Archive | June, 2012

Individual Strawberry and Amaretto Trifles with Toasted Flaked Almonds and Crushed Amaretti Biscuits

26 Jun MIni Strawberry Amaretto Trifles

You can make a big one if you like but these are cute, don’t you think? I made a big version (in fact it was huge) for a Jubilee party at our friend, Jeanne’s house. There were about 14 people going so I made the most enormous trifle and an apricot frangipane tart aswell. Well you wouldn’t want to run out of desserts would you? 

Jeanne knows how to throw a party, she has a fine selection of a cushions in a pink Jubilee style and she always makes the best drinks. Champagne with strawberries and a big jug of Pimms filled with fresh fruit, cucumber and mint. How to choose? One of each obviously.

Even after a gorgeous buffet prepared by Jeanne everyone managed to polish off one or (in some cases) two desserts. It’s difficult to get a good picture of a trifle as you can see from my attempt below, it’s like a big sloppy delicious mess really. I was pleased with the glaze on my apricot tart though.

So, solely for your benefit you understand, I had to make some of these pretty little individual trifles that would photograph better.

Just a few tips; the recipe below is just an outline, it obviously depends on the size of you dish, glass or bowl as to how much of everything you need. The fruit can be replaced with whatever is in season or looks nice in the market, as can the booze, just try to match it with the fruit. You may have to do a few taste tests first before you get the right combination!

Oh and don’t go too mad with the amount you put in, apparently it is possible to have too much alcohol in a trifle. Mine was a little on the strong side but there are worse things in life and I didn’t hear anyone complaining.

Individual Strawberry & Amaretto Trifles

  • mini sponge cakes (or trifle sponges)
  • strawberry jam
  • amaretto
  • fresh strawberries
  • icing sugar
  • creme patissiere (or thick custard) see my recipe  That amount was enough for 4 or 5 individual trifles . I added a splosh of amaretto to it instead of the orange blossom water.
  • double cream (for whipping)
  • vanilla extract
  • caster sugar
  • mascarpone
  • flaked almonds (toasted in a dry pan)
  • amaretti biscuits

Spread the jam on each of the sponges and sandwich them together to form a single layer covering the bottom of your dish, glass or bowl. Try one. Jam sponge is lovely, how long has it been?

Poke holes all over the sponges with a wooden skewer and slowly drizzle over the Amaretto letting it soak in. Don’t go too mad. Leave it for about 10 minutes to soak in properly.

Hull and half or quarter some strawberries and arrange them evenly on top of the sponge. Blend about the same amount of strawberries and a tablespoon or two of icing sugar to a smooth coulis/sauce and pour it over the strawberries.

Cover with a layer of cooled creme patissiere (or thick custard). Whip some cream with the same amount of mascarpone, a little vanilla extract and a few tablespoons of caster sugar to soft peaks. Spread this evenly over the custard layer.

Refrigerate until ready to serve and then top with a layer of toasted flaked almonds and crumble over some Amaretti biscuits.

Enjoy!!

Things That Made Me Smile Today

Rufus posing on his favourite sofa. Very handsome he looks too!!

Spiced Chickpea Falafel Cakes with Tahini, Yogurt and Mint Sauce

22 Jun Falafel Cake

It may surprise you to find that this is the first time I have posted a falafel recipe. Falafels are emergency vegetarian food, especially when out and about. Wherever you are there is normally a Turkish kebab shop that can save your life when starvation takes hold and you need something quick and tasty.

I have a theory though. A falafel conspiracy theory, if you like. I think that the falafels you buy in most Turkish or Lebanese restaurants or cafes are made out of a packet mix. I know, controversial. My reason for this slanderous outburst is sound and based on personal experience. Theirs hold together and mine, do not. See the picture below for an example of a very lovely falafel we bought from an Israeli vendor at the market.

 Along with a delicious tabouli salad, spicy tomato dip, broad bean dip and cheese and potato puffs. Perfect picnic food. For when your friends have very kindly allowed you to spend the day by their pool while they are away.

I also some bought some gorgeous gladioli and a big box of irresistible looking plums at the market. I see plum recipes coming up. Anyway back to the falafels.

