Tag Archives: starter

White Grape Gazpacho with Ajo Blanco Cream

13 Aug

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

White Grape Gazpacho with Ajo Blanco Cream

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

For the White Grape Gazpacho:

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

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

For the Ajo Blanco Cream:

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

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

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

Buen Provecho!

Things That Made Me Smile Today……

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

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

Have a great weekend,

White Grape, Manchego and Fennel Seed Tartlets

16 Jul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

White Grape, Manchego & Fennel Seed Tartlets Recipe

makes about 6 or 7 tartlets, vegetarian

For the Grape, Elderflower & Fennel Seed Compote

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

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

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

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

For the Tartlets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buen Provecho!!

Things that made me smile today….

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

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

Buen Fin de Semana!

Creole Chickpea Fritters with Red and Green Pepper Salsa

27 May

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

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

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

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

Creole Chickpea Fritters with Red & Green Pepper Salsa

makes 6-8 patties, vegan, gluten-free

For the Creole seasoning:

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

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

For the Chickpea Fritters:

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

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

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

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

Things That Made Me Smile Today…

A Shetland pony and her new foal…

A white dolomite rock and delicate magenta flowers…..

Caramelized Onion Tart with Feta and Thyme

4 Mar

I thought I’d show you some pictures today to prove that the weather is not always perfect here.  It still looks beautiful though. Rufus and I walked to the top of this hill yesterday and the weather was on the verge of changing.

By the time we reached the top there was definitely something in the air. Something about the shadows and the clouds.

Rufus knew there was something going on, he could sense it.

You could see the storm clouds moving in above our heads…

So we decided to head home for lunch….

On Monday we went for dinner at our friends Joan & Terry. She made a lovely spiced ginger, carrot & coriander soup followed by a beautiful red onion and goat’s cheese risotto and a delicious apple and almond tart with an Amaretti biscuit base for dessert. I am always really grateful when people who are not vegetarian cook a full vegetarian meal for us. I know how difficult it is if you are not used to it. So thank you again, it was all gorgeous and we really appreciate it.

As we were leaving they gave us a crate (yes a crate) of food to take away with us as they were going back to England in a day or two. Part of the contents of this “food crate” was a bag of onions and some puff pastry.

Caramelized onions are one of my favourite things. Their sweet, savouriness enhances the hell out of  plain cheese sandwich transforming it into something gourmet. Add some veg (or beef) stock, sherry or brandy and cook for 10 minutes and you have an amazing French/Spanish onion soup to top with cheesy croutes. They add a grown up edge to pizzas and can be made into a fantastic caramelized onion dip that I found on Happy When Not Hungry.

My favourite thing to make with caramelized onions though is a tart. It is so easy and tastes lovely. The sweetness of the onions on the thin, crispy, flaky pastry base with a crumbling of some sharp sour cheese is delicious. Add a scattering of fresh herbs and you have an elegant starter or lunch dish. You can even make a big rectangular one to serve four, or cut it into squares or slices for a buffet. It is really versatile you can use whatever cheese and herbs you like. Why not try smoked mozzarella & basil or halloumi, mint & oregano, or try red onions with goat’s cheese & rosemary…..

Caramelized Onion Tarts with Feta & Thyme

serves 4 – 6, vegetarian

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 kg onions, halved, peeled & finely sliced
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp thyme leaves chopped, or dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp chilli flakes (optional)
  • 375 gr (1 block or sheet)puff pastry, defrosted in the fridge overnight
  • 25 gr finely grated Parmesan or Manchego
  • 150 gr Greek Feta cheese
  • a few sprigs of fresh thyme leaves to scatter

Heat the olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat and add in the onions, thyme and chilli flakes. cover with a lid and cook, stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes. Add in the sugar, vinegar, salt & pepper and cook for another 5 minutes until the onion is soft and caramelized. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

Preheat the oven to 220 C. Roll out the pastry, if necessary, to about 2 or 3 mm thick. Cut into a large rectangle with a ruler or cut around some side plates or saucers if you want individual round tarts. You can reroll the off cuts to make more if necessary. Score a 1cm border around the edge of the pastry but don’t cut all the way through. Prick the base inside the scored edges with a fork (see photo above) and sprinkle over the grated parmesan inside the circle too.

