Moutabal

Moutabal

I just love a mezze type lunch.  The table spread with an array of different things to pick and weave through, a bit of this and a bit of that.  More often than not I have a bit too much as it is all to easy to sit, chat and graze.  Not that that should be an issue, one of the best things in life is sitting around a food laden table with both family and friends.  Usefully I find all these little tapas like dishes a great way for the children to try new things.  Whilst a whole plate of something new and unfamiliar might raise an eyebrow, a little taster alongside old favourites works well.    Regulars to our table include Artichoke Crostini (March 2013), Tomato Bruschetta (July 2013), Focaccia, wild garlic or otherwise (May 2014), Green Beans with Tomato and Feta (June 2014), Herby Ricotta with Pickled Cucumber (September 2014), Roast Cauliflower (February 2015), Cannellini Bean, Parsley and Lemon dip (April 2015), Grissini (May 2015), any of my salads and this Moutabal.

I believe I first tasted this with my Grandfather, an amazing and inventive cook.  He cooked all manner of things which seemed both unusual and exotic to me when I was young, often containing huge amounts of ginger and garlic.  Many middle eastern dishes which involved much pounding with his enormous mortar and pestle which I was lucky enough to inherit.  He was familiar with spices now taken for granted but which, at the time, I felt came direct from Ali Barbars’ caves.   One such was this Moutabal.  Grandpa loved aubergines and true to form it has a hearty smack of garlic along with softening tahini and yogurt.  Delicious though it is no doubt I eyed it with great suspicion, it is not a looker.

Anyway, I implore you to see past its drab appearance and give it a go, it is divine on toast but my current chosen route is to serve it with roasted sweet potatoes and a good sprinkling of sunflower seeds, just fabulous.

Moutabal

You can put the foil wrapped aubergine in the oven whilst something else is cooking if that suits rather than putting it on for one thing.  You can also cook it on a barbecue.

1 large aubergine

1 clove garlic, finely minced

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon tahini

1 tablespoon Greek yogurt

1/4 bunch parsley, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 200, wrap the aubergine in foil and cook for 40 minutes or until very soft.  When you can handle it peel and discard the skin and let the flesh fall into a bowl.  Add all the other ingredients and mash well, season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serves 4 alongside other things or two with some roast sweet potato wedges (which you can do in the oven at the same time).

 

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Blackcurrant Mousse

Blackcurrant mousse

What? you cry, what is going on?  Blackcurrant Mousse in January?  I know, crazy though it may sound that is indeed the recipe for today.   I am usually one to bang the gong  for seasonal produce and wouldn’t dream of buying Peruvian asparagus or the suchlike at this time of year.  That said the sky was grey and gloomy last week, the ground squelchy with the mass of recent rain and I felt we needed a blast of sunshine, a promise of summer.

After discussion I found that my children were also keen for a break from my repertoire of apple puddings of which I am so fond at this time of year, the endless array of apple tarts, pies, crumbles, turnovers and strudels was wearing a bit thin.  I knew the last of the blackcurrants we picked in the summer were languishing in the freezer plus a bag of raspberries kindly donated by lovely Hayley when ours had produced their last.

So it was based on these various factors that we ate mousse upon mousse last week.   The first was the raspberry version, mouth puckering in its tartness with that amazing raspberry fragrance still present in abundance.  The second version was the blackcurrant, heady with the smell of blackcurrant leaves and packed with fruity deliciousness.  My bubble was pricked somewhat by my children not liking the bits of fruit I had added to give a little texture, you might want to go the totally smooth route if this complaint resonates with you.

I highly recommend you try one if not both of these puds – whilst I wouldn’t buy fresh berries at this time of year, too well travelled and too expensive, I think frozen fruits are a saviour in the chillier months.   Raspberries, blackcurrants, forest fruits, mixed berry – the choice is up to you.

Blackcurrant or Raspberry Mousse

I had 500g of raspberries but only 478g of blackcurrants – it didn’t make a dot of difference so don’t get too hung up on it if you are a little short of one or the other.

