Ruby Chard, Shitake Mushroom & Chestnut Tart

Ruby Chard, Shitake Mushroom & Chestnut Tart | Selma's TableRachel de Thample is a woman after my own heart. A food writer, forager and advocate for seasonal and local produce, she has worked in the kitchens of Marco Pierre White, Peter Gordon and Hester Blumenthal. She was  Commissioning Editor for Waitrose Food Illustrated, contributed to two Borough Market cookbooks and wrote a fabulous book called Less Meat, More Veg a few years ago. Did I mention that she is also a fellow South Londoner? Ruby Chard, Shitake Mushroom & Chestnut Tart | Selma's TableRachel is the Food Editor for one of the pioneers of the UK organic veg box schemes, Abel & Cole. She writes the most delicious, weekly seasonal recipes for them and also meets with food buyers to look at the ethical aspects of sourcing food.  Her second book, called FIVE has just been published. It is full of varied, accessible and delicious recipes that will have you packing away fruits and vegetables without any effort at all. There is a very useful double page spread listing fruits and vegetables and their portion sizes and the recipes clearly state how many portions are in each recipe. And the recipes! There isn’t a single one which I wouldn’t make – from creative breakfast truffles and clever muffins to galettes, latkes, stunning salads, hearty soups, curries, pastries, cakes, puddings, sorbets…mouthwatering and while heavy on the fruit and vegetables, there are recipes which include fish and meat. Ruby Chard, Shitake Mushroom & Chestnut Tart | Selma's TableI have a copy of FIVE to give away to a lucky reader which I will tell you about in another post but in the meantime just get your tastebuds going with some of these recipe titles – Mexican Roast Pumpkin Soup with Lime; Lemony Scrambled Eggs with Indian Spiced Spinach and Mushrooms; Sassy Cherry and Watercress Salad with Crushed Pistachios; Athenian Rissoles with Pavlos’ Sauce; Summer Veg Patch Gumbo with Chorizo and Crab; Honeyed Aubergine, Feta and Walnut Borek; Honey Blossom Peaches; Mulled Figs with Mascarpone…doesn’t it all sound delicious? Ruby Chard, Shitake Mushroom & Chestnut Tart | Selma's TableIn the meantime, inspired by the premise of the book and my complimentary Able and Cole veg box as well as my Sutton Community Farm veg box, I came up with a recipe which I hope Ms De Thample would approve of!

It is full of seasonal ingredients like ruby chard, mushrooms, leeks  and one of my favourite winter ingredients – chestnuts; gently sautéed together with celery, garlic and thyme and a little lemon to sharpen the flavours, spread onto flakey puff pastry and topped with Barber’s delicious cheddar cheese.

My recipe has been featured over on the Happy Foodie website along with four other bloggers – take a look at what they have to say and what they made here – http://thehappyfoodie.co.uk/articles/number-five-challenge

Ruby Chard, Mushroom & Chestnut Tart

  • Servings: 4 - 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • Bunch of ruby chard or swiss chard or spinach (approximately 250g)
  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 1 punnet shitake mushrooms
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • 1 leek
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 75g vacuum packed cooked chestnuts
  • 2 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp vegetable stock powder ilke Essentials or Marigold
  • 1 good handful of grated Barbers Vintage Reserve Cheddar Cheese
  • 1 x 320 g sheet of ready rolled, all butter puff pastry
  • 2 eggs beaten with a tablespoon of milk

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Fill the sink with cold water and swish the chard around in it to loosen any soil. Leave the chard in the water to let any grit settle on the bottom of the sink. Carefully lift the chard out of the water, without disturbing the sediment on the bottom of the sink and gently shake off the excess water. Trim off the ends and cut out the stalks. Slice the stalks, on the diagonal into 3 cm pieces. Slice the leaves into wide ribbons. Keep them separate.
  2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Dice the onions and slice the mushrooms and add these to the hot oil. Sprinkle with a little salt, squeeze over the juice of half a lemon then stir and cook until the onions are soft, floppy and golden and the mushrooms have caramelised. You may need to add a little more oil if the mushrooms soak it all up.
  3. While this is going on, finely dice the celery and and slice the leeks into 1 cm rings; coarsely chop the chestnuts – add to the pan with the chard stems and stir. Cook for 3 or 4 minutes.
  4. Finely chop the garlic and add to the pan along with the chard and thyme leaves. Stir and cook for a couple of minutes or until the chard has wilted.
  5. Sprinkle over the stock powder and add a splash of water – just enough to deglaze any caramelisation on the bottom of the pan and get everything nice and juicy but not wet! Turn the heat right down and let this simmer for a minute or two. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Turn off the heat, stir in the parsley and set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
  6. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F.
  7. Unroll the pastry and score a 2 cm border around the perimeter. Transfer onto a parchment lined baking sheet/tray.
  8. Place the cooled chard mixture within the border and scatter over the grated cheddar cheese.
  9. Brush the edges of the tart with the beaten eggs and then gently drizzle the remainder of the egg mixture over the tart.
  10. Bake for 25-30 minutes and allow to cool a little before serving.

Eat warm or at room temperature. Serves 4 as a light main course with a salad and some cold cuts for the determined carnivores. Or slice into 12 and serve  as part of a mezze for 6.

© Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table, 2015. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material, including photographs without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Carrot & Apple Cake Cheesecake

Carrot & Apple Cake Cheesecake  | Selma's TableA few weeks ago my friend Rupert held a fundraising ‘coffee’ morning, taking part in an event which is billed as ‘The world’s biggest Coffee Morning for Macmillan Cancer Support”.  My understanding is that it’s a bit like a bring and buy bake sale, so that you can take cakes home as well as indulging in a slice or two while you are there, with a cuppa. Well, Rupes was having none of “that buying thing” – he thought that a donation would be more in keeping with what he had in mind. And he was certainly not thinking of a lot of cakes and biscuits either. He organised the event for between 11 – 2 on a Saturday to give people plenty of time to either lie in, go to the gym or get Saturday chores or shopping done. Well beforehand, he made the phone calls to invite people and he collected money from people who were not able to attend. In true Rupert style, his flat gleamed and was filled with flowers and burning Diptique candles. We sipped  Bucks Fizz from crystal flutes, gorged on delicious savoury nibbles, including crispy prawns, stuffed vine leaves, chicken tikka bites and prosciutto wrapped figs with goats cheese. He served jasmine tea in beautiful Coalport porcelain tea cups  and individual tea pots from a tea service which had been part of his mother’s wedding trousseau. His sister donated a box of Jordanian pastries which were stuffed with dates and walnuts and a friend brought some Matcha macaroons which she had made. I brought this Carrot & Apple Cake Cheesecake which I had made the evening before, because I always have to take something! It was a really lovely event, more like a cocktail version of a brunch party rather than a cake sale and everyone got a chance to mingle and catch up or finally meet. The donations were extremely generous and I am quite certain that the same  amount would not have been raised had people been buying cakes and biscuits in the more traditional manner.

Carrot & Apple Cake Cheesecake  | Selma's Table

Rupes doesn’t do sweet -he really does not have a sweet tooth so I wanted to make something that he would enjoy. I thought about doing a spicy, fruity, carrot cake topped with creamy cheesecake – an idea that I had seen in a magazine at some point and had written down in my notebook. I tweaked an old recipe for carrot cake that I’ve had for years, substituting butter for the oil as I thought that the batter should be fairly stiff to support the cheesecake topping. I have really enjoyed using ‘Dairy’ from Lurpak’s Cook’s Range – it really is a joy to use in baking as you can use it straight from the fridge. I reviewed it in my last IMK post.   I also realised too late that I didn’ have enough carrots so topped them up with apples. I used an old recipe for a baked cheesecake that I had found on the back of a Carnation Condensed Milk tin in Canada. I can tell you that I was quite nervous putting it in the oven and said a few words as it went in!

