Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Courgette, Mozzarella and Basil Fritters

I know, I KNOW, yet ANOTHER recipe for courgette fritters.  But, in my defence, they are so quick and easy to make, tasty and are a solution to the courgette mountain at this time of year.  And, although I don't own any, I imagine kids would love them.  Tonight's variation, which made plenty for 4 people, is as follows.  Grate 2 medium courgettes, sprinkle with salt and leave to drain in a colander.  After 20 minutes or so, scoop up handfuls and squeeze the moisture out.  In the meantime, crack 2 eggs into a bowl, add about 60mls of milk and 2 heaped tablespoons of self-raising flour.  Whisk into a thick batter.  Season with a little salt (not too much, we've salted the courgettes, remember), lots of black pepper and half a teaspoon of dried chilli flakes.  Finely chop a couple of spring onions and add to the batter.  Now drain a ball of mozzarella and chop into little dice.  Add to the batter along with the courgettes, 3 tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese and a handful of basil leaves, rolled and cut into shreds.  Mix well, and then drop tablespoons of the batter into a non-stick frying pan with half a centimetre of sunflower or rapeseed oil in.  Fry on each side over a medium heat for a couple of minutes until golden brown and lay out on a parchment lined baking sheet.  You can do this well in advance and reheat in a hot oven for 10 minutes until golden, puffy and sizzling.  Lovely served with tomato sauce or sweet chilli dipping sauce.  Definitely under a fiver.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Nigel Slater Kitchen Diaries Vol II

Hurrah!  Event of the year on 13 September, when Nigel publishes Volume II of the Kitchen Diaries.  You can guess what the subject of this blog will be in 2013! http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Kitchen-Diaries-Nigel-Slater/dp/0007256035/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1346013811&sr=8-3

Cherry and Peach Crostata

I have blogged various versions of the crostata before, including Fig and Raspberry, Rhubarb and Strawberry amongst others.  We enjoyed last week's combination of cherries and peaches in a clafoutis so much that I thought I'd put them in a crostata with some frangipane on the base.  It was delicious again, with cream or creme fraiche, whichever you prefer.  Make some rich shortcrust by blitzing together 150g of plain flour with 75g of chilled, diced unsalted butter and a tablespoon of caster sugar.  Now mix an egg yolk and a tablespoon of chilled water, and pour over the dry mix in the processor.  Blitz again until just coming togther into a ball, adding a tiny bit of water if necessary.  Tip onto a sheet of cling film, flatten into a disk, wrap and chill for at least an hour.  Bring out of the fridge for about 20 minutes on a warm day to soften, then roll into a rough disk about 14 inches in diameter.  I do this on the clingfilm to make lifting easy.  Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment.  Now cream 50g of soft unsalted butter and 50g of caster sugar until pale and creamy.  Add an egg, 100g of ground almonds and a dash of vanilla essence.  Quickly mix then spread on the pastry base, leaving a 2 inch border all round.  Pile 3 skinned and chopped white peaches on top of the frangipane, and a big handful of stoned cherries.  Bring the edges of the pastry up around the side - it should be ragged and rustic looking.  Sprinkle with a teaspoon or so of sugar and bake at 170C (fan) for half an hour until browned.  Best served just warm rather than hot from the oven.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Prawn Linguine with Chorizo Tomato Sauce

This recipe is from Lorraine Pascale and when I saw it on her new TV programme, I knew we had to cook it.  The best thing to do is link to her online recipe - I pretty much followed it but used a glass of the rose wine we were drinking rather than cabernet sauvignon.  I also left out the harissa, as we wanted more of an Italian vibe than a southern Spanish/Morrocan one.  The fennel seed is essential though, as is the oregano - all of these make it Italian in spirit. This was a fabulous recipe, and I would urge you to make it!  We made the full amount of sauce and saved half to make Patatas Bravas tomorrow.  Definitely one to make again.  My camera was out of juice, so I have pinched Lorraine's photo.
Photo courtesy of Daily Mail/Lorraine Pascale/myles new

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

These are SOOOOO much better than any cookies you can buy, and such a doddle to make.  I use the recipe from Smitten Kitchen's blog which, if you haven't discovered yet, I urge you to visit, if only to keep up with the growing charm of her toddler son.  This is just about the most famous food blog on the planet so you might have seen it already!  Anyway, great recipe, reliable, quick and easy, and I get about 18 cookies from this quantity of dough.  Perfect for a work fundraiser tomorrow, along with some chocolate Vanilla Cupcakes, based on the Hummingbird Bakery recipe I've blogged on here before.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Peach and Cherry Clafoutis

