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.
As usual we had too many bananas. Reason? The eldest, the main banana consumer in the family, had gone orienteering in Sweden. Now, I know the lowly banana has split many camps in regard to ethical/ organic / food miles. but in reality, I think bananas are probably here to stay. So however uncomfortable I am about them, they are the essence of food used by orienteerers. Easily digestible and prepared food. But now, with the *monkey* absent, a few bananas were going brown in the fruit basket. I took down a reasonable “posh” cookbook off my recipes–to-try shelf.
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.
My Mum and Dad are great at spying recipes for me to try, and when they proudly presented me with this particular Gnudi one, there was a definite hint of -I’ve-stumped-you-now in my father’s eye. But never one to resist a challenge, I went about making some. This recipe is from the book – Too Good To Waste by Victoria Glass.
Technically dumplings, these billowy puffs of cheese are from Tuscany originally, where ricotta replaced potato in the more common Gnocchi. Gnudi is an English-adopted Tuscan word for the Italian term “nudi” (naked), the idea being that these balls of ricotta (and sometimes spinach) are “nude ravioli”, consisting of just the tasty filling without the pasta shell. Fine with me. I’m not adverse to a bowl of nude pasta if push comes to shove.
150g Rocket/ or you could probably use baby spinach
50g freshly grated Parmesan
1 egg, beaten
1/4 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg
Sage butter or tomato passata sauce to serve.
Place the rocket in a saucepan with 1 tablespoon of boiling water and heat until the leaves are just wilted. Drain well, cool and chop finely. Mix this chopped rocket together with the ricotta, parmesan, egg, nutmeg, salt and some black pepper in a bowl.
Pour the semolina into a separate shallow bowl.
Wet your hands (to prevent sticking) and roll a walnut sized piece of ricotta mixture into balls in between your palms. Then coat this in semolina, leaving it to one side in the semolina dish when you move onto the next ball.
Continue like this until all the balls are used up. Then roll all the balls again through the semolina to make sure that they are well coated.
At this stage they need to go uncovered into the fridge for at least 48 hours. Here the gnudi will develop a skin to make them easier to cook. They can be frozen in a container at this stage.
When you are ready to cook the gnudi, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Adding a few gnudi at a time to this water, you will know when they are cooked as they will start to float. Using a slotted spoon remove the cooked gnudi to a frying pan with sizzling melted butter to finish them off.
I love them just like this, with extra parmesan, but you could throw them into a bowl of bubbling passata if you were feeling indulgent. Whatever way you chose they are divine.
These little beauties, also known as Pastel de nata are so moreish I’m forever grateful I don’t live near Portugal, I’d be the size of a house! The history of them is very interesting, as they were originally made in FRANCE!
Pastéis de nata (the Portugese name means pastry cream as far as I can see, already winning me over) were thought to be created during the 18th century by Catholic monks at the Jerónimos Monastery, Santa Maria de Belém, in Lisbon. These monks were originally based in France where these pastries were found in local bakeries. At the time, convents and monasteries used large quantities of egg-whites for starching clothes, such as nuns’ habits. It was therefore quite common for monasteries and convents to use the leftover egg yolks to make cakes and pastries, resulting in the proliferation of sweet pastry recipes throughout the country.
Following the extinction of the religious orders in the aftermath of the Liberal Revolution of 1820, the monks started selling these dainty little pastries at a nearby sugar refinery to bring in some revenue. In 1834 the monastery was finally closed and the recipe was sold to the sugar refinery, whose owners in 1837 opened the Fábrica de Pastéis de Belém. The descendants own the business to this day, a Portugese stalwart. In this recipe I use bought puff pastry, but plan on making them again in a few weeks with homemade puff pastry. My aim was to get the filling right. And I think I did. They were EXTREMELY popular.
3 egg yolks
120g caster sugar
400ml full fat milk
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract (use good stuff please!)
1 sheet ready rolled puff pastry, I like the lidl one.
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
Lightly grease a 12 hole muffin tin and pre-heat oven to 180oC
Put the egg, yolks, caster sugar & cornflour in a saucepan and mix well together then gradually add the milk until mixture is well mixed and smooth.
Place pan on medium heat and stir constantly until mixture thickens and comes to the boil. Remove pan from heat and stir in your vanilla extract.
Put this custard aside to cool. I dust with icing sugar then cover with cling film, to prevent skin forming.
Spoon in your now cooled custard, sprinkle over the cinnamon and bake for 20 minutes until nicely golden on top.
I love love LOVE cooking in the kitchen. But I think if I won the lotto my first splurge would be on a kitchen porter. Sometimes the washing up just gets to me. But no need for the help when making this beautiful and fresh pilaf, it’s made in one pot. The term pilaf is borrowed directly from the Turkish pilav. I actaully associate a rice pilaf with Indian Cooking, for my it’s very like Biryani.
Every region adds their own distinct flavours to the dish. In India, rice pilaf is called pulao and it has many variations from region to region. It is most popular in the northern areas, such as Kashmir and Gujarat. Alexander the Great is said to have first eaten pilaf in the Bactria region of Iran, which is now a part of Afghanistan. Bactria is where his wife, Roxana, was most likely born. I can imagine pots of fragrant rice pilaf being served at gatherings for ancient dignitaries, perhaps even his wedding (I’m just guessing here).
