Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Spelt, Sprouted Bean & Tomato Salad



The glorious Isle of Wight tomatoes which have brightened my days all summer are still tasting pretty good, but my mind has already begun to wander to the the delights of autumn.  My favourite season, with its orange tones, majestic squash and gutsy fruit puddings.  But before I bid the summer farewell, there is that short period where my light lunchtime salads slowly become a little more robust and certain ingredients start to reappear like long lost friends.

I had dug out a box of Sharpham Park pearled spelt last week when the weather was damp and dismal with thoughts of a spelt risotto with squash, chestnuts, spinach and goat's cheese, but the summer has decided to grace us with one last hurrah.  So one short fridge forage later, the risotto was ditched in favour of a hearty salad.

The tahini gives the dressing a lovely creamy texture.  Go easy on the garlic - it really does only need one small clove or half a large clove. 

Ingredients

200g pearled spelt

125g sprouted beans
4 or 5 medium tomatoes
8 radishes
a small bunch flat leaf parsley

For the dressing:

1/2 tsp Maldon sea salt, ground
1 small clove garlic, crushed
1 tbsp light tahini
1 & 1/2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tbsp olive oil


Method

Cook the pearled spelt according the the packet instructions.  I usually wash mine well, put in a small pan, add 300ml water, put the lid on the pan and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to the lowest setting and cook for 20 minutes or until tender.  If there is any moisture left, I remove the lid and stir over a low heat for a minute or two.  Spread out on a plate to cool.

In a medium sized bowl mix the ingredients for the dressing until emulsified (one of those little 'wonder whisks' does this job brilliantly).

Cut each of the tomatoes into quarters and chop or slice the radishes.  Roughly chop the parsley - leaves and stalks.

Add the spelt, sprouted beans and chopped parsley to the dressing and mix well.  Then add the tomatoes and radishes, stir lightly and serve.

Serves 4 for a light lunch.


Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Pistachio, Raspberry & Rose Bundt - A Wedding Present



Once upon a time, there were two girls who lived in South East London and who both loved baking.  Over a glass or three of wine they plotted and planned and decided to share their passion for all things baked.  With more than a small dose of trepidation they organised the inaugural gathering of the Band of Bakers - a bake club for South East London - and have never looked back.

Sometime later, one of the girls married the man of her dreams.  The other girl, not content with just buying a wedding gift, decided to create a cake to mark this special, romantic occasion.  A beautiful cake which could be baked again and again as they all lived happily ever after.

For Gemma & Ollie Thomas.

Ingredients

For the cake:

150g unsalted butter, softened
200g golden caster sugar
3 medium eggs
120g plain full fat yogurt (unsweetened)
2 tsp rose water 
150g good quality shelled pistachios, roughly ground 
225g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
125g fresh raspberries

For the icing and decoration:

2 tbsp rose water
125g icing sugar, sifted
pistachios, roughly chopped
edible dried rose petals

Method

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Prepare a small bundt tin - grease with butter and then coat with a little flour.

Beat the unsalted butter and caster sugar until pale and fluffy.  This will take about 5 minutes in a stand mixer or with an electric whisk.

In a separate bowl beat together the eggs, plain yogurt and rose water.  Add to the butter and sugar mixture and beat until combined.  

Sift the plain flour and baking powder into the mixture and mix until just combined, then gently fold in the pistachios.

Put half of the cake batter into the bunt tin, then push half of the raspberries gently and evenly into the batter. Add the remaining cake batter and repeat the same process with the rest of the raspberries.  Smooth the top of the batter with the back of spoon until all of the raspberries are covered.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 50-55 minutes until golden and risen.  Test with a cake tester - it should come out clean or with just a few moist crumbs, but not wet batter.

Leave the cake to cool in the tin for at least an hour, then turn out onto a cooling rack.  If you try to turn it out too soon, the cake could split.

Whilst the cake is cooling prepare the icing by mixing the rosewater and icing sugar together.  Once the cake has cooled decorate with the icing, chopped pistachios and rose petals.

*A little note about the ingredients for this cake: it will taste so much better if you use really good pistachios and rose water.  I buy both of mine from Persepolis in Peckham.  If you aren't lucky enough to live nearby like me, you can order online.


Friday, 5 September 2014

Clotted Cream & Stem Ginger Shortbread



My friend came back from Cornwall recently with a little gift of some clotted cream for me. Not one of those tubs you can buy in the supermarket (you know, the sort that doesn't even do a round of cream teas for one person let alone two). No, he brought me a kilo of the stuff. A whole kilo of Cornwall's finest Rodda's Clotted Cream.

That's a lot of a cream. 

