Quick Pickled Onions

Quick Pickled Onions 4

To paraphrase Cilla, I bake a lorra lorra cakes.  Probably about 20 a week of various types, Ginger Cakes, Raspberry and Almond Cakes, the mighty Chocolate Victoria, Lemon Yogurt Cakes, Gluten Free Dairy Free Sugar Free Beetroot and Chocolate, you name it I bake it and that is before we get on to the Flapjacks, Brownies, Cupcakes etc….   What has this got to do with pickled onions?  Well, surrounded by all this sweet, fudgy and sticky confection what I really crave is something savoury and what could fit the bill more fittingly than pickled onions.  Mouth puckering, sharp, crunchy, sour and even a little sweet (can’t help myself).

These are this Summers new best friend.  Yes I know pickled onions are hardly new but these fabulous, Schiaparelli pink, super quick ones are.  We have had them on hamburgers where their tangy crunch was literally the icing on the cake (see, really can’t help myself), with both regular cheese sandwiches and with cheese on toast.  A barbecued butterflied leg of lamb was taken to fabulous new heights with a generous scattering of this pink confetti and chicken and pita kebabs sported these crimson crescents to great effect.

Too effusive?  Honestly I can’t rave enough, they take a couple of minutes to make and will sit happily in the fridge for a couple of days.  I keep mine in a jam jar which is then ready to be taken on a picnic at a moments notice.   I suggest you make some very soon.

Quick Pickled Onions

1 red onion, size of snooker ball

1 tablespoon golden caster sugar

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Pinch of salt

Put the sugar, vinegar and salt into a shallow bowl and stir to dissolve.  Peel the onion, cut into quarters and slice thinly and add to the bowl and give it all a good stir.  These will be ready to eat within 20 minutes but will just as delicious 2 or 3 days later.

By the way, if you want to sample any of the cakes I mentioned or many other delicious creations be sure to visit Soulshine Cafe in South Street, Bridport, a fabulous, happy and funky place not to be missed.

Quick Pickled Onions 5

 

 

 

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Roast Vegetables with Pomegranate Molasses

Roasted Veg Salad 3

I went into the larder yesterday and a pile of vegetables were gazing balefully at me.  I had bought them for the weekend but we had done other things and my menu plans had gone awry.  As I am going away I knew they needed to be eaten up, there is nothing worse than having to throw something away which was fine one minute and gone off the next.  So, courgettes, peppers, aubergine and onions all jostling for the top spot.  Aubergine curry, a provencal tian, soup – lots of things crossed my mind but it is hot and I wanted a salad.

I used to make a salad like this all the time in the 90′s – I can see myself now, in the kitchen of my flat, Oasis blaring and a vat of Bulgarian Cabernet Sauvignon on stand by.  It was great then and I’ve made derivations of it ever since but I wanted to jazz it up a bit.  I roasted all the vegetables and made a dressing with olive oil and pomegranate molasses.  The fruity tang was just the thing to bring this up to date, both sharp and fruity and along with some crushed garlic made the perfect dressing.  I’m not very keen on couscous, it always seems a bit pappy and, for me anyway, still has a whiff of school semolina about it.  Bulgar wheat however has bite and texture so that is what I used.  Piles of fresh herbs, the mint being one of the few things the fat slugs haven’t scoffed in the garden, and some rocket completed the picture.

If I’d planned this earlier I would have made some labne, strained Greek yogurt which I could have blobbed over the salad but some garlicky regular yogurt was an excellent alternative.  I had forgotten how much I adore this salad, roasted, sweet and slightly charred vegetables, the nutty bulghar, masses of verdant herbs and the lip smacking dressing.  This would go down a storm with barbecued meat or fish but is substantial enough to have for lunch on its own.  Truly a winner, I will be making this all summer and beyond.  Back in couple of weeks!

Roasted Veg Salad

Roasted Vegetables with Bulghar and Pomegranate Molasses

The following vegetables are what I had but use an equivalent amount of whatever you like.  Should I be overwhelmed with courgettes later in the summer (if the slugs don’t eat those too) I will make this with those and perhaps throw in some feta and chives.

