Food

HNY!

wooden spoon

Merry 2016! And many apologies for the lengthy silence. I’d hoped to keep this blog going through my first term at Leiths but was caught off guard by the workload. 

It’s always been really important to me that the recipes here are my own. Of course they’re often inspired by other writers’s work or things I’ve eaten in restaurants but I’ll always give credit when that’s the case and the dishes, in the form they appear here, are my own inventions.

I don’t post anything here until it’s been tested and tweaked. It was never my intention to put up already-published recipes and write about my experience of cooking them (not least because it infringes copyright!) and during term time I didn’t have time to do a lot that wasn’t from How To Cook.

I've loved Leiths - having initially only signed up for the Foundation Certificate, I decided to stay on for the full Diploma - but it's definitely been strange having 20 years of experience and confidence in the kitchen dismantled and learning new (and very particular) ways of doing things.

For a while I felt a bit split personality-ish, the creative (if occasionally slapdash) home cook I saw myself as, at odds with the rigorously specific professional-level skills I was learning. But over the Christmas break the two halves seemed to come together into a more self-assured whole.

Term starts next week. I'm looking forward to it but have got a few things in the bag so should be able to return to regular updates here.

Coming very soon are some ideas for any Christmas leftovers that might be still hanging around and others for good-intentioned healthy New Year type stuff.

First though I wanted to try and distill some of what I've learned. Not the very technical stuff but things that will, hopefully, be useful to anyone who likes cooking and wants to raise their game a bit. 

1) Knife Skills

Rolling Chop and Clawhand are my new favourite superhero-and-sidekick duo. I knew about them before but, when not paying attention (most of the time), always reverted to cutting away from myself. This is much better. Smoother and easier as well as quicker. There are lots of tutorials online. This is a good one.

2) When In Doubt, Sieve

Not just flour for cakes and pastry, but beaten eggs prior to turning them into quiche or baked custards. Also creme Anglaise-style custards, soups, sauces and gravies after cooking to get a smoother texture. And boiled potatoes pushed through a sieve makes the best mash: way fluffier than you get with a ricer and easier to wash up too.

3) Blanche And Refresh

You know that bit just before you serve a roast dinner when you have to get the veg on and make the gravy but the meat needs carving, you're worried about the spuds burning and no one’s helping to lay the table? Well it all becomes much less stressful if you did all the veg was blanched and refreshed earlier.

Prep the carrots, beans, cabbage or whatever (almost anything except broccoli), cook them to al dente in boiling water then plunge into a bowl of cold water which stops the cooking and helps the colours stay fresh. Drain them and set aside covered with a damp piece of kitchen paper. Then they just need heating in boiling water right at the last minute. 

4) It's Open Season(ing)

I suppose I knew the difference between flavouring and seasoning before but I'd never really heard it articulated. If flavours have their own personalities, lending something of themselves to a dish, then seasonings are there to enhance the flavours that are already there. And its not just salt and pepper that fulfil this role. 

When thinking about this piece I was very struck by line from Rachel Roddy’s column in Saturday’s Guardian Cook section: “It’s the equivalent of a sound engineer, adjusting the balance, lifting deepening, sharpening, brightening, filling out, making things taste more like themselves.”

She’s talking about lemons but really could be referring to any seasoning. Salt, pepper, sugar, vinegar and so on. Anything that supports what’s there but doesn’t steal the limelight. Taste as you go and see what's needed. 

5) Plan Ahead

This doesn't have to be a minute-by-minute job as required at School. If cooking more than one thing, even a few lines scribbled on a Post-it with the order things need doing, oven temperatures and times etc. will be far easier than leafing backwards and forwards through recipe books or jabbing marinade-covered fingers at your smartphone.

 

Patty Or Cake?

I’m not sure what to call these. I hate it when something claims to be a “burger” when it’s not made of meat. The breadcrumb coating makes them look a bit like a fishcakes but “butternut squash cake” suggests something sweet and baked. So I have settled on patties, even though it is a word that gives me the heebie jeebies. Other suggestions gratefully received.

Like my last post, this was made strictly with things that were already in the house so their success gave me a bit of a frugal high.

