Sunday, 30 May 2010

Patatas Bravas, Fried Squid, Flapjacks and Beetroot Salad

An unlikely mix, to be sure!  Time was short this week, so here is a sample of what I have been cooking.  A lovely friend (hi Diana!) today wanted to know what to do with vegetables; ideas for new ways to eat our five-a-day.  I am someone who tries to plan what I am going to cook, and then just at the last minute I am inspired to do something completely different!  And the fact that I have a vegetable box each week means I have to be somewhat flexible, not knowing quite what I'm going to get.  If you have a question or a query, please ask, because you will by no means be the only one wondering what to do with your glut of courgettes or a strange looking thing like a kohl-rabi!
On to the recipes.  I have just been reading Jamie Oliver's new book, 'Jamie does....Spain, Italy, Sweden, etc'.  What a lovely, enthusiastic and inspiring man.  I actually found some squid in Waitrose, and decided to do some tapas.  Here is my interpretation of his recipe.

Patatas Bravas (Fierce potatoes)

4 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves picked off
1 tsp each paprika, fennel seeds and salt
olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 dried red chilli, crumbled (or one fresh, finely chopped)
1/2 tsp thyme
1 400g tin tomatoes
1 tbs sherry vinegar
Salt and Pepper

Parboil the potato pieces for about 15 minutes, until nearly done.  Drain.
In a pan, add 2 tbs olive oil and the onion and 3 cloves of garlic.  cook for 5 minutes then add the chillies, thyme leaves and cook for another 5 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, sherry vinegar and a good pinch of salt and pepper.  Bring to the boil and simmer for about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a frying-pan, add some olive oil and fry the potatoes until coloured on all sides (about 10 minutes).  Add the rosemary and 2 cloves of chopped garlic, cook for another 5 minutes then remove from the heat.  Sprinkle over the paprika, fennel seeds and a pinch of salt.
Finally, tip the sauce over the potatoes (you can liquidize if you like) and stir gently.  Season to taste.

Serve this with:

Baby Squid

100g plain flour
300g baby squid (cleaned, and I cut them into rings)
vegetable oil
3-4 sprigs fresh parsley
1 lemon, cut into wedges

Season the flour with a big pinch of salt and pepper, then toss the squid until coated.
Heat a pan with enough oil to cover the bottom.  The oil will be hot enough when a small piece of bread starts to sizzle.  Lower the squid pieces carefully into the oil and fry, turning so both sides are golden brown.  Tip on to some kitchen paper to drain, then serve with the parsley and lemon.

I have found a great flapjack recipe, having searched for a long time!  They are sweet enough without being sickly, and firm enough without being too crunchy - delicious!

Flapjacks (adapted from a recipe by Liz Franklin in 'brownies and bars')

Melt together:
180g butter
180g soft brown sugar
3tbs golden syrup
1 tbs honey

When thoroughly melted, mix in:
375g porridge oats and 50g cornflakes.

Tip into a tin measuring 20 x 30cm, lined with parchment paper, and bake at 180 degrees/Gas Mark 4 for 25 minutes.  Leave to cool and then cut into squares.  Makes about 18.

And finally.......

This week I entertained my lovely 'Ladies Who Lunch'; old friends from Pre-school days.  I cooked the asparagus tart again (I love asparagus, see previous blog for recipe) and had some raw beetroot hanging around.  Here is what I came up with - for you Corrie!

Beetroot and Carrot Salad

1 large, fresh beetroot
2 carrots
1 squeeze of lemon juice
3 tbs olive oil
1 tsp grainy mustard
a handful of mixed nuts and seeds (pistachios, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds. Waitrose does a packet)

Finely grate the beetroot and carrot, then mix in all the rest, seasoning to taste.  Enjoy!  (Took the picture at the last mouthful!)

