Tag Archives: picnic

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?

Spiced Cauliflower and Red Onion Savoury Picnic Cake

23 Apr

Gourmet picnics are big news in Cape Town, espsecially in the winelands. Well it makes sense doesn’t it? Most of the wine estates have beautiful grounds, so why not make use of them. While we  were in South Africa we enjoyed three picnics. The first at The Roundhouse overlooking the stunning coastline around Camps Bay. The second at Bramon Wine Estate just outside Plettenberg Bay where our table sat amongst the Sauvignon Blanc vines. And the third at Boschendal, one of the oldest traditional Cape Dutch wine estates in Franschhoek, dating back to 1685.

We sat under ancient trees enjoying the view, while our picnic was prepared.

Ordered the wine, one of my favourites: the Boschendal Chardonnay Pinot Noir blend a lovely wine with a slight apricot blush.

They actually offer a Vegetarian Picnic option which is a first. It included a duo of potato salads, quiche, salad, sweet chilli vinaigrette, sundried tomato & spinach wraps, red pepper pate, caramelised onion pate, chocolate & macadamia nut brownies, cheese & biscuits, red onion maramalade and a french stick. We had trouble finishing it all.

Le Pique Nique, as it is called, is very good value, you get a lot of food and can enjoy their fine wines surrounded by Agapanthus, my favourite plants. I am a little obsessed with them actually.

So, inspired by the picnic food idea and eating outside. I came across an Yotam Ottolenghi recipe for a Cauliflower Cake. Ottolenghi is another one of my obsessions, I love his food and find it endlessly inspiring. See this post and this one for proof of his influence over my recipes.

He makes a big round cake in a 24 cm cake tin, I halved the recipe and cooked mine in a loaf tin. I also added some more spices because I can’t help myself. It’s kind of like a quiche without the pastry.

Spiced Cauliflower & Red Onion Savoury Picnic Cake

Makes 1 loaf, vegetarian. Can be doubled to fill a 24 cm cake tin.

Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi Prep time: 20 mins Cooking time 45 mins

  • about 400 gr cauliflower broken into medium florets 
  • 1/2 large red onion, peeled
  • 1 or 2 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp finely chopped rosemary
  • 5 medium eggs
  • a handful of fresh chopped coriander
  • 90g spelt flour (or plain)
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 80-100g grated manchego or vegetarian parmesan
  • salt and black pepper
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds

Heat the oven to 180C. Put the cauliflower florets in a large saucepan, cover with water, add a teaspoon of salt, bring to the boil then lower the heat and and simmer for 10 -15 minutes, until quite soft. Strain, and leave to drain in the colander.

Meanwhile prepare the batter. Cut a few 1/2 cm rings off one end of the onion, set aside to decorate the top of the cake and roughly chop the rest. Heat the oil in a pan and on a medium heat sauté the chopped onion and rosemary for about 6 minutes, until softened and slightly caramelised. Remove from the heat and leave to cool down.

Sift the flour, baking powder and spices into a large bowl, and add the parmesan, one teaspoon of salt and plenty of black pepper.

Add the eggs and coriander to the cooled onions and whisk. Then add the egg mix to the flour mix and whisk to eliminate lumps. Add the cauliflower and fold in gently, trying to keep some florets whole.

Use baking paper to line the inside of the loaf tin. Brush any visible sides of the tin with oil and dust with flour. Tip in the cauliflower mix, even out the top with a spatula and arrange the onion rings on top. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Bake the cake in the centre of the oven for 40-45 minutes (for both sizes of cake), until golden brown and set. Serve warm or at room temperature.

The reason I called this a picnic cake is because it is equally good served warm with a lemon & olive oil dressed cucumber salad with fresh mint as a light evening meal or served room temperature the next day as part of a picnic lunch, wherever you happen to be, office, lawn or beach.  Just cut yourself a slice and relax.

A very nice glass of wine always helps too….

For more information about Boschendal Wine Estate visit their website here.

Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Spelt Flour Braid Loaf

20 Apr

So here it is, as promised, the recipe for the Garlic & Rosemary Braid that I made to go with the Baked Camembert with Honey Glazed Pear & Almonds in my last post.

The delicious flavour of this bread comes from roasting a whole bulb of garlic with fresh rosemary in the oven for about 35 minutes until it is soft and sweet. You then squeeze the roasted cloves out of their papery cases and mash them with a beaten egg. All of this goes into the bread mixture before kneading.

