Halibut wrapped in prosciutto with sauce vierge and roasted leeks

As a memorable autumnal end to my home-grown tomato season, I incorporated the last of my super-sweet Sungold tomatoes into sauce vierge. A perfect match for white fish,  I brought the sauce together with halibut fillets wrapped in prosciutto. The delicate white fish and salty, sweet ham delivered harmonious and balanced flavours with this tangy and refreshing sauce. This sauce also made the most of my remaining fresh basil and chervil of the season and the dish included another of my incredibly successful Allium crops of this year – leeks, roasted until soft and succulent.

I am the Red Queen (again)

“Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.”

                      The Red Queen in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass

I revisit this quote of my first blog post which I tentatively posted a year ago this week.  A first anniversary seems like a good time to reflect on this first year of blogging.  Given the flavour of the frenetic activity of the first post, one thing certainly hasn’t changed, I still feel like The Red Queen and this is reflected in my inability to post regularly over the last couple of months.  Time to get back on track, or at least try…

First ‘Blogiversary’

When my nascent blog emerged, I was sure it would function well as my much needed recipe and garden diary and it does. I have used it regularly to remind myself of recipes I would otherwise never have noted down and repeated.  It is a huge time saver on that front.

Beyond some friends and family, I thought very few others were likely to read it, or even find it online.  I am usually pretty reluctant to push its presence, preferring to let readers discover it organically / by accident and lift and lay it as they please. So, somewhat surprisingly, I have acquired about 600 subscribers through various means: WordPress, Twitter and Facebook. Thank you all! Hardly viral, but respect to those tolerant readers willing to stick with my often lengthy and occasionally random digressions around food, foraging, recipes and beyond.

Without starting a blog, I would not have joined Facebook or Twitter and did so initially reluctantly in order to give those who want to subscribe through these social portals the option. My views on both continue to evolve.  I could live without Facebook, which I rarely use, beyond circulating my latest post. Someone once said to me if you were not on Facebook you were a nobody.  Well, like many of my friends who are not subscribers, I was actually perfectly content to be so before I joined and do not feel ‘whole’ having done so!

I like Twitter because it is easily tailored to focus on information exchange and I am grateful for the many foraging and food-related connections made and what I have learned as a result. I enjoy the constraint, brevity and breakneck pace of Twitter.

Blogging has given me a deeper insight into the world of professional cooking, foraging and food writing and has confirmed my initial thoughts that I want blogging to remain firmly a hobby – a way to relax and be slightly self-indulgent. In part, this is because I cannot expand beyond my current commitment to my writing and cooking. Having to sit down and write, or cook without the complete freedom I currently have to do or not do so as I please would take the soul and joy out of it for me.  I have a career I am very happy with that challenges me in different ways and this blog is a foil to that. I am also better qualified to do my job than to enter the professional foodie world.

Then there is the question of integrity regarding products and advertising. There is a fair bit of opportunity to test and review products distributed for free.  I have developed strong views on this over the last year and I will not promote or test products, gadgets, books or endorse businesses in any way except independently. I focus on products and services I buy and use. My opinions are my own and cannot be bought.  If I review a product, book, business, etc, favorably, I do so not to assist in its promotion but because I genuinely endorse the product or service.

I want to again thank all the kind bloggers who over the past year have nominated me for numerous blogging awards.  I am very grateful for the appreciation shown in this way and do feel somewhat guilty that although I always take time to give thanks for each award, I do not pass on the awards in the chain style they demand, something I do not want to impose on other bloggers. For this reason, I would prefer not to accept any blog awards in future, save to pass my thanks and a mention for any nomination, as before.

The best thing of all for me about this first year of blogging has been the wonderful community of other bloggers I have been able to connect with.  What a fine and diverse array of talented writers, cooks and photographers you are!  I have learned so many new recipes and tips from reading other blogs and exchanging comments with many enthusiastic, encouraging and supportive bloggers.  I have connected with writers that cover wider subjects than just food and have found refreshing and varied lifestyles and opinions that keep me greatly entertained and informed, so thank you all!

