Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Courgette, Ricotta and Walnut Tart

A quiche simply does not look as glorious the day after.  Just-pulled from the oven this specimen billowed beauty, exhibiting crisp yellow-orange curls of courgette flowers on ricotta clouds while the heavensent scents of roasted walnuts and garlic blustered on the kitchen air... And yet today, camera in hand, it looks most mundane.  So be it.  A Courgette, Ricotta and Walnut Tart is a thing of glory - you have my word.

For the pastry: 4oz Flour 2 oz Butter 1 Egg.

Grate the cold butter into the flour, mix to breadcrumbs with the fingertips, add an egg and bring quickly into a paste.  The addition of the egg should mean you don't need any water.  Put this in the fridge for at least half an hour.

Soften two onions in butter, until translucent, sweet and not quite beginning to brown.  Remove from the pan and add four or so courgettes cut into rounds.  Fry these with lots of Garlic.  When beginning to brown remove from the heat.

Roll out the pastry on a floured surface until very thin.  Press this into a buttered quiche dish.  Pop it back in the fridge while you prepare the egg mix.

Beat four or five eggs and a pot of cream or similar (I used Mascarpone, Milk and Fromage Frais as these were to hand).  Season and I think this would be delicious with Thyme.  (I forgot to add the thyme). 

Fill the pastry with  the layer of buttery onions followed by the garlicky courgette rounds.  Pour over the egg mix (it should reach the edges of the dish).  Then place Ricotta in cloudlike spoonfuls over the top of the quiche, sprinkle with Walnuts and decorate with Courgette Flowers.

Bake about 45 mins 180C until risen through to the centre.

A thing of glory is it not?

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Rainbow Carrot Cake

Ostensibly the most ordinary of Carrot Cakes this is in fact a colourful celebration of our magnificent crop - the cake is a melange of the conventional orange carrot, the Limburg yellow, and the splendidly named purple haze.   I have gone for a traditional cake: butter, spices, lemon icing.  But my foray into the world of carrot cake recipes has shown that they are many in number and variation.  This is only therefore the beginning of the odyssey.

Cream 200g Butter with 150g Sugar.  Beat in 4 Eggs.  Fold in 275g Spelt Flour, 1 tsp Baking Powder, 1 tsp Bicarb, 2 tsp Cinnamon, 1 tsp Ginger, 1 tsp Nutmeg.  Then fold in five grated multicoloured carrots, 2 in. grated Ginger and a handful of Walnuts.  Bake in a lined loaftin for about 40 mins at 180C until cooked through.

I made the icing by creaming butter and mixing in icing sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest and mascarpone to taste.   A bit too sloppy perhaps... still delicious.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Courgette and Basil Soup

...with Cheese on Toast.  A little indulgent it has to be said, but sliced bread and melted cheese is quite the happiest addition to a bowl of Courgette Soup.  I am forced also to recall quite the most exquisite supper I had in the house of a sculptor in Colombia: cheese and garlic on toast with warm ripe figs.  Bliss.  Never since have I snubbed this cosiest of foods.  I have posted this recipe before, or, its variation: Courgette and Pesto Soup.  Because it is so brilliant, so delicious, so apparently glamourous, and yet ever humble, I feel obliged to remind you readers of it.  Who would imagine the Courgette would make a soup of such soothing creamy qualities.

On this occasion the recipe went as follows:

Fry half an Onion, tonnes of Garlic, about five Courgettes in Butter and Oil. Put the lid on to allow the Courgettes to realeae some of their own juice.  After about ten minutes, the Courgettes softening, the Onion translucent, add water or stock to the level of the veg.  Bring to boil and simmer for say ten minutes.  Blend.  Add a large handful of Basil.  Blend again.  Stir in 1 tbsp of grated Parmesan.  Taste, and this is (always) the most vital moment: the soup should have a lovely creamy whole with salty notes of Parmesan and the peppery fragrance of Basil.  Alter and season accordingly with the lightest touch of salt, some pepper.  Serve warm, drizzled with Olive Oil, sprinkled with torn leaves of Basil.

And, if wanting extra comfort, eat with Cheese on Toast.


