A summery salad from Southwold

May 24, 2015 § Leave a comment

Whilst on our annual pilgrimage to Southwold on the bracing Suffolk coast I tried out a new salad recipe inspired by the cover recipe on this month’s Delicious magazine. It combines two of the season’s best ingredients – asparagus and baby new potatoes and adds to them crunchy radishes and a fresh herby dressing. The Delicious magazine recipe requires you to whip up a herb hollandaise sauce to dress the salad but creating a vinegar reduction, separating eggs and creating a delicate emulsion is not my idea of fun for a quick holiday lunch, and frankly, the idea of all that butter is a little off-putting. I replaced the herb hollandaise with a quick and easy yoghurt and herb dressing that worked really well with the other ingredients.

At this time of year, Southwold’s greengrocer, the Crab Apple in the Market Place is heaving with local Seabreeze asparagus, so much so that one no longer feels the need to treat it reverentially. Wild fennel grows in abundance by the beach and a little of this thrown into the herb dressing adds a fresh aniseed flavour note that works well with the asparagus and potatoes.

The genius part of this salad is that the potatoes are not just plain boiled but after a quick parboil are smashed and roasted in olive oil in a hot oven becoming deliciously crispy.

In terms of aesthetics, the long thin white tipped Breakfast variety of radish look prettiest, especially if you leave on a little of the green radish top. If you can’t get hold of these then the regular scarlet globe-shaped type works just fine.

Here’s the recipe. I’d recommend it to anyone wanting to pep up a holiday lunch and it provides welcome relief from yet another carb-heavy pork pie and sandwich picnic.

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Southwold asparagus and crispy potato salad

Serves 4

Adapted from a recipe in the Delicious magazine May 2015 edition.

Ingredients

450-500g baby new potatoes (e.g. Jersey Royals), scrubbed
4-5 tablespoons olive oil
400g asparagus, woody parts trimmed-off and ends peeled
200g radishes, washed, trimmed and halved lengthwise (the long thin white-tipped Breakfast variety look prettiest but the regular

For the dressing

250g full fat natural yoghurt
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
small clove of garlic, peeled, smashed and finely chopped
generous handful of fresh herbs – whatever you can get hold of – I used fennel foraged from the beach, basil and chives

Optional garnish

a spoonful of extra chopped herbs
a little balsamic vinegar or pomegranate molasses

Heat the oven to 200 degrees C fan. Line a shallow roasting tin with baking paper

Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for 7-8 minutes until you can just pierce them with a knife point but they are not quite tender. Drain thoroughly and tip the potatoes onto the prepared roasting tin. Press each potato with a fork to squash it partially. Drizzle over the olive oil, season and toss lightly to coat. Slip the roasting tin into the oven and roast the potatoes for about 30 minutes, turning them half way through the cooking time.

While the potatoes are in the oven, make the dressing. Put all the dressing ingredients into a medium bowl, stir to mix, cover and set aside in the fridge.

Steam or boil the prepared asparagus until just tender – about 5 minutes for the plump spears shown in the photograph. Slice each asparagus spear into two halves carefully on the diagonal.

When the potatoes are ready, tip them onto a platter and spread them out. Scatter over the asparagus and then the radishes. Dollop the herbed yoghurt dressing over the salad and, if liked, scatter over a few chopped herbs and drizzle with just a little balsamic vinegar or pomegranate molasses.

Easy summer recipes: slow-roast beet salad

August 23, 2013 § 2 Comments

I used to think of beetroot as an autumn or winter vegetable until, rather taking me unawares, the deep red globes ready for harvest bulged through the soil of our first year vegetable plot earlier this month.

Here’s an idea to make the most of summer beets – it makes a light lunch for two or would stretch to 3 or 4 if served with other salads.

My photo is nothing to write home about – truth be told I added the watercress to the bowl before the beets had cooled sufficiently which made it wilt rather unattractively. It tasted really good though and I’m looking forward to making it again as soon as the next batch of beetroot is ready.

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Recipe for slow roast beet salad with watercress, blue cheese and walnuts

Ingredients

2 medium beetroot, washed with taproot trimmed and leaves removed but leaving an inch or two of stalk
scant handful of walnut pieces
half a bunch watercress
scant handful of crumbled blue cheese – I used Cashel Blue made in Ireland and stocked by Marks & Spencer as well as specialist cheese shops

For the dressing

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Maldon salt and freshly ground black pepper
Squeeze of clear honey (approx 1 dessertspoon)
1 dessertspoon balsamic vinegar
grated zest and juice of half a large orange
1 small clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon snipped chives

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C (fan).

Wrap the beets together in a foil parcel, place the parcel on a baking tray to catch any leaking beet juices. Bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until tender. Test by piercing the beets with a sharp knife which should slide in easily when they are ready.