Put the caramelized onion on top of the parmesan leaving the border clear. Bake in the preheated oven for 15- 25 minutes depending on the size of your tart/s. Remove from the oven when the pastry is puffed & golden brown.  Crumble over the feta and scatter over some fresh thyme leaves.

Serve with a green salad dressed with olive oil & lemon juice. Depending on how many tarts you make you may have some of the caramelized onions left. Store in a sealed container in the fridge.  If they last that long……….

Brilliant Green Broccoli Soup

23 Feb

This one’s for my Mum. She loves broccoli and she loves soup so this should be her idea of heaven. Broccoli soups can be disappointing, sludgy, smelly and look a bit like dishwater if you’re not careful. This broccoli soup , however, is bright green, elegant, nutritious and delicious. The Washer Up claimed it was the best soup he had ever had, high praise indeed!!

The reason it stays bright green is because of the spinach added at the last-minute to boost the colour. What I like about this soup is that the predominant flavour is still broccoli with a background of cheese to give it richness and the touch of spice which brings it all together. You can make this soup as basic as you like just topped with a swirl of creme fraiche, or sprinkle over some toasted breadcrumbs, grated cheese and walnuts.  I found this soup recipe at All day I dream about food it’s from Cooks Illustrated magazine. I also found another recipe at The Dabble  which had great topping ideas my favourite being potato croutons.

To make the croutons I used some leftover cooked potatoes that I chopped into about 1cm dice. Put them on some baking parchment drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper & a pinch of cayenne toss to coat and roast in a 210 C oven for about 15 – 20 minutes until browned at the edges. Scatter the still hot croutons over the soup and serve.

As I still had some more potatoes left I thought I would try to glam it up a bit more by making a potato gallette to go on top as well. A potato gallette is a flat thin ring of overlapping potato slices usually made with raw very thinly sliced potatoes. My rather rustic attempt using cooked new potatoes, sliced turned out pretty well except the slices didn’t stick together as well as if you used raw potatoes.

To make a gallete, slice a medium new potato (mine was already cooked) as thinly as you can. Lay the discs on a piece of parchment to form an overlapping circle. Drizzle with olive oil, salt & pepper and bake at 210C for 15 – 20 minutes until browned. Keep an eye on them especially if they are really thin, they burn easily. Use a metal spatula to lift the gallete on to the hot soup.

Brilliant Green Broccoli Soup Recipe

serves 2 -3, vegetarian

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large head broccoli
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp mustard
  • a pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • about 1 litre veg stock
  • water if necessary
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 10 squares frozen spinach (or about 15o gr fresh)
  • about 1oo gr grated cheese (I used manchego) parmesan or cheddar would be nice
  • your choice of toppings (see suggestions above)

Cut the broccoli into 1 inch pieces, peel the stem and chop that up into smaller pieces too. In a large pot heat the olive oil over a medium heat, add in the onions, broccoli, garlic, mustard, cayenne, salt & pepper. Cook for about 3 or 4 minutes, stirring until the onion is translucent or starting to brown. Add in about 200 ml veg stock and the baking soda, bring to a simmer, lower the heat slightly, cover and cook for 15 -20 minutes until the broccoli is very soft.

Add in the rest of the veg stock, bring to a boil and add in the spinach. If using fresh, stir to wilt then add in the cheese. If using frozen spinach cook for 2 or 3 minutes more until the spinach is soft, then stir in the cheese. Remove from the heat and blend (carefully) using a stick blender until smooth. Taste for seasoning and add more water if your soup is too thick for your liking. To serve bring back up to the boil and ladle into warmed bowls. Garnish with grated cheese or see suggestions above.

