Monday, July 30

Peaches Poached in Vanilla Perry

Peaches are just coming into season and nothing shouts summer like this fragrant fruit. IIf you live in the West Country, you will be very familiar with Perry. If not, it is a an alcoholic drink made in the cider style but makes use of pears rather than apples. 

This recipe is dead easy to prepare and results in quite an adult tasting syrup so maybe not a dish for kids. A great way to use peaches from the supermarket that are not quite soft enough to eat. The fruit will sit happily in the syrup for days in the fridge so you can make this up in advance and serve chilled on a hot day...or eat warm straight from the pan. Serves 2 to 4

Firm peaches - 4 large
1 bottle of quality Perry - 500ml
Sugar to Taste
Seeds from 1 fat vanilla pod
Good vanilla ice-cream

Carefully peel the peaches with a potato peeler. Place in a tight fitting pan and cover with the perry. Add the vanilla seeds, pods and a good few tbsp of sugar - you can always add more later so don't go crazy. Gently simmer the peaches until soft. Remove from the syrup and allow to cool. Reduce the syrup by half to intensify the flavour - taste and add more sugar if you like.

Serve with the ice-cream and a good splash of the syrup. Any remaining syrup can be used to make a cocktail with vodka or cava.

Wednesday, July 18

A Couple of Calzone Ideas

Some days I feel like being creative with food; trying out new ingredients, flavour combinations and techniques. Other days I want something comforting; familiar; borderline junk food! A calzone is a folded pizza a bit like an Italian Cornish pasty. You can stuff them with all the usual pizza toppings and I have seen some versions where a tomato sauce is poured over the top. Unlike a standard pizza, it is customary to pack the Calzone with lots of filling. More topping/filling can only be a good thing - right?

I cooked my Calzone for longer and at a lower temperature than I would for pizza, this is to ensure the filling gets hot before the bread case burns. I put a Tweet out asking for unusual and seasonal pizza toppings and one response was 'haggis and baked beans' - not for me that one, but you lot feel free to experiment!  I'll just give you the recipe for the basic bread dough and tomato sauce here. I am sure you can come up with your own fillings of choice - just remember to pack the calzone with good stuff and bake long enough to heat through. I did two flavours: Garlic Mushroom and Dolcelatte & Salami Picante, Spinach and Mozzarella.

Basic Bread Dough:
Strong bread flour - 500g
Salt - 10g
Dried Yeast - 7g packet or 1 tsp
Tepid water - 350g
Polenta - 1 handful

Tomato Sauce
Quality tinned chopped tomatoes - 400g tin
Garlic - 4 cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
Olive Oil - 50ml
Crushed red chilli - 1 pinch
Sugar - 2 tsp
Red wine vinegar - 1 tbsp
Fresh basil - 1 small bunch, leaves only torn up
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

To make your bread dough, in a large bowl mix all the dry ingredients then add the water. Mix well with a knife or spatula until all the flour is incorporated. Tip onto the work surface and knead well. It will seem too wet to start with but keep working it and the dough will come together. Place the dough back in the bowl and cover. Leave to double in size. 

Meanwhile make the tomato sauce. Heat the oil and gently fry the garlic and chilli until the garlic starts to turn light golden. Tip in the tomatoes, sugar, vinegar and season lightly. Simmer gently and reduce by 1/3. Check the seasoning again and set aside to cool, then add the basil.

Set your oven to 200c. When the dough has risen, tip onto a board and knead a little more to knock all the air out of it. Divide into two and using the polenta to prevent the dough sticking, roll out two rough circles of dough the size of a large dinner plate. Put each circle of bread dough onto a heavy oiled baking tray. Place lots of filling on half the circle leaving a 2cm outside edge. Egg wash the outside edge and fold over the unfilled side encasing the filling in a 'half moon' shape. Crimp the open edges and brush all over with oil. Bake until the filling is hot and the bread dough is golden and crispy - approx 30 mins. Top with the tomato sauce that you have briefly reheated.

A Breakfast Thickie - Peach, Raspberry, Yoghurt & Oats

You have heard of a smoothie right? Well if you add oats and yoghurt the result is thicker and keeps you full until lunch. Hence the name....I'm not very creative.....sorry.

1 peach - stoned and chopped
1 handful of raspberries
1 handful of oats
4 tbsp natural yoghurt
2 tbsp honey
Enough milk to listen the mix to a drinkable consistency - maybe 150ml

Do you need instruction on how to make feels a bit patronising.....err....bung it all in the blender and blitz until smooth and thick. Drink!