They’re a bit autumnal and a bit tail-end-of-summer-y. There’s a lots of lovely contrasts going on: between the sweet squash and salty feta, then the hot patties and cool leaves, some tenderness, some crunch.

butternut feta patties

Butternut squash and feta patties with Tomato & mint salsa (serves 4)

Ingredients

  • 1 butternut squash
  • olive oil
  • 150g feta cheese
  • handful plain flour
  • 1 egg
  • 2 handfuls breadcrumbs
  • 100g cherry tomatoes
  • 1 red chilli
  • 1tsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 sprigs mint
  • 2 little gem lettuces

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Halve the butternut squash and scoop out the seeds. Season with salt and pepper and put a splash of olive oil in the cavity. Roast for 25ish minutes until tender (keep the oven on). Leave to cool then, when it’s handleable, scoop the flesh from the skin into a bowl.
  2. Crumble over the feta and season with black pepper. Mix with your hands then form into 8 evenly sized patties.
  3. Put the flour on one plate, the breadcrumbs on another and whisk the egg in a small bowl.
  4. Take the patties and roll them in the flour just to get a thin coating. Dip them in the egg and then in the breadcrumbs until evenly covered.
  5. Put the crumb-covered patties on a baking sheet and cook for 20 minutes, turning once.
  6. Meanwhile make the salsa. Cut the cherry tomatoes into eighths and put in a bowl with a splash of olive oil, the red wine vinegar, salt, pepper and pinch of sugar. Finely chop as much of the chilli as you like (I used about half) and add it. Just before serving shred the mint and add it to the salsa.
  7. Serve sandwiched between lettuce leaves with a spoonful of the salsa.

Ifs And Ands

  • Other sorts of squash, or even sweet potato, could do instead of the butternut. And blue cheese might be nice instead of feta.
  • I like the lettuce as it keeps things light but for a more substantial meal you could put the patties in pitta bread pockets or a bun instead.
  • Frying them in a little oil would make them crunchier albeit less healthy.

 

Green Light

Poor James. My husband is sad about the current direction this blog is taking. Too many salads, he thinks: “Why don’t you make a nice pie?”

Today’s recipe is not a salad but, sadly for James, neither is it a pie. And it is made out of avocado, which he hates. 

I was inspired by While We’re Young, Noah Baumbach’s comedy with Adam Stiler and Naomi Watts as disappointed Gen X-ers befriended by a hip millennial couple played by Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried. I really liked the film. It was sad and funny and everyone in it was great.

But I will admit that one detail stood out for me: Seyfried’s character, Darby, runs some kind of artisanal ice cream business and in one scene they try her “avocado and almond milk sorbet”. I think it’s supposed to convey something of the younger couple’s self-consciously cool, of-the-moment lifestyle. But doesn’t it also sound delicious? 

avocado almond sorbet

This turned out pretty well with a lovely texture, halfway between ice cream and sorbet, creamy but refreshing. Although it wasn’t as almondy as I hoped. Perhaps that’s down to the brand of milk I used? Alpro’s unsweetened stuff was a bit disappointing so perhaps nut milk aficionados could point me in the direction of a better one?  

avocado almond sorbet

A few toasted nut on top brought out what almond flavour there was though and pomegranate seeds were another good addition, providing a beautiful contrast visually and a pop of acid sweetness against the cool, creamy green. 

The whole thing is, I grant you, a little bit “wellnessfor which I apologise. Especially after all the recent courgetti. I’m not against Ella and her ilk, but I tend to feel they’re peddling a personal brand rather than anything more meaningful. Generally speaking I make salads etc. because I like them and because I like how I feel when I eat healthily. I’m not against pies or puddings or anything. I cooked this because I thought it would be nice and I make no claims about it's health-giving properties. 


Avocado & Almond Sorbet (serves 2)

Ingredients

  • 1 avocado
  • 150ml almond milk
  • 4tbsp agave nectar
  • squeeze of lime juice

Method

  1. Put all the ingredients in a food processor and whizz until creamy.
  2. Transfer the cream in an ice cream maker and churn until firm.
  3. Serve immediately with chopped toasted nuts, slivered almonds, berries or pomegranate seeds or store in the freezer (remember to remove 20 minutes before serving).

Ifs And Ands

  • Other nut milks could work instead of almond.
  • Add cocoa powder instead of lime for a richer, chocolatey dessert.
  • I used agave nectar here just because I couldn’t be bothered to make a sugar syrup, thought honey would overwhelm the other flavours and happened to have some in the cupboard. Either would be worth playing around with. 


KitchInspiration: (Lunch) Box Of Delights

I was talking to my friend Emily the other day who was sad about her lunch. Her midday meal, brought from home, was slimming but boring and consequently the working day had lost its spark.

What she wanted was something healthy but that felt “like the kind of lunch you look forward to”. Also, preferably something that could be prepared in a large-ish batch and kept in the fridge for several days so as to do for multiple lunches.

