Tag Archives: italian

Broad Bean Bruschettas with Goat’s Ricotta and Spring Onion

11 May

Broad Bean Bruschettas with Goats Ricotta

I have been running past these broad beans with the dog and I kept meaning to go back with my camera to take some photos. I eventually remembered and got stung by a bee on my little finger when I did. I had forgotten how much that hurts. The things I do for you…

Broad Beans

I also photographed some spring onions (Spanish ones are massive in case you were wondering) and some young leeks. These three things are cheap and plentiful at the market right now as well as spring garlic shoots.

Broad Beans, Spring Onions & Leeks

So this is less of a recipe and more of a, placing of ingredients on some toasted bread, really. You can do that even if you have guests, which we did. The good thing about that is that you can get them to help with the podding. (Thanks Lindsey)

Broad Bean Bruschetta

I bought a kilo of broad beans so sharing the job was a good idea. Podding the beans is the first part then you blanche them for a few minutes in boiling water, cool them down under cold running water, then you squeeze the bright green, sweet beans out of their pale jade cases.

This may sound like a faff too far but it is hardly taxing (while sipping a cool drink under an umbrella) and it really makes all the difference to the freshness of the dish. Look at the colour of them, aren’t they pretty?

Broad Bean Bruschettas

Broad Bean Bruschettas with Goats Ricotta & Spring Onion Recipe

Serves (who knows depends how hungry you are) 4-6? Vegetarian

  • 1 kilo broad beans still in their pods
  • a handful of finely sliced spring onions
  • a handful of rinsed, finely sliced baby leeks (or small leek)
  • a handful of finely sliced spring garlic/green garlic
  • dried (or fresh) thyme leaves
  • lemon juice
  • a handful of fresh parsley, chopped (plus leaves for garnish)
  • olive oil
  • sea salt & black pepper
  • goats ricotta (or soft goats cheese/feta)
  • a nice baguette/ciabatta (or 2) sliced on the diagonal

Pod the beans then cook in boiling salted water for 2 minutes. Plunge into cold water to stop the cooking or run under the cold tap until cold. Then squeeze the bright green beans out of their pale green cases.

Toast the baguette slices on both sides under the grill and set aside.

Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat, add the sliced spring onions, leeks and green garlic. Season with salt, pepper and a little thyme. Cook for a minute or so until starting to soften, then add the broad beans, stirring to coat. Cook for a few minutes more, add a squeeze of lemon juice, the chopped parsley and check for seasoning.

Spread or crumble a layer of goats ricotta/cheese on each baguette slice, top with a spoonful of the broad beans and put on your serving plate. Continue with the rest.

To serve, top with some fresh parsley leaves, a sprinkling of sea salt and a few drops of olive oil.

Broad Bean Bruschetta with Goats RicottaI’m thinking a long, cool white wine spritzer to go with this. You may prefer a Mojito though.

I know I said I would let you know about our new business venture in this post. Well I lied. You’re gonna have to wait.

Have a lovely weekend!!

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Mushroom Risotto Stuffed Baked Fennel Bulbs with Tomato Sauce

20 Mar

Risotto Stuffed Fennel with Tomato Sauce

Fennel is another one of those vegetables, like cauliflower, that gets a bit of a bad name. People have preconceived ideas about it. They don’t like it. But many have never tried it cooked. I may have been one of those narrow-minded people.

Fennel Plants

Running past this field full of feathery fennel fronds floating in the breeze in front of an 11th Century Moorish watchtower while Rufus begs me to turn around and run back because of the pack of very tiny dogs who bark (or actually yap) at his heels as we pass, made me want to research this undervalued vegetable a little more deeply.

And by research I mean, look at recipes. On Pinterest mainly. Not that I’m addicted or anything but that is where I store all of the recipes I like the look of and want to make soon.

