Archive for the 'Seasons' Category

Slow-roasted tomato & herb tartlettes


slow roasted tomato & herb tartlettes

If you wanted to make me really unhappy and I mean extraordinarily bloody-the-the-bones-miserable then it really wouldn’t be that hard.  Taking away my lovely kitchen and dumping me in a hotel in West Virginia would pretty much do it.

I’m hoping that you wouldn’t want to do that to me- but in case you were thinking about it, you’re too late- somebody beat you to it. Not that I have anything against West Virginia- the mountains are quite beautiful, the people charming, but I miss my local market,  my oven, my Kitchen Aid. Oh, and of course I miss my husband too. As if living in a hotel with neither a kitchen nor a husband wasn’t already enough torture for me they have apparently taken away all the good restaurants from the town. Amazing how cruel these TV people can be.

slow roasted tomatoes

Anyway, if I were back in my kitchen at home I would be having a celebratory party- and I would be serving these. As the tomatoes begin to loose their prime, slow roasting them is a magnificent way to revive them. Slice on the vine tomatoes through the middle, lay on a tray sprinkle with a touch of salt and a scattering of thyme and bake in the oven at 150C/200F for 2-3 hours or until drying at the edges but still a little juicy in the middle- you can do it at a lower temperature for longer but this works just fine. I make up huge batches and then leave them in the fridge covered in a little oil. They are amazing as soup, or in salads and I’ve even put them in a tart. Here, I’ve gone down the salad route- mixing them with cucumber, spring onions and fresh herbs.  And because I’m always looking for new ideas to serve at parties I stuffed the salad into baked wonton shells (after eating some for lunch, of course).  They are so crisp and much easier to work with than any pastry- I assure you, the healthy part is just an added bonus.  You can fill them with just about anything- in the winter I make them with roasted squash, chorizo and feta. Make the shells in advance and then stuff them when your ready to serve. Speaking of stuffing- I’m wishing I could stuff this hotel room right now. And I know just where I’d stuff it.
slow roasted tomato & herb tartlettes

And in case you forgot- I’m hosting this weeks BSI (Bloggers Secret Ingredient) challenge. This week the ingredient is chocolate so if you have a recipe leave me a comment with a link to your entry by 9pm on Sunday September 13th. The winner will be announced on Monday September 14th.

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A RECIPE: Summer oatmeal

Summer oatmeal

I’ve had to change my breakfast preference. This hot muggy weather we’ve been having in New York has made eating my usual porridge quite an unbearable exercise.  Whilst I revel in the pleasure of an occasional curry-induced sweat, sweating over breakfast is not a situation that I delight in. Follow a sweaty breakfast with the hairdryer and a long wait on the subway platform and you are in for one sticky day. Pit stains, no charge.

I tried to switch straight to yogurt and fruit- but it just would not suffice. No matter how big the portion, an hour later and my stomach was arguing with my head that it was about bloody time it was fed again. I could not cope with this mind/body disagreement so I went back to the oats. I toyed with the idea of making my granola, but the problem that comes with granola is my right hand. Have I not told you about my right hand? It’s my snacking hand and it takes some serious reprimmanding to set it straight. Put something like granola nearby and it’s like dangling food in front of a dog- my right hand is easily distracted.

Then I remembered the Pukkola (also known as bircher museli) that Jamie Oliver used to make. When I worked on one of his TV series it was always there for crew breakfast- a creamy rich cold oatmeal with grated apple and finely chopped nuts. I put on a few pounds on that shoot and I blame a couple of those extra inches on breakfast alone.

So, this one is lightened up a bit. I prefer to use a skimmed milk or almond milk to soak the oats in- water makes a gloopy mess so don’t even go there. I added some wheat germ and flax seeds and added few nuts and the grated apple after the soaking process to give some more texture. Then, instead of finishing it off with more milk I topped the oats with fruit and Greek yogurt. You don’t have to let the oats soak over night- really an hour will be long enough to absorb all the milk- but most people don’t have that amount of time in the morning. As I’m in the habit of eating the same thing for breakfast day in and day out, the planning in advance thing really hasn’t turned out to be such a problem for me. Plus, I love finishing one meal and planning for the next. A procrastinator, I am not.

