Tag Archives: spring

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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Primavera Orzo Salad with Fresh Peas, Asparagus, Mint and Feta

22 Apr

Primavera Orzo Salad

Spring has definitely sprung. The wild flowers are wafting their sweet fragrance in the mornings where I run with the dog so my thoughts turn away from steaming hot soups and comforting stews towards lighter flavours and all things fresh and green.

Spring Flowers

I bought some fresh peas in their pods from the farmers’ market on Sunday. There is nothing more spring-like than peas, except for maybe asparagus. This recipe has both. In fact it has all my favourite spring flavours in one dish. There’s also fresh mint, dill, lemon, spring onions, spring garlic and feta. Is it singing to you yet?

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Orzo, in case you don’t know, is a rice shaped pasta. If you can’t find it (I got mine in Eroski, believe it or not, in the Moroccan section) you could use any small-ish pasta shapes or even cooked rice. The good thing about orzo is that it doesn’t go all flabby and stick together when it is cooked so it is perfect for salads.

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You toss all the ingredients and the dressing over the cooked orzo while it is still hot so all the flavours get absorbed and start to mingle. Leave it to cool to room temperature then you can store it in the fridge. The feta and fresh herbs are best stirred through just before serving. This is an ideal lunch that would be easy to take to work or for a weekend picnic.

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Primavera Orzo Salad with Fresh Peas, Asparagus, Mint & Feta Recipe

Serves 3, vegetarian.

  • 300 g uncooked orzo (or other pasta shapes)
  • 2 or 3 spring onions (scallions), finely chopped
  • 1 baby leek (or more spring onion), finely chopped
  • 1 spring garlic/green garlic/ajete, finely chopped
  • salt & black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • a pinch of dried chilli flakes (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 100 gr shelled fresh peas (or frozen)
  • a handful of fresh chopped dill
  • 12 fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • 100 g Greek feta
  • toasted pine nuts (optional)

Cook the orzo in lots of boiling salted water for about 8 minutes until al dente and drain.

Meanwhile, cook the spring onions, baby leek and spring garlic in a tablespoon of olive oil over a medium heat with a pinch of salt some black pepper, the thyme, oregano and chilli flakes until softened. Mix this with the drained cooked pasta in large bowl. Add the olive oil, lemon juice and season with salt & black pepper. Leave to cool.

Trim or snap the woody ends off the asparagus and cut into 1 inch pieces. Shell the peas. Cook the peas & asparagus in boiling salted water for 3 minutes then drain and add to the orzo, Stir everything together well.

Leave to cool to room temperature. It can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge from this point. When ready to serve stir through the crumbled or cubed feta and the chopped herbs. Taste for seasoning, add more salt or lemon juice if required.

Serve topped with some tiny mint leaves, dill fronds and toasted pine nuts, if using. I forgot to put mine on for the photos, duh…

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Say hello to spring even if it is raining where you are!

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Have a lovely week whatever the weather.

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Avocado Hummus With Coriander and Lemon

27 Mar

Avocado Hummus

We are coming to the end of the Hass avocado season here now and I can’t believe I haven’t shared a recipe with you using my favourite fruit/vegetable yet. Avocados are excellent for helping to lower cholesterol, keeping  your heart healthy, preventing cancer and alleviating symptoms of arthritis.

Avocados on TreeThey are still cheap and plentiful here at the market so I bought a kilo on Sunday. One of my favourite recipes using avocado is this Tricolor Baked Avocado. If you’ve never tried avocado cooked you should, it’s surprisingly delicious.

avocados

This is new recipe to me and I have to say it is definitely a keeper. Two of my favourite dishes fused together in a bowl.  It’s a hummus and guacamole hybrid. It shouldn’t work but it does, brilliantly. And it’s quick, easy, healthy and addictive.

Perfect for a snack or late night supper when you can’t be bothered with anything complicated.

