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Pumpkin Gnocchi with Spinach and Green Chilli Basil Oil

8 Oct

It’s that time of year again. You know it’s definitely Autumn when you see piles of beautiful squashes at the market and I’m tripping over knobbly pumpkins growing out of the fences at the side of the road as I run past the fields with the dog in the morning.

This is the first of many squash and pumpkin recipes to come and I make no apology for that. Their sweet savoury substantial flesh is a welcome addition to any soup or stew and its versatility and ability to slip seamlessly into the cuisine of any country make it an easy choice for this greedy vegetarian,

Some of my personal favourite and most popular recipes feature  the mighty squash. These Butternut Squash & Chickpea Cakes spiced with Cape Malay flavours are easily my most viewed recipe. This Indian Spiced Smashed Pumpkin is comfort food at its best and this Vegan Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cake with chocolate ganache is heaven.

So after Africa and India we now set foot back in Europe with a classic Italian recipe served with a green and spiced up version of an Aglio Oglio sauce made with our homegrown green chillis which we are now harvesting for the second time this year.

So, I don’t know how many of you out there have ever made Pumpking Gnocchi before, but I have.  They were a complete disaster, dense, heavy and unappealing. You couldn’t eat more than two or three before feeling like your stomach was about to explode. I tried, obviously. Not a good idea.

That kind of put me off ever trying again but that was two years ago and my skills and knowledge have improved slightly since then. And The Washer Up wanted me to, so here I am.

The mistake I made last time, I now know from watching countless cookery programmes on TV, was adding too much flour to the mix. It’s easily done because you think the mixture is too wet and that it will fall apart in the water when you cook them. Trust me, go easy on the flour, you’ll thank me for it. And so will your stomach.

*Mine were probably slightly under floured this time as you can see from the raw shot above. They look like very soft gnocchi, but this made them so light and fluffy when they were cooked. You didn’t get that “Oh god I’ve eaten a duvet” feeling afterwards. A trick is to cook one first and try it. If it doesn’t hold, add a little more flour to the mix.

Pumpkin Gnocchi with Spinach & Green Chilli Basil Oil

Serves 2-3, vegetarian. Adapted from Cranks Recipe Book

  • 375 g peeled, cubed squash or pumpkin
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • a pinch chilli flakes
  • salt & black pepper

Preheat oven to 190C and line a baking tray with baking paper. Put the squash cubes on the tray, drizzle over the olive oil, sprinkle with the spices and season with salt & pepper. Toss with you hands so evenly coated and lay out in one layer on the tray. Bake for 15-25 minutes until soft, depending on the size of your cubes.

  • 50-75 g plain flour ( I used white spelt flour)
  • 30 g finely grated parmesan or manchego cheese
  • 1 small spring onion green parts, finely chopped
  •  a handful of basil leaves, finely shredded
  • salt & pepper

Mash the pumpkin with a potato masher then sieve over 50 g flour and mix well. Then add and mix together the parmesan, spring onion and basil and season with salt & pepper to taste.

Using floured hands, shape the mixture into small walnut sized ovalish balls, put on a floured, lined tray, then roll over with a floured fork to make the pattern and store in the fridge until ready to cook.

*See note above about adding a little more flour a bit at a time and doing a test run if unhappy with the consistency. But don’t add too much flour or your cooked gnocchi will be very heavy & dense.

For the sauce:

  • 4 or 5 tbsp olive oil
  • a handful of spinach leaves, chopped
  • a handful of basil leaves, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
  • 1 green chilli, deseeded & chopped
  • a cup of the hot pasta water (from cooking the gnocchi)
  • shaved parmesan for garnish
  • pine nuts, toasted in a dry pan for garnish

Heat the oil in a  frying pan large enough to hold the gnocchi over a medium heat and add the sliced garlic and chilli. Cook slowly until the garlic is starting to brown (but don’t let it burn) then remove from the heat.

Meanwhile, cook the gnocchi in lots of boiling salted water for about 2 minutes. They will float to the top when they are cooked.  Reserve a teacup full of the hot cooking water, put the garlic oil back on the heat and add about half of the cup of pasta water when hot.Reduce this slightly while the gnocchi cooks and add the chopped spinach and basil to create the sauce. Season with salt & black pepper.

When the gnocchi are cooked and you are ready to serve, heat them up in the same pan as the sauce for a minute or two (you can add the rest of the cup of pasta water if it needs it) and then serve garnished with the shaved parmesan & toasted pine nuts.

