baked peppers with goats’ cheese

Baked Peppers with Goats’ Cheese

This is a delicious and wonderfully easy recipe; the more sunny and sweet the peppers and tomatoes, the better the final result. Aim to find peppers which accommodate the diameter of the tomatoes elegantly. You can experiment with a wide variety of goats’ cheeses: the softer ones will need less cooking.

Serves 4 (The Grain-free Vegetarian p. 84)

Olive oil for greasing
2 large red or yellow peppers, halved vertically
2 large tomatoes, halved horizontally
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
200g goats’ cheese, cut into 4 pieces
Basil leaves, to garnish

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Grease a baking dish with olive oil and place the pepper halves on it, cut sides down. Bake until the peppers have heated through and are starting to soften, about 12–15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and turn the peppers over. Nestle a tomato half in the hollow centre of each of pepper. Bake until the tomatoes have softened, about a further 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven once again, spread the garlic on the tomatoes and place a piece of goats’ cheese on top of each tomato. Bake until the cheese has melted, a further 5–10 minutes. Garnish with basil leaves and serve.

peppers reduced

vanilla ice cream with raspberry sorbet

Can you imagine life without a fridge? In parts of Asia, as early as the third century BC, people would store blocks of ice or snow in a dry underground place to cool food. Here lie the remote origins of ice cream and sorbet. European ice creams and sorbets probably appeared in early seventeenth-century Italy, from whence they were taken up by the French and Spanish courts. In the first year of the Restoration, Charles II built an icehouse in St James’ Park, in all likelihood inspired by his sojourn in Paris during the Civil War. And the poet Edmund Waller celebrated Charles’ creation:

Yonder the harvest of cold months laid up,

Gives a fresh coolness to the Royal Cup

There Ice like Christal, firm and never lost,

Tempers hot July with December’s frost.

 

Vanilla Ice Cream

Despite its name, I like my ice cream made from a custard that is half cream, half milk, with 5 egg yolks to 600ml of cream and milk. I have an inexpensive ice cream maker with a stainless steel bowl that needs to go into the freezer for 10 hours before making ice cream. Mine lives in the freezer at the ready for impromptu ice cream making. It makes wonderful creamy ice cream.

Serves 6    (The Grain-free Vegetarian p. 221)

300ml cream

300ml goats’ milk

5 egg yolks

135g fragrant honey

2 teaspoons good-quality vanilla essence

Put the cream and milk in a saucepan set over a high heat and bring almost to boiling point. With an electric beater, whisk together the egg yolks, honey and vanilla until the mixture is pale and fluffy. Set the mixture to a low speed and pour on the hot cream mixture.

To make a custard in a microwave oven, put the mixture in a bowl and cook on a low setting, stirring regularly, until it starts to thicken, 2-3 minutes.

To make the custard on the hob, stir the egg-and-cream mixture constantly over a low heat until it begins to set and thinly coats the back of the spoon, about 8 minutes. Whichever method you choose, ensure the custard does not boil or it will curdle. (If starts to curdle in the microwave, quickly blitz it with a hand-held blender to rescue the situation.) Leave to cool and then refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Churn the custard in an ice cream maker until thick, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a plastic box and freeze.

raspberries

Frozen Raspberry Sorbet

Stunning to look at, frozen raspberry sorbet is an incredible ruby red and wonderfully quick to make. One time, I made it for the Christmas Bombe (see The Grain-free Vegetarian p. 230) using my sister’s frozen loganberries and the colour was even more vibrant. Delicious paired with Vanilla Ice Cream (see above) and decorated with raspberries and toasted flaked almonds, with a sprig of mint or lemon verbena. The above quantities vanilla ice cream and frozen raspberry ice cream of would make enough for 12 people.

Serves 6    (The Grain-free Vegetarian p. 226)

500g frozen raspberries

Juice of 1 orange

Juice of 1 lemon

125g maple syrup or mild honey

Pulverize the frozen raspberries with the orange and lemon juice and maple syrup in a food processor. If the sorbet pulp seems too strong, add a little water, about 45ml.

Churn the raspberry pulp in an ice cream maker until thick. This will not take long because the raspberries are still very cold, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a plastic box and freeze.