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A RECIPE & VIDEO: Zucchini cake

zucchini cake

I love the word zucchini– it sounds so much more enticing than courgette. Romantic even. It’s so satisfying the way it hums off the tip of your tongue. Zzzzzzuuuuuu….. Anyway, this is more about the cake than the name. Not only is this a fabulous way to use up summers bounty but it looks so much more appealing than most sponge cakes. I dallied with the idea of jazzing it up with a simple icing sugar and lemon mixture- but personally I like it as it is. No jazz required. Don disagreed, but then he didn’t really taste it properly. His tasting was more apt to a pelican swallowing a fish than a process that required any thought. It may even like a traditional carrot cake frosting. Still, you can decide for yourself.
zucchini cake

The cake itself is not airy and light- it’s full of zucchini how could it be? But there are ways to maximise or minimise the amount of density to your liking. White sugar gives you a lighter cake- but it’s still spongy whereas brown sugar gives much more of a brownie-esque texture- it’s denser and richer. With brown sugar it could easily pass as pudding straight from the oven and dolloped with crème fraîche. I also altered the flavourings for the respective sugars- for the white cake I used lemon zest to match its more delicate nature. For the brown sugar one, which would have completely dominated the lemon zest I used something with a bit more oomph to stand up to it- cinnamon.
zucchini cake

One piece of advice I can give you is not to mix the zucchini with the flour before adding to the eggs and sugar mixture. The water from the zucchini leaches out and you’re left with what can only be described a goopey mixture- and all you will taste in the final cake is flour. I tried this, thinking that by coating the zucchini it would evenly distribute itself in the cake. It did not. Do not make the same mistake. There’s really no need to dry off the zucchini just make sure that you work quickly- measure all your ingredients out before you start mixing. No need for stress after all this is zzzzzzuchini cake and love is in the air.

Keep reading to watch me making the cake and for the recipe
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A RECIPE: Wintry red wine lentils

wintry red wine lentils

These lentils have become a firm resident in my fridge at home. I make a big batch up at the weekend enjoy the aromas of bacon rosemary and red wine wafting around as I potter about the apartment; satisfied that a week of good meals awaits. Not only do I love this way to cook lentils but I have started somewhat of a love affair with these little pebbles and even Don seems relatively content despite the lack of a big steak or chop on the table. It starts with the smell of pancetta filling the air as it renders it’s fat. Then the holy trinity of carrot, onion and celery meddles in the mix- that homely smell that always leads to random visitors peeking into the kitchen and then an enthusiastic glug of red wine a spoonful of dijon and a few sprigs of rosemary and thyme carry the party through until the lentils are satiated. You may find it hard to believe that it’s not a beef stew simmering on the stove.

I confess, it was only recently when I,  post-run and collapsed on the sofa, that I was lazily grazing my eyes through Nigella’s Feast cookbook that I thought to cook them. This was one part curiosity, one part already having all of the ingredients and one part knowing that I wouldn’t have to leave the sofa and stand on my aching legs for very long. That’s the irony of all this running- I spend half my day Saturday running and the other half unable to move. Talk about balance.

I always knew that I liked lentils- the way they could absorb flavours, the fact that they could be saucey or dry and the way that they comfortingly fill a hungry belly. I’d always been happy to order lentils off the menu, and there was that one lentil salad recipe that I made back in cooking school that still lingers in the back of my head itching for recreation; but I’ve never actually hunted down the recipe. I guess they just never screamed make me as loud as rib roasts and chocolate cakes do. Now all they do is scream.

Lentils are far from the timely, cancel your weekend plans and plan far ahead category that I had previously placed them in. In fact lentils arrive in a whole different category of cooking and one that I assure you is quite pleasant and not half as time consuming as one would think. The beauty of this recipe is that it can either serve as the base for a more complex meal or you can eat them as they are. I’ve turned them into soup by adding extra broth and blending half of them, I’ve made salads with roasted sweet potato and feta, stirred through caramelised onions and walnuts- you get the idea.  But be warned once you start making them- they won’t stop screaming.

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A RECIPE: Whole grain tomato tart

Some recipes are more simple than they seem on paper- or more complicated that they look in the picture. This recipe is both. It’s wonderfully simple but there are several parts to it- usually a big turn the page and move on implication for me. But don’t walk away just yet- at least let me try to convince you that this recipe is worth more than a glance.

