Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Courgette Gratin

It's the time of year when there's an abundance of courgettes in the garden. A while ago I created a soup, Courgette & Camembert click here for the recipe and since I consider courgette and dairy are such a good match, I've created this recipe. I used Emmental cheese, its mild nutty flavour enhances rather than competes with the delicate flavour of the courgettes. Leaching some of the liquid out of the courgettes by salting before using in the recipe, ensures the gratin does not become too water-logged.

For this recipe you will need;
1 Kilo of courgettes
300ml of double cream
200g of Emmental cheese, grated
1 tablespoon of chopped parsley
1 tablespoon of chopped basil
1 tablespoon of chopped spring onions
1 fat clove of garlic finely minced
20g of salt
1/2 teaspoon of white pepper

Begin by slicing up the courgettes and dusting them in the salt. Leave to drain in a colander for an hour. Rinse the cougettes quickly under a running tap and lightly pat dry with a clean tea towel. Chop up the herbs and spring onions and stir the minced garlic into the cream. Layer the courgettes in an ovenproof dish alternating with the herbs, grated cheese and garlic infused cream. Finish with a light layer of the cheese. Bake in a moderately hot oven, 180C for 40 to 45 minutes.

I found that after an hour, 150ml of liquid leached out of the courgettes.
You can use other cheeses, but personally I would avoid strongly flavoured varieties.
You can also substitute fresh thyme for the parsley or basil.
This dish is good hot with crusty bread or as an accompanying vegetable to a fish dish. It's also good cold as part of a cold buffet.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Florentine Torte

I was thinking how good Florentines are, a flat tuille type biscuits, studded with dried fruit, candied peel and nuts and once baked and cooled, lavishly dragged over melted chocolate. It occurred to me that I could come up with a torte that would similarly deliver all of the flavours. This is the result. For me the addition of candied peel (do please use whole peel which you chop yourself rather than the pre-chopped stuff you can buy) makes for an altogether more sophisticated flavour combination. I used candied pomelo peel which I make using my candied peel recipe click here for the recipe . Make this torte once, following the recipe and it could start you on a journey of invention, simply replace some or all of the dried fruit and nut ingredients with your own choice, apricots, white chocolate, pecan, glace ginger, are just a few ideas that would work.

For this recipe you will need;
250g of sweet pastry click here for my recipe
120g of caster sugar
120g of soft, unsalted butter
2 eggs
100g of Self Raising flour
70g of ground amonds

140g of chopped Medjool dates
70g of dried sour cherries
70g of candied peel
120g of dark chocolate, chopped
75g of roasted hazelnuts, chopped
1/2 teaspoon of salt

Begin by lining a 24cm flan tin with the pastry, prick the bottom several times with a fork and chill for 20 minutes in the fridge before baking in a hot oven, 200C for 12 to 15 minutes.

Prepare the filling by chopping up the dates, chocolate, hazelnuts and candied peel.

In a food processor, cream together the butter and the sugar, add the eggs and salt and process for a further minute. Add the flour and ground almonds and mix together on a pulse setting for 10 seconds or so. Finally add the remaining ingredients and pulse together just until all are combined.
Take the precooked pastry case out of the oven, leaving it in the tin, pile in and smooth out the filling, turn down the heat to 180C and bake for 40 minutes. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before removing from the tin and cooling on a wire rack.

Serve this torte warm if you like the chocolate to be molten,

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Slow cooked Broccoli & Broad Bean Bruschetta

Something on toast is so often welcome, so when I find myself struggling to keep up with the broccoli growing in my vegetable garden, I came up with this idea for a bruschetta topping. The slow cooking of the broccoli, adds depth and enhances the savoury note, the addition of broad beans which are also in season and Gorgonzola which is a constant store ingredient in this house, all make for a very delicious lunch dish for 4 or a starter for 6.

