Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Recipes revisited: Vignole

With broad beans currently in season and with them being one of my favourite recipes, I thought I'd reblog this, which is my take on an Italian classic. It is also one of my mother's favourite recipes. There is no better time to make it than now, with all the gorgeously fresh broad beans and peas still in their pods which are around at the moment. Of course, you can make it any time if you use frozen ones, but it's never nearly as nice.

40ml olive oil
1 onion, peeled and finely sliced
10g fresh oregano, leaves only
140g cubetti di Pancetta
1 dried red chilli, crumbled
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
200g chargrilled artichokes
200g fresh peas, shelled
200g broad beans, shelled
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
500ml Pinot Grigio white wine
10g fresh mint

Place the olive oil into a saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion, pancetta, oregano and chilli. Stir occasionally, until the onions are soft; this should take about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and add the artichokes, peas, broad beans and garlic, and stir and cook for five minutes. 

Then add the wine and mint. Cover and cook over a medium heat until the vegetables are really soft – about 25 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Serve in soup bowls with lots of fresh ciabatta to mop up the juices. 

(original  here)

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Recipes revisited: A brunch classic

Ever since I learned how to poach eggs the "proper" way, I can't believe I ever used to do it any other way. It's so ridiculously easy and the only things you need are really fresh eggs, simmering (but not boiling) water and a little splash of vinegar. No fancypants silicone egg moulds or a poaching pan required. 

This is an absolute brunch classic, and well worth making with someone. I made it with my sister to teach her how to make hollandaise sauce. Which too has a lot of bad rep and is surprisingly easy to make, especially in the advent of blenders and things that whisk so you don't have to. Like me, she had previously thought it was a lot of hard work and very difficult, so having made it myself for friends a couple of months earlier I was keen to show her otherwise. The wonderful thing about making foaming hollandaise is, in using the egg white as well as the yolk, the sauce doesn't curdle. It is also much lighter.

Ingredients (serves 4):
For the foaming hollandaise:
2 large eggs, separated
1 dessertspoon lemon juice
1 dessertspoon white wine vinegar
110g butter
salt and pepper

For the poached eggs:
1tsp white wine vinegar
as many eggs as each person wants

Additional ingredients:
Hot buttered toast or muffins (the English variety)
Smoked salmon (or bacon, if you'd rather traditional eggs benedict)

First, make the hollandaise: place the egg yolks in a blender (reserve the whites, you'll need them later) and season with salt and pepper. Then, in a saucepan, heat the lemon juice and white wine vinegar until it starts to steam. Turn on the blender and trickle the liquid in very slowly and steadily, and then turn off the blender. Now, turn your hand to the egg white - whisk in a large bowl until firm, as if making meringues (the egg white should form into peaks).

Melt the butter in a saucepan, turn the blender back on and trickle the melted butter into the liquid, as you did with the lemon and vinegar. Then transfer the sauce to the egg white and fold it in. I keep it warm by fitting the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.

Now your hollandaise sauce is ready, assemble the rest of the ingredients: toast and butter your toast or muffins, place the smoked salmon on top (or fry your bacon and do the same if you're having eggs benedict) and then turn your thoughts to the poached eggs.

For two eggs, I use about 3cm of water in the bottom of a pan and a teaspoon of vinegar. Use the freshest eggs you can get your hands on - these will keep their shape better. Stir the water to create a whirlpool, and then crack in your eggs one by one. This gets easier with practice! Simmer for a couple of minutes, until the whites are firm but the yolk still runny, and then place on top of your salmon or bacon. Pour over a tablespoon or so of hollandaise per person and tuck in.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Recipes revisited: Tarte Aux Poireaux

Whenever I visit Cordes-sur-Ciel, I always make sure to visit the wonderful patisserie at the bottom of the hill, Moulin. Their speciality are the gorgeous gateaux and pastries for which France is rightly famous, but they also do these wonderful savoury tartlets. 

So after scoffing an extraordinary number of them one trip, I decided it was high time I taught myself how to make them myself. These are very easy, and make a wonderful accompaniment to a picnic lunch or a salad. They are also very, very good when gobbled down still warm from the oven when no one's looking.

