Courgette Relish

IMG_20160730_125140.jpgIs it a relish, or is it a pickle?

I don’t know, but it is a good way of using up surplus courgettes and is very tasty with cheese.

Grate about 1 kg of courgettes into juliennes. Add a red pepper, two red onions, one glove of garlic, perhaps an apple, all finely diced. Add two teaspoons of salt, mix well, cover and let rest for 24 hours.

On the second day, combine 500 ml cider or white wine vinegar, 4 tablespoons caster sugar, two teaspoons turmeric, ground coriander and ground ginger each. Optionally add chilli for heat or a cinnamon stick for depth, and two or three star anise are never a mistake in my view.

Bring this to the boil, then reduce the heat. Drain the courgette mix and add to the boiling liquor. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, perhaps adding a little cornflower to thicken the liquid slightly.

Meanwhile stearilize jam jars in the oven at 140 C for 10 minutes, then fill with the hot relish, close the lid and let cool down.

Monica’s Agnolotti

Something with bacon and peas, cheese and pasta, we thought might just do the trick on this chilly November evening. Monica Galetti showed her Agnolotti on Masterchef The Professionals the previous evening and we were thus inspired, but failed to take up her 15 minute challenge. This is abote Agnolotti, or Ravioli, or any other shape of filled fresh pasta, filled with a cheesy cream, served with crisp bacon and peas – almost like a Carbonara, but not including the raw egg yolks given the richness of the pasta filling. Prepare a medium thick roux: Melt a heaped tablespoon of butter, then sweat a heaped tablespoon of plain white flour until the flour is cooked, then add hot milk, stirring vigorously and simmering gently all the time. Then add a good amount of grated Gruyere cheese, a pinch of salt, a large pinch of black pepper and a little ground nutmeg. Let the sauce cool down, perhaps even in the fridge. Roll the pasta to a fairly thin sheet, then pipe a strip of the filling, fold over and form little ravioli pasta. Monica’s method was to pipe a strip of filling, then squeezing the separation. I used the handle of a cooking spoon, which I could roll a little to either side gentry to push back the filling, then push down to seal the pasta. I thought that worked pretty well. Poach in not not quite boiling salted water for a few minutes, taking care that the pasta doesn’t stick to the pan bottom. Fry strips of smoked bacon until crisp, add mushrooms and peas, butter and white wine. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Gently toss the pasta with the sauce, serve and enjoy.

Sloe Gin

DSC_0838We started our first batch of Sloe Gin yesterday. Never made it, never even sampled it, but given the abundance of Sloe in nearby meadows, and given how many of our local friends all go hmm-sloe-gin at the mention, we thought we’d give it a try.

We picked 1.2 kg of Sloe, sterilised a suitably sized vessel, washed and pricked the berries. We added 100 g sugar and a litre of Gin, and sealed the jar.

Now it sits in a quiet place and waits for Christmas.

Update, November 2018:

We have since made, given away and enjoyed several batches of Sloe, Plum, Raspberry, Blackberry and Elderberry Gin, each and every one a huge success. My personal favourite is Raspberry Gin, made from the leftovers from Raspberry Jam making. The perfect waste-not plan!

Goats’ Cheese Tarte

IMG_20170311_160713.jpgThis is a scrumptious goats’ cheese tarte, which makes for a great vegetarian lunch or supper.

Gremolata-coated goats’ cheese cubes, topped with honey and orange glazed shallots, beetroot and creme fraice, baked on a sheet of ready-rolled puff pastry. Looks delicision, tasts delicious, what’s not to like?

Thaw one sheet of ready-rolled puff pastry.

Parboil three medium-sized beetroot for 12 minutes, then drain and let cool down slightly. Put on some disposable gloves, peel and dice the beetroot, then toss with a tablespoon of good quality balsamic vinegar.

Peel a handful of shallots, cut in half and gentry caramelise with a tablespoon of butter, honey and orange marmelade each. I also like a red chilly in the mix for a little bit of background heat. After caramelization starts, pop the whole thing in the oven at 170 C for 10..15 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the gremolata: a bunch of parsley, two tablespoons of breadcrumbs, a tablespoon of pine kernels, a tablespoon of grated unwaxed lemon peel, a teaspoon of crushed black pepper. Blizz until smooth.

Dice enough goats cheese to cover 3/4 of the puff pastry sheet loosely. Toss the cheese dice in the gremolata.

Pre-heat your oven to 200 C.

Spread out the puff pastry sheet, then use a knife to mark a one inch border around the edges. All your toppings stay within that inner square: spread the coated goats cheese, add the beetroot dice, add an occasional half teaspoon of creme fraiche. Put the caramelized onions on top and drizzle a small amount of the onion’s cooking licquor across.