So I baked a batch of scones and cracked open the only remaining jar of last summer's homemade strawberry jam. Then I baked another batch, but I was barely making an indent.

Next up was a Clotted Cream & Strawberry Semifreddo. I could have eaten that until the cows came home, but I could feel my arteries hardening with each spoonful, so I donated half of it to the kind bringer of the clotted cream.

Finally, inspired by biscuit week on the Great British Bake Off, I baked these little beauties - Clotted Cream & Stem Ginger Shortbread. 

Ingredients

100g plain flour
50g rice flour
75g Rodda's clotted cream
75g good quality unsalted butter
50g golden caster sugar
2 pieces of stem ginger from a jar, finely chopped

Method

Preheat the oven to 160C.

Combine the plain flour, rice flour and unsalted butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.  Mix in the clotted cream, sugar and stem ginger, then form into a ball of dough, handling as lightly as possible.

Roll out to 1cm thick and cut into rounds using a 4cm straight sided cookie cutter.  You can use any size or shape of cutter you like, but you may need to adjust the cooking time slightly.

Carefully lift each biscuit and place on a prepared baking tray (I use the non stick liner from Lakeland so that I don't have to worry about greasing the baking tray).

Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, until the shortbread are barely golden.  Leave to cool on the baking tray for at least 10 minutes and then carefully transfer to a cooling rack.


Monday, 1 July 2013

Stilton, Potato & Caramelised Onion Tart



Whenever we go into a cheese shop the first thing my 2 year old son will do is ask for stilton.  Usually at the top of his voice, much to the amusement of anyone in earshot.  He's well known at both of our local cheese haunts - The Cheese Block and Mootown (whose Bermondsey Spa he is also quite partial too, especially when eaten straight off the knife) - for his adventures in strong, mature and stinky cheese.

It's hardly surprising though given the quantities of blue cheese I used to demolish as my parents pushed me around the market on a Saturday morning in my pushchair whilst they did their weekly shop.  My personal favourite was Danish Blue at that time, or so my Dad tells me.

Back in February we spent a week holed up in a converted barn in the foothills of the Black Mountains.  It was the sort of holiday where we sheltered from the freezing temperatures outside, ate copious amounts of cheese and pottered around the kitchen baking focaccia, coconut breakfast cake, cinnamon buns and savoury tarts. 

This tart, packed with new potatoes, caramelised onions and stilton, is what I'd refer to as a substantial tart.  The sort you only need a simple salad with in summer.  I'd had the idea for it in mind for quite a while, so baked it for the first time that week in Wales and more recently for my Tea Room at the Sunday Art Salon in Brockley.

I like it best when it's served cold for lunch or a picnic the next day.

Ingredients

For the pastry:

225g plain flour
110g unsalted butter
pinch salt
125ml cold water

For the filling:

5 medium onions
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 tsp soft brown sugar
1 tsp sherry vinegar
100g-150g good stilton, broken into pieces
6 medium new potatoes, cooked and sliced
300ml double cream
2 medium eggs
salt & black pepper

Method

Start by making the pastry.  Put the flour, salt and butter in a mixing bowl and rub together with your finger tips until they resemble breadcrumbs.  Add the cold water, a little at a time, and bring together to form a ball (you may not need it all), handling the pastry lightly and as little as possible.  Flatten into a patty, wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Peel and halve the onions, then slice into 'half rings' about 5mm thick.  Heat a heavy based frying pan over a low heat, add the rapeseed oil and fry the onions for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring often, until they are golden brown.  Don't try to rush this, they need to cook slowly to develop the flavour.  Add the sugar and season with salt and pepper.  Cook for a couple of minutes and then add the sherry vinegar and cook for another minute.

Roll the pastry out to about 3mm thick and line a greased 23cm fluted, loose based tart tin.  Prick the surface of the pastry on the base of the tin gently all over with a fork, taking care not to push through to the tin.  Chill again for 10 minutes.  Line with foil or baking parchment and fill with baking beans.  Bake blind for 15 minutes, then remove the beans and foil / parchment and bake for another 5 minutes until the pastry has dried out and the base is cooked.

Reduce the temperature of the oven to 180C.

Spread the caramelised onions over the base of the cooked pastry case.  Top with the cooked potato slices and then the stilton.  Whisk the eggs and cream together and season with a little salt and plenty black pepper.  Pour over the onions, potatoes and stilton until it nearly reaches the top of the pastry.

Cook the tart in the middle of the oven for 15-20 minutes until set and the pastry cooked through.  If the pastry around the edge is cooking too quickly you can cover it with foil.  

Leave to cool in the tin before removing to serve.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Spicy Prawn Noodle Soup



Who knew there are calories in ground cumin?

