Carrot, Cumin & Coriander Salad

This is very simple carrot salad and I am surprised that I have never made it before. I served it up with my Saag Paneer and a grilled piece of salmon and very delicious it was too.

Carrot, Cumin & Coriander Salad

2 tsp cumin seed, toasted

zest and juice 1 lemon

thumb-sized piece of ginger, grated

5 tbsp olive oil

6 carrots, grated

small bunch coriander, chopped

½ small bunch mint, chopped

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Toast your cumin seeds and allow to cool a little. Add the lemon juice, ginger and olive oil to the pan with a good pinch of salt and pepper. Use this to dress the grated carrot. Stir thought the freshly chopped herbs and serve straight away.

Saag Paneer

I don’t know why but I had never tried Saag Paneer. Whenever I go out for an Indian meal,  I guess I have always opted for Saag Aloo and so it never got a look in. Well that is a thing of the past. It is sublime. An Indian spiced, creamed spinach – what a great combination.

Neither did I know that you can make your own Paneer. I have to admit though that I didn’t. I got mine from Waitrose!

Saag Paneer

Coconut oil

1 onion

2 cloves of garlic

1 thumb-sized piece of ginger

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

2 teaspoons garam masala

½ teaspoon turmeric

2 ripe tomatoes

2 large handfuls of fresh spinach

100 ml double cream

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the paneer: OR 1 block of ready made Paneer (226g)

1.5 litres whole milk

1 lemon

To make the paneer, line a sieve with a large piece of muslin and place over a bowl. Heat the milk in a large heavy-based pan over a medium heat. Gently bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer.  Gradually add 4 tablespoons of lemon juice, stirring continuously so the curds and whey separate. Carefully pour the mixture into the sieve so the curds collect in the muslin. Place under cold running water to get rid of any whey, then gather up the muslin and squeeze out the excess moisture. Keeping the muslin bundle in the sieve, cover it with a plate and top with a few heavy weights (a couple of tins work well). Place in the fridge for 1 hour 30 minutes to set.  cut the

Cut the paneer into 2cm chunks. Heat some coconut oil in a large non-stick frying pan over a medium heat, add the paneer and fry for 5 minutes, or until golden, stirring frequently. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a double layer of kitchen paper to drain.

Peel and finely chop the onion and finely grate the garlic and ginger. Return the pan to a medium-low heat, adding a splash more oil, if needed. Add the cumin seeds, fry for 1 minute, then add the onion and cook for around 8 minutes, or until softened. Stir in the garlic, ginger, garam masala and turmeric. Halve, deseed and very finely chop the tomato, add to the pan and cook for a further 10 minutes, or until softened but not coloured, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile blanch the spinach in a pan of salted boiling water for 1-2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to a dry tea towel to cool. When cool enough to handle, use the tea towel to squeeze the excess water from the spinach. Roughly chop.

Stir in the spinach, cover and cook for 5 minutes, then stir in the cream, paneer and a splash of boiling water. Reduce the heat to low and cook for a further minute or two with the lid off, or until reduced to a deliciously creamy consistency. Season to taste and serve immediately.

Oat and Almond Plum Crumble

I was just doing my Riverford order and thinking to myself, Riverford really should supply plums as this time of year, when I noticed that they did. So I got some!

Oat and Almond Plum Crumble

Serves 6.

650g plums

4 tbsp honey

For the crumble

130g plain flour

80g butter

40g light muscovado sugar

40g porridge oats

40g flaked almonds

Set the oven at 170C. Remove the stones from the plums and toss with the honey. Tip into a saucepan and cook over a medium heat for a bout 10 minutes until the plums begin to break down. Tip into a baking dish. Meanwhile make the crumble topping by rubbing the butter into the flour till it resembles fresh breadcrumbs. Lightly rub in the sugar and then stir in the almonds and the oats. Tip the oat-and-almond topping on to the fruit and bake for 30-35 minutes till the crust is crisp and golden. The fruit should be bubbling round the sides. Serve hot, with cream or ice-cream.

Rhubarb and Custard Cake

Once again failed to enter anything in the Cottenham Park Allotment Show last weekend. As always by the time I came back from holiday, all my veg were either overgrown – courgettes the size of marrows and French beans the size of cucumbers, or had been eaten, mostly by snails.  Didn’t even manage to enter the cake, chutney or jam categories as I failed to get the form in, in time.

We went along anyway just to get ideas for next year. This cake won first prize in the cake competition so I thought I would give it a try and very delicious it is too. In my opinion a close call to my Upside Down Rhubarb, Almond and Vanilla Cake. Must remember to enter next year.

Rhubarb and Custard Cake

1 quantity roasted rhubarb (See below)

250g pack butter

150g pot ready-made custard (not the chilled kind; I used Ambrosia)

250g self-raising flour

½ tsp baking powder

4 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

250g golden caster sugar

icing sugar, for dusting

Make the roasted rhubarb first, carefully draining off the juices before you let it cool. Butter and line a 24cm loose-bottomed or springform cake tin. Heat oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4.