Thursday, July 12

Courgette Linguine with Lemon, Mint, Chilli & Feta

My mum was up this week and is a bit of a pasta fiend. This is a lovely light summer dish to use up the glut of seasonal courgettes. I used a Japanese mandolin with a julienne attachment to make courgette 'spaghetti'. If you don't have one of these lethal devices, just cut the courgette into thin matchsticks as best you can. For three to four:

Linguine or spaghetti - 200g
Courgettes - 4 large, cut into long strands or matchsticks
Garlic - 4 cloves, peeled & roughly chopped
Dried red chilli flakes - a good couple of pinches
Lemon - zest and juice of 2
Mint & basil - half a bunch of each, stems removed and roughly chopped
Butter - 50g
Extra virgin olive oil - 50ml
Feta - 200g, cut into small cubes
Parmesan shavings - 50g

Cook the linguine as per the packet instructions. In a large frying pan, warm the butter and gently fry the garlic and chilli until the garlic starts to go golden. Add the courgette and gently fry until softened. Add the lemon zest, chopped herbs and a good seasoning of salt and pepper. Drain the linguine reserving some of the pasta water. Tip the linguine into the pan and toss the courgette into the linguine. Tip in half the lemon juice, a generous lug of olive oil and check the seasoning - add more lemon if you think it needs it. If the pasta is a bit dry, add a little of the reserved pasta cooking water.

Tip the pasta into a large serving bowl and top with the feta, parmesan and a sprinkle of chilli flakes.

Tuesday, July 10

Squash, Puy & Oven Dried Tomato Salad, Perroche & Basil Vinaigrette

British tomatoes should be at their best soon - I say this, but just like with Wimbledon, the weather may delay play a little. Oven drying tomatoes intensifies the flavour of even the most insipid of specimens, especially if you judiciously season them with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar to accentuate the sweetness. 

The eagle eyed among you will spot that lentils were on my last blogpost. Any leftover pulses are a great way to beef up a salad in a vegetarian way. Try chickpeas, kidney beans, bulgar wheat etc - you don't need a lot but a few morsels hidden in the leaves makes a welcome find. I fed three with this recipe along with some flatbreads to mop up the dressing.

1 small butternut squash
6 large vine tomatoes - quartered 
Rocket - 1 handful
Cooked puy lentils - 1 large handful
Basil leaves - 1 handful
Sugar, Salt, Black pepper
Garlic - 1 small clove peeled and crushed
Cider or red wine vinegar - 1 tbsp
Perroche or another fresh sheep or goats cheese - 150g
Extra virgin Olive Oil - 100ml

Slice enough off the bottom of the squash so you reach the seeds. Scrape out with a spoon and then slice the squash into 1cm discs leaving the skin on. Lightly oil and season and set aside. Place the quartered tomatoes on a baking tray and season with the salt, pepper and a few tsps of sugar. Bake for 2 hours at 150c until wrinkly but still with some juice in them. Bake the squash along with the tomatoes for the last hour or so of the cooking time.

Warm the lentils in the microwave or on the stove. Crush the garlic, 4 tbsp of olive oil and the basil leaves in a pestle and mortar until you have a pulpy mush. Season with more salt, pepper and the vinegar until you have a tasty balanced dressing (it won't emulsify so don't try!). On a large plate sprinkle some rocket, top with squash, more rocket, tomatoes, lentils and crumbled perroche. Sprinkle with more lentils then drizzle with the basil vinaigrette.

Saturday, July 7

Hake, Puy Lentils Fennel & Serrano, Smoked Paprika Aioli

Hake is sustainable (if any wild fish is truly sustainable these days), lentils are good for you and fennel is in season on right now. What's not to like?

Thick hake fillet, skin on - 2x180g
Puy lentils - 100g
Leek - 1 small, washed
Carrot - 1
Fennel - 1 head, any herby sprigs reserved
Large ripe tomato - 1
Garlic - 5 fat cloves, roughly chopped
Chicken or vegetable stock - 500ml
Bay leaves - 2
Rosemary - 1 small sprig
Serrano ham - 100g, finely chopped
Olive Oil - 150ml
Lemon juice - 1/2 a lemons worth
Free range egg yolk - 1
Smoked Paprika - 1 tsp soaked in the lemon juice

Finely dice the leek, fennel and carrot and gently fry off in a large sauté pan with 3 cloves worth of the chopped garlic and 50ml of the olive oil. When the vegetables are soft and starting to go golden, add the lentils, ham, stock, herbs and a good season of salt and pepper. Cover and allow to simmer gently until the lentils are tender and the stock mostly absorbed - feel free to add more stock if the lentils seem a little dry. At the end skin, seed and chop up a raw tomato and throw in for the last 2 mins of cooking - it really freshens up the dish.

Heat a good nonstick frying pan with a heatproof handle and also set your oven to 200c. Season the fish fillets on both sides and add a little of the olive oil to the pan. Fry the fish on a medium hot heat - skin side down - until the skin is crispy and golden. Flip the fillets over and transfer to the oven to cook through - maybe 8 to 10 mins depending on the thickness of the fish. 

While the fish is cooking, make your aioli. Grind the remaining garlic to a paste using the flat of your knife on the chopping board with a pinch of salt to help the abrasion. Add this to a mixing bowl with the egg yolk and the lemon/paprika juice. Begin whisking (yes by hand) and drizzle in a thin stream of olive oil, whisking all the time. It is really easy, just start off really slow with the oil, you can drizzle faster as the aioli thickens. You want a really thick aioli so whisk in more oil if it looks a little thin. Taste and correct the seasoning with more lemon and salt.

Plate up the lentils in a suitable rustic bowl, fish and aioli next, then finish with any reserved fennel herb. Stir the aioli into the lentils as you eat - proper job!