Buon Appetito!

Homemade Tomato Ketchup…. with a kick

4 Oct

What do you do with a kilo of plum tomatoes that you bought because they were really cheap and gorgeous looking? Well, I decided to turn them into ketchup because I had never done it before and it felt right. In a preparing for the winter months ahead type way.

I am really pleased with the consistency of it. It actually looks and tastes a lot like real ketchup, with  quite a bit of heat. I added some of our homegrown Scotch Bonnet chillis to the tomatoes instead of  the pinch of cayenne that the original recipe called for. It’s fiery but fruity at the same time.

And there’s no nasty chemicals or weird stuff, excellent!

Homemade Spicy Tomato Ketchup Recipe

Makes 1 bottle. Vegan, gluten-free. Adapted from Chowhound

  • 1 kilo ripe tomatoes
  • 1/2 red pepper, seeds & membrane removed then chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 75 ml sherry vinegar (or cider vinegar)
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon (or 1 cinnamon stick)
  • 1/4 tsp caraway or celery seeds
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp allspice berries
  • 1/2 tsp mustard
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 small scotch bonnet chillis (optional) deseeded if you like
  • 3 tbsp molasses (miel de cana)
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Put the tomatoes, red pepper and chillis in a food processor and blend to a smooth puree. Push this through a sieve into a large saucepan with a spatula until you are just left with dry skins and seeds in the sieve. Discard this.

Puree the onion and add that to the pan with the pureed tomatoes. Cook and stir occasionally over low heat until it is reduced by about a third and is considerably thicker.

Meanwhile put garlic, peppercorns, allspice, cloves, cinnamon, caraway seeds and vinegar into a small saucepan and simmer gently, covered for about 1o-15 mins. Then pour about half the spiced vinegar through a sieve or tea strainer into the thickened tomato mixture. Add the molasses/miel de cana, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and salt and stir to combine everything well.

Taste at this point and adjust any of the ingredients to suit you. Maybe it needs more of the spiced vinegar or more molasses or salt. Cook it some more, stirring so it doesn’t catch, until it is thickened and looks like ketchup. Don’t worry if it looks a bit separated you are now going to blend it carefully with a stick blender in the pan (or in a food processor) and that smooths it out nicely.

Pour into a jug and then pour into a sterilised jar or bottle, seal with an airtight lid and leave to cool. When cool, store in the fridge.

Serve it with chips, beanburgers, anything really you don’t need me to tell what to serve your ketchup with. My particular favourite is with poached eggs and spinach on toast.

As this is quite a short post it seems like quite a good time to tell you about some exciting news. I am going to holding two cookery workshops at the Pepe Kitchen cookery school in Benalmadena. The first one on Saturday 20th October is a Vegetarian Middle Eastern Mezze Workshop where we will be making, Baba Ghanoush, Muhammara, Maast-o Khiar, Fattoush, Spanakopita & Sambouseks. The workshop is from 10am – 2pm and we all get to eat everything we have made for lunch together afterwards.

The second one is a Healthy Baking Workshop on Saturday 17th November from 5pm -9pm. We will be using spelt flour and olive oil to make pastry for tarts, galettes and quiches as well as making sweet and savoury spelt flour muffins and a flaxseed spelt raisin and date breakfast loaf. We will of course be tasting them all afterwards just to make sure they are good obviously!

For more information and to reserve your place you can either contact me directly or reserve through the Pepe Kitchen website.

Fresh Fig and Almond Fumble

2 Oct

A fumble, just in case you were wondering or being smutty, is a cross between a fool and a crumble. The best bits of two classic British desserts brought together to create something beautiful and simple to make. It is extremely versatile too. You can basically use whichever fruits are in season. Strawberries, apples, plums, mangoes, pears, rhubarb, gooseberries, you get the idea.

A fool is traditionally made with a fruit puree or compote stirred (or marbled) through whipped cream. I used goat’s yoghurt instead of cream, the sourness is fantastic with the sweet sticky fig compote. You could use Greek yoghurt or a mixture of yoghurt and whipped cream if you like.

My crumble is made with olive oil and honey rather than butter and sugar so it is all round a really healthy dessert. The crumble  is given extra flavour and crunch by adding flaked and ground almonds to the mix. I chose almonds because I saw  families picking their almonds at the same time as picking their figs today and the figs at the market looked beautiful.