OK, back to business.  Halibut et al

Halibut wrapped in prosciutto with sauce vierge and roasted leeks 

I should really be sitting on the naughty step for buying halibut.  Unfortunately, it not being a fish I eat at all often, I only realised after my purchase that it was not the sustainable white fish choice I would usually make. Surely I can be forgiven for this rare slip up?

I have had a bumper leek crop this year, not least because, like the garlic, the leeks have been happily dangling their roots in the beds with newly added well-rotted manure.  The variety is, I think, Bandit, a beautiful and robust blue-green variety that seems happy to withstand our winter gales without turning black and ragged.

leeks

The leeks were trimmed, cleaned and blanched in boiling water for 2-3 minutes, refreshed in cold water and dried before being seasoned and placed in an oven (uncovered) at 200C for 30 minutes.  This gave them a soft texture and a delicate, roasted flavour.

halibut

With the leeks prepared and ready to go into the oven, time to deal with the halibut steaks. These were seasoned and wrapped in prosciutto. Simple.

parma ham

The wrapped fillets were pan-fried with butter, a couple of minutes a side, taking care the pan is not too hot or the ham (and butter) will burn.  These were then rested in a low oven (80C) for 5 minutes or so, giving time to prepare a quick sauce vierge, courtesy of my favoured traditional Michel Roux recipe.

Sauce vierge

This is such a simple yet wonderful sauce, one of my summer favourites with fish. Skinning the tomatoes, especially small varieties such as Sungold is a faff, but worth it for the correct texture. Score and drop in boiling water for 30 seconds before removing to make them easier to peel.

Ingredients

80g tomatoes, skinned and de-seeded

200 ml olive oil

juice of 1 lemon

2 tbsp. snipped basil leaves

2 tbsp. snipped chervil leaves

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

6 coriander seeds, crushed

salt and pepper to taste

Method

  • Dice the skinned and de-seeded tomatoes and place in a bowl with the oil, lemon juice,  herbs, garlic and coriander seeds, season to taste.
  • Heat very slightly until it is just warm and serve over and around the fish.halibut 3halibut 2

While the recipe worked quite well with halibut, it is quite a delicate, subtle fish and the flavour did get a bit lost, especially with the prosciutto. The dish could  be improved by using a firmer, meatier and bolder-flavoured fish.  Monkfish would probably be the ideal choice.

An alternative meat and two veg

For those readers fond of the double entendre, I should first say that by this I am referring to the meaning pertaining to food, i.e. the British stereotypical standard, run-of-the-mill, unremarkable dinner, with a meat and two kinds of vegetable.  It is still a bland dinnertime trap that it is easy to fall into in the UK, especially at home, but also when eating out.

Last Sunday was Mother’s Day and unusually, I was visiting my parents that weekend.  I don’t often see my mum on the day, as we live so far away, so I thought as a gift I would prepare dinner.  Considering all the stupendous meals my mum has cooked for family and friends over the years it’s the least I could do.

The problem with eating out on Mother’s Day, much like Valentine’s Day or Christmas is that it is not always advisable to visit any but the finest restaurants in my experience. Somewhat understandably, menus are more designed for mass catering on such days, restaurants are invariably busy and noisy and staff overstretched. Often generic  ‘Mother’s Day set menus’ are on offer that are not necessarily representative of what an establishment usually serves.

My alternative meat and two veg was delivered for main course consisting of sirloin steak, beetroot and sweet potatoes.  In a final attempt to purge Ottolenghi recipes from my brain (actually this is a lie, I will not be able to resist, but temporarily, at least), I chose to adapt  these from his column in The Guardian as I considered these to be as far from the bland meat and two veg image as a dinner could achieve – without actually removing the components that exemplify the concept.