Avocado Hummus

Avocado Hummus Recipe

Serves 2-3, vegan, gluten-free. Adapted from Kiran Tarun

  • 200 g cooked chickpeas (drained & rinsed)
  • 1 large avocado (I used 2 mini ones)
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • 3 Tbsp tahini
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • a big handful of fresh coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chipotle chilli sauce (optional)
  • salt & black pepper
  • olive oil

Put all the ingredients into a food processor (or use a stick blender) with a splash of olive oil and puree until smooth. You can add more oil if you need to get the right consistency. Taste and check seasoning.

Avocado Hummus

Serve with raw veggies or toasted pita for dipping. You could try making your own flour tortilla or flatbread crackers by brushing them with oil, cutting into triangles with scissors, sprinkling with cumin, salt & pepper and baking at 125C for about 10 minutes until crispy.

Or just spread it on some wholemeal toast, sprinkled with sea salt. Heaven.

Avocado Hummus

If you are a bit of a hummus freak like me. Have at look at this Authentic Creamy Hummus and this Roasted Beetroot Hummus too.

Enjoy!

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

26 Jun

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

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

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

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

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

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

Individual Strawberry & Amaretto Trifles

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy!!

Things That Made Me Smile Today

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

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….

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.

French Red Potato Salad with Spring Onions, Garlic and Fresh Herbs

25 May

This is what I made with the gorgeous red baby new potatoes that I bought at the market on Sunday. I also roasted some with garlic, rosemary, olive oil , salt and pepper.

They were really lovely too. I roasted them for about 45 minutes I think until they were crispy and slightly caramelised with the garlic.

This potato salad is not rich and drenched in mayonnaise. There’s a time and a place for those but this is a lighter more elegant take on the classic. The warm potatoes are tossed with white wine and veg stock and then left to absorb all of the liquid. Wine-soaked potatoes, am I good to you or what?

You then toss it in a vinaigrette and throw in the spring onions, spring garlic and loads of fresh herbs. You can eat it warm or at room temperature, with a glass of that white wine that you have already opened.

French Potato Salad with Spring Onions, Garlic & Fresh Herbs

Serves 2-3 as a side dish, vegan, gluten-free. Adapted from Barefoot Contessa

Prep time: 10 mins, Cooking time 20 mins Resting Time 10 mins

  • 500 gr baby new potatoes, red, white or a combination
  • 1 tbsp good white wine, one you would/will drink
  • 1 tbsp veg stock
  • 1+1/2 tbsp Champagne vinegar or sherry vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4  tsp black pepper
  • 5 tbsp extra virgen olive oil
  • 2 spring onions/scallions, finely chopped
  • 2 spring garlic (they look like spring onions), finely chopped
  • a handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • a few sprigs of fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
  • 5 or 6 mint leaves, finely chopped
  • 6 or 8 basil leaves, rolled and finely shredded

Put the whole washed potatoes in a large pan of boiling salted water and cook for about 20 minutes (or longer if larger) until just cooked through. Drain in a colander, cover with a tea towel and leave to steam for 10 minutes.

Put the wine and stock in a medium bowl and cut the warm potatoes in half or quarters into the bowl. It doesn’t matter if they crumble and start to break up. That’s what mine did and it was lovely. Toss in the liquid and leave it to soak in before proceeding.

In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, 1/4 tsp salt and a few grindings of black pepper. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil and continue to whisk to make an emulsion. Pour this over the potatoes, add the spring onions, garlic and herbs and season well with salt & pepper. Gently toss everything together until evenly distributed. Taste for seasoning.

Serve warm or at room temperature as part of a buffet or as a side dish with whatever you like.  It would be perfect for a Jubilee party or barbecue too.

Bon Appetit!!

15 on Orange Blossom and Strawberry Custard Slices

22 May

Following on from yesterday’s post about inspiration and where I get my ideas from, this recipe illustrates perfectly the combination of factors that come together to create something nice to eat. Because that is what we are talking about here. Food that you (and I) want to eat. And you want to eat these, I can tell. You’re dribbling.

