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.

F2ECA84D-907F-4DFC-A78D-F281672AE32C

Categories
Lunch Starters and Salads Uncategorized Vegetarian

Broccoli Slaw with Buttermilk Dressing and Figs

Serves Four

1 small head of broccoli
1 large shallot
1 tablespoon cider vinegar (organic and raw if possible)
2 spring onions, chopped
3 soft dried figs, chopped
2 tablespoons mixed seeds, toasted (or a mix of pumpkin/sunflower)
2 – 3 tablespoons chopped parsley/chives/fennel/dill
20 almonds, toasted and chopped (or 50g toasted flaked almonds)
125ml buttermilk
2 teaspoons of runny honey
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Large pinch dried oregano or za’atar
Squeeze lemon juice, to taste
Sea salt & black pepper

Finely slice the shallot. Put into a bowl with the vinegar and leave while you slice your broccoli.

Slice the broccoli very finely on a mandolin or using a very sharp knife. Put into a large bowl and add the shallots and the spring onions.

Add the figs, parsley, mixed seeds and almonds to the bowl. Toss together.

Whisk the buttermilk with the olive oil, honey, the oregano or za’atar and a good amount of seasoning. Add to the bowl and toss well to coat. Add a little lemon juice, adjusting that and the seasoning to taste.

Leave to sit for half an hour to an hour if you can to allow the flavours to mingle. Use it up within a day or so.

Serve on its own or with fresh figs and goats cheese, drizzled with a little honey, lemon and olive oil. Crusty bread essential!

<CAAFE117-6A29-49AF-9F52-9862D69ABCD3

Categories
Lunch Starters and Salads Uncategorized

Watercress, smoked bacon & herb tart with buttermilk

An update on the previous post for leek and goats cheese tart. Do try this version. It was rather delicious using buttermilk in the filling which went very well with the watercress.

Tart base (see previous post)

2 onions, sliced finely
1 tablespoon rapeseed oil
1 clove garlic
Big handful fresh oregano, finely chopped
60g watercress
1 77g pack smoked diced pancetta
100ml double cream
175ml buttermilk
3 eggs (1 whole and 2 yolks)
25g cheese (parmesan, pecorino Romano, cheddar)
Spring onion to garnish

Pre heat the oven to 190 c
Sauté the onions and pancetta in the oil, grating in the clove of garlic and half the finely chopped oregano. Season well.
Put into a bowl and cool slightly before stirring in the watercress. Whisk the eggs, buttermilk and cream together. Season.
Stir the egg mixture into the filling mix, grate in half the cheese and add the rest of the oregano. Turn into the pastry case and top with the rest of the cheese.
Bake for 18 t0 20 minutes or until just set.
Leave to rest for a couple of minutes before serving. Delicious at room temperature as well.5BC8DC30-3FCA-4AA1-8E64-2EC46B143544

Categories
Lunch Starters and Salads Uncategorized Vegetarian

LEEK, FENNEL, OREGANO & GOATS CHEESE TART with PARMESAN PASTRY

Funny how the word quiche conjures up something slightly dispiriting; replace with the ‘tart’ and suddenly my mouth is watering. Which is unfair, as the classic quiche Lorraine is a wonderful thing if properly made.
There are those that claim not to be able to make pastry and it is true that there are excellent ready made shortcrusts on the market which will work extremely well with this recipe. But actually, it is really incredibly easy to make your own and will always be that little bit better. Also there is the added advantage of being able to add herbs, cheese, mustard or even nuts. You can use wholemeal flour if that is your thing but the important thing is to keep everything cold and not overwork it. It also needs to be thinly rolled out and whilst I am lucky enough to have an aga, those who don’t really will need to blind bake their pastry case before adding the filling. It will otherwise remain fairly raw on the base and that is the last thing you want.
In order to keep my pastry as thin and under control as possible I roll it out between two sheets of clingfilm. It makes it so much easier to handle. If you are blind baking make sure you leave a little overhang of pastry all the way around the tin. If you don’t, the pastry may shrink in the oven and there won’t be space for your filling.
I always seem to have leeks and fennel in my fridge. They are two of my favourite vegetables and both are so versatile. They combine beautifully here in this classic tart, lovely together with the goats cheese and parmesan. I have a huge oregano bush in my garden and so use that a lot. I have learnt over the years that oregano has much more flavour dried, but you just have to use a lot of it if it is fresh; it really is delicious but any herbs would work well.
Always use a metal tin. It will conduct the heat through so much better and it also helps to have a baking tray hot in the oven ready to cook your tart on – that will ensure a properly cooked base.
We enjoy this with a fennel and grapefruit slaw.