Meanwhile make the dressing by whisking together all the dressing ingredients in the medium bowl in which you plan to serve the salad. Taste and correct seasoning.

Once the roast beets are cool enough to handle but are still quite warm, peel them with the help of a sharp knife if necessary, slice them into wedges and add to the bowl containing the salad dressing. Stir to combine and leave for 15 minutes or so to allow the beets to absorb some of the dressing.

Add the watercress to the bowl and toss gently to combine. Finally scatter over the walnut pieces and crumbled blue cheese and you’re ready to serve.

Relaxed cooking for the holidays

May 22, 2010 § 2 Comments

I was chatting to a friend on a balmy Friday evening while we watched our sons valiantly lose a cricket match. She’s rented a holiday cottage by the seaside for a week over the half term holidays. She disclosed to me that, following an afternoon spent planning meals, shopping etc, all she had on her list so far was wine and a bottle of gin. Fine as far as it goes but it won’t feed a hungry crowd!

This dilemma got me thinking so I thought I’d jot down a few uncomplicated recipes with a summery holiday feel that you might be inspired to try in a holiday cottage with unfamiliar and probably limited cooking equipment.

I’ve come up with two lunch dishes, one evening meal and of course a cake.

Recipe for Caponata

Since trying the caponata at Da Piero’s restaurant last month (see my post https://rhubarbfool.co.uk/2010/05/04/review-of-da-piero-irby-wirral/) I haven’t been able to get enough of the stuff. It’s a really useful holiday dish as you can make up a large batch and keep it in the fridge. It’s one of those dishes that improves if it’s kept and is very good natured as it is best served at room temperature. You could served it along with cold meat and cheese at lunchtime, or as a vegetable accompaniment with some simply grilled or fried fish (skate, sole, bass).

This is a dish you can experiment with and make your own – after all Da Piero’s unorthodox but good addition was chunks of waxy salad potato. So far, the version I like best is one I have adapted from a recipe in Tamasin Day Lewis’ “Good Tempered Food”. It’s quite simple and clean tasting and I like the astringency of the green rather than black olives.

Serves 6, maybe more depending on what’s with it

Ingredients

light olive oil for frying- about 4 tablespoons
6 sticks celery cut into 1/2 cm dice
2 medium aubergines cut into 2 cm cubes
sea salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1 and 1/2 400g tins plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
3 oz good green olives stoned and halved
Handful of roughly chopped flatleaf parsley

Heat the light olive oil in a large deepish sauté pan big enough to hold all the ingredients. If you don’t have a pan large enough you’ll need to work with a frying pan (to brown the vegetables) and a casserole (to complete the cooking). When the oil is hot, add the celery and cook for about 10 minutes until soft and beginning to brown. Season then remove with a slotted spoon onto a plate and set aside. If needed, add a slosh more frying oil and when hot add the aubergines cubes. Fry until soft and brown which will take 10-15 minutes. They will shrink incredibly as the water they contain cooks away. Season and remove from the pan and set aside.

Turn the heat down to medium, add the extra virgin olive oil to the pan and gently fry the onions and garlic until soft and golden. Add the tomatoes and cook uncovered for about 10 minutes. Add salt, pepper, vinegar and sugar and cook for a further 10 minutes. Check seasoning. Add the reserved aubergine and celery, capers and olives and cook gently together for a further 5 minutes.

Allow to cool to room temperature then stir in the chopped parsley and serve.

Recipe for Rillettes de Tours

From Margaret Costa’s Four Seasons cookery book. We eat loads of rillettes, a coarse stringy pork almost pâté, when we go on holiday to France. Both the boys love it. It makes an easy picnic lunch spread thickly onto crusty French bread. It’s simplicity itself to make, especially if there should be an Aga in your holiday house – the simmering oven would be just the right temperature to make this. Any butcher should be able to sell you the belly pork but it might be worth preparing the spices in advance and taking them with you as you may find difficulty tracking down the ground cloves and allspice in a village shop.

Serves 6-8

Ingredients
2 lb (900g) belly of pork
3 tablespoons (45ml) dry white wine or dry white vermouth
5 black peppercorns lightly crushed in a pestle and mortar
salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
pinch of ground allspice
very small pinch ground cloves
1 large clove of garlic

Remove the rind and bones from the pork, or ask your butcher to do this. Cut the meat into small cubes and put them into a deep ovenproof dish with the wine or vermouth, crushed peppercorns, salt, spices and crushed garlic. Cover and cook in a very slow oven (120 degrees C; 250 degrees F, Mark 1/2 for 2 hours (maybe more) until the pork is soft and slightly shrivelled looking, swimming in a pool of fat.

