Brown butter seems like such a cheffy thing. It’s not. Promise. And really gives a depth of flavour. Mind you, you can’t leave it alone while browning, and it’s a little like caramel. Turn your back on it for one second and it’s gone too far.
I’m aware always of using ingredients that are
b) local, or at least national
But I’ve a bit of a grá (love in Gaeilge- and perfectly describes my love of this veggie) for asparagus. Every now and then it’s just the epitomy of luxury for me. My father-in-law grows some in his garden. It’s perfectly delicate, and the entire crop would usually fit in the palm of your hand. So I have to purchase. And try to do this around June/ July, when it IS in season in this part of the world.
Who doesn’t associate strawberries with Summer? I know you can now get strawberries all year round, but honestly, there is NOTHING better than in season, local strawberries. And as my love of pastry is always lurking somewhere beneath the surface, strawberries+ pastry= strawberry heaven.
As much as I always love my favourite recipes and make them often, it’s nice to try new things. I picked up “The Boy Who Bakes”- Edd Kimber while in the UK on a trip. Although I follow him on #Instagram, I had never seen him on TV on the GBBO, or tried one of his recipes. Until now.
This Apple Charlotte recipe is loosely based on a Russian recipe. Classic Russian cuisine abounded in nifty quick recipes for unexpected guests. This puffy dessert requires only sliced tart apples, a few handfuls of berries and a simple batter. However as it takes so long to cook it would really only be suitable to serve to guests if you have advanced warning. If they just popped in unexpectedly I’d probably go with scones…. 😉
40g plain dry bread crumbs
3 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
280g caster sugar
225g plain flour
200g soft fruit
4 large firm tart apples—peeled, quartered, cored and thinly sliced crosswise
1 cup blueberries
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Icing Sugar for dusting
Preheat the oven to 180oC.
Butter a 10-inch oven proof frying pan and dust the bottom with the bread crumbs.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the eggs with the milk, vanilla and 200g of the sugar. Beat in the melted butter until well mixed, then beat in the flour until a thick batter forms.
In another large bowl, toss the cup of soft fruit with the sliced apples, cinnamon and the remaining sugar.
Spread one-fourth of the batter in the prepared skillet and top with the apples and berries. Using an offset spatula, spread the remaining batter over the fruit in an even layer.
Scatter the remaining 8 to 12 pieces of fruit on top and gently press them into the batter. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 1 hour, until lightly golden and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Let cool completely, then dust with confectioners’ sugar. Slice into wedges and serve.
A dollop of crème fraîche or vanilla ice cream.
I know I’ve posted a French Toast recipe before, but this Rachel Allen one is so beautifully simple. So simple that anyone in the family could take it upon themselves to make it for, say Mother’s Day….
This is my go-to book for simple quick recipes that taste of the flavours you’d expect of the dish. And with “traditional” French Toast you need not add anything except the 4 main ingredients. Then you can add all the fancy blueberries and maple syrup afterwards.
Mind you if you try to look up “French Toast Recipes” there’s a myriad to chose from. This Guardian Article is excellent and very informative about alternatives if you chose to follow a different path to mine- so to speak….
2 eggs (as fresh as possible)
2 tablespoons of cream or milk- use the cream.
Put a heavy frying pan on the hob to heat and add some of the butter. Whisk the eggs and cream together in a shallow dish big enough to take the slices of bread.
Soak a slice of bread briefly in the egg mixture then turn over to soak the other side. Lift up to drain off the excess liquid then place gently in the hot pan. You may need to turn down the heat. Let it cook away until you start to see the bottom turning golden.
NOTE: I usually make twice this recipe! But we are always hungry at breakfast
NOTE2: as a disclaimer- my wonderful daughter actually made these, I just watched and photographed. She insisted, it was my birthday after all!
NOTE3: On the day I treated myself to a dollop of cream, some raspberries and slices of banana.
Pasta with cheese sauce casseroles have been around far longer than you imagine. In the 14th century in the Italian cookbook by Brian Liber de Coquina, one of the oldest medieval cookbooks, which featured a dish of parmesan cheese and pasta. The oldest recorded recipe of a casserole with a cheese bechamel sauce, with pasta is from 1770. But the doyenne of British cookery, Mrs Beeton, valued the dish so much that she put not one, but two versions of the now classic into her housekeeping book. Nowadays this type of cooking is classed as comfort food. And there’s nothing at all wrong with that.
Cauliflower and Macaroni Cheese
1 medium cauliflower, washed and cut into florets
150g your favourite cheddar, coarsely grated
Heat the grill to its highest setting and bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Cook the pasta for 4 mins, then add the cauliflower for a further 8 mins. Drain, reserving 100ml of the cooking water.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium pan over a low heat and stir in the flour. Slowly pour in the milk, stirring constantly until it begins to thicken. Bubble for a few mins, then remove from the heat. Add the cheese, the reserved cooking water and seasoning to taste.
