Cauliflower & Cherry Salad

I love cherries so much – when I was a kid I would ask for a bag of them as a snack from the grocers. Weird kid huh. Anyway I was really happy to see a recipe using them that wasn’t a dessert even if I am very partial to a cherry clafoutis. This recipe was in Jamie Oliver’s ‘Veg’. Such a great book, I really recommend it. I subbed out brown rice for bulghar wheat and probably any mix of fresh herbs would be fine.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 large cauliflower
  • 200g bulghar wheat
  • 2 tsp za’atar
  • 200g cherries