Strawberries are at the peak of their season here at the moment, so they are cheap and bursting with flavour. Well these ones are anyway, so they need to star in a recipe.

Every morning for the past month or so I have been running with the dog surrounded by the intoxicating scent of orange blossom. I know, I’m lucky. It is such a beautiful smell that hits you as soon as you walk out of the front door. Well I do live in Andalucia. Anyway the past couple of days it has been noticeable in its absence. We are coming to the end of the orange blossom season and I realised that I haven’t used its aromatic orange blossom water in a recipe this year.

On our last day in Cape Town we went for Sunday lunch at the 15 on Orange Hotel. Every Sunday they have a buffet lunch for 265 Rand that includes endless bubbly. Yes, endless bubbly. Are you mad? Have you met my Dad? And me come to that if you’re talking about bubbly. It’s not cheap stuff either, we really enjoyed quite a few glasses of the Graham Beck Brut Rose.

The hotel is elegant, modern, luxury designer chic . An enormous Murano glass chandelier with a staircase inside leading to a private lounge dominates the luxurious bar area. The lighting is actually really impressive throughout the hotel.

Now when you talk about buffets in hotels what springs to my mind is elbowing your way around a table filled with wilting salad, crusty under the lights sandwiches, dried up slices of meat hidden by a slimy gravy and suspect piles of defrosted prawns. Not my thing, at all. This couldn’t be more different. The restaurant is bright, modern and in no way does it smell of boiled meat.

The standard of the food is unbelievable. It’s the best looking buffet I’ve ever seen.  Beautiful feta salads, mozzarella & tomato Caprese with basil pesto, roasted vegetable terrine, beetroot tian, a cheese selection with chutneys. That’s just the veggie starters by the way. For main course I had an excellent Eggplant Parmigiana but it was the desserts that impressed me the most.

The selection was mind-blowing. Chocolate cherry tortes, blueberries & cream violet syrup shots, cape gooseberry madeleines.

A cake stand full of chewy meringues, chocolate or caramel & cinnamon, white chocolate sacher torte, and enormous pink marshmallows. The keep bringing out new things too. It’s amazing.

It is seriously worth coming here just for the desserts and bubbly. You want to try them all because they look so good. They are all quite dainty so you don’t feel like such a pig for eating more than one. I had the cinnamon caramel meringue, the chocolate cherry torte and one of these strawberry custard slices.

So when I got home and strawberries came into season here, I started badgering them for the recipe. And here it is. The only thing did differently was add some orange blossom water to my custard. I cut my puff pastry into fairly small rectangles 3 x 9 cm so they are quite ladylike and afternoon tea-ish. You can make yours bigger if you like.

Strawberry & Orange Blossom Custard Slice

Makes 30 -36 3 x 9cm slices. Adapted from the 15 on Orange recipe

Remember to defrost the puff pastry in the fridge overnight before you need it.

Prep time: 15 mins Cooking Time: 10-15 mins Assembly time: 15 mins

  • 1 block/roll puff pastry (defrosted in the fridge overnight)
  • about 500 gr fresh strawberries
  • 2 or 3 tbsp clear seedless fruit jam/jelly for glazing (I used apricot)
  • 1 or 2 tbsp water

For the Creme Patissiere (custard or pastry cream)

  • 200 ml milk
  • 55 gr sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 25 gr cornflour/cornstarch
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1+1/2 tsp orange blossom water (or to taste)
  • 1 or 2 tbsp milk to finish

Preheat the oven to 190 C and line a baking sheet with baking paper.

On a floured board, roll out the pastry to a large rectangle about 2 mm thick and trim the edges so they are straight. My rectangle was 27 x 36 cm so I cut it into 36 mini rectangles 3 x 9 cm. (9 columns 4 rows). But you can cut them whatever size you like.  Put them on the lined baking sheet, dock them well with a fork (this stops them rising too much) and put them in the freezer for 5 minutes.

Bake  for 10 to 15 minutes until puffed, golden and cooked all the way through. Some will rise a bit wonky or too much but you can ignore those there’s still loads left. Leave to cool on a wire rack. Meanwhile make the creme patissiere.