Mushroom Risotto Stuffed Fennel Bulb

The idea for this recipe didn’t come from Pinterest though. It came from Jim, The Washer Up’s dad. It’s not his recipe. I don’t think he stretches much farther than a ham sandwich in his own particular kitchen, but he does send me everything food related cut out from the British press, neatly folded in a brown envelope every couple of weeks. This is always a very welcome distraction, for me, from any cleaning that might need doing.

It was in one of those envelopes that I found out about baking and stuffing fennel.

Fennel Stock & Bulbs

Because I bought four whole fennel (complete with long feathery fronds still attached)  from the farmer’s market on Sunday, I decided I wouldn’t waste all of that aniseedy greenery and I made a stock out of them for the risotto. This isn’t essential but if you have them, you may as well if you have the time.

Risotto Stuffed Baked Fennel

In the original recipe they stuffed the fennel with wild rice. I decided to make a risotto using brown rice and the mushrooms I had in my fridge and use that to stuff them instead.

I have finally worked out how to make risotto from brown rice that actually looks and tastes like risotto. You have to part cook the rice first so it is nearly done. Then you add it to the risotto and continue as you would with uncooked risotto rice. It’ so much softer and creamier. I have to give credit to The Washer Up for this tip, he has been telling me to do it for ages.

And he was right. There I said it.

Risotto Stuffed Fennel

To make the fennel stock I cut the stalks and fronds off of the fennel bulbs and chopped them up roughly. I put them in  a large pot with 3 or 4 bay leaves, 15 whole peppercorns and a good teaspoon of salt. Bring this to the boil then lower the heat and simmer, covered for about an hour. Taste and add more salt if necessary . Then drain and store in the fridge or freezer in 500 ml or 1 litre pots.

You can just use a normal vegetable stock if you don’t have the fronds, time or inclination.

Mushroom Risotto Stuffed Baked Fennel Recipe

Serves  4, vegetarian. Adapted from

  • 300 ml brown rice
  • 600 ml fennel stock or water

Put the rice and stock/water in a pan. Bring to the boil then lower the heat, cover and cook for about 15 minutes until the rice is nearly cooked. Drain if necessary. Rinse under cold water if not using straight away to stop the cooking and set aside.

  • 4  fennel bulbs
  • olive oil
  • salt & black pepper
  • white wine (or cava)

Preheat oven to 180C. Cut about 2 cm off of the base of each bulb so it can stand up. Then cut another inch or so off of the tops. Remove any damaged/bruised outer layers. Using a teaspoon, hollow out the fennel bulbs as best you can (see picture above) reserving the fennel flesh for the risotto.

Stand the hollowed out fennel bulbs on a large sheet of foil, drizzle with olive oil and season well with salt & pepper. Start to bring the edges of the foil up and around the fennel then carefully pour in about 4 Tbsp white wine. Seal the foil package completely around the fennel but make sure that they are still standing. Bake for about 40-45 minutes until nicely softened.

  • reserved fennel flesh from above, finely chopped
  • 1 stick celery, finely chopped
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves, garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • a good pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • 1 lemon, zested 
  • about 250 g mushrooms, cleaned & sliced
  • a splosh of white wine
  • up to 1 litre vegetable/fennel stock
  • 30 g grated manchego/parmesan
  • a handful of breadcrumbs
  • a handful of manchego/parmesan
  • fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • a handful of pine nuts, toasted in a dry pan
  • tomato pasta sauce/marinara sauce

Put the stock in a small pan over a medium heat and keep hot but not boiling.

Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat, add the onion, celery, chopped fennel and a pinch of salt and cook for about 4 minutes until softened but not browned. Then add the garlic, thyme, chilli flakes, half of the lemon zest and cook for another 2 minutes.

Add the mushrooms, cook for three minutes until softened then add the part cooked rice. Add a good splosh of white wine and cook until evaporated. Season well with salt & black pepper then start adding the hot stock a ladleful at a time, waiting for it to be absorbed before adding the next ladleful, stirring and swirling occasionally. Keep going until you have used all the stock and the rice is cooked. The risotto should be soft and quite liquidy.