Firstly, you will need to make the pastry-or you can buy perfectly good pastry these days in the supermarket so if the thought of making pastry makes you jittery outsource this to your local shop. It need not be whole grain and puff pastry will work just fine.

Secondly, you will need to slow cook tomatoes in the oven- which I won’t lie, takes time- but so little effort for such magnificent results. I recommend tripling the batch and using the remaining tomatoes in salads, soups, stews or even just on their own.

Lastly, you will need to caramelise onions- which can be done faster than you think and again I would make a double or triple batch and use the remaining onions for soups, pizzas, sandwiches or freeze them.

All of a sudden a seemingly long-winded recipe becomes as simple as it looks. Pastry, slow roasted tomatoes, caramelised onions, goats cheese and basil- a winning combination. If there was speed dating for food- these guys would be fighting over each other at the end of the night.

And now I sense an imminent tantrum erupting over working with pastry but take your 10 breaths and chill because this requires such minimal effort that I might even trust Don to have a go. This is the man who has not made me a single great cup of tea in over three years of dating. This is an upside down tart which means that you need not fret about neatly lining a tart tin, soggy pastry or blind baking- working with pastry does not get simpler than this, my friends.

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A RECIPE: Strawberry summer salad

I was on the phone to my good old friend Courtney the other day when she suddenly asked me:

“Got any good salad recipes going?”

And it struck me at that instant that although I eat a salad of some description at least once a day I rarely post about them. I LOVE salads- why the heck wasn’t I writing about them? Perhaps because they are my go-to meal of choice and I inevitably throw them together, using up the contents of my fridge. There are of course the old favourite add-ins- crispy chorizo, roasted butternut squash, crumbled feta cheese, grilled halloumi….but really there is no one combination that I seek to recreate. I just love the concept of throwing things together- a little of this, a handful of this, a really big handful of that, ooh that would be good too and viola! Dinner is ready- a meal in a bowl, what could be better?

Getting out the scales and the measuring cups is just not something I think to do when I make a salad. Even the dressings tend to be thrown together or sometimes I just drizzle the individual dressing elements over my plate. However, (because there is obviously a recipe for a salad about to come) there was this occasion, oh, only last week when I was rummaging through the contents of my newly cleaned fridge wondering what salad I could throw together that would be sophisticated enough to present to company. I had recently visited the smitten kitchen who had opened my eyes up to the novel idea of raw courgette and then there were those beautiful glistening strawberries perched close by, which I had just seen Jamie Oliver throwing in a salad (so it couldn’t be wrong). Well, that was it. I had my soft and crisp elements- now all I needed was, a bit of crunch (walnuts), a little chew (edamame), a creamy touch (blue cheese) and some peppery greens (rocket). Viola! A salad easy enough to throw together and sophisticated enough for company. Now, wasn’t that easy?

Got any salad favourites? Send them my way!

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Not feeling the love

It’s hard to get in the mood for Valentine’s day when the day before it’s rainy cats and dogs outside, your running late for work despite the alarm going off at 4:45 am and the elevator in your apartment building is out of order, oh and when you finally do make it out of the door after a trip back up the seven flights of stairs to get your rain coat,your umbrella does an impressive back flip and jars an elderly lady walking past (which I now know is only funny in films). Frankly, by this point in my day (and it was only 5:43 am) I felt like my guts-on-the-outside-umbrella, only minus the gold medal gymnastics. There was no love in the air. nada, zilch, niente- well you get the idea.

They say things can only get better-but I can categorically say when you start the day like you’ve been thrown in the pool with your clothes on (on a winters day) and there’s no more PG-tips left, there’s very little to feel bright about. So, I did what any right-minded girl in a grump and a sodden jumper would do- I got out a set of scales. If you’re the kind of person who hasn’t yet come across an activity or the person in your life to bring you up when you’re down, then let me suggest you drag your sad little feet into the kitchen. Sweet smells from the oven warm the heart, enliven the senses and really, who hasn’t ever thought to themselves…one more biscuit will make everything better? This isn’t to say that Don, doesn’t live up to his relationship-bound duties but I didn’t want to bring him down the day before Valentine’s Day and make him forget my flowers (Don, you did buy me flowers, right?).

Walking to the subway after work I chucked my useless brolly on a pile of other discarded ones’ by the curb- seems like no matter how much you shell out there is no such thing as a good umbrella. There are however good biscuits. Happy Valentine’s Day.


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