Categories
Puddings Tea time Uncategorized

Chocolate Brownies with Tahini & Date

These came about as I have seen more and more recipes for brownies made with tahini. I love tahini and use it all the time in dressings for salads and roasted vegetables, quite apart from the obvious hummus. A little experimenting resulted in this recipe which I think is delicious, really very foolproof and open to interpretation in that you could replace the chocolate chunks with nuts and vary the vanilla flavouring – orange rind would work well, for example.

Makes about 16. You will need a shallow 9″ square tin, lined with baking parchment.

60g dark chocolate chunks (no more than 60% cocoa solids)

175g unsalted butter

100g dark muscovado sugar

175g granulated sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 large eggs

2 tablespoons date syrup

2 tablespoons tahini paste (I use belazu)

80g cocoa powder (I use bournville)

75g ground almonds

50g plain flour (sieved)

Good pinch maldon salt

50g chopped chocolate (White and dark mix is good) or toasted nuts/chopped dates

Pre-heat the oven to about 160c (or aga baking oven)

Melt the chocolate and butter together in a large bowl. Whisk in the sugar until really well blended. Add the vanilla extract. Whisk the eggs well and then blend them into the chocolate mixture. Then whisk in the date syrup and the tahini paste.

Sieve the flour and cocoa powder together and fold into the chocolate mix along with the almonds and salt. Then stir in the chopped chocolate.

Pour the thick batter into your prepared cake tin. Bake for about 25 – 30 minutes until just set. It should be fairly soft but definitely not liquid!

Cool in the tin and then cut into square. Or serve warm with ice cream.

Categories
Dinner Soups Starters and Salads

SWEET POTATO & BEETROOT SOUP with TAHINI DRESSING

Serves four to six

2 sweet potatoes (approx 400g in total)

1 large or 2 smaller beetroot, washed or 2 pre-cooked

2 tablespoons rapeseed or olive oil

1 large onion

1 stick celery

2 cloves garlic

2 teaspoons fennel seed

2 teaspoons cumin seed

1000ml – 1200ml fresh chicken or vegetable stock

2 tablespoons tahini paste

2 tablespooons natural yoghurt

cold water

1 orange

Hemp or extra virgin olive oil (optional)

Toasted mixed seeds (optional)

If you are using a fresh beetroot wrap it in oil and bake in the oven (about 180c) for about two hours until soft.

Finely chop the onion, celery and garlic. Gently heat the oil in a large saucepan and saute for a few minutes. Meanwhile, toast the cumin and fennel seeds until fragrant and then grind in a pestle and mortar.

Wash and scrub the sweet potato but leave the skin on. Chop into cubes. Do the same with the beetroot. Add the spices to the pan and cook for a minute or two before adding the vegetables. Stir around for a bit and then cover with stock. Season and leave to simmer, covered for about twenty minutes.

Meanwhile, mix the tahini and yoghurt together. Loosen with a little orange juice and cold water. Season. It should be like lightly whipped cream.

Once the vegetables are completely soft, blend in a liquidiser and the add a little more stock if too thick. Check seasoning and adjust accordingly.

Serve the soup with the tahini dressing dolloped on top. A drizzle of hemp oil and some mixed toasted seeds is nice to add as well.

Categories
Lunch Quick and Easy Starters Starters and Salads Uncategorized

BURRATA & TOMATO SALAD with NDUJA DRESING

I have been aware of this fiery paste from Calabria, intriguingly named nduja for a while but only recently took the plunge and tried it. It certainly lives up to it’s spicy reputation; those who don’t like a fierce punch of red pepper might want to approach with caution but I have really enjoyed it. I find a little does go quite a long way and this recipe is a good place to start – the nduja is tempered beautifully by the soft, mild burrata (use a good mozzarella if you prefer) and diluting it further in a dressing just slightly lessens the heat. Of course, there is nothing at all to stop you from adding as much as you like.

For four as a starter or two for a light lunch

About 300g cherry tomatoes or a mix

Sea salt

30ml olive oil (or an oil of your preference)

30ml extra virgin olive oil

1 small shallot, finely diced

20g nduja (fresh if possible)

30ml sherry or red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon caster sugar

1 burrata

Handful of fresh basil

Slice the tomatoes thinly and lay on a platter or individual plates. Season well.