Monday, 24 May 2010

Salmon Tart and Frittatas

I spent the weekend catering for 19 lunches on Saturday and Sunday, phew!  People were so enthusiastic about what I produced, which was simple but completely home-made.  And I think that is the difference.  People are so used to being offered shop-bought quiche, coleslaw and cake that when they are given the real thing they are over the moon!  It really isn't much effort to whizz up coleslaw, but it does take a little forethought and a little extra time.  The problem is, we have been seduced by this 'live fast, buy lots of things we don't need but can't live without, constant mobile phone presence' life.  I am really bucking against it, even though I have a Blackberry.  For the first time really in my life I am taking time out each day to walk my dog and to be solitary in nature, just me and my thoughts.  I am finding more and more that I need this space to keep my sanity, and actually, I still have friends even though I didn't vacuum the house this morning!

Anyway, I am feeling calmer at least!  Here are two lovely recipes.  Smoked Salmon Tart is delicious and really quite impressive, and the Frittatas are tarts without the pastry!  Be creative because once you know how to make a tart, the variations are endless!  (The picture has some spinach put into the case with the salmon).

Smoked Salmon Tart   (Quiche Lorraine if you use fried bacon and onions!)

One pastry case (25-27cm or a similar sized tin)
200g plain flour
100g butter
1/2 tsp salt
2-3 tbs cold water

Heat the oven to 200 degrees/Gas Mark 5.  Using a food-processor, mix the flour, butter and salt until it looks like breadcrumbs, or by hand, rub the butter into the flour then mix in the salt.  Add the water (you may need a little more but don't make the pastry too wet) until a dough is formed.  Roll out to 5cm larger than your tin.  Place over and push the edges gently down the sides to touch the corner, all the way round.  Leave some over hanging and place in the oven for 10 minutes.  Trim the pastry with a sharp knife slicing horizontally.

Now the filling:

250g  packet of smoked salmon
7 eggs, made up to 750ml with
double cream and milk
Seasoning and paprika
Fresh herbs of your choice: chives, oregano, marjoram, basil, etc. all snipped or chopped

Mix all the above but the salmon together and pour into your pastry case.  Cut the salmon into strips and arrange prettily, making sure it is spread evenly.  Season the top with salt and pepper and  a little paprika.  Bake for around 35-40 minutes, until golden brown on top and there is no wobble.  Leave to cool for 5 minutes and serve.

Frittatas (Thanks Emma!)  (Makes 12)

8 eggs
125ml double cream
50ml milk
2 red onions
A handful of cooked spinach
A carrot, finely grated
A packet of pine-nuts
12 thin strips of smoked salmon
Ground paprika

Heat the oven to 200 degrees/Gas Mark 5.  Fry the onions in a little oil until softened.  Grease or line a deep 12-hole muffin tin with squares of parchment paper.  Layer the onion, spinach and carrot between the holes,  season with salt and pepper and top with a sprinkling of pine-nuts.  Mix the eggs, cream and milk and season well.  Pour the egg mixture into each muffin case, trying not to spill any over the edge (makes it harder to take them out).  Place a strip of salmon on each muffin, sprinkle with paprika and bake in the oven for about 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown and puffed-up.


1/4 savoy cabbage
2 carrots
1/4 red onion

Slice the cabbage and onion as finely as you can.  Grate the carrots and mix all together with mayonnaise until you reach your desired consistency.  Keeps in the 'fridge for a few days, just mix well when serving.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Asparagus Tart

Just been on a lovely trip to the beach with Barney's class!  Thank you for taking me - I hadn't been to Birling Gap and it was beautiful!  The boys were all very pleasant to be with and very well-behaved.

As we were walking to the sea, I spied some sea kale, which I had read about but not recognised before.  While no-one was looking, I picked a handful and we ate it for tea this evening; more iron than Pop-eye could shake a stick at!  (Barney declared it poisonous and didn't eat any.... )  Jake and I thought it was lovely; a cross between spinach and curly kale.