Ingredients (makes 12 6cm squares):
250g shortcrust pastry
2 leeks
4 eggs
40g grated parmesan
3 dessertspoons crème fraîche
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 200°C, then line a 32cm shallow baking tray with greaseproof paper. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface so that it fits the container, then line the baking tray on top of the paper. Prick the pastry all over with a fork and add another sheet of greaseproof paper, then fill with ceramic baking beans. Place in the oven for 15 minutes, until cooked.

While the pastry is baking, slice the leeks into 5mm slices and gently fry until soft and golden, then set aside. In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, crème fraîche, parmesan and nutmeg, then season with a little salt and pepper. 

When the pastry is cooked, remove the top sheet of greaseproof paper and ceramic beans, then distribute the leeks evenly on top of the pastry. Gently pour over the egg and crème fraîche mix so that it fully covers the leeks and the pastry case is filled, then bake in the oven for a further 15-20 minutes.

When cool, transfer to a flat wooden board (a large chopping board will do) and slice into three lengthways and quarters widthways so you have perfect hand-sized portions. You can either serve it warm or at room temperature - your choice!

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Recipes revisited: Taleggio Arancini with Rocket and Walnut Salad

These are great if you're entertaining and want to make something that tastes fantastic and can be made up to a day in advance. They're also great if you have leftover risotto - indeed, I think this is where the idea originates from. For the gooey centre, I used taleggio as I love the flavour it gives. However, if you're less keen, just use a similar sized piece of mozzarella.

For the Arancini (makes about 10):

1 litre chicken stock
40g butter
Olive oil
2 small onions, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
100g mushrooms, finely chopped
400g risotto rice
150ml white wine
2tsp dried mixed herbs
100g grated parmesan
3 eggs, beaten
150g dried breadcrumbs
200g Taleggio cheese

For the salad:
4tbsp olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
1tbsp white wine vinegar
¼ tsp sugar
200 french beans
200g rocket
Handful of toasted walnuts

Heat the butter and a little oil in a large frying pan and add the onions and mixed herbs. Fry until translucent, then add the mushrooms and garlic. Fry for a further minute, then add the risotto and fry for a couple of minutes, until the edges of the rice turn translucent. Add the wine and about a quarter of the stock, stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn’t stick. Gradually add the rest of the stock until it’s all been absorbed, add the parmesan just before the end, and then turn off the heat and set aside for a couple of hours to cool.

Preheat the oven to 180°C, beat the eggs and place the breadcrumbs on a plate. Using your hands, make tennis-ball sized balls of risotto, building half in your hand, adding the taleggio, covering and moulding to shape. Then dip in the egg and roll in the breadcrumbs. Be careful, as the balls are quite fragile!

Shallow fry the balls in olive oil, three at a time until golden all over. Place on a lined baking tray and cook in the oven for 10 minutes.

While the arancini are in the oven, prepare your vinaigrette, mixing the oil, shallot, white wine vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper, and put the beans on to boil for about 4 minutes. Drain and refresh in icy cold water. Toss with the rocket, pour over the dressing and sprinkle over the walnuts. Place the arancini on top to serve (trust me, one is plenty!)

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Recipes revisited: Summer Fig & Goat's Cheese Salad

Last time I posted this, I must admit I was somewhat tardy. It was the very tail end of the fig season and it was small cruelty on my part to post such a delicious salad with next to no hope of obtaining the figs.

This time I'm at the earlier end of the scale; however I am reassured by having already seen figs in the shops. If you like more exotic salads - though this is really very ordinary - please don't hesitate to make it. The main ingredient is really only available between August and September, so now's your chance to indulge in something a little special. Enjoy!

Fig & Goat's Cheese Salad

Ingredients (serves 4):
For the salad:
4 figs
1 red onion
2 capricorn goats cheeses
1 tbsp pine nuts
100g rocket
100g spinach

For the dressing:
2½ tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
Salt and black pepper

Begin by cutting the onions into wedges, then place in a roasting tin, drizzle with olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper then roast at 200°C for 35 minutes or until the onions are soft and slightly caramelised. While the onions are cooling, grill the pine nuts, taking care not to burn them and slice the goats cheese in half width-ways (see photo) ready to grill.

