Category Archives: Uncategorized

Hassleback New Potato Gratin. 

Love baked potatoes? Love potato gratin? I’ve combined the two here to make this simple, yet decadent dish. Perfect for this time of year with freshly steamed/sautéed spring green veggies tossed in wild garlic/nettle pesto and a large glass of ice cold white wine. 

 
You will need a medium sized oven dish that is also safe in the microwave. 

Turn your oven on to 200C and start preparing the new potatoes. Using a small, sharp knife, carefully slice enough new potatoes to fit snugly in one layer of your dish. I used 16 which fed four of us, generously. Slice in 5mm intervals, about two thirds of the way down the potatoes, leaving the base intact. Drizzle some light olive oil over the potatoes and season with salt and pepper. Microwave on high for about 10-15 minutes until the potatoes are pretty soft and mostly cooked. (If you don’t have a microwave then you can, of course, bake the potatoes instead.) 

Meanwhile stir together about 150ml of cream (single/double) with a crushed clove of garlic, salt, lots of ground black pepper and some ground/grated nutmeg. Add a generous splash of white wine/vermouth and optional whole grain mustard and herbs (try Rosemary, bay or thyme). Grate in a couple of tablespoons of good hard cheese and give it all another stir. When your mostly cooked potatoes come out of the microwave, pour the creamy mixture all over them. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes or until the dish is bubbling and the potatoes are golden and crispy on top. 

Not the most healthy Monday night supper, but certainly the most delicious one I’ve had in a while. Liz x

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Rhubarb infused with Sweet Violets.

Although rhubarb and custard is an unbeatable combination, I’ve been experimenting with floral infusions. Rhubarb and Rose works well (see my previous post on Rhubarb and rose, custard crumble cupcakes). I was inspired to use violets when I noticed them popping up in the garden. And I thought, well, when in season… Don’t worry, this not overbearingly Parma violet flavoured. It’s quiet subtlety lovely.

   

 

 

So here’s my recipe, if you can even call it that…it’s so simple!

  • A bundle of rhubarb sticks (I used about 7) trimmed and chopped into bite size chunks.
  • A splash of water (I used about 150ml).
  • Sugar or other sweetener to taste (I used agave syrup)
  • Freshly picked violets (or use rose petals and a small splash of rosewater? Or orange zest and a small splash of orange blossom water? Or freshly grated ginger? Or a teaspoon or so of vanilla essence?…)

Put the rhubarb, water and sweetener in a large pan over a moderately high heat. Let it start to bubble and fizz and then stir well with a wooden spoon. Keep stirring until you reach your desired consistency, I like it mostly purée but with a few lumps of rhubarb  left for texture. Taste and adjust the sweetness to your liking. Then take the pan off the heat and add the violet flowers. Stir them in gently to infuse their subtle flavour while the rhubarb is still hot, but don’t re-heat. Let it cool and keep it in a container in the fridge to use for quick delicious desserts or snacks. My favourite way is with a lovely, thick and creamy, full fat Greek style yoghurt as a sort of healthy fool…sprinkle with nuts and some more edible flowers and you have a quite special spring treat! Or why not try it spooned over some good vanilla ice cream and serve with crisp shortbread biscuits?

Enjoy! Liz x

   

  

 


Rhubarb & Rose, Custard Crumble Cupcakes.

 

I adore rhubarb! I know it looks slightly terrifying to cook but it’s actually a piece of cake. Literally here. Today I decided to softly stew the rhubarb with rose and I can’t wait to eat the left-overs as a sort of breakfast fool with yogurt and chopped nuts in the morning. 

Rhubarb is great treated simply (as above), but what follows here is a bit of a special treat for you all. These cupcakes are inspired by rhubarb crumble of course, and by my much-used and loved hummingbird bakery cookbook. In particular their raspberry trifle cupcakes. I have used rhubarb purée instead of raspberry jam and my custard recipe, which replaces the traditional cupcake icing, is what I consider to be ‘proper’ custard. And of course it’s topped with a crunchy, buttery crumble. I hope you’ll give it a go this spring and let me know how you get on. 

   

I won’t give measurements here as they really are unnecessary. Simply roughly chop some fresh rhubarb and pop it into a pan. Then add a splash or two of water. Sprinkle over a couple of tablespoons of sugar (or honey/maple/agave) and cook on a moderately high heat for about 5-10 minutes. Stir frequently with a wooden spoon until the rhubarbs starts turning to a soft purée. Taste and add more sugar/syrup to your liking. I like mine quite tangy. Add a couple of teaspoons of rosewater and a few pinches of dried/fresh rose petals and stir again. Set it to one side to cool while you make your cakes.

 

First make a quick crumble topping by chopping about 50g of butter into a bowl, add 50g flour, 30g sugar and 30g of ground almonds. Rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips until a rough, wet beach-sand-like texture forms. Spread onto a baking sheet covered with baking parchment and bake at 180 for about 10 minutes or so until the crumbles are nicely coloured. Don’t worry if they merge together. Once it’s cooled you can just crumble it up again. 