Heat the olive oil in a small pan and gently fry the shallots until softened but not coloured. Remove from the heat and add the nduja, whisking it in with the vinegar and sugar.

Add the rest of the oil.

Tear the burrata over the tomatoes and then spoon over the dressing. Cover with torn basil leaves and serve.

Adapted from a recipe in Olive Magazine.

Categories
Dinner Lunch Quick and Easy Suppers Uncategorized Vegetarian

RADICCHIO & GORGONZOLA RISOTTO

I adore a risotto. For me if is the ultimate in comfort eating and beats a bowl of pasta hands down. And I love pasta….but somehow the tiny swollen grains, infused with all the goodness of stock and aromatics; cooked until just yielding but with a little bite (we don’t want baby food here!) offers just the right amount of solace with a sophistication that is yours to add as you will. Once you have mastered the basic method the risotto world really is your oyster and as long as you always bear in mind flavour pairings you can indulge or not as you please. Vegetarians and vegans need never be left out – a good vegetable stock works just as well as chicken. Cheese can be replaced with a vegan version and no one will ever object to a final flourish of an excellent, grass green olive oil anointing the finished dish. Otherwise I find just a tablespoon of double cream can transform a risotto into something truly special. It is, after all meant to be a creamy dish – achieved by the fat grains of risotto rice bumping slowly into each other whilst being stirred over a gentle heat. Baked risotto will never achieve quite the same as the grains won’t move around if just left in the oven.

This radicchio and Gorgonzola risotto is, for me a sophisticated and thoroughly delicious partnership. I do, often, add in a coarsely grated courgette. It is just a way of keeping the calorie count down but not everyone will want or need this option. I just use a little less rice to make way for the courgette and I think here it goes well. Fennel herb is lovely if you happen to have any in the garden or have bought a particularly frondy fennel bulb but finely chopped parsley will do perfectly.

For Four people

1 tablespoon rapeseed or olive oil and small knob butter

1 onion

1 large or 2 smaller sticks celery

1 clove garlic (optional)

Fresh thyme, picked off the stalk, about 1 tablespoon

4 handfuls of risotto rice (I use carnaroli)

75ml white vermouth (approx) or white wine

One head of radicchio, shredded

750ml (you may need more) proper chicken or vegetable stock (in desperation you could use a gel cube or combine the two)

1 courgette, optional, grated coarsely

100g creamy Gorgonzola dolce

2 tablespoons double cream

Parmesan cheese

Freshly chopped fennel or parsley

Sea salt and black pepper

Heat a large shallow pan. Add the oil and the butter and then gently sauté the onion and celery over a low heat until beginning to soften. Do not let them colour. Add the finely chopped garlic and stir around for a minute or two. Add the rice and stir that so that it is coated in everything.

Have your stock simmering in a separate pan. Pour the vermouth or wine into your rice and stir, simmering until almost all has disappeared. Then add the thyme and a third of the radicchio. Stirring all the time over a gentle heat add ladles of stock. Keep bubbling very gently, it should be just rippling. Stir as much as you have time for, adding stock as soon as the last ladleful is absorbed. After ten minutes add another third of the radicchio. Keep adding stock until the rice is cooked but still with a tiny bit of bite to it. It will take 20 – 30 minutes. Near the end of the rice cooking time, add the cream and chopped Gorgonzola. Stir through with the rest of the radicchio and the herbs. Also the courgette if using. Cook until the radicchio has wilted. Adjust with a little more stock to loosen. Season well with sea salt and black pepper.

Take off the heat and stir through a couple of tablespoons of freshly grated parmesan. Serve with more parmesan offered separately.

Categories
Lunch Poultry and Game Starters and Salads Uncategorized

CHICKEN THIGH MARINATED IN HARISSA AND YOGHURT with PRESERVED LEMON DRESSING

This is a good way to use those incredibly useful packs of chicken thighs. I find I often reach for the in the supermarket, particularly when I lack inspiration and just want to know that there will be something for supper. They are easier to deal with than breasts, really. So much more forgiving as they don’t really overcook and dry out despite being off the bone so you can be a little more laissez-faire with your timings and not be punished for it.

