Saturday, 25 June 2011

Peach and frangipani tart

There's one thing I have an almost unlimited supply of in my garden and that is almonds.  We have about 5 large productive trees, that give us about 70 kilos plus of almonds, still in there shells, per year.  Minus the loads that my Labrador eats!

So being of tight nature I am determined to use them.  This week the peaches have finally started to  ripen.  I have been squeezing them everyday to check and in the last couple of days they have been falling off the tree in heavy ripeness.  So I decided to marry them together to make this unctuous tart.

I asked my husband what he thought of this tart and he said that he needed to eat more of it, until he felt he could comment.  What does that mean? 

Makes a 23cm flan dish


For the paté sucre

200g plain flour
100g unsalted butter
50g ground almonds
50g sugar
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons cold water
grated zest of a lemon


6-8 peaches, depending on size
100g ground almonds
100g unsalted butter
100g sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon plain flour
2 tablespoons kirsch or eau de vie or rum
2 tablespoons of red currant jam or quince jelly

Preperation time 20 minutes

Cooking time 40minutes

How to go about it

Preheat oven to 200° c, put in baking tray in middle of oven.

Make the pastry by rubbing the butter into the flour.  Add sugar, almonds and lemon zest, mix.  Mix in egg yolk and cold water.  Knead for a few seconds.  Wrap in cling film and refrigerate.

To make the filling whizz all ingredients together except the jam.

Cut peaches in half, twist and cut out stone and slice into large wedges.  Reserve on a plate. 

Butter flan dish, roll out pastry and line dish.  Put in frangipani and arrange peach slices in decreasing circle, pushing them into mixture.  Place in oven on preheated oven tray and cook for 10 minutes on 200°c.  Turn oven down to 175°c and cook for a further 30 minutes.  Cool. 

Mix jam and water and heat up and then paint over flan.

Peach and lemon verbena drink

 Well the heat has arrived, as have the peaches.  To take advantage of this I quickly made this today to cool everyone down and use surplus peaches.

For 1 litre jug


4 peaches
2 pots of plain yoghurt
sugar to taste
ice cubes
water, fizzy or still
2-3 leaves of lemon verbena or lemon balm or juice of half a lemon

How to go about it

Peel peaches by scalding in boiling water for 30 seconds, or if you prefer leave skin on.  Crush ice by wrapping in a tea towel and bash it a with rolling pin.  Put all ingredients together in a liquidizer and whizz. 

Store in fridge and serve with extra ice or water

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Seafood pasta

I first ate this pasta dish,  known as Fideua in Spanish, with an elderly couple that I had met in the village of Alcover in the province of Tarragona, Catalonia, Spain over 10 years ago.

Mercedes was originally from the village but her husband was from the south of Spain.  They had met  in England in their early 20's when both their families had fled Spain after the civil war.  They lived in England for over 40 years.  Jo, her husband, had imported bananas from the Canary Islands and once a year he would put his car on a banana boat and go to the islands for 6 weeks to sort out business. 

He was based in Covent Garden when it was still used as a major fruit and vegetable wholesale market.  He told me there was such a great camaraderie in those days.  In the very early, cold mornings of London they use to light fires in old oil drums and drink tea and rum and the workers use to throw rotten vegetables at the city gents, passing in their bowler hats carrying their brief cases.  It didn't at the time seem to bother the gentlemen nor was it frowned upon, it was almost expected.

When they retired, they moved back to Spain and settled in Alcover and the strange thing is that they continued to speak English together in the house, even though it was neither of their mother tongue. 

I loved this dish when I first ate it.  Simple ingredients, robust flavours,  it is a dish that I continue to make  regularly to this day.

Serves 4


500g unpeeled, raw prawns
300g of live clams, washed
4 squid, cleaned and cut into rings
500g live mussels, debearded and washed
9 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
olive oil
salt and pepper
good pinch of saffron
600g fideos, if you can't get these, break up spaghetti into 2 cm pieces
fish stock


2 egg yolks
4 cloves garlic
olive oil

How to go about it

If you are smart, get someone to make the allioli for you.  Give them these instructions.  Peel garlic and roughly chop and put into a mortar with the salt and grind with the pestle.  Add the egg yolks and grind to mix and add the olive oil in a fine drizzle moving the pestle all the time.  It should start to emulsify, add the oil until it reaches the required consistency.

