Sunday, May 5, 2013

Wild Garlic Pesto

A Spring recipe - Spring has finally sprung! I'd love to say I picked the wild garlic myself, but unfortunately I doubt there is much of it growing in London (not in my neighbourhood anyway!). I got mine through my organic veg box scheme, you may also be able to find it at farmers markets. If you do live in a more rural area, have a look out for it. It likes shady wooded areas and is in season now. It has oval shaped leaves and white flowers - you will usually be able to smell it before you see it!

Wild garlic leaves

Warning: this is a seriously garlicky pesto! It has a strong pungent flavour so garlic lovers will adore the taste, but if you are not fond of regular garlic, I would stay away from this! 

Serve as you would basil pesto - it is delicious served with pasta, or can also be used to dip bread or flatbreads into.  

Makes around 500ml of pesto - or two small jars

-100g wild garlic leaves, washed, dried and chopped
-50g chopped almonds (or other nuts such as pine nuts, cashews or walnuts would work well)
-50g grated parmesan style cheese
-Zest and juice of half an organic lemon
-100ml good olive oil (more or less may be needed according to desired consistency)
-Black pepper

1. Put all of the ingredients into a food processor and pulse until you get a smooth paste. Add more olive oil if you prefer a more liquid consistency. You can also use a mortar and pestle to pound the pesto into a paste which will give a more chunky texture, however this will obviously require more time and elbow grease!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Chocolate Orange Ganache Tart

 My New Year's 'de-tox' is well and truly over... Re-tox with this indulgent dessert!

Serves 6 - 8


-400g dark chocolate
-350ml double cream
-50g unsalted butter
-25g melted unsalted butter
-1 tsp liquid glucose (optional)
-100g candied orange peel (I made my own)
-200g 'sablé' type biscuits

1. First make the base -whizz the biscuits into crumbs in a food processor then pour in the melted butter, whizzing again to combine. Pour this mixture into a well greased 23cm loose based tin (you may not need all of it). Using a palette knife, smooth down the biscuit crumbs pressing into the corners and up the slide of the tin. Use the palette knife to press down and compact the biscuit crumbs as much as possible. You are looking for a thickness of about 0.5cm of compacted biscuit crumbs lining the tin. Cover with cling film/ foil and place carefully in the freezer until required.

Biscuit base

2. To make the ganache filling, place a large heatproof bowl over a pan of boiling water (make sure the bowl is not in contact with the water). Break the chocolate into pieces and put these in the bowl with the cream, liquid glucose (if using) and remaining butter. Melt this very gently, stirring now and again and making sure it does not get too hot (if the chocolate gets to hot it will turn into a grainy texture). Chop the candied orange peel (reserving a few slices for decoration) and add to the ganache, then leave to cool for 5 minutes or so.
3. Remove the base from the freezer, and carefully pour in the ganache. Use a palette knife to smooth the surface, then leave to cool completely. Once cooled, refrigerate until needed (remove the tart 30 minutes before eating). Top with the remaining candied orange peel to decorate (Tip: use a sharp knife dipped in boiling water to slice).

Saturday, January 19, 2013

English Muffins

After a recent Spring clean it was decided that we were in need of a new toaster. The one we had was ok, perfectly capable of toasting I suppose, but we had had it for a while and I thought it was probably time to upgrade. After much umm-ing and ahh-ing, and comparing of tech specs of various toasters (oh yes, I took it very seriously. This is how 'rock and roll' my life is.), we found our ideal toaster. 4 'extra wide' slots, a bagel warming function, and apparently capable of toasting 120 slices an hour... I haven't tested that yet.

Anyway in honour of my new kitchen gadget I made these English muffins. I have to say they are best freshly cooked, simply sliced and buttered, but of course they will also be delicious toasted. They are made from a basic bread dough, and dusted with semolina before cooking which gives them their typical crunchy crust. They are much more substantial than shop-bought muffins, and even if I say so myself, a thousand time more delicious.

English Muffins - makes 10


-500g strong white bread flour
-1 tsp quick yeast
-1 1/2 tsp salt
-325ml water
-1 tbsp oil (I used rapeseed, sunflower or olive oil could also be used)
-Pinch of sugar
-Semolina for dusting

1. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, yeast, salt and sugar. Gradually pour in the water and then the oil, mixing with your fingers. Bring together into a ball of dough, then knead on a floured surface until smooth (around 15 minutes). Alternatively, use the dough hook of a food mixer to knead the dough.
2. Put the dough into an oiled bowl, cover and leave to rise until doubled in size (around 1 hour).
3. Knock back the dough and divide into 10 equal pieces. Dust a large wooden board with semolina. Using the palm of your hands roll the lumps of dough into a ball, then flatten. Dust well with semolina then place on the board. Repeat with the rest of the dough, then leave to rise again for around 30 minutes (cover the board with a large plastic bag to prevent the dough from drying out).
4. To cook the muffins, ideally you will need two heavy based frying pans, however I used a pancake pan and a large cast iron saucepan and they both worked ok. Heat your pans on a medium heat (you do not need any oil), then place three to four muffins on each. Leave to cook for around two minutes, then flip over. Continue cooking in this way for 10 - 15 minutes - until they are puffed up and browned on each side, and they have become lighter.  Adjust the heat if they are cooking too quickly/ slowly.