2 red peppers

1 aubergine

2 courgettes

3 onions

Olive oil

1 bunch parsley, chopped

1 bunch mint, chopped

2 large handfuls rocket

100g bulghar wheat

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses

1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed

Half a lemon

Preheat the oven to 200.  Chop the vegetables into small and similar size pieces, turn in some olive oil, put onto baking sheets and cook for about 30 minutes turning occasionally until soft and just catching at the edges.  Remove from the oven and leave to cool.  Put the bulghar wheat into a bowl with a pinch of salt and cover with boiling water to about 1cm above, leave to soak for 15 minutes then drain.  Mix the garlic, oil, pomegranate molasses and some salt and pepper to taste.  In a large  bowl, toss the vegetables, bulghar, herbs, rocket and dressing, stir to combine and have taste, a squeeze of lemon will probably be all you need.  Serves 2 on its own or 4 as an accompaniment.

Roasted Veg Salad 2

 

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Vanilla Pannacotta with Blackcurrants

Vanilla pannacotta 2

I have been so lucky with piles of fabulous, fresh local fruit recently.  Blackcurrants, loganberries, strawberries, gooseberries and red currants.  We have had many of the classics such as gooseberry fool and some new ideas such as blackcurrant shortbread cake.  I made redcurrant jelly for the first time, pretty straightforward apart from my slightly Heath Robinson jelly bag of muslin suspended via a wooden spoon over a deep jug – it worked!  Blackcurrant jam and loganberry jam sit in my larder, a comforting site if ever I saw one.

After making the jam I had a few blackcurrants left over, maybe 100g, and this is what came to mind as a way of using them up.   They have such a huge and tangy flavour that only a little is required and I thought this gentle, creamy vanilla pannacotta the perfect way to show off the blackcurrant sauce.  Sweet and fruity, sharp and vanilla – these two flavours work so well together.

I have to admit to having avoided recipes containing gelatine for years.  I remember my mother once spilling a gelatine mixture on the floor and as she was in a rush, quickly put down some newspaper to soak it up.  The result was sheets of newspaper glued firmly to the flagstones which took some elaborate and extensive chipping away to remove.  To be fair this was powdered gelatine and I still rarely use that.  My preferred type is the clear almost glass like sheets which work a treat.   These little puddings are so easy and quick to prepare and always go down a storm.  I’ve finished the blackcurrants but we had the pannacottas again yesterday this time with chopped strawberries macerated in a little sugar until they were deep crimson and juicy – fabulous.

Vanilla Pannacotta with Blackcurrants

200ml whole milk

100ml single cream

100ml Greek yogurt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste

60g caster sugar

2 gelatine leaves

100g blackcurrants

20-40g caster sugar

Put the gelatine in a bowl of cold water to soften.  Heat the milk, cream, vanilla and sugar until it just reaches boiling point.  Remove from the heat and add the squeezed out gelatine, whisk well and leave to cool until tepid, stirring occasionally.  Whisk in the yogurt and divide between 4 ramekins or small metal moulds.  Put into the fridge for at least 4 hours to set.  Meanwhile put the blackcurrants into a pan with a splash of water and 20g sugar.  Heat gently until just falling apart and forming a syrupy sauce.  Carefully taste, you may need more sugar, it depends very much on their sweetness.  When you are happy with the balance leave the sauce to cool.  To serve, dip each ramekin briefly into hot water before turning out onto a plate and serve with the blackcurrants.  Serves 4.

Vanilla pannacotta

 

 

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Children’s Cooking Class

Cooking class 2

I had to show you a picture of the girls who came over for a cooking class with me on Saturday.  It was such fun and they all cooked perfectly.  We made a plaited loaf similar to the milk loaf I wrote about last week, some little pasties filled with all sorts of delicious things and triple chocolate muffins.

It was a great morning and the reports came back that all the goodies were scoffed by grateful families before the end of the day.  Looking forward to the next one!