  • It can be made with 1 whole egg and 1 egg yolk and made in hand whizzer, adding oil in same way.  It is not as thick but still okay.
  • When you make it in the pestle and mortar when it has reached required consistency, you can add 2-3 teaspoons of boiling water, mix and then add a bit more oil.
  • True allioli has no egg yolk.  It is hard work to get an emulsion but it is sublime made in this way.
  • If it splits or won't emulsify, start again with another egg yolk in a clean bowl and add split mixture in a drizzle until emulsifies.
  • It is better to have eggs and oil at the same temperature, not too hot or not too cold.
  • Rule -  always store allioli in fridge after making.  Throw away allioli after the first day,

Peel and dehead prawns.  Put heads and body peel in a saucepan and cover in water.  Cook for 10 minutes, mash the heads and peelings with a potato masher to extract the juice from the prawns.  Drain and keep hot, add extra fish stock as needed. 

Fry the whole garlic in olive oil, in a large, shallow frying pan.  Do not let burn, fry for 5 minutes and discard garlic.  This is only to flavour oil.  Fry squid in the same pan for 5 minutes them add pasta.  Fry for 5 minutes longer until the pasta starts to become transparent.  Soak safron in a little hot water then  add to pan with salt and pepper.  Start to add laddlefuls of prawn stock one by one, let cook then add clams and mussels and 2-3 laddles of hot stock until just covered.  Let cook, don't stir, let it form a film on the top, as this acts as a lid.

When the stock is just about absorbed, turn off heat and cover with tea towel.  If you are lucky the pasta will stand on end, pointing skywards. 

Serve with the allioli.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Cannelloni bean and vegetable soup with harissa and yoghurt

So many vegetables in the garden, I think I am turning into a vegetarian.  I thought I would give this a bit of a twist, instead of making a straight forward minestrone I decided to put a bit of harissa and yoghurt in it.

Serves 4


300g of cannelloni beans, soaked overnight
3 carrots
1 courgette
bunch of swiss card
1 clove of garlic
1 onion
handful of green beans
1 - 2 teaspoons harissa (depending on how hot you like it)
1 tablespoon of tomato purée
1 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
small sprig of rosemary
small sprig of oregano
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper

For the yoghurt sauce

4 tablespoons of yoghurt
juice of half a lemon
1 teaspoon of lemon zest
2 tablespoons chopped basil

How to go about it

First cook beans in a pressure cooker for 10 minutes or 40 minutes in normal saucepan.  Drain but reserve liquid.  Peel and chop onion, garlic and carrots, chard stems, gentle fry in saucepan until soft.  Add chopped courgette and continue frying for a few minutes.  Add herbs and cumin and fry for 2 minutes.  Add harissa and purée, mix and them add tomatoes, chopped chard leaves, beans and liquid from beans and more water if you think it needs it.  Season.  Simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile make yoghurt sauce by mixing all the ingredients. Serve.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Rabbit and artichoke paella

I think there are hundreds of versions of Paella and for sure every family will have its own way of making it.  My son's girlfriend went to eat at a friends house, where the father made the Paella and he even had a special jacket he wore when he made it!  The combination of rabbit and artichoke is said to be one of the original ways of eating this dish of Spain and for me my personal favourite.

Paella can be made in advanced and covered with foil and a heavy tea towel and be kept warm in this way for quite a while.  There are not any fancy ingredients in Paella, it is peasant food and would normally be cooked by the grandmother for the rest of the family.  The important ingredient in this version is to have a good quality Spanish smoked paprika.