Carrot & Apple Cake Cheesecake  | Selma's Table

I got there a little early, taking it over whole and asked Rupes to cut up some of it into one inch pieces. He began to trim off the edges, and popped a shard of trimming into his mouth. He stopped and said “OMG this is gorgeous!” and then passed the trimmings round to a couple of others who had arrived in the meantime. I was so pleased and very relived that it worked out. Rupes gave me a portion of the left over slab to take home – he was keeping the rest for himself, which made me very happy! Happy that he liked it enough to keep and happy that Jake would have some as well. Jake likes a cheesecake and really enjoyed the combination of spicy cake and cheesecake so it got the thumbs up from him too.

Carrot & Apple Cake Cheesecake  | Selma's Table

I had some caramel sauce which I had intended to take with me to drizzle enticingly over the top but I am afraid that it got left behind. The slices would have looked much prettier with a few swirls of caramel sauce. Also an apology for the photos – food photos can be difficult to take at the best of times and these were difficult to photograph in an unfamiliar setting with people about, little time to faff and without my props. But you get the idea – they baked up really well!

Carrot & Apple Cake Cheesecake  | Selma's Table

Carrot & Apple Cake Cheesecake  | Selma's Table

At the end of the event, the last few of us remaining, (photo at the tip of the post) counted the money in the donation box and were delighted to find that there was a really good sum in there to send to Macmillan. A big thanks to everyone for such generous donations. Rupes has since had a lovely thank you letter from Macmillan too!

Carrot & Apple Cake Cheesecake

  • Servings: 24 pieces
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS

For the carrot & apple cake base:

  • 75 g soft brown sugar
  • 75 g caster sugar
  • 200 g plain/AP flour
  • 1 ½  tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp table/fine salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon powder
  • ¼ tsp grated nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp allspice powder
  • 75 g golden raisins (or just use normal ones)
  • 45 g desiccated coconut
  • 75 g grated carrot (about 3 medium carrots – weigh them out before grating them)
  • 75 g grated apple (about 3 medium apples – weight them out factoring in an additional 5 g per apple for the core)
  • 1 large egg at room temperature
  • 115 g Baking  (Lurpak’s Cook Range) (or unsalted butter at room temperature)

For the cheesecake:

  • 560 g (2 large tubs) full fat cream cheese at room temperature
  • 397 g (1 tin) of condensed milk
  • ¼ c sour cream
  • ⅛ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature

INSTRUCTIONS

For the carrot & apple cake base:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180C/350F. Line a 8″ x 12″ tin with grease proof paper leaving enough up the sides so that it can easily be used as handles to pull the cake out. (See my Tips and Tricks page for an easy way to do this.)
  2. Measure all the dry ingredients (from sugar through to coconut) into a mixing bowl and whisk well to combine.
  3. Peel and grate the apples and carrots, cover closely with cling film and set aside.
  4. Beat the egg and Dairy/butter until light and fluffy.
  5. Stir in the dry ingredients until combined then stir in the grated carrots and apples and whisk until the batter is well combined.
  6. Scrape batter into the tin and level it as well as you can. One of those offset spatulas would come in very handy here!

For the cheesecake:

  1. Beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy
  2. Beat in the condensed milk until the mixture is smooth.
  3. Beat in the eggs, sour cream, salt and vanilla until well combined.
  4. Pour this over the carrot & apple cake base and level.
  5. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, testing with a wooden toothpick or a piece of dry spaghetti to ensure that the cake base is cooked. The cheesecake top should be set but with a little wobble which will firm up when it cools.
  6. Cool in the tin then cover and refrigerate until serving. Can be sliced into 24 x 2 inch squares or larger pieces if preferred.

© Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table, 2013, 2014. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material, including photographs without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

In My Kitchen – October 2014

In My Kitchen Oct 2014 | Selma's TableIn my kitchen, I have cheese. One of my favourite cheese stalls in London’s Borough Market, is Une Normade a Londres. Run by two brothers from Normandy, these boys really know their cheese. This time I came away with a little rondel of Pérail de Brebis, a ewe’s milk cheese  – seriously savoury and creamy from Aveyron in the Mid Pyrenees in France. The land the sheep graze on is rich in floral growth and this is very evident in the mellow but rich flavour of this cheese. In My Kitchen Oct 2014 | Selma's TableThe enormous variety of goats cheeses they have on display is something to behold – they always have plenty of cheese available to sample – if you are in the area, drop by and see what takes your fancy – I don’t think you will come away empty handed! In My Kitchen Oct 2014 | Selma's TableIn my kitchen I have this award winning, liquid gold, which I was sent to sample, from Olive Branch, a company specialising in Greek produce. Olive Branch’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) is cold pressed using only Cretan Koroneiki olives, which makes it a single varietal EVOO. It’s quite floral – more grassy and fruity than peppery though there is little bite of pepperiness towards the end. In My Kitchen Oct 2014 | Selma's TableOlive Branch work with a the local co-op as well as neighbouring farmers to partially produce this low acidity (0.3%) EVOO on their farm. Using early ripening olives and cold pressing them within hours of harvest also ensures that the oil is fresh, aromatic and full of nutrients and anti-oxidants. It is absolutely gorgeous – just look at that stunning colour! It has been wonderful on the last of the flavourful summer tomatoes and drizzled over pasta too. In My Kitchen Oct 2014 | Selma's TableI made a lovely salad with sliced fennel, cherry tomatoes, black grapes, walnuts and bee pollen (the bee pollen featured in my September IMK post)  and this oil was the perfect complement to it.

Greek Inspired Roast Chicken with Bread | Selma's Table

Greek Inspired Roast Chicken with Bread

I also made a Green Inspired Roast Chicken with Bread which was delicious with their oil. Do try the oil if you get the chance – it makes a lovely addition to the peppery EVOO that we are more used to. A little tidbit for you – they supply Ottolenghi with Dakos, that crispy bread he is so fond of! In My Kitchen Oct 2014 | Selma's TableSpeaking of Ottolenghi, I was completely overexcited to receive my copy of the long awaited Plenty More. I have made the wonderful tomato and pomegranate salad, the slow cooked chickpeas, the sweet and sour leeks with goats cheese and the corn fritters – all have been delicious!! The book is divided into chapters by method (Tossed, Steamed, Blanched, Braised, Mashed, Grilled etc…) and is vegetarian but you wouldn’t even notice. Nonetheless, there are plenty of suggestions for the carnivore too. Desperately hoping that he returns to London (he is in Australia on his book tour) with a few more dates for book signings… In My Kitchen Oct 2014 | Selma's Table In my kitchen, Jake cooked dinner – the first time in a long while. He gets invited to dinner at least once a week where he and his friends do the cooking. At least that is what I think is going on! A few times, I have called him and he is in Sainsburys with one or two of his friends, buying groceries to make dinner with. I can’t hear the tell tale sound of clinking bottles in the basket….Anyway, he announced that he was going to cook dinner – he made this delicious pasta dish, sautéing onions and garlic and adding sundried tomatoes, left over roast chicken, a pinch of smoky paprika and some creme fraiche. The pasta was perfectly al dente too. I was so impressed.