Add a squeeze of lemon, a little of the chopped parsley and stir in the 30 gr grated manchego/parmesan. Turn off the heat, put a lid on and leave for 3-5 minutes. Heat up your tomato sauce.

If your fennel bulbs are done remove them from the oven and put the grill/broiler on high.

Mix together the breadcrumbs, grated manchego/parmesan, rest of the lemon zest, some pine nuts & some chopped parsley in a small bowl.

Check the risotto for seasoning add more salt if necessary. Spoon some risotto into each fennel bulb right to the top and a little bit more, sprinkle over the breadcrumb mix and put them under the grill for a minute or two until browned.

To serve: Cover the base of each dish with a shallow pool of risotto and place the stuffed fennel in the middle. Spoon some of the tomato sauce on and around the dish and garnish with some of the breadcrumb mix if you have any left, some chopped parsley or fennel fronds.

Risotto Stuffed Fennel & Tomato Sauce

Buen Provecho!!

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Farro “Risotto” with Broad Beans, Wild Asparagus and Poached Egg

18 Jan

Farro Risotto with Poached Egg

Farro is barley from spelt rather than wheat. This is whole Farro (or spelt).  You can also buy it pearled or semi-pearled apparently but I haven’t found it here yet. Pearling removes some of the outer husks, this means it cooks more quickly but you will also be missing out on some of the fibrey wholeness.

Farro

I bought half a kilo of broad beans at the market this weekend because they screamed “Spring” at me from behind a pile of cabbages and cauliflowers. I love cabbage and cauliflower but it’s nice when new things start to appear.

Broad Beans

I also bought a bunch of wild asparagus, trigueros in Spanish. It is a very fine type of asparagus that grows wild in fields and at the side of the road underneath spiky bushes (very clever). There are sometimes rather scruffy looking men selling big bunches of it at roundabouts at this time of year.  They are probably so scruffy because they have been scrabbling around underneath spiky bushes looking for the asparagus. They are the epitome of “being dragged through a hedge backwards.”

Farro Asparagus Risotto

Revueltos de Esparragos Trigurerosis a classic Spanish dish where the wild asparagus is sautéed in pan until just tender then you add some beaten eggs and cook it all together. Scrambled eggs with asparagus basically. This is what inspired me to top this risotto with a poached egg. It’s lovely because if your egg is perfectly runny when you stick your knife in it the yolk runs into the risotto giving it a rich creaminess that works really well in this dish.

 The flavour or the trigueros is slightly more bitter than the thicker asparagus and you still have to trim off quite a lot of the woody ends or the twiggy bits get stuck in your teeth I found, not attractive.

Broad Bean Farro Risotto

I cooked the farro using the risotto method, adding a ladleful of warm stock, waiting for it to be absorbed, then adding another ladleful and so on. It took a long time to cook, about 40 minutes in total I think. If you are using whole spelt/farro like me then I would probably suggest that you cook it according to the instructions on the packet (mine didn’t have any). Cooking it normally, in water or stock, will probably shorten the cooking time, you still want it to be nutty and have some bite so don’t overdo it.

You can then add your broad beans, asparagus etc at the end of cooking and heat it all up together. If you are using normal asparagus you will need to blanch it in boiling water for a few minutes before adding it to the risotto at the end.

Farro Risotto with Asparagus

Farro Risotto with Broad Beans, Asparagus & Poached Egg

Serves 3, vegetarian

  • 300 g Farro (spelt barley) I used whole but pearled or semi-pearled cook quicker
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • a pinch of chilli flakes (optional)
  • 1 litre veg stock
  • salt & black pepper
  • about 30 g ( a handful) of grated manchego/parmesan, plus shaved to garnish
  • 500 g broad beans still in their pod chambers (as in the picture above)
  • 1 bunch of wild (or not) asparagus, woody ends trimmed off, cut into 1- 2 inch pieces
  • 100 g frozen peas, left to defrost
  • a handful of chopped fresh parsley
  • about 15 basil leaves
  • toasted pine nuts
  • 1 egg per person
  • white vinegar

Remove the broad beans from their chambers, then put them in boiling water for a minute or two, drain, rinse under the cold tap, then squeeze the bright green beans out of their pale jade cases. Discard the cases. If using normal asparagus cook this in boiling, salted  water for about 3 minutes until just tender, drain and run under the cold tap to stop the cooking, set aside.

Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan and cook the onion with a pinch of salt over a medium heat for about 4 minutes until softened. Add the garlic, bay leaf, thyme and chilli flakes and cook for another 2 minutes.

At this point you can either:

1) Add in the uncooked farro, stirring to coat for a minute. Heat the veg stock in a small pan until hot but not boiling. Add two ladles of the hot stock to the farro and cook until absorbed then add another two ladles of stock, repeating until the farro is tender but still with a nutty bite. If you need more liquid add some boiling water from the kettle. Season with salt & black pepper.

Or…

2) Add the uncooked farro and the veg stock, bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer, partially covered until the farro is cooked, tender but still with a nutty bite. Season with salt & black pepper.

Then, when ready to serve stir the peas, broad beans and chopped asparagus into the farro stirring to heat through for a few minutes until cooked. Then stir in the cheese and most of the fresh herbs. Taste for seasoning

For the poached eggs:

Meanwhile, using a pan big enough to hold all the eggs, fill it 2/3 full with water and bring to the boil. Crack the eggs into separate teacups or ramekins.

When the water is boiling, squeeze in about a teaspoon of vinegar and some salt. Remove the pan from the heat, stir it with a wooden spoon very fast to create a little whirlpool then, quickly but gently, slide the eggs into the water, one at a time. Put on a lid and leave for 3 – 3 1/2 minutes.

When the white is cooked, carefully lift the eggs out, one at a time with a slotted spoon onto a double sheet of kitchen paper to drain, cover the tops with another sheet of kitchen paper.

Serve the farro “risotto” in warmed bowls and carefully use the paper and spoon to move the poached egg on top of the farro. Season the egg with a little salt & black pepper and garnish the dish with some shaved manchego/parmesan, the rest of the herbs and the toasted pine nuts.

Farro Risotto with a Poached Egg

Have a Great Weekend Everyone!!

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Italian Courgette Crostata with Goat’s Cheese, Garlic and Basil

11 Oct

There is a whole field of courgette plants that I pass every morning with the dog. I have been watching the vegetables grow out of their delicate sunshine flowers and waiting for the day that I arrive and they have  all been harvested. I really hope they don’t leave them too long. They do that a lot here. Leave the courgettes to get too big before they pick them. I know if you grow your own that it is difficult to keep up with the mountain of courgettes that the plants produce but on a farm there is no excuse.

There is nothing worse than big, fat, watery courgettes. You really need them when they are young, firm and still squeaky. Like these ones I found at the market on Sunday.  These were only a euro for a kilo so I had to buy a kilo obviously.

Then you get home and realise you have a load of courgettes. One of my favourite things to cook with them at the moment is this crostata, we have it for dinner about once a week. A crostata is a freeform tart, an Italian version of a French galette. You cut a big circle of pastry, leave an inch or two border spread the base with some ricotta or yoghurt mixed with garlic & herbs, then make pretty concentric circles with courgette slices and brush with some herby garlic oil. You then roll up and crimp the edges and bake. It’s as easy as that, especially with this quick olive oil pastry recipe.

Courgette Crostata with Goat’s Cheese, Garlic & Basil Oil

Serves 4-6 as part of a meal. Vegetarian. Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

For the spelt olive oil pastry:

  • 250 g spelt or wholemeal flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dried herbs (I used 1/2 thyme 1/2 oregano)
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) olive oil
  • 120 ml (1/2 cup) cold water

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, salt and herbs, drizzle in the olive oil mixing/mashing it in with a fork until well combined (a bit like crumble mix). Measure out the water then add an ice-cube to it. Slowly pour the cold water (not the ice-cube) into the flour and mix it in with the fork until just absorbed then bring it together with one hand kneading a little just until it forms a cohesive ball. Do not over work or it will be tough. shape into a flat disc, wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge until ready to use. It doesn’t need long but will keep well for a few days like that.