I don’t need to tell you that it smells amazing while it is cooking and that you will not be able to resist pulling a piece off to stuff in your mouth as soon as it comes out of the oven. You may want to have some olive oil ready to dunk it into.

I brushed the top with olive oil, sea salt and rosemary after 15 minutes of cooking and then put it back in the oven for another 10-15 to get golden. I also painted another layer of olive oil over the top when I took it out of the oven to give it a lovely shiny finish.

Roasted Garlic & Rosemary Braided Spelt Loaf

Makes 1 loaf, vegetarian, wheat-free. Adapted from Taste of Home

  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 tsp veg stock
  • 450 gr (3 cups) spelt flour (or plain flour)
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 sachet of quick action yeast (or I used 25 gr fresh yeast, finely chopped)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 75 ml (1/3 cup) milk (I used oat milk)
  • 75 ml (1/3 cup) water
  • 3 tbsp olive oil or butter plus extra for brushing top
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 210 C. Remove the outer paper from the head of garlic but do not peel or separate the cloves. Cut off the top of head of garlic but leave the root end intact. Place cut side up on a baking sheet (or oven proof pan), brush/drizzle with a teaspoon of oil and sprinkle with the rosemary. Cover and roast for 30-35 minutes until soft. Leave to cool for 10 minutes then squeeze the cloves out of their cases into a small bowl with the veg stock and mash with a fork.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, yeast and salt in a large bowl. In a small saucepan gently heat the milk, water, 3 tbsp butter or olive oil until just warmed through. Add this to the dry ingredients and combine well with a wooden spoon.

Beat an egg into the mashed garlic until smooth and add that to the mix as well. Add a bit more flour if the dough is too wet but you want quite a sticky dough.

Tip it out onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Cover and leave for 10 minutes.

Turn the dough out and divide into three equal balls. With your hands, roll these into approx 18 inch sausages/ropes. place the sausages on a baking sheet lined with baking paper that has been brushed with oil. (they will probably hang over one end at this point) and braid/plait them as evenly as possible. Pinch the ends to seal and tuck them under. Cover again and leave in a warm place to double in size, about 30-45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180C and bake for 15 minutes. Mix some chopped rosemary and sea salt into a tablespoon of olive oil and brush this over the top of the bread. Put it back in the oven for another 10-15 minutes until golden brown.

You can also brush it with more olive oil when it has finished cooking to give it a nice shine. Leave to cool on a wire rack. If you can bear to wait, that is…

Enjoy your weekend…

Rosemary and Garlic Baked Camembert with Honey Glazed Pear and Almonds

17 Apr

This dish was inspired by a picnic lunch we enjoyed at the Bramon Wine Estate just outside Plettenberg Bay. Bramon Wine Estate is a boutique vineyard and it is the first and only Estate that far East of the Western Cape.

Their flagship Sauvignon Blanc wine is called The Crags which is the name of the “town” where the Wine Estate is situated. You couldn’t really call it a town though. It consists of a petrol station and a shop. Which is why it is such a pleasant surprise to find this beautiful place just off the main road. They also have two sparkling Sauvignon Blanc Cap Classiques. I went for the 2008 sparkling ” a  refreshingly clean palate with vibrant mousse and an exciting, limey, zesty lingering finish”. It was one of the best sparkling wines I have tried in a long time.

So I had another glass. As you do.

In the summer they offer a picnic lunch amongst the vines. It is a really special feeling to be drinking the wine that is growing all around you. It is a relaxed, informal dining experience (in a really good way). You order your drinks and then get a list of the foods available. You trick the boxes next to what you would like to order and then give it back to the very capable waiting staff. Sit back relax, enjoy your drink and the beautiful surroundings while your picnic is freshly prepared for you.

We chose the mini baked camembert with honey figs and nuts, a beautiful plaited bread with rosemary and sea salt, green fig preserve, avocado and parmesan crisp salad, fresh pesto with mixed herbs and almonds, sundried tomatoes and a creamy hummus.

There is a monkey park and a bird sanctuary very near to the Wine Estate, so in a very organised fashion we went to Bramon in the morning to book a nice table in the vines for lunch at 1pm and then went off to Monkeyland for the rest of the morning. You get a guided walking tour around the forest that is very informative for kids and adults. More than 450 primates live and free-roam around the forest. It is an amazing feeling to be that close to so many different types of monkeys and lemurs that are living in a natural habitat. 