Correct me if I am wrong, and I am sure you will, but aren’t falafels made from chickpeas? The ones you buy seem to be made from bulgur wheat or couscous. They have a distinctly grainy inside that looks and tastes nothing like a chickpea, cooked or uncooked. Am I the only person that has noticed this? Don’t get me wrong they taste great and I love them but pureed chickpeas they ain’t.

That’s my excuse anyway. I’ve tried with cooked chickpeas and dried, soaked overnight chickpeas. Whatever, I have always had a disaster. Either too dense, hard and chewy because I’ve added so much chickpea flour to make them hold together or too sloppy and they fall apart and disintegrate as soon as I start to cook them in the oil. Until now that is…..

…actually that is a little bit of a lie. The first lot of these I cooked in oil and they disintegrated as usual. Tasted good but had to be scooped into a flatbread and eaten.

My success came about through baking them rather than frying. Mould them into patties, dust with a little polenta or cornmeal, brush with a tiny amount of oil and bake for about 30 minutes. They are still not the most stable of snacks, you couldn’t throw one at someone from the other side of the pool, for instance but they are soft, delicious and a little crumbly.

And they taste of chickpea. Enhanced with a few herbs, spices and harissa. Perfect. You just need a little tahini yoghurt sauce and a squeeze of lemon.

Spiced Chickpea Falafel Cakes with Tahini Yoghurt Sauce

Serves 3, makes about 9, vegan, (without the sauce) gluten-free.

Prep time: 15 mins Cooking Time 30 mins

  • 1 tin/jar cooked chickpeas (400 gr), drained, rinsed & dried
  • 50 g of fresh peas (not frozen too wet) optional
  • 25 g hazelnuts, chopped (optional)
  • 1/2 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  •  a big handful of chopped fresh herbs, I used, mint, coriander, parsley & oregano
  • 1/2 tsp or more harissa paste
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp sumac (optional)
  • 1 tsp honey
  • the juice of half a lemon plus wedges to serve
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • polenta or cornmeal fro dusting

Put all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smoothish and it has come together. If you need to, add a bit more lemon juice to get it moving but not a lot. Taste and adjust seasoning. Mould into cakes and put in the fridge to firm up for a while or overnight.

When ready to cook preheat oven to 200 C. Put the polenta on a flat plate and roll the patties in it to lightly coat all sides. Line a baking tray with baking paper place the patties on the tray and brush very lightly with a tiny bit of olive oil. Bake for 30-35 minutes until slightly browned and serve with the tahini yoghurt sauce.

Tahini Yoghurt Sauce

  • 1 pot (125ml) Greek yoghurt
  • 1 tbsp tahini paste
  • the juice of half a lemon
  • a handfull of fresh herbs, chopped I used mint, coriander, parsley & oregano
  •  a drizzle of olive oil
  • salt & black pepper
  • a pinch ground cumin
  • a pinch sumac (optional)

Put all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine. Taste and adjust lemon & salt as necessary.

Serve the falafel cakes with the tahini yoghurt sauce, lemon wedges and some salad leaves. In a flatbread/pita or not, it’s up to you.

I might have to buy a packet mix for falafel just to find out if that’s what they use. Just to prove to myself really. If it’s not I can’t understand it, any ideas?

Spring Pea & Thyme Risotto with Manchego and Olive Tapenade

18 Jun Summer Pea Risotto

When we were in South Africa, one of the most memorable meals, for me was at Makaron at Majeka House in Stellenbosch. Having visited, and eaten in, about thirty restaurants in nineteen days it takes something quite special to stand out from the crowd.

In a sea of  mainly white, minimal, distressed wood interiors (which I love, by the way), this was a welcome diversion.  The bar has an opulent gentleman’s club/hunting lodge feel, with dark navy and gold upholstery and lighting. It manages to be eccentric and elegant at the same time. It is quirky and doesn’t take itself too seriously which is very refreshing.

 The Washer Up was very pleased (understatement) with the fact that they have a beer pairing with each of the dishes as well as wine pairings. This is the first time that I have come across this and think it is genius, especially as they are promoting local microbreweries at the same time. I have read in numerous publications recently that Beer is the New Wine and that some restaurants have started hiring beer sommeliers but this is the only place I have seen it in action.

 There is a sense of humour in the food that compliments the quirkyness of the restaurant perfectly.

