The end of summer is here. We are feeling the cold seep into London, which in unfortunate because my relationship with Gelato was just getting exciting, but with the cold comes changing leaves, crisp aired walks, that feeling of excitement like school is starting (yes I know I’m in my 30’s, but I still love stationary shopping). This salad makes me think of summer but uses delicious pumpkin ripe and ready for autumn. Add in a rich blue cheese, toasted nuts and cranberries and you have something really simple but special.
The sweet roasted pumpkin is matched up against the savoury, salty tang of the blue cheese, the bitter toasted walnuts and the sour dried cranberries and pomegranate molasses. The serving size is perfect as dinner for two and to be enjoyed with a glass of lightly sweet Riesling or a rich Sauternes. For best results, use a soft shelled pumpkin, which can still be found at good green grocers. Alternatively peel a culinary pumpkin before roasting or use butternut squash.
This carrot soup has a certain farm-like decadence to it. It is rich while nourishing and looks beautiful. You can make it vegetarian if you wish, but the chicken stock does add another layer of flavour. Punchy caraway and mustard seed add depth of flavour to the sweetness of the carrot while the garnishes – sour cream, dill and pine nuts – add a creamy richness.
I imagined myself eating this dish at an outdoor table on a warm summer evening, watching the stars begin to glimmer. However, as it is made from a lasting root vegetable it is also seasonally versatile – it just happens to taste the best when the carrots have been pulled straight out of the ground. Serve with a cool glass of California chardonnay.
CARROT SOUP WITH SOUR CREAM, DILL AND PINE NUTS
1kg carrots, peeled and cut into 1inch rounds
2 sticks celery, cut into chunks
3 banana shallots, sliced
2tbs olive oil
Splash of white wine
500ml chicken or vegetable stock
1tsp dried dill
1tbs mustard seeds
1tbs caraway seeds
salt and pepper
4 dessert spoons sour cream
4tbs pine nuts
4tbs fresh chopped dill
Start by sweating the vegetables and dry spices in a medium saucepan in a dessert spoonful of olive oil with a teaspoon of salt stirred through, which helps the vegetables break down. It’s great to get a bit of colour on the shallots as their caramelised flavour lends beautifully to the sweet carrots.
Once the vegetables have a bit of colour on them, pour in the white wine followed by the chicken stock. If the vegetables aren’t covered with liquid, top it up with water. Bring the pot to a boil, then turn it down to a simmer. Cook until the carrots are completely soft, about 30-45mins.
When the carrots are soft, take the soup of the heat and blend it until it is a fine puree. Let it down with a bit of water until it is the desired consistency. You don’t want it to thick, nor too thin. Think the of the body of double cream, that’s what you’re going for. Add plenty of fresh cracked pepper and a bit of salt if the flavour needs a bit more oomph.
To serve, ladle the soup into bowls, drizzle with a little olive oil and add a dallop of sour cream in the middle, laying it down gently so it rests on top of the soup. The sour cream really boosts and balances the flavour of the sweet carrots. Sprinkle over the dill and finally scatter the pine nuts.
Pizza dough is a fantastically easy bread to make at home. It’s versatile and freezes beautifully. Make pizza, calzones, rolls or breadsticks. Do use ’00’ flour, which is very finely milled and high in gluten to give your bread a deliciously chewy texture. Simply shape, allow to prove for about 20 minutes and then cook in a high heat oven, around 220ºc/420ºf for the recommended time for whatever you are making.
The classics are always nice, but try to go a little wild with flavours! I, for example, love it with a little rosemary, topped with gorgonzola and pears. The sky is the limit! Well, maybe not anchovies and chocolate…
Prep time: 20mins plus 1 hour for rising
500g ’00’ flour
500g plain, all purpose flour
1tsp fine sea salt
1.5tbs quick yeast
650ml water, warm to touch
1tbsp sugar, caster or granulated
4tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Whisk the flours and salt together in a large bowl – the largest in your kitchen, big enough for the whole mixture to double in size.
Fill a jug with the water and add the yeast, sugar and oil. Allow the yeast to bloom out and activate by leaving it for at least 5 minutes. It should foam vigorously.
Make a well in the bottom of the flour, pour in the liquid and stir with a large fork from the centre to the outside, slowly bringing in all the flour until a smooth, sticky dough forms. When it starts to get to difficult to use the fork, reach in with a clean, floured hand and work the dough together.
Tip the dough out onto a clean, lightly floured surface – a countertop is usually the best – and knead for 5 to 10 minutes until the dough becomes silky and springy. There should be some resistance as the gluten starts to develop, which will give it a wonderful chewy texture.