The English cherry season is late this year, and the fruit isn't the best, to be honest - all the rain made for poor pollination and a rather soft and mushy fruit.  But, they are fine for cooking and a good handful made a lovely clafoutis with chunks of ripe, skinned Italian white peaches.  I use Alice Waters' recipe for the batter from her Chez Panisse Fruit cookbook.  She flavours her batter with the grated zest of half a lemon and the merest knife-tip of ground cinnamon.  To make the batter, whisk together 3 tablespoons each of plain flour and casgter sugar, 2 eggs and 150ml each of whole milk and cream.  Stir through a couple of drops of vanilla extract, the lemon zest and cinnamon.  Spread the prepared fruit (a big handful of cherries with the stones removed and large chunks of skinned peach) in a shallow china or glass dish, pour over the batter and bake at 165C (fan) for 30 minutes until golden brown and set.  Leave until warm, dust with icing sugar, and serve with a dollop of Creme Fraiche and some more fruit, if liked.

Baked Parmesan Salmon

I have to admit to nicking this idea from a Hellman's Mayonnaise tv advert!  I tarted it up a little - of course, and they used chicken instead of fish.  The Italians insist that fish and cheese don't go together, but I think, used judiciously, they can make a good pairing.  I wouldn't go down the Cheddar route with salmon, but Parmesan is fine.  For two fillets of salmon, I put 2 tablespoons of full-fat Hellman's mayo in a bowl, stirred in 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard, a splash of Worcestershire sauce and 3 tablespoons of grated Parmesan.  Lightly oil a sheet of foil on a baking tray, put the salmon fillets on and spread the flavoured mayo over each of them.  Top with a little more Parmesan and some black pepper, then bake at 200C (fan) for 12-15 minutes until the fish is just cooked through (this depends on the thickness of the fish so do check early) and bubbling brown on top.  Serve with lemon wedges.  Surprisingly nice and lovely for this hot weather!

Toasted Hummus

Well, toasted is taking it a bit far, but several of the components have been toasted so I think the name is justified!  Also, there is a little more texture than regular hummus.  It is simply hummus made the usual way (which for me is a tin of well-rinsed and drained East End chickpeas, 2 tablespoons of tahini paste, a peeled garlic clove, a teaspoon of ground cumin, the juice of half a lemon, about 4 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of boiling water, blitzed in a processor).  After blending, I stir in 2 teaspoons of toasted sesame oil, a tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds and 2 tablespoons of toasted pine nuts, roughly chopped.  Add salt and pepper to taste, spoon into a bowl, drizzle over more olive oil, sprinkle over some more sesame seeds and pine nuts and some paprika, and tuck in with toasted pitta breads.  We'll have the remainder in a sandwich tomorrow with grated carrot and lots of salad.  Yum!

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Porotos Granados

This is like a kind of Chilean Minestrone, thick with white beans, green beans, sweetcorn and squash.  I adapted it slightly from a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe in his wonderful 'Veg Every Day' cookbook - I added a teaspoon of tomato puree and changed the spicing from smoked paprika to a teaspoon each of ground cumin and dried red chilli flakes, along with his suggested oregano.  It was a really lovely soup, thick and hearty and filling.  It definitely qualifies for the 'under a fiver' challenge, and will feed four people most generously - low fat and very high in fibre, too.  All the ingredients are coming into season now, so it is perfect for drizzly August nights that shade into early September Autumn.  If you are lucky enough to grow your own fresh Borlotti or Cranberry beans - these would be a wonderful alternative to the dried or tinned that Hugh uses in his recipe.  If you are a carnivore, some online versions include slices of fried chorizo, which would be nice too, but we were happy with the veggie version with some toasted ciabatta to provide complementary protein.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Roasted Corn and Tomato Salsa

This was a great accompaniment to some grilled fillets of mackerel last night.  The limey chilli flavour cut through the oiliness of the fish perfectly.  I removed the husk and silk from a fresh ear of corn and rubbed it in olive oil.  Then, it was roasted under a hot grill for about 10 minutes, turning every few minutes, until lightly toasted and the kernels are tender.  Allow to cool, before stripping the kernels off with a sharp knife, run from top to bottom of the corn head whilst holding it upright on a board.  Meanwhile, finely dice 4 cherry or 2 ordinary tomatoes and add to the corn kernels in a bowl.  Finely chop a small red onion or some spring onions and add to the corn and tomato.  Squeeze in the juice from a large lime, a couple of shakes of Tobasco sauce and a good bunch of coriander leaves, finely chopped.  Season to taste with salt - it needs quite a bit - and half a teaspoon of sugar if it is too acidic for you.  Allow to sit for half-an-hour, then serve with whatever you like - mackerel, grilled salmon, sausages, steak, chicken breast, griddled aubergine or courgettes, courgette fritters, or slices of grilled haloumi cheese.  Or just as a dip with tortilla chips.