Finally, fold up the puff pastry edges to form a tray, and brush the outsides with a mixture of equal amounts of one egg yolk and milk.

Pop into the oven for 20 minutes or until the pastry looks just right.

Eat while warm, but note that everything on this tarte retains heat pretty well. You’ve been warned!

Pork Belly

P20160305194317.JPGIt’s roasted pork belly to you and me, it’s belly of pork if you’re watching Masterchef. In either case, it is super finger-lickin’ delicious. It takes a few hours to make, but the actual preparation time is minimal.

Everyone has his or her favourite and fool-proof pork belly recipe these days. I am sure many of these work just as well. This works for me:

Pre-heat the oven to 220 Celcius.

I line the bottom of a suitably sized pyrex roasting dish such that the meat can rest on it, and won’t sit in its own fat. Onions and juniper berries, apples and sage, or -my favourite- fennel and a very generous amount of star anise. Cut the fruit or vegetable in chunky bits and line the dish. Perforate the belly skin with neat parallel cuts no more than 10 mm apart – you will use those later to cut through the crackling skin, so get this right. Rub a tablespoon or corse sea salt into the perforated skin, and place the meat, skin-side up, into the dish. Add 150 ml of water

Pop into the oven and roast at 220 C for 20 minutes, then reduce to 140 C and roast for 3 hours. Finally, give it a 10 minute quicky at 220 Celcius again to crisp the skin.

I usually serve this with a noodle soup in Chinese, Thai or Vietnamese style, or with a seasonal soup of garden vegetables. Whatever you serve it with, the pork belly will be the star of the show.

Carrot Soup

carrot-soup.jpgFrom the vegetarian department:

Carrot and Ginger Soup, served with a poached egg and herbs.

Simple and delicious, but takes a little time to cook.

750g carrots, trimmed and cut into chunks,
2 thumb-sized pieces of fresh ginger, pealed and crushed,
1 medium sized onion,
1 large clove of garclic,
1 bulb of fennel, trimmed and cut into chunks

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and one tablespoon of butter, then add all the chipped vegetables and fry until caramelization begins. Add two teaspoons of freshly grond black pepper, two teaspoons of salt, 1 teaspoon of crushed coriander seeds, 1..2 dried red chillies. Toast the spices, then add 1 1/2 litre cold water. Bring to the boil, then let simmer until the carrots are tender (approximately 60 minutes).

Meanwhile, finely chop a handful of parsely. Add a pinch of salt and 2 tablespoons of warm olive oil. Toss, let sit in a dish.

When the carrots are tender (but no need to cook them to death!), remove the ginger and chillies, then run the remaining soup through the blender to obtain a smooth paste.

Serve with a spoon of soured cream, topped with a poached runny egg. Drain the parsley with some kitchen tissue and sprinkle it on the soup. Add freshly ground black pepper and a drizzle of rapeseed oil or chilly oil.

Tarte Flambé

cropped-DSC_0564.jpgHere’s an all-time favourite. It’s Tarte Flambé to the French, Flammkuchen to us, and not very well known outside the southwestern Germany and northeastern French areas. But everyone loves it!

A very thin and crispy lean bread base with a sour cream, onion and bacon topping. Seriously, what’s not to like?

For 3 tarts or two people:

Kned a yeast dough from 300 g white wheat flour, 6 g salt, 8 g fresh yeast and 165 ml water, all at room temperature. Kned, let it rest for 15 minutes, then kned very thoroughly to develop the gluten. Gluten may not be fashionable, but it gives strength to bread. Roll out to three very thin sheets, as thin as 2 mm. Transfer onto baking parchment and set aside for 45 minutes.

Pre-heat to oven to as much as you can. Check the baking parchment for the maximum temperature (mine does 240 C), don’t go too much over as it might catch fire and generally gets brittle and of little use when overheating.

Cut 250 g striped bacon into thumb-sized strips, cut two medium-sized onions into thin rings. Mix 220 ml soured cream, a teaspoon of greshly ground corse black pepper, a pinch of nutmeg, a pinch or salt.

Prepare one tarte at a time, as you don’t want them to get soggy while waiting for the baking. Spread the spiced soured cream evenly across the base, sprinkly bacon and onions evenly across, then bake until the edges are almost burnt (a few minutes).

Cut into large pieces and eat right away. Use your hands.