Serves 4

Pastry

125g plain white flour
50g butter (cold, cut into small cubes)
35g parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon English mustard powder
1 small egg
Large pinch sea salt

Tart filling

1 walnut sized knob butter
1 tablespoon rapeseed/light olive oil
1 medium onion
1 clove garlic
1 large leek
1 small bulb fennel
50g fresh oregano, finely chopped
75g soft goats cheese
100ml whole milk
100ml double cream
1 whole egg
2 egg yolks
Sea salt and black pepper
20g parmesan cheese

First make the pastry. I always make mine by hand but you could use a food processor.

You will need a fluted loose bottomed tart tin (metal) 23cm wide and 2 1/2 cm deep.

Put the flour into a bowl and add the salt. Whisk well to break up any lumps. Add the butter and rub in using your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs.
Add the parmesan and mustard and stir to combine. Whisk the egg and add about two thirds of it. Using a knife, cut and fold until you have clumps of pastry forming. You may need to use a little more of the egg, depending on how big it is. Keep any leftover egg as you will need it later. It will take a few minutes but this cutting with a knife will help keep the pastry light. Once it has combined (it must not be sticky) knead very briefly until it is a smooth ball. Put into a plastic bag and chill for at least half an hour in the fridge.
Make the filling. Chop the onion and finely slice the leek and the fennel, discarding any part that might be tough or fibrous. Heat the oil and butter and add the vegetables. Add half of the finely chopped oregano. Sauté very gently over a low heat until softened. Add the rest of the oregano. Season well and put into a bowl to cool.
While your filling is cooling, take your pastry out of the fridge. Roll it out thinly and line your tart tin. If you have an aga you can skip this step but if not, blind bake the pastry at 180c. You will have to line it with baking paper (easiest to scrumple this up first) and add baking beans. Prick all over with a fork. After ten minutes or so remove the baking beans and allow the base to turn a light golden. Allow to cool.
Whisk the egg, egg yolks, milk and cream together and add lots of seasoning. Grate in half the parmesan. Spread the cooked vegetables into the tart case. Add little chunks of the soft goats cheese. Pour over the cream/egg mixture and top with the rest of the parmesan and then bake in an oven at 190c for about minutes until just set and a light golden colour. It should still wobble but be cooked through.
Leave to sit for a few minutes before serving, or allow to cool and eat at room temperature.5CB9A75D-BC3F-4521-B5FB-64B776308A84

Categories
Dinner Lunch Soups Starters and Salads Uncategorized

Lovage Soup

A friend brought round a lovely big bunch of lovage the other day. It is apparently very easy to grow and further investigation taught me that it has a wonderful flavour reminiscent of celery with a hint of parsley and aniseed thrown in for good measure. It does in fact make a good substitute for flat leaf parsley and I particularly like the tender, hollow stems which mean you can chop the whole lot up and use it all, especially if it is going in a casserole or soup. I use a kallo gel stock cube if I don’t have any fresh stock available and find it excellent, as is the marigold bouillon powder. That needs to be added with care though as it can be very salty.
I’m told that lovage makes a wonderful addition to a cheese soufflé but things have been rather more basic in our house this week. Some of the leaves were put to good use over a roast sweet potato and orange salad but the rest made a delicious soup and I have since ordered a plant so that I can make this again. Just right for a spring lunch and made a little be more special with a quenelle of creamed feta garnishing the centre, although that is certainly a very optional extra. Worth doing though, if you happen to have feta or goats cheese available.

Serves Four

1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon rapeseed oil
1 walnut sized knob of butter
3 stalks celery, stripped of any tough strings and finely chopped
1 large or 2 small leeks (about 250g) chopped
1 medium potato (about 125g), peeled and chopped
125g washed lovage, stalks included
1 litre chicken or vegetable stock
1 – 2 tablespoons double cream (don’t worry if none available)
Sea salt & black pepper

Melt the oil and butter together and add the onion and garlic. Sauté very gently until beginning to soften and add the celery. Continue cooking until soft and then add the leeks and potato. Stir around a bit and then add the chicken or vegetable stock.
Simmer for about fifteen minutes or until everything is very soft. Add the lovage and simmer for a couple more minutes before blending everything together until very smooth.
Add the double cream, if using and check the seasoning.

Creamed feta

4” piece feta cheese
2 tablespoons double cream
Black pepper

Mash everything together until very smooth and creamy. If you like you could add some chives. Check seasoning and use teaspoons to make quenelles of this to put on top of the soup.

89E3785F-2B0C-473C-9117-909D498102E5

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

Spiced Root Vegetable Soup with a spicy foaming butter

Soup is very quick to make and very forgiving. Cooking can be a precise art but not here – a few hundred grams or millilitres here and there won’t make much difference and it is so easy to adjust the thickness, creaminess, flavour etc. The only absolute cast iron requirement is some sort of onion; at a pinch you could probably get away with using a leek or two but there really is no substitute for a common brown or white onion unless making a bright and fresh summer soup in which case a spring onion or shallot will be an excellent choice.