Make the cupcake batter.

Put 240ml milk, 2 eggs, 1 tsp vanilla and 1 tsp rosewater into a measuring jug. Mix well with a handheld electric whisk.

Then in a large mixing bowl whisk 80g very soft butter, 250g caster sugar and 250g flour (use either self raising or plain with a tablespoon of baking powder added). Once the mixture is well incorporated and resembles bread crumbs slowly add the wet mixture from the jug whilst whisking well to combine. But don’t over-mix!

Divide the mixture into 12 muffin cases and bake for just under 20 minutes in a pre-heated oven (180C). I always turn my muffin tin around after the first 10 minutes to ensure a fairly even bake. Let the cakes cool slightly in the tin before carefully taking them out and placing them on a cooling rack to completely cool.

Meanwhile make the custard. Pour a 300ml tub of organic double cream into a small milk pan. Add 5-6 egg yolks (5 if large, 6 if smallish), 2 tbsp of caster sugar, 1 tsp rosewater and 1 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract. Bring it gently to the boil stirring continuously with a heat-proof spatula. Take it off the heat and whisk well. It should be nice and thick now but add a tsp of corn flour and whisk again over a gentle heat if you are having trouble. Pour the custard out into a nice cool bowl and whisk some more. This ensures there are no lumps and helps it cool down faster. 

Then assemble the cakes!

   

   

Cut little hollows in each cake with a sharp knife. Scoop out a bit more of each cake with a teaspoon. Then fill each with a generous spoon of the rhubarb and rose purée. Top with a couple of tablespoons of thick custard and sprinkle over some crunchy crumble. Enjoy! Liz x

   

 


Cauliflower. Yes again. 

I know I only made a whole roast cauliflower the other day (as a curry), but I couldn’t resist testing out my idea for a chermoula cauliflower for Sunday lunch today to celebrate the last day of #meatfreeweek. It was lovely! I’ve included the recipe for the chermoula spice paste and how to preserve lemons. Although you can now get preserved lemons in most supermarkets, you will probably find it best to learn to preserve your own once you too get hooked on this addictive stuff. Liz x

Start by tipping a tin of tomatoes and a tin of water into a small, deep roasting dish. Add a couple of handfuls of chopped dates and some sliced red onion. Season with salt and plenty of black pepper. If you like, add a tbsp of Harissa for an extra spice kick.

Then prepare the cauliflower by pulling off all the leaves and slicing off the stalk at the base. Put the prepped cauli on top of the tomato and date stew base. Then get on with the chermoula paste.

Chermoula is an incredibly tasty, North African, spicy paste. There are countless variations around, but the key flavours are from the preserved lemon, chilli and spices. Blitz up this red chermoula paste in a small food processor/blender. Or if you don’t have one, you can crush the spices with a pestle and morter, finely dice the lemon, crush the garlic and mix in a bowl.

  • 1 large (or two small) preserved lemon
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 2 crushed garlic cloves
  • Fresh red chillies, to taste
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil to bring it together, about 2 or 3 tbsp will do

Then smear the paste thickly over the trimmed cauliflower. Sprinkle with a few more cumin seeds and bake for an hour to an hour and a half, depending on the size of your cauliflower. Serve sliced wedges on cous cous with the tomato and date stew spooned over it, cumin roast parsnips and carrots, salad…etc! I made a quick tahini, yogurt and pomegranate molasses sauce too. A deliciously different Sunday roast!

And here’s how to preserve your own lemons. It’s very easy! You will need…

  • A tall sterilised jar or two
  • As many unwaxed lemons as you can squeeze into them
  • A tbsp of salt for each lemon
  • Chillies and herbs (optional)
  • Olive oil

Slice a deep cross into each lemon so they are almost in quarters, keeping them intact at the base. Stuff 1 tbsp of salt into each lemon and squish them down into the jar. Try and fit them in as tightly as possible. Use the back of the tablespoon to squash them down and get those juices flowing. Put the lid on and leave it for a week. Give the jar the occasional shake. After a week put in a whole red chilli and a sprig of Rosemary or thyme, or a couple of bay leaves. The lemons will have released most of their juices but top them up with a little more lemon juice if necessary and then about a cm layer of olive oil. Lid back on and leave to preserve for another 3 weeks before using.


Stinging Nettles.

When picking stinging nettles always just pick the tips. Not only are these are the best bits, but it saves you a lot of prep time when you get home. Nettles have endless uses…here’s what I did with my batch today. Liz x

I usually make nettle soup but fancied a light barley stew today. Simple recipe…

Start with a rough, sort-of sofrito (sautéed diced veg) I used onion, swede, carrot and celery…with thyme, garlic, a bay leaf, oil and seasoning. Fry until soft then add barley, mushrooms and water and simmer. Add water as needed. Freshen with a squeeze of lemon juice and stir in some washed nettle tips. Cook for another couple of minutes to wilt the nettles and serve.