This rules out most green salady things. Lettuce would go wilty, cucumber soggy. Even cooked runner beans or peas go a bit grey after a day or so. Here, however, are three hearty-but-healthy dishes. All would be lovely on their own but I think would be even better with a handful of green. I would recommend keeping a bag of appropriate leaves in the fridge and adding a few on top of that day’s Tupperwared portion. It’s also worth finding a tiny jar (about the size that anchovy fillets come in) for transporting dressing. Just tuck it into the corner of the box and you’re ready to go. Old camera film canisters are really good for this if you have any knocking about.

All recipes make enough for three(ish) lunches.

chickpea carrot feta salad
chickpea carrot feta salad
chickpea carrot feta salad


Carrot, Chickpea & Feta Salad

This is adapted from a dish I ate on the final day of the Oxford Symposium On Food & Cookery. The lunch was a Greek Feast, curated by Aglaia Kremezifrom her book Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts.

The whole meal was delicious but I was particularly besotted with something billed as “Sauteed olives and carrots with preserved lemon and thyme”. This is inspired by her recipe but, since it's a lunch rather than part of a mezze spread, I've added chickpeas and feta. 

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 6 carrots
  • Juice of 3 oranges (or 100ml from a carton)
  • 3 or 4 sprigs of fresh thyme or a tbsp of dried
  • 1 tin chickpeas
  • 1 preserved lemon
  • 100g olives
  • 100g feta cheese

Method

  1. Heat a splash of olive oil in a large frying pan. Crush the garlic. Peel the carrots and cut them into pound-thick rounds. Add the garlic to the pan, then, almost immediately the carrots. Stir so everything is covered in olive oil, season generously and cook for a couple of minutes.
  2. Put in the orange juice, add the thyme and cook for 10 minutes. When it is nearly evaporated add the chickpeas and olives and continue to cook for a few minutes more.
  3. Remove the flesh from the preserved lemon and throw it away. Finely slice the rind and add to the pan, perhaps with a little bit of lemon juice, depending on how sharp the oranges were.
  4. Take the pan off the heat. When it has cooled, crumble in the feta.

  

Ifs And Ands

  • Try it in a pitta bread with houmous and rocket.
  • Use a similar method (without the orange juice) to cook courgettes.
cauliflower rice lentil salad
cauliflower rice lentil salad black garlic dressing


Cauliflower Rice Salad With Black Garlic Dressing

Sweet and smoky black garlic seems to be all over the place these days. It is particularly lovely in this dressing, even if I do say so myself. I know some branches of Sainsbury’s stock it but if you can’t find it available locally it’s easily got online.

Ingredients

  • 2 cauliflowers
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 100g puy lentils
  • 1 vegetable stock cube
  • ½ pomegranate
  • ½ bulb black garlic
  • 75ml olive oil (plus a little extra)
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 lemon

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Divide the cauliflower into florets and put a few at a time in the food processor. Whizz until they resemble rice. Lay the grains in a thin layer on a baking tray and toss with a little olive oil, salt, pepper and the cumin. Roast for 10 minutes.
  2. Cook the lentils in the stock as per instructions on the packet. Or until they are soft. I used Merchant Gourmet ones which claimed they would be ready in 20-26 minutes but it was a dirty lie and they took nearly 40.
  3. When the cauliflower and lentils and cool mix them with the pomegranate seeds.
  4. Put the black garlic in a food processor with the oil, mustard, zest of the lemon and a squeeze of juice. Season and blend until smooth. I won’t lie to you. It’s not pretty, being all weird and black and all. But it is delicious. Taste and add more lemon juice if necessary.
  5. In the morning add a handful of spinach leaves and take some dressing in a separate pot.

Ifs And Ands

  • If you can’t get hold of black garlic use a tbsp balsamic vinegar and a pinch of sugar instead.
  • I’ve left this as a veggie salad but it would go very well with a smoked mackerel fillet or some grilled chicken.
  • Slices of avocado or a few artichoke hearts from a jar would be good additions. Maybe even some cubes of cucumber (seeds removed) to add a bit of cooling crunch. 

 

sweet potato mexican salad

Sweet Potato, Black Bean & Chicken With Salsa Dressing

A vaguely "Mexican" lunch. Leave out the raw garlic if your desk is very close to your co-workers'...