To serve: put a scoop of raspberry sorbet in a glass and then a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Scatter a couple of raspberries over the raspberry sorbet and a few toasted flaked almonds over the vanilla ice cream. Finally place a sprig of lemon verbena or mint on top.

icecream

paskha

Here’s an uncooked Russian cheese cake which is made to celebrate Easter (Paskha) at the end of Lent. It is traditionally made in a pyramid mould, symbolising the Church, and marked with the Orthodox cross. The Paskha cake is blessed in church before being eaten. It certainly breaks the Lenten fast in an unabashed and flamboyant fashion.

Serves 8 to 10

90g butter, at room temperature

600g cream cheese

175g Greek yoghurt

1 egg yolk

2 tablespoons maple syrup or fragrant honey

90g dried pineapple, finely chopped

90g dried apricots, finely chopped

90g sultanas

45g blanched almonds, chopped

45g brazil nuts, chopped

60g toasted flaked almonds

Combine the butter, cream cheese and yoghurt in a food processor.

In a large bowl whisk the egg yolk and maple syrup together until pale and fluffy. Beat in the cheese mixture. Add the dried fruit and chopped nuts and mix everything together.

Line an 18cm sieve with some cheesecloth or a handkerchief, leaving 10cm of cloth overhanging the edge. Sit the lined sieve over a small mixing bowl and spoon the paskha mixture inside it. Tie the ends of the cloth firmly together around the paskha mixture. Place a saucer of a lesser diameter than the sieve on top of the paskha mixture in the sieve. Press the saucer down with weights. Transfer to the fridge to drain and leave their to drain and chill for 24 hours.

Carefully dry-roast the flaked almonds in a frying pan until they become a light golden colour. Leave to cool.

Turn out the paskha onto a serving plate. Press the flaked almonds all over the surface.

Transfer the paskha to the fridge and leave it there until 30 minutes before you intend to serve it, then bring it out and leave it to come to room temperature.

pashka

Vignole

Vignole

This Italian stew is full of the joys of spring. The taste is most intense with fresh broad beans and peas, but frozen ones can be substituted. For the best aesthetic results, blanch the broad beans for one minute, then peel them to reveal their shiny green insides before adding them to the frying pan with the peas and the lemon zest.

artichokes reduced

Serves 4 – 5 (The Grain-free Vegetarian p. 66)

Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
6 baby artichokes, 100g each (before trimming)
5 tablespoons olive oil
3 shallots, chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
100g tomatoes, chopped
300g podded broad beans
300g shelled peas
Up to 75ml stock, made with ¼ teaspoon Marigold bouillon powder
Up to 75ml white wine
Salt and pepper
Handful of mint leaves
Handful of basil leaves

Set aside 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice and put the remaining juice into a bowl of water, ready for the sliced artichokes.

Preparing 1 artichoke at the time, pull off the tough outer leaves to reveal the younger pale leaves underneath. Chop off the spiky artichoke top and, using a potato peeler, pare the fibrous skin off the stem. Trim the stem to neaten. Slice the artichoke and immediately submerge in the bowl of lemon juice and water.

In either a large frying pan (which has a lid) or a saucepan, heat 4 tablespoons of the olive oil over a low heat and gently sauté the shallots until they are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute. Then add the garlic slices and cook them until they start to colour, about 5 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes and fry them with all the other ingredients until the tomatoes soften, about 5 minutes. Finally, add the broad beans, peas and lemon zest. Just cover the vegetables with the stock and white wine. Cover the pan and simmer over a low heat until the vegetables are soft, about 8 minutes. When the vegetables are soft, season and sprinkle with the reserved lemon juice to taste. Add the mint and basil leaves. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil to serve.

vignole reduced

chicory, orange and walnut salad

This salad is a gem, and is excellent following Tuscan Bean soup, with a plate of fine Italian cheese such as Gorgonzola, Pecorino or some nicely ripened Taleggio.

I lived on chicory the year I spent studying at the Brussels Conservatoire. The local market in Ternat, where I stayed just outside the capital, had many stalls of locally grown chicory of all different sizes throughout the winter. My grandfather grew chicory and blanched it under the matrimonial bed; he was an avid vegetable grower as well as being a top scientist.