Drain off and strain the fat. Pull the meat apart with two forks to form shreds. Press into your chosen pot or pots and spoon over the strained fat to cover. Chill until set. Serve with cornichons and crusty bread straight from the pot like a pâté. No butter is necessary.

Paella de Cerdo con Chorizo y Espinaca
(Pork paella with chorizo sausage and spinach)

Another recipe from Tamasin Day-Lewis’ “Good Tempered Food”. She attributes the recipe to Sam Clark, chef-proprietor of London’s Moro restaurant. Search out and bring with you the chorizo and smoked paprika, maybe also the rice, which you do need to give an authentic flavour to the dish. For anyone in the South Manchester area, Goose Green deli in Altrincham sell lovely fresh chorizo sausages for cooking.

Serves 4

Ingredients

7 tbsp olive oil
350g/12 oz pork fillet, halved lengthwise and sliced into 5mm strips
125g/4 oz mild cooking chorizo, cut into small pieces
2 large Spanish onions finely chopped
1 large green pepper, halved, seeded and finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
225g/8oz paella or risotto rice (original recipe suggests Calasparra rice from Valencia)
1 tsp sweet smoked Spanish paprika
2 bottled red peppers, drained and roughly chopped (original recipe specifies dried ñora peppers, presumably soaked in hot water but as these are difficult to get hold of I’ve substituted widely available bottled sweet pimentos)
900ml/1 and 1/2 pints hot chicken or vegetable stock or water
500g/ 1lb 2oz spinach, washed and drained
1 lemon cut into wedges
sea salt and black pepper

In a 30-40cm/12-16 in paella pan (or failing this a frying pan or large casserole) heat the olive oil over a high heat. Stir-fry the pork for 2-3 minutes so it is still a little undercooked. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Turn down the heat to low and fry the chorizo for a minute. Add the chopped onion and green pepper and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and continue cooking for a further 5-10 minutes. At this point the mixture should have begun to caramelise. Stir the rice into the pan for a minute to coat it in the mixture. Up to this point everything can be cooked in advance.

The next stage needs about 20 minutes more cooking time. Add salt and pepper to season the rice. Add the paprika and ñora or bottled peppers followed by the hot stock and simmer for 15 minutes until there is just a thin layer of liquid around the rice.

Meanwhile in a large pan briefly wilt the spinach with a little salt and put it on one side with the pork. Scatter the pork over the rice evenly then do the same with the spinach. With the back of a spoon gently push both the pork and spinach partially into the oily liquid that remains at the bottom of the pan. Tuck in the lemon wedges, cover the paella tightly with foil and let it sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Serve with a glass of Rioja and a tomato salad.

Recipe for Courgette and Lemon Cake

I tried a courgette, lemon and pistachio cake recently at Green’s very welcoming café and tearoom in Grasmere in the English Lake District. I searched around for a recipe and eventually found one I’d forgotten about in Nigella Lawson’s “How to be a Domestic Goddess”. She attributes the recipe to one Flora Woods. Don’t be put off by the inclusion of courgettes – they simply make the cake moist and turn it a fantastic green colour. Think of it as an interesting first cousin to a brash carrot cake. I’ve tweaked Nigella’s recipe by adding pistachios to the cake batter and simplifying the filling and icing. I’ve had trouble with cream cheese icings recently as Philadelphia and its ilk don’t have enough fat in and are packed with water and stabilisers which break down into runnyness when you beat the stuff with a wooden spoon. My friend Nadia put me onto the idea of using mascarpone with a 50% fat content instead – thanks Nadia it works! BTW the cake in the photograph contains neither raisins nor pistachios just to see how the plainer version worked out. Fine – in fact scrumptious.

Serves 8, maybe more if you’re frugal

Ingredients

60g raisins plus 2 tablespoons white wine or vermouth (optional)
250g courgettes (weighed before grating – about 2 medium ones)
2 large eggs
125 ml vegetable oil (I use light olive perhaps with a splash of deep green pistachio or pumpkin seed oil if I happen to have some in the cupboard)
150g golden caster sugar
225g self raising flour
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
50g pistachio nuts roughly chopped (optional)

For the filling
1/2 jar best lemon curd

For the icing
1/2 tub mascarpone cheese
6 heaped tablespoon icing sugar, sifted
juice of half a lemon

If using the raisins, put them into a small saucepan with the wine, bring up to the boil and leave to soak and plump up for 30 minutes or so.

Prepare your cake tin(s) by greasing and/or lining with bakewell paper. Nigella’s recipe specifies 2 * 21cm sandwich tins. I don’t have sandwich tins in that size so have used a single deep 21 cm tin (about 9 inches) and extended the cooking time and reduced the heat to bake a single large cake. Once it has cooled it can be split, filled and iced in the usual way.

