Lamb and beetroot burgers with feta

This Delicious beetroot, lamb and feta recipe is the first in a short series of posts using beetroot. It is part of a campaign by Love beetroot to change the way we look at beetroot and see what a versatile ingredient it really is. On Friday morning I took delivery of this beautifully packaged box of beetroot. Continue reading

Chicken chasseur

A week or so back I was contacted by the Provence tourist board with the email subject line being “A (hopefully) interesting proposition”. I open the email and read on with interest but unfortunately it wasn’t a break for two in Provence! Instead they were offering me a box of French products to cook with. The exact contents of the pack were unknown but lavender was more than likely to be included.

Now as you’re all aware I cook more than my fair share of Italian dishes so I knew this wouldn’t be easy. I thought about it though and decided it would be good to challenge myself to step out of my comfort zone. I agreed and a few days later a box was delivered to my house. I opened the box and the smell of lavender filled my home. The box contained dried lavender suitable for cooking with, lavender infused olive oil, bay leaves, goats cheese biscuits and seasoned dried tomato paste. A bit of a random combination I’m sure you’ll agree so they definitely weren’t all going to be in the same dish.

I grabbed my some what neglected and dusty copy of Larousse gastronomique from the book shelf and sat down to research the cooking in Provence and in particular the use of lavender. Unfortunately I found little inspiration or help in this my only French cook book. I’ll admit I haven’t used this book much but I thought this would be the perfect opportunity. I found it difficult to find a recipe in the book and there was no mention of lavender at all. So I headed off to the internet. I found a few really detailed and useful posts on cooking with lavender and making lavender sugar on prepped. I also found a wide variety of French recipes on delicious magazine’s website.

So far I have prepared some lavender sugar following the directions from prepped and in a week or so it will be ready for me to use and I already know what I am going to make with it but I will leave that for another blog post.With the more savoury ingredients I cooked chicken chasseur last night and I have to say it was delicious. A real eye opener that I need to push myself outside of my comfort zone of British and Italian cooking and try more different cuisines and recipes in general. The smells coming from the kitchen whilst it was simmering away were mouth watering. I suspect a big hit of flavour came from the dried tomato paste. Even before I put it in the pan it smelt fantastic. The ingredients are dried tomatoes, sunflower oil, peeled tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, mozzarella, salt and pepper. I’ve never paid much attention to the tomato pastes available in the supermarkets over here and stuck to simple tomato puree/paste but I’ll be on the look out for something similar in the future. I served the chicken chasseur with some crushed new potatoes and it was the perfect meal for a rainy monday evening.

So that only leaves the goats cheese biscuits (some of which got crushed in the post) so I imagine they’ll make good “croutons” with a salad and the lavender infused olive oil. I have no idea what to do with the oil so if any one has ever used it I would love to know what it works well for.

Chicken chasseur
From Delicious magazine
Serves 2

4 skinned and boned chicken thighs
2 large fresh thyme sprigs, leaves picked
olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/2 tbsp tomato purée
100ml dry white wine
100ml chicken stock
150g small chestnut mushrooms, halved
1 bay leaf
100g fresh or canned chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp fresh flatleaf parsley, chopped

  • Open out the chicken thighs and place skinned-side down on a work surface. Sprinkle with half the thyme and some seasoning, roll back into shape and tie at each end with string.
  • Heat a deep, non-stick frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add 1 tbsp oil and fry the chicken pieces until golden all over. Set aside.
  • Add more oil if needed, the shallot and garlic to the pan.
  • Fry for 4-5 minutes until lightly browned.
  • Stir in the purée, cook for 1 minute, add the wine and stock, and bring to the boil.
  • Return the chicken to the pan with the mushrooms, remaining thyme, bay leaves and some seasoning.
  • Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Uncover, stir in the tomatoes and simmer for 30-35 minutes.
  • Turn the chicken now and then, cooking until the chicken is tender and the sauce has reduced.
  • Sprinkle with the parsley and serve with mashed potatoes or new potatoes.

Book review: One more slice, Leila Lindholm

This book was my first introduction to Leila Lindholm. She is a Swedish TV chef (I’m not sure that any of her shows have been shown in the UK but I could be wrong), author (this is her fourth book) and has be extensively featured in Delicious, Easy Living and Elle magazine.