Ingredients

  • 2 sweet potatoes
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika (smoked if possible)
  • 300g cherry tomatoes
  • olive oil
  • 1tsp chilli flakes
  • 2 chicken breasts or equivalent amount of leftover roast chicken
  • 1 lime
  • 1 tin black beans
  • ½ bunch spring onions
  • 1 tbsp pickled jalapenos
  • 1 clove garlic

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Peel and chop the sweet potatoes into bitesize chunk and toss them, on a baking tray with a splash of olive oil and the cinnamon, cumin and paprika. Put the cherry tomatoes in another oven-proof dish, splash over a little more oil, sprinkle on the chilli flakes and season with salt and pepper. Put everything in the oven for 15 minutes.
  2. Squeeze the lime into a bowl. Put the chicken breasts in a pan with some salt and the squeezed lime shells. Cover with water, bring to the boil, simmer for 10 minutes then remove and allow to cool. (For more information, the excellent Kitchn website has a good guide to poaching chicken.)
  3. Drain the beans and put them in a large bowl. Finely chop the spring onion and mix them in.
  4. When the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, remove their skins - they should have split during roasting and just slip off. If not, don’t worry. It’s not a big deal. Put them and their roasting juices in the bowl with the lime juice and squish everything with your hands until it becomes a chunky sauce (or use a blender for a smoother result). Finely chop the jalapenos, crush the garlic and add those too. Season with salt and pepper. If you want it spicier add a bit of Tabasco or other hot sauce.
  5. Tear the chicken into shreds and add it to the big bowl, along with the sweet potato. Mix everything together and then leave the salad and the salsa in the fridge overnight.
  6. In the morning transfer to your lunchbox. Bring a little jar of the salsa with you and pour it on at lunchtime.

Ifs And Ands

  1. If you can be bothered in the morning chop an avocado and add it to the salad along with a handful of coriander leaves. 
  2. You could add the salsa to the salad as it sits in the fridge so the flavours will mingle. It will get a little soggy but not in an unpleasant way.
  3. Bring a little gem lettuce with you and fill the leaves with forkfuls of salad before taking a bite.
  4. It would work with butternut squash or any other kind of pumpkin-like thing instead of the sweet potato.

Pesto Manifesto

When to comes to food, I’ve never believed that authenticity is paramount. Like language, cuisines evolve. I spent quite a while bemoaning text speak, lols and so on but came to realise that, while it might not be how I choose to express myself, it all makes perfect sense to plenty of people. Everything is in motion and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.

What does piss me off, linguistically and culinarily, is when definitions are stretched to the point of meaninglessness.  “Literally” was a useful word, goddamit! And so was “pesto”.

spinach blue cheese hazelnut pesto

I remember when pesto first became a thing in the UK (a good couple of decades before saying “a thing” became a thing). I was in my teens and it blew my mind. Before too long along came “red pesto” made with sundried tomatoes (they were still pretty exciting back then too). But these days so many things get called “pesto” it’s hard to keep up.

Sacla, the best known manufacturer here and, almost undoubtedly, suppliers of my first pesto fix, now make 12 different varieties, not including the “free from” and organic versions.

 Results of a recent trip to the supermarket...

Results of a recent trip to the supermarket...

The internet is also full of version using everything from kale to Brazil nuts. I even found a couple of of people touting recipes for “sweet pesto”.

The people of Liguria must surely disapprove? The north-western Italian province is pesto’s spiritual home. They like the stuff so much they have a bi-annual competition to see who makes the best. 

But no truffles or chargrilled aubergines for them. Ligurian pesto must be made by hand, with pestle and mortar, using only basil, olive oil, pine nuts, garlic, salt and pecorino and parmesan cheeses.

No doubt delicious but perhaps a little restrictive. The word “pesto” is derived from the Italian for “pounded” so, technically, any sort of paste is a pesto. But that’s going too far the other way for me though towards meaninglessness. A look at the ingredients on all those different Sacla jars reveals little common ground.

Alan Davidson, in the indispensable Oxford Companion To Food notes that “Sometimes other nuts are used, walnuts perhaps or in the small port of Camogli, hazelnuts.” Also: “A full discussion my be found in Plotkin.”

This Plotkin chap - Fred -  of whom I was previously unaware, turns out to be a much-feted American food writer and expert on Italy. His book Recipes From Paradise contains 16 different pesto recipes including one bulked out with spinach “for when basil is costly” and versions without nuts or dairy.

They still all contain basil though and I think I am willing to be even more fluid on this point.

I have therefore come up with my own Pesto Manifesto:
Anything I am going to refer to as “pesto” must contain three thing: something green, some nuts and some cheese. That’s it.