Wash and dry the courgettes, trim off top and bottom but don’t peel them. Grate using the coarse surface of a standard kitchen box grater, then turn the grated courgette into a sieve and let it drain for 10-15 minutes, while you prepare the rest of the ingredients, to remove excess water.

Put the eggs, oil and sugar into a mixing bowl and beat until creamy. Sift in the flour, bicarb and baking powder and beat until well combined. Stir in the grated courgette, raisins and their juices and pistachio nuts. Spoon the mixture into your prepared tin(s) and bake at 180 degrees C for 30 minutes for 2 cakes; 170 degrees C for 10 minutes then 160 degrees C for a further 35-40 minutes in the case of a single large cake. Check and cover with a disc of foil if the cake seems to browning too rapidly. Remove from the oven, leave to stand for 10 minutes then turn out and cool on a rack. Don’t attempt to split the large cake until it is completely cold.

Meanwhile make the icing by beating together the mascarpone cheese and sifted icing sugar then stirring in lemon juice to taste.

Sandwich the cakes together with lemon curd and top with the mascarpone icing. Decorate with more chopped pistachios and grated lemon zest if liked. For easy transportation to a picnic, you could use both the lemon curd and the icing to sandwich the cakes together and leave the top un-iced so the cake can be wrapped in foil.

Enjoy your holidays and don’t spend too much time in the kitchen!

Cordials for Summer

August 5, 2009 § Leave a comment

Making elderflower cordial has become an annual event in our household with the arrival of the heady scented elderflower blooms in June heralding the beginning of summer.  I first tasted elderflower cordial at the smart London wedding of our friends Tim and Laura Davis some 17 years ago.  At last, a refreshing non alcoholic drink to suit an adult palate! I’ve been drinking it every summer since and have now settled on my favourite recipe which I discovered in Thane Prince’s slim but inspiring volume “Summer Cook”.

This year, inspired by the taste of the perfumed scarlet syrup remaining after making a summer pudding I tried out a new addition to the range – raspberry and redcurrant cordial.  Diluted with ice cold still or sparkling water they make lovely summer drinks and making your own is less expensive and more satisfying than buying a pricy branded bottle from the supermarket.

I am pleased to say I have been asked for the recipe for both cordials this year.  The recipes follow, as does a picture below.  You will see  that I recycle old wine and spirit bottles when bottling the cordial.  The Stolichnaya is not all it seems…

Recipe for elderflower cordial

Ingredients

1 kg (2.25 lb) sugar
1.8 litres (3 pints) water
2 well scrubbed lemons
2 well scrubbed oranges
about 20 large elderflower heads
60g (2 oz) citric acid

Note on citric acid:  this is becoming increasingly difficult to find but the more old-fashioned kind of chemist will usually have some in stock or be prepared to order it for you. Citric acid is used both as an aid to injecting heroin and also in the manufacture of the explosive HMTD so be prepared to answer the pharmacist’s questions when you go in to buy it!

Make a sugar syrup by dissolving the sugar in the water in a preserving pan and boiling for 5 minutes.

Chop the whole fruit into 2.5 cm (1 inch) chunks and add to the hot syrup along with the flowerheads.  Do not wash the flowerheads, just shake out any insects.  Stir in the citric acid, cover the pan and leave in a cool dark place for 4 days to infuse.  Strain off the syrup (I do this using a muslin lined sieve) pour into spotlessly clean bottles and cap.

I have found that the cordial has improved keeping qualities if pasteurised.  This is simple to do.  Place the uncapped bottles in a preserving pan filled with water.  Bring to boil then simmer for 15 minutes.  Cap bottles while still hot.

Recipe for raspberry and redcurrant cordial

This is my own invention which I put together after checking out a few recipes I found on the web for various fruit cordials.

Ingredients

5lb mixed redcurrants and raspberries
granulated sugar
water
2-3 lemons

Put whatever quantity of fruit is available to you into an appropriately sized pan.  I used approximately  5 lb fruit in total,  2/3 redcurrants and 1/3 raspberries.  Just cover with water and boil gently for 15 minutes.  Don’t boil for too long or too fiercely otherwise you will end up with a jelly rather than a cordial.  Allow to cool and strain off the liquid.  Measure the liquid back into a clean pan. Add 1/2 lb sugar and the juice of 1 lemon for each pint of liquid.  Bring the mixture to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then boil for 3 minutes. Pour into sterilised bottles.  Store in a cool dark place.  Pasteurise if you like by standing the filled uncapped bottles in a preserving pan filled with water then bringing the water to the boil, allowing it to simmer for 15 minutes and capping the bottles while still hot.

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