I watched Michael Mosley's Horizon documentary, Eat, Fast and Live Longer, on BBC2 last year with interest.  Michael Mosley set himself the challenge to live longer, stay younger and lose weight. Goals that many of us can identify with.  His research concluded that intermittent fasting could help achieve those goals and settled upon the 5:2 way of eating.  That is 5 days of normal eating and 2 days of fasting (when you limit the calories you eat to 500 calories for women or 600 calories for men) each week.  I'm no scientist, but the potential (not yet proven in humans) health benefits seem to make sense and, for that reason, I decided I was willing to take a punt and give it a go for a little while.

I have never counted calories before in my life.  A little naive maybe, but I had no idea that foods like cucumbers actually contained much in the way of calories. Aren't cucumbers about 90% water?  Don't get me wrong, it's not that I've never had to reign it in to lose the pounds that have crept on, but I've done that by reducing portion sizes, cutting out snacks, limiting my monstrous cheese intake and laying off the booze (...well, just a little).  Never has the way I've eaten been so scientific.  And believe me, for someone who abhors maths, all the calculating and counting had my head in a bit of a spin at the beginning.

I love food. I love cooking. I love creating new recipes. So I saw this as a challenge. Making nutritious food that is both delicious and low in calories.  After eating the 5:2 way on and off since Christmas (with a big break thanks to pneumonia) I've found that the best way of approaching fast days (for me) is to abstain from food all day and then have a decent sized main meal in the evening, which means that sometimes I can even have carbs.

This is one of the tastiest, most satisfying fast day dinners I've had so far.  A huge bowl of comforting, spicy soup.

Serves: 1
Prep time: 15 minutes (excluding making the stock)
Cook time: 10 minutes
Calories per portion (approx): 360

Ingredients

100g king prawns (peeled weight - approx 4 large unpeeled prawns), peeled & deveined
100g pak choi, sliced
50g mange tout
50g beansprouts
30g oyster mushrooms, sliced
2 spring onions, sliced
1-2 bird's eye chillies, finely sliced
2-3cm piece fresh ginger, finely sliced
300ml good vegetarian stock (see more below)
1/2 tsp brown miso paste
1 tsp fish sauce (or soy sauce)
fresh coriander
50g glass noodles (cooked according to packet instructions)

Method

Put the stock in a pan with the miso paste and fish sauce and heat through.  Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil.  Blanch the pak choi, mange tout and oyster mushrooms for 1-2 minutes, remove from the water and set aside.  Then cook the prawns in the same water until pink and cooked through and set aside (again 1-2 minutes depending on the size of your prawns).

Put the glass noodles, vegetables, prawns, spring onions, chillies and ginger in a big bowl and pour over the stock.  Add some roughly chopped coriander to serve.

Good vegetarian stock:

I use this recipe from Kellie's blog Food to Glow to make vast quantities of vegetarian stock which I then freeze in 1 person portions so that I have some to hand whenever I fancy noodle soup.  I then add in whatever other flavours  and seasoning I want before I use it.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Spanish Mackerel with Chickpeas & Pearled Spelt



There are times when I wander into the fishmonger with not the foggiest idea what I'm going to buy.  Although probably a little frustrating for everyone queued up behind me as I um and ah, it does mean I'm not constrained by a recipe or an idea.  I can pick whatever looks the best or comes recommended.  Last week it was the shiny, bright eyed Spanish mackerel which caught my eye at Moxons

A rare glimpse of sunshine meant I was craving salads and summery, holiday food.  Warm, sunny days are the perfect time for lazy family lunches and big platters of simple salads...

Pearled spelt (or farro) is one of those ingredients that I bought on impulse, after seeing a photo on Instagram of a gorgeous salad which Elly Curshen made for Pear Cafe.  These grains of spelt with the outer husk removed have a nutty flavour and work well in place of rice, bulgur or couscous in salads.  

Serves 2 adults and 1 hungry toddler for lunch.

Ingredients

1 large mackerel or 2 small mackerel, filleted
50g pearled spelt
200g cooked chickpeas (or 1 tin good quality chickpeas)
2 spring onions, finely sliced on the diagonal
2 tbsp flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
150g small ripe tomatoes, halved or quartered
1 dessert spoon sherry vinegar
2 dessert spoons olive oil (plus extra to cook the mackerel)
salt & black pepper
freshly squeezed lemon juice (to serve)

Method

Cook the spelt according to the packet instructions, then drain.

Make the dressing in a large bowl by mixing together the sherry vinegar and olive oil with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Add the cooked spelt, chickpeas, spring onions, tomatoes and parsley and mix well.  Check seasoning and adjust if necessary.