500g frozen raspberries or blackcurrants, thawed

120g golden caster sugar

2 tablespoons water

3 leaves of gelatine

2 egg whites

150ml cream

Put the berries, sugar and water and cook over a gentle heat until the sugar is melted and the fruit broken down.   Pass the fruit through a sieve into a bowl.  Meanwhile soak the gelatine in a bowl of cold water until completely soft then add it to the warm fruit puree, stir well and leave to cool, giving it the odd stir.  If the fruit puree had cooled completely you will need to warm it a little before adding the gelatine as this needs to melt.

Whisk the egg whites until stiff and then using the same beaters whisk the cream (in a separate bowl) until it just holds its shape.  Don’t do it the other way round or the cream residue will stop the egg whites whisking.   Gently mix the egg whites into the fruit mixture followed by the cream.  It will still look rather runny and unpromising but persevere.  Pour into dishes or glasses and chill for at least 4 hours.  Serves 4 generously but could stretch to 6.

 

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Gougeres and Christmas do ahead tips

Gougeres 5

My daughter asked yesterday whether we could be super organised this Christmas so that I could spend loads of time with the family and not be fiddling in the kitchen….  I usually try to get a lot done and stashed away in the freezer before the main event but last year, as we were a smaller gathering than previously, I left more to do on the day.  This may be to what she was referring.  Whilst I was still fairly organised I could, as I was told many times at school, have done better.

The mistake I made was not to slavishly refer to all my do ahead tips.  I am all for whipping things out of the freezer and cooking them in the stylish silver containers (Christmas sparkle) they were frozen in.  I will then transfer them to warm serving dishes, chuck the foil containers and won’t have a mountain of sauce pans glaring at me from the sink.  On this point I implore you to heat your serving plates – there are many components to the Christmas feast and getting them from the stove to peoples plates takes more than a minute of two.  You want it served hot and warm dishes and plates makes a huge difference, that and piping hot gravy too.

So this year I will be making and freezing the stuffing, cranberry sauce, bread sauce (add a little milk on heating) and gravy (add meat juices after resting to boost this) for the big event.  Don’t laugh I will even be parboiling and freezing the roast potatoes (see tips).  Sausage rolls, Cheese Sables with Rosemary Salt (December 2013) and Gougeres (recipe below) will be frozen in good time to accompany drinks alongside Spiced Cherries in Bacon which I am preparing now (and recommend you do the same!).  Firecracker red cabbage (November 2013) to serve with Christmas Eve’s baked ham, a curry, a stew and lots of mince pies will also make their way into the frozen holding pen.

Have I mentioned my Christmas tips (Do ahead Christmas tips and Spiced Cherries November 2013 and Feta and Spinach Parcels a couple more make ahead tips November 2013)?!   I will be referring back to them again and again.  It may sound bossy to suggest you do too but I know they make a world of difference on a day that is notoriously hectic.

To get you started here are my Cheese Gougeres, warm little clouds of cheesy savoury deliciousness.  I honestly struggled not to eat all the ones you see in the pictures.  Very easy to make (baked not fried despite their light and fluffy appearance) and they freeze and reheat a dream.  Make them now then open freeze flat on a tray, once frozen tumble into a bag or plastic tub.   Serve these warm with drinks and you will undoubtedly be the hostess with the mostess.

Gougeres 4

Cheese Gougeres

A good strong cheese is required here.  I use a mouth tingling cheddar or a combination of cheddar and parmesan.  You could take an Alpine route with gruyere to great effect.  I sometimes like to add mustard or cayenne pepper for further pep and bite in which case sprinkle some tiny dried chilli flakes on the gougeres before you cook to indicate heat.  Other times I might add thyme leaves or sprinkle grated parmesan as in the picture above but am just as happy to leave them unadorned and boldly goldly resplendent.

100g butter

250ml water

1 teaspoon salt

150g plain flour

100g strong cheese

4 eggs

Mustard powder/cayenne pepper/thyme leaves – see above.