Moving on (!), I cooked this tart last Friday, adapted from a recipe by Lucas Hollweg.  As I love to cook as much asparagus as possible during it's short season, I am always keen to try new ways to eat it.  It is very simple and very tasty.

Asparagus Tart

250g asparagus, ends snapped off
a knob of butter
2 leeks, thinly sliced and washed
1 clove of garlic, crushed
salt and pepper
1 packet of puff pastry
1 egg
100ml cream
50g parmesan cheese, grated
Some prociutto ham, torn

Heat the oven to 220 degrees/Gas Mark 7.  Par boil the asparagus in a pan of boiling water for 4 minutes.  Drain and cover with cold water for a few seconds to stop them cooking, then drain again.  Cook the leeks and garlic in a knob of butter until soft. 

Roll out the puff pastry into a recangle, about 40x15cm.  Score a  line around the edge without cutting through about 1 cm wide.  Bake for 5 minutes until a little raised.  Remove from the oven and press down the centre rectangle.  Mix the egg, cream, cheese and seasoning. 

Spread the leeks over the base of the tart, then pour in the cream mixture, making sure it doesn't spill.  Arrange the asparagus in lines on the cream and place the ham on top.
Cook for about 20 minutes until the pastry is golden.  Leave for a few minutes before eating!

A variation on the theme is Asparagus and Goat's Cheese Tart.

Use the same method, but instead of the cream mixture, us 250g goat's cheese, such as Chevre, thinly sliced and arrange over the pastry.  Top with the asparagus, brush the border with milk or beaten egg and bake for about 15 minutes.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Lamb Koftas and Home-made Naan

My son, Jake (nearly 12) had a cookery session at school last week.  He loves to cook and was very enthusiastic about the ladies who were running the class, Kids Can Cook (Find them at  A group of about nine boys produced Lamb Koftas, with Naan Bread and Raita and then ate the lot!
So, I decided he could produce it for our tea yesterday.  What a stress (for me!), and what a Success!
Very easy to assemble and to cook, we managed it in around 30 minutes, probably eating within about 40 minutes - pretty good for a weekday!  Have a go.  The Naan taste very authentic because of the onion seeds, and they are So Easy to make.

Lamb Koftas

300g minced lamb
half medium onion, finely chopped
1.5 cm piece of fresh ginger, grated
1 clove garlic, grated
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp paprika

olive oil for frying
Grated carrot and finely chopped lettuce

Heat a large frying pan over a medium heat.  Grate the ginger and garlic and add all the ingredients to the bowl.  Wet your hands and roll into balls, just smaller than a golf ball.
Gently fry in the olive oil until browned and cooked right through.
Serve with naan bread.

Naan Bread

350g self-raising flour
1 tsp black onion seeds
3/4 tsp salt
25g butter, melted
230ml half yoghurt/half water

Mix all the ingredients until just combined.  Allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, heat another frying pan (or heat the grill).  Cut the dough into 4-5 pieces and roll to 3-4mm thick.  Dry fry in the pan.
Split and serve with the koftas and raita.


250g plain yoghurt
10cm cucumber, chopped finely
pinch salt
pinch cumin
handful of fresh mint leaves, chopped

Mix all the ingredients and serve.

I also had a go at these again!  And this time was quite successful!

A can of drained chickpeas
A small onion, chopped
splash of olive oil
1 egg
2 grated carrots
salt and pepper
pinch of cumin powder

Whizz everything in a food-processor until pureed.  Fry in oil until browned on each side, then serve with the above.


Somerset Apple Cake

What a delicious cake!  It is moist enough to be a pudding, and the cider-soaked sultanas and lemon zest lift this cake to something really special. You have to start this the day before and soak the sultanas in the cider overnight. The recipe is from long ago in my recipe book, hence the imperial measurements! 