The Basil and Pesto variation is made by using the same recipe as above but instead of the Basil and Parmesan. simply adding 1-2 tbsps of Pesto at the end.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

A Fool

I should start this post with a one-liner: you'd have to be a fool not to be able to make one... or something.  Fergus Henderson, who is rather more direct, entitles his fool recipe "You Fool" and begins: "Who are you calling a fool?"  Whatever the pun, the fool is quite the easiest and most delicious of fruity puds.  While you can smarten it up with drizzles and jus and marblings, or replace some cream with yoghurt, I think simple is best: a true fool is just whipped cream, fruit and sugar.  To my mind the tarter the fruit the better the fool.  Think: Gooseberry Fool, Rhubarb Fool - the dreamiest of creamy puddings.

This season we are into Damson, Blackberry or Raspberry Fools.  Here is a suitably messy Blackberry and Raspberry Fool.  The raw fruit is macerated in the sugar for a few hours then folded into the whipped cream.  Fergus Henderson's recipe from The Complete Nose to Tail [brilliant, brilliant, brilliant book - every kitchen must have it - where else does tradition meet style so imperiously?!] reads more or less as follows:

200g Fruit - 50g Caster Sugar - 400ml Double Cream.

Lightly cook fruit with half the sugar till juices run, or if very ripe just mix with sugar and crush with fork.  Whip cream with rest of sugar to soft peaks.  Fold in fruit.  Serve with Shortbread.

Yes, shortbread is a super accompaniment to a fool. I follow his recipe for shortbread too, but rather than cutting shapes, press it into a tin and break it at the table.

750g Plain Flour - 500g Butter - 250g Caster Sugar

Half quantities suffice.  Grate the butter into the flour.  Breadcrumb it between the fingers.  Add Sugar.  Press into a tin. Cook about 15 - 20 mins 160 C.  Should be pale but crisp not doughy.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Giant Puffball and Radiccio

In a garden in the Val d'Orcia this summer I had a plate of chicken livers that reminded me that the simplest, humblest of rural foods can be quite the greatest delicacy.  And, as one seems to compose a map of the world according to what was eaten and where, I shall here recall another meal that took place about fifteen years previously: A salad of chicken livers and other gesiers in a hilltop restaurant somewhere in the Cevennes - as we ate a storm blew up and we sat in wavering candlelight watching as bolts of lightning illuminated the valleys below.

The Tuscan Chicken Livers were served hot on some radiccio leaves, which wilted in the livers' warmth, and with toast and olive oil.  So, when we came across a multitude of Giant Puffballs last week, I decided the buttery truffley marshmallowey richness would do well against bitter red Radiccio leaves.  The Puffball was sliced and fried in butter and garlic, seasoned and placed on a bed of Radiccio.  These were eaten with a homemade Baguette, Butter and a grating of Parmesan.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Hedgerow Loaf Cake

It has to be said that, after a hot and close Summer, this past fortnight has definitely felt like Autumn.  Along with the cooler weather, the hedgerow fruits are here in abundance.  Here then a recipe for a hedgerow fruit and nut cake, which will hold whatever fruits you deign to gather.  This simplest of recipes served as a wholesome birthday cake for a mother-in-law fond of the hedgerows, and is seen here the following day with coffee.

Cream 200g Butter with 150g Sugar.  Beat in 4 Eggs one by one.  Fold in 150g Spelt Flour, 1 level tsp Bicarb., 1 level tsp Baking Powder (all sieved) and 150g Ground Almonds.  Then fold in autumnal fruits, nuts and seeds.  In this case I have used Windfall Apples, Elderberries, Blackberries, Walnuts and Hazelnuts.  The fruits and nuts should be about the same volume as the mix so that when folded into the mixture it contains them, but only just.  Spoon into a lined loaf tin.  I have then topped it with slices of Apple and Flaked Almonds.

Bake at 180C for about 40 mins until cooked through.


You could try replacing some of the ground almonds with ground hazelnuts - heat them, rub off the skins, then grind to flour.  I think that Maple Syrup instead of Sugar might taste really lovely in this cake.  I have yet to try this... Also, this is not a very sweet cake.  If you would like it to be sweeter you could sprinkle with Brown Sugar before cooking or drizzle with Honey or Maple Syrup once cooked and when still warm.