For the filling:

  • 2 firm small/med. courgettes, sliced into 1/2 cm coins on a slight diagonal
  • 1 pot goats yoghurt (about 100ml) or ricotta or greek yoghurt
  • a handful of grated manchego cheese (or parmesan/cheddar)
  • 25 gr crumbled goats cheese or feta
  • grated lemon zest 1/2 tsp
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • a pinch of dried chilli flakes (optional)
  • 1+1/2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for brushing
  • fresh basil leaves, finely sliced (plus extra for garnish)  or 1 tsp basil pesto
  • salt & black pepper

Lay the courgette slices on kitchen paper, sprinkle with salt and leave to sit while you prepare the pastry & filling.

In a small bowl mix (or blend) together the olive oil, garlic, chilli flakes, basil (or pesto) & lemon zest. Mix 1 tbsp of this in another bowl with the yoghurt (or ricotta), and cheeses. Season with salt & black pepper.

Preheat the oven to 200C and line a baking sheet with baking paper.  Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface, turning it quarter turns as you go to stop it sticking, to a very rough circle about 2-3 mm thick.  Take your largest dinner plate or serving plate,  place it lightly on the pastry and cut around it, remove the excess pastry and keep it in the fridge if there is enough for another small tart. Remove the plate with a sharp knife and lift the circle carefully, on a floured rolling pin, onto the lined baking tray.

Leaving a border round the edge of about an inch or two, spread the cheesy mixture out evenly over the pastry. Dry the tops of your courgette slices well with kitchen towel and then start laying them, overlapping slightly, around the edge still leaving the border clear.  When you have finished the outside circle start another circle going in the opposite direction just inside the first. Then overlap a few slices in the middle. See pictures above for these stages.

Drizzle and/or brush the rest of the garlicky herb oil all over the courgettes and then start to fold up the edges by turning the paper and folding and pleating as you go. Brush the pleated border with a little olive oil and bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes until bubbling and golden. Leave to sit for 5 minutes then scatter over a few fresh basil leaves and serve.

Serve with a simple lemon & olive oil dressed green salad or this delicious White Bean Mash. This is a very versatile recipe, you could easily switch up the herbs and cheese to use whatever you have in the fridge.

I know I said I bought a kilo of courgettes and I only used two of them in this dish and I also know that a lot of you are overrun with courgettes at certain times of the year so maybe, like me,  you could have a go at making this deliciously light Zucchini Green Chilli Cornbread or these very moreish Baked Zucchini Fries as well.

Have a Great Weekend!!

 

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!

Grape and Fennel Seed Spelt Focaccia with Sea Salt and Basil

9 Sep

I see these grapes every day while running with the dog. They are hanging over a fence saying “steal me”. But I don’t. Even though the farmer on the other side of the fence is letting most of them turn to raisins on the vine. It’s all inspiration though because I have now started thinking about raisin recipes.

Grapes are kind of underused in cooking I think. There’s the Veronique thing with sole and they go very nicely on a cheese board of course. About the same time last year I made a White Grape & Manchego Cheese Tartlet that I sprinkled with fennel seeds and served with an elderflower syrup.

The combination of flavours work really well together. The herb should really be tarragon though, not basil,  to follow on with the anise fennel theme but our plant is on its way out so basil was my next choice. It’s an Ottolenghi recipe that I’ve adapted using spelt flour instead of normal and I added the sea salt and herbs. I like the scattering of sea salt on top to contrast with the sweetness of the sugar and fennel seed topping.

Grape & Fennel Seed Focaccia Recipe

Makes a 20 x 30cm focaccia, vegan, wheat-free.