Lightly flour the bowl you used to mix the dough in and lay the dough in the bottom, dust the top with flour and cover the bowl with a damp tea towel. Leave it in a warm place to rise until it has doubled in size – it should take about an hour.
Once risen, scrape the dough out of the bowl onto a floured countertop and knock back, removing much of the air but not all. Using a scraper or a butter knife, portion the dough into 6 portions for medium pizzas, 8 portions for small.
Either use immediately or wrap the portions in clingfilm for the fridge or freezer. If freezing, wrap double.
It really is morning here in Vietnam, so in this case use of this cliche line is appropriate, and it is absolutely beautiful here on the lagoon where we are staying near Hue.
The fishing boats wake me up at 4:30AM with their putt-putt-putting and the swooshing of their net very near to our bedroom. I don’t mind at all. The sun is a glowing orb of red, typical of this part of the world and we enjoy being awake when it rises over the mountains in the distance.
Vietnam is an amazing country. The people are friendly and humorous and they work incredibly hard everyday. The landscape is magical and the history is fascinating. I feel I’ll never want to leave.
Naturally one of the biggest parts of this adventure is the food. Vietnamese has been a favourite of mine for many years, being a staple in Seattle and an slight obsession of my step-dad, but eating the real deal here surpasses any expectations I could ever have dreamed up.
I plan to write more posts about Vietnam and the fabulous food adventure I am having here because my obsession just got deeper!
Let’s start wish breakfast, a steaming bowl of Pho Ga ( said Ph-oa G-ah).
There is something so satisfying about rice noodles in clear broth. It’s the chicken noodle soup of Vietnam but for breakfast, so it really clears your head and mind for the day (and your sinuses, depending on how many chillies you add).
So here is the rundown for Pho – it’s like any culture’s chicken soup: your mom makes it best, your grandma even better; it starts with great stock; it makes you feel better even if you feel good; it’s comforting; it’s pretty cheap to make.
This recipe can be adapted to your taste. I learned to make a better version than I have before at a fabulous cooking school near Hoi An.
This salad is all about balancing bold flavours while also letting the ingredients speak for themselves. Nothing fancy, just a little bit of thought.
The sweet roasted pumpkin is matched up against the savoury, salty tang of the blue cheese, the bitter toasted walnuts and the sour dried cranberries and pomegranate molasses. All the flavours are covered. The serving size is perfect as dinner for two, sat out on the patio as the nights turn long and warm, and to be enjoyed with a glass of soft Sauvignon Blanc, a crisp wine to cut through the rich flavours. For best results, use whichever pumpkin and greens are in season.
I just had the blissful experience of having my mom and step dad come to stay with us in London. It had been a year since I last saw them and oh my days was that way too long. They stayed for a month and it was bliss.
Having people to visit is such a wonderful opportunity to go out and enjoy London for her best attributes, especially in her bleakest months. I’ve got to hand it to you, London, when given a chance you really know how to show a girl a good time in January!
We learned a heartbreaking and eye opening story of India’s past with Dara at the National Theatre, Emily Carr showed us the importance of the forest, the coast, legends and the totem pole to the NW Native American at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, we stood aghast yet again in front of the many historical pieces in the National Gallery and had a modern look at art through Taylor Wessing’s Photographic Portrait Prize. To say the least, I feel enriched! As does my waistline because the other thing everyone loves about a visitor is having the excuse to ride with them on their holiday, eating rich foods and drinking wine on weekdays (‘I don’t ever do this normally’…she lies) and having dessert after every meal.
I also had foot surgery… so have been laid up, unable to stand long enough to cook and itching to get back into the kitchen. Though I have managed to meditate (staring aimlessly at the wall is a good pastime if you’ve really got nowhere to go!) and read quite a lot, so it’s not been all bad.
Suffice to say I am well rested and looking to come out of this forced hibernation into the spring with gusto! … and perhaps eat a few dishes to help me feel remotely healthy after three weeks on the couch. Bring on the fresh stuff!
I’ll not say that I am a ‘Super Food’ fanatic but there really is something to be said about packing in the vitamins, so here is a salad that’s pretty much ‘all that’ (the 90’s are back in right?).
It’s got a balance of bitterness from the radicchio, sweetness from the roast parsnips that are still sticking with us for the rest of winter, sulfur from the broccoli, oily and salty umami from the fish and zing from the grapefruit. Serve it with rye crisp breads or sourdough toast and pomegranate vinaigrette and you’ll feel as zingy as the grapefruit yourself!
In my book roast chicken should be top on a cook’s basic recipes list. Not only is it delicious comfort food but you can make so much with the leftovers! Sandwiches, salads and curry can be made with leftover meat while stock made from the bones of a whole chicken can be used for any number of soups, gravies, and risottos. Talk about a good investment- one chicken can make up to 4 meals!