Carefully bring the milk to the boil with the vanilla extract and orange blossom water, then turn it off before it boils properly.

Meanwhile whisk the yolks with the sieved cornflour and sugar to a smooth paste. Add a splash of the hot milk to the egg mixture and whisk to loosen. Add this back into the pan on a medium high heat and whisk continuously until it starts to thicken. Remove from the heat when it is thick and taste it. If it still tastes of flour or needs loosening up add a splash of milk, return to heat and whisk it in. When it is ready cover the top of the custard directly with cling film to stop a skin forming.

Hull the strawberries by pulling out the green stalks and removing the stalk area with a small knife. Thinly slice them from top to bottom.

To assemble: pipe  or spoon a small amount of creme patissiere along the pastry rectangles from front to back. Then top with three (or more if bigger rectangles) slices of strawberry, start at the back and position the pointy end up.

To glaze: heat the jam/jelly in a small pan with the water until it is a liquid. Brush the glaze over the positioned strawberries.

You will now realise that you have quite a few custard slices. Obviously you will have to eat a few just to see how they taste but beware, they are addictive. My suggestion is to do what I did and donate them to friends (thanks Rhian & Jeanne) because they will love them and so will their husbands.

And you won’t end up the size of a house and blame it all on me. Hopefully.

For more information about 15 on Orange Hotel and their menus visit their website here.

Chocolate and Lavender Easter Cupcakes

3 Apr

Lavender is the colour of the moment. Everywhere I look when we are out walking the dog I see wild lavender growing out of rocks.

Or the beautiful wisteria that has decided to bloom all at once. Just in time for Easter.

I wanted to make something sweet for Easter and that for me that means chocolate. I had an idea in my head of chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting, sprinkled with crumbled up Flake (to look like a nest) and little mini eggs inside the nest.

The thing is that tidy, delicate and uniform is not my forte. Also, if it doesn’t work the first time, it’s never going to happen. So when my first attempt at a mini egg chocolate flake nest looked like a six year old had been let loose in the chocolate cupboard, I actually considered inventing some children and blaming them.

Already bored of the chocolate nest idea I started playing around with the icing and some of the lavender I had picked that morning. It turns out that the lavender ones looked the best, so I spent the next few minutes picking out all of the lavender coloured mini eggs. I don’t know what happened to the other colours, must of been those pesky kids again…

These cupcakes are actually vegan and made with spelt flour. The frosting is also vegan, made with an olive oil spread instead of butter which is why it is a bit softer than proper buttercream icing. As I didn’t know beforehand that I was making lavender chocolate cupcakes I didn’t add any lavender to the cake mix. I have added it into the recipe below but it is up to you whether you do or not.

Chocolate Lavender Easter Cupcakes

Makes 10-12, vegan (without toppings), wheat-free. Adapted fron Oh She Glows

Prep time: 10 mins Cooking time: 25 mins

  • 1 cup oat milk (or any non dairy milk)
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup sugar (raw cane if possible)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups spelt (or wholemeal) flour
  • 1/3 cup pure cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1-2 tsp dried edible lavender (optional)

Preheat the oven to 170 C and line a cupcake tin with cupcake liners.

In a large bowl, beat together the  milk, vinegar, sugar, oil and vanilla with an electric whisk/mixer for a minute ot two.

Sieve the dry ingredients (except the lavender) into the wet and stir well to get rid of any lumps. Then stir through the lavender.

Transfer the mix to a jug and pour it into the cupcake liners about two thirds to three quarters full for each. Bake for about 25 minutes until the top springs back slowly when pressed with a finger. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely before adding the frosting.

Vegan Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

  • 6 tbsp olive oil spread (or equivalent)
  • 3/4 cup pure cocoa powder
  • 2+2/3 cups icing sugar
  • 1/3 cup oat milk (or other non dairy milk)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Cream the spread and vanilla together with an electric whisk until light and fluffy. Add 2 tbsp of the milk and whisk again.