In my kitchen there were fancy, schmancy cupcakes because Jake turned 17. For the past few years, I either take him and a couple of his friends out for dinner or a group of us go out – this year, one of his friends threw him a surprise party. We spun him a tale and made him believe that I was taking him and this friend out to lunch and that afterwards they were going to go to the park and maybe meet up with a couple of friends (because “everyone is away”). I bailed at the last minute, but made him take the Ambassador Cupcakes that I had made in case anyone turned up to the park. He didn’t suspect a thing and got such a surprise when he got to his friend’s house and found everyone there!! I made the cupcakes the night before and the icing, early in the morning. I took him up one hastily and hideously iced and assembled cake with a candle in it, all his birthday cards and his present. Then I watched some icing videos on YouTube and iced the rest in a slightly more professional manner!! The recipe for these Ambassador or Double Ferrero Rocher Cupcakes with Nutella Icing is on the blog – they went down a treat! In My Kitchen Oct 2014 | Selma's Table In my kitchen, I have Lurpak’s Cook’s Range. I was sent a couple of packs of ‘Baking‘ of and a bottle of ‘Cooking Liquid‘. ‘Baking’ is simply amazing for baking and icing – a blend of butter and rapeseed (canola) oil, it is soft from the fridge so that within a few seconds of beating it looks like this – In My Kitchen Oct 2014 | Selma's TableI used ‘Baking’ to make the Nutella icing for the Double Ferrero Rocher Cupcakes and also used some to make my Carrot and Apple Cake Cheesecake (more about that later) and I think it is pretty amazing. I’ve used the ‘Cooking Liquid’ which is also a blend of butter and rapeseed oil, to sauté onions and brown meat – it does the job brilliantly. There is also a mist and a clarified butter in the range which I would love to try. I have been very impressed with both the products. If you bake a lot, Baking would be a great asset in the kitchen. Lots of recipes on their website as well as a very clever shopping tool which links to your on-line grocery store! In My Kitchen Oct 2014 | Selma's TableIn my kitchen I made a Carrot & Apple Cake Cheesecake. My friend Rupert, was hosting a Coffee Morning fundraiser for Macmillan and asked me to help – not that I did much other than bake this cake and bank the money raised. In true Rupert fashion, there was a mouthwatering array of hot and cold savoury bites, Bucks Fizz  in Vera Wang crystal flutes and Jasmine tea in a Coalport tea service. There was no selling of anything, just very generous donations from everyone instead – it was lovely and so much fun! He raised a good sum of money too, which was the whole point! The recipe for the Carrot & Apple Cake Cheesecake is now on the blog.

Well, that is it from my kitchen – huge thanks to Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial who hosts this monthly event – peeking into everyone’s kitchens all over the world is quite the eye opener sometimes!  Pour yourself a drink and take a little browse – all the links to the participating blogs are on the right hand side of Celia’s post. I have linked the page to  her blog name so click on it and take a little tour! Have a wonderful October, everyone!

Asparagus and Feta Cigars

asparagus-and-feta-cigarsOnce upon a time there was a girl called Angie who accidentally started a blog. She was learning about her garden so decided to call her blog The Novice Gardener. Shortly after she began her accidental blog, she started to write about the food she was making and the thoughts she was thinking. She also took a few very pretty pictures to go with her musings. Before long she had gathered lots of friends from all four corners of the world and decided that they all needed to meet each other. Angie, the accidental blogger, who never does anything by halves, threw the biggest and bestest party ever. She called it Fiesta Friday. Everyone dressed up, brought something with them and were so busy mixing and mingling that the party went on until Wednesday! Now, not everyone could make it to the first party so Angie throws open her doors to host a new Fiesta Friday every week!

This week, I am thrilled to be co-hosting with Jhuls of the Not So Creative Cook – a misnomer if ever there was one! If you have Fiesta’d then you know what to do. If you haven’t, it’s really easy; write a post – it doesn’t have to be about food but it does have to be a new one for the party; add a link to Fiesta Friday #15 on your post and then add your link to the party page – I’m probably not making much sense so read the guidelines here – http://thenovicegardener.wordpress.com/fiesta-friday/ Jhuls and I would be over the moon to see you at our Fiesta. If you are new to blogging, Fiesta Friday is a great way to gain exposure and make new friends too. So, put on your dancing shoes on and join the party!!! Click over to Angie’s post for FF#15 to join the party http://thenovicegardener.wordpress.com/2014/05/08/fiesta-friday-15/

asparagus-and-feta-cigarsSeeing as I am going to be busy keeping an eye on all you lot, I am bringing these Asparagus and Feta Cigars which are quick and easy to make. I first made a feta-less version of them last summer as a canapé for a dinner party after seeing them on Pinterest and noticed that Ottolenghi had featured them in his column for the Guardian last weekend. I combined the two recipes, adding feta cheese for Fiesta Friday but had a bit of a disaster and overcooked them – they were edible but too brown. They were also very greasy from the olive oil. So I made some more and tweaked the ingredients, temperature and timing to get the crisp, non greasy cigars you see pictured.

I am also bringing these over to Fromage Homage’s May’s Cheese Please Challenge which has it’s focus on seasonal ingredients this month…apparently this fits the bill! Do take a look at the recipes submitted for this challenge – there are beignets, tarts, parfaits, gnocchi and the most gorgeous pull apart bread too…there is also some rather fabulous chutney for the winner so get something together and join this challenge!

Fromage Homage

Now, let’s get some choons on and fiesta!!

…and to wind down…a couple from Jhuls

So, now, for a quick run through with photos followed by a printable recipe at the end…

asparagus-and-feta-cigars

asparagus-and-feta-cigars

Get your ingredients ready – you will need to work quickly once the pastry is out.

asparagus-and-feta-cigars

Slice the sheet in half  and brush with melted butter. Don’t use quite as much butter as pictured – just dab it on all over. One you have 3 layers of pastry, cut the strip into 6 even pieces and lay the a spears on each one section.

asparagus-and-feta-cigars

Add the feta and poppy seeds and roll up tightly. Repeat with the remaining sheets, asparagus and feta.

asparagus-and-feta-cigars

Lay on a baking sheet, brush the tops with butter and sprinkle over the parmesan and more poppy seeds.

asparagus-and-feta-cigars

Bake for 10-12 minutes – keep an eye on them towards the end. Enjoy!!

Click over to Angies Fiesta Friday #15 to join the party – we are waiting for you! http://thenovicegardener.wordpress.com/2014/05/08/fiesta-friday-15/

Asparagus and Feta Cigars

  • Servings: 12 pieces
  • Difficulty: fairly easy
  • Print

Adapted from Asparagus Phyllo Appetisers by Rachel Nairns 

These can be assembled a few hours before and then popped into the oven as your guests arrive…

INGREDIENTS

  •  12 asparagus spears
  • 1 package filo pastry – you will not use all it – freeze what is left over.
  • 40 g of melted butter
  • 70 g of feta cheese – crumbled
  • 10 g of parmesan cheese grated (preferably on a fine grater to get long skinny strands)
  • 2 pinches of poppy seeds

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180C/350F and place some parchment paper on a baking sheet.
  2. Snap or trim off the woody ends of the asparagus spears.
  3. Fill a pan with a couple of inches of kettle boiled water and set on the hob to come to a boil. Salt generously and add the asparagus. Blanch for 2 minutes then drain and cool under cold running water (or an ice bath). Lay on paper towels to dry, patting the tops with another paper towel.
  4. Remove 3 sheets of filo from the pack. (You need to work quickly as the pastry dries out but if it breaks or crumbles, it is not the end of the world. Butter will hold it together and once it is cooked you can’t tell.) The filo pastry I used was about 12 inches long and 24 inches wide. My asparagus spears were quite short so I cut the pastry in half lengthwise so that I had long strips. Stack up the sheets in a pile of six and cover with a damp tea towel if you wish – I didn’t.
  5. Now, take one sheet of filo and  brush it sparingly with the butter – don’t be too heavy handed otherwise the cigars will be greasy. Top it with another sheet and brush with the melted butter. Top it with a third sheet and brush with a little more butter.
  6. Sprinkle over some poppy seeds and then slice into 6 equal pieces about 3 inches wide.
  7. Place a spear near the edge of each piece, with the tip of the spear overhanging the pastry.
  8. Place a little feta cheese over the spear and fill the bottom of the pastry with some as well. (See photo)
  9. Roll up as tightly and evenly as possible and place seam side down on the papered baking tray. It is easier to do this as an assembly line job – lay the spears out, crumble over the cheese and roll each one up. Leave a little room between each cigar on the baking sheet.
  10. Repeat with the remaining pastry and asparagus.
  11. Brush the tops with melted butter then sprinkle over a little more poppy seeds and the grated parmesan cheese.
  12. Bake for about 10-12 minutes. Do keep an eye on them towards the end.
  13. Serve warm with lots of napkins!