Having decided this when it came to lunchtime today and my foragings in the fridge and cupboards turned up some spinach, blue cheese and hazelnuts I decided I was within my rights to call the resultant concoction a pesto. I ate it with yet more courgetti and a tomato salad. It was pretty tasty so I think I can live with a little Ligurian disapproval.

spinach blue cheese hazelnut pesto


Spinach, Blue Cheese And Hazelnut Pesto (serves 2)

Ingredients

  • large handful of spinach
  • 40g blue cheese (I used Blue d’Auvergne)
  • 50g chopped roasted hazelnuts
  • 1 garlic clove
  • juice and zest of half a lemon

Method

  1. Put everything in a food processor with some black pepper and blend to desired consistency. I like it with discernable nuttiness. Taste for salt and add more if needed.
  2. Serve with courgette spaghetti or, hell, the real thing, a good gr and a few more hazelnut pieces scattered on top.

Ifs And Ands

  • This whole thing is about ifs and ands! The possibilities seem endless.
  • I think next up feta, rocket and pistachio for me. What else have you tried?




Give A Fig

There is a fig tree in the garden. It was here when we moved in. I am fond of it but our relationship isn’t easy. By the end of last summer it was huge so I cut it back a bit.

This year it has produced a few figs but hidden them right at the top and put all the rest of its energy into growing leaves. I can only imagine it is sulking and does these things to spite me.

baked figs with feta

Fortunately my neighbours also have a fig tree and theirs is more even tempered. Not the neighbours who gave me the vine leaves, the ones on the other side. Yesterday they saw me coming home and pressed some newly ripe fruit into my hands.

It was lunchtime so I made this salad. A nice combination of sweet, salty and sharp with just enough garlic in the dressing to give it a kick.

baked figs with feta

Baked Figs With Feta, Rocket Salad (serves 2)

Ingredients

  • 4 fresh figs
  • 60g feta
  • Olive oil
  • 2 handfuls rocket
  • ¼ pomegranate
  • 30g pine nuts
  • 1 orange
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 sprigs mint

Method

  1. Get rid of any tough stalks the figs might have and cut a cross into each one so it is divided into quarters, but still attached at the bottom. Put them in an ovenproof dish.
  2. Break the feat into large chunks and divide it between the figs. Drizzle over a little olive oil and season with black pepper. Bake for 15 minutes or until you can see the cheese begin to colour.
  3. Meanwhile, arrange the rocket on a serving platter or two individual plates. Toast the pine nuts in a dry frying pan until golden and separate the pomegranate seeds. Scatter both over the rocket.
  4. When the figs are done take them out of the oven and pour any pan juices into a food processor. Add the skinned garlic clove in a food processor, 30mls olive oil and the orange juice and zest. Blitz then taste and season with salt and pepper. Maybe a little lemon juice if the orange is particularly sweet. Finely shred the mint leaves.
  5. Carefully nestle the figs on top of the rocket. Drizzle on the dressing and sprinkle over the mint.

Ifs And Ands

  • Most of the elements here are interchangeable. Goats or blue cheese would work in place of the feta. And spinach, perhaps wilted slightly, instead of the rocket. Toasted chopped hazelnuts or almond slivers could stand in for the pine nuts.
  • The orange dressing works well with oily fish. Try it on a grilled mackerel and spinach salad.
  • A small spoonsful of capers is a good addition too, briging a bit more acidity.

 

Courgetti

I am back! And although summer seems to be on its way out, today is the first day in what feels like ages that I haven't stared out of the kitchen window at drizzle. It was even suny enough to eat lunch in the garden and, to celebrate, this is what I ate.

courgettie spaghetti shrimps

Just four ingredients and not many more minutes to put together but delicious. All the components have a certain sweetness but it manifests in a different way for each: the courgette is nutty, the shrimps fishy and the tomatoes slightly tart. And butter isn't bad for you any more so even with the small amount I used to make things luxurious it's still super healthy.

Shrimp & Cherry Tomato "Courgetti" (serves 1)

Ingredients

  • small slice of butter (10ish grams)
  • 1 courgette
  • handful cherry tomatoes
  • 50g cooked brown shrimp

Method

  1. Turn the courgette into noodles with a julienne peeler or spiralizer. I used a peeler here because I prefer the the results: shorter, slightly thicker "noodles" that don't go quite as soggy. But either is fine. Discard the seedy centre - put it aside for soup or something. 
  2. Cut the cherry tomatoes into eighths. 
  3. Melt the butter in a large frying pan and add the tomatoes. After a minute put in the courgette noodles and, after one more, the shrimp. Everything should be heated through but the courgette should still be a bit "al dente". As soon as the shrimp are warm, seasone with salt and pepper and serve. 