Enjoy!!

Cauliflower Souffle with Brie and Rosemary

8 Jan

This is all part of my cauliflower education. I used to hate it. A hideous, watery, childhood cauliflower cheese is the culprit I think. Thanks to The Washer Up, who persuaded me to reaquaint myself with it, I now love its delicate flavour, texture and versatility. With the addition of a little rosemary it takes on a very grown up and elegant disguise quite unlike any childhood packet cheese sauce memories…..

You start by making a cauliflower puree which can also be used as a base for soups, stirred into a risotto, as a sauce for pasta with spice toasted breadcrumbs or as a side dish. Scallops with bacon & cauliflower puree is a classic combination. The puree works really well with curry flavours added to it as well as the more traditional nutmeg & rosemary I am using for this recipe.

Cauliflower Souffle with Brie & Rosemary

makes 4 small individual souffles, vegetarian

  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets. This makes more puree than you need for this recipe but you can use it for other things (see above)
  • 1 or 2 tbsp milk
  • salt & pepper 1/2 tsp each
  • freshly grated nutmeg ( about 1/4 tsp)
  • 1/2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • a pinch of cayenne pepper
  • about 125 gr brie, cubed
  • 3 or 4 tbsp finely grated parmesan
  • 25 gr butter
  • 40 gr plain flour
  • about 165 ml milk (I used goat’s milk)
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • butter & flour for greasing dishes/ramekins

Put the cauliflower florets in a large pan of boiling, salted water and cook until very tender about 10-12 minutes. Drain, transfer to a large bowl or food processor, add 1 or 2 tbsp milk, the nutmeg, rosemary, salt & pepper and blend with a stick blender (or process) until very smooth. Leave to cool slightly.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Butter 4 small souffle dishes/ramekins and put in the fridge. Heat the butter, over a medium heat until melted and cook  gently until slightly brown(not burnt). Dump in all of the flour and whisk it into the butter, it will go into a sandy paste. Whisk and cook out the flour for another minute or so then gradually start adding the milk, bit by bit, whisking all the time and cook until it thickens. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheeses, egg yolks & pinch of cayenne pepper. Take about 220ml (1 cup) of the cauliflower puree and put it in a large bowl then stir in the cheese/egg mixture combining everything well. Butter the souffle dishes a second time and put back in the fridge. (This ensures they don’t stick when rising).  Whisk the egg whites in a cold bowl to stiff peaks, take 1 large spoonful of the whites and mix it into the cheese mixture to loosen it. Check for seasoning, add more salt if necessary. Then, carefully & gently, fold in the rest of the egg whites with a spatula a bit at a time until just incorporated. (Don’t over mix). Take the souffle dishes out of the fridge, flour the insides and gently scrape the souffle mix into the dishes, just to the top. Run you thumb all around the inside of the rim to take the mix away from the edge. (This helps it rise evenly).

Bake in the preheated oven for 15-17 minutes until well risen & golden on top. Do not open the oven before then!

Have your serving plates dressed with a green salad, ready to go, before you get the souffles out of the oven so you can serve them immediately, to a standing ovation…..!

Please don’t be scared about making souffles. If you follow this recipe it is a really simple, impressive and delicious starter or lunch dish. By double buttering and flouring the dishes they will not stick and running your thumb around the inside of the rim lets them rise evenly and beautifully. You just have to be organised, confident and ready to serve straight away.

Such an elegant dish, a million miles away from watery cauliflower cheese!

You can also serve these as a Twice Baked Souffle. I made four so we had two for lunch and the other two I cooked at the same time and left to cool. When they were cool I easily removed them from the souffle dishes wrapped them in cling film and put them in the fridge. To serve just preheat the oven to 200 degrees and cook for about 15 minutes to heat them through.

They don’t puff up as much but this may be an easier option for entertaining. You can make them beforehand and just heat them up when you need to, they are just as delicious and moist inside. I kept mine in the fridge for two days before reheating them again and they were still fantastic.

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