I made a compote with the figs just by cooking them with some honey and a bit of water until it resembled runny jam. I left it to cool while I made the crumble mix. You just spread out all of the crumbly lumps on a baking sheet and cook it until it is browning. When it’s cool you can store it in an airtight container and use it to top ice creams, stewed fruit, yoghurt and anything else you think could do with a sweet crunch. This recipe makes more than you need so you should have some left over, unless you keep picking at it of course.

Fig & Almond Fumble Recipe

Makes 2, vegetarian. No butter, no sugar, no cream. Adapted form Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall

  • 200 g soft ripe figs, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp water

Put the figs, honey and water in a sauce pan, bring to a  boil then lower the heat to medium and simmer until it resembles a jammy compote. About 3-5 minutes. Leave to cool.

  • 3 tbsp ground almonds
  • 6 tbsp wholemeal spelt flour (or any flour)
  • 3 tbsp oats
  • 3 tbsp flaked almonds
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • a pinch of salt
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp honey

Preheat the oven to 180C and line a baking sheet with parchment. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Using a fork,  mix in the olive oil and honey the using your fingers make it resemble crumble. You should make lots of  clumpy crumble lumps. Spread the crumble out in one layer on the baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes but keep an eye on it incase it burns. It depends how big your clumps are as to how long it will take. It should be nicely browned. Now leave it to cool.

  • 2 pots or 250ml goat’s/Greek yoghurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • about 4 large tbsp fig compote in each serving
  • a large handful of crumble mix for each

When the compote and crumble mix have cooled, mix the yoghurt and vanilla in a bowl and swirl through the compote. Taste it and add some honey if you think it needs it but remember the crumble is going on top.

Pour into serving dishes and top with a generous handful of crumble mix. You may have to crumble it more if you have large clumps.

Enjoy!!

Pretty Pickled Peppers Recipe

5 Sep

As in “Peter Piper picked a peck of…..”. A peck is a lot by the way, about 8 pints worth. I didn’t buy that many, I resisted from buying the whole crate of organic Pimientos Picante that were shining up at me from the floor of one of the stalls at the market on Sunday.

I bought quite few though, enough to think “What the hell..?” when I got home and realised that I already have a freezer full of our own homegrown red and green chillis and a scotch bonnet bush that is producing more than we can cope with at the moment.

I’m a sucker for them though, it didn’t even cross my mind, as I stuffed a few greedy handfuls into a bag, paid and left with a smile on my face and thoughts of pretty jars of pickled peppers on imaginary wooden shelves in a pantry that only exists in my dreams rushing through my brain. What can I say, it’s an addiction.

Pretty Pickled Peppers Recipe

Makes 1 big jar, vegan, gluten-free. Adapted from David Lebowitz

  • about 350 g chilli peppers (mixed red & green)
  • 350 ml vinegar ( I used a mix of apple, sherry, rice and white wine vinegars)
  • 350 ml water
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp course salt Himalayan or kosher
  • 2 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves

Pierce the peppers all over a few times with the tip of a knife and pack them into a sterilised jar. Put the rest of the ingredients in a saucepan, bring to the boil then lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Pour the entire contents of the pan into the jar with the peppers until they are all covered with the pickling liquid, seal with a lid and leave to cool. When cooled store in the fridge. You are supposed to leave them for at least a week but we couldn’t wait that long.

Apparently they get better the longer you leave them but we served them to our friends the next day and they were really good. Jeanne is now known as The Chilli Queen.

Enjoy!

Peach and Almond Spelt Cake with Passionfruit Syrup

20 Aug

Summer is all about fruit in Andalucia. It is at the moment anyway. Fruit and tomatoes, which are technically a fruit anyway. We went to the market this weekend and bought two kilos of peaches for a euro and quarter of a kilo of passionfruit (which is a lot) for the same price, one euro. Passionfruit are usually ridiculously expensive, I couldn’t believe it.

I have been photographing these peaches while walking the dog and today we saw some almonds hatching out of their furry jackets on the trees next to them.

I have been blending peaches, passionfruit pulp and orange juice for breakfast smoothies (with flaxmeal, flax seeds and flax seed oil) but still nowhere near using them all and I saw two gorgeous peach cake recipes, both on beautiful Italian blogs, that I couldn’t get out of my head.