Such an easy thing to make, and SOOO expensive to buy ready-made, so if you are fond of this spread, make it yourself, and it tastes much better too.  The only consideration is whether to 'anchovy' or not.  I'm not a huge fan of the little fish, myself, so I leave it out, but add a well-drained fillet or two if you like it.  I take a jar of pitted black olives in brine, about 120g drained weight, rinsed well under a running tap.  Bung into a food processor along with a tablespoon of well-rinsed salted capers, half a clove of garlic, 2 tablespoons chopped parsley and a spritz of lemon juice.  Grind in lots of black pepper, but no salt, then pour in 3 or 4 tablespoons of good olive oil.  Zazz in the processor for 30 seconds, then scrape the sides of the bowl, add another spoonful or two of oil and zazz for another 30 seconds.  Spoon and scrape into a bowl, pour over another tablespoon of oil, and keep covered, in the fridge.  This lasts well for a couple of weeks in the fridge, and is lovely spread on toasted ciabatta, or spread on a chunky piece of fish before grilling, or as a dip for baby new potatoes, so many things.  A great supper, by the way, is a pouch of Merchant Gourmet ready-cooked Puy Lentils, piled on salad, topped with a soft-boiled or poached egg, and toasted sourdough with tapenade spread on.  I could happily live on this!  In the meantime, on toast for us tonight, to accompany a Dry Martini.  Cin cin!

Friday, 10 August 2012

Creamy Roast Tomato Sauce

When you think of roasted tomatoes, you probably also think of olive oil as the logical fat to use to cook them.  But adding a little butter and cream raises the sweet roasted flavour to a different dimension, as well as mellowing the acidity.  For 2 people, I simply halve 5 large ripe tomatoes, cover with a clove or two of chopped garlic, some salt and pepper and a couple of teaspoons of olive oil drizzled over.  Roast for 30 minutes until starting to go golden and juicy.  Blend in a processor or with a hand blender, then stir in around 25g of butter and a tablespoon of cream, creme fraiche or mascarpone.  Add basil if liked, and stir through 200g of freshly cooked pasta with some freshly-grated Parmesan or veggie equivalent.  Simple, cheap and delicious for a summer supper.  Double up to serve four, and it will still cost less than a fiver, especially as we move into the UK tomato season.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Greek Courgette Pie

I was challenged at work today by 2 colleagues to make a meal for two people with 2 courgettes and 2 eggs.  I've done better than that - I've made a meal for four people (with a little extra help along the way!).  This is based on a Sarah Raven recipe from her Garden cookbook, a great option for seasonal veg cooking.  You start off by gently sauteeing a chopped red or white onion, 2 medium courgettes, grated, and a crushed clove of garlic in a tablespoon of olive oil - Greek if you have it.  Let this cook for 15 minutes until soft and most of the moisture has been driven off.  Cool a little whilst you beat the 2 eggs in a bowl with a tablespoon of Greek yoghurt or creme fraiche, some salt and pepper (not too much salt, as the feta is salty), a sprinkle of dried red chilli flakes, and a tablespoon each of chopped parsley and mint.  If you have fresh dill, add a tablespoon of this too.  If you have toasted pine nuts lying around (I keep mine in the freezer) then add a tablespoon or so to the mix.  Now fold in the cooled courgette mixture and 100g of proper Greek feta, cut into squares.  Then, melt about 25g of butter and a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan.  Take a baking tin (wide and shallow is best) and brush with some of the butter/oil, then line with a sheet of filo pastry, letting the excess hang over the edge.  Brush with a little butter/oil, then lay another sheet of filo.  Repeat.  Now pour the courgette mixture onto the pastry.  Fold over the excess overhanging pastry and brush with more butter.  Lay another sheet of filo over, brush with butter and then scrunch another couple of sheets over the top.  Brush the whole thing with more butter/oil, sprinkle with sesame seeds if you have any (I didn't) then bake for 30  to 35 minutes at around 180C (fan)  until golden brown and crisp and the filling is gently set.  Serve warm or cold.  Definitely under a fiver territory here, and you can scale it up to feed more people in a bigger tin for a picnic, perhaps.  Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall does a version of this in his 'Veg Every Day' book with rice added, but I felt the rice didn't soften enough when added raw.  You could bulk this out by part-boiling a cup of Basmati and adding it to the filling, but it will be a firmer, denser stuffing, albeit a more substantial one.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Not Quite Paella