Harissa marinated beef sirloin with preserved lemon sauce

I found this complement of ingredients irresistibly attractive. I bought local Aberdeen Angus sirloin steaks from a very good local butchers.The slices of steak were not too thick and were given no more than a flash fry and rested.  The flavour of this quality beef was exceptional. Although the sauce was described as preserved lemon, and this was the hook that drew me towards it, in actual fact, it predominated of tomatoes a bit too much for my palate.  That said, the addition of sweet roasted yellow peppers and some Hungarian sweet paprika as well as chilli flakes enhanced the depth of flavour and the preserved lemon gave a distinctive tang which accompanied the marinated steak well without overwhelming its flavour.

Ingredients

1½ tbsp harissa
4 beef sirloin steaks, trimmed (about 750g total)
Salt and black pepper
2 large yellow peppers
2 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
400g tin chopped Italian tomatoes
½ tsp flaked chilli
¼ tsp Hungarian sweet paprika
1 tbsp preserved lemon skin, thinly sliced
2 tbsp chopped parsley

Method

For the sauce:

  • Rub the harissa into the sirloin steaks, season with a quarter teaspoon of salt and some black pepper, and leave to marinade for at least an hour (or in the fridge overnight).
  • To make the sauce, roast the peppers in the oven for at 200C for 45 minutes until charred all over. Place in a bowl, cover with clingfilm until cool, then peel them and cut into long, thin strips. Discard the skin and seeds (my mum kindly did this bit while we were walking the dogs).
  • Heat the oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Fry the garlic for 30 seconds on medium heat, add the tomatoes, chilli, paprika, a quarter teaspoon of salt and some black pepper, bring to a simmer and cook for seven minutes.
  • Add the pepper strips, preserved lemon skin and parsley, and cook for seven minutes, until the sauce thickens but is still easy to pour. Set aside and allow to come to room temperature.

For the steak:

  • Preheat the oven to 100C. Place a ridged griddle pan on a high heat and, when smoking hot, add the steaks and cook for a minute a side.
  • Transfer to a baking tray and rest for 4 minutes, for rare, 6 if you prefer medium. Serve with the sauce.

harissa steak

Roast beetroot salad with yoghurt and preserved lemon

I have always enjoyed the pairing of beetroot with roasted cumin and the extra dimensions of the fresh dill and chicory delight and amuse the palate with contrasting and complementary  layers of flavour.

Ingredients

600g beetroot
2 tbsp olive oil
1½ tsp cumin seeds
1 small red onion, peeled and very thinly sliced
20g preserved lemon skin, roughly chopped
2 tbsp lemon juice
30g dill, roughly shredded
Salt and black pepper
3 tsp tahini paste
200g Greek yoghurt
1 chicory, cut widthways into 0.5cm slices

Method

  • Heat the oven to 220C. Wrap the beetroots individually in tin foil, place on a baking tray and roast for 30-60 minutes, depending on size and quality – check that they’re done by inserting a knife: it should go in smoothly. When cool enough to handle, peel, cut into 0.5cm-thick slices and transfer to a mixing bowl to cool down.
  • Heat the oil in a small frying pan and add the cumin seeds. Cook for a few minutes, until they start to pop, then pour the seeds and oil over the beetroot. Add the onion, preserved lemon, lemon juice, half the dill, a teaspoon of salt and a grind of black pepper. Mix well.
  • Transfer to a serving bowl. Stir the tahini into the yoghurt and add to the salad, along with the chicory. Give it a minimal stir, so the yoghurt and chicory mix in only slightly and there is still some clear distinction between the red and the white, with some pink ripple. Sprinkle over the remaining dill and serve.

beetroot salad

Roast sweet potato with red onion, tahini and za’atar

I have saved the best ’till last. I have made this roast sweet potato dish before and it is no exaggeration to say that this is one of the best vegetable side dishes I have ever eaten.  The colours of the dish are intense and appealing but as much as it looks delectable, the flavours combined are truly mind-blowing.  The first time I made this I served it with chicken, hazelnuts and rosewater. The fact that most of this side dish was demolished before we got round to eating the chicken is testament to its deliciousness .  It served yet again to remind me that vegetarian food can be more delicious than so many meat-based dishes.