Preheat the oven to 200 and line a couple of baking sheets with parchment.  Put the butter, water and salt in a pan, heat until the butter is melted then whoosh in the flour in one go and beat hard.  Add the eggs one by one (the mixture will become a little sloppy between each addition but persevere) then add the cheese and stir until well combined followed by any additional flavourings (mustard/chilli).  Either pipe small blobs onto the baking sheet or use two teaspoons dipped in hot water.  I am no piping expert but find it the easiest route with this thick and sticky mixture.  With a wet finger push down any pointy bits as these may catch and burn in the oven.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, they need to be a good burnished gold and feel crisp if you tap one (cautiously).  If underdone they will deflate on cooling.  Cool on a wire rack if you are going to freeze (or keep in a tin for a day or two) or serve straight away.  Reheat in a hot oven for 5 minutes.  Makes 20-30 depending on size.

Gougeres 2

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…Turnovers and leftovers

Apple turnovers

There is nothing more satisfying than fashioning the proverbial silk purse out of a pigs ear.  By that I don’t mean I regularly keep pigs’ ears in the fridge – although why I don’t know as they can be a proper treat.  No rather that it pleases me immensely to make something out of leftovers or those hotch potch random ingredients that sometimes peer at me from the fridge.  If it turns out to be delicious and a recipe to keep then so much the better.

I can’t bear throwing things away and will search my memory long and hard for any ideas or snippets gleaned from my endless reading of recipe books and magazines if it helps to keep a sad carrot or scrap of cheese from the food bin.  Many vegetable soups have been created from such fridge clearing, trays of roasted veg and bubble and squeak too. Overly soft berries go in a smoothie and orchard fruits head for crumble heaven.  Hard bits of old mousetrap end up as cheese sables or gougeres  and so it goes on…

Following hallowe’en there were a lot of apples left from the bobbing.  Those with rows of teeth marks went to the chickens but the pile of untouched ones have been gazing balefully at me for a week or so and the time had come to crack on.  Apple sauce with last Sundays pork belly was a happy way for two or three to go and a crumble waits for tea today.  Yesterday I made these apple and cinnamon turnovers and on this occasion rather than my usual shortcrust or puff pastry route I chose to use up the half pack of filo left from the samosa recipe published previously.  With butter, sugar and cinnamon being on hand I had nothing to trouble the shops for and served warm with vanilla ice cream the children were thrilled too.   Happy customers 1 – Food bin 0.

Apple turnovers 3

Apple and Cinnamon Turnovers

If you keep some filo in the fridge these would make a speedy and easy pudding over Christmas (or anytime).  The extra dusting of icing sugar combined with cinnamon would give a suitably snowy finish and what could be more festive than cinnamon.

3 good size eating apples

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, plus extra for dusting if you like

Large knob of butter, melted

3 sheets of filo, halved longways

Icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 200 and line a baking tray with parchment.  Peel and finely slice the apples, put them in a bowl with the sugar and cinnamon, stir well and leave for 10 minutes.  Lay out a sheet of filo with the short end facing you, brush lightly with melted butter, put a spoonful of apple on the top corner and fold the pastry over to the side, keep folding the parcel towards you, it will form a triangle (see pictures on previous recipe). Make the other 5 triangles, brush any remaining butter over the top and bake for 20 minutes turning half way until crispy and golden.  Cool a little then dust with icing sugar (add a little cinnamon to this if you want).  Makes 6 which are wonderful served warm with ice cream or cream.

Apple turnovers 2

 

 

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Spiced Samosas…

Samosas-2

There is something universally appealing about a delicious little treat served with drinks or as a snack.  Whether a fancy pants canapé with drizzles and micro herbs or just a warm sausage with a spicy dip.  Nothing brings out the greedy pig in me more and I have often positioned myself at the kitchen end of a marquee or party to be first in line.  Maybe it is a throw back to handing around the olives and cheese straws at my parents dinner parties or a reminder of being on the other side of the green baize door creating hundreds of tiny treats I don’t know.

