In no particular order...
Peering past the grapefruit tree, heavy with ripening fruit, onto the agrumi terrace. That cyclamen will now sit there and happily flower right through Christmas and New Year, and possibly even through the whole of January.
In no particular order...
I like the idea of quince- and the blossom on the tree in spring is exquisite - but the reality of the fruit is often challenging. Rarely is it that I cut into a quince without finding I then have to dig out all the wormy sections, and the road-kill remnants that I then have to work with are not a noble sight. I can well-understand why it is that this fruit is no longer grown commercially! On occasion, though, I come across a recipe which restores my faith in the things.....and this is one such. The flavours are subtle and complicated, and the combination of spice and rich fruit is comfortingly reminiscent of Christmas. It has much to recommend it.
Ingredients: 3 medium quince, peeled, cored and quartered; 6 medium apples, cox or similar, peeled cored and thinly sliced; 3 oranges; 2 lemons; 3/4 cup sugar, + 2 tbs sugar; 2 tsp cinnamon; 16 prunes, quartered; 1/3 cup sweet white wine; 20 peeled, blanched almonds; shortcrust pastry, made with 10 oz flour and 8 oz butter (this will leave enough over for the base of a different tart on another day).
1. Roll out the pastry to line a 28 cm diameter false-bottomed tart tin. Freeze the base for twenty minutes, and then blind bake it at 190°C to biscuit crispness. Roll out the remaining pastry to a size and shape large enough from which subsequently to cut the top for the pie, and refrigerate this pastry, to firm up.
2. Grate the jest from the oranges into a bowl and set aside. Into a saucepan of medium size squeeze the juice from the oranges and lemons; to this, add 1 tsp cinnamon and 3/4 cup of sugar, and the sweet wine; add the quince quarters, cover with water, bring to the boil on the stove, and then cover and simmer until the quince pieces are properly soft (perhaps 15 minutes). Remove the quince pieces to a bowl, and over a low heat reduce their poaching liquid until it is a syrup, and allow this to cool.
3. Combine the apple slices with 2 tbs sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon and the grated orange zest. Use half of this mixture to line the base of the baked pastry shell, and then place on top first the quince pieces, than the quartered prunes and the almonds; spread the remaining apple mixture over the top.
4. Take the remaining pastry from the fridge, and cut out the top for the pie, using a lattice template if so inclined (I generally do). Put the top in place, pressing down with a rolling pin to attach it firmly to the top of the pastry shell, and to cut off the excess pastry around the side. Brush the top of the pie with beaten egg-white, and then bake for forty minutes.
5. Allow to cool properly before you remove the pie from the the tin. Serve warm or cold, with a spoonful of the reduced poaching liquid as a sauce. Be warned: one slice is not enough!
The ingredient which makes this dish is, surprisingly, the 1/4 tsp of allspice, which gives it a whole additional dimension, as well as hinting at some elusive 'other'....which could be Athens or it could be Marrakech. Whichever it is, these are best served cold, with at least the suggestion of a hot summer's day in the background.
Ingredients: 1 large aubergine; salt & pepper; 30 ml olive oil; 1 medium onion, chopped; 1 large garlic clove, minced; 1/4 tsp ground allspice; 16g sultanas; 1 medium tomato, diced (or 1/2 tbs tomato puree...but a fresh tomato is preferable); 3/4 tbs red wine vinegar; 1 tsp sugar; scant handful of chopped parsley; 75 ml water.
1. Halve the aubergine; cut out as much as possible of the flesh, then salt the shells and leave them upside-down to drain of liquid for twenty minutes or so, before blanching them for 2-3 minutes in boiling water.
2. Heat the oven to 200° C.
3. Sauté the onion and garlic in 2 tbs oil, until soft, then add to this the chopped aubergine flesh, salt, pepper and allspice. Cook over medium heat for 3 - 4 minutes, then add the sultanas and tomato, vinegar and sugar. Cook together for about five minutes, until it becomes a thick stew;stir in the chopped parsley.
4. Arrange the aubergine shells in a baking dish in which they fit snugly, and fill them with the mixture. Mix the remaining oil with the water and pour over the filled shells. Bak for about an hour, and then leave to go cold before you serve them.
This might seem like a complicated recipe, but as long as you're organised, in fact it is quite straightforward. Looks good, and tastes excellent!
The version I made which I photographed for this post used genoise sponge as a base; by preference I would use a biscuit crumb base, as in a cheesecake, not least because in this house something this size is never going to be consumed at one sitting, and so you really want a base which won't go soggy if left for more than several hours.
These ingredients make 1 x 23 cm gateau.
Biscuit crumb base, using ten digestive biscuits (approximately) and 50g butter- blitz the biscuits along with the melted butter in a food processor, and then press into the base of a lined 23 cm spring form mould, and bake for ten minutes in a 180 degree C oven.