Although the recipe can be found in ‘Jerusalem’ using butternut squash, I prefer sweet potato so substituted accordingly.

Preheat oven to 200C

Ingredients

700g of sweet potatoes, cut into large chunks
1 large red onion, cut into wide slices
3 tbsp olive oil
1 1/4 tsp Maldon salt
a few twists of black pepper
3 tbsp tahini paste
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, pounded into a paste
3 tbsp pine nuts
1 tbsp za’atar
handful coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Flaky sea salt

Method

  • In a bowl mix the sweet potatoes and onion with the olive oil, a teaspoon of Maldon salt and a few twists of black pepper.
  • Spread the vegetables on a baking sheet and roast in the oven 30 minutes, or until the vegetables have taken on some color and are cooked through and charred a little. You may need to pick out the onion earlier, lest it burn. 
  • While the vegetables are roasting, make the sauce. Place the tahini in a small bowl along with 2 tablespoons of water, lemon juice, garlic and 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt. Whisk until the sauce is the consistency of honey. You might need to add more water or tahini, depending on consistency.
  • Toast the pine nuts in  a frying pan until golden brown. Remove from the heat and transfer the nuts to a small bowl.
  • Spread the vegetables out on a large plate or a serving platter and drizzle over the tahini. Sprinkle the pine nuts, followed by za’atar and the parsley. Add a few flakes of the Maldon salt and serve.

sweet potato

Herbs – cornerstones of cuisine 2013

The weather has remained relentlessly foul for the last 5 days and it has been impossible to get outside to garden, and now I have returned to work.  It doesn’t really matter and I enjoy looking at the sideways squal from my window while I sit at my computer. The first day back always takes some adjustment and I probably bit off more than I could chew.

The Red Queen Again

Following a post-work meeting, I had resolved to kick off my new 10 km running training plan yesterday. As a regular runner, this was not a New Year’s resolution, which I find futile and a bit pointless.  I prefer to run outside but wanted to kick-start my plan with a time trial for 10 km, which meant checking my pace on the treadmill at the gym, and so I was like the Red Queen, quite literally running to stand still.  The shock of an enforced break from running (2 weeks for flu, another for festivities) took its toll on my limbs and although my pace was around what I was aiming for, it was a punishing session…

So many choices, not enough space

The current herb bed with dominating horsradish and a few herbaceous perrenials thrown in.

The current herb bed with dominating horseradish and a few herbaceous perennials and annuals thrown in.

Happily, day two is a rest day from running, and a relief for my quadraceps and this evening was an ideal opportunity to browse seed catalogues and plan what to plant this year. I tend to be systematic and work through groups, e.g. herbs, brassicas, roots, polytunnel crops, herbs and flowers.  I started with herbs and flowers because they cause me less of a quandary.  I don’t grow many flowers at the moment as most of my 3/4 acre plot is mainly unimproved grassland, exposed and browsed by deer.  I concentrate on the smaller areas we have so far brought under cultivation and protection.

I was however somewhat distracted by the arrival of James Wong’s book Homegrown Revolution.  I caught the end of a Radio 4 interview with James back in October, but missed both his name and that of the book and forgot to listen again on iPlayer, so when this book was mentioned on The Garden Deli, I recognised that this was the book referred to in the discussion, so thanks for connecting me with the world of tomatillos and mashua (Tropaeolum tuberosum).  The claims that many of these crops can be grown in the UK will be tested to the limit here on North Uist (discussion for a future post?) but worth trying some new exciting veg and fruit to spice up the garden.

I have only one herb bed at the moment, the overspill being housed in pots in the polytunnel, on windowsills and companion planted in the raised beds with other crops. My herb bed is also becoming dominated by horseradish, which will eventually need to be moved although I currently harvest enough to try to keep its vigorous growth in check.