Serves 4


1 rabbit
2-3 artichokes (depending on size)
3 garlic cloves
3 teaspoons Spanish smoked paprika
chicken stock
600g of paella rice (bomba)
Olive oil
salt and pepper

How to go about it

Prepare artichokes, chop in half and peel off outer leaves.  Peel stalk and cut in quarters, carefully take out the hairy choke and discard.  If you don't want them to discolour put them in some water with the juice of half a lemon or a sprig of parsley.

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Chop the rabbit in small pieces and include the liver, heart and kidneys.

In a paella pan or large shallow pan put in 2 tablespoons of oil and add whole, unpeeled garlic cloves and rabbit and sauté for 10 minutes on gentle heat.  Turn pieces, then add artichokes and continue to sauté for 5 minutes more.  Add a bit more oil and put in rice and paprika, season with salt and fry until the rice is starts to colour and it is coated in paprika.  Add enough stock to so the liquid comes about 2 cm over the rice. Cook on a medium heat. 

The rule is with paella is that you can stir for the first few minutes and then don't touch.  It forms a film on top of the liquid that acts as a lid and helps to cook the rice evenly.  When all the liquid is absorbed, turn it off and cover and let rest for 5 minutes.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Artichoke and black pudding Pasta

When you grow your own veg, you don't always have the choice of what you are going to eat.  It's a question of what needs harvesting in the garden and how am I going to cook this.  This is a recipe that works with different combinations of early Summer vegetables.  I bought these artichoke plants about 3 months ago and was told that they didn't need cutting down to the ground at the end of May and they wouldn't be any artichokes till the following Spring, so I was surprised to see these artichokes in June!

Serves 4


2 artichokes
bunch of swiss chard
1 courgette
handful of broad beans, fresh or frozen
2 black puddings
olive oil
salt and pepper
400g macaroni pasta

For the sauce

100 dl olive oil
100g parmesan cheese
1 lemon
fresh basil
3 cloves fresh garlic
small bunch of basil

I had in my garden an enormous plant which I knew to be of the onion/garlic family but was told by a neighbour it is what they call french garlic and it is used to make allioli (Catalan garlic mayonaise) as it is milder.

How to go about it

First make the sauce by finely chopping garlic and basil, add olive oil and the juice of lemon and parmesan, mix with a fork.

Put a saucepan of water on to boil for pasta.

Prepare artichokes, discarding outer leaves and cut into eights, fry in olive oil.  Wash and separate stalks of chard, chop stalks and add to artichokes.  Finely slice courgettes in semi circles and add to pan.  Fry on low heat for 5 minutes.  Add chopped chard leaves and broad beans and fry for another 5 minutes.  While this is cooking, put pasta on to cook.  Follow cooking instructions on packet.  Drain but DON'T RINSE.   Add a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper.  Cover and keep warm.

Slice black pudding and gentle fry on both side for a few minutes. Remember that black pudding is already cooked so it just needs to be heated through and browning a bit. 

Mix pasta into veg, then mix in sauce.  Serve in bowls or on plates and arrange black pudding on top.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Courgette, pea and new potato soup

Now that my three courgette plants have started to give courgettes, it has become really the star veg of my table each day.  Wanted or not, I have to eat it, I can't abide wasting food, especially food that I have grown, that my soil has given me.  So today instead of the usual puréed courgette velouté, I decided to keep it a bit chunky.

Serves 4


1 young onion
3 - 4 wet (fresh) garlic cloves
2 large new potatoes, scrubbed, not peeled
2 courgettes
small sprig of fresh rosemary
700dl of vegetable stock or water
4 handfuls of peas, shucked fresh or frozen,
salt and pepper
Olive oil

How to go about it

Peel and chop onion.  Peel and finely chop garlic, cut potatoes into large cubes along with the courgette.  Put a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy bottom saucepan and gentle fry onion, garlic, courgettes and potatoes for 15 minutes until almost cooked, add more oil if it is dry.  Then just cover with stock or water, add finely chopped rosemary and season, add 2 handfuls of peas.  Let simmer for 5 minutes.  Meanwhile cook the other to 2 handfuls of peas in a little water for 5 minutes, then purée.  Add the puréed peas to the soup, heat through for a few minutes and serve.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Apricot tart

I always think that apricots come into there own when cooked, it brings out the best in them and what better way to enjoy them than a simple tart.