Here’s a somewhat more detailed and not entirely serious version of the recipe for dummies

 

Yeast Dough Cake Base

cropped-DSC_0223.jpgThis is the base recipe for a sweet yeast dough used with many traditional German or French cakes:

500g white wheat flour

40g fresh yeast (or a tablespoon of dried yeast if you must)

1 cup of luke warm milk

100g caster sugar

1 whole free range medium egg

80g warm butter (add a pinch of salt if using unsalted butter).

Put everything into a kneding bowl and kned, or let your kitchen machine do the kneding for you. Balance flour / milk as necessary. It’s perfect when the dough is nice and soft but just comes away from the bown easily (it is just not sticky any more).

Give the yeast 15 minutes to come alive in a warm place. Your kitchen worktop is normally just fine.

Then proceed as instructed by the recipe.

For a typical 28cm round baking tray, I use this 1/2 of the above base recipe.

Rosehip Jam

IMG_20151108_171421.jpgWalk over the fields in October or November, and you’re bound to find rosehips along the edges of the field. It’s well worth gathering a few even if you must pay the price with stings, scratches, and loss of blood.

Rose hips are full of vitamin C and make for a delicious jam.

You need a little over 1kg rose hips for 2..3 jars of jam. You also need a little time over several days:

(1) Wash the rose hips in cold water, and shake the remaining water off.

(2) Trim the bottom and top ends off, and slice the rose hips slightly. (A small cut will do.)

(3) Put the rosehips into a dry pot, close with a lid, and leave to wilt in the shade on the kitchen top for 2..3 days. You’ll find that the smell increasingly fruity over the wilting period.

(4) Add clean water, just enough to submerge all the rose hips, and gently bring to the boil. Add a spoon of sugar and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. You’ll be surprised what a thick paste you get right away. This burns easily, so make sure to stir well around the edges frequently.

(5) Pass this through a fine sieve. Nothing for the lazy cook, but think of the rewards!

(6) Repeat steps (4) and (5) with the left-overs (seeds and whatever else you didn’t pass through). This second batch will be thinner but increases the overall yield, and is still pretty fruity. You might want to skip the B-grade addition if you are working towards an entry at the WI’s rose hip jam competition.

(7) Now look what you’ve done: you made some very fine Marc de Rose Hip. Weigh it.

(8) Add the same amount of jam sugar by weight, stir well and let the sugar disolve. Gently bring to the boil, stirring continuously. Add juice from 1/3 lime per 500g of marc. Simmer for approximately 7 minutes, still stirring continuously.

(9) Rinse clean jam jars in very hot water, fill with jam to one finger from the rim, and tightly close the lid immediately. Do not touch or move until they are cooled down and have sealed themselves. There is no need to faff about with waxed or drunken papers or some-such in my opinion.

(10) Label, store in the larder, give a gift to a friend, or sample it first and then decide to keep it all to yourself.

Tomato Jam: A Lynch Job

20140901210114.jpgKevin Lynch of Closet Cooking inspired this Tomato Jam with his original recipe.

I never followed his recipe, but end up with a coffee-free and much spicier variety, which we find looks and tastes fantastic on bread with a fried egg, as the tomato layer on a pizza, or with egg-rich Pappadalle or Fettuccine. So, here goes one fairly large batch:

Wash and dry 4kg ripe tomatoes, then cut into eights. Place the pieces, skin-down, next to each other on large flat baking trays and slowly dry in the oven at 95 C for 2..3 hours. Stop when they are still slightly moist, but no longer wet. You may need to do this in batches, depending on your oven. I get 2 kg on each tray, but a convection oven takes 2 trays with ease. I open the door every 20 minutes to let the steam out and to wipe off the condensation. You’re trying to evaporate over 3 litres of water, so give your oven a hand.

When dried, let them cool down (and dry out even more).

To make the jam, do this:

Blizz the tomatoes into a puree, skin, seeds and all. This should have a slightly moist yet rich and thick consistency.

Toast one large tablespoon of coriander seeds, one large tablespoon of fennel seeds, 3 dried red chillies, a teaspoon of fenugreek seeds and 4 star anise. Transfer the hot spices to your pestle and mortar or spice grinder.

Add a splash of olive oil to the same pan and crisp 200 g of streaky dry-cured bacon or panchetta.

Meanwhile, grind your spices and enjoy the delicious aroma. Sieve to remove stalks and husk. Add a teaspoon of ground cumin.

Mix the ground spices with the tomatoes, then blizz the bacon into small bits and add to the mix.

Season to taste with balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper and brown sugar.

Done.

Set some aside for tonight or tomorrow’s lunch.

Fill the rest into preserving jars and preserve in a Baine-Marie at 85 C for 90 minutes.