Winter is also the time for the spectacularly marked blood oranges from Spain and Sicily. They are slightly tarter than standard oranges and yet sweet at the same time, and make an excellent salad ingredient. (Freshly ripened standard oranges make a good substitute.) See that your walnuts are fresh and crunchy. Walnuts make a beautiful light oil, which is flavoursome in salads, but it oxidises fast and goes rancid so it’s best bought in small quantities. Renaissance artists favoured walnut oil for making paint. If you don’t have walnut oil to hand use best olive oil instead.

Serves 4 (The Grain-free Vegetarian p. 152)

4 heads of chicory, about 450g in total
3 blood oranges
60g whole walnuts
3 tablespoons walnut oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon artisan honey
1 teaspoon artisan vinegar

Trim the bases of the chicory heads, and cut out the cores with a sharp pointed knife. Place the leaves in a large salad bowl.

Peel the oranges and cut them in half and chop them roughly into half moons. Add them to the bowl with the chicory leaves. Scatter over the walnuts.

Make the dressing by mixing the walnut oil, lemon juice, honey and vinegar. When you are ready to serve, add the dressing and toss the salad.

 

Chicory salad

 

 

tuscan bean soup

Zuppa di fagioli alla Toscana is a delicious, creamy soup to nourish and keep you warm in winter. I used to keep myself cosy with it as a penniless, garlic-loving undergraduate at York University; I’d make myself a batch to last me for two or three days. This is real ‘slow food’ as advocated by the global grass roots movement ‘Slow Food’, that links thousands of members around the world who love flavoursome food and are committed to the community and the environment.

beansoup2 reducedThis recipe comes from Giovanna, a highly creative and generous cook and ex-student of ours who invited us out to Tuscany, where we sampled her parents’ memorable bottled tomatoes, olive oil, red and white wine, vin santo and limoncello. Each wine bottle was opened with anticipation and everyone tasted a bit to assess its salient merits – it made the uniformity of commercial wine suddenly seem rather boring. The Carabinieri kept a friendly eye on the locals’ ventures into distilling but, as long as they were given some to sample, no one bothered further.

Remember not to add any salt to your soup until the beans are soft or their skins will not cook.

Serves 4   (the grain-free vegetarian p. 25)

250 dried cannellini beans

900ml water

4 sage leaves

4 tablespoons olive oil

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1 sprig of rosemary

1 tomato, chopped

Salt and pepper

beansoup reducedSoak the beans overnight in plenty of water. Drain and rinse. Cover the beans with fresh water, add the sage leaves and 1 tablespoon of olive oil and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer until tender, 45 minutes to 1½ hours, depending on the freshness of the beans.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a saucepan and gently fry the garlic until golden with a sprig of rosemary, about 8 minutes. Add the tomato and fry until cooked, about 5 minutes.

Transfer half the beans to a medium-sized bowl with some of the bean stock. Blend with a hand-held blender, then return to the pan. Heat the soup, add the tomato. Season. Serve sprinkled with the remaining oil.

 

baked quinces

What a big treat, guests who come bearing gifts of autumn produce fresh from the Corrèze in South-West France: quinces, young juicy walnuts and shining sweet chestnuts newly shed from their prickly cases and ready to roast on the open fire. But don’t forget to score their skins with a cross to allow the stem to escape and prevent them from exploding, before putting them into a cast iron roasting pan. The smell of roasting chestnuts reminds me of foggy winter nights in Paris.

quince, walnuts and chestnuts

So we baked the quinces – a noble dish, which, according to Jane Grigson, was Sir Isaac Newton’s favourite pudding – and served them hot with a dollop of thick whipped cream. If you don’t have the opportunity to go foraging for quinces, they are readily available in farmers’ markets at this time of year.

SERVES 4

2 large quinces

Grated zest and juice of 1 large lemon

300g fragrant honey

300ml water

1 vanilla pod, split in half lengthways

Heat the over to 170°C.

Rub the grey fur off the skin of the quinces. With a large strong knife, cut each quince in half through the core. Do not remove the core, pips, calyx or skin. (The core and pips of the quince are naturally full of pectin and help to make a delicious sauce.) Place the halved quinces in a baking dish, pour the lemon juice and zest over them, then roll them around in the juice.