Alternate adding the sugar, cocoa and milk a bit at a time until it is all mixed. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to get all of it combined well.

Store in the fridge until ready to use. Don’t start icing until the cupcakes are completely cool. Use a palette knife or piping bag to ice the cakes and decorate as you wish.

If it stops raining long enough I should be able to get about and photograph some of the spectacular processions and plays that take place here for Semana Santa. I remember saying the same thing last year and there was a huge electrical storm which blew up my modem and motherboard as well as cancelling all the processions and the crucifixion.

So, fingers crossed!

Happy Easter everyone!!

Green Vegetable Minestrone with Toasted Pine Nuts

4 May

May Day here is known as Dia de la Cruz “Day of the Cross”. It is also Dia de los Verdes “Day of the Greens”. In Alhaurin there are two main churches known as The Greens & The Purples (the colours of the Andalucian flag). For the whole long weekend and Tuesday the Green Church known asVera Cruz have processions, marching bands and let off rockets very early in the morning and very late at night.

Thankfully it stopped raining long enough to get out and take some photos this week.

I can’t pretend to know what it’s all about but they seem to enjoy it and it brings the community (well one half of it anyway) together. Rows of different types of chairs are tied together all along the procession route so no one can steal a precious front row seat.

After the processions everyone congregates at the church.

Everyone is wearing green. Purple is a definite faux-pas. Unless you are our friend Miguel, who was over from England with his girlfriend Lindsey for the Bank Holiday. He decide to rock it in lilac jeans, despite all the funny looks, classic Miguel, hilarious….!!

So in keeping with this green weekend and to atone slightly for the purple jeans incident I have made a Green Vegetable Minestrone. This is my favourite soup that we served at the restaurant. I got it from a Cape Town cookbook my Dad gave to me. It is really fresh tasting and more Springy than a classic Minestrone. You can use whatever green veg you like just make sure you give it loads of fresh basil…

I kept it vegan & gluten-free by using rice vermicelli. You can use any pasta you like but keep it tiny. Freshly shaved parmesan on top is the authentic addition that I replaced with toasted pine nuts. Either way it’s a deliciously healthy bowl of goodness that leaves you feeling all virtuous inside…

Green Vegetable Minestrone with Toasted Pine Nuts

serves 6 , vegan, gluten-free. Adapted from Cape Town Food by Phillippa Cheifitz

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 big Spanish spring onion (or 4 or 5 scallions)
  • 1 leek, halved lengthways, rinsed & finely sliced
  • 2 stalks celery, finely sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • a handful of fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 small cabbage, cored & finely shredded
  • 125 gr green beans, 2 cm diagonal slices
  • 1 courgette, diced
  •  bundle of asparagus, woody ends snapped off, 2cm diagonal slices
  • 100 gr frozen peas
  • 50 gr rice vermicelli (or other tiny pasta) 
  • 150 gr rocket (or spinach/watercress)
  • 1+ 1/2 litres veg stock
  • salt & black pepper
  • a big bunch of basil, leaves torn or sliced when served
  • 25 gr pine nuts, toasted in a dry pan
  • extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
  • shaved parmesan (unless vegan)

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over a medium heat, add in the spring onions, leeks & celery with a pinch of salt and cook until starting to soften about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic & parsley and cook for another minute or two.

Add in the cabbage and cook gently for about 10 minutes (you don’t want it to brown) add a splash of stock if dry. Then add in the rest of the vegetables, except the rocket and basil, and cook for another 5 minutes. Season well with salt & black pepper, pour over the stock, bring to the boil, cover, lower the heat & simmer for about 25 minutes.

Stir in the pasta and rocket and cook until tender about 5 minutes. Check seasoning and add more stock if you want it more soupy than stewy.

Ladle into warm bowls and sprinkle over lots of freshly torn basil, the toasted pine nuts and shaved parmesan (if using). Finish with a drizzle of extra virgin.

I think Los Verdes would approve don’t you?

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