The bread was brought out on a slate (my favourite thing) and included a beautiful braid, crispy lavash, homemade butter, anchovy mayonnaise, olives, figs, lavender & rosemary. The Amuse Bouche was a Peppadew Popper in beer batter with guacamole & sour cream.

For a starter we ordered the Caprese Terrine, tomato cloud, basil gelee, semi dried tomatoes, olive oil powder which was beautiful and delicious. And the Garden Pea Risotto, garlic espuma, smoked olive tapenade.

The main courses we had were an Open Duck Egg Ravioli, young artichoke, asparagus, truffle caviar, which was amazing, I loved the little beads of truffle caviar. And a Mushroom & Roasted Corn Open Lasagne that the chef Tanja prepared especially for us.

All the food was excellent but the stand out dish was the pea risotto with olive tapenade, it was stunning, and I don’t even like olives. This dish changed my mind. The pea risotto tasted like the best mushy peas you have ever had, the flavour intense & the texture comforting. There was a deliciously creamy garlic & parmesan veloute with it and the olive tapenade just took it to another level taste wise. Such a surprisingly good combination, even if you think you don’t like olives, like me.

Unfortunately I couldn’t get the original recipe from Tanja because she is a very busy lady working in Paris at the moment sharpening her skills even further at Alain Passard’s restaurant L’Aperge. But when I picked up some of these beautiful fresh garden peas in my organic veg box I couldn’t wait any longer and I had a go at it myself anyway.

I love the mixed mauve colours of these olives, so pretty with the bright green peas. A match made in heaven, believe me.

I used a mixture of fresh and frozen peas. I made a puree with the frozen and kept the fresh ones whole. You can use all fresh if you have that many, or indeed all frozen if you have no fresh. I used brown short grain rice to make my risotto but you can substitute arborio for a creamier finish and a lot shorter cooking time. It will also make the finished risotto look more green than mine.

Summer Pea & Thyme Risotto with Manchego and Olive Tapenade

Serves 3, vegetarian, gluten-free

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 150 gr frozen peas (or fresh if you have that many)
  • 50 gr fresh peas (podded weight)
  • a handful of fresh parsley leaves, chopped
  •  a few sprigs of fresh thyme leaves removed & chopped plus extra for garnish
  • 1 litre (up to a litre & a half for brown rice) veg stock
  • a little freshly grated nutmeg
  • 50 gr manchego (or parmesan) grated plus 1 tbsp to finish
  • salt & black pepper
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 250 gr arborio (or brown) rice
  • 200 ml white wine
  • 1 tbsp cream cheese
  • a squeeze of fresh lemon juice

For the tapenade:

  • 75 gr good quality olives, buy with stones in, then remove them if possible (better flavour)
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped (or to taste)
  • fresh thyme leaves
  • a squeeze of lemon juice
  • salt & black pepper
  • extra virgen olive oil

To make the tapenade, put all the ingredients except the oil in a blender and blitz to a smoothish puree. Drizzle in the oil a bit at a time, blending until you get the desired consistency. Taste and adjust salt, lemon or garlic as required.

Cook the 150 gr frozen peas in two ladles full (just enough to cover the peas) of boiling veg stock with the parsley & thyme for about 5 minutes until soft. Puree this (stock & peas) with the grated cheese and season with salt, pepper & nutmeg. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Put the veg stock in a small pan over a medium low heat to keep warm but do not boil. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat then cook the onions for 4 minutes with a pinch of salt, add the garlic and cook for another minute. Do not brown. Stir in the rice and coat in the oil, add in the wine and cook until most of the liquid has been absorbed.

Add the hot stock a one ladle at a time waiting for each ladle to be absorbed before adding the next. Keep doing this until the rice is cooked and you have a soft soupy risotto. This should take about 20-25 mins for arborio, longer for brown rice. If you run out of stock add hot water.

After about 15 minutes add the uncooked fresh peas, then when the rice is nearly cooked stir in the pea puree. When the rice is cooked add the cream cheese, tablespoon of grated cheese and squeeze of lemon. Put on the lid, remove from the heat and leave for 2 minutes.

Taste for seasoning before serving with a quenelle (or dollop) of the tapenade, a few fresh thyme leaves and some shaved Manchego.