Around Christmas the shops are awash with a myriad of bite size treats ready to be popped into the oven with the hard work done for you.   They aren’t really my thing though.  Its not just that I love cooking, the general fiddling around in the warm fug of the kitchen, although I do.  More that the making of these little mouthfuls is part of the fun, the warm up to a party at any time of year and totally worth it when you see happy greed on your friends faces.   If all that Pollyanna style gladness isn’t enough to push you over the edge, here are some more ideas to go with your samosas.

An all time easy favourite are my Cheese Sables with Rosemary Salt (December 2013) or Cannellini Bean Dip (April 2015).  I adore crostini and bruschetta as both the toasts and topping can be prepared ahead so Artichoke Crostini (March 2013) and Pepper and Caper Crostini (April 2014) come to mind.  Before supper in the summer I don’t think you can beat Tomato Bruschetta (July 2013).  Or go for  the moreish Crunchy Seeds (Things with drinks October 2012) or Grissini (May 2015).   Finally an absolute favourite, particularly with children (and me) is the Onion Tart (November 2014) cut into little squares, I promise you they literally disappear.

Samosas 2-2

My husband particularly likes a samosa which is how these came about and they have gone down pretty well with everyone else.  They are not too spicy, feel free to add a little chopped fresh chilli to the filling if you wish, so appeal to younger palates too.  I like them dipped in chutney but a minty raita would be just perfect too.

Spiced Samosas

It is up to you whether you make these picnic size or canapé size, simply cut your filo accordingly.  If you do make them very mini you might want to adjust the cooking time too.

3 sheets of filo (this will make 6 good size or many mini ones)

1 medium potato peeled and chopped in small cubes (a bit bigger than a pea)

2 teaspoons oil, plus extra for brushing

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1 heaped teaspoon medium curry powder or garam masala

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

60g peas, frozen are fine

A squeeze of lemon juice

A few sprigs of coriander, chopped

Preheat the oven to 200 and line a baking sheet with parchment.  Cook the potato in boiling water until just soft then drain.  Warm the oil in a frying pan and gently cook the onion and garlic with a pinch of salt until soft but not brown.  Add the curry powder or garam masala and cook for a few minutes followed by the onion seeds, cooked potato and peas.  Leave this on a gentle heat until the peas are defrozen then add the squeeze of lemon juice and taste for seasoning.  Cool a bit and then add the chopped coriander before assembling.  Cut the filo in half lengthways for the larger size or smaller if you are going the canapé route.  With a short side closest to you, brush lightly with oil then place a little filling on the top and fold the pastry over and then down until you have a triangle.  Repeat until you have used up the pastry and filling then bake for 15-20 minutes turning half way, until crispy, golden and irresistible.

Samosas 5

Samosas 7

 

 

 

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Hallowe’en

Cobweb cake

There always seemed to be Hallowe’en parties when I was young.  No trick or treating in my day, I think that is a more recent import but certainly apple bobbing, eating doughnuts off pieces of string for some reason, pinning a nose on a witch and the like.   A lot of little girls dressed up as traditional witches in black with pointy hats and broomsticks but I can’t  for the life of me remember what the boys came as.  Anyway, as this years’ Hallowe’en nearly falls in half term my children thought it a bonza excuse for a party and away we went.

Meringue bones 2

We have cut out bats from black paper, ghosts from white paper and of course pumpkins from orange.  Many, many cobwebs have been fashioned out of newspapers (just google it and you can find out how to fold, cut and create a cobweb).  Pumpkins have been carved, old cans punched with holes and filled with candles and many, many lanterns adorned the garden.  We have really gone to town.  What I have particularly enjoyed is the homemade aspect, that we have all sat around the table snipping and sticking, it takes me back.

Graveyard puddings

As you might expect I have also been busy in the kitchen and share with you here some ideas should you need them.   To kick off we had marshmallow toasting by the bonfire and lots of paper cones filled with popcorn upon which I drizzled butterscotch sauce.   For tea, Chilli (February 2014) – not too spicy but with enough heat to warm the children up after charging around side served with rice and cornbread.   The array of sweet treats included meringue bones – whip your egg whites and sugar until super stiff then pipe out and bake, they look fabulous and taste great too.  Spooky cobweb cookies (October 2014) and finally Graveyard puddings.  These were simply lime jelly topped with a gravel of whizzed up Oreos and I made some little chocolate biscuits iced to represent gravestones.   To finish a triple layered chocolate cake with a white chocolate cobweb piped onto the dark chocolate ganache adorned with a large spider.  Have fun!