This book follows on from her previous book, A piece of cake and includes recipes for breads, pizza’s, fresh pasta, brownies, cheesecakes,  ice creams, pies, pancakes and waffle. I love the photography throughout the book. It’s a wonderful book to pick up and flick through for the photos alone. But if you did you would be missing out as the recipes are really simple, use standard, easy to get hold of ingredients and look and sound delicious. Leila’s enthusiasm for baking is evident throughout.

There is something for everyone in this book. For each section there are basic recipes e.g. for pizza sauces and dough or for brownies and then Leila gives you lots of variations. If you like brownies then you might like after eight brownies or raspberry brownies or how about rocky road brownies or brownie cupcakes (to name just a few of the brownie recipes).

There are many recipes I want to try in this book but I went straight to the bread section “boulangerie” and tried out one on the nine kinds of baguette included in the book. I chose to bake birdie num-num bread, partly because I had all the ingredients in and partly as I just love the name! The recipe was simple to follow and the resulting baguettes delicious. I used my baguette tray to make two of them and had to make the other two on a flat baking sheet. The ones on the flat baking sheet didn’t work so well, they collapsed into a wide flat loaf of bread! The book talks about using a baguette tray or baking sheet I don’t know if anyone has had more sucess than me with using baking sheets but I’ll be halving the recipe next time and using the baguette tray! New Holland Publishers have kindly agreed for me to publish this recipe below. I can’t wait to bake another recipe from this book and I know this will be a well used book in my ever growing cookbook collection.

My birdie num num baguette straight from the oven

One more slice is available to buy now for £19.99. New Holland Publishers, are offering my readers a 25% discount and free post and packaging if you buy it direct from their website and enter the discount code purely. This offer is valid until 30th September 2011 to UK residents only. Discount cannot be used in conjunction with other offers!

Thank you to New Holland Publishers for my review copy of this book and for allowing me to share the recipe for birdie num num with my readers.

Delicious with cheese and tomatoes

basic recipe
makes 4 baguettes
dough one ( starter)
5 g (1/4 oz) fresh yeast
300 ml (10 fl oz) cold water
325 g (11 oz) strong bread flour

1. For the starter: crumble the yeast in a mixing bowl and dissolve it in the water.
2. Add the flour and mix it until the loose dough is smooth.
3. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and let it rise for at least
4 hours at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator.

dough two
15 g (1/2 oz) fresh yeast
300 ml (10 fl oz) cold water
1 portion dough one (starter)
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
450–550 g (1 lb–1 lb 4 oz) strong bread
flour
oil for the trays
sea salt

1. For dough two: crumble the yeast in a mixing bowl, add the water and mix.
2. Add dough one, salt, sugar and then the flour until the dough holds together. Work the dough in a mixer at low speed for around 15 minutes.
3. Let the dough rise under a cloth for around 11/2 hours.
4. Preheat the oven to 240°C (475°F/gas 9).
5. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface, divide it into four pieces and carefully press each piece into a rectangle with your fingers.
6. Fold in a long side of each rectangle, roll it up and shape the ends into points.
7. Twist the baguettes once and place them on a well-oiled baguette tray (or a regular baking tray).
8. Let them rise under a cloth for about an hour.
9. Brush the baguettes with water and sprinkle with sea salt. Make a few incisions diagonally across each baguette with a sharp knife and immediately put the tray in the middle of the hot oven.

10. When the baguettes have coloured a little, lower the temperature to 200°C (400°F/gas 6).
11. Bake until the breads have been in the oven for a total of around 30 minutes, then let them cool on a rack.

birdie num-num baguette

makes 4 baguet tes
1 portion baguette dough (see basic recipe below)
50 g (2 oz) mixed seeds – poppy, sesame, sunflower and pumpkin
oil for greasing
sea salt

1. Preheat the oven to 240°C (475°F/gas 9).
2. Make the baguettes according to the basic recipe and let them rise on a greased tray.
3. Brush with water, sprinkle with seeds and sea salt.
4. Immediately place the tray in the middle of the oven.
5. When the baguettes have gained a little colour, lower the temperature to 200°C (400°F/gas 6).
6. Bake until the breads have been in the oven for a total of around 30 minutes, then let them cool on a rack.