Things That Made Me Smile Today…….

Jacarandas, I love their pretty purple flowers, like a tree full of droopy bluebells…..

And Oleanders in soft apricot…..

Or electric pink against the bright blue sky….

Warm Roasted Red Onion Salad with Spicy Walnut Pickle Dressing

14 Jun Red Onion & Walnut Salad

As most of you will already know, I am a huge fan of Yotam Ottolenghi. Obsessed would be an appropriate word for it. His Mediterrasian recipes (a mix of Middle Eastern & Mediterranean) combine all of my favourite ingredients and flavours in a way that is impossible to resist. This is one of said recipes. It came up on my Twitter feed from The Guardian food section a few Sundays ago and I knew that I wanted to make it straight away.

Don’t you love it when that happens? You are pondering what to make for lunch with the (sometimes) minimal contents of your fridge. You stumble across a recipe that you are desperate to make and you actually have all the ingredients in the house. Food Serendipity I like to call it, and it makes me smile.

Warm Roasted Red Onion Salad with Spicy Walnut Pickle Dressing

Serves 2, vegetarian/vegan, gluten-free. Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi at The Guardian

  • 2 medium red onions
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • salt and black pepper
  •  rocket/watercress or mixed leaves
  • a handful of coriander/parsley leaves
  • some crumbled Greek feta or goat’s cheese (optional)

For the Walnut Pickle Dressing:

  • 30g walnuts, chopped
  • 1/2 0r 1 red chilli (depending how hot) deseeded & finely chopped
  • 1/2 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
  • 3 tsp sherry vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
  • 1 + 1/2 tsp olive oil

Preheat the oven to 200 C. Peel the onions and cut off the tops and bottoms. Cut each onion widthways into two or three slices about 2cm thick (see pic. above) and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Brush with olive oil, season with salt and black pepper, and roast for about 20 minutes, until cooked and golden-brown on top. If they haven’t browned much you can pop them under the grill for a few minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.

While the onions are cooking, put all the ingredients for the walnut pickle in a small bowl, season with salt & black pepper, stir and set aside. It gets better the longer you leave it.

To serve, put the salad leaves and most of the coriander/parsley in bowl, tip over about half of the walnut pickle and toss to coat evenly. Divide this between your serving plates, arrange the onion slices on top, tip over some more walnut pickle, crumble over the feta and finish with some more coriander/parsley leaves.

This spicy, robust salad is perfect as a lunch dish on its own but would also be a fantastic accompaniment to a spring/summer Sunday roast (especially beef), if you can’t be bothered with all those potatoes and vegetables. It’s a lighter and easier option for this time of year and is equally good served warm or  at room temperature. The onions could even be done on the barbecue and served as a side dish alfresco if the weather is being kind to you…..

Back By Popular Demand…..

Things That Made Me Smile Today 

Rufus enjoying our favourite hill walk, a treat for all his fans out there epsecially you Greg.

While we enjoyed the wild flowers too…..

Have a great weekend!

Watermelon, Feta and Mint Salad with Pistachio and Parsley

5 Jun Watermelon Salad

I know it may be a little early in the season for watermelon where you are, or it may even be getting on for winter but I got a baby watermelon in my organic veg box this week. Look how cute it is.

Look, I put it next to a lemon for you so you can see how small it is. Watermelon is one of the ingredients in my favourite summer salad and it is definitely feeling a lot like summer here so this is what I made with it.

Watermelon, Feta & Mint Salad with Pistachio & Parsley

Serves 2, vegetarian, gluten-free. Adapted from Nigella Lawson

  • 1/4 small red onion, very finely sliced
  • the juice of half a lemon
  • 400 g watermelon, rind & most of the seeds removed then cut into approx. 4 cm triangles
  • 100g Greek Feta cheese
  • a handful of fresh parsley leaves, left whole
  • 5 or 6 fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
  • 8 black or purple olives, halved & stoned
  • black pepper
  • extra virgen olive oil
  •  a handful of shelled pistachios, roughly chopped
  • lemon wedges to serve

Put the finely sliced red onions in a small bowl and cover with the lemon juice. Leave to soak while you make the rest of the salad. This makes the flavour less harsh and turns them a pretty magenta colour.

