Saturday, 28 June 2014

rustic veggie pie

I love pastry.
Making it, baking it, eating it.
What is nicer than crisp, buttery pastry encasing a soft creamy filling or atop a bubbling pie, the steam and juices just softening the underneath of the pastry whilst the top stays crisp and crunchy?
  If you have a food processor, pastry can be quick and easy to make. You can forget the stuff about having to have cold hands or a knack for pastry and just whizz the ingredients altogether.
Recipes using pastry, sweet and savoury, abound and at this time of year the ubiquitous quiche often makes an appearance, but quiches can be tricky.
The slightest crack in your pastry shell and the cream and egg filling can seep out; similarly, the baking tray can buckle in the heat of the oven spilling out the precious contents.
I speak from experience!
So may I offer you an idea for a rustic veggie tart, no cream or eggs required.

The filling for this tart is a mixture of roasted veggies.
I used :
1 small butternut squash ( no need to peel)
2 red peppers
1 red onion
2 cloves garlic
season with
1tsp fennel,1 tsp cumin ground together
1/2 to 1 tsp hot smoked paprika
a grating of nutmeg
salt and pepper
Toss in 1-2 tablsp olive oil and roast in a hot oven.
When nicely browned,
 add  passata or chopped tinned tomatoes to moisten and the squeezed out garlic and mix well.
Spoon into a pastry case which has been baked blind and top with a mixture of breadcrumbs, grated parmesan, 1/2 tsp mustard seeds and salt and pepper.
Return to the oven for about 15 mins until heated through.

 Enjoy as a light lunch or supper.


Saturday, 21 June 2014


I've never tried growing sweetcorn, but seeing plants swaying gracefully on neighbouring plots ( and reading how much better freshly picked, homegrown sweetcorn tastes) I am tempted to have a go next year.
The only problem, it seems to me, is that because they are wind pollinated and need to be sown in blocks, they take up rather a lot of room.
The Native Americans solved this problem by their system of  3 sisters planting, growing sweetcorn, climbing beans and squash altogether, the idea being that the beans use the sweetcorn as supports and the squash provide ground cover.
It sounds like a good idea, but I have read that it can be difficult to harvest the individual items unless everything is left to die back and dry off first. Anyone got any thoughts?
Meanwhile, this year, I am just growing butternut squash; 4 plants grown from seed - variety Hunter. Maybe next year I will try 2 sisters i.e. underplanting sweetcorn with squash.
But homegrown or not here is a delicious recipe for sweetcorn salsa from Waitrose Weekend.
It's great if you have the BBQ going but if not the corn can be cooked on the grill.
serves 4
4 corn on the cob
2tbsp olive oil
1/2 bunch of salad onions, finely chopped
280g jar of roasted peppers in oil
1 red chilli
fresh coriander
juice of 2 limes
2 tbsp roasted, salted almonds, chopped
Brush the corn with a little oil and grill until nicely brown.
 When the corn is cooked, slice off the kernels and toss together with all the other ingredients.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

first strawberries

some time between the Chelsea Flower Show and the first week of Wimbledon, the strawberries on our allotment begin to turn a lovely ruby red, ready to be picked ....
..... and sure enough, here is the first bowlful picked the other day.
The first strawberries are so eagerly awaited and picked with such excitement, that it seems best to eat them just as they are.
However, sometimes it's nice to have them with something a little creamy and the Italian dessert, panna cotta fits the bill.

The British are usually champions at all things pudding, but I have to admit that in this case the Italians seem to have won out.
The nearest thing we Brits have to panna cotta is blancmange, which is really like a thick cold custard and seems to be very much the poor relation.
I hope I'm not offending any blancmange lovers, but I'm not really a fan of this sixties mainstay of school dinners, with its lurid colour and thick, leathery skin.
 Nor is mr digandweed, in fact he still shudders at childhood memories of it and has an aversion to 'wibbly wobbly' desserts of any kind !
 So much so, that I had difficulty in persuading him to try what he called ' an italian version of blancmange'.

However, after the first creamy, smooth mouthful, he was won over and declared it to be an altogether different experience.

Panna cotta is very easy to make.
It translates as cooked cream, although the dessert is not really cooked but rather set with gelatine.

Here is the recipe I used, adapted from The Forager's Kitchen  by Fiona Bird :

350 ml full fat milk
250 ml double cream
40g caster sugar
3 small sheets gelatine
1 tsp vanilla paste

Soak the gelatine sheets in cold water for 3/4 minutes until soft.
Heat the milk, cream and sugar until the sugar has dissolved.
Squeeze excess water from the gelatine and add to the milk mixture.
Stir over a very low heat until the gelatine has dissolved.
Pour the mixture into 4 x100ml ramekins or moulds and refrigerate until set.
Dip moulds briefly in warm water to help loosen and turn out onto a dish.

p.s. the black speckles on my photo are the vanilla seeds which for some reason all sank to the bottom!


Friday, 6 June 2014

a summer breakfast

 A while back I made Mary Berry's crumble recipe and thought it would make a nice granola type topping for yoghurt and indeed it does!
.. and it also keeps very well in a sealed jar.

The other good thing is that the nuts and seeds can be varied according to taste or what's in the cupboard.

I also discovered that it makes a crunchy topping to what is fast becoming my fave summer breakfast. As the weather warms up, a steaming bowl of porridge does not always seem appropriate, but the same lovely creaminess can be found in a bowl of swiss muesli. ...a recipe developed in 1900 by Dr Bircher for his patients.
It is very easy to make, so long as you remember to soak a portion of oats over night in enough milk or juice to just cover them.
The following morning stir in some yoghurt and grated apple and sweeten with a little honey if liked.
Top with extra fruit of choice and a sprinkle of the granola.

And if you spoon it into a little jar, it becomes a portable feast, a breakfast to go, which you can take to work or wherever you might be heading!