Mousse: 6 tsp powdered gelatine; 400g blackcurrant puree; italian meringue, made using 190g sugar, 45 ml water and 100ml egg white; 150 ml whipping cream.
Glaze: 2 tsp powdered gelatine; 50g sugar; 150 ml creme de cassis; 1/4 cup fresh blackcurrants.
1. Grease a 23 cm spring form tin, and line the base with greaseproof paper. Make the biscuit base, and allow it to cool in the tin.
2. For the mousse, heat the puree and powdered gelatine together in the top of a double boiler; once you are sure the gelatine has all dissolved, take off the heat and allow it to cool.
3. Make the italian meringue: heat the sugar and water together over medium heat until they reach 122 degrees C; whisk the egg white until it begins to be dense, and then pour the sugar syrup into it, whilst whisking, and continue to whisk until it is properly stiff, and has significantly cooled (perhaps five minutes of whisking); fold into this the cooled blackcurrant puree, and then fold into this the cream, which has been beaten until it holds its shape. Pile this mixture into the tin, on top of the biscuit base. Smooth the top, and refrigerate for at least four hours, to allow the mousse to set.
4. To make the glaze, add the sugar to the cassis and the blackcurrants in a small pan and heat gently, until the sugar has entirely dissolved; . Off the heat, stir in the gelatine, and gently pour the glaze over the top of the mousse, making sure that the blackcurrants are more-or-less evenly spaced. Return the tin to the fridge for a further hour or so, until the glaze has also set.
To un-mould, run a warm knife around the inside of the tin, to free the mousse before releasing the tin.
Pockets of apricot puree, waiting to be discovered within a delicious vanilla and citrus cream filling. I find this is best left for 24 hours after ithas been made and before you serve it -if you can! - the texture becomes creamier over that time.
Ingredients: 600g cream cheese; 1 cup + 1/3 cup sugar; 100g dried apricots; 7 medium eggs, separated; juice and grated zest of 1/2 lemon; 1 tsp vanilla extract; 1 cup cream; 9" crust, made from 8 digestive biscuits and 50g butter, melted.
1. Heat oven to 180 degrees C. Blitz the biscuits along with the melted butter, in the food processor. Grease and line the base and sides of a 9" spring-clip pan (I find this cheesecake can be tricky to unmould,hence the advice to line the sides as well as the base of the pan). Press the biscuit mixture into the base of the tin, and bake for ten minutes. Allow to cool.
Lower the oven temperature to 150 degrees C.
2. If the apricots you have are not soft, simmer them for ten minutes in 1/2 cup water to soften them. if already soft, omit this step. Add 1/3 cup sugar, and liquidise (add a little water if the puree seems too thick)
3. Beat the egg whites until stiff.
4. in a separate bowl, beat the cheese with the sugar, then add to it the lemon zest and juice, and the vanilla. Beat, to mix thoroughly, and then fold into this mixture the beaten egg white.
5. Pour a third of this mixture onto the biscuit base, and then dot half of the apricot puree over the top, in spoonfuls. repeat this process, and finish with a layer of cheesecake mixture.
6. Bake for forty minutes, and then leave in the cooling oven for an hour with the heat off. Allow to cool thoroughly before you remove the cheesecake from the tin.
Light, delicious, quick, and easy. For a dinner-party, or to snack on, from the fridge...
Ingredients: 4tbs chopped parsley; 1 medium onion,chopped; 6 tbs olive oil; 500g zucchini (courgette), chopped, but not peeled; 3 medium eggs; 150ml cream;1 tbs grated parmesan; 2 tbs dried tarragon; 50g fresh white breadcrumbs; 1 tbs white wine vinegar; 1 tsp dijon mustard; salt and pepper.
1. Heat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease a 1 litre loaf pan, and line the base and short sides with a long strip of baking foil, for ease of removal of the finished timbale. Use 2 of the tbs of parsley to stick to the greased sides of the loaf tin.
2. In half of the oil, cook the onion and zucchini until tender, with half of the dried tarragon and a further tbs of parsley; in a covered pan, over low heat, this should take ten minutes or so. Allow the softened vegetables to cool a little, once done.
3. Process in a processor the cooled vegetables, eggs, breadcrumbs, parmesan, and cream. Add salt and pepper, to taste.
4. Transfer the mixture to the prepared loaf tin, place in a bain marie, and bake for fifty minutes. Once cooked, allow to cool completely, and then refrigerate.
5. Make a dressing, using the remaining oil and tarragon, along with the vinegar and mustard; add salt to taste.
Slice the un-moulded timbale, and plate, before dressing with the tarragon dressing, and garnish with the remaining parsley.
Ricotta cheesecake. Lighter than the usual version, due to the addition of beaten egg-white just before baking.
Ingredients 500g ricotta; 5eggs (4 of them separated); 90g sugar; 40g flour; 80g candied peel, chopped; 40g sultanas; 4 tbs rum.