Otherwise, play with what vegetables you use to your hearts content. There are, of course the tried and tested recipes that have stood the test of time. But you really can’t go wrong with any combination; just stick to common sense – fennel seed and coconut milk for example is never going to work but use a little Thai curry paste in the base of a butternut squash soup and the coconut milk suddenly makes perfect sense.

A tablespoon or two of double cream can add a wonderful silkiness to soup but here I am using a spiced butter and it is just so delicious swirled on top the fragrant combination of root vegetables, fennel and cumin seed. A touch of luxury to an otherwise everyday staple but worth its weight in gold in terms of nutrition, taste and culinary contentment. This soup freezes well.

Serves 8

2 tablespoons rapeseed or light olive oil
2 onions, chopped
1 large leek, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large stick celery, chopped
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped
1/2 butternut squash, chopped (no need to peel)
2 medium beetroot, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds, crushed
Pinch chilli flakes (optional)
2/3 good quality chicken or vegetable gel stock cubes
11/2 to 2 litres boiling water
Salt & black pepper

Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the onion, leek, garlic and celery. Cook until beginning to soften over a low heat. Add the fennel and cumin (chilli if using) and cook for a minute or two, then add the sweet potato, squash, beetroot and red pepper. Stir around for a bit and then add the stock to cover. You may not need it all. Season and then cover with a lid. Simmer for about thirty minutes until the vegetables are completely soft.

Blitz either in a liquidiser or use a hand held blender. Check seasoning and adjust thickness with any remaining stock. Serve with the spiced butter swirled over.

SPICED BUTTER

50g butter
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
Cinnamon stick
Black pepper

Crush the cumin and coriander seed in a pestle and mortar. Melt the butter and add with the cinnamon stick, pepper and mustard seeds. Heat until foaming and drizzle over the soup.
7F6FA85F-E272-4AE8-A533-AD1B658EECEC

Categories
Dinner Quick and Easy Suppers Starters and Salads Uncategorized Vegetarian

FENNEL & SNOW PEA SLAW

What a relief that the days of mayonnaise laden, traditional coleslaws are largely a thing of the past. A 21st century slaw is far more likely to be made with the merest hint of a dressing, relying instead on herbs, spices, nuts etc to provide interest and contrast to the vegetables. Cabbage and carrot may well still feature but are more likely these days to be partnered with arguably more interesting vegetables such as fennel, mangetouts, broccoli or whatever it is that fires your enthusiasm.
Gorgeous with anything from pulled pork, salmon fillets, chicken or just a bowlful on its own, I love making this fennel and snow pea version and although a few hours in a cool place will improve it enormously it rarely lasts long in our house – guilt free pleasure that those on a strict diet can make even more virtuous by reducing the olive oil content and leaving out the dates and pecans.
This is a recipe to play around with according to whatever you have available in the vegetable drawer. Or add in some finely shredded crisp apple. The dressing can be adjusted – a little buttermilk whisked in will render it a little more creamy or even a couple of teaspoons of double cream. I like this simple lemon and olive oil version but if you prefer, use cider vinegar. I discovered the other day that if you dissolve a little sea salt (never table salt) in the vinegar before adding the rest of the dressing ingredients it takes away a lot of the harshness and mellows it nicely.
Add the herbs to taste the amount doesn’t really matter. Just chop and add until to your liking. Seasoning is very important!

Serves 4 (or 2 greedy people)

1 medium bulb of fennel
1 chunk of Savoy cabbage, freshest and greenest bit about size of the fennel
12 snow peas (sugar snaps)
1/2 to 1 shallot, depending on how big it is
1 or 2 pitted medjool dates
30g pecan nuts
Sea salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Very small squeeze honey
1 lemon
2 teaspoons sumac
Fresh mint (Small handful, chopped)
Fresh dill, finely chopped
Fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

Remove the tough outer layer of the fennel and remove the core. Save any fronds. Using a sharp knife or a mandolin finely shred and put into a bowl. Squeeze over the juice of half a lemon.
Finely shred the shallot, snow peas and cabbage. Add these to the fennel with a good amount of sea salt and black pepper. Toss well.
Finely chop the dates and toast the pecans. Chop these and then toss these into the slaw.
Add the olive oil, a tiny squeeze of honey, all the herbs and the sumac. Add any fennel fronds, chopped. Toss all together well and then adjust with more lemon juice, olive oil, herbs, seasoning. Finish with an extra sprinkling of sumac.
Leave for an hour for all the flavours to make friends although that is not entirely necessary. It will keep well for a day or two.

Serve as a side dish with chicken, salmon or pork. Or just have on its own.