Last year, I grew about 15 different herbs, all but a few for culinary use, and this year there will be a few more additions.  There are some herbs I simply cannot grow enough of, particularly basil, coriander, rosemary and thyme.  I can overwinter both rosemary and thyme in the polytunnel, but it is my excessive pruning that takes the real toll on the plants.  Conversely, Water Mint, Mentha aquatica is established and invasive in the garden and I can never get it under control, let alone use enough of it for cooking.

Harvesting seed from dried caraway heads

Harvesting seed from dried caraway heads

As ever, it’s good to have a mix of tried and tested and new varieties.  The big successes last year were chervil, a must for fish (I still have some outside now). Last summer was my second caraway harvest.  I leave some of this biennial umbellifer to self seed to ensure a yield each year.  These seeds have a very powerful flavour compared to shop bought seeds and I adore them in bread. Finally, I am slightly smug about my coriander harvest.  I used to buy coriander seeds from catalogues but it bolts very quickly here so repeated successional sowings were expensive.  I decided to try the large bag of seeds I had in the kitchen that I bought for cooking at an Indian supermarket in Glasgow.  Amazingly, germination rate was very high and one packet costing 60p has kept me going all year, so I will stick to the same plan for 2013.

I had one or two new herbs I had not grown before.  Summer savory was a winner and essential in many classic French dishes and bouquet garnis.  I was gifted hyssop by Christine at Croft Garden, a herb aficionado. Although I occasionally used it sparingly in the kitchen for vinaigrettes,salads and boullion, its beautiful blue flowers were a real hit with the bumblebees.

The final shortlist

My final culinary shortlist for growing this year is:

Rosemary, thyme (Summer de Provence and English Winter), sage, chervil, chives, bay, oregano (Greek), basil (Sweet, Red Rubin, Cinnamon, Mrs Burns), fennel, anise, coriander, lavender, French tarragon (plants), marjoram, winter savory, summer savory, caraway, parsley (flat leaf and the hardier curly), dill and rocket.

Nearer 30 than my estimated 15!

I have an additional list grown principally for flowers and hence wildlife:

hyssop, borage, phaecelia

The turf roof of the workshop has been established for a year so I am also planning to sow a ‘bumblebee seed mix’ of native wild flowers to grow on the roof.  The turf and soil were sourced locally from machair grassland and the species compliment is mainly typical of this habitat and includes corn marigold, knapweed, corn poppy, kidney vetch and slender vetch.

North Uist machair turf on the workshop roof awaits bumblebee wildflower seed mix

North Uist machair turf on the workshop roof awaits bumblebee wildflower seed mix

As usual, I will grow copious amounts of nasturtiums for salads, flowers and caper-like berries – also to divert the green-veined white caterpillars away from my brassicas and salads.

Although the garden is decidedly practical at the moment, I hope to design and landscape a courtyard at the front of the house incorporating tiered raised herb beds.  This however, is some way off as this area is likely to be a building site for another year or two.  I can but dream…

Apologies for not including the scientific names, life is too short at the mo and I am focussing on general culinary properties. If there are any startling omissions you think I should try, I would be delighted to have suggestions.  I am sure I could squeeze a few more in!

Intensely Herby recipes

Of course, no post would be complete without sharing a couple of recipes.  Both of these use copious amounts of herbs and are flexible and can be adapted according to what herbs and how much of each you may have or wish to include.

Vegetable boullion

This has become a store cupboard essential for me.  There is nothing wrong with some shop bought powdered boullions, but they do tend to give recipes an underlying generic recognisable flavour. Although I do like to make my own vegetable stocks, I do not always have time or the recipe does not call for stock but a little lift from the addition of a spoonful this boullion. I use it in anything and everything – soups, casseroles, cooking liquid for rice, cous cous, etc.

The boullion stores very well (at least 6 months). There’s a lot of salt in it, acting as a preservative, so I don’t usually season if I add some boullion to a dish. I make a batch in summer and another in winter, by which time the summer batch is finished. I am just coming to the end of my summer batch now. These can vary significantly in character, depending on what veg and herbs are at my disposal at different times of the year, and one has to be careful not to tip the balance too much in favour of particularly strong ingredients – unless that’s what you are aiming for, of course. This is a variation on the recipe in the River Cottage Handbook No 2 Preserves called ‘Souper mix’.