If you want to serve a dip, and I don’t feel that you need one with the feta cheese, then mix up a little creme fraiche with a squeeze of lemon juice and some lemon zest …

Cook the Books – Gratin au Poisson Fumé (Smoky Fish Bake)

Gratin_au_Poisson_Fumé_Smoky_Fish_Bake

Gratin_au_Poisson_Fumé_Smoky_Fish_Bake

I was very pleased to receive Rachel Khoo’s The Little Paris Kitchen as a gift a couple of years ago. I haven’t seen any of the TV programmes on which this book is based but I have very much enjoyed reading the recipes, exclaiming over how pretty she is and coveting her vintage yet chic vibe. It’s probably a good thing that I haven’t seen her in action as I would probably be totally besotted. Her cooking is French classic with a modern twist; simple yet flavourful and I have bookmarked quite a few of her recipes to try.

Gratin_au_Poisson_Fumé_Smoky_Fish_BakeThis recipe for a Gratin au Poisson Fumé or Smoky Fish Bake came highly recommended by my friend C who gave me the book and rightly so. Rachel Khoo’s method of making béchamel is genius – taking the roux off the heat before adding the milk has resulted in a lump-free sauce every single time.

My only protest would be at the meagre quantity of fish – it is my opinion that 200g to feed up to 6 people is so stingy as to border on the penurious. At the weekend, we were 4 for lunch and I used 320g of smoked haddock fillets and 240g of lightly smoked salmon plus about 18og of raw prawns/shrimps (but these are full of water and cook down to nothing really) and there was perhaps a small serving spoonful left in the dish at the end of the meal. Normally, I buy a 320g Fish Pie Mix from Sainsbury’s  (my Local didn’t have any so I had to improvise with the fillets), but even then I tend to add an extra couple of salmon fillets and a packet of prawns to the mix. The thought of under-catering makes me feel quite anxious!

This is a lovely dish, comforting but not heavy in the way a fish pie can be and full of those deeply savoury, smoky fish flavours which marry so well with creamy sauces. A spoonful of grain mustard is also nice stirred into the béchamel while it cools as is a little chopped tarragon. You can also prepare it ahead so that all you have to do is pop it in the oven when your guests arrive. We had the gratin with roasted beetroot and a green salad using the delicious produce from my Sutton Community Farm veg box. Rachel suggests that leftover vegetables from a roast dinner can be added to the béchamel too, but I like to keep it simple with the fish and potatoes and usually serve it with a bowl of peas and a green salad.

I have to apologise for my rather uninspiring photo of the finished dish. I had two ravenous teenagers  as well as my friend J round and I don’t think any of them would have been able to contain themselves while I got arty with food styling.  I managed to get a quick shot of it when it came out of the oven and that’s it. There wasn’t even enough leftover for me to style a plate but rather than not post it at all, I had to share as this is such a delicious recipe!

Gratin_au_Poisson_Fumé_Smoky_Fish_Bake

Put the potatoes on to boil

Gratin_au_Poisson_Fumé_Smoky_Fish_BakeMake the bechamel

Gratin_au_Poisson_Fumé_Smoky_Fish_BakeMix the fish, parsley and potatoes into the béchamel, then pour into an oven safe baking dish, scatter over the cheese and tomatoes and bake. Gratin_au_Poisson_Fumé_Smoky_Fish_Bake

Gratin au Poisson Fumé (Smoky Fish Bake)

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

from The Little Paris Kitchen by Rachel Khoo

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

  • 750g (8-10 medium ones) potatoes, peeled and already cooked – you can use left over roast potatoes (if such a thing exists!)
  • 200g smoked haddock, skin removed (I used 320g smoked haddock; 240g lightly smoked  salmon fillets; 180g raw prawns/shrimps) or use a pack of 320g fish pie mix and a couple of salmon fillets
  • a handful of chopped parsley
  • a handful of grated cheese – use up odds and ends of cheeses like Mature Cheddar, Comté, Gruyere or Parmesan
  • a small handful of halved cherry tomatoes – my addition to the recipe

Béchamel 

  • 30 g butter
  • 30g flour
  • 500 ml milk (lukewarm – 2 mins in the microwave worked for me)
  • bay leaf
  • ½ an onion (I used a shallot)
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 clove (didn’t use)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. If you don’t have any cooked potatoes, peel the appropriate amount and cut into thirds. Place in a saucepan of cold, salted water with a couple of bay leaves. Cover and set on the hob. Turn on the heat and set a timer for 20 minutes. They should be cooked enough by then – enough to get a knife through but not falling apart. They will continue to cook in the oven. When the pan comes to a boil, turn down the heat to low and set the lid askew. Drain in a colander and set aside.
  2. While the potatoes are cooking, you can start the béchamel. Melt the butter in a large saucepan (because you are going to add the fish and potatoes to the béchamel before turning it all out into a dish) over medium heat. Add the flour and beat well until you have a smooth paste. Take off the heat and leave to cool for a couple of minutes.
  3. Gradually add the warm milk, whisking constantly. Place the pan back on a medium heat and add the onion, clove and bay leaf. Simmer for 10 minutes whisking frequently. If sauce becomes too thick, whisk in a little more milk. Finish sauce by removing the onion, clove and bay leaf; stir in the nutmeg and season with a little salt and some white pepper (or black if you are not bothered by the dark specks) Leave to cool slightly.  (If you are making this ahead, let the béchamel cool completely)
  4. Pre-heat oven to 180 C/ 350 F, unless you are making this ahead.
  5. While the béchamel is cooking and cooling, I skin and slice up the fish fillets into 1 inch cubes; slice the potatoes into 1 cm rounds; grate the cheese; halve the cherry tomatoes and chop the parsley.
  6. Add the chunks of fish and the prawns to the béchamel and mix gently. Add the potatoes and most of the parsley (reserve a little to sprinkle on at the end) and mix again.
  7. Pour into an oven safe baking dish, scatter over the cherry tomatoes and the grated cheese. At this point, as long as the béchamel is cool/cold, you can loosely cover the dish with cling film and pop it in the fridge until you are ready to cook.
  8. This mix does bubble up as it cooks so if your dish is very full, place it on a baking tray to save having to clean the oven later.
  9. Cook for 25 minutes (35 minutes if fridge cold) or until the top is golden and sauce is bubbling.
  10. Scatter over the reserved parsley and serve after the dish has had 10 minutes or so to settle.
  11. Great with a bowl of peas and a green salad.

Chicken Mac ‘n’ Cheese with Rosemary

chicken-mac-n-cheeseI suffered with fairly severe eczema and asthma as a child and of course, it was ALL triggered by food. The list of foods I could not eat included ice-cream (the cold set off my wheezing – imagine living in Nairobi and not being able to enjoy the icy creations from  Snow Queen!), cold drinks, fish, shellfish, oranges and passion fruit. I am not sure how scientific any of this was but it was what my mother and I felt set off a bout of up-all-night-wheezing or scratching. While she sat up with me holding my hand through another breathless night, we would discuss what I had eaten that could have triggered it off.  The list grew quite lengthy. For some reason, left-overs were deemed to be a culprit too, so all my food was freshly prepared.