After lunch we went to Birds of Eden which is the largest free flight bird aviary in the world. It is a great way to spend a a couple of hours, there are 3500 birds out in the open. You walk up wooden walkways that snake their way through ruins and waterfalls up into the canopy of the trees. It is a stunning place.

And again you get so close to them.

Monkeyland and Birds of Eden are next to each other so you can buy combination tickets for both, which is what we did. With an excellent lunch at Bramon in between of course. Which brings me back to the food.

I contacted Bramon to get the recipes for the baked camembert and the rosemary plaited bread. The gave me the camembert but then told me that the bread recipe was a secret! I can understand it of course, it was very good.

So I made my own version of the bread using spelt flour which I flavoured with roasted garlic and rosemary. It was lovely, especially dipped into the oozing  baked camembert.

I will give you the bread recipe in my next post but for now here’s the baked camembert. I used pears rather than figs because figs aren’t in season here yet and I had some in my fruit bowl.

 I also studded the cheese with sliced garlic and rosemary sprigs before baking it because we used to serve it like that when it was on the menu at the restaurant. It’s something I saw Jamie Oliver do somewhere that makes such a difference to the flavour.

Rosemary & Garlic Baked Camembert with Honey Glazed Pear & Almonds

serves 2, vegetarian, gluten-free

Prep time: 5 mins Cooking time: 30-35 mins

  • 1 boxed camembert (250 gr) wooden box is best but card is fine
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and finely sliced
  • a few tops of fresh rosemary
  • olive oil

Preheat the oven to 180C, remove the paper wrapping from around the cheese and put it back in the box. Make little slits all over the top of the cheese with a sharp knife and push in the slices of garlic and rosemary tops.

Drizzle with a little olive oil and bake for 30-35 minutes until soft and melting inside. Meanwhile make the honeyed pear and almonds.

Honey Glazed Pear & Almonds

serves 2, vegetarian, gluten-free

  • 1 pear, cored and sliced into 12 wedges
  • a squeeze of lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • a drizzle of olive oil
  • a handful of whole toasted almonds (I used salted)
  • salt & black pepper
  • about 1 tbsp honey (rosemary honey if possible)

Toss all the ingredients apart from the honey together in a small bowl until evenly coated. Heat up a small frying pan over a medium high heat and throw in the pear & almond mix. Brown/caramelise slightly on both sides before adding the honey and stir to coat the pears.

Cook until the pears are soft but not mushy and remove from the heat.

Serve the warm honey glazed pear and almonds with the baked camembert and a nice bread for dipping. Or wait for my Roasted Garlic & Rosemary Braided Spelt Loaf in my next post…

For more information about the Bramon Wine Estate visit their webste here.

Enjoy!!

Rumbullion at The Roundhouse

15 Feb

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A gourmet picnic hamper filled with your choice of goodies enjoyed while taking in the breathtaking views over Camps Bay.

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Order a bottle of your favourite wine and unwind while the chickens wander around on the lawn and under your feet.

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Your picnic basket arrives with cutlery, plates and napkins and you will be handed a checklist with all the available food. Just tick the boxes next to the items and return it to the waiter.
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My dad ordered the Caesar Salad with a soft poached egg, how could he resist with all those chickens running around, you don’t get much fresher than that.
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We chose a loaf of fresh ciabatta to go with the three dips that we ordered. Jalapeño hummus, feta and herb dip and caramelised onion pâté.

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We also decided on some Fairview goat’s cheese that was accompanied by a delicious watermelon chutney. There is a good selection of charcuterie items and salads as well.

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There are hot dishes too like enormous burgers and their extremely popular pizzas. The Gorgonzola, caramelised onion, fig, rocket and walnut was very tempting. Matt the manager was also very proud of the roasted bone marrow with oxtail marmalade, so much so that he insisted that The Washer Up and my dad tried it.

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They loved it, I enjoyed the salad that came with it!

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This is a relaxed and informal lunch experience, definitely book, it gets busy, especially at weekends. Apparently they do a picnic breakfast at the weekends too. I’ll be back for that, no doubt about it.

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Roasted Tomato, Saffron and Mozzarella Risotto Layer Cake

20 Aug

I roasted off another batch of my favourite slow roasted tomatoes yesterday and wanted to use them in something lovely for dinner. I found a recipe for a grilled vegetable saffron risotto cake that fit the bill perfectly.

In the original version they layer it with grilled aubergine, courgette and roasted peppers which I will definitely try next time. But I had all these sweet roasted tomatoes hanging about and I was hungry, so I just used them. I also added some of my sundried tomatoes for extra tomato intensity.