Ifs And Ands

  • A squeeze of lemon wouldn't go amiss. Likewise some torn basil leaves to scatter over. 
  • You could replace the shrimp with prawns or scallops or but, if cooking from raw, they would have to go in the pan first. Flakes of cooked salmon would be nice too. 


KitchInspiration: Who Do? Yuzu!

Alice writes:

I have a food challenge for you. What to do with the yuzu juice I got in my Christmas stocking, possibly not even in 2014, and have so far used precisely once? Its only outing was as part of the dressing for a crunchy Asian-inspired salad with some smoked oily fish of some sort, if I remember rightly. 


Yuzu is one of those ingredients that seemed to come from nowhere. A few years ago I’d never heard of the Japanese fruit and now it’s all over the place in salad dressings and cocktails and so on. 

Although, having said that, you can't really get them whole in this country, only the bottled juice. And I couldn’t even find that in my local Oriental supermarket so had to make do with this “citrus seasoning” that I found in Sainsburys. I’ve had it in restaurants though and this is pretty close (not to mention cheaper). Just to make sure the whole thing wasn’t a big con, I did a blind taste test against some bottled lemon juice and am pleased to report that you can definitely tell them apart. The yuzu is sweeter and slightly more floral, still tangy but not as outright sour as the lemon. It fits with the most common description of it which is being like a cross between a lemon and a mandarin. 

Although I must sound a warning note and say that my bottle claims it must be consumed within four weeks of opening so I’m not sure how advisable it is to use your stocking filler at all...

Nevertheless, if you do decide to throw caution to the exotic, citrussy winds, maybe the following will be of use...

yuzu salad dressing

Summer Vegetable Salad With Yuzu Soy Dressing

This is probably not dissimilar to the dressing you made once before. But I think the salad dressing is yuzu's natural home in the world of savoury things so I am going to include it anyway, mainly for the benefit of anyone who hasn't tried it. Also, all these vegetables are in season right now and make for a nice British-meets-Asian sort of vibe. It would go well with a tuna steak or a few slices of tofu, fried on a high heat to crisp them up a bit.

Ingredients

  

  • 2tbsp sesame seeds (I used one each of golden and black but it doesn’t really make a difference except aesthetically)
  • 200g baby courgettes
  • 4tbsp sesame oil
  • 3tbsp soy sauce
  • 4tbsp yuzu juice
  • 1tsp sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 200g green beans
  • 200g tenderstem broccoli
  • 1 small, ripe mango
  • 1 red chilli

Method

  1. Toast the sesame seeds in a large dry frying pan for a couple of minutes then set aside.
  2. Trim the baby courgettes and cut each in half. Crush the garlic and put it in the pan with 1tbsp of sesame oil over a high heat. Add the courgettes in a single layer and leave, undisturbed for a minute. Check to see if they have taken on any colour. If they are going a but golden brown turn them and give them a minute on the other side. Add 1tbsp yuzu juice and let them cook until it evaporates (should be pretty quick). When done put the courgettes into your salad bowl.
  3. Steam the beans and the broccoli for five or six minutes. They should be tender but with bite. Add them to the courgettes when they’re done.
  4. Peel the mango and cut it into smallish slices. Deseed and finely chop the chilli. Slice the spring onions into thin rounds. Add them all to the bowl, along wth the seasme seeds.
  5. Put 3tbsp each of soy sauce, seame oil and yuzu juice into a jar or salad dressing bottle with the sugar and shake. Pour over the salad and toss so everything is combined. Serve.

Ifs And Ands

  • This works warm or cold and can be adapted to almost any green vegetable.
  • The dressing would also be good over steamed Bok Choi or Choi Sum as a side dish.


Delicious but not terribly original. I think things might get more interesting yuzu-wise if one turned to sweet stuff. Apparnetly the zest is very fragrant but, since we only have the juice in the UK, we will have to do without it.

yuzu meringue pie

Yuzu & Thyme Meringue Pie

I’ve adapted Theo Randall’s exemplary lemon tart recipe to become a yuzu meringue pie.

I sometimes find the fillings of lemon meringue pies a bit gummy and not lemony enough. Even Delia’s I’m afraid (the cornflour, I think). And although the Randall tart is the best I've ever come across, I was always a bit saddened by the egg whites that went to waste when I made it. So when I hit on the idea of whipping the otherwise-wasted whites with sugar to turn the tart into a super-lemony pie I was terribly pleased with myself. 

Here, I just replaced the lemon with yuzu and, ooking for something aromatic to replace the unavailable zest, experimented with thyme which worked really well. Also I had some sesame seeds left over from making the salad so they went in the pastry.