The last jar of my summer boullion

The last jar of my summer boullion

Ingredients – my summer vegetable boullion

250g leek

200g carrot

200g turnip

100g celery

50g sun-dried tomatoes

3 garlic cloves

100g parsley

10g mint

10g rosemary

5g summer savory

5g sage

250g salt

This amount made 3 jars

Method

  • Cram everything into a food processor (there is a large volume of herbs), pulse then blend to form a moist granular paste.
  • Store in sterilised jars and keep in the fridge once open.

Blitzing the herbs and veg for boullion

Blitzing the herbs and veg for boullion

Nasturtium, basil and rocket pesto

Pesto can be made from a wide range of herbs and leaves and I often ring the changes depending on whatever is the current garden glut.  Nasturtium leaves bring an added bit of zing to this pesto. Proportions of the herbs can be altered to taste, or any one exchanged for parsley. Fresh pesto will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks.  It’s so good, it never lasts that long here.

Ingredients

25g nasturtium leaves

25g basil leaves

25g rocket leaves

50g fresh grated parmesan

50g pine nuts

2 cloves garlic, peeled

200 ml good quality extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp salt

a few turns of pepper

Method

  • Put all ingredients in a food processor, pulse then blitz for a minute or so, until smooth.
  • Store in a jar in the fridge.

Nasturtium, basil and rocket pesto - green and glorious

Nasturtium, basil and rocket pesto – green and glorious

Now all the planning for herbs is in place, time to move on to veg, but not before we deal with two greylag geese a friend has kindly delivered to us.  I know what we will be doing tomorrow evening….

I am The Red Queen

“Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.”

The Red Queen in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass

It is peculiar how, through life, particular quotes can re-surface in different contexts. For me, none more strikingly so than that by Lewis Carroll’s Red Queen. It has been a while since I have thought about her.

My first encounter was inevitably in childhood and the wonderous world of fantastically surreal drama of Carroll’s book which left me quite frankly bewildered but intrigued – and with a fleeting fascination for mirrors and chess.

Last time I thought about her she unexpectedly appeared when I studied co-evolutionary theory as a zoology undergraduate. Although The Red Queen Hypothesis explains two different evolutionary phenomena: the advantage of sexual reproduction between individuals (micorevolutionary) and the constant evolutionary arms race between competing species (macroevolutionary). Either way, the central premise is that continuing adaptation is needed in order for a species to maintain its relative fitness amongst the systems it is co-evolving with. Matt Ridley’s work of popular science on the subject ‘The Red Queen’, is a book guaranteed to generate a storming debate and is a thought-provoking read for scientists and non-scientists alike.

Gardening here always does seem to be an arms race of a non-evolutionary sort – given the constant battle to outwit predators preying on my vulnerable produce.  However, my thoughts returned to The Red Queen over the last couple of months, and specifically to the running-to-stand-still aspect of her being, which has been my experience of late.

I’m sure the experience of frenetic activity is the same between August and October for anyone growing produce.  This is for me exacerbated by full-time work, the start of the migratory fish season and ripening of fruit and berries to forage – not to mention producing a stack of canapes for an open day for The Man Named Sous to welcome customers and friends to his new workshop! The open day was a success. Sadly there wasn’t much food left over to indulge in! Recipe for the canape below can be found here

Broad bean and pea puree with frizzled chorizo on a seeded cracker

As usual, I have written nothing down, but at least used my iPhone to catalogue food-related events.  I had the inevitable glut of veg – kilos of tomatoes, courgettes, cucumbers, peas, broad beans and carrots, too many cauliflowers but not enough pak choi, my first raspberries (exciting!) and a forest of herbs. Fishing yielded well with plenty brown trout and mackerel. A mainland forage for rowan and an exceptional bramble crop on Uist put lots of jelly on the boil.