Enjoy fresh or toasted, split and spread with butter.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Apricot & Hazelnut Benoîtons

Benoîtons are French small rectangular shaped rolls, most often flavoured with nuts and raisins. They are traditionally made with rye flour (or a mix of rye and white flours). 

Forever on the lookout for new breakfast ideas for workdays (see Breakfast Fruit bread), i'll be taking these to work filled with butter and jam or with peanut butter. I have to admit though, they are probably best fresh out the oven with a generous spreading of good butter :-) 

Makes 8 benoîtons


-100g light rye flour
-200g white bread flour
-1 tsp quick yeast
-1 tsp salt
-150ml milk
-100ml water
-70g chopped dried apricots
-40g chopped hazelnuts

1. Warm the milk in a small saucepan (do not boil) then leave to cool to room temperature.
2. In a large bowl, combine the flours, salt, and yeast. Pour in the milk and mix, adding enough water just to bring the dough together. Knead for 10 minutes (by hand or in a mixer with dough-hook attachment), until smooth and elastic. Tip in the apricots and hazelnuts and knead again until incorporated.
3. Put the dough into a greased bowl and leave to prove in a warm spot for 1 hour or until doubled in size. 
4. On a floured surface, flatten out the dough into a rectangle roughly 30cm x 20cm and 2cm thick. Cut into 5 strips from top to bottom then cut once along the width to form 10 benoîtons. Transfer to 2 lined / greased baking sheets and leave to rise for 15 - 20 minutes. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 220C.
5. Once risen, brush the benoítons with water and bake for 15 - 20 minutes or until golden and crisp. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Plum Jam Tart

This summer I made nearly 4kg of jam whilst on holiday in France, thanks to a tree laden with small golden plums at the bottom of my Mum's garden. I could have made much more, if only I had the time and the means to transport it back to London. Anyway, so now I have a healthy stock of home-made plum jam. It's lovely, but I do like to vary the flavour of jam I have on my toast... and who knows how long it would take me to eat my way through 4kg of jam. So I was looking for alternative ways to use up the stock of plum jam to make way for the other types of jam I have yet to open. A jam tart seemed ideal. 
The pastry used for this tart is based on a method which uses self raising flour, more egg and less butter. The result is a lighter, cake-like crust. I used orange flavoured liqueur and some vanilla sugar to flavour the pastry, and almonds sprinkled on the top of the tart for some crunch, but you can vary these ingredients to taste. This recipe yields more pastry than is needed; you could either save (or freeze) the rest of the pastry, or use a larger tin (for a larger but thinner tart). 

Serves 6



-400g self raising flour
-100g butter, cubed
-100g caster sugar (I used 30g vanilla sugar and 70g plain caster sugar)
-2 eggs
-30 ml orange liqueur (or other such as rum)
-Water (if required)


-450g jam (preferably home-made!)
-1 tbsp flaked almonds
-1 tsp sugar (optional)
-Milk for glazing

1. Grease a 23cm tin and keep in the fridge until needed.
2. In large bowl mix together the dry pastry ingredients and add the butter, use your fingertips to work in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Make a well in the centre and crack in the eggs, and use a knife or metal spoon to mix. Slowly pour in the liqueur to bring the pastry together (add water if required). Bring the pastry together into a ball, cover in cling film and chill for at least 30 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 180C. Dust a work surface with flour and roll out enough pastry to line the greased tin (to about 5mm thickness). Push the pastry down into the tin, trim the edges and prick with a fork. Spoon the jam onto the pastry and spread evenly over the tart. Use some of the pastry trimmings to create a lattice and place this on the tart. Sprinkle over the almonds, brush the lattice with milk and sprinkle over the teaspoon of sugar.
4. Bake for 20 - 30 minutes or until golden. Leave to cool slightly before eating, the jam gets extremely hot!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Beetroot Bhaji

We have been getting lovely fresh beetroot in our weekly organic veg box delivery for a few weeks in a row now, and I was running out of ideas of what to do with it. I didn't want it to end up like the potatoes which we don't really eat much of, which are usually still left over at the end of the week (when we receive yet more of them). 