Cooking class 1

 

 

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Milk Loaf, a really good white bread

Milk loaf

When I was a child we would often go to Kings Bakery in Ripon on a Saturday to buy a plaited milk loaf – it was my favourite bread and I loved going to this bakery with its in-one-door, out-the-other door shop.  The loaves were plaited beautifully, far better than I can ever achieve and tasted heavenly.  A slice on its own was delicious enough but spread with good butter thick enough to see your teeth marks in, aah I can still remember the taste.  Milk loaf is not as rich as brioche but is a step up from an ordinary white loaf and so whilst good for everyday still has a whisper of treat about it.  As this loaf was cooling from the oven I did the school run, on our return my children and I went into the garden and ate slice after slice with butter in the dappled sun, proper Famous Five stuff.

Please don’t think it a faff to do, bread is super easy to make and so rewarding, the only consideration is time.  If you want a loaf for lunch make it in the morning, want it for tea then make it right after lunch.  Once you have made the dough there are two risings of about an hour each and then baking for around 30 minutes so you are looking at around a total of 3 hours.  Panic not though, for most of that time the dough looks after itself whilst you do something else.

I love a good wholemeal loaf or chewy sourdough, they all have their place in my kitchen but I think the white loaf has fallen from fashion and been somewhat maligned, avoided.  This is the loaf to bring it back into the fold, fabulous as is and it makes superb toast too.  Have a go at making this, your family will love you for it and probably love making it with you too.

Milk loaf 2

Milk Loaf

I have some 10 to 12 year old girls coming over on Saturday for a cooking class and I though this loaf the perfect place to start.  What a treat to take home at the end of the morning and it gives us time to make plenty of other goodies during the rising times.

500g strong white bread flour

10g dried yeast

10g salt

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon sugar

300ml milk plus a little extra

Warm the milk with the butter until just tepid and the butter melted.  Put the flour, yeast salt and sugar into a large bowl or the bowl of a freestanding mixer.  Add the milk, mix well and then knead for 8-10 minutes until smooth and springy.  Dust the inside of the bowl with some flour, put the ball of dough back in, cover with a tea towel and leave somewhere warm for 1 hour or so when it should be doubled in size.  Then knock the air out of it, knead briefly again and then divide into three and roll these three balls into sausages.  Squidge one set of ends together and plait the loaf then squidge the other ends together.  Put onto a baking tray which you have dusted with flour, cover again and leave for another hour.  Before this second hour is up preheat your oven to 200.  Brush with milk and then bake for 25-35 until golden and the loaf sounds hollow when you tap the bottom.

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Giant Strawberry Mivvi

Stawberry Mivvi

Remember Lyons Maid ice lollies?  The Orange Maid, a belter of orange cordial flavoured ice, lasted ages, always good value.  The Cider Quench which made us giggle and pretend to be drunk.  The Zoom, the Fab and of course the Cornish Strawberry Mivvi.  Treats from childhood years along with those brick like blocks of ice cream the perfect shape to slice and put between oblong wafers or into those funny rectangular cones (is that a geometric impossibility?).

The Strawberry Mivvi in particular required a certain skill to pick off the strawberry ice outer shell leaving a heart of vanilla ice cream to be licked quickly before it melted.  I liked the strawberry layer and I liked the ice cream but it was the combination of the two that makes the Mivvi excel, that British classic Strawberries and Cream – on a stick.

Not content to leave this alone I decided a giant version was required, a Mivvi bombe surprise, a family size spectacular, a Mighty Mivvi if you will.  This strawberry sorbet is one I’ve made many times over the years, the pure fragrance of the berries sings and you can easily dispense with the rest of this recipe and eat it as it is.  I sometimes make vanilla ice cream but on this occasion have used 2 tubs of a good store bought one.

You need to make this a day or so before you want to eat which of course is only a bonus as it sits happily in the freezer until you are ready.  Before you start however, make sure you have a good amount of free space on a freezer shelf, I didn’t take this early precaution and had to do a ridiculous amount of moving and rearranging to accommodate the bowl.  Learn from my mistakes!