For this recipe you will need;
200g of shelled broad beans
300g of purple sprouting broccoli, roughly chopped
30g of unsalted butter
1 tablespoon of olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
 mint leaves
4 large slices of good sourdough bread, toasted
Marigold bouillon powder
50ml of Noilly Prat
Coarsely ground black pepper

Begin by frying the chopped garlic gently in the oil and 10g of the butter until it begins to take on colour. Add the Noilly Prat, 1 teaspoon of bouillon powder, if using, otherwise 1/2 a teaspoon of sea salt, 1/2 a teaspoon of pepper and the broccoli and cook on a low heat adding 50ml of water at the point where the pan begins to become dry. You will need in all at least 300ml of water. Cooking the broccoli this way retains all the flavour and produces a savoury, tender result. When the pan becomes completely dry and you begin to hear the sound of gentle frying again, turn off the heat and allow to cool.

Simmer the broad beans in salted water for roughly 5 minutes until they are just tender. Run under cold water tap to cool, before placing in a food processor with the mint and remaining butter and processing until you have a smooth, whipped puree. Season with bouillon powder or salt, pepper and process a further minute.

To assemble, spread each piece of toast with the broad bean mix, adding a portion of the cooked broccoli and topping off with nuggets of Gorgonzola, delicious.

You can always hold back a few of the broad beans and once cooked take their skins off in order to dress the final bruschetta, this produces a fancier look, but really, there are better things to do with 4 minutes.
I planted the broccoli the second week in May and I've been eating the stuff for what feels like weeks! The broccoli I'm planting this week I should be able to harvest much more slowly when the winter rolls in, hooray.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Check out if your country has already visited

As regular readers of my blog will know, I have taken to publishing an updated list of all the countries and sovereign states that visit Click here for the list   Do please check it out, contact friends or family living in countries not listed and encourage them to have a look, thank you, Tôbi.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Golden Sultana & Pecan Cake

There are times when I have to remind myself of two things, firstly, I hate waste of any kind, secondly, I do believe discovery requires a sense of adventure and courage.
I had in truth, left enough time to simmer the sultanas in the sherry and still get to watch the end, in my opinion the only interesting part, of Bargain Hunt. I hadn't of course factored in a phone call from the Chaplain. As I walked to the kitchen I was greeted by the unmistakable smell of caramelization. A moment or two later and I would have been greeted by smoke. I quickly tipped out the sultanas, now boiled down to a treacly syrup that was set to harden, out into a sieve and I took the dogs out for a walk while I reconsidered my plans for the cake I was making.
The sultanas undoubtedly tasted a little of treacle but the notes of the sherry remained so I forged ahead. I am pleased with the result and although I would urge caution when making this cake, I would also urge you to repeat as closely as you can the method I used.

Suriname brings the number up to 140! Welcome, welcome!
Welcome! The Solomon Islands brings the number up to 141.
Botswana, welcome now we have 142!
St Martin, you are very welcome, number 143!
For this recipe you will need;

250g of Self Raising Flour
250g of Light Muscovado Sugar
3 large eggs, I used duck eggs but large hen eggs are fine, weighing around 250 to 255g
250g of Unsalted Butter
200g of Golden Sultanas
110g of Pecan Halves
100ml of Pedro Ximenez or other sweet Sherry
200ml of water
1/2 teaspoon of salt.

Begin by simmering the sultanas in the sherry and water for roughly 30 to 40 minutes over a very low heat. As you see from the opening paragraph, you will need to watch these carefully until the liquid has almost entirely disappeared and a sweet dark syrup begins to bubble around the sides, strain the fruit and leave to cool. Toast the pecan halves in the oven set to 180C for 10 minutes.

Cream together the butter and sugar and salt, beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the flour and mix slowly to fully incorporate. Gently stir through the nuts and fruit and turn the mixture into a lined baking tin. I used a square silicon container, measuring 22cm x 22cm x 6cm. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes at 180C until a wooden skewer comes out cleanly when pushed into the center.

Leaving the pecans whole, halves as it were rather than pieces, means you get lovely big chunks of nuts in this cake.