For the paté sucre

200g plain flour
130g butter
25g sugar
1 egg yolk
pinch of salt


800g apricots, halved and stoned
150g double cream
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
80g sugar

How to go about it

Make sweet pastry by rubbing in butter into flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.  Add sugar, salt and vanilla, mix in egg yolk and enough cold water to bind.  Gentle knead for few seconds and wrap in clingfilm and let it rest in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Butter a flan dish, roll out the pastry and line the dish, put in apricots cut- sides up.  Lightly beat egg into cream and add sugar then pour around the apricots.  Bake in a preheated oven at 180c° for 40 minutes.  Serve at room temperature.

Served with a small glass of quince liqueur

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Minervois Sourdough Bread.

Anyone that has tried their hand at making bread, whether it be from a natural yeast starter or bought yeast, will no the complete enthralling and compelling obsession  that it becomes.  The quest to produce the perfect loaf becomes all consuming. 

I started my first sourdough starter in my Mothers airing cupboard and after  feeding and nurturing it for over a week it eventually turned into the BLOB, growing and consuming all its path.  Namely forgotten knickers and odd socks abandoned on the copper pipes in the airing cupboard, until in the end it had to be punched into a black plastic sack and thrown out in the rubbish.  Who knows it could be living at the local tip to this day, devouring all in its path! 

My second attempt was in the Languedoc in France and this time I used Minervois red grapes at the time of the harvest in September and organic, stone ground rye flour from the neighbouring Black Mountains.  This time it was a success and I am still using it to date.  It will be 4 years old this coming September.  We've had are ups and downs but it has always bounced back.  It is like a pet that I always have to think about.  It normally comes on holiday with us as we have a camper van and I just put it in the fridge and feed it as normal.  Sorry, I am not explaining  this very well, once you have started a natural yeast starter it always has to be fed with fresh flour, usually on a weekly basis, but depending on how often you use it.  I could go into pages of explanation but you just have to get to know your starter and learn what it will tolerate or not in order to survive.

This is how I started mine.


a plastic bucket
piece of muslin
organic rye flour
1 bunch organic red grapes
spring water
1 kilo glass jar with plastic lid
rubber spatula (I never use metal to mix my Mother Culture)

How to go about it

Put grapes in muslin and tie up with the string
Put 500g flour and enough water in the bucket to make a thick paste and squeeze grapes into the flour and water mixture.  Leave grapes in the mixture, cover with a clean, dry tea towel.

Let it ferment at room temperature for a couple of days.  It should start to smell beery, which is what beer is - liquid bread!  The colour will be pinky grey.  Yuk but this it how it should look.  Leave it another day and then add another cup of flour and some water and squeeze grapes a bit more.  Cover and let it ferment again for 2 days.  Then throw a couple of cups away and add some more flour and mix to same consistency as before, cover and leave again for two days.  Repeat twice more throwing away and adding.  Right now it should start to take strength.  Fill a kilo jar up to 3/4 with starter and make a small hole in the lid and store in fridge.  This is now your pet and it has to breath and eat.  Every time you use it,  throw away a good half of the jar, top up with flour and water and mix and return to fridge.  If you are not going to use it for while that is okay it will go to sleep as such but you will have to bring it back up to strength by throwing away and topping up until it recovers its strength.  It is best to make bread with it two days after it has been fed.

So, now you want to make some bread.
Firstly, make sure that your Mother culture is fed and ready for action.

Day 1  Hour 1700

Sponge mixture


125g  wholemeal flour
125g strong bread flour
250dl room temperature water, the amount will depend on the dryness of your flour.
about a tangerine size amount of Mother culture

How to go about it

Put the two flours in a bowl and put in starter.  Mix in water with spatula until it is like a thick paste, cover with a clean tea towel and leave at room temperature for 18 to 24 hours.  It should be quite bubbly.
Don't forget to feed Mother Culture, throw a bit away if needed.  I changed my flour for feeding my culture from rye to wholemeal, this was a question of what was available and price.  It is not a problem to feed it with rye or wholemeal it will adapt but the most important thing is that it is fed and watered.