Giant Strawberry Mivvi

500g strawberries

150g caster sugar

500ml water

3 tablespoons lemon juice

2 x 500ml tubs good vanilla ice cream

Dissolve the sugar in a little of the 500ml of water over a low heat then cool.  Whizz the strawberries with the lemon juice and then mix with the sugar syrup and remaining water.  Sieve and then freeze in an ice cream maker or put in a tub in the freezer and mix regularly to break down the ice crystals.  Once you have sorbet by either route transfer it to a 2 litre bowl, then take a 1 litre bowl with a layer of cling film on the outside and push it gently into the larger bowl thus squishing the sorbet up the sides – this sounds more complicated than it is.  Put in the freezer for a couple of hours to firm up.  Half an hour before the time is up take your 2 tubs of vanilla ice cream out of the freezer to soften.  Then remove the smaller bowl, and the cling film from the sorbet (you may need to put a little warm water inside the smaller bowl to encourage its release) and then fill up the cavity with the vanilla ice cream, easily done it its softened state.  Put it back into the freezer for at least an hour to firm up until you want it.  Then (conversely) you will need to leave the whole thing out of the freezer for 15-20 minutes before you want to cut it, this too may need sitting in warm water to encourage it to part company with the bowl.  Serves 8, with aplomb.

Stawberry Mivvi 2

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Green Beans with Tomatoes and Feta

Green Bean Salad

I am very keen on the whole family eating together and of course eating the same thing,  I might have mentioned before that I am not a big fan of “kid’s food” and who needs it. Be adventurous, there are so many delicious things to try and honestly who wants the headache of cooking lots of different dishes?  That said, it is not always plain sailing to keep the customers happy.  One of my children is currently off pasta, rice (except Paella – how does that work?) and sausages, neither like mashed potato and the other doesn’t really go a bundle on many vegetables.  I am nothing if not determined however and this salad suits everyone.

The crisp beans with sweet tomatoes and salty feta go together unbelievably well. I can’t quite say perfect marriage, too many contenders but that sort of thing.   My daughter loves the beans because of the garlicky dressing and the feta (but not the tomatoes), my son loves the beans and tomatoes (but not the feta) and I love it because the bowl is always empty.  I often serve this with roast chicken or lamb and it is one of the sides I am most likely to make to go with a barbecue.   It is a perfect solitary lunch or supper, quick, easy (so simple I am almost embarrassed to put it up as a recipe) and cheap too.

A twist on this and particularly good with chicken or fish is to lose the feta and have loads of garlic, lemon (zest and juice) and parsley or dill along with some black olives.  I do alter the components depending on who is eating the salad and would usually add olives the version you see in the photograph.

I served this, as you can see in the picture, with some focaccia which is simply the wild garlic one I wrote about in May but now that the wild garlic is over I use a regular good olive oil on its own but you could easily whizz up some other herbs if you like.

Green Bean Salad 4

 

Green Beans with Tomatoes and Feta

250-300g green beans, topped and tailed

A large handful of cherry tomatoes, halved

75g feta, cubed

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 clove garlic, crushed

Cook the beans until just tender.  Mix the oil, vinegar and garlic in a bowl with a little salt (remember the feta is salty) and pepper then add the beans and turn them well in the dressing, put in the tomatoes and feta and mix gently until just coated.  Taste, you may want to add a little more seasoning.  Serves 4.

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Bridport Food Fair

B biscuits

Come and make some biscuits with me at Bridport Food Fair this Saturday, 14th June.  I will be in the Children’s Marquee at 3.00pm where you can make, bake and then eat your own biscuits.  There will be other free, hands-on cookery and food related fun to be had.  The fair takes place in Askers Meadow (next to Morrisons car park) from 9.30am to 5.00pm and there will be masses of food stalls, cooking demonstrations, farmers’ market, beer/cider tent and music.   Check out www.bridportfoodfestival.co.uk.