This marinade is just a suggestion and a classic one at that. Yoghurt is a wonderful tenderiser for all sorts of meat and a great vehicle for flavour. Harissa, the classic North African fiery paste works beautifully here as the yoghurt calms it all down and the chicken loves the chilli heat and spicy flavour. Add in more garlic, herbs, any citrus you like. Or leave out the harissa and use toasted coriander, fennel or cumin seed, ground up in pestle and mortar and perhaps with some tumeric in there as well. Just remember to season well – the chicken will be so much the better for that.

The preserved lemon dressing is easy to make as you just buy some good quality preserved lemons (belazu are the ones to look out for) and just use the rind. Some people save the flesh for other things but I tend not to keep it. The fennel and orange salad is on this site if you put it in search. The olives work well or just leave them out. Also if you don’t have the pomegranate molasses just add a squeeze of lemon or lime juice instead and adjust with a little honey.

For Four

4 – 8 chicken thighs, skinless or boneless (depends on hunger level)

4 tablespoons natural yoghurt

2 – 4 tablespoons harissa paste (start with less, add according to taste)

1 lime, rind and juice

Sea salt and black pepper

Fresh mint, coriander, parsley and/or fennel herb

Olive or rapeseed oil for cooking

Sumac (optional)

DRESSING

2 preserved lemons, rind only

1 tablespoon cider or white balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons runny honey

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons liquid from the preserved lemon jar

1 heaped teaspoon za’atar

Sea salt and black pepper

Mix the marinade ingredients together and taste. Adjust the seasoning and add more harissa if you think you need it. Trim the chicken of any fat and bash to flatten any very fat bits. Put them into the yoghurt and leave to marinade for at least an hour or overnight.

Make the dressing by finely chopping the lemon rind. Put it into a bowl and whisk in the vinegar, a pinch of salt, the honey, za’atar and then the oil. Finally whisk in the lemon liquid and taste, adjusting the seasoning. Leave to let the flavours develop and the za’atar to soften.

Have your fennel and orange salad ready on each plate or on one big serving platter.

Heat a griddle pan and add a little olive or rapeseed oil. Once the oil has heated up add each piece of chicken and leave until a crust has formed. You may need to do this in two batches. You can finish the chicken in the oven or cook them on top of the stove. If cooking in the oven have it heated to 180c (fan) and have a baking tray ready to receive the chicken. Sear it on both sides so well marked and move to the tray, then bake for a further fifteen minutes or until cooked through. or just turn the chicken over and move the pan to a lower heat so that the chicken can cook through without scorching.

Once the juices are running clear, let the chicken rest for five minutes before serving with the salad and the dressing drizzled around it. Add lots of extra fresh mint/coriander/parsley/fennel. A scattering of sumac is a nice addition.

Categories
Uncategorized

SCALLOPS with CAULIFLOWER

This is such a treat but actually, very affordable, especially if you local fish counter has scallops on offer. It makes a very luxurious and special starter but we enjoy it occasionally as a special lunch dish, in which case you might want to serve five scallops per person instead of three. It is very important that the scallops are not overcooked – they become tough and rubbery very easily but if you use a timer and turn them over as soon as golden and caramelised you can’t go far wrong. The pan must be hot enough for the scallop to form a crust but not so hot that they will burn before it is time to turn them over. I find a minute and a half on one side and then a minute on the other is about perfect, but if they are small then reduce the time to thirty seconds after you have turned them over.

The cauliflower is a delicious and very traditional partner to the luscious scallop – it makes such a smooth and flavourful purée. It is really worth frying the little cauliflower wafers as these add texture to the plate and gives the cauliflower a wonderful caramelisation. If you want to push the boat out a bit further you could add a rasher of crispy pancetta or perhaps fry up some crumbled black pudding and scatter some of that around for the ultimate surf and turf.

Serves Two

6 – 10 fat king scallops (depending on whether a starter or lunch)

1 cauliflower

25g unsalted butter

Whole milk

Rapeseed or olive oil

Extra virgin olive oil (two tablespoons)

Mixed fine herbs (eg chives, parsley, fennel)

1 unwaxed lemon

Sea salt & black pepper

First take your scallops out of the fridge so they can come up to room temperature. Dry them off with some kitchen towel and cut off the row, making sure you remove any tough bits that link the roe to the scallop. You could keep the roes to cook separately if you like. Season the scallops with sea salt and black pepper. Do this just before you are going to cook them.