Roasted Tomato, Saffron & Mozzarella Risotto Layer Cake

Serves 4-6, vegetarian, gluten-free. Adapted from  Jane Baxter, The Guardian

  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 big pinch saffron
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp crushed fennel seeds
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 big pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • 20 slow roasted tomato halves, see recipe here
  • 2 or 3 tbsp finely chopped sundried tomatoes plus 8 strips for layers
  • 300 gr risotto rice (I used brown rice, it takes longer to cook and more stock)
  • salt & black pepper
  • a splash of white wine/vermouth
  • 1 – 1 1/2 litres veg stock
  • a bunch fresh basil leaves, 1/2 finely shredded 1/2 left whole
  • 125 gr ball mozzarella, sliced in 5mm thick ovals
  • a handful of finely grated Manchego/Parmesan
  • rocket, olive oil & balsamic vinegar to serve

Put the veg stock in small pan, over a medium-low heat to heat up while you are cooking.

Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat and cook the onion and saffron with a pinch of salt for 5 -6 minutes until softened. Then add the fennel seeds, garlic and chilli flakes and cook for a further 2 minutes. Now add 12 of the roasted tomato halves and any roasting juices, the chopped sun-dried tomatoes and the rice. Cook at a fast simmer, stirring for about 2 minutes, season generously with salt & pepper & splash in the wine.

Add the hot stock to the rice a ladleful at a time over a medium heat, adding the next ladleful when the previous one has all been absorbed. Continue like this until most of the stock is used up (1 litre for risotto rice – 1 1/2 for brown rice), taste the rice and see if it is cooked. It should still have a bit of bite to it. Season again, add in the finely shredded basil, stir and taste. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. I didn’t leave it to cool very long, I was hungry.

Preheat the oven to 180 C. Line the base of a terrine or loaf tin with baking parchment and oil/butter the sides. Take 1/3 of the cooled rice and press it into the bottom of the mould evenly. Top with 4 of the remaining roasted tomatoes in a line along the centre of the rice then top those with a half of the mozzarella slices, the a line of sun-dried tomato strips, then with a line of basil leaves. Sprinkle over half the grated cheese.

Top with another 1/3 rice, press down evenly and add toppings as before. Then finish off with the final layer of rice and press down evenly. Cook in the preheated oven for 30 minutes until golden brown on top.

To serve, run a knife around the edge of the cake and turn it out onto a serving plate. Use a serrated bread knife to cut into generous slices and serve with a rocket salad dressed with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and black pepper.

This is equally good served hot or cold and would be perfect for a summer picnic or buffet table.

 I’m having this cold for my lunch now, have a great weekend!

 Happy Birthday Dad,

Love You xxx

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!

Asparagus and Spring Garlic Custard Tart

5 Apr

These pretty little hairy bulbs are spring garlic. Also known as young garlic, green garlic or garlic shoots. They look a lot like spring onions but have a sweet, mild, fresh garlicky flavour. They can be used in place of garlic in any dish and because they have a more delicate flavour can also be used raw in salads as you would a spring onion. In Spain they are called ajos tiernos or ajetes and are used frequently in cooking. One of the most popular dishes is revuelto de ajos tiernos which is eggs scrambled with spring garlic.

This is actually a combination of two recipes put together. The first for an Asparagus Tart from The Art of the Tart and the second for Wild Garlic Custards with Cheddar & Mustard Straws from Terre a Terre. I changed the puff pastry cheese straws for a puff pastry tart and mixed the asparagus into the garlic custard. I wanted a savoury version of a Portuguese Custard Tart type thing.

If I was to do it again I would probably use a blind baked short crust pastry case instead of puff as the base of my tart was undercooked even though I part baked the tart shell before filling it with the custard. Either that or part bake it for longer, say 15- 20 minutes instead of the 10 minutes I gave it. If you are buying a part baked tart case you can miss out the mustard seeds & grated cheese as I don’t think they will stick to the cooked pastry.