Heat a frying pan over a moderate heat.  Wash and dry the mackerel fillets, rub a little olive oil on each side of the fillets and season with a little salt.  Cook the mackerel fillets, skin side down, for 3-4 minutes, then turn and cook for a further minute or two until just cooked.

Spoon the salad onto a large serving plate and put the mackerel fillets on top, skin side up.  Squeeze over a little lemon juice and serve immediately.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Earl Grey Fruit Loaf with Lemon & Lavender Icing



The best cakes are sometimes the simplest.  A classic tea loaf has to be one of the easiest cakes to bake.  Whether it's Yorkshire Tea Loaf, Bara Brith, Irish Tea Brack or one of the many other regional specialities, it's just a case of soaking fruit and sugar in tea and then mixing in the egg and flour before baking.

It's pretty perfect just spread with butter and accompanied by a cup of tea.  But in this version I've swapped strong tea, for the lighter, more fragrant earl grey from Flint & Co and I've added some icing made with lemon juice and a very small amount of edible lavender (you don't need much as it is a flavour which can quickly overpower everything else).

Ingredients

For the cake:

350g mixed vine fruit
225g light soft brown sugar
300ml earl grey tea
275g self raising flour
1 medium egg, beaten

For the icing:

juice of half a lemon
100g icing sugar, sifted
1/2 tsp edible lavender

Method

For the cake:

Put the vine fruit, sugar and brewed tea into a bowl, stir and leave to soak for 12-24 hours.

Prepare a 2lb loaf tin (one which measures approximately [ ]l / [ ]w / [ ]d) by greasing and lining with baking parchment.

Stir the beaten egg into the fruit mixture and then sift in the flour. Stir until well combined.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake at 150C for 11/2 hours. Leave the cake to cool in the tin and then turn out onto a cooling rack.

For the icing:

Mix the icing sugar into the lemon juice bit by bit (you may not need it all, but you may need more depending on how juicy your lemon is). You are looking for a pouring consistency, but not so thin that it all runs straight off the cake!

Once the cake is cool, drizzle the icing across the the cake widthways, using as much or as little as you like. Finish by sprinkling the lavender on top of the cake.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Asparagus, Brie & New Potato Tart



Asparagus is probably in my top 3 favourite vegetables. It definitely comes after aubergines though. They have to be my all time favourite (although technically, aren't they fruit..?). I usually eat my asparagus as simple as it comes, plenty of salt and pepper and a big pot of melted butter to dip each spear in (several times).

I decided to do something a bit different for my Tea Room at the Sunday Art Salon last Sunday, to showcase this wonderful British seasonal vegetable. The brie can easily be substituted if you're not fond of it. A soft cheese or goat's cheese would work well.


Ingredients

For the pastry:

225g plain flour
60g unsalted butter
50g vegetable shortening (eg Trex)
pinch salt
125ml cold water

For the filling:

4 medium new potatoes
16-18 thin asparagus spears
100g brie, sliced
300ml double cream
2 medium eggs
salt & black pepper

Method

Start by making the pastry. Put the flour, salt and butter in a mixing bowl and rub together with your finger tips until they resemble breadcrumbs. Add the cold water, a little at a time, and bring together to form a ball (you may not need it all), handling the pastry lightly and as little as possible. Flatten into a patty, wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Whilst the pastry is chilling (or in advance if you're super organised), boil the potatoes in their skins for approximately 20 minutes until just cooked, set aside to cool and then slice. For the asparagus, bring a pan of water to the boil, add the asparagus and cook for 1 minute. Drain the asparagus and plunge into ice cold water to stop the cooking process.

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Roll the pastry out to about 3mm thick and line a greased 23cm fluted, loose based tart tin. Prick the surface of the pastry on the base of the tin gently all over with a fork, taking care not to push through to the tin. Chill again for 10 minutes. Line with foil or baking parchment and fill with baking beans. Bake blind for 15 minutes, then remove the beans and foil / parchment and bake for another 5-10 minutes until the pastry has dried out and the base is cooked.

Reduce the temperature of the oven to 180C.

Cover the base of the pastry case with the sliced potatoes then arrange the asparagus and brie on top, ensuring that it is evenly distributed. Whisk the eggs and cream together and season with a little salt and plenty black pepper. Pour over the asparagus, potatoes and brie until it nearly reaches the top of the pastry.

Cook the tart in the middle of the oven for 15-20 minutes until set and the pastry cooked through. If the pastry around the edge is cooking too quickly you can cover it with foil.

Serve at room temperature or leave to cool in the tin before removing to serve cold.