1.Heat oven to 190 degrees C.
2. Beat together the whole egg plus the egg yolks, along with the sugar and ricotta. Once it is uniformly smooth, beat in the rum, and then fold in the peel and the sultanas.
3. Separately, beat the egg whites until stiff, and then fold them into the mixture.
4. Pour the mixture into a 22cm spring-form tin (greased, and with the base lined) and bake for thirty five minutes.
5. Allow to cool for twenty minutes or so, before removing from the tin. Serve either warm or cold.
Another splendid cold starter, for summer. I love the complicated, earthy flavours which this treatment gives to the mushrooms.
For two servings.
Delicious on the day, and arguably even better, served cold a day later, when the flavour of the jelly in which the vegetables sit is intense and splendid!
Serves four – six.
Ingredients: 1 boned rabbit; 3 slices parma ham; 1 tsp chopped rosemary and thyme; seasoning; 3 large carrots;2 sticks celery; 1 medium onion; 2cups white wine. 2 tbs olive oil.
It’s High Summer – too hot to faff in the kitchen. Hence, pasta con ragu (simple Spag Bog, in plain-speak).
Ragùhas many uses (with pasta, in risotto, in lasagne or ravioli…), and so it’s worth making a batch, and keeping in the fridge or freezer and use it up over time.
Ingredients: 3 tbs olive oil; ½ cup each of finely diced carrot, onion, and celery; 2 cups minced beef; 1 tsp salt; 1 cup red wine; 1 can tomatoes.
1.Heat the oil in a pan, and add to it the carrot, celery and onion. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring, for about five minutes, until the contents have all collapsed.
2. Add the minced beef and salt. Continue cooking until the meat has lost its raw colour, and then add the wine.
3. Over high heat, reduce the wine by about half, and then add the tomatoes. As soon as the mixture comes to the boil, turn the heat down as far as it will go. Partially cover the pan, and leave to simmer for about an hour and a half. Check it from time to time, to ensure nothing disastrous has happened – but basically you can just leave it to do its own thing.
And that’s it….
This is ….SO…seriously …delicious!
For four servings.
Ingredients: 500ml red wine (the lighter the wine, the more the raspberry flavour will come through; with a stronger wine, I find that the end result is more like blackcurrant than raspberry – which is equally delicious, but a different thing…); 75g sugar; half a dozen sprigs of mint; 300g fresh raspberries.
A re-working of something from Robuchon. A phyllo and almond tart shell, filled with a thick purée of tomato and herbs, flavoured with garlic and onion, and, beneath a topping of tomato slices, a layer of finely diced red pepper. An excellent first course, at any time of the year.
For two individual tarts.
Ingredients: 1 sheet phyllo; 1 tbs slivered almonds; three medium tomatoes; 1 small onion; 2 cloves garlic; 2 tbs olive oil; 1/4 medium red pepper; 1 tsp dried thyme; approx 40g butter.
1. Heat the oven to 190 degrees C. Melt the butter, and use some of it to brush the phyllo; divide the phyllo in 4, and use it to make two individual tart shells of two layers of phyllo each. Divide the slivered almonds between the two shells, between the two layers of pastry. Bake for about ten minutes, until crisp and brown, and remove from the oven.
2. Slice two of the tomatoes into thin rounds, and chop the remainder. Put the sliced tomatoes in a bowl, salt them lightly and then spoon a little melted butter over the top. Set aside. In the remaining melted butter cook the onion, finely diced, along with the chopped garlic, until it has softened, and then add to this the chopped tomato and half of the dried thyme.Stirring from time to time, cook over high heat, until the whole mixture has reduced to a dense mass. Taste and season.
3. Pile the tomato mass into the pastry shells, then cover with a layer of finely diced red eper, and finally arrange the tomato slices over the top. Sprinkle the remaining thyme on top, and bake for about 25 minutes, just until the tomato starts to colour. Remove from the oven and drizzle a little olive oil over the surface of each tart. Allow to sit for a few minutes before transferring the tarts from their tins to serving plates.
For two servings.
Ingredients: approx 500g mushrooms; 1/3 cup oil; 1 small onion; 2 garlic cloves; 4 tbs chopped parsley; salt and pepper.
1. Heat half of the oil in a large shallow pan (I use a paella pan for this). Chop the onion small, and saute it in the hot oil until it has wilted and is just starting to colour.
2. Add to the pan the mushrooms, sliced wafer thin, and the rest of the oil. Lower the heat, until the juices start to run out, and then raise it again, and cook the mushrooms for four or five minutes until all the liquid has gone.
Add seasoning to taste. transfer to a bowl, and thoroughly stir in the copped parsley. You can serve it warm or at room temperature, but my personal preference is for it to be good and cold, when I think the mineral arthiness of the favours comes properly through.