Asparagus & Spring Garlic Custard Tart Recipe

serves 4-6, vegetarian

  • a 9 or 10 inch shortcrust pastry case (bought or homemade)
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds (optional)
  • a sprinkling of grated manchego, cheddar or parmesan (optional)
  • 1 egg, beaten with a little milk
  • 50 gr spring garlic, finely chopped
  • a handful of chives, finely chopped
  • 50 ml whole milk. I used goat’s milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 150-200 gr cream cheese (depending on the depth of your tart)
  • salt & black pepper
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • a bundle of asparagus, snapped and woody ends removed
  • a handful of grated manchego, cheddar or parmesan

Preheat the oven to 200 C. If you have made your own pastry case, bake the pastry blind (by putting some greaseproof paper in the case and filling it with a layer of dried beans) for 15 minutes. Then remove the beans & paper and brush the base with the egg wash and sprinkle over the mustard seeds, grated cheese. Prick all over the base with a fork and return to the oven for 5 minutes. Remove the pastry case from the oven to cool and turn the oven down to 180 C.

Cook the asparagus in salted boiling water for 3 minutes, drain, run under cold water and set aside to cool. Put the finely chopped spring garlic, chives and milk in a bowl or food processor and blend on high until smooth.  Mix the eggs & egg yolks with a fork and stir them into the cream cheese, then add the garlicky milk mix and beat together until smooth. Season with salt, pepper and a little grated nutmeg.

Spoon or tong the cooked asparagus into the tart case evenly then pour over the garlic custard. Sprinkle over a little grated cheese and cook for 25 – 30 minutes until just set and slightly browned. Leave to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Serve with a green salad for lunch or with some buttery baby new potatoes for a more substantial dinner. Garnish with some more chopped chives and enjoy this celebration of spring flavours!!

Flamiche – A Wholemeal Leek and Gruyere Quiche

29 Mar

 I’ve been walking past these leeks every day watching them grow. I thought they were spring onions up until a few days ago when they became definite leeks.

I use leeks a lot for cooking. I like their sweet mellow oniony flavour and they are also quicker and easier to peel and chop than a normal onion. You have to be careful to rinse them thoroughly before you chop them though. They hide a lot of grit in between the layers that could ruin a lovely dish.

Although I use them often it is always in a supporting role. I wanted a dish where they could be the star of the show, come out from the background and impress all by themselves. This is a recipe for Flamiche. A  classic northern French tart where the white parts of the leeks are softened slowly in butter until sweet then mixed with cream and egg yolks and baked in a pastry case. It is a simple recipe with very few ingredients and that is how it should be. I couldn’t resist topping it with some grated Gruyère for the last 5 minutes of cooking, but if you want you be a purist about it leave it out.

I used wholemeal flour and vegetable suet to make my pastry but you can make your own version of short crust pastry or buy a prepared pastry case if you want to make life easier.

Flamiche –  Wholemeal Leek & Gruyère Quiche

Serves 6, makes a 9 inch Quiche, vegetarian. Adapted from The Art of the Tart by Tamasin Day-Lewis

  • 120 gr self-raising wholemeal flour
  • 60 gr vegetable suet (I use Atora)
  • salt & pepper
  • iced water
  • 6 or 7 large leeks
  • 90 gr unsalted butter
  • 150 – 300 ml cream (I used creme fraiche)
  • 3 egg yolks
  • salt & black pepper
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • a handful of grated Gruyère

To make the pastry, mix together the flour and suet and season with salt & pepper. Pour in about 3 tbsp iced water and stir to combine. Keep adding water a tbsp at a time until the mixture comes together and stays in a ball. Wrap in clingfilm and put in the fridge while you make the filling.

Chop the dark green parts and the hairy ends off the leeks and remove the outer layer(you can use them to make your own veg stock if you want). Slice the leeks in half lengthways and rinse well under the tap to get rid of any grit between the layers. Slice into about 1cm half moons. Heat the butter over a medium low heat in a large pan. When the butter has melted add the leeks and a good pinch of salt and allow them to sweat slowly until they are completely softened, about 15 minutes. Leave to cool.

Butter and flour your tart tin. Remove the pastry from the fridge, flour your work-surface, rolling-pin and pastry and roll it out, making quarter turns to keep it even and stop it sticking. When it looks big enough to fill the tin (it should be about 3mm thick), lift it up by rolling it over your rolling-pin and lay it gently over the tart tin.  Push it into the tin (don’t stretch it out) and cut off any large overhanging bits but don’t trim it completely. Put it in the fridge while you finish the filling.

Preheat the oven to 180 C. When the leeks have cooled, whisk together the cream (the amount you use will depend on the depth of your tart tin, do it by eye) and egg yolks and season with salt, pepper and a little grated nutmeg. Stir this into the leeks. Remove the pastry case from the fridge and spread the leek mixture evenly over the base. Cook for 35 minutes until just barely set then sprinkle over the grated Gruyère, if using, and give it another 5 minutes for the cheese to melt & brown slightly. Leave for at least 10 minutes before serving and trim off the edges of the pastry with a sharp knife.