Take a pestle and mortar and put in a tablespoon or two of finely chopped herbs. Add the extra virgin olive oil, lightly season and add a squeeze of lemon juice. Set aside.

You won’t need all of the cauliflower. Take about 1/4 of it and divide into florets. Reserve a couple. Cut the others into four pieces and place in a small saucepan with a small piece of butter (taken from the 25g) and toss around over a medium heat until the butter has melted and coated the cauliflower. Pour over some whole milk; you want it to almost but not quite cover the florets. Season with sea salt and simmer very gently or about fifteen minutes (covered with a lid) or until the cauliflower is completely soft. Drain the excess milk away. Take a hand held blender and purée the cauliflower. Add seasoning to taste and set aside to keep warm while you prepare everything else. You can make this purée in advance; it will keep well in the fridge for a day or two.

Slice the remaining cauliflower florets into slices about the thickness of a pound coin. You want about three per person. Heat a frying pan and add a little rapeseed or olive oil. (About a scant tablespoonful). Add a little butter and when foaming pop the slices in and fry gently until golden brown on each side. Drain on kitchen paper and keep warm in a low oven.

Warm a couple of plates. Clean out the frying pan and put back onto the heat. Add a couple more tablespoons of rapeseed or olive oil and another knob of butter. Once melted and the fat is medium hot, add the scallops. Work quickly starting at 12.00 and putting them in a circle around the pan. Fry for a minute and a half and then turn them over, starting with the one you put in first (if you put it in using the clockface method it makes it much easier to remember the order!).

Add the remaining butter and cook for another minute. Take off the heat and squeeze over the juice of half a lemon. Put the scallops onto a plate lined with kitchen paper.

Take you plates out of the oven. Put a large spoonful of the cauliflower purée on each one and spread out a bit. Arrange the scallops around and add three cauliflower wafers to each plate. Drizzle the herb oil over and around and season the whole thing with a bit more sea salt (eg maldon) and a grind of black pepper. Squeeze over a little more lemon juice and serve immediately while it is still warm.

Categories
Lunch Quick and Easy Starters Quick and Easy Suppers Soups Uncategorized

Parsnip, Fennel & Apple Soup

Autumn is a beautiful season and despite the prospect of chillier days and darker evenings approaching, there is always something rather appealing at the thought of cosying up a bit. This is a lovely soup to welcome in the new season and makes good use of the parsnips and fennel that have thrived in my vegetable patch. We have apples, too and the three go together so well, although a little of the apple will go a long way so be sparing with it. I have used rosemary and sage here – thyme would be perfect too or just parsley if you prefer.

Finish the soup with a scattering of toasted seeds, chopped herbs, sauteed cubes of red skinned eating apple, any or all above a swirl of creme fraiche or soured cream.

50g butter (or 2 tablespoons rapeseed oil)

1 large or 2 small onions

2 teaspoons fennel seeds, crushed in a pestle & mortar

3 or 4 large parsnips (about 400g)

1 small bulb fennel

1 piece of cooking apple (about 75g)

3 sprigs rosemary

3 sprigs sage

1 litre of chicken/veg stock

Sea salt & black pepper

creme fraiche

Mixed seeds, red skinned apple and/or chopped fine herbs to finish

Peel and chop all the vegetables. Heat the butter in a saucepan and then add the onion. Saute gently for a few minutes before adding the fennel seeds and cook for a minute or two longer. Then add the parsnips, fennel and apple. Season with salt and pepper. Crush the rosemary and put it and the sage into a spice bag (this makes it easier to remove). Add to the vegetables and then pour over the stock, just to cover reserving the rest for later. Simmer for about half an hour or until the parsnip and fennel and very tender.

Blend the soup, then add one or two tablespoons of creme fraiche, depending on how creamy you like it. Adjust the thickness with the rest of the stock. Season again.

Serve with the garnishes if using. You will need to cook the chopped apple in a little butter just to soften it.

Categories
Uncategorized

Quick Pickled Beetroot

Beetroot deserves it’s current reputation as a superfood. Those days of heavily vinegared slices leaching into salads are hopefully long gone and it is much more likely to be found roasted and tossed in to a risotto, baked and partnered with a sharp goats cheese or popped in to a pickling liquor.

