Thursday, 31 July 2014
Well, after the last recipe, I had some ricotta to use up and having paired it so well with the mint and broad bean, I figured it would make an equally friendly bedfellow to roasted peppers so I came up with this little tart - the nuttiness of the walnut and wholemeal pastry crust complementing the sweetness of the yellow and red peppers and the creaminess of the ricotta. You could add pine nuts if you liked (omitting the walnuts in the pastry), add cherry tomatoes or make it more of a quiche by stirring the ricotta into a couple of beaten eggs and some Greek yoghurt. Yum!
I had been thinking for a while of making a dip based on broad beans: initially, I thought about using feta as this is what I've used before in a broad bean and feta tart but then I thought that it would be nicer to do a smoother dip so I mashed up the broad beans, stirred in some olive oil, lemon juice some chopped mint and ricotta and et voila! a deliciously creamy dip which is equally at home on crusty seeded bread as on rough textured oatcakes.
Sunday, 27 July 2014
Friday, 11 July 2014
Well, we’ve had a lovely couple of days, weather-wise – the sun has shone and the birds have sung - so what better way to celebrate the summer than chilled pea and lettuce soup...? (Yes, I know, Haagen Dazs cookies & cream ice-cream is the nectar of the Gods but we’re trying to be healthy here, people).
I love soups at all times of the year and this is one of my favourites; besides which, it’s so easy to make!
2 tbsp vegetable oil
Bunch of spring onions, sliced
2 little gem lettuces
500g shelled fresh or frozen peas
1.2 litres good vegetable stock
6 tbsp crème fraiche (optional)
Handful of fresh mint, finely chopped (plus extra to garnish)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Heat the oil in a large pan.
2. Add the spring onions and fry gently on a medium heat for a couple of minutes, until soft.
3. Add the peas, lettuce and stock and bring to the boil.
4. Lower the heat and simmer gently for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until the peas and lettuce are tender.
5. Allow the mixture to cool slightly, add the chopped mint, then pour into a blender or food processor and process until smooth.
6. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
The soup is delicious served chilled but if you prefer your soups hot, warm it gently in a pan before stirring in the crème fraiche.
Also, it’s vegetarian but you can add some meat or fish protein in the form of parma ham or smoked salmon, snipped into bite-size pieces and sprinkled on the soup just before serving along with the mint garnish.
Tuesday, 8 July 2014
Helen and I were kindly invited to give a talk to the Garstang Transition Group on Saturday 3rd May at the Stransdale Centre in Garstang and we were given a very warm welcome by the group.
Helen kicked off proceedings with a comprehensive and informative talk on Spring herbs and their medicinal values before showing the group how to make a pesto but - this was no ordinary pesto, oh no! Walnuts and nettles were just some of the more unusual ingredients as well as the usual suspects: lemon, oil and basil.
After everyone (who wanted to) had had a go at making pesto, it was time for tea or coffee and 'tasters'.
Finally, Helen rounded off the afternoon with a demonstration on tonic-making aided by a very willing accomplice who seemed rather interested in the main ingredient - alcohol!
For this event, after much experimenting and head-scratching (!), I finally came up with:
nettle and feta cheese filo parcels, lemon and nettle tea bread, fennel oatcakes and fennel, orange and cardamom muffins.
The oatcakes and filo parcels were somewhat fiddly to make although they received favourable comments as did the muffins.
For interest, I reproduce the tea bread recipe here:
200g mixed dried fruit
150ml nettle tea (made with freshly picked tips or 2 strong tea bags)
80g ground almonds
50g buckwheat flour (easily available from all good food stores)
25g honey* (difficult to weigh out so I used a measuring spoon - one generous 1 tbsp)
grated rind of 1 lemon
1 tsp baking powder
1 egg, beaten
* you could use agave syrup if you wanted to reduce the sugar content or don’t like honey
1. Heat the oven to 180c/350f/gas mark 4
2. Grease and line a 1lb loaf tin (do NOT do what I did and use a 2lb tin - the result, whilst delicious, produces a somewhat flattened loaf!)
3. Put the fruit and honey in a large bowl. Pour over the brewed tea. Cover and leave overnight (or for as long as possible)
4. Sieve the dry ingredients into another bowl.
5. Mix the beaten egg into the fruit mixture and fold in the dry ingredients.
6. Spoon the combined mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 40/45 minutes (you might want to check it after 30/35 minutes). The loaf is cooked when a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
7. Remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack.
This version is gluten- and dairy-free therefore suitable for coeliacs and vegetarians although you could do a wheat version as follows:
275 g mixed dried fruit
350ml nettle tea (2-3 bags, depending on how strong you want it)
85g soft brown sugar
grated rind of 1 lemon
350g self-raising wholemeal flour (or you could use half and half if you preferred)
1 tsp mixed spice
1 large egg, beaten
1. As above
2. As above but use a 2lb loaf tin.
3. As above but omit the honey.
4. Strain the fruit liquid, reserving it for later.
5. As above.
6. As above
7. Add the reserved liquid a bit at a time until a soft, dropping consistency is achieved.
8. As above but you may need to cook it for up to 10 mins longer.
9. As above.
This one is based on popular Welsh tea time recipe (showing my roots here!) called Bara Brith ('speckled bread'). It's traditionally served sliced and buttered, with a cup of tea – I defy you not to eat more than one slice!!
Note: Please be careful whilst picking nettles (gloves are advisable) and avoid those that grow by the roadside.
Next time: pea and lettuce soup; broad bean dip....
Wednesday, 2 July 2014
Meadowsweet with it's fluffy white flowers and long stems and is standing tall and pretty at this time of year. In Ayurveda meadowsweet is used to reduce Pitta ( Fire) in the body with it's light dry qualities it soothes anxious tense headaches and hot neck muscles on high ( Pitta ) days.The leaves can be used in salads and mixed with marjoram, nettle and fever few make a marvel tisane for painful joints as a result of inflammatory conditions.