Tag Archives: appetizer

Tunisian Spiced Aubergine with a Soft Poached Egg

9 Nov

This is another 0ne of those aubergine dishes that you have to try even if you think you don’t like aubergine. We are coming to the end of the season here now so it maybe your last chance to change your life. Or your eating habits anyway..

This is dish from Delia Smith (we love Delia) and she got it from an Elizabeth David recipe. It is supposed to be served at room temperature, drizzled with olive oil and served with some warmed pita breads on the side, a blob of greek yoghurt and fresh herbs on the top. Continue reading

Savoury Feta and Pomegranate Cheesecake with Pistachio, Mint and Parsley (and a Winner!!)

29 Oct

Having seen Beth Michelle’s beautiful pure white sweet cheesecake bed topped with a generous pile of glistening ruby pomegranate jewels, I knew that I was going to make a cheesecake with the pomegranates that I am now seeing all over the trees here at the moment.

At the restaurant we used to serve a savoury cheesecake with an apricot chutney. It wasn’t baked and I think it was goat’s cheese. Anyway I was thinking of going down a Greek/Middle Eastern road because of the pomegranate, and feta was the obvious cheese choice. Continue reading

White Grape Gazpacho with Ajo Blanco Cream

13 Aug

This is a fusion of two of the most well-known Spanish summer soups: Gazpacho and Ajo Blanco. Gazpacho is traditionally a tomato based chilled vegetable soup and Ajo Blanco is a white version, also served chilled, made with almonds, garlic and olive oil.

They have their roots in southern Andalucia from around Sevilla, Cordoba, Granada and Malaga and they are both believed to have originated with the Moors.

I was looking for white grape recipes because I walk by these bunches of Moscatel grapes every morning watching them grow sweeter and darker with the heat of the sun.

I found a recipe for White Grape Gazpacho which I really liked the idea of. I have to admit that I am not all that fond of cold soup, in fact I never eat it. I realise that this is sacrilege coming from the birthplace of Gazpacho but I can’t help it, I’ve tried and I’m just not feeling it. I don’t like olives either, I know, por dios!

For some strange reason the fact that it was a cold soup with fruit, rather than vegetables, made it more appealing to me. It may have been to do with the soaring temperatures and the inability to think about eating anything even the slightest bit warm. Whatever the explanation, I was happy to try it.

I’m so glad I did, this is a really refreshing soup. It has to be really cold though, I mean ice-cold, and you have to eat it quickly before it starts to get warm.

The Ajo Blanco cream came to me because I thought it needed a swirl of something on top. You could use creme fraiche but it’s a bit French and I saw Rick Stein making (well he was actually watching someone else making) Ajo Blanco on his new series, A Taste of Spain. The traditional garnish is some Moscatel grapes. So I decided to turn the tables and use Ajo Blanco as my garnish on the White Grape Gazpacho. The two work so well together.

This would make a really elegant summer starter/appetizer for entertaining. It looks impressive but is surprisingly easy. Just chill and serve.

White Grape Gazpacho with Ajo Blanco Cream

Serves 2-3, vegan, gluten-free. Adapted from Honey Flow Farm & Spain Recipes

For the White Grape Gazpacho:

  • 350 gr white grapes (moscatel would be lovely, deseeded) I used seedless. Plus extra for garnish, halved
  • 10/12 mint leaves, finely chopped
  • a small handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/2 English cucumber (1 Spanish pepino) peeled and diced
  • 2 or 3 spring onions (1 small cebolleta), finely chopped
  • 220 ml (1 cup) veg stock
  • 220 ml (1 cup) iced water (I use 3 ice cubes crushed, and water)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Mix all the ingredients apart from the stock and water together in a bowl and season with the salt and pepper. Remove three-quarters of the mix to a food processor, pulse a few times then add the stock and iced water and process until it liquid but still with some texture. Then add in the rest of the ingredients from the bowl and pulse once more. Taste for seasoning and chill for at least 2 hours. Put your serving bowls in the freezer to chill too.

For the Ajo Blanco Cream:

  • 75 gr (1/2 cup) ground almonds
  • 2 large cloves garlic, finely sliced
  • 3 tbsp extra virgen olive oil
  • 1 tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 50-75 ml (1/2-3/4 cup) cold water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • flaked almonds, toasted in a dry pan for garnish

Put the ground almonds, garlic and sherry vinegar in a food processor and blend. Then add the olive oil and blend to a smooth paste. Add the water, a bit at a time until you reach the consistency of thick pouring cream. Season with the salt, taste, cover and chill for 2 hours.