Today, left-overs are something that I practically plan for – they speed up after-work cooking and stretch the food budget without any hint of parsimony. My favourite is left-over roast chicken. No matter how I have cooked it, I always strip what is left on the carcass while it is still warm as this yields the most flesh. I also break up the bones for a simple stock that I start for an hour or two on the Sunday evening or pop the bones into a freezer bag for another time. And I save all the cooking juices, gravy and vegetables. Favourite left-over chicken meals include risotto with any left-overs being made into oven baked  arancini the following day which we have with a spicy tomato sauce and a rocket salad; there are pot pies in the winter and pasta salads in the summer, also soups, green curries and stir fries. Left over roast chicken is one of my favourite ingredients!!  (And just in case you are wondering – when we moved to Winnipeg all my allergies disappeared completely, only to return when I moved to London. Today if anything flares up it is usually due to stress or damp.)

chicken-mac-n-cheese

At the weekend I made my version of this braised spatchcock chicken which left me with a lot of gorgeous pan  juices as well as about half a chicken. For quite some time, I have been meaning to try  this chicken lasagne recipe. But when I read it through again, it seemed very heavy on the cheese and in any case, I didn’t have any lasagne sheets but I did have a packet of macaroni pasta. So my Chicken Mac ‘n’ Cheese evolved and I have to say that it was absolutely lovely; total comfort food with not too much fuss.

chicken-mac-n-cheese

If you are starting from scratch, without any pre-cooked chicken or pan juices, I would suggest braise roasting  3 or 4 chicken thighs while you make the béchamel. All instructions below.

chicken-mac-n-cheese

Chicken Mac 'n' Cheese with Rosemary

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

For the braise roasted chicken:

  • 3 or 4 chicken thighs, bone in and skin on
  • 2 banana shallots
  • 4 whole peeled garlic cloves
  • 4 anchovy fillets
  • ¼ c of  black olives – I leave the pits in and warn everyone
  • 150ml of a dry white wine
  • 250ml stock or water with a stock cube mixed in (vegetable or chicken)
  • 2 rosemary sprigs
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • salt and pepper

Or if you are using left-overs:

  • 250 g cooked and shredded chicken
  • 200 ml of pan juices  

Plus:

  • 1 cup of frozen peas
  • 1 cup of frozen spinach, thawed
  • 250 g macaroni or elbow pasta
  • 20g grated parmesan cheese.

For the Béchamel Sauce:

  • 60g butter
  • 60 g flour
  • 700ml/3 cups milk
  • ⅓ of a nutmeg
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • 1 heaped Tbsp finely chopped rosemary needles
  • 200g grated cheddar cheese separated into 150g and 50g – just eyeball it!
  • 2 tsp Dijon Mustard

Instructions

Pre-heat oven to 200C/400F.

MAKE THE BRAISE ROASTED CHICKEN THIGHS

  1. Slice shallots into long half moons and sauté gently in a pan with a little olive oil for 2 or 3 minutes. Add the whole garlic cloves, the chicken thighs, the anchovies and the olives; stir it around, letting it all get a little caramelised – about 7 or 8 minutes. The anchovies will dissolve and add a deep savoury note to the pan juices. Remove the chicken to a plate. Deglaze pan with the wine, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom.
  2. Place rosemary stalks in a snug fitting roasting dish and scrape in the savoury shallot/garlic/anchovy/olive mix over them. Nestle the chicken thighs on top and squeeze over the lemon juice and pour round the chicken stock. Season with salt and pepper. Pop in the oven for 15 – 20 minutes. Remove rosemary stalks and discard. Remove chicken from the pan juices and leave on plate until cool enough to handle; shred the meat and mix it back into the pan juices.

MAKE THE BÉCHAMEL SAUCE

  1. Make béchamel by melting the butter over a medium heat. Sprinkle over the chopped rosemary and the flour and cook, stirring madly for about 5 minutes.
  2. Take off the heat and slowly add in the first cup of milk, stirring all the time to avoid lumps and then add the other two cups, stirring well after each one. Pop in the bay leaf and grate in the nutmeg.
  3. Let this just come to the boil (scald) and then turn down the heat and keep it on a low flame, to thicken which should take about 5-10 minutes. You will have to keep stirring to stop the bottom from catching.
  4. Once it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, stir in 150g of the cheddar cheese and the mustard.
  5. Take it off the heat and set aside to cool a little, stirring occasionally to stop a skin from forming – it will thicken even more as it cools.

COOK THE PASTA

  1. Cook the macaroni pasta in lots of boiling salted water for 4 minutes. It will carry on cooking in the sauce in the oven so resist the urge to cook it any further otherwise you will end up with pasta the texture of baby food in the finished dish.

ASSEMBLE THE DISH

  1. Place the cooked chicken, the pan juices, including the shallots, garlic and olives; the spinach and peas in a mixing bowl (or even the dish you are going to bake this in) and mix well to combine. Check on the seasoning and adjust if necessary.
  2. Using a slotted spoon, ladle the pasta and some of the water that will be clinging to it, into the chicken mix. Stir in just over half the béchamel and mix well. It will be quite sloppy which is what you need to finish cooking the pasta. Check on the seasoning and adjust.
  3. Spread the pasta mixture out evenly in your baking dish.
  4. Using a tablespoon, dot the remaining béchamel evenly over the pasta mix and smooth out.
  5. Scatter over the grated cheddar and  parmesan and bake in the oven for about 30 – 40 min. It should be bubbly and golden when it is ready.
  6. Leave it to rest and settle for about 10minutes before digging in.

Perfect with a salad.

Enriched Milk and Butter Loaf topped with Floppy Onions and Cheese

Enriched Bread topped with Floppy Onions and Cheese

Enriched Bread topped with Floppy Onions and Cheese

I am in Cape Town, staying with my friends A and R who really make the most of this beautiful city they call home. They live in a gorgeous Victorian villa in Sea Point, perched high on the slopes of Signal Hill with a panoramic view of the suburb below and the Atlantic Ocean.

View from the deck

View from the deck

As you may imagine, the sunsets have been simply stunning.

Sunset over Sea Point

Sunset over Sea Point

Sunset from the deck

Sunset from the deck

The people I have met on this visit have been so friendly and so sociable and seem to pack so much into their days. The magnificent landscape probably has a lot to do with this as well as not having to waste hours commuting on a packed train to and from work.  The days and evenings have been spent  meeting up with or hosting friends in that warm, hospitable Capetonian manner, enjoying the gorgeous wines and eating beautiful food. There is an incredible food scene here about which I will post more another time.

Sundowner on the deck

Sundowners on the deck

We spent last weekend at their stunning holiday home in Greyton where R cooked up a storm.

The garden at Greyton and Lily the springer spaniel

The garden at Greyton and Lily the springer spaniel

Saturday was spent walking their adorable dogs, wandering around the Saturday market in Greyton, lunching at Searle’s and then back to the house for a marathon cooking session.

Searle's

Searle’s

Searle's

Searle’s

A stunning cake was baked and iced.

THAT cake!

THAT cake!

Bread was baked (recipe below), fillet was stuffed and trussed and salads were made. For dinner that night, a group of us feasted on the braaied (barbecued) fillet and boerewors, potato wedges, salad with flowers from the garden, palm hearts dressed with white balsamic and parmesan cheese, tomato and mint couscous, the bread and finished off with a slice of that cake.

Feasting at Greyton

Feasting at Greyton

This bread needs a little elbow grease but is completely worth it.