8oz caster sugar
6oz butter
10oz plain flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
zest of a lemon
2 large Bramley apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
6oz sultanas
5 floz dry cider

Heat the oven to 160degrees/gas mk 4.  Cream the butter and sugar.  Add the eggs one at a time.  Fold in the dry ingredients, lemon zest and thinly sliced apples.  Add the sultanas.
Tip into a lined 20cm cake tin and bake for about 1 hour until golden brown on top.
Cool and serve with sweetened, whipped cream!

Chocolate Crispy Squares
Last, but not least, I rustled up some of these for a sweet treat.  They take all of 10mins to make!

3 Mars Bars
2oz butter
3oz rice crispies

Melt the butter in a medium pan.  Add the Mars Bars and stir until melted.  Add the rice crispies and coat thoroughly with the chocolate.  Tip into a 20cm square tin and put in the 'fridge to set.  Yum!

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Angel Bread and Orange Chocolate Marble Cake

I had a very complicated school/train station/cricket match run tonight - enough to test anyone's sanity!  What for tea??  Well, not very adventurously, all I could think of that a) I had the ingredients for and b) the kids would actually EAT, c) I could fit in around running people here and there, was a plate of Birdseye fish fingers (I always have a pack in the freezer, just in case....) with homemade chunky chips and sweetcorn.
Then I thought (as I often do under extreme pressure!), what else then?  I had decided to bake some chocolate cakes, but as I was mixing, I changed my mind to make Barney's favrourite Chocolate and Orange Marble Cake.  Easy as easy and very lovely, the sighs of delight were reward enough!
(But to make it all better, my little doggie, Pepper, was a star at her puppy class afterwards!)

And I have discovered, in a LOVELY book called, 'Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey Treats for Kids' by Jill O'Connor, a GREAT breakfast for those of us who can sometimes Be Prepared!  They are called Heaven-Sent Angel Biscuits, and are a cross between a scone and a sweet bread roll.  Make the dough the night before (no kneading required!!) and just pull bits off in the morning to bake.  My kids loved them, and so did I.........

Orange and Chocolate Marble Cake

150g soft butter
150g caster sugar
2 eggs
0.5 tsp  baking powder
150g self-raising flour
2 tbs good cocoa powder
zest of an orange and 2 tbs of juice

Set oven at 180 degrees/Gas mk 5.

Whizz the butter, caster, eggs, baking powder and flour in a processor until smooth. (If your butter is cold, whizz the butter and sugar first until creamy, then add the rest).
Grate the zest into the mixture, add the juice and whizz to mix.  Spoon half the mixture in blobs over the bottom of a base-lined and greased 7" cake tin.  Add the cocoa to the remaining mixture and whizz again until mixed.  Blob this randomly into the tin.  Take a wooden spoon handle and gently make figure-of-eight swirls in the mixture - less is more though; don't overdo it!

Bake for about 35 minutes, until the top of the cake looks cooked and a skewer or sharp knife comes out clean.

What I have been cooking:

Heaven-Sent Angel Biscuits (from the above book)

1 tbs dried yeast
one cup warm water (maybe more if too dry)
5.5 cups of strong bread flour
1 tsp bicarb of soda
1 tbs baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
14 tbs butter (you'll just have to guess it!)
2 cups buttermilk or natural yoghurt

Measure out all the dry ingredients, then rub in the butter, leaving some pea-sized pieces.  Add the water and buttermilk and mix to a stiff bread dough.  Place in a sealed plastic bag and put in the fridge overnight (leave some room for expansion in the bag!).

In the morning, before you shower, grab ping-pong ball sized pieces, roll into balls and place on a greased baking tray.  Leave to rise while you shower, then place in the oven for 12-15 mins until lightly browned.
Eat with butter and jam - Angelic!!

What's New???
Got to tell you the Most Exciting News of the Moment!!  I am the Knitting Coach at Gill Harris-Saunders' new Shop in Dorking!  It is a delicious Emporium of all things Woolly.  Check out her website and get those needles and woolly inspiration out and come along for a coffee and a chat, or a marvellous Knitting Workshop or make something Splendid at a Felting Workshop!!