To serve, ladle the cold Grape Gazpacho soup into the frozen bowls and top with a generous swirl of the Ajo Blanco cream. Top with a few halved grapes and some of the toasted flaked almonds.

Buen Provecho!

Things That Made Me Smile Today……

A lone goat wandering down the middle of the road. We stopped the car to say hello, she was very friendly!

Rufus looking very serious, “Stop taking pictures of me!”

Have a great weekend,

White Grape, Manchego and Fennel Seed Tartlets

16 Jul

Grapes are just coming into season here now. Where we walk with the dog there are vines, heavy with juicy bunches growing along the fences at the side of the paths. Every day they ripen a little more with the intense heat of the sun.

I’ve never cooked with grapes before. At the restaurant we had an Andalucian salad with Manchego cheese, grapes, Serrano ham and a Jerez (sherry) vinegar dressing that sold very well in the summer.

This got me thinking about the grape and Manchego combination. The Washer Up used to make a Manchego & Red Onion Tartlet that was delicious. He cut the puff pastry into triangles a little bigger than the triangle of cheese and made a red onion marmalade to go on the top. It was a very popular starter.

My version just swaps the red onion marmalade for a grape compote. I used elderflower cordial in the compote because it is the very essence of summer but you can use grape juice if you can’t get any. I bought mine in Ikea.

The fennel seeds idea came from a recipe for Grape & Fennel Seed Focaccia in the Ottolenghi Cookbook. I am slightly Ottolenghi obsessed at the moment. The fennel seeds add an interesting flavour and texture, and the Spanish do love their anis so it finished off the dish nicely.

If you strain the compote before it cools you will also have a grape and elderflower syrup to drizzle over the finished dish, but it’s not essential.

Remember to put the frozen puff pastry in the fridge to defrost the night before you need it.

White Grape, Manchego & Fennel Seed Tartlets Recipe

makes about 6 or 7 tartlets, vegetarian

For the Grape, Elderflower & Fennel Seed Compote

  • about 400 gr seedless white grapes, stemmed & halved
  • 50 gr caster sugar
  • 3 tbsp elderflower cordial
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds, roughly crushed in a mortar & pestle

Stir the grapes and sugar in a large saucepan so all the grapes are coated and set aside for 5 minutes. Add the elderflower cordial and half of the crushed fennel seeds. (Keep the rest for sprinkling on the tarts later).

Bring to a boil over a medium high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the syrup thickens and coats the back of a spoon, about 20 -25 minutes. Pour the compote into a sieve over a bowl to collect the syrup and let the grapes drain well.

Store the grapes and syrup, covered, separately in the fridge until needed.

For the Tartlets

  • 1 block frozen puff pastry, defrosted in the fridge overnight
  • flour for dusting
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten for egg wash
  • 6 or 7  5mm thick triangular slices of Manchego cheese, rind removed
  • grape compote (see above)
  • the rest of the crushed fennel seeds (see above)

Dust your work surface & rolling-pin with flour and roll out the block of pastry, with the narrowest end facing you, into a long thin rectangle about 2 or 3 mm thick.

See photo above. Place one of the slices of Manchego onto the beginning (nearest you) of the pastry rectangle so it is pointing like an arrow to the right. Cut around the cheese leaving a 5 mm border all the way around. Turn the cheese arrow round so it is pointing to the left above the first triangle and do the same. Continue alternating like this until you have run out of pastry. You should get 6 or 7 triangles.

Score a 5 mm border with sharp knife on each pastry triangle but don’t cut all the way through. Trim the short side of the triangle to make it neat.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 220 C.  Line a baking tray with baking paper and place your pastry triangles on it, spaced apart. Put 1 small teaspoon of grape compote in the middle of each of the triangles and spread it out slightly. Don’t go into the 5mm border.

Brush the pastry borders with egg wash and sprinkle a few of the crushed fennel seeds on the borders too (save some for garnishing the finished tart). Cook for about 12 minutes until browned and risen. Keep an eye on them though.

You can keep them like this until you are ready to serve. Then preheat the oven again if necessary, top each with a slice of Manchego and bake for another 2 minutes, just until the cheese melts.