Day 2  Hour 1700


1250g strong bread flour
3 teaspoons of salt
3 teaspoons of sugar or honey
3 tablespoons olive oil
400g of the sponge mixture
About 300dl tepid water

How to go about it

Mix all ingredients together and knead for 15 minutes.  It can be made in a food mixer but you might have to make it in two lots.  The water content will depend on your flour but the wetter the dough the better.  Put the dough into an oiled bowl and turn over so it is covered in oil.  Put cling film on top of the dough and leaver out for 1 hour and then put in the fridge overnight.

Day 3 Hour 0900

Take dough out of the fridge and let sit for an hour.  Take out of the bowl and split in two, lightly shape into two round loaves.  Dust with flour and place each loaf on an floured baking tray, cover each loaf with a clean tea towel and let prove for 4 hours. 

Preheat the oven 40 minutes before to 225°c.  Cook each loaf one at a time and slash just before it is put into the oven and spray with water.  Bake for 35 minutes.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Butter bean and vegetable tart with a gofio shortcrust.

An early morning stroll down the garden in my pyjamas I saw this vibrant courgette flower.  So beautiful in the early morning sunlight.  I picked a few vegetables and strolled back up to the house.

Not much of a wide selection but I had some butter beans in soak and I had been thinking about making a vegetable tart, similar to one I had made about 25 years ago for my parents.  I don't know why I had been thinking about it but I suppose it is like going through old cookery magazines of the mind.

I thought that I would make the paté brisé a bit different and I remembered that a couple of months previous I had come across a packet of gofio on a supermarket shelf and bought it because I was curious to know what it was.  Well, it is a toasted wheatgerm that comes from the Canary Islands.  In appearance it looks like light brown cornflour but its smell  resembles wheatgerm.  Another thing that I use to eat in my 20's when I was a cycling fanatic, it was an ingredient in my power breakfast drink, which now I suppose would be called a smoothie.  So in a way this pie is a bit of a trip down memory taste lane.


for the pastry

150g plain flour
50g gofio
100g butter
pinch of salt
1 egg yolk


small bunch of swiss chard or spinach
1 onion
1 clove of garlic
grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin
small bunch of fresh coriander
2 tablespoons of cream
1 egg
tomato frito
salt and pepper
25g roasted hazelnuts, chopped
2 carrots
2 courgettes

Firstly, make the pastry by rubbing the butter into the two flours, add salt and yolk and bind with a little cool water.  Knead for a few seconds and wrap in cling film and let it rest in the fridge. 

Drain butter beans and put in pressure cooker and cover with water and cook for 15 minutes under pressure, drain but reserve the cooking liquid.

Wash all the vegetables and separate the swiss chard stalks and chop stalks along with the onion, garlic and carrots.  Gentle fry this in olive oil for a few minutes, add cumin and fry for a couple of minutes longer.  Add the beans and about a cup of tomato frito and a little of the cooking liquid.  Let cook gentle for five minutes adding more liquid if needed.  Add chopped coriander and turn off heat.

Cook green part of swiss chard in a little water for five minutes, cool and drain, making sure you squeeze out excess moisture.  Liquidize with cream and a little nutmeg, let cool.

Slice courgettes thinly and parboil for two minutes, refresh in cold water, drain and pat dry.

Grease a 23cm flan dish, roll out pastry and line flan dish.  Prick base with a fork and line with foil, put in baking beans and cook for 10 minutes in a  preheated oven of 180°c, remove foil and baking beans and cook for a further 5 minutes.  Remove from oven.

Fill pastry lined dish with butter bean mixture, then mix in beaten egg to chard purée add hazelnuts then spread out on top of beans.  Top with courgettes overlapping in an ever decreasing circle, brush with olive oil and cook for 35 minutes  or until golden on top.

The gofio pastry I will definately be making again, it had a lovely nutty flavour.