Ingredients

  • 175g (6oz) plain flour
  • 50g (1¾oz) icing sugar
  • 120g (4oz) butter
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 4 whole eggs
  • 130ml yuzu juice
  • bunch of thyme
  • 400g sugar
  • 200g butter

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 190C/gas mark 5.
  2. Combine the flour, icing sugar and butter in a food processor or with finger tips until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Mis in the sesame seeds and then add two egg yolks and work lightly with your hands to form a ball of pastry. Wrap this in clingfilm and leave to chill in the fridge for an hour.
  3. Divide the ball into eight and roll each piece out into a circle to fit inside a 10cm mini flan tin. Or else use a single 22cm one. Put a circle of baking paper inside each and fill with baking beans, rice or coins.
  4. Bake for 10-15 minutes (take them out when the pastry is turning golden brown) then remove from the oven and take out the baking beans. Leave the oven on though.
  5. Meanwhile, put the yuzu juice, butter, 200g sugar and thyme in a glass bowl over a pan of boiling water and heat until the butter has melted and the sugar dissolved. Remove the thyme and discard.
  6. Beat the eggs and egg yolks together and add to the pan. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture acquires a custard-y, lemon curd-y consistency. Give it a whisk if it looks a bit lumpy. When it’s ready, pour the filling into the pastry.
  7. Whisk half of the egg whites until they are white, fluffy and retain the shape of a peak when the whisk is lifted. You could do it by hand but personally I think anyone who does is insane. What are they trying to prove? When the whites are like little fluffy clouds, whisk in the remaining 200g sugar, bit by bit, until the meringue is glossy.
  8. Spoon it on top of the pie filling and put the whole lot in the oven for 15 minutes or until the meringue is going brown on top. Then take it out and leave to cool before serving. Personally I think it's even better after a night in the fridge.

Ifs And Ands

  • Even if you don’t have any yuzu, I would make Theo Randall’s tart. It’s delicious. With or without meringue on top. I bet it would be nice made with lime too.
  • Fresh ginger might work instead of the thyme.
  • I considered adding a tiny bit of wasabi paste to the meringue but lost my nerve. Maybe on a future occasion - a bit of heat would fight the sweetness.
  • Freeze the leftover egg yolks for another time. Whisk them up with the others (with an extra 50g sugar per egg white) and blob onto a baking tray. Cook overnight in a very low oven for crunchy meringues of the kind needed to make Eton Mess.

 

Other Yuzu-Inspired Ideas

I didn't have time to try all of these out but they are worth considering.

  • Try mixing a spoonful or two into some mayonnaise for dipping tempura or panko-fried prawns into.
  • A yuzu jelly would be lovely, as would a sorbet.
  • Cocktails also seem the way to go. Try equal parts yuzu juice and vodka topped up with Champagne or prosecco and a couple of crushed mint leaves. (Add a bit of sugar syrup if you like it sweeter).
  • The reliable, but fancy, Great British Chefs website also has some ideas.
  • Now, after saying the word "yuzu" over and over again just try getting the  music from Labyrinth out of your head. I’ve had it going round my head the whole time I was thinking about this question...

UPDATE (03/09/2015): Since writing this I have been thinking more about yuzu. It sort of plagued me. I could taste it in my sleep and didn't fully feel I had done it justice. I saw a reccomendation for these Yuzu Sake truffles from Prestat and thought that sounded like a good combination, especially with the white chocolate.

The idea of a yuzu-flavoured creme brulee also occurred to me. Perhaps with chunks of mango at the bottom. 
 

It's Bean Salad (And Still Is)

In idle moments I sometimes like to consider which is my favourite vegetable. Definitely something green as I always feel a meal is incomplete without a bit of verdancy on the plate. But is it broccoli - not only delicious but lends itself to the fantasy that I am a giant, pulling up and eating whole trees? Or asparagus, so perfect but available so briefly?

green bean salad

Both are contenders but so is the relatively humble green bean. I love a green bean. I just came across a nice piece from a couple of years ago in which Bee Wilson extols their virtue but points out that the Kenyan sort are so readily available that we don’t always appreciate the British ones when they’re in season.

Yet they’re in shops right now and worth making the most of!

It’s true that summer beans are delicious with no more than a slick of butter and a grinding of black pepper but I thought they were worth fussing over a bit too. Hence this salad which would make a good accompaniment to chicken or lamb or as part of a mezze-ish spread.

green bean salad

I’ve specified half a bulb of garlic (about six cloves) to be roasted for the dressing but I’ve taken to just sticking one or two whole bulbs in the oven whenever I’m using it for something savoury and keeping the cloves in a small airtight container in the fridge. That way I’ve always got the sweet and mellow cloves on hand for blending into dressing and marinades, mashing with potatoes, stirring into mayonnaise etc.