Top with another teaspoon or so of the compote and sprinkle with a little of the crushed fennel seeds. Serve on a flat plate with a simple green salad and drizzle over the grape and elderflower syrup. If your syrup has set in the fridge just heat it up with a bit more elderflower cordial.

These make a great light lunch or starter but you could also quite easily serve them as a dessert/cheese course. They’ve got that sweet cheesey danish pastry feel that would work for afternoon tea too.

They taste just as good at room temperature and would be perfect for a summer picnic with some sparkling elderflower cordial or a nice bottle of chilled cava.

Buen Provecho!!

Things that made me smile today….

Our new friend the Shetland pony. He likes us because we take him carrots.

The Washer Up calls him “Donkey” (from Shrek), I think it might be the teeth!!

Buen Fin de Semana!

Creole Chickpea Fritters with Red and Green Pepper Salsa

27 May

At the restaurant we aways had some sort of fish cake on the menu and they were always best sellers. One of the most memorable ones for me were the Creole Crab Cakes that we served with a roasted red pepper mayo. There was something about the combination of Creole seasoning, fresh thyme and finely diced peppers that everyone loved.

Everyone except for Nik the Chef.  He hated making them. They were a bit (ok a lot) of a nightmare because the peppers would leak their liquid into the crab cakes and make them soggy so Nik had to spend hours finely dicing peppers and then meticulously drying them out on kitchen towel before combining them with the crab meat. He hated me for coming up with those crab cakes, but the customers loved them.

I was reminded of those crab cakes when I saw a recipe for chickpea fritters on A Little Bit Crunchy. Hers were Mexican in flavour but they had diced red pepper in them which is what caught my eye. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about, after all I never ate a whole crab cake because I was vegetarian. I only ever tried a little bit to see if it tasted how I wanted it to.

So I made some Creole seasoning which I added to a jar of cooked chickpeas that I had blended to a puree. I added some fresh thyme and started to finely dice a red and green pepper, a spring onion, garlic & chilli. I stirred a few handfuls of the diced veg into the chickpea mix, but not too much, I didn’t want the mixture to be too wet.  I used the rest of the diced peppers etc to make a salsa to accompany the chickpea fritters by adding a chopped tomato, lemon juice & some Creole seasoning. I used chickpea flour to dust the fritters and then mould them into patties to keep it gluten-free but you can use flour and breadcrumbs if you like.

Creole Chickpea Fritters with Red & Green Pepper Salsa

makes 6-8 patties, vegan, gluten-free

For the Creole seasoning:

  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tbsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tbsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tbsp ground white pepper
  • 1/2 tbsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 1/2 tbsp paprika
  • 1 1/2 tbsp salt

Put all the ingredients in a jar with a lid and shake well to combine.

For the Chickpea Fritters:

  • 1 jar/tin 400 gr cooked chickpeas, drained & rinsed
  • 2 tbsp Creole seasoning (see above)
  • a few sprigs of fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 red pepper, finely diced
  • 1/2 green pepper, finely diced
  • 3 or 4 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 2 spring garlic or 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 chilli, finely chopped
  • the juice of half  a lemon
  • 1 big tomato, finely diced
  • salt
  • chickpea flour/besan/gram flour for dusting
  • olive oil for frying

Put the rinsed, drained chickpeas in a bowl or processor and blend until smoothish. Mix the diced peppers, spring onions, garlic and chilli together in a bowl and add a couple of small handfuls to the chickpeas with a tablespoon of Creole seasoning and the thyme leaves. Stir everything together so well combined. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if necessary. Tip some chickpea flour onto a plate and shape the mix into patties about 1/2 inch thick. Then dust the patties in the flour and put in the fridge to firm up for 30 minutes. (No longer or the peppers will start to leak their juice and the patties will be too wet).

Meanwhile make the salsa by adding a finely diced tomato to the rest of the diced veg with a tablespoon of Creole seasoning and the juice of half a lemon. Taste for seasoning and add salt if necessary.

To cook the fritters, heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Cook the fritters for 4-5 minutes per side until browned and crispy. Serve with the pepper salsa and a green salad dressed with olive oil and lemon juice.

Things That Made Me Smile Today…

A Shetland pony and her new foal…

A white dolomite rock and delicate magenta flowers…..

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