – Inspired by a cake featured in Bill Collison’s great book, Cook, Eat, Smile, this is a real summer treat, and my daughter’s favourite cake to make. Bake your usual Victoria sponge recipe, and then sandwich with a layer of raspberries and whipped cream (flavoured with a dash of rosewater). Ice the cake with a simple icing made of icing sugar and raspberry juice, allowing it to dribble down the sides. Top with a roses from the garden, or in our case from the allotment.raspberry rosewater cake Raspberry Cheescake Tart – Make or buy a sweet pastry tart case. Whip up a combination of mascarpone and cream cheese and use it to fill the pastry case. Top with raspberries and place in the oven to chill and the cheese to set.

How do you like to use raspberries? What about in savoury dishes?

 

 

How to Make Your Own Bagels

I love bagels and really enjoy making them. Friends and fellow Brighton bloggers, Little Button Diaries, also like bagels and after having some I’d made the other week, they asked me to write a guest post for them. So if you fancy finding out how to make bagels, check out the post I wrote for them below.

How to make Bagels
One of my favourite lunches is a pastrami bagel. I love the peppery pastrami and acidic dill pickle within the dense white bread. […]

How do you like your bagels? Are you a sesame, poppy seed or plain bagel kind of person?

 

 

 

 

 

This post is submitted to Cook Blog Share

Chilled Lettuce and Pea Pod Soup for Plot 22

We have been able to pick the first of our peas recently and enjoyed them as part of a broad bean and pea pasta dish. When I visited the local community allotment, Plot 22, earlier I noticed how well their peas were growing. So when asked by Emma to write something for their site I had to do something based on peas; well, based on pea pods actually.Pea Pods shelled of peas
Check out the rest of the post and the recipe I wrote for them below.

Chilled Pea Pod and Lettuce Soup
The process of picking and then podding peas is such a great one. It almost forces you to sit at the kitchen table and take time to pop out the sweet green orbs, occasionally failing to resist the temptation to eat a stray pea. However satisfying this is, you’re always left with a mountain of fresh pea pods[…]