Put the honey, water and vanilla pod into a pan and dissolve the honey in the water over a moderate heat. Arrange the quinces in the baking dish so that their cut sides are facing up, then pour the honey syrup over them. Cover the baking dish with kitchen foil and bake for 1 hour.

Reduce the heat to 150°C. Remove the foil from the baking dish, turn the quinces in the syrup and, once again, arrange them so that the cut sides face upwards. Bake until the quinces are tender and the juice has become thick and syrupy, and the quinces have turned a magnificent glossy red. The cooking time will depend on the quinces, but have a look after half an hour. Serve immediately.

baked quince detail

We rounded off our meal cracking open and sharing the creamy, succulent young walnuts.walnuts

apple crumble

Last Sunday in the sunshine was the moment for picking the heritage Charles Ross apples in our garden in Cardiff. We know that this tree predates our house built in 1893, because the builders chose an orchard for the site of our street. Charles Ross apples are large and red, streaked with orange and green, weighing about 3 to a kilo. Whilst we were photographing them Sam remarked that ‘an apple is like an actress’s face: when the sun is behind a cloud it is soft and curvaceous, but when the sun comes out it reveals all sorts’. But these comely apples were turning my mind to tarts, the simple but delicious baked apple and crumbles.

IMG_7373Apples35

Apple makes the ultimate autumn crumble, to which you could add some blackberries if they are still to be found. The French have a wondrous machine which peels, cores and slices apples in a trice.

apple core'er

apple crumble

SERVES 4

125g ground almonds

125g potato flour

125g honey

125g unsalted butter, softened, a further 30g for dotting, chopped plus extra for greasing

900g apples

grated zest and juice of ½ lemon

60g flaked almonds

Preheat the oven to 170°C. Butter a 26cm ovenproof dish.

To make the crumble, combine the ground almonds, potato flour, honey and butter in a food processor.

Peel, core and slice the apples. Place in the ovenproof dish and immediately pour over the lemon juice and zest – to prevent them from miscolouring – and dot with butter. If the fruit is unripe, you could trickle over a little honey. Cover the fruit with the crumble and scatter the flaked almonds over the top.

Bake until the top is nicely coloured, about 30 minutes.

IMG_7615Crumble39

roast crown prince

Oh the joy of feasting one’s eyes on a mound of pumpkins of brilliant colours – some mottled, others streaked or even spotted – in the autumn farmers’ markets. I have a special penchant for the elegant steely grey Crown Prince variety like this one above in our garden. It has a low water content and delicious, richly flavoured orange flesh, which when I see it immediately conjures up images of soups, gnocchi and curries in my mind’s eye. One of our plants used a rose bush as a ladder and raced up to the top of our neighbour’s apple tree, and then ingeniously balanced its fruit on its branches. So when the Cardiff rain inevitably arrives, this Crown Prince has ensured that its fruit won’t be sitting in a soggy puddle of water.

crown prince in tree

Autumn is the time for foraging for wild mushrooms, which pair up deliciously with pumpkin. It’s the moment when our neighbours in Marnaves, South West France – who are mushroom aficionados – suddenly appear with a basket overflowing with brown ceps for us. But wild mushrooms are now imported from Eastern Europe at an affordable price. Failing wild mushrooms, you can use chestnut mushrooms with some dried (and soaked) ceps, which impart a heady, rich and exotic flavour.

roast crown prince

SERVES 6-8

1 kg slice of Crown Prince, deseeded

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 red chillies, deseeded and sliced

1 whole garlic bulb, unpeeled

1 sprig sage, leaves picked and roughly chopped

Salt and pepper

400g mushrooms, trimmed and sliced

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Slice the unpeeled pumpkin, coat the pieces with oil and spread them out on a large baking tray so that they do not overlap. Add the chilli, whole cloves of garlic in their skins and the sage leaves. Season. Roast for 20 minutes.

Turn the pumpkin slices and add the mushrooms, tossing them in the oil that is already in the baking tray. The dish is cooked when the pumpkin is golden and soft and the mushrooms are browned, about 10 minutes. Serve hot.

IMG_3467Crown Prince37