A Peach & Mead Cake on Juls’ Kitchen and a Peach & Hazelnut Cake on Lucullian Delights both had me desperate to try something similar. I added Amaretto (my liqueur of choice) in the absence of mead and swapped the hazelnuts to ground almonds. I also decided to use a mix of white and wholemeal spelt flours and used coconut oil and olive oil instead of butter. So it’s dairy and wheat-free. As well as moist and delicious.

You could obviously serve it with some cream or ice cream but to keep it dairy-free and because of the pile of bargain passionfruit, I made a passionfruit syrup/coulis or sauce, whatever you want to call it, to pour liberally over the top. Make sure you buy the old and wrinkly looking ones that are ripe.

Peach & Almond Spelt Cake with Passionfruit Syrup

Makes 1 cake, Vegetarian, Wheat-Free, Dairy-Free. Adapted from Lucullian Delights

  • 500 gr peaches (I used 4), peeled and sliced
  • 3 tbsp soft brown (or raw) sugar
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 or 3 tbsp Amaretto
  • 1 tbsp cornflour/cornstarch (maybe)

Put the peaches, sugar, cinnamon and 2 tbsp amaretto in a small saucepan and bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 4-5 minutes. If it is still a bit liquidy you can dissolve the cornflour in some amaretto and stir that in. Keep cooking until it thickens like jam. Leave it to cool while you make the cake.

  • 3 eggs
  • 175 gr soft brown (or raw) sugar
  • 1+1/2 tbsp oat milk (or any milk)
  • 1 +1/2 tbsp amaretto
  • a few drops of almond extract
  • 75 gr olive oil plus 75 gr coconut oil (or 150 gr melted butter)
  • 100 gr ground almonds
  • 180 gr white spelt flour (or normal flour)
  • 120 gr wholemeal spelt flour, or normal wholemeal flour ( I used 100 g wholemeal spelt flour plus 20 gr flaxmeal)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • a big pinch of salt

Whisk the eggs and sugar together for a few minutes until light and fluffy then add the milk, amaretto, almond extract, both oils (or melted butter) and mix well. Sieve over the dry ingredients, tipping  any wholemeal bits left in the sieve into the bowl too, and fold them into the wet ingredients gently with a rubber spatula until just combined. Don’t overmix or it will be tough. It is quite a sticky batter.

Preheat the oven to 175 C and oil and flour (or breadcrumb) the inside of your cake tin. I used a 23 cm 9″ cake tin with a removable base. If your cake tin is smaller you will get a deeper cake and may have to cook it for longer.

Pour about two-thirds of the batter into the cake tin then cover with an even layer of the peaches. Tip out the rest of the batter onto the peaches and cover as much as you can. Cook for 30-40 minutes until lightly browned and a cocktail stick come out clean. Leave to cool completely on a wire rack and dust with icing sugar if you like before slicing.

Passionfruit Syrup Recipe

serves 4-6, vegan, gluten-free

  • about 9 passionfruit
  • the juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 2 tbsp soft brown (or raw) sugar

Halve the passionfruit and scrape out all the pulp with a teaspoon into a small saucepan. Squeeze over the lemon juice and add the sugar. Bring to the boil stirring occasionally, then lower the heat and simmer for about four minutes. Taste and add more sugar/lemon juice as required. It should be tart and sweet at the same time and your kitchen will smell amazing!

Serve each slice of the cake with a generous drizzle of the passionfruit syrup.

Buen Provecho!

Sweet, Spicy Watermelon Pickle

11 Jul

This is what I made with the watermelon rinds I had leftover from making the Watermelon Agua Fresca in my last post.

It’s a sweet spicy pickle perfect to serve as a relish on burgers, at barbeques or as part of a picnic lunch. It’s great with mature sharp cheeses like goat’s cheese, Manchego, Cheddar or Feta or with salty cured hams like Serrano and Parma, you could even serve it with a whole roast ham or gammon steak. It would also be a very welcome addition to any Indian meal.

It’s really simple to make but you do it over three days. Don’t let that put you off, you’re not working on it for three whole days or anything silly. You leave it covered in its syrup overnight in the fridge then take it out in the morning, drain it into a saucepan, bring the syrup to a boil and then pour it back over the watermelon. Then put it back in the fridge until the next morning and repeat the process once more.