Mocha Cookies 3-3

 

 

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Brown Sugar Meringue Cake with Blackberries and Lemon Cream

Blackberry and Lemon meringue 2

It feels as if autumn may be rapping her chilly fingers on the door.  There was a frost this morning and a proper mist coming up off the river.  Whilst I am not ready to immediately dive headlong into winter stews and duvets of syrup puddings I am certainly happy to wrap up a little and enjoy the cool air and changes in the landscape.  Leaves are turning bronze and starting to flutter down into crunchy piles demanding to be kicked, cobwebs in the hedges are highlighted by the frosty dew and birds are collecting, swooping and considering a winter in the sun.  Relish these September days, before you know it we will be hearing about Hallowe’en and Christmas.

So, this is  belter of a pudding, just the ticket for this time of year whilst there are heaps blackberries around.  It is also very straightforward, you can make the meringue discs days in advance and I  have used a good store bought lemon curd.  Do make your own if you have the time and the energy, I didn’t and was perfectly happy with a shop version on this occasion.  Crunchy and chewy meringue, dusky and toffeeish from the brown sugar, vibrant lemony curd marbled into whipped cream and the deepest dark purple berries.

Most of the year the brambles are a pest in the garden, catching and scratching you endlessly.  At the moment though, I am delighted to see their little berries almost as black and shiny as the jet buttons on a Victorian governess.  Take delight in them as like all other seasonal treats they will be gone in a flash.  You could make this with those big, blowsy blackberries you can buy in the shops but that misses the point of these autumn treasures.  I picked the ones you see here whilst the meringues were cooking.

So have a go at this, it really is as stunning as it is delicious and if you miss the boat with the blackberries try it with some late autumn raspberries.

Blackberry and Lemon meringue 3

Brown Sugar Meringue Cake with Blackberries and Lemon Cream

The first time I marbled the lemon curd directly into the whipped cream and then spread it onto the meringue discs but I found it got a little lost.  I then blobbed the lemon curd onto the cream once this was already spread and then marbled it a little which I prefer as it is more distinct.  Obviously do as you choose.  Likewise use as much lemon curd as you like, I used just over half a jar.

3 egg whites

100g soft brown sugar

50g golden caster sugar

600g double cream

1/2 -3/4 jar good lemon curd

Blackberries, as many as you want

Zest of one lemon (optional)

A little icing sugar to dust

Draw two 20cm circles on baking parchment and put them onto baking sheets.  Preheat the oven to 140c.  Whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form and then add both sugars a spoonful at a time whisking well until you have a shiny, stiff mass.  Divide this between the two baking sheets creating two 20cm discs, smoothing the tops.  Bake for one hour swapping the tins half way and then turn off the heat but leave in the oven to cool with the door ajar.  When they are cool peel away the parchment and put one onto your serving plate, whisk the cream until just holding its shape and spread half onto the first meringue disc.  Dollop lemon curd over the cream and marble it slightly with a knife then scatter over some of your blackberries.  Place the second disc on top of this and repeat this time using up the rest of your blackberries.  Grate over a little lemon zest if you want and dust with icing sugar.  Serves 6.

Blackberry and Lemon meringue 5

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Strawberry Granita (or sorbet)

Strawberry Granita

For me this granita is summer in a glass.  Unadulterated strawberry flavour, no frills or furbelows, cream* or meringues – just that intense heady fragrance that says Wimbledon, Henley and lunch in the garden.   We have been having a fabulous summer so far, lots of long hot sunny days interspersed with cool swims and trips to the beach.  On occasion we have needed something chilled and delicious to temper the heat and this is just the job.  A matter of minutes to make and then you have the most perfect summer pudding or simple afternoon refresher.