B biscuits 2

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Roast Asparagus with Parmesan, and Banting

Asparagus with parmesan

Are you Banting?  No I’m not being weird or misspelling, it refers to HFLC –  the high fat, low carb way of eating.  When we were in South Africa recently everyone was talking about Tim Noakes and his Real Meal Revolution book.  The night we arrived we had supper with friends, a fabulous carb free supper incidentally and were introduced to the idea, among others, of avocado, anchovies and cream cheese for breakfast.  I tried it, totally delicious and not as peculiar as you might think.  This way of eating is all the rage there, tout le monde was either talking about it or doing it and by the way, losing weight on it.   To the point that the book was sold out in most places and I was lucky to find a copy.  The day we flew out I saw a new magazine based on the philosophy at the airport – this is big over there.

Fundamentally you eat fats in their original, purest form i.e. regular milk or yogurt rather than messed around with low fat versions.  Good fats fill you up so you can eat less of them, what you need to keep a beady eye on are those carbs as that sugar can play havoc.  Chicken to be eaten with its delicious, crispy skin, bacon, avocados, cheese…. and you can lose weight.  Sounds like a dream no? It isn’t a pink ticket to go crazy though, vegetables are a huge part of the regime and the recipe section of the book is sensational.

Whilst I can’t tell you I am following this idea, I am interested in something that has gained such a huge following and I will read the book cover to cover.  In the spirit of it however, this weeks’ recipe is something I cook every year when asparagus is in season.  The roasting intensifies the asparagus flavour and the parmesan adds a gorgeous, salty savoury finish.   Quick, make it before the asparagus is over for another year.

Roast Asparagus with Parmesan

1 bunch of asparagus

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Parmesan, grated – as much as you would like

Preheat the oven to 200.  Trim the bottom of the asparagus, either just snap them off where they ‘give’ or peel the bottom third.  Put them on a baking tray, pour over a little olive oil and turn the spears in it.  Season well with salt and pepper and roast for 10 minutes until just singeing at the edges.  Grate some parmesan over them and return to the oven for a further 2-3 minutes until the cheese has just melted and then tuck in.  I sometimes have this for lunch on my own or it could serve two as a light starter (or just do two bunches for a proper size starter!)   A drop of good balsamic is a nice finishing touch.

 

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Lemon and Lime Ice Cream

Lemon and Lime Ice Cream

When I was about seven or eight I went to visit family on Martha’s Vineyard.  There were many memorable things about that holiday, the amazing round house my cousins slept in, the garden which led straight onto the beach, the horseshoe crabs, fresh limes.  One of the clearest however is of our daily visit to Edgartown to have an ice cream.  The same place everyday and for me the same flavour, pistachio.  Isn’t that crazy that an ice cream (or many) nearly 40 years ago should still be such a vivid picture in my mind.

More prosaically I can still remember my first Cornetto, the exoticism of it and the chance that I would disappear from our Yorkshire garden and reappear in a Venetian gondola. Those were the days when you bought tubs of plain vanilla or perhaps for a treat, Neopolitan.  No salted caramel or Phish food graced the shelves in those days.

Ice cream then is a treat and never more so than when you make it yourself.  The flavours are all the clearer when the fruit goes from punnet to freezer in a matter of minutes.  Better than this you know exactly what has gone into your mix – as children we were convinced ice cream was made from whale blubber, not a tempting thought although it never stopped us scoffing it.   By the way, were you ever told that the ice cream van only plays music when it has run out of ice creams and ice lollies….?

This is a fabulously zingy and tangy ice cream, super fresh from the citrus and without the need of a custard.  It is made, I promise you, in hardly and time and is very easy.  My daughter made the ice cream in the photographs and it is delicious, well done Minty.

Lemon and Lime Ice Cream

1 large lemon

2 limes

120g caster sugar

400ml whipping cream

Put the zest and juice from the lemon and both limes in a bowl add the sugar and stir until the sugar is dissolved.  Pour the cream into this mixture and put the bowl into the fridge until cold.  When fully chilled pour into an ice cream machine and churn until thick and frozen, transfer to a plastic box with a lid and put into the freezer to firm up a little more. Take it out of the freezer 15 minutes before you want to eat it.  Serves 4.

If you don’t have an ice cream machine, put the chilled mixture into the plastic box and freeze.  Every couple of hours remove from the freezer, mix thoroughly then freeze again until smooth and frozen.

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