So I experimented and made them into bhajis, mixed with some red onion and lots of spices. I'm not sure if they are traditional at all, but they are perfect for picnics dipped into a minty raita, or stuffed into a chapati with some crunchy lettuce, tomato, cooling yoghurt and a chutney of some kind. 

Makes 20 - 25 bhaji


-1 bunched beetroot (roughly 500g), tops trimmed and left in their skins
-1 large red onion
-200g gram (chickpea) flour
-200ml fizzy water
-1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
-1 tsp salt
-1 tsp nigella (jalonji) seeds
-1 tbsp cumin seeds - lightly toasted in a dry pan, then crushed
-1 tsp coriander seeds - lightly toasted in a dry pan, then crushed
-1 tsp ground turmeric
-1 tbsp good garam masala (I used madras)
-2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
-2cm chunk of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
-1 chopped red chilli, fresh or dried (optional)
-1 tbsp chopped fresh mint

-Sunflower oil for deep frying (about 750 ml)

1. Firstly give the beetroot a good scrub, then coarsely grate into a large bowl (or use appropriate attachment on your food processor).  Then peel and finely slice the red onion, tip into the bowl with the beetroot and put to one side.
2. In a separate bowl, sieve in the gram flour then mix in the remaining ingredients (apart from the oil and the fizzy water). Make a well in the centre of the mix, then start to incorporate the fizzy water, mixing with a fork. Add just enough to form a thick batter, then pour this onto the beetroot/ red onion and mix thoroughly.
3. In a large, deep frying pan, pour in the oil to about 5cm deep. Gently heat until it is hot enough that when you sprinkle flour into it, it sizzles.
4. Take tablespoons of the mix and lower gently into the hot oil, several at a time. Cook for 3 - 4 minutes or until the bottom starts to crisp, then carefully flip over. 

When they are crispy all over remove from the oil and drain on kitchen paper while you fry the rest.
Delicious served hot or cold. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Truffle & Mushroom Ravioli

I love filled pasta and really don't make enough of it. I have a pasta machine but it is one of those things that has been stored out of reach above the cupboards in the kitchen, and has ended up being neglected. However, recently I've been watching Michela Chiappa's 'Simply Italian' series on TV which inspired me to dust off the old pasta machine. To honour its outing I decided to open the jar of truffle paste I had been saving.

For a special occasion these ravioli are delicious served with a light sauce of olive oil & garlic. I served them with a rocket & roasted fennel salad and some nice chilled white wine.

Serves 4


For the pasta

-300g '00' flour
-3 eggs

-Semolina, for dusting

For the filling

-250g ricotta
-250g mushrooms (I used a mix of chestnut and shitake mushroom)s
-1tbsp black truffle paste (or more to taste!)

For the 'sauce'

-100 ml good olive oil
-2 cloves of garlic
-Grated parmesan style cheese, torn fresh basil, to serve

1. To make the pasta, tip the flour onto a work surface or into a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Crack in the eggs and gradually work them into the flour using a fork. When the mixture is starting to come together, use your hands to knead the dough for 10 minutes or until smooth. Wrap the dough in cling film and chill for 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile make the filling. Finely chop the mushrooms and fry in a glug of oil over a medium-high heat, until all their water is cooked out and they start to brown. Leave to cool. In a bowl, mix the ricotta with the truffle paste and mushrooms and season to taste. Chill until needed.
3. Dust your work surface with flour and either use a pasta machine or rolling pin to roll out your pasta dough to about 1mm thick. The dough should be worked well so that you get a smooth, almost translucent sheet of pasta. You need to keep the sheet of pasta dusted with flour and work quickly to prevent it drying out.
4. Have ready trays dusted with semolina to place the finished ravioli on. If you have used a pasta machine you will have 1 or several long rectangles of pasta, ideally this is what you are looking to achieve if you have used a rolling pin. Take the filling and place teaspoonfuls of it every 2-3cm along one side of the pasta sheet. Brush the edges and between the spoonfuls of filling with water. Carefully fold the other side of the pasta sheet over the filling. Press down and make sure no air is trapped in with the filling. Use a knife or pastry cutter to cut the ravioli and place on the trays dusted with semolina. Cover with cling film and chill until needed (you can also freeze them at this point).
5. Peel and finely slice the garlic. Heat the olive oil in a small pan and gently fry the garlic.
6. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, and gently slide the ravioli in. They will take under 5 minutes to cook so make sure you are ready to eat!
7. When the ravioli are cooked to your liking, very gently drain them. Transfer to heated plates, drizzle over the garlic oil, sprinkle with the cheese and basil, a little salt, and lots of cracked black pepper. 

As it has been a while, i'm submitting this to Presto Pasta Nights, this week hosted by Briciole