If you have an ice cream machine then a few minutes churning will make this into a smooth tangy sorbet.  I am just as happy with a granita, even easier and the seeds don’t bother me in the icy rubble whereas in a sorbet I employ the sieving step.  Do make this whilst our own fabulous British strawberries are still around.

Strawberry Granita 2

Strawberry Granita

If you leave the granita too long in the freezer without mixing just leave the container out for 15 minutes and then scratch it all up and freeze until you are ready to serve.  I haven’t given you much of a serving suggestion in the pictures but the colour was so vibrant and glorious I wanted to show it off.  Serve this in small glasses either on its own or *you could try it with a big blob of lightly whipped cream on top – see, strawberries and cream.

450g strawberries

150g golden caster sugar

500ml water

Juice of 1 lemon

Whizz all the ingredients in a blender.  If the seeds bother you sieve it then pour into a plastic box with a lid.  Freeze for an hour then remove and stir the slushy mixture around.  Repeat this step several times scratching it all up into gorgeous icy crystals.  Alternatively pour into an ice cream machine and churn for sorbet.  Keep frozen and serve in small glasses.  Serves 6 with seconds.

If, like me, you love a granita then why not try my Iced Tea Granita (July 2013) or Blood Orange Granita (February 2013) as well.

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Camp Fajitas

camp fajitas 2

I only have to hear Van McCoy’s The Hustle and I am transported back to Yorkshire that hot summer of 1976.  The fair came to our local town, Ripon and one evening, as a treat, we went to check it out.  The market square was full dodgems, waltzers and even a big wheel.  The air was heady with excitement, the music and the residual heat of the day.  Girls in their cheesecloth tops and cut off jeans hot pants and the boys watchful with their James Hunt hairdo’s and a packet of JPS tucked casually into capped t shirt sleeves.   The memory stays with me and reminds me of that long dusty hot summer with the school holidays reaching ahead for weeks. Without any internet or electronic games we had to amuse ourselves and there was a lot of playing in the garden, den building, making camps followed by general milling around.

These summer holidays have started off promisingly warm and I am keen for my children to fill their time as I did, mucking about outside, splashing in the river and climbing trees.  One way I’ve found to keep them busy is to get them to cook and campfire cooking has got to be up there as the best kind.  Even the most bored or bolshy child desperate to get onto their phone can usually be tempted by the thrill of the fire and ensuing feast.

These fajitas are perfect for a camp cook out, a doddle to make and seem to keep everyone happy.   You can cut up the vegetables and chicken or depending on their age, get your little darlings to do it for you, I am all for a bit of delegation/child labour.  We made the flatbreads you see in the picture and they could not be easier but by all means buy some if that is a step too far.   Much to my childrens’ disapproval I like to add lettuce to my wraps and if you are particularly carb-phobic you could dispense with the bread all together and fold your chicken and peppers into a large lettuce leaf.

camp fajitas

There are all manner of goodies you can add to your wraps.  I don’t add too much chilli when cooking to keep these family friendly so a drop of two of sriracha is mandatory for me and we always have sour cream or greek yogurt.   I might make a chunky guacamole or my quick pickled onions (August 2014) which add fabulous crunch and tang – the point is that the children love making these to their own specifications.  If you make the bread dough first then this can rise whilst you get on with the chicken and vegetables.  I use my usual bread recipe but on this occasion it only needs one rise before rolling them out.  If you are dong these on a camp fire I find a paella pan or large frying pan the best option.  Cook the filling first then put it on a plate to one side whilst you cook the flatbreads, they only take a few minutes each and this way you can use just one pan.