Adapted from Ottolenghi The Cookbook

For the starter:

  • 15g fresh yeast ( or 1 sachet dried)
  • 210ml bottled lukewarm water
  • 165g spelt flour (I used wholemeal)

Put the yeast and water in a large bowl and stir with a wooden spoon until the yeast dissolves. Add the flour, stirring until you get a porridgy consistency. Cover with a damp cloth and leave in a warm place for about 2 hours to double in size.

For the dough:

  • 165g spelt flour (wholemeal or white)
  • 1+1/2 tsp light brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp olive oil plus extra for brushing
  • 1 +1/2 tsp sea salt plus extra to sprinkle

Mix the doubled in size starter (above) with the flour, sugar & olive oil in a bowl. Tip out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 6-8 minutes then add the salt and knead it into the bread for about 2 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Brush the inside of a bowl with some olive oil put the dough in it and brush the surface with more oil. Cover with a damp cloth again and leave in a warm place for an hour until doubled in size.

Tip the dough out onto a floured surface and gently stretch it with your fingers into a rectangle. Fold one of the short edges of the rectangle into the middle, then fold the other short end over that so you get 3 layers. Brush the inside of a 20 x 30cm baking tin with oil and put the folded dough in it with the seam underneath. flatten it out with your fingers until it nearly fills the tin, cover with cling film and leave to rise for another hour. Go back 3 or 4 times in the hour to press it out with your fingers to reach the edges. By the end it should fill the tin, have lots of finger bumps and be about 2cm thick.

For the topping:

  • 150g seedless grapes (I used a mix of red & white)
  • about a tbsp raw/brown sugar
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • flaky sea salt
  • fresh tarragon leaves (or basil)

Preheat oven to 220C.  Halve the grapes lengthways and stud them all over the dough.  Mix the sugar and fennel seeds together and sprinkle this all over the top too.

Bake  for 10 minutes then lower the heat to 190C and bake for a further 15-20 minutes until slightly browned & cooked through. Remove from the oven and brush with olive oil while still hot and then sprinkle over some sea salt. When ready to serve strew or tear over some fresh tarragon or basil leaves.

This is lovely as a snack, supper or picnic with some mature cheese (like a Manchego or Parmesan) and a glass of wine. Or serve as part of a continental breakfast or brunch instead of croissants and pastries.

Enjoy!

Pink Lychee Bellini Cocktail

7 Sep

I had never tried fresh lychee before I bought these. I thought I didn’t like them because the ones I had tried out of a tin tasted, well like tin, and syrup. Not a good combination.

So I bought these because they were cheap mainly and because The Washer Up kept trying to persuade me that they were lovely. And he was right. I don’t think I’ve ever said that before, that he was right I mean. He will be pleased.

It turns out that underneath that pink prehistoric armoured shell there is a delicately perfumed, lightly floral tasting, opalescent jewel of a fruit that is elegant, cool, sweet and delicious. Nothing at all like tin, which is nice.

I was going to make Lychee Martinis as that seems to be the lychee cocktail of choice but I saw Jamie Oliver doing Venice the other day and he was explaining the history of the Bellini that was invented in Harry’s Bar in Venice (something to do with the delicate peach colour resembling the golden glow in Bellini’s paintings) and he showed how to make an authentic one.

He used white peaches with their red skins still on (to get the light peachy colour) and he crushed the whole thing in his hand  through a sieve into a jug. He then mixed the pulp with Prosecco (Italian sparkling wine) and poured it into the glass.

I tried to crush a lychee through a sieve, (there’s a first time for everything) but it didn’t work so I just pureed the fruits (without the seeds) with a stick blender. The puree is a milky white froth that I poured into the bottom of each glass and I topped it up with pink rose cava (Spanish sparkling wine) because I wanted it to echo the beautiful colour of the lychee skins. You could use normal sparkling instead for a more frosty effect.

Salud!!

Have a great weekend everyone!

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