Mix up the vinaigrette and place a small handful of rocket and spinach on each plate, scatter the pint nuts and onion slices over the leaves, cut the figs into quarters and place on the plate. Grill the goats cheese for 3-5 minutes, until runny and slightly golden on top, spoon the vinaigrette over the salad and then place the goats cheese on top. Serve immediately; it is nicest while the goats cheese is still warm.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011


It's time for a little break in the usual posting routine. I've been running out of inspiration for a while now, and as I'm about to head off on holiday for a couple of weeks I thought that instead of preparing a bundle of recipes to post while I'm away, I'd take a break from blogging.

However, I'm not leaving you all completely empty-handed: I've gone through the recipes I've posted over the last 18 months and will be reposting some of my favourites. I'll be back properly in early September, hopefully refreshed, inspired by a trip to Turkey and with lots of delicious new recipes up my sleeve.

To begin, here's one of my most favourite weeknight treats and inspired by the wonderful Daddy Donkey burrito wagon on Leather Lane. 

Fajita burritos

If you make all the components in advance, it takes no time to assemble - just a little skill and practice. The best advice I can give is to use the biggest tortilla you can find. If you use the search bar on the top right hand side of the blog, you'll find recipes for both salsa and guacamole.

Ingredients (makes 4):
2 chicken breasts, marinated in peri peri
1 red onion
1 green pepper
1 red pepper
50g basmati rice
10g fresh coriander, finely chopped
1 lime
1 little gem lettuce
100g cheddar
sour cream
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
olive oil
4x flour tortillas - the biggest you can lay your hands on!

If you have time, slice the chicken breast into 5mm slices and marinate it the night before. If not, just leave it for as long as you can before you need to eat. Once the chicken has marinated, grill or griddle it and then roughly chop. 

Put the rice on to boil for 11 minutes, then slice the onion and peppers - each about 5mm in size. Sautée the peppers and onion with the cumin and coriander powder until completely soft. Once the rice is cooked, drain then rinse and set aside. Once it has cooled sufficiently, stir in the fresh coriander, add a little black pepper and the juice of 1/4 of the lime and mix it all together.

Make up the salsa and guacamole, shred the little gem lettuce and grate the cheese. 

In a hot frying pan, dry fry the tortillas for 15 seconds each to warm through, and then pile the ingredients into the centre: a handful of chopped chicken per burrito, two tablespoons of rice, a tablespoon of sautéed peppers, a handful of cheddar, a handful of lettuce and a dessertspoon of guacamole and sour cream. 

And here's the tricky part (but practice makes perfect, I assure you!) - tightly wrap the tortilla around the filling, and serve. I find it helps to wrap them in foil or baking parchment - also ensures they look like the real deal! Mine aren't as tightly wrapped as the delicious Daddy Donkey ones (yet), but if you're craving a decent fajita and Farringdon is that bit too far, this makes a suitable alternative.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Out and about: Bombay Sapphire Book Slam @ Village Underground

When I was little I wanted to grow up to be a combination of Miss Haversham and Miss Hannigan. Two very different ladies, but with one thing in common. Both had gone to ruin thanks to their love of, well, mother's ruin. While I can't claim to lead such a romantic existence, one thing we do all have in common is an appreciation for gin.

So when I was asked if I would like to attend Book Slam at Village Underground, I could hardly say no. After all, the evening was sponsored by Bombay Sapphire and it would have been churlish to turn down an opportunity to drink lots of delicious gin cocktails while listening to readings from the literati.

We were greeted warmly and presented with a beautiful bookmark and some jewels, which entitled us to cocktails from the bar. But before we even made it that far we were greeted by some very glamourous ladies bearing trays of cocktails. I sampled a French Martini with "imagine" dusted on the surface in blue sugar, while my friend sipped on a Bramble, which was a lovely berry cocktail.