Fine Bean Salad With Tahini Dressing (serves 4 as a side)

Ingredients

  • 350g fine beans
  • ½ garlic bulb
  • 1 red onion
  • 1tsp cumin seeds
  • 1tbsp sesame seeds
  • 200g cherry tomatoes
  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp chilli flakes
  • 3tbsp light tahini
  • 1tsp honey
  • 1 preserved lemon

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Chop the onion in half and then into roughly 1cm slices. Separate the slices into layers and scatter onto a baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat them evenly.
  2. Slice the cherry tomatoes in half and place them, cut side up, on top of the onions (which should act as balancing aids). Sprinkle the tomatoes lightly with salt and the chilli flakes.
  3. Separate the garlic into cloves and find a little space for them at the side of the tray. Put the whole lot in the oven and cook for 20 minutes.
  4. Top and tail the beans. Boil them until tender but still with a bit of a bite (about five minutes). Drain and set aside to cool.
  5. Toast the cumin seeds in a dry frying pan until they begin to smell fragrant then remove to a pestle and mortar and grind. Use the same pan to toast the sesame seeds until golden.
  6. When they are cool enough to handle remove the garlic cloves from their skin and put them in a food processor with the ground cumin seeds, tahini, honey, preserved lemon (cut into quarters) and 75ml water. Blend until smooth. This gives a spoonable dressing but if you prefer something more liquid then add a little more water. You’ll need about half of it here (it’s hard to make in smaller quantities) but the leftover will keep in a jar in the fridge for at least a week.
  7. Arrange the beans, side by side, in a dish. Spoon over the dressing so as to make a stripe that leaves the ends of them naked. Then arrange the onions and tomatoes on top of the dressing in another stripe. Sprinkle the whole with sesame seeds and finely chopped parsley and serve. (Of course you don’t have to be so fussy with the presentation. You could just toss it all together in a bowl and it would taste just as nice. Although don’t want to go lining up the green beans I would advise mixing them with the dressing then topping with the tomatoes and onions, otherwise it really will look a bit of an unappetising mess.)

Ifs And Ands

  • The dressing and topping would work well with other green veg. Sprouting broccoli would be particularly good when it comes into season. It would be nice with roasted butternut squash too.
  • Or as a dip for pitta bread and crudites. 
  • I bought some pumpkin seed "butter" from a health food shop the other day which turned out to be horrible on toast but works OK in dressings. You could replace the tahini with any seed or nut butter and then top the salad with matching seeds/nuts. 





 

FOMO Fro-Yo

Right. This really is the last recipe sparked by our recent jaunt to the Port Eliot Festival. Apologies for banging on about it so much but it was such a creatively lively event and sparked so many ideas.

I had some delicious frozen yoghurt from a stall called Hedgerow which I was keen to recreate. 

elderflower frozen yoghurt

I can’t normally get terribly excited about frozen yoghurt. Not the massively overpriced stuff on the highstreet anyway. I think it’s because I hate the way most of it is branded: a weird mixture of feminine guilt (“Dessert is so naughty! Have this sin-free treat!”) and sex, all tricked out in shades of hot pink and faux-flirty slogans. Ugh.

hedgerow

But Hedgerow weren’t doing any of those things and had an Elderflower & Honey flavoured yoghurt which sounded lovely. I bought a small serving and indeed it was.

I’ve made frozen Greek yoghurt a few times, just by stirring in honey and churning it in the machine. It comes out really creamy and is a great accompaniment to baklava. But this was more tangy and milky so I used Yeo Valley’s “Natural” yoghurt in my replication attempt.

This is super simple but makes a really light and refreshing dessert.

 

Elderflower & Honey Frozen Yoghurt (for two servings)

Ingredients

  • 200g plain natural yoghurt
  • 60ml elderflower cordial
  • 2tbsp honey

Method

  1. Mix all the ingredients together and churn in an ice cream maker.
  2. Best eaten as soon as it’s ready with berries and a little more honey drizzled over the top. If you’re going to keep the yoghurt in the freezer take it out 20 minutes before serving so it has time to soften.

Ifs And Ands

  • Add a little lemon zest and juice. But be careful as the elderflower flavour is easily overwhelmed.
  • Cook berries with a little sugar and put them through a sieve to make a puree. Stir into the yoghurt instead of the cordial.