This is best served warm, not hot, to really appreciate the flavour of the leeks. In my opinion it is even better served the next day at room temperature (Not cold just out of the fridge). It is perfect picnic food or for a spring buffet even if you’re feeling brave about the weather.

Serve it with a peppery green salad, rocket & watercress would be good, dressed with olive oil & lemon juice for a spring time lunch alfresco…..

Wholemeal Chocolate Chunk and Hazelnut Cookies at The Lakes

21 Feb

Wholemeal cookies taste really good and they are healthier. Don’t kid yourself though there’s still butter and sugar in there but chocolate is an antioxidant so that makes up for it – sort of!!  These were part of a picnic we took the lakes at El Chorro yesterday.

 Half an hour away at  Malaga Airport, millions of tourists arrive every year and get on a coach to Marbella or Fuengirola to spend a week or two on the Costa del Sol and fly home again completely unaware that this exists. Whether this is a great oversight by the Andalucian Tourist Board or whether they are purposefully keeping it a secret I don’t know. I wouldn’t blame them. At this time of year it is all but deserted except at the weekends when a few Malaguenos bring a picnic or some meat to barbeque.

It does get busier in the summer when we all escape the heat of the city or towns to swim in these freshwater lakes. There are campsites, picnic areas, public barbeques, canoeing, pedalos, and fantastic walks. It is great for kids and adults alike there’s something for everyone. Whether you like to do a lot or very little,  you can find your perfect spot here……

The colours are amazing. The bright turquoise of the lakes contrasting with the dusky pink terracotta soil and green patchwork landscape take your breath away every time you come. You never quite believe it’s real. 

The geology is stunning too. The Washer Up tells me this is sandstone (he studied Geology at university). Is it just me or does this (above) remind you of the Gaudi buildings in Barcelona? You know the curved balconies?

The thing is they are not actually lakes. They are man-made reservoirs. Franco flooded the whole area, including some villages, to create the water reservoirs for Malaga. How something so beautiful can be man-made doesn’t make sense to me. Especially made by that man. It must have been the best thing he ever did…..

Anyway we found our picnic table with a view (above) and sat down to make our egg salad sandwiches…

If you want to know how to make a perfectly soft-boiled egg see my instructions here…..

Then we shared a cookie before going for walk around the lake and finding a sheltered sunny spot to read the paper. Does a Sunday get any better than that? I don’t think so, the cookies are pretty near perfect too….

Wholemeal Chocolate Chunk & Hazelnut Cookies

makes 18 – 24, vegetarian.  Adapted from a Culinate recipe

  • 380 gr wholemeal flour (I used self-raising because that was all I had and 1 tsp baking powder)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/4 tsp fine salt
  • 225 gr cold unsalted butter, chopped
  • 140 gr brown sugar
  • 200 gr caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 125 gr plain chocolate (70%) roughly chopped into 1 cm chunks
  • 100 gr hazelnuts, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 175 C and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Sieve the flour, baking powders and salt into a large bowl. In another large bowl or food processor on low whisk/mix together the butter & sugars until blended, about 2 minutes. Make sure you scrape down the sides of the bowl to get it all combined. Add in the eggs, one at a time, mixing until each one is combined. Mix in the vanilla, then slowly add the flour mixture until just combined, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides again.

Add 3/4 of the chopped chocolate & hazelnuts to the mix saving the rest for the tops. Mix until evenly distributed.  Take a heaped tablespoon of the batter and put it onto the lined baking sheet, pressing it down slightly. Leave about a 3 inch gap between each cookie, they spread like mad. You should only have about 6 cookies per sheet or they will all blend into each other. Sprinkle a little of the leftover chocolate & hazelnuts on top of each cookie and press in lightly. Put one sheet in the top third of the oven and the other in the bottom third. Bake for 10 minutes then swap the baking sheets around (top to bottom etc) and cook for another 10 minutes or until the cookies are a deep golden brown colour. Remove from the oven & leave to cool on a rack on the baking paper. Repeat with the rest of the batter.

These cookies are deliciously special enough to serve as a dessert, warm and chewy, straight out of the oven with a scoop of chocolate chip ice cream melting on top. Or leave to cool, store in an airtight container and they will firm up to a more crunchy everyday cookie.

Share them with friends or do like the Andalucian Tourist Board and make them your best kept secret……

Buen Provecho!

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