Dough before second proofing

Dough before second proving

Dough after second proving

Dough after second proving

Bread before topping

Bread before topping

Topping with floppy onions

Topping with floppy onions

Topping with cheese

Topping with cheese

Ta da!

Ta da!

Enriched Milk and Butter Loaf topped with Floppy Onions and Cheese

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: intermediate
  • Print

INGREDIENTS

  • 500g bread flour
  • 10g instant yeast (10ml)
  • 10g salt
  • 350ml tepid milk
  • 50g softened butter

Topping:

  • 1/2 a large white onion sliced in half moons and one clove of chopped garlic, fried in a little olive oil until translucent but not caramelised
  • 100 g grated cheddar cheese

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Place the flour yeast and salt in a bowl and slowly pour in the tepid milk, 100 ml at a time. The milk must not be too hot as it can kill off the yeast. (24-28 degrees)
  2. Stir with your fingers until it comes together. You may not need all the milk so don’t pour it all in.
  3. Turn out onto a lightly  floured surface and start to knead, incorporating the butter, one spoonful at a time. Or, if your butter isn’t quite soft enough, cube it and add it in a few cubes at a time. Knead until the dough is elastic, smooth and glossy – this may take up to 20 minutes. It is quite a wet dough so it does take some time to come together. The dough should be fairly firm and not sticky to touch.
  4. Oil a bowl and place dough in it turning it around in the oil and cover with tea towel or cling film ad leave it to rise until doubled. Knock back (deflate) and then weigh dough. Slice off approximately 100g lumps of dough and roll and shape each one by placing on your worktop (you should not need any flour) Cup your hand over it and start work in a circular motion, tucking with with your thumb and fingers – the finished ball will have a smooth top with the crease underneath.
  5. Place in a round tin – we used a non-stick one, cover and leave to rise again for about an hour. It should double in size, filling in any gaps.
  6. Bake in a oven preheated to 230 C /450 F for 1/2 an hour. Scatter over the floppy onions and then the grated cheese and place back in the oven for another 15 minutes or so. Cool on a rack for about 5 mins and then turn it out of the tin.
  7. The bread is ready when it is golden brown and sounds hollow when you rap the base with your knuckles.

Enriched Bread topped with Floppy Onions and Cheese

Enriched Bread topped with Floppy Onions and Cheese

Smoked Mackerel Gratin

Smoked Mackerel Gratin

I see from my notes that I have been making this Smoked Mackerel Gratin for nearly 10 years now. I first made it because I wanted to introduce more of those Omega-3 fatty acids into our diet and it was such a hit with J who would have been 6 years old at that time, that I have been making it regularly ever since. Smoked fish and cream is a food marriage made in heaven. With the addition of potatoes, mustard and herbs this dish becomes a quick, intensely savoury, mid-week meal which only needs a sharply dressed green salad, cutting through the richness, to round it off.

It is an inexpensive dish to boot and very easy to make;

Flake the fish into an oven dish

Flake the fish into an oven proof dish

Cover with cooked potatoes

Cover with cooked potatoes

Make the creamy, mustardy, herb flecked sauce

Make the creamy, mustardy, herb flecked sauce

Pour sauce over fish and potatoes

Pour sauce over fish and potatoes
Strew with grated cheddar and bake for 20/25 minutes

Strew with grated cheddar and bake for 20/25 minutes

Intensely savoury, smoky, and creamy deliciousness.

Intensely savoury, smoky, and creamy deliciousness.

You could add a scattering of  halved cherry tomatoes before covering it with cheese and you could also add a layer of fresh spinach leaves (which you have run under a tap to make wet) under the fish in which case you should increase the milk by about a 1/4 cup.

The smoked mackerel is quite salty as is the cheese so you shouldn’t need any additional salt.

Smoked Mackerel Gratin

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Inspired by Nigel Slater

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 smoked mackerel fillets
  • 8 small potatoes halved
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tbsp crème fraîche
  • 1 heaped tsp grain mustard
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tsp chopped tarragon
  • 1 Tbsp chopped parsley
  • 50g grated cheddar cheese
  • A little butter or oil to grease the oven proof dish.

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/390F and lightly grease the oven proof dish.
  2. Place potatoes and garlic in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil then simmer for 10 minutes. The potatoes should give way to a knife but not be falling apart. Drain and remove the garlic.
  3. Peel off the skin and flake the mackerel into the dish, carefully pulling out any bones which have been left behind. Leave the fish in quite large chunks if you can.
  4. Whisk the creme fraiche then stir in the mustard and whisk again. Mash in the soft garlic and slowly whisk in the milk and stir in the herbs.
  5. Cover the fish with the hot potatoes, then pour over the crème fraîche mixture and top with the grated cheese and a grinding of pepper.
  6. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes

Serve with a mustardy dressed green salad and some crusty bread to soak up the delicious juices.

Seeded Spelt Crackers

Seeded Spelt CrackersNigel Slater is one of my favourite food writers. In addition to a plethora of really, really good cook books, he also writes for the Observer Magazine and the Observer Food Monthly Supplement. His food is intuitive, uncomplicated and unpretentious with fabulous flavour.  When I first returned to work, his “Real Fast Food”  and “Real Food” are what I read at bedtime to prime myself for the evenings to come so that I could still have people over for supper and not go into a complete meltdown in the process. “Appetite” remains one of my most referred to books and “Kitchen Diaries” still helps to inspire when I am feeling as jaded and uninspired as stale cracker…

Seeded spelt crackers

Speaking of which, I watched him make these spelt crackers on catch-up television the other day and shortly after, found myself in Whole Foods where you can buy tiny (or huge) scoops of flours, rice, pulses, seeds and nuts from their bulk bins. I had already looked up and saved the recipe to Pepperplate so all that was left to do was to look it up on my phone and  buy what was needed.  The seeded spelt crackers are dry, crumbly and nutty from the seeds – perfect with a bit of blue or creamy cheese after dinner.

Seeded spelt crackers

Spelt is a truly ancient grain which can be traced as far back as the 5th millennium BC. It has a nutty and slightly sweet flavour and can be helpful for people who are wheat intolerant but not coeliacs as it does contain gluten. I have used the flour to make delicious pancakes in the past (substituting half of the flour with spelt) and it can be used in cakes and biscuits as well.

Do have a go at these crackers – they really are delicious!

Seeded Spelt Crackers

Seeded Spelt Crackers

  • Servings: 24
  • Difficulty: easy
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Barely adapted from Nigel Slater’s Dish of the Day – Savoury Biscuits 

INGREDIENTS

  • 90g spelt flour
  • 15g  golden linseeds
  • 15g  pumpkin seeds
  • 15g  sesame seeds
  • 15g sunflower seeds
  • 50g soft butter
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • flaky sea salt to sprinkle

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Pre heat oven to 180C/350F and prepare your baking sheet by laying some greaseproof paper on it.
  2. Place the flour and seeds in a bowl and whisk to combine.
  3. Stir in the butter with a wooden spoon or just use your hands to rub the butter into the flour/seed mix until it is evenly distributed.
  4. Sprinkle on the one tablespoon of water and use your hands to start bringing the dough together, adding the second tablespoon of water as you go.  You should end up with a nubbly ball of dough.
  5. Wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge for at least an hour or overnight. It will be quite hard when you retrieve it so let it warm up a bit before trying to roll it out.
  6. Place the dough between two sheets of grease proof paper or cling film and roll out quite thinly. The original recipe says as thick as a pound coin but I rolled the dough much thinner than than – more like a 5p coin.
  7. Using a 2 inch pastry cutter or a wine glass (any thin glassed vessel will do..) stamp out rounds – I managed to get 24, re-rolling the scraps a couple of times.
  8. Place rounds on the prepared baking sheet – they don’t spread very much so you can place them quite close together – and sprinkle with a little salt.
  9. Bake for about 10 minutes, checking after 8 minutes. They are ready when they look golden brown.
  10. Remove to a wire rack to cool and store in an airtight tin.