I love tomatoes. Especially in soup. And often at this time of year it’s the go to soup for a quick lunch. And although there’s a teeny bit of washing up with this recipe, it doesn’t require the pain-stakingly arduous and time consuming task of peeling the tomatoes pre cooking. I like the Roma tomato variety, but sometimes you just use what’s available. They are a meatier variety so you may need more stock to get the right consistency.
1.5kg of ripe Tomatoes
1 medium onion
1 medium carrot
1 stick of celery
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons of tomato purée
2 bay leaves
Peel and chop the onion and the carrot. Chop the celery stick into roughly the same size pieces.
Add the olive oil into a large heavy-based pan and heat it over a low heat. Add in the onion, carrot and celery and mix them together. Season well. Cover and leave to seat for 10 minutes until soft, stirring occasionally.
Holding the tube over the pan, squirt in about 2 tablespoons of tomato purée, then stir it around so it turns the vegetables red. Quarter the tomatoes and slide them in off the chopping board. Add the 2 bay leaves into a few pieces and throw them into the pan. Stir to mix everything together, put the lid on the pan and let the tomatoes stew over a low heat for 10 minutes until they shrink down in the pan and their juices flow nicely. From time to time, give the pan a good shake – this will keep everything well mixed.
Slowly pour in the 1.25 litres of hot stock (or just water if you have no stock), stirring at the same time to mix it with the vegetables. Turn up the heat as high as it will go and wait until everything is bubbling, then turn the heat down to low again and put the lid back on the pan. Cook gently for 25 minutes, stirring a couple of times. At the end of cooking the tomatoes will have broken down and be very slushy looking.
Remove the pan from the heat, take the lid off and stand back for a few seconds or so while the steam escapes, then fish out the pieces of bay leaf and throw them away. Ladle the soup into your blender until it’s about three-quarters full, fit the lid on loosely, covering with a teatowel and turn the machine on slow. . As the steam escapes you can increase the speed. Blitz until the soup’s smooth then pour the puréed soup through a sieve into a large bowl (A little poncy I know but the skins need to come out- it’s easier than peeling them, I promise). Repeat with the soup that’s left in the pan. (The soup may now be frozen for up to 3 months. Defrost before reheating.)
Sometimes all you want is a bit of comfort food, even in the middle of summer (What Summer??). Chicken pie with a Parmesan and breadcrumb crust is very quick and easy. And involves very little hard work. But tastes so good, you need to make twice as much as it will be devoured. The chicken should be free range if possible, but at the very least Irish. It can be just tasteless otherwise, never mind the adverse affects of cheap chicken imported from goodness knows where.
4 Chicken Breasts, diced
1 Onion, peeled and chopped
Grated Parmesan Cheese
Bring slowly to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.
Remove the chicken, chop into pieces and place in an oven proof dish.
Meanwhile melt the butter until frothy, add flour and mix to a paste.”ROUX”. Cook this for at least 1 minute.
Add the roux to the stock liquid, whisking over a medium heat, it will thicken after a few minutes. Add cream and simmer for 3 minutes.
Mix breadcrumbs and cheese together, sprinkle over the chicken in the dish.
This pie is particularly delicious with some potatoes to mash into the sauce, but a green salad or some crunchy french beans would also go well in flavour with the pie. Me? I like it with a glass of white wine and a salad. With maybe some roasted fruit and ice cream for dessert.
I have a bit of a love hate relationship with Courgettes. I love them as they are such a great and versatile vegetable. And I hate them as they come in a glut. Too many all at once causes courgette overload. And soup, always an option, isn’t that inspiring after the fifteenth batch.
It’s a little cheeky to call this a recipe at all- maybe a posh kind of canapé! As really there’s only three ingredients, and a small bit of slicing.
The trick is to cut the slices about 10mm thick. I know this sounds very accurate for a recipe with just three ingredients- but trust me on this one. Any thicker and they don’t cook properly. Any thinner and they just melt.
The next crucial point is not to be stingy with the Parmesan. And although I am a purist when it comes to grated cheese (I prefer to grate it myself- over processing dislike disorder)- in this case, if you are catering for a large crowd, feel free to buy your Parmesan grated.
Of course in America this would be called Zucchini. Which sounds quite posh, and this variety of vegetable originated there- so it’s rather apt, although the name (zucchini) came about when it arrived in Italy.
Preheat oven to 200°C. Lightly grease a couple of baking trays.
Slice the courgettes into rounds approximately 10mm thick.
Brush with olive oil and lightly season with black pepper.
Top carefully with the grated parmesan and put in the oven for about 15 minutes. Watch them carefully- you want the cheese to be a rich golden brown.
Try not to eat them all before you get to them to the guests!