1 teaspoon of olive oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
3 skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
2 teaspoons of curry paste (choose your favourite, or make your own)
a third of a mug basmati rice
two-thirds of a mug chicken stock (hot)
1 mug frozen peas
1 mug of leaf spinach, washed.
Heat the oil in a frying pan, then fry the onion for 5-6 mins until softened.
Add the chicken pieces, fry for a further couple of minutes just to colour the outside, then stir in curry paste and rice. Cook this for another minute.
Pour in the hot chicken stock. Bring to the boil, lower the heat, then cover the pan with a lid. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally . Scatter over the spinach, cover, then cook for 10 mins more until all the stock is absorbed and the rice is tender. Now add the peas, (in this case I added them too soon so they look like they’ve been sitting in a carvery for a month, but still taste good). Give everything a good stir, season to taste, then tuck in.
There’s nothing like producing a cake when someone calls for tea. It makes everyone feel a little special. And this is SO easy. Start to finish in 45 minutes, including the washing up.
225g Caster sugar
225g butter (soft)
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
225g Self Raising Flour
2 teaspoons Baking Powder
1 tablespoon of milk
150g caster sugar
Cream the sugar and the butter VERY well. Add the eggs, vanilla extract and the flour, baking powder in alternate additions. Zest the two lemons into the mixture at this stage. Keeping the lemons for juicing for the icing. Add some milk if the mixture seems too thick. It needs to drop reluctantly when lifted up with a spoon.
Beat VERY well, and spread carefully into the greased and lined baking tray. If you don’t have a suitable container, like the traditional swiss roll tin, then just use some sandwich cake tins, or even make the mixture into cupcakes.
Bake either at 160oC, for 12 minutes for the cupcakes, and 25 minutes for the traybake.
Once out of the oven immediately prick gently all over the sponge with a skewer.
Sometimes looking through cookbooks for recipes can be fun. Other times you see a recipe that you REALLY want to make, but don’t have the ingredients… and couldn’t be bothered heading out especially to get them. This was my case here. I liked the look of the picuture of this dish and wanted to try it.
I’ve been a Tom Kerridge fan for a long time. And he’s on my places-I-want-to-eat-in-the-next-24-months list. Sooner if I can. I love his use of ingredients. In this case the green pepper salsa was intriguing. I feel the green pepper is the least interesting or edible of all peppers. I never eat it in a Chinese takeaway, I personally think of it as the bitter relative. Of course the other problem was that I had no green peppers. Just red ones.
So I got to work sorting out what ingredients I had, and had not got.
New Potatoes √
Lemon (yup- but not particularly fresh) √
Honey (not runny though) √
Garlic, Olive oil, Mustard √√√
No green peppers, no fresh herbs. Fresh herbs are rare enough at this time of year, and my shopping budget doesn’t run to buying fresh herbs for a day to day meal. Therefore the ole herb de provence was called into play. And I just subsituted the red peppers for the green. BUT I got distracted- and the peppers took on more colour than I hoped. So I added some creme fraiche to make a creamy sauce instead.
Note to self: don’t get distracted. Hmm. Easier said then done.
It’s a beautifully simple dish to assemble. And you could, if you are more organised than me, marinade the chicken in the morning, or the night before. And apart from the perfunctory chopping, there’s not much manual labour.
The result was very tasty indeed. I think because I was using a non- runny honey it was less licky and thus caramelised a little- but then as Rory O’Connell always says- colour is flavour…
It’s orange time of year. Just when the body is at it’s lowest, mother nature responds with the season of vitamin C rich fruit. Granted they are not native to our shores, but at least the majority we import are European. The Seville oranges make such beautiful marmalade, but the blood oranges make beautiful ANYTHING.
The distinctive red flesh colour is due to the presence of anthocyanins (a family of antioxidant pigments not normally associated with citrus fruits. The flesh develops its characteristic maroon colour when the fruit develops with low temperatures during the night.
You can use them simply as a snack, or add the juice to a fancy cocktail. They are really good as an ice cream or sorbet ingredient too. And can be used where an orange is called for in any baking or cooking. But I feel unless you can show off their beautiful colour, just use ordinary oranges and save the blood oranges for the extraordinary occasion.
I’ve made a couple of things to showcase the most fabulous of citrus fruits. I feel slightly bad as I regularly turn to the humble lemon for a last minute dinner or dessert. But there’s no denying it, the blood orange has a certain je ne sais quoi.
First I made Richard Bertinet’s Blood Orange Tart from his deliciousy lickable book “Patisserie Maison“. I wasn’t entirely happy with the colour. But the flavour of the curd was like velvet. A real treat worthy of the effort involved with any tart.
And as I had leftover oranges (*smiles*) I decided to be even more adventurous and try some macaron. I filled them with both raspberry curd and blood orange buttercream.
And they were DIVINE- and that’s saying something as I’m not the biggest fan.