This recipe works with any kind of beetroot. Just peel, make sure the slice are lovely and thin and then enjoy with salads, ham, cheese or just on it’s own when you have a craving for something sweet, sharp and super healthy. Use any spices you think might work; this is just a suggestion.

Makes enough to pickle a couple of good sized beets

200ml white wine vinegar

100ml filtered water

1 teaspoon coriander seed, toasted

150g granulated or caster sugar

1 teaspoon black pepper corns

1 bay leaf

Good pinch of sea salt

One or two good sized beetroot, any type

Peel the beetroot and finely slice using a mandolin or sharp knife. You could cut into half moon shapes if you prefer. Put into a sterilised jam jar.

Dissolve the sugar in the vinegar and water. Add the spices, bay leaf and salt and bring up to a simmer for a minute or two.

Pour the hot pickling liquid over the beetroot and seal. Leave to marinade for a few hours before using. Store in the fridge and use as required.

Categories
Dinner Lunch Soups Starters and Salads Uncategorized

Vichyssoise Soup

Of all the summer soups, this leek and potato classic has to be one of the best loved. It is a little ironic that leeks are in fact at their best from November through to April, not really months in which a chilled soup is going to be of much appeal. Still, they are readily available all year round and none the worse for that. I’ve added celery to this as well as an onion; purists may well frown on these additions but I think they add great flavour. You could of course just add an extra leek or two and leave them out – entirely up to you.

This makes enough for four

1 tablespoon rapeseed oil
small knob of butter
3 large leeks
1 onion
1 large stick celery, stringy bits removed
About 3 medium new potatoes (you want about half the weight of the leeks)
750ml chicken stock
200ml double or whipping cream
lots of chopped chives
olive oil (if making the chive oil)
Sea salt and black pepper

Chop all the vegetables, (having peeled the potatoes). Heat the oil and butter together in a saucepan. Add the leeks, celery and onion and sweat gently over a low heat until beginning to soften. Do not allow them to colour.

Add the potatoes and stir around. Add the stock and bring up to a gentle simmer. Season well and then cook gently for about fifteen minutes or until the vegetables are very soft. Liquidise or use a stick blender so that the soup is extremely smooth. You could also pass it through a sieve for an ultra smooth finish.

Whisk in the cream and check the seasoning. Pour into a bowl and chill for at least two or three hours, longer if possible.

Serve in chilled bowls with chives, chive oil and a little more cream swirled on top.

To make the chive oil, simple put chopped chives into a pestle and mortar and add extra virgin olive oil and a little sea salt. Pound until the chives break down and the oil starts to turn green.

Categories
Canapes Dinner Lunch Starters and Salads Uncategorized Vegetarian

Confit of Aubergine & Tomato

Make this to go with lamb, chicken or just have with bruschetta and minted yoghurt. It is best made the day before (or longer) so that the flavours can mingle and make friends but that is all to the better as so useful to have ready in advance.

Serves four to six

1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 large or two small aubergine (approx 350g in weight)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 or 2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 stick celery, finely chopped
300g cherry tomatoes or ripe red tomatoes
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 dessertspoon capers, chopped
1 dessertspoon balsamic vinegar
1 dessertspoon light brown sugar
Pinch dried chilli (optional)
A few olives
Fresh basil and parsley
Salt & pepper

First brush the peppers with a little oil and put into a hot oven for about half an hour until well roasted. Put into a plastic bag and leave for ten minutes to loosen the skin.

Cut up the aubergine quite small (about 1cm pieces). Heat three tablespoons of the oil in a pan and fry the aubergine until golden and cooked through. (about 10 mins). Remove from the pan and add another tablespoon of oil. Fry the onion, garlic and celery until very soft and tinged golden and then return the aubergine to the pan. Season well and add the tomatoes, cut in half if they are cherry or skinned and chopped if they are vine tomatoes. Add the chopped capers, the vinegar and the sugar (be a bit sparing at first with these). Also the chilli. Skin and deseed the peppers in a sieve so that you can catch any juice. Chop up the flesh and add to the pan along with the saved juices. Add half the basil, chopped and simmer the whole thing for about forty minutes or until nicely reduced and rich. About half way through add some roughly chopped olives, if you are using them. Check the seasoning and stir through the rest of the basil and finely chopped parsley. Serve hot, warm or cold.

Very good on bruschetta or with a dollop of greek yoghurt and a sprinkling of mint.

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