Cream the butter and sugar until pale and thick. Add the eggs one by one until incorporated. Add the vanilla and custard and then stir through the flour and baking powder until creamy and smooth. Fold through the rhubarb. Bake for 40 mins until risen and golden, then cover with foil and bake for 15-20 mins more. It’s ready when a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool in the tin, then dredge with icing sugar when cool.

Roast Rhubarb

Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Rinse 400g rhubarb and shake off excess water. Trim the ends, then cut into little-finger-size pieces. Put in a shallow dish or a baking tray, tip over 50g caster sugar, toss together, then shuffle rhubarb so it’s in a single layer. Cover with foil, then roast for 15 mins. Remove foil. Give everything a little shake, roast for 5 mins more or until tender and the juices are syrupy. Leave to cool.

Squash, Red Onion and Goat’s Cheese Tart

Last week, I did a Fig and Almond Tart, and this week I am doing another one, only this time it is savoury. I know some people panic at the word pastry, but I promise you this is a fool proof recipe and you can knock up the pasty in the food processor in a matter of minutes. This combination of pumpkin or squash with red onion and goats cheese is just a winner. Once again, any of a number of different squashes or pumpkins will do to replace the somewhat ubiquitous butternut squash. Feel free to experiment.

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Squash, Red Onion and Goat’s Cheese Tart

Serves 6 – Tart tin 10” / 25cm

For the pastry

175g plain flour

80g butter, cold and cubed

Pinch of salt if using unsalted butter

1 egg

For the filling

2 large red onions, peeled and finely slice

Olive oil

Small bunch of thyme, very finely chopped

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

400g squash or pumpkin, peeled and cubed into 1cm cubes

250g hard goats cheese, cubed

½ pt double cream

3 egg yolks

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Put the flour and butter for the pastry, and salt if using, in a food processor. Mix until you have breadcrumbs. Add the egg and just mix enough for the pastry to come together in a ball. Wrap in cling film and put in the fridge for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180C. Toss the cubed squash with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in the oven for about 30 minutes until soft and golden brown. Meanwhile sweat the sliced onions on a low heat with a little olive oil, the thyme and some salt and pepper. Cook down until beginning to caramelise. Roll out the pastry and line the tart tin. Get a round piece of greaseproof paper and carefully cover the pasty with it. Folding it down over the top edge. Blind bake for about 15 minutes or until the pasty is very light golden brown. Mix the cream with the yolks and season with a little salt and pepper. Add the roasted squash and goats cheese and the onions. Pour into the tart case. Turn the oven down to 170C and cook the tart for about 20-30 minutes, until set and lightly golden brown.

pumpkin-and-squash

Fig and Almond Tart

Back raving about figs again this week. They are just such a beautiful fruit. I love their dusty, deep purple colour and their contrasting, vibrant jammy red centres. And they taste no better ever, than in this most delicious Fig and Almond Tart. Serve with a large dollop of crème fraiche.

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Fig and Almond Tart

Flan tin 10” / 25cm

Pastry

175g plain flour

90g butter

50g icing sugar

2 egg yolks

Frangipane

175g butter

175g ground almonds

175g golden caster sugar

1 egg

1 tablespoon flour

Glug of amaretto

6 ripe figs

Put the flour, butter and sugar for the pastry in a food processor. Mix until you have breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolks and just mix enough for the pastry to come together in a ball. Wrap in cling film and put in the fridge for 30 minutes. In the same food processor bowl add the butter and sugar for the frangipane. Mix until smooth. Add the almonds and the egg and whiz again until smooth. Add the amaretto and the flour. Mix once more. Remove the pasty form the fridge when ready. Preheat the oven to 170C. Roll out the pastry and line the tart tin. Get a round piece of greaseproof paper and carefully cover the pasty with it. Folding it down over the top edge. Blind bake for about 15 minutes. Remove from the greaseproof and add the frangipane filling. Cut the figs in half and press into the frangipane in even spacing. Bake in the oven until the farangipan is risen all over and golden brown.

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Sorrel and Lentil Soup with Crème Fraiche

Fresh Sorrel is also really difficult to get hold of. I tried growing it myself, but I chose the pretty red veined variety, rather unfortunately named Bloody Sorrel, and although it looks beautiful, it had a rather unpleasant taste. Good fresh sorrel should have a delicious tart, lemony tang. Here I have combined it with lentils and crème fraiche to make a delicious soup. Unfortunately, sorrel when cooked, changes from its vibrant green colour to a sludgy grey green, so it never looks that inviting, but give it a try. It tastes great!