  

I also made nettle, lemon and almond pesto with rest of my haul. Blanch the nettles to remove the sting, then cool under cold water and squeeze. Put in a food processor with a large handful of almonds (they don’t have to be blanched, that’s just all I have at the moment), a generous glug of olive oil, a crushed clove of garlic, the zest and juice from half a lemon, salt and pepper.

    


Beetroot & PSB Risotto.

  

Today was a hectic, beans on toast kind of day so, as I promised a recipe a day this week, here’s something I made a couple of weeks ago. 

This is a beautiful, vibrant, pink and green dish. It’s lovely served with lots of chopped dill and some soft, tangy goats cheese. No specific amounts in the recipe I’m afraid, but don’t worry, risotto is a flexible art. I’m sure yours will turn out just fine. I hope you like it! Liz x

  • About one small beetroot per person (either buy those ready cooked & peeled packs or cook & peel your own…boil/roast as you like), diced
  • Diced onion
  • Oil/butter/both
  • Garlic, to taste
  • Fresh thyme leaves
  • Risotto rice
  • A glass of white wine/a splash of vermouth/the juice of a lemon
  • Stock/water & seasoning
  • Purple sprouting broccoli, with the stems split halfway up their length so that they cook evenly

Fry the onion in a little oil/butter on a medium heat until it starts to soften. Then add chopped garlic and diced, cooked beetroot. Sprinkle over the risotto rice and thyme leaves and give it all a good stir. Add the wine/vermouth/lemon juice and stir again. Then add a ladleful of stock/seasoned water at a time and keep stirring until the liquid has been absorbed. Keep adding ladles of stock/water and stirring until the rice is nearly cooked. When you only need to add a last couple of ladles, put the purple sprouting broccoli on the top of the rice to steam and put a lid on. Let it cook for about 3-5 minutes, until the broccoli is cooked through, and then serve immediately. Lemon wedges, chopped dill and cheese on the table.


Whole Roasted Cauliflower.

 

Cauliflowers are great. They are, of course, amazing covered in a cheese sauce and baked into the classic cauliflower cheese. But, they also live an exciting double life as the perfect vehicle for spice. I’ve been LOVING roasting spiced up cauliflower florets for years now so I just knew a whole roasted cauliflower was bound to be something special. And I was right! This was my first ever attempt and I’ve got loads of ideas up my sleeve for variations…see the end. But here’s something to get you started if you fancy a special meat-free roast this weekend. The important thing to remember when roasting cauli’s whole is that they take a long time, over an hour usually. Think giant jacket potato. As always, adapt and adjust to your liking, and let me know how you get on. Liz x 

 

Whole Roast Cauliflower, Chickpea & Coconut Curry. 

Serves 4-6 

  • 1 cauliflower, leaves peeled off & the base levelled
  • 1 tin of coconut milk
  • 1 (or 2 if you are feeding more than 4 people) tins of chickpeas, rinsed & drained
  • 1 lime, zest & juice
  • 1 tbsp brown mustard seeds
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp nigella seeds
  • 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • A small handful of fresh/frozen curry leaves
  • Sliced chillies to taste
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • An inch or so of fresh ginger, grated
  • Salt & black pepper to taste

Put all the ingredients in a small, deep roasting dish and add a mug of water. Mix and smear the coconut and spices all over the cauliflower. Place in the middle shelf of your oven (200C) and roast for at least an hour depending on the size of your cauliflower. It could take an extra half hour… Keep checking on it every 15 minutes or so and basting it by spooning over the sauce. If your cauli is very big the sauce may start to dry out so add some more water or another tin of coconut milk. Check for done-ness by inserting a skewer into the middle. 

Serve sliced wedges of the cauliflower over some boiled rice and spoon over the lovely, coconutty roasted chickpeas. Sprinkle with lots of chopped coriander leaves and provide lime wedges to squeeze at the table. I love it with lime pickle and mango chutney too! 

Oh and don’t discard the cauliflower leaves! Fry them up in a little oil with sliced chillies, garlic, cumin seeds, salt and pepper! If you can get hold of some okra put that in too! With a squeeze of lime juice. Lovely 😋

   

 

Some other ideas I’ve had and which I will be trialing soon…

Smear with chermoula paste, tip in a couple of tins of tomatoes, a tbsp of Harissa paste, some chopped dates and red onions. Season well, drizzle with olive oil and roast. Serve with fluffy cous cous and salad. And a tahini dressing!

Smear with Thai green curry paste. Add coconut milk, lime and spring onions. Roast and serve with rice/noodles and steamed greens.

…or any shop bought Indian curry paste, with a base of tomatoes/coconut milk, red lentils or chickpeas.

Or cover with olive oil and sprinkle fennel seeds, crushed chillies, crushed garlic, dried oregano and seasoning. Roast with a base of tomatoes and serve on pasta or polenta.

Or garlic, Rosemary, butter beans and tomatoes? 

The possibilities are endless! And endlessly delicious.