Seeded Spelt Crackers

Gorgeous Tiny Cheese Muffins

Tiny Cheese Muffins

Tiny Cheese Muffins

During my early school years, my father would collect me at lunch time, to go home to eat a delicious meal around the dining table, all of us together, before he dropped me back and carried on his way to work. This was in the days before Nairobi became so congested with traffic and people so as to make it impossible to go anywhere quickly. When I started secondary school, for reasons that are not clear to me now, I was signed up for school lunches.  After a week of leathery grey slices of meat in thick brown gluey gravy, grey mushy vegetables and claggy puddings with skins on them, I told my mother that I thought pork was being served and that of course I wasn’t touching it so I wasn’t eating a thing and therefore starving in the afternoons. The double whammy of forbidden meat and a hungry tummy had exactly the effect I had hoped for. No more inedible food in the smelly dark dining hall but glorious packed lunches eaten under the trees in front of the school tennis courts with my friends. Our cook, Migaleh, had come to work for us via some ambassador’s house and would cook the most scrumptious “european” food – roasts, chops, steaks, chips, sausages, mashed potatoes, omelettes – for me and my brother at tea time. Now he was making me a thermos of hot chunky chicken soup or thick roast beef or chicken salad sandwiches to take to school…oh how I pitied those boarders trapped in the dining hall with the nuns as we sat in the sunshine shaded by the Jacaranda trees!

I was reminded of this today as I shopped for after school snacks. School has begun; the children are off the streets and out of the shops and can now be seen looking tired and despondent in their school uniforms on their way home for tea. It is difficult to get back into a routine in those first couple of weeks but all too soon the summer holidays will be but a distant memory as the unrelenting schedule of early mornings, lunch boxes, sports practices, clubs and societies, music practice, homework and a regular bedtime establishes itself. Until half term that is.

IMG_4019My friend C alerted me to this recipe for cheese muffins from a wonderful New Zealand book of traditional home baking compiled from old community cookbooks by Alexa Johnston, called  Ladies, A Plate. I found great pleasure in reading the stories that hark back to “a gentler time” which are attached to many of the receipts. C sometimes makes these for her packed lunches and once I had a taste, I was smitten! I make these quite often as they come together very quickly and it’s just so handy to have a few stashed in the freezer.

Dry ingredients

Dry ingredients

They are incredibly quick to make. Measure out the dry ingredients into one bowl and use a whisk to aerate and mix at the same time. I’ve substituted bouillon powder for the salt for a more savoury flavour.

Mix in the parsley and the cheese

Mix in the parsley and the cheese

Then, add the parsley and about 2/3rd of the grated cheddar cheese and mix again to coat the cheese.

Whisk the dry ingredients in the measuring jug

Whisk the dry ingredients in the measuring jug

Pour the wet ingredients into a measuring jug and whisk.

Lightly mix the batter

Lightly mix the batter

Gently add to the dry ingredients and mix very lightly until it has just about incorporated – don’t overwork the batter otherwise the muffins will be tough. It’s perfectly alright if there are some tiny pockets of flour visible.

Coarse grated parmesan

Coarse grated parmesan

Grate some parmesan  using the coarse side of a box grater to get lovely long pieces of cheese rather than the finer more powdery output that is usual.

Filled muffin cups topped with cheeses

Filled muffin cups topped with cheeses

Divide as equally as possible among the cups of a 24 mini muffin pan (which have been very well  greased, hopefully with a saved butter wrapper). Use a dessert spoon and a rubber spatula to fill the cups and then top with the two cheeses.

Lovely and golden!

Lovely and golden!

IMG_40Tiny cheese muffins18

Cooling on a rack

I am submitting this recipe for September’s Cheese, Please! Recipe challenge as hosted by the informative and delicious blog Fromage Homage. Do go over and take a look at what she’s been up to – cooking with cheese, tasting it and travelling for it and making her own cheese. And she’s a mother – I am in awe!

Fromage Homage

Gorgeous Tiny Cheese Muffins

  • Servings: makes 24 mini muffins
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Barely adapted from Alexa Johnston, Ladies a Plate

INGREDIENTS

  • 180G flour
  • 3 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp Marigold bouillon powder or Knorr Aromat  powder or salt
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne powder (chilli powder)
  • 80g strong cheddar cheese coarsely grated
  • 2 Tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 large egg
  • 190ml milk
  • 2 or 3 Tbsp coarse grated parmesan cheese

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 190C/375F and thoroughly grease a 24 cup mini muffin tin.
  2. Measure out the flour into a medium size mixing bowl; whisk in the baking power, bouillon powder or salt and the cayenne. The salt either in the bouillon or itself is important as it activates the baking powder when the wet ingredients are added.
  3. Stir in the chopped parsley and 2/3rds of the cheddar cheese with a table knife, coating all the cheese and parsley with the flour mixture.
  4. Pour the milk into a measuring jug, crack the egg into it and whisk together.
  5. Pour the wet ingredients onto the dry and mix gently with the table knife until it is just combined. Don’t overwork the batter.
  6. Spoon into 24 mini muffin cups as evenly as possible. Top with the reserved cheddar and then with the parmesan.
  7. Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown and crispy.
  8. Remove to a wire rack to cool. They should pop out really easily.
  9. These are best, greedily devoured, warm of course but are delicious cold. They freeze well and are ideal to pop into a lunchbox where they will have thawed out by the time you are ready to eat. Lovely with soup or as a rustic nibble with drinks!

SUBSTITUTIONS

-Replace the parsley with finely chopped spring onions (scallions)

-Replace parsley with a couple of tablespoons of finely chopped sundried tomatoes and/or olives and one tsp of very finely chopped rosemary or dried oregano. Replace the cheddar with crumbled feta or goat’s cheese.

-Use smoked paprika instead of the cayenne

Goats’ Cheese, Onion and Potato Bread with Thyme

SO_0212_Leiths_Bread

Photo by Stuart Ovenden

I had a big birthday recently. Ok, so it was two years ago recently. Knowing full well my passion for food, my dissatisfaction with my job and my hive inducing reaction to big changes in my life, my dear friends N and J sent me on a food styling course at Leith’s Food and Wine in west London in the hopes that I might find a truer calling and stop the whining I was subjecting them to.

It was an amazing experience run by the lovely Sarah Cook, Deputy Food Editor of BBC Good Food magazine. One of our first tasks was to try and recreate the “money shot” on a ready meal using a pack of M&S lasagne. Well that was an eye opener. In the UK, one cannot use more food in the photo than is in the ready meal itself. So in order to make the lasagne look fuller as in the pack photo, the pasta was separated from the ragout and the sauce as best as we could manage. Then paper towels were scrunched up and strategically centred on the pasta whilst filling in the edges with what now looked to be a terribly generous portion of ragout. Apparently, we could have used cardboard to level the floppy pasta sheets. We also got to make and style a Greek salad and a fruit trifle, using our own props, both of which were challenging! The course culminated with a professional photo shoot using food we had made. Sarah brought in some amazing props which she has been collecting, magpie like over the course of her career and we got to work with the uber talented Stuart Ovenden Food/Lifestyle Photographer & Deputy Art Editor, Good Food Magazine at BBC Worldwide.