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Sorrel and Lentil Soup with Crème Fraiche

Serves 2

100g Lentils

1 clove garlic

1 red onion (finely chopped)

Glug of extra virgin olive oil

60g fresh sorrel (leaves stripped from the stems)

2 tablespoons crème fraiche

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cover the lentils with plenty of cold water – about 3 times the volume of the lentils. Add the peeled garlic clove and cook gently for about 20 minutes or so, until soft.  Meanwhile, sweat the onion in the olive oil over a low heat for 10 minutes or so. When the lentils are cooked, add to the onion with the water. Season well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add the sorrel leaves to the lentils, ensuring they are covered in water. If not, add a little more. Bring back to the boil and cook for a minute or two until the sorrel turns grey green. Remove from the heat and puree with a hand blender. Add enough water to get a nice consistency. Check seasoning. Serve hot with a big table spoon of crème fraiche in each bowl.

sorrel

Braised Cime di Rapa with Cannellini Beans and Garlic

There are certain vegetables and herbs which are still quite hard to find in England and Riverford have a few of my favourites at the moment. The Cime di Rapa season has just started, which means that although there are no baby heads of broccoli attached as yet, being early, it means that the stalks are still so tender that you can eat it all. No need to strip the leaves from the stalks, just roughly chop the whole thing.

I know being a lesser found vegetable, people are often at a bit of a loss as what to do with it. Follow the link for more information from the blog I wrote on Cime di Rapa last year.

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There I have made a recipe with pasta, but today I am giving you another equally delicious and easy one – Braised Cime di Rapa with Cannellini Beans and Garlic. This is lovely on its own, or served up alongside some grilled lamb or a piece of fish. You could add an anchovy to the garlic when frying, if you are an anchovy person. It adds a lovely depth of flavour. Or maybe a pinch of dried chilli to add a little heat.

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Braised Cime di Rapa with Cannellini Beans and Garlic

300g cime di rapa

Malden salt and freshly ground black pepper

Extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and very finely sliced

1 tin of cannellini beans

Pick through the cime de rapa and discard any really large, tough outer leaves. Cut off and discard the tough stalks. Keep the sprouting heads, any tender stalks and leaves. Wash the heads and leaves careful. Roughly chop. Blanch for 5 minutes in boiling, salted water. Drain and lay out to dry. Squeeze out any excess water. Drain the beans.

In a heavy-bottomed pan heat a generous glug of olive oil and add the garlic slices. As the garlic is turning light golden in colour, add the blanched cime di rapa and toss for a minute. Season with salt and pepper and serve drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. Add the beans and stir through until hot.

cime-di-rapa

Fig, Salted Almond and Bufala Mozzarella Salad

I get very excited about new produce from Riverford and so, I was thrilled to see that they are now supplying figs from Spain and I couldn’t wait to give them a try.

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This is a super simple salad that we used to serve at The River Café. It is nothing more than an assemblance of fabulous ingredients, but when your ingredients and that good, you really don’t need to do very much to them. I added some salted Catalan almonds, which I always pick up when I see them because they remind me of holidays. (If you can’t find them, you can always make your own.)

salted-catalan-almonds

I also drizzled some truffle honey on my figs. I know this is not for everybody, but if you do like truffles then do check it out. Marks and Spencer stock a really great one for £6. But is you are not a truffle person, a drizzle of aged balsamic works well too. You could play around with the cheese too. I imagine that Burrata would be pretty amazing, but to tell you the truth, I find them just too rich! Tallegglio or even Gorgonzola would be delicious too. What ever you decide to add, I am sure you will agree, it looks beautiful and tastes great.

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Fig, Salted Almond and Bufala Mozzarella Salad

Serves 2

Couple of handfuls of rocket

Few sprigs of fresh mint

Few sprigs

1 ball good quality bufala mozzarella

2 ripe figs

Extra virgin olive oil

Handful of salted Catalan almonds

Drizzle of expensive aged Balsamic or truffle honey

Sea Salt

Mix a little olive oil with a pinch of salt and dress the leaves. Pile on to a large plate and top with slices of mozzarella and fig. Scatter over the almonds and the herbs and drizzle with truffle honey or balsamic vinegar.

black-figs

Caramelised Pear and Almond Cake

Pears can be a little tiring. They often seem to go from rock hard to too soft whenever you are not looking. It is so rare to catch them just perfect. This is a great recipe because it doesn’t really matter how hard they are. You just cook them in the caramel for a little longer and it the best pear cake I have ever eaten.

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PEAR AND ALMOND CAKE

Firm Conference pears should work a treat here. Add a glug of Amaretto if you like or a little vanilla extract. You can replace the flour with gluten free flour and a teaspoon of baking powder.

Serves 8

For the caramel

25g Butter

25g Sugar

For the cake

225g unsalted butter, softened

190g caster sugar

6 pears, firm but not too hard, peeled, cored and quartered

3 eggs

115g ground almonds

115g self-raising flour

Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/gas mark 3. Grease a 20cm diameter, spring-form cake tin and line the base with baking parchment.

Put a large frying pan over a medium heat and add the sugar. When it starts to melt, stir and cook until a deep golden brown and beginning to smoke. Remove from the heat and add the butter. Stir to dissolve and add the pear quarters and return to a medium heat. Cook the pears in the buttery caramel for five to 10 minutes, until they start to brown and soften (the time taken will vary greatly, depending on how ripe the pears are). Tip into the bottom of your prepared tin.

Put the remaining butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and cream together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add the amaretto or vanilla if using. Add the self-raising flour and almonds and fold in gently (or pulse in the food processor.) Top the pears with the cake mixture. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until a knife pushed into the centre comes out clean.  Place the tin on a wire rack to cool. Serve warm or cold.

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