Since it’s far more cost effective than buying separate pieces of chicken, you have no excuse but to but free range. By not supporting factory farms that are responsible for some real environmental hazards (It’s pretty unreal…) and putting the poor chickens through short yet ghastly lives you can take small steps toward making a difference.
It’s worth it to promote sustainable farming and animal welfare and you can really taste the difference too. The meat of a free range bird has much tighter fibres because it has exercised, which tends to lead to richer flavour.
I like to roast chicken with garlic and knobs of butter stuffed under the skin to make it especially juicy and full of flavour. This method helps make the skin crispy too. Yum. Alright, let’s get started!
Happy New Year 2014!!! 2013 was busy and exciting for me and the final 3 months were the busiest of all! My greatest accomplishments of 2013 was to finally start cooking school in September. My life-long desire to put my passion for food into action has finally come to life and I couldn’t be happier.
Eight weeks at Leith’s School of Food and Wine has showed me I am doing exactly what I should do but I am here to report that I have been dog tired, as in can’t even lift my head up off the floor to scratch at the flee behind my ear dog tired. But who cares?! I have never been so happy as I am in chef’s whites merrily cooking or learning techniques and theory involving food. I have learned a million new skills and to do almost everything I have ever done in the kitchen the right way instead of the sloppy way. Just to give you an idea, here are a few examples:
I have learned to fillet a fish, joint a chicken, scramble, bake, fry, poach, scramble, and boil eggs, whip meringues, pipe icing, brown meat, congeal custard, make a million kinds of pie pastry, whip cream, aerate flour, make choux into eclairs, gougers and profiteroles, whip, fold and cream cakes, render fat, temper chocolate, froth mousse, deep fry goujons, wield a pastry, filleting, boning, santoku, office and fruit knife, bake fruit, roast everything, split curds and whey, baton, chop, dice, concasse, julienne and slice every vegetable imaginable (including my fingers) and bake simple breads.
I will admit though that as my standards sky rocket in the kitchen at school, my standards at home have slipped into an abyss of quick noodles and scrambled eggs, hence the lack of posts! Not to mention an endless house hunt which has finally come to a moving date – now! But never mind that, let’s start the new year off right and as we mean to go on! Back to regular posts courtesy of more time on my greedy little hands. Yippee!
I have been on and off obsessed with sweet potatoes and now I’m on again. Sweet potatoes are versatile and interesting although often over looked. Let’s start with a dauphinoise shall we?
Sweet Potatoes Dauphinoise
Preheat oven to 200c/400f/gas mark 6
3 medium sweet potatoes (about 500g)
1/2 large white onion
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
handful of fresh or dried thyme, stripped from the stalks
400 ml whole milk (can be alternated with double cream but not single cream)
Peel and thinly slice onions
and put into a saucepan with milk. The milk should be enough to just cover the onions when they are laying flat as they can in the pan. Crush garlic and add to the pan.
These days I am so busy back being a student there is little to no time for cooking at home! Thank goodness I get to cook half the day at school or I would be going crazy.
Speaking of students – my brother-in-law, who just started university, has asked for some cheap, simple recipes with little washing up. He can already cook basically anything but I hope this dish of tomatoes and aubergine (eggplant) will add some vitamins to his friend’s repertoire! I remember what I ate at university – a whole lot of grilled cheese… I mean a whole lot. Like, everyday.
The easiest thing to cook while at university other than grilling a sandwich with an iron is probably cous cous. You can make it using just a kettle and a bowl and by chance it’s the perfect accompaniment to this dish, which is cheap, easy, vegetarian and full of flavour. Oh and only one roasting tin used!
Roast Tomato and Aubergine with Chickpeas
Serve with Cous Cous
Serves 2 or 1 seriously hungry person
4-5 medium tomatoes or roughly 200g+ cherry tomatoes, off their stems
1 head of garlic
1-2 teaspoons cumin
1 can chickpeas
salt and pepper
Quarter tomatoes and cut eggplants into relative size chunks according to size of tomatoes. You want even sizes here. Juice the lemon.
Peel garlic – here is a tip that will change your life if you have a microwave:
Top Tip: As learned from Cooks Illustrated – If you want skins off garlic for a recipe, pop the whole head of garlic in the microwave for 20 seconds. the cloves will pop out of their skins due to the steam breaking the membrane. The garlic will be slightly less pungent but will still taste great.
Put all veggies in a roasting tin and toss evenly with olive oil, lemon juice, 1 tablespoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon salt and ground black pepper to your taste. I use lots of black pepper because I’m a fiend for it.