FD845E55-0C86-4120-95BD-D221EEE653FC

Categories
Lunch Quick and Easy Starters Quick and Easy Suppers Starters and Salads Uncategorized Vegetarian

ALMOND BUTTER DRESSING with TAMARI

I have always loved soy based dressings and have recently been using the Japanese tamari in place of the Chinese soy. Tamari is a little richer yet less salty than the traditional soy, adding that elusive ‘umami’ to stir fries and dressings. It is a by-product of miso paste and owing to the absence of wheat is gluten free.
A pot of almond butter has been lurking in the back of my cupboard for ages and I have finally found a most excellent use for it. Combined with the tamari, a little citrus and thinned with cold water (excellent for lowering the calorie content!) this makes a dressing/dip that is quite delicious served over steamed and cooled green vegetables and here I have used purple sprouting broccoli, drizzled with the dressing and finished with a sprinkling of toasted almonds just to add a bit of crunch. It is extremely moreish (that’s the umami for you!) and I hope you like it as much as I do.

Serves Four

4 tablespoons almond butter
1 tablespoon tamari
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 – 4 tablespoons cold water
1 teaspoon maple syrup
Sea salt and black pepper

Using a small whisk, sound and stir the almond butter, lemon juice, tamari and 3 tablespoons of water together until well blended and about the consistency of double cream. Add water to adjust the thickness if need be and a little maple syrup to taste. Season. Adjust according to taste.

One idea is to serve the dressing over steamed/boiled sprouting broccoli and top with crunch toasted almonds. Or use as a dip for crudités.

5878AB02-2422-4B85-88D9-417315A0FDED

Categories
Dinner Lunch Soups Starters and Salads Uncategorized

CHILLED SOUP OF GARDEN LEAVES & CUCUMBER with WHIPPED GOATS CHEESE

Much as we love a salad the humble lettuce leaf occasionally deserves a change and this easy soup, as delicious hot as it is cold is a great way to use salad leaves and cucumber. A refreshingly iced soup can be very welcome on a hot day and has the advantage of being easily freezable if you don’t want to use it straight away, something that cannot be said of the average salad so a very useful recipe to have if faced with rows of bolting lettuce leaves and in our case, enthusiastic cucumbers.

If you happen to have some nasturtiums growing or see some at a farmers market, pop some of the leaves into the soup and use a flower as a pretty garnish. They are lovely, fantastically easy to grow; the leaves offering a wonderful peppery flavour, while the flowers add a certain style to your salad bowl or as here make a pretty garnish.

I love this with some of that wonderfully mild French goats cheese whipped up with lemon and chives. You can use it as a garnish for the soup or serve separately on toasted sourdough. Either way, it works so well with the delicate soup and makes it a bit more substantial.

This recipe serve four but add and subtract according to what you have available – fennel leaves, courgette, spinach, peas etc will all work well. Mint is surely the ubiquitous summer herb and I use it in everything I possible can during the warmer months. There are so many interesting varieties available to us now – ginger mint is a current favourite that makes a gorgeous restorative tea and I have just planted basil mint which I think is going to be a very promising addition to the kitchen garden.

Spinach is not essential but certainly helps with the colour.

Serves Four

2 medium shallots, finely chopped
1 stick celery (not essential!), finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped or grated
1 generous tablespoon olive or rapeseed oil
750ml vegetable stock (I use the non vegan marigold, green pot)
2 or 3 new potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 whole cucumber, chopped with skin
Big double handful of mixed green lettuce/spinach leaves
Handful of nasturtium leaves (optional)
Big handful of chopped garden mint
Four heaped tablespoons natural yoghurt (always green Yeo valley for me!)
Sea salt and black pepper
Lemon, rind and juice
1 tub French goats cheese
Handful of chopped chives
Four nasturtium flowers
Extra virgin olive oil

Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the shallot, garlic and celery if using. Sauté gently until softened but not brown. Add the potato and straight away 600ml of the stock. Bring up to a simmer and cook unail the potatoes are soft.

Add the cucumber, simmer for two or so minutes and then add the lettuce, spinach, herbs etc. Season well.

Allow to cool a bit and then whizz with a stick blender or in a liquidiser. Add more stock until the co sister is of a thin cream. When most of the heat has gone whisk in the yogurt and lemon juice to taste. Blitz again and if you feel it needs more yoghurt you could add that now.

Put the soup into a fridge to chill for a few hours.

When ready to serve, put the goats cheese into a,bowl and add the rind of the lemon and chopped chives. Whip together with a small whisk until smooth. Season.

Serve the soup in chilled bowls with a quenelle of goats cheese in the centre, garnish with a nasturtium flower and drizzle over some extra virgin olive oil.

image.jpeg