Courgette, feta and thyme frittata

 Today I have a very simple and quick summer dish that is as delicious as it is simple to prepare. This recipe came about because we bought courgettes at our local market at the weekend and had too many for our go to courgette recipe of balsamic courgettes. This made a delicious, light after work supper but I can imagine it would be even better for lunch in the garden or on a picnic.

Courgette, feta and thyme frittata

Serves 2
1tbsp olive oil
1 clove of garlic, finely diced
2 courgettes, grated
100g feta, crumbled
4 eggs, beaten
3 sprigs of thyme, leaves only
Salt and pepper

  • Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Pre-heat your grill to high.
  • Fry the garlic and courgette for a few minutes until softened.
  • Season the beaten eggs with salt and pepper. Pour over the courgette mixture in the frying pan.
  • Add the thyme leaves and feta to the pan. Stir to mix everything together before the eggs start to cook.
  • Once mixed, allow to cook until the base of the frittata starts to set.
  • Place the frying pan under the grill and cook for a further 5 minutes or until the top is set and golden.

Ottolenghi’s sweetcorn polenta

I saw this recipe on this years Masterchef. It really stuck in my head but it wasn’t until getting back from Italy a few weeks back that I searched out the recipe. We ate so much delicious meat out there (in particular delicious wild boar ragus and the best proscuitto I’ve eaten) that towards the end of our holiday we started to crave fish and vegetarian food. This was one of the first dishes I cooked on our return to the UK. It didn’t disappoint, a truly delicious vegetarian dish as we have come to expect from Ottolenghi. I adapted the recipe to use frozen corn as we couldn’t find any fresh. It was delicious anyway, definitely one to make again. Oh and the polenta is feta and sweetcorn blended in to a ‘polenta’. Much nicer than ordinary polenta which I am not a fan of. Such a delicious balance of salty (feta) and sweet (the corn). You can find he original recipe here. Below is my adapted sweetcorn polenta recipe. I haven’t included the recipe for the aubergine sauce served with it as it is exactly as described by Ottolengi in his original recipe.

Sweetcorn polenta

Serves 2

400g frozen sweetcorn

water

10g butter

100g feta, crumbled

Pinch of salt

freshly ground black pepper

  • Place the sweetcorn in a small saucepan and add just enough water to cover it.
  • Add half the butter and simmer over a low heat for 5 minutes or until the corn is cooked.
  • Use a slotted spoon to transfer the sweetcorn to a food processor. Blitz for a few minutes to break up the kernels as much as possible. If the mixture seems too dry add some of the cooking water.
  • Return the corn paste to the saucepan (now drained of the remaining cooking water).
  • Cook (stirring frequently) until the mixture thickens and resembles mashed potato.
  • Add the remaining butter, feta and season with salt and pepper.
  • Stir to combine and cook for two minutes.

Irish soda bread

As much as I enjoy making yeasted bread, sometimes I just don’t have the time to wait three hours for a loaf. This is where I find soda bread comes in as it can be ready in under an hour. I’ve tried a few recipes but never found one I’ve loved and wanted to repeat. That was until this weekend. This recipe will be repeated in my kitchen very soon. The recipe is from this month’s Sainsbury’s magazine and is from Richard Corrigan. I had to adapted the recipe slightly as it was a last minute decision on sunday morning to bake bread for lunch and I had to use what was in the fridge/cupboards. I substituted the treacle/honey for golden syrup and as we had no buttermilk in I used half semi-skimmed milk and half low fat natural yogurt. I love the flavour of the bread and the texture from the seeds, oats and mix of half plain/half wholemeal flour. This makes quiet a big loaf so for just the two of us I will be halving the recipe next time.

Irish soda bread

250g plain flour
10g salt
15g bicarbonate of soda
250g wholemeal flour
150g jumbo oat flakes
1 tbsp clear honey
1 tbsp black treacle
500ml buttermilk
1 tbsp mixed seeds (optional)

  • Heat the oven to 390F/200C (fan 180)/gas mark 6. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment or grease and line a large loaf tin.
  • Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Make a well in the centre, then pour in the honey, treacle and buttermilk, working everything together lightly with your hands until you have a loose, wet dough.
  • With floured hands, shape the dough into a round and lift it onto the lined baking sheet or into the tin. Use a knife to mark a cross in the top (there’s no need to do this if you are using a tin). Scatter with seeds if using.
  • Put into the oven and bake for around 45 minutes, or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the base.
  • Transfer to a wire rack, drape a slightly damp cloth over the top and leave to cool.