Chutneys and relishes ensued – beetroot relish, piccalilli, rhubarb relish, veg ale chutney.  Courgettes and cucumbers were eaten fresh by the kilo in various guises from bread (courgette) to salads, the rest preserved by light pickling using numerous different experimental recipes from spicy to sweet. It is a delight to say that in my third tomato-growing year, and due to our exceptional summer, for the first time, I did not have to resort to green tomato chutney.  So lots of roasted tomatoes sauces in the freezer to look forward to over the winter.

Herbs too were exceptional.  I decided to stick to growing about 15 this year, mostly the usual suspects I find it impossible to live without. Basil contributed to fresh pesto.  Its numerous forms included the classic recipe plus variations with rocket, parsley and nasturtiums. Although coriander has to be cropped quickly as it bolts as soon as your back is turned, I did manage a steady supply by sowing weekly over the summer and it is a must for curries and mexican dishes. A trout wouldn’t be the same without dill and the fresh brownies and dill will be sadly missed over the winter. For me the most versatile of all is parsley.  Fortunately I can usually keep a year round supply growing.  Just as well, I add it to almost everything. It also made a significant contribution to my vegetable bouillon recipe.

So, while I have put plenty food in the store cupboard and freezer, not much progress has been made on completing the fruit cage or dry stone wall.  No excuses now however.

I could go on ad infinitum, so it is perhaps fortunate that my apple and marmalade cake needs to come out of the oven….


Broad bean and pea puree with frizzled chorizo on a seeded cracker

The ratio of peas to beans can be changed according to what’s available, or use just one or the other.  The amount of horseradish is up to you, depending on how much heat you like, so keep tasting as you add!

Ingredients

250g each of peas and broad beans, cooked; broad beans shelled

100g creme fraiche

3-5 tblsp fresh grated horseradish, to taste

couple of mint sprigs

chorizo, cut into chunks 1cm x 2cm approx

salt and pepper

To make:

Simmer peas/beans in boiling water for 5 mins and plunge in ice cold water to retain colour.  Shell the broad beans (it is worth the effort and produces a more refined texture), blitz in a food processor with the rest of the ingredients except the chorizo.  Taste and adjust seasoning/horseradish as required. Pass the mixture through a chinois or sieve (unless you want a coarse puree). Put mixture in the fridge as piping is easier if it is cooler and hence firmer.

Put the chorizo pieces in a dry frying pan on a medium heat and fry until the fat runs out and the pieces crisp and blacken at the edges.  Drain on kitchen towel and cool.

Fill a piping bag and using a 1cm plain nozzle pipe a small amount of the mixture onto the cracker. Top with the chorizo and any other garnish you like.  I used chives, mint would be an obvious choice.

Two seed crackers

Replace the seeds with your favourites, or to complement the topping. I often use caraway, but my home grown seed is a bit to potent and overpowers this delicate puree, so linseed and poppy seed were added.

Ingredients

250g plain flour

1tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2 tblsp linseeds

2 tblsp poppy seeds

60g chilled salted butter, cut into small cubes

125ml cold water

pepper

To make:

Oven: 180 oC

Sift flour, baking powder and salt, add seeds and pepper to taste. Rub in the butter until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Gradually mix in the cold water with a flat-bladed knife until the mixture comes together. Gather the dough into a ball, do not knead or overhandle it.

Roll the dough between 2 sheets of cling film until it is 2mm thick – get it as thin as you can.  You may need to divide the dough and roll it in batches.  Don’t be tempted to use parchment or silicone instead of clingfilm – I found this mixture sticks to both. Cutter size is up to you.  I find for canapes 4 or 5 cm is about right, any bigger and the canape is more than a mouthful. This makes about 30 crackers. Put on a baking tray and prick with a fork.

Bake for about 25 minutes until just golden. Store in an airtight container. If you don’t need to make a big batch, the dough can be frozen and used at a later date.