Place the watermelon triangles in a beautifully random arrangement on your serving dish/plates. Cut or break  the feta into similar sized pieces as the watermelon and scatter them amongst the watermelon. Tear off sprigs/leaves of parsley and do the same. 

Tip the bright pink onions and their juices over the salad, add the olives, drizzle with a little olive oil and top with the chopped pistachios and a grinding of black pepper. Serve with extra wedges of lemon if you like.

This is me sending some much needed sunshine in the form of this beautiful salad to all the people in the UK celebrating the Queen’s Jubilee in the cold and rain.

This is my 93-year-old Grandad at a Jubilee garden party yesterday. He is wearing ski gloves, a shawl and a blanket over his legs. This is the 4th of June by the way, a typically English summer’s day!!

Sending you some sunshine Grandad, Enjoy!!

Individual Apricot, Almond and Rosewater Tartlets

2 Jun Apricot Almond Tart

I have spoken before in a recent post about inspiration. These pretty little tarts came into being because I pass apricot trees laden with fruit, beautiful roses and young green almonds every morning when I run with the dog. These things stick in my head and come out in the form of food generally.

I was going to make an apricot galette inspired by Pease Pudding’s stunning Pear & Chocolate Galette but I wanted to make my pastry using spelt flour and use olive oil instead of butter. The olive oil pastry idea came from Food To Glow’s olive oil crust recipe. It’s a savoury recipe for a  gorgeous Tandoori Cauliflower Tart but she also talks about a sweet version of the pastry using ground almonds and vanilla. This got me thinking.

This is what I do you see, go off on a tangent. I end up using about four different recipes at the same time taking the bits I need from each one. Both ladies above suggested using Chocolate & Zucchini’s olive oil pastry recipe but then I found an apricot and almond tart using a sweet olive oil pastry on La Tartine Gourmande.

So I went with that one. And the pastry is lovely, for a tart. It’s just a bit too delicate for a galette. It’s a really short pastry which means it’s kind of like a biscuity shortbread rather than a pastry you can fold around a fruit filling without it cracking. So the little tart tins came out and the galette got put back a bit. I know my friend Jeanne said recently that she had lots of peaches and plums growing at the moment and both of those would be perfect in a galette.

Apricot, Almond & Rosewater Tartlets

Makes 2 x 10cm tartlets, vegan, wheat-free. Adapted from La Tartine Gourmande

  • 7 or 8 apricots
  • 2 or 3 tbsp rosewater
  • 100 gr spelt flour (or wholemeal/plain)
  • 30 gr raw or soft brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp ground almonds for the pastry
  • pinch salt
  • 2 drops almond extract
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp water (maybe)
  • 2 tbsp ground almonds for the filling
  • 2 tbsp honey or agave syrup
  • flaked almonds
  • icing sugar to serve

 For the pastry, mix the flour, sugar, ground almonds and salt in the bowl of a food processor (or you can do it by hand). Add the almond extract and olive oil and mix/ pulse until crumbly, stop if necessary to scrape the sides of the bowl and make sure that everything is well incorporated. Pulse until it forms a ball that leaves the side of the bowl, you may have to add a little water a teaspoon at a time to get it to hold together. Wrap it in cling film, flatten it into a disc and put in the fridge for at least an hour.

Half the apricots and remove the stones, the skin of mine came off really easily when I was preparing them but you can leave it on if you like. Cut each half into 4 wedges, put in a bowl and sprinkle over the rosewater. Leave this to marinate while your pastry is resting.

Preheat your oven to 180 C. Cut the dough into two equal pieces and roll them out between two sheets of floured clingfilm, this stops it sticking to the work surface & rolling-pin. Roll them into rough circles to fit your tart tins about 2-3 mm thick. Lift them carefully on the clingfilm and place into the tins. Push the dough into the tins so it is even, trim around the top with a sharp knife and patch up any cracks with the off cuts.

Prick the bases all over with a fork and then sprinkle over a thin layer of ground almonds. Arrange the apricots slices in a fanned circle around the edge and put 2 slices in the middle. Squeeze the honey/agave syrup over the fruit and top with some flaked almonds. Bake for about 25 minutes, leave to cool slightly and dust with a layer of icing sugar to serve. Some rose petals scattered over look pretty too.

Have a great weekend!

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