Aubergine polpette recipe

I’ve no desire to be vegetarian but we do try to eat less meat, especially red meat. I cook meat free dishes several times a week and I am always on the look out for delicious vegetarian dishes. I saw this recipe on an episode of Catherine’s Italian kitchen on the good food channel some time ago. In this show Catherine Fulvio (an Irish cook) travels around Sicily learning about the food culture and cooking traditional dishes. I really enjoyed the episodes that I watched and after cooking this recipe I’m inspired to try some more of her recipes. Some might think that a mixture of breadcrumbs, cheese and aubergine is no substitute for meatballs but I don’t think that’s the idea. These polpetti are delicious in their own right, I loved the flavour combination of the cheese, aubergine and the herbs together. The aubergine was cooked to perfection and these little polpette were a wonderful soft texture.  I know I’ll make real meatballs again but I also know I’ll be making these again too (and possibly more often).  For the tomato sauce I  used some of this sauce that I told you about the other day but  you can also find Catherine’s recipe here.

Aubergine polpette served with spaghetti and tomato sauce
Serves 2

For the aubergine polpette
1 large aubergine
2 cloves of garlic
100g bread crumbs
50g parmesan or pecorino
1 egg yolk
1tsp chopped mint
1tsp dried oregano
Pinch of grated nutmeg

  • preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Cut the aubergines in half, drizzle over some olive oil and sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Place on a baking tray (cut side up) and roast for 25-30 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly.
  • Scoop out the flesh of the aubergines, place in a sieve and press gently to squeeze out the excess liquid.
  • In a mixing bowl, mash the garlic and aubergine together (I blitzed mine together in a food processor). Return the aubergine/garlic mixture to the bowl (if you used a food processor) then stir in the breadcrumbs, cheese, egg yolk, mint, oregano and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Take a little of the mixture and roll into a small ball. Heat a little olive oil in a large frying pan and fry the patty until golden. Taste to make sure you have the seasoning correct. If not, add more salt and pepper to the remaining aubergine mixture.
  • Shape the aubergine mixture into golf ball-sized ‘meatballs’ and fry in batches until golden, turning from time to time and taking care not to crowd the pan. Place on kitchen paper to drain.
  • Pour off any excess oil from the frying pan, lower the heat and add tomato sauce (enough for 2). When it is hot, add the polpette and simmer gently for 10-15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in a large pan of boiling salted water. Drain well and serve with the polpette and tomato sauce.

I’m submitting this blog post to Presto pasta nights, this month hosted by Tandy of Lavender & Lime. I can’t believe I’ve not entered before that amount of pasta I cook and blog.

Presto

Peach, feta, proscuitto and rocket salad

We’ve enjoyed a gloriously hot and sunny weekend here, it made a very nice change. Yesterday after coming back from our local market with lots of seasonal fruit and veg at it’s best, we enjoyed a salad in the garden for lunch. Now any close friends and family of mine will be thinking “did she really just say salad and enjoy in the same sentence?” I’m not really a salad eater, I want to be but I just find them bland and boring. This salad was different. Every mouthful was different yet equally delicious. There is sweet (peaches), salty (feta and proscuitto), peppery flavour (from the rocket) and all topped off with the acidic tang of balsamic vinegar. This salad was inspired by a recipe on a food blog I follow (Gourmet chick) for proscuitto and squashed peach salad. I used standard peaches, added feta (as I had some that needed using in the fridge) and my dressing was simply a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

Peach, feta, proscuitto and rocket salad
serves 2

1 bag of rocket
2 ripe peaches
50g feta
2 slices of proscuitto
Balsamic vinegar

  • Heat a griddle pan over a high heat.
  • Cut the peaches in to wedges. Put the peach wedges in a small bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil, a pinch of salt and pepper. Toss to combine.
  • Griddle the peach pieces until slightly charred (minute or so each side was all I needed).
  • Remove from the griddle pan and let the peaches cool slightly whilst you put together the rest of the salad.
  • Put the rocket in a bowl. Crumble over the feta. Tear the procuitto into small strips and add to the salad.
  • Add the peaches and finally drizzle with balsamic vinegar.