I realised fairly early on in the course that placing bits of parsley with a set of tweezers was not for me – I like a more natural finish which is not to say that I don’t appreciate a beautifully styled shot – I just don’t have the patience for it and can drive myself to distraction agonising over which berry should be at the front of the shot. So when it came time to decide what to make for the shoot I remembered a Delia Smith bread recipe that I had earmarked from a long time ago and thought I would give it a try. I mean, why make something I had tried before right? Luckily I had had some sort of foresight to buy extra chèvre because of course the first loaf, delicious as it was, looked a complete and hideous mess. The second one turned out beautifully but as I was now running late, I had to pack it (and its ugly older sister), still warm, loosely wrapped in its parchment paper into a basket along with some props which I thought we could use and schlep across London on Sunday public transport to the school. The Tube has never smelt so delicious as I sat there pretending that it had nothing to do with me!

The ugly sister

The ugly sister

Second loaf prior to baking

Second loaf prior to baking

My photo of the second loaf

My photo of the second loaf

I fretted all the way there worrying that I had done something too basic – it wasn’t even a yeasted bread…and when I got to the shoot, my worst fears were confirmed. One person had prepared a trio of beautiful tarts complete with chocolate decorations. Another had made a meze of three or four Lebanese dishes – from scratch. Someone else  had caramelised a pear and made a ginger pudding with chocolate sauce…a fourth was doing some fantastic wizardry with a sugar candy machine to make candy floss “ice cream” cones.

I sheepishly laid out my props on one of the tables and pulled out the loaf , smoothing out the parchment paper to let it finish off cooling.  Sarah came over and said how wonderful it smelled and looked, Stuart came over, smiled and asked if he could have a piece of the ugly sister to eat and went back to shooting and before I knew it, most of the ugly sister had been eaten by people coming over to take a look. Still feeling a little sheepish when it was my turn I hesitantly took it over to the table where Stuart was working. He practically snatched it out of my hands and told me that he wanted to shoot it as it was, on the parchment it had been baked in and transported on and that props really would not be necessary as it was such a beautiful thing on its own.  I was speechless. Can I tell you that I’m ridiculously proud that he included it on his gorgeous blog appledrane, here some time later?

Below are some of the images that were shot on the day. Aren’t they gorgeous?

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Looks aside, this is a really delicious bread, which smells wonderful. It is quick as no yeast is involved and goes well with a soup or with cold cuts. Yet another good candidate for a picnic.

GOAT'S CHEESE, ONION AND POTATO BREAD WITH THYME

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Adapted from Delia Smith
Makes one delicious loaf which will serve 4-6 people

INGREDIENTS

  • 180g log of firm goats cheese (chèvre)
  • 4 spring onions finely sliced
  • 1 spring onion coarsely sliced for the top
  • 175g (approx) red potato which is about a medium one
  • 1 generous Tbsp of chopped thyme leaves as well as a couple of sprigs for the top
  • 175g self raising flour plus a little more to sprinkle on the top
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 Tbsp (30ml) milk
  • 1 heaped tsp of grain mustard

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius.
  2. Lay a piece of parchment paper on a sturdy baking tray and butter a 6 inch loaf shaped area onto it.
  3. With a sharp knife, remove the rind as best as you can from the chèvre. Don’t worry if there are a few bits left on here and there. Then slice it into half inch cubes. Set aside about a 1/3 for the top.
  4. Sift the flour, salt and cayenne pepper into a bowl. I have found that I can get the same effect by putting all the ingredients into a bowl and using a balloon whisk to mix and aerate it.
  5. Peel the potato and coarsely grate it into the flour mixture. Tip in the finely sliced spring onions and 2/3’s of the cheese and mix it all together with a palette knife.
  6. Gently whisk the egg with the milk and mustard, then pour the mixture onto the dry ingredients. Using the palette knife, Bring it all together to a form a loose, rough dough.
  7. Tumble it onto the buttered parchment paper on the baking sheet and gently form it into a 6 inch (15 cm) rough loaf. Lightly press the rest of the cheese over the surface as well as the coarser chopped spring onion. Dust with a little flour and scatter over the small sprigs of thyme.
  8. Bake the bread on the middle shelf of the oven for 45-50 minutes or until golden brown. Remove it to a cooling rack and serve it still slightly warm if possible.

Makes one delicious loaf which will serve 4-6 people

© Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table, 2013. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material, including photographs without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Courgette, Feta and Thyme Bake

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Pinterest is the rabbit hole of the internet for me. It has led me to many a new discovery; from art to icons, amazing interiors and gardens and food of course. If there is one thing that can be said about Pinterest is that it is absolutely bursting at the seams with food pictures from pinners all over the world.

We have had an amazing summer this year and the courgettes have been absolutely delicious. Whilst I love them raw, shredded and dressed with lemon, olive oil with shavings of parmesan cheese and a sprinkle of fresh mint or griddlled and added to a couscous, I am always on the lookout for new recipes. So when I came across this pin which led me to this recipe, I knew that it would become a summer regular at my table. It is light and lemony with depth from the golden onions, salty with feta and with a wonderful herbal note from the thyme. It is absolutely delicious!

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You gently sauté an onion until it is golden, stir in some minced garlic and thyme leaves then sauté courgette slices until they have just started to soften and are coated in the delicious flavoured oil.

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You take a couple of eggs; and these are some of the most delicious eggs I have ever eaten, from a biodynamic farm in Sussex that I get from our local Farmers Market.

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Whisk them lightly, then stir in lemon juice, sour cream, grated parmesan and feta cheese.

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Layer a scant half of the courgettes in the bottom of a well buttered baking dish

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and cover with a really scant half of the egg mixture, spreading it as necessary to cover the courgettes.

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Then do the same again, finishing with a handful of halved cherry tomatoes.

After baking, let it cool down a little to have warm with some seared salmon or roast chicken or have as a lovely light lunch with a salad. It would also be terrific to take on a picnic.

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I had half a pack of feta left over which I find always goes off before I can use it. So this time I cubed and packed it into a tiny little jar with thyme and covered the cubes with olive oil and popped it in the fridge.  Use in salads or when roasting red peppers…

Courgette, Feta and Thyme Bake

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Adapted from Kalyn’s Kitchen.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 4 medium courgettes
  • 1-2 Tbsp worth of fresh thyme leaves depending on how much you like thyme
  • 1 Tbsp mild olive oil (don’t waste extra virgin on frying)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 150g sour cream which is half a tub
  • 100g feta cubed or crumbled
  • 2 Tbsp grated parmesan which you can judge by eyeballing the pile
  • 1/2 a lemon
  • A handful of cherry tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 190 degrees C.
  2. Start by warming the olive oil in the pan on a medium heat. Peel, halve and slice the onion into half moons and tip into pan, sprinkling with a little salt to help release the water in the onions. Wash the courgettes and slice into rounds that are about as thick a pound coin. Keep an eye on the onions, stirring from time to time so that they don’t catch and burn. Stir in the garlic and the thyme leaves. I added a splash of water to help keep everything going at this point. Then tip in the sliced courgettes and sauté for about 4 or 5 minutes – long enough to only just soften them and coat them in the lovely oil. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  3. Lightly whisk the eggs then stir in the sour cream, parmesan, feta, the juice from squeezing that lemon half and some cracked black pepper. It will feel thick and look a little curdled from the lemon juice. The cheeses are both quite salty so you shouldn’t need any additional salt.
  4. In a well buttered ovenproof dish, layer a scant half of the courgettes and cover with a very scant half of the egg mix. Repeat, finishing with a scattering of the halved cherry tomatoes.
  5. Bake for 25- 30 minutes. The original recipe call for 40 minutes but that is much too long in my oven that seems super hot. I checked after 20 minutes and it was almost done so I took it out after 30 minutes.
  6. Let it cool a little before serving warm.

Serves 6 as side dish or 4 as a light lunch with salad

© Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table, 2013. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material, including photographs without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.