I make no claims about the authenticity of this but it makes for a delicious Paella-style dish.  I sauteed sliced onion, a Romano red pepper and the remains of last night's fennel bulb with half a horse-shoe of chorizo in olive oil, until all was just beginning to become tinged gold and the oil has rendered from the sausage.  Grate in a couple of garlic cloves, add half a teaspoon of hot smoked paprika and a teacupful of Bomba or Callasparra Valencia rice (Waitrose sells it).  Stir well, then stir in a mixture of 3/4 pint veg stock, a teaspoon of tomato puree, a good pinch of best-quality saffron (I use Iranian, brought from there by my friend Noshin) and 1/4 pint of dry white wine.  Bring to the boil, turn the heat right down, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.  Then stir in about 12 peeled de-veined King prawns and tiny broad beans or petit pois.  Cover again, and simmer for 4-5 minutes.  Finally, add chopped parsley and serve with lots of lemon chunks.  Lovely!  We started the meal with fresh corn cobs with chilli and coriander butter and washed down with Margaritas - Ay Carrumba!!!!

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Composed Warm Chicken Salad with Beetroot, Fennel and Orange

I love salads where you distribute everything on a big platter, pour over the dressing and dig in - everything gets well blended as you dish up, and you can layer the dish with texture, colour and flavour.  This was a great example with a base of Batavia lettuce leaves, sliced freshly-boiled beetroot, shaved fennel and fillets of orange.  Topped with chunks of chicken marinated in lemon, rosemary and garlic, then quickly sauteed, and little croutons of bread sizzled to golden deliciousness in olive oil, and then all dressed with a vinaigrette made from the orange juice, you end up with a vibrant and healthy supper.  You can vary this so much, and I could have used smoked or grilled mackerel, poached salmon, chunks of good tinned or fresh tuna, strips of juicy steak, chunks of fried chorizo, garlic prawns, or feta or goats' cheese for a veggie option, instead of the chicken.  Use your imagination and whatever is best in the market and in season.  Just think about the overall colour and make sure there is textural variation as well to keep things interesting.  As well as crunch from croutons, you can get the same effect from cucmber or red pepper, and spring onion adds texture and a sharp savour too.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Courgette and Sweetcorn Fritters with Tzatziki (revisited)

I've blogged courgette fritters before, and they are a great favourite of ours.  However, I tinker with the recipe, and discovered today that using self raising flour, instead of my usual plain, makes for a much lighter, fluffier fritter.  I made a batter with 2 very heaped tablespoons of SR flour, 2 eggs (from a neighbour's chooks, and fresh as anything) and a tablespoon or so of milk.  Mix well with a whisk, and season lightly with salt and plenty of pepper.  Allow to sit for half an hour.  Meanwhile, grate two medium courgettes, sprinkle with a teaspoon of salt and let them drain in a colander while the batter rests.  Strip the kernels from an ear of fresh corn (or use a small, well-drained tin), and finely-chop a couple of spring onions.  Break up a 100g block of feta into small chunks.  Now, drain the courgettes really well by squeezing handfuls tightly and then drying even more in kitchen paper.  Stir everything into the batter, and fry tablespoons of the batter in hot sunflower or rape seed oil until golden brown on each side.  You can do this in advance and reheat in a hot oven on a non-stick baking sheet for 10 minutes - they'll puff up again.  Make the tzatziki by grating half a cucumber and mixing with a small pot of Greek yoghurt, a grated clove of garlic, the juice of half a lemon, a handful of mint, finely-chopped, and salt and pepper.  Serve with the fritters with salad and perhaps roasted tomatoes, or maybe ham if you want some meat.  A great dish for kids, packing a real veggie punch, and definitely under a fiver.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Caldo Verde

This Portuguese soup is great for a not-particularly-warm summer evening, and provided you watch your timings, you'll have a fresh veggie-packed, vibrant supper, best eaten with lots of crusty bread.  There are as many recipes for Caldo Verde as there are Portuguese.  However, most seem to require the presence of onion, potatoes and fresh leafy greens such as kale or chard (my green of choice today).  You can then add layers of texture and flavour depending on what you have available - I added fresh sweetcorn kernels, some tinned chickpeas, a couple of finely diced tomatoes and half a 'horse-shoe' of good chorizo, sliced.  Simmered in chicken broth, with garlic and a little smoked hot paprika to boost the sausage flavours, it was a fabulous, filling, savoury, brothy soup, packed full of veg.  Just make sure you add the greens and tomato if used) a few minutes before serving to preserve their colour and texture.  As this only uses half a chorizo, this qualifies for 'Under a fiver' easily.  You could make it veggie/vegan too, by using veg stock and omitting the sausage.