I’m linking this up to July’s Simple and in Season blogging event at Fabulicious Food!

I can’t believe you made that

Back in January I saw this cake baked by Lorraine Pascale on her first tv show Baking made easy. As soon as I saw this cake I knew I would have to make it for a special occasion. I love to cook and bake but I have decorated very few cakes and to be honest I’m a bit intimidated by cake decoration. This cake though looked very impressive but simple to decorate at the same time. By the time I volunteered to bake a cake for my Aunties 80th birthday party I had forogotten all about this cake. I flicked through my recipe books looking for a suitable cake that was simple but yet looked that little bit special, nothing fit the bill. That was until I remembered this recipe for the I can’t believe you made that cake. The recipe is easy to follow and simple, you just need a little bit of time to make it (there a few stages involving waiting for the cake to cool or icing to set). I was very pleased with the final cake. Not only did it look great, it cut well and it tasted delicious. It was very moist and almost chocolate fudge cake like (I made the cake friday and served it sunday, the left overs were still moist on monday).

I can’t believe you made that

vegetable oil or oil spray
200g/7oz butter, softened
200g/7oz caster sugar
4 free-range eggs
140g/5oz plain flour
60g/2½oz cocoa powder
pinch salt
2 tsp baking powder

For the buttercream
250g/9oz butter, softened
500g/1lb 2oz icing sugar100g/3½oz good dark chocolate (at least 70 per cent cocoa solids), melted and slightly cooled

For the decoration
3 packs of chocolate fingers
Fresh Strawberries and blueberries

  • Preheat the oven to 180/C/350F/Gas 4 and line a 20cm/8in round deep cake tin with baking paper and brush or spray with oil.
  • Cream together the butter and sugar in a large bowl until they begin to go pale.
  • Add half of the eggs and half of the flour and mix well.
  • Add the rest of the eggs, flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking powder and beat for a minute or two until the mixture is uniform.
  • Dollop into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for about 30–40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin.
  • Meanwhile, make the buttercream: put the butter and icing sugar in a bowl and whisk together until the mixture goes fluffy.
  • Add the cooled, melted chocolate and whisk for a further two minutes.
  • Once the cake is completely cool (I left mine a couple of hours), remove it from the tin.
  • Carefully cut the top flat with a large serrated knife.
  • Turn the cake upside down on a 20cm/8in cake board so that the bottom now becomes a nice flat top.
  • Split the cake horizontally and sandwich the top and bottom together with a 1cm/½in layer of buttercream.
  • Spread half of the remaining buttercream all over the top and sides of the cake, making it as smooth as possible.
  • Put it in the fridge to set before doing another layer – this makes it much easier to get neat squared-off edges.
  • Gently push the chocolate fingers vertically onto the sides of the cake, positioning them as straight as possible and making sure they touch the bottom. Cover the top with fresh fruit (or your choice of topping).

Elderflower and pear jelly

Today I have a delicious, refreshing recipe for elderflower and pear jelly to share with you. I love elderflower sparkling presse so when Bottlegreen told me about the newest addition to their collection (elderflower and green tea) I knew I had to try it. I don’t like to do product reviews for the sake of product reviews so I thought I would create a recipe using it to share with you. As a drink this new flavour is delicious and refreshing but personally I prefer the elderflower sparkling presse without green tea. However as a jelly the flavour mellowed and the resulting jelly was a delicious, spring dessert. This was the first jelly I have made (unless you count the just add water type from my childhood) but it won’t be the last.

Elderflower (and green tea) and pear jelly
Serves 4

400ml Elderflower and green tea sparkling presse
2 sheets leaf gelatine
small tin of pears in natural fruit juice

  • In a bowl, cover the gelatine leaves with cold water and leave to soften.
  • Over a gentle heat, warm 100ml of the elderflower presse  but don’t let it boil.
  • Remove from the heat. Squeeze the excess liquid from the gelatine leaves, stir in to the warmed presse until dissolved. Add the rest of the presse.
  • Place two pieces of pear in to each of 4 glasses. Divide the jelly mixture between the 4 glasses. Leave to set in the fridge over night.

Thanks to Bottlegreen for my sample bottle of Elderflower and green tea sparkling presse.