Camp Fajitas

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 large onions, peeled and sliced

3 large peppers, cored and sliced

2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced

2 large chicken breasts, sliced into fairly small pieces

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon paprika

A pinch of cayenne pepper (more if you want it a little more spicy)

Salt and pepper

500g strong white bread flour plus a bit extra for rolling out

10g fast action yeast

10g fine salt

300ml lukewarm water

Mix the flour, yeast and salt with the water and combine to a dough.  If you are at home and have a stand mixer use this otherwise knead by hand for about 10 minutes then leave the dough covered for an hour to prove.  Put the oil into your large pan (see intro) and cook the onions and peppers with a good pinch of salt over a medium heat until soft, probably around 20 minutes.  Towards the end of this time add the garlic and cook for a few minutes.  Put the peppers and onions on a plate and cook the chicken in the same pan, you shouldn’t need anymore oil but add a bit if necessary.  Once golden add the spices and a pinch of salt, cook for a few more minutes then add around 100ml of water to create a bit of sauce, check for seasoning.  Put all this onto the plate with the peppers and onions and wipe the pan with a bit of kitchen roll but don’t bother washing it.

Take balls of the bread dough about the size of a satsuma and roll out in a little flour until the size of a large side plate.  Keeping the pan on the heat cook these for a couple of minutes either side until slightly puffed up and browning at the edges.  Put each flatbread into a folded tea towel to keep warm and soft while you do the rest  - you should get about 8 to 10.   Bung the filling back into the pan if it needs warming through and then tuck in along with any extra bits and pieces you have decided on (see intro).

 

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Gooseberry, Strawberry and Elderflower Eton Mess

Gooseberry and strawberry fool 2

My Granny had a kitchen garden, a big old walled space which I thought was heaven.  I adored it and spent hours there as a child wandering between the rows of vegetables, marvelling at the artichokes taller than me, rubbing my fingers on the fennel fronds to release their aniseed scent.  Inspecting the asparagus, picking baskets of peas and snacking on apples and pears when the mood took me.   It has always been a deep held wish to have such a garden and we moved house last year we were lucky enough to find one tucked away.   Overgrown and wild it was but the bones were there nonetheless and I had visions of recreating my Grandmothers remarkable garden.  Ha!  After a mass of reading and learning, a weekend of rotating and what feels like endless weeding I have planted and planted.  Seeds have been started off on the kitchen windowsill or in the green house or planted direct, seedlings bought where my own efforts have failed and donations of little vegetable plants and dahlias gratefully received.

I am delighted with it all and spend hours trying to keep up with the weeds (impossible) and planting various rows of salad leaves to follow on from the ones we are eating now (I believe that is what you do…).  My battle with the slugs is another story altogether.  It is considerably harder work than I anticipated but supremely rewarding.  The first spear of asparagus, eating the first herby green salad with a variety of leaves all grown by us.  There are three tiny plums on a new plum tree, pea pods, baby beetroots, courgettes and beans on their way.

The first fruit picked so far have been wild strawberries and some gooseberries which immediately went towards the fool in this pudding.   With local strawberries winking at me and last weeks elderflower cordial to hand I decided to combine these flavours, the very essence of summer.  The tang of the gooseberries along with the sweetness of the strawberries and floral hit of elderflower are a winning combination and a bit of scrunched up meringue adds texture.

Gooseberry, Strawberry and Elderflower Eton Mess

Of course you can just make the gooseberry fool to have on its own in which case I would use 4 tablespoons of sugar as you won’t have any added sweetness from the meringue.  Taste the gooseberry puree before you add though and remember the later in the season the sweeter these berries will be.

400g gooseberries, topped and tailed

3 tablespoons golden caster sugar

300ml double cream

2 tablespoons elderflower cordial

1 punnet of strawberries halved or quartered depending on size

Meringue (as per the recipe for World Cup Meringue Cake, November 2013 but don’t bother with 3 layers, 1 will do or indeed individual meringues as you are going to break them up anyway).

Put the gooseberries in a pan with the sugar and 2 tablespoons of water and simmer gently until completely broken down.  Leave to cool and then add 1 tablespoon of elderflower cordial.  Put the cut strawberries into a bowl, add the other tablespoon of elderflower cordial, turn them gently and leave to macerate while you get on.  Whip the cream until it just holds its shape and then fold into the gooseberry puree.  Break up the meringues and then mix them with the gooseberry fool followed by the strawberries.  This would fill six glasses similar to the ones you see here but I just filled four and we had seconds…..

 

 

 

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