The original recipe didn’t have any chilli in it but my chilli pepper plant has just started to produce some little green babies so I added a few whole ones to the pot with the whole spices. You’ve got to have a little heat in a pickle or what’s the point?

Watermelon Pickle Recipe

Makes 1 big jar, vegan, gluten-free. Adapted from Epicurious

  • 2kg (4 pound) watermelon, quartered & sliced into 1 inch thick wedges/triangles
  • 1.75 litres (8 cups) water
  • 2 tbsp sea salt plus 2 tsp
  • 450 g (2 cups) sugar
  • 275 ml (1+1/4 cups) apple cider vinegar
  • 8 cloves
  • 8 black peppercorns
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
  • 1 tsp grated/minced ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 8 allspice berries
  • 3 whole green (or red) chillies

Cut the watermelon flesh from the rind leaving a thin layer of pink on the rind. Use the flesh to make agua fresca or watermelon feta & mint salad.  Cut off the dark green part of the rind and discard it. Then cut the rind into 1 inch pieces.

Bring the water and 2 tbsp salt to a boil in a large saucepan then add the rind pieces and boil until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and transfer them to a metal bowl with the whole chillies.

Add the 2 tsp salt, sugar and the rest of the ingredients to a large saucepan, bring to the boil, stirring continuously until the sugar dissolves. Pour this over the watermelon rinds and chillies in the bowl then place a plate on top to keep the rinds under the syrup. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave in the fridge for 8 hours or overnight.

The next day strain the syrup from the rinds into a saucepan, bring the syrup to the boil and pour it back over the rinds in the bowl. Cover with the plate again and the cling film and leave again overnight.

Repeat straining, boiling and pouring over rinds one more time and leave again, covered in fridge overnight. Then spoon the rinds and spices into a sterilised jar, pour over the syrup so it covers the top of the rinds and seal. Store in the fridge.

I really enjoyed making something so delicious out of something that would normally just get thrown away. Means more money to spend on shoes…..!

Spiced Chickpea Falafel Cakes with Tahini, Yogurt and Mint Sauce

22 Jun

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

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

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!

Smashed Broad Bean Dip with Fresh Mint, Garlic, Manchego and Lemon

27 May

This is just a quick and easy recipe that I wanted to share with you because it is perfect for this time of year. When you can’t be bothered to cook anything complicated but want something fresh and delicious to munch on. This is it.

I found the recipe in a pile of newspaper and magazine clippings that The Washer Up’s dad, Jim had sent me from England. He cuts anything food and drink related out of the Sunday papers and saves them up to send over. It’ s very handy for keeping up with what’s going on over there.

The original recipe used 500 grammes of podded broad beans, I didn’t have anywhere near that many so I have adjusted it to suit. It’s one of those things where you can taste it as you go and add more garlic, lemon or mint to your taste. 

If you have young broad beans that are still very small and bright green you can use them raw. If not you can blanch the podded beans for two minutes then squeeze the bright green peas out of the pale jade skins and you’re good to go. I know that squeezing broad beans may sound boring bit it’s actually quite a therapeutic thing to do sitting outside in the early evening sipping a glass of mint tea or even a Mojito. It’s worth it just to see that beautiful bright green paste when you’ve done.

Smashed Broad Bean & Mint Dip

Serves 2-3 as a snack, vegetarian, gluten-free. Adapted from Eat Your Veg

Prep time 15 mins

  • about 200 gr broad beans (podded weight)
  • 1/2 clove garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 5 mint leaves
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (or more)
  • 50 gr grated manchego (or pecorino/parmesan)
  • a squeeze of fresh lemon juice
  • bread to serve, toasted flatbread/baguette/ciabatta or wholemeal toast

Blanch the broad beans (unless very young, tiny & bright green) for two minutes in boiling salted water, drain and then squeeze the bright green peas out of the pale green cases.

In a mortar & pestle, crush the garlic and 1/2 tsp salt to a paste. Add the mint leaves and pound again to a paste. Add a handful of the broad beans and grind to a paste. Add more beans and continue pounding until you get a slightly chunky textured puree.

Drizzle in the olive oil and mix well then add the cheese, lemon juice and season with salt and black pepper. Taste and adjust lemon, mint salt as necessary. Serve on/with toasted bread and drizzle with a little more olive oil.

Sit back and enjoy this fresh and delicious seasonal treat, I’m off to make some more, it’s addictive. Thanks Jim.

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