(Photo from Bombay Sapphire Facebook)

The venue itself was gorgeous. Sumptiously decked out in Bombay Sapphire colours with a wonderful jewelled theme running throughout. Village Underground, is a lovely 1900's warehouse near Shoreditch High Street which has been converted into an entertainment space.

We wandered around, soaking up the atmosphere and nibbling on the delicious little plates of food that were offered to us - the parma ham wrapped chicken with green beans and a potato croquette was delicious, though sadly I didn't get to try any of the other treats on offer. Initial cocktail consumed, we set about spending our jewels and we both tried the Twisted Gin & Juice (a sublime elderflower, apple and mint cocktail) before settling down into our seats for the book slam to begin.

(apologies, I look rather worse for wear here! The perils of going out after work)

I've never been to a bookslam before, but it's a fantastic concept - and in this case an excellent fusion of gin and literature. There were readings from Joe Dunthorne,  Ross Sutherland and  Jeremy Dyson, alongside of music and poetry (Keats' "Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art" was projected onto the screen) which made for a fantastic evening. 

(Photo from Bombay Sapphire Facebook)

My only gripe was that the venue, being a former warehouse, was probably better equipped for art exhibitions and club nights than an event where you wanted to hang on to every word spoken by those on the stage. This was unfortunately made rather hard due to the terrible acoustics and bar noise drowning out much of the readings.

Would I go again? Definitely, though I'd be more inclined to go to its "proper" home at the Clapham Grand. However, the cocktails served were absolutely delicious and the location it was held in was stunning which made for a fantastic night out. I'm going to leave you with the recipe for my favourite cocktail of the evening, the French Martini.

 (Photo from Bombay Sapphire Facebook)

French Martini
Ingredients (makes 2 martinis):
100ml Bombay Sapphire gin
30ml Chambord or raspberry liquor
200ml pineapple juice
4 ice cubes

Measure out all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker. Add the ice and and shake well for 10 seconds. Strain into martini glass. Wear your most glamourous dress and keep good company. Sip elegantly and engage in artful conversation.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Creamy Mushroom Cannelloni

This is a close relation to the stuffed pancakes I blogged way back in February, and although it doesn't look it, it is a less heavy option. I suspect this is in part due to the size of the cannelloni! I made these a few weeks back, when summer looked like it was gone for good, hence the rather wintery meal.

These are great if you want to make something ahead of having a laid back supper with guests as they can be made the night before. Serve with green beans or salad for a splash of colour and freshness. It does look all rather beige otherwise.

Ingredients (serves 4):
150g cannelloni - approx 12 tubes
1/2 a red onion
6 chestnut mushrooms
80g spinach
125g mozzarella
25g butter
1 dsp plain flour
250ml milk
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 chicken breast
20g Parmesan
salt and pepper to taste

If you're planning to eat the cannelloni immediately, preheat the oven to 190°C. Otherwise, begin by preparing the bechamel sauce: melt the butter in a pan over a low heat, then when molten, stir in the flour. Cook for a minute before adding the milk bit by bit, stirring constantly. Stir in a teaspoon of mustard and then season to taste with salt and pepper.

Next, finely chop the onion and gently fry over a low heat until translucent. While the onion is frying, chop the mushrooms and cut the chicken breast into small dice. Fry the mushrooms with the onions for a couple of minutes, until soft, then add the chicken and spinach. Add a couple of tablespoons of the bechamel sauce and mix together. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes. Chop the mozzarella into small dice and stir into the chicken and mushroom sauce.

Spoon a further 2-3 tablespoons of the bechamel sauce into the bottom of a large ovenproof dish (I used a 20x30cm roasting tin) and make sure it covers the bottom. Next, spoon the chicken, mushroom & mozzarella mixture into each of the cannelloni until they are full then place in the ovenproof dish. Repeat until all the cannelloni are stuffed. If you have any excess stuffing, just spoon this over the top of the cannelloni. 

Pour the remaining bechamel sauce over the cannelloni, then grate the parmesan and sprinkle on top. Cover with tin foil and bake for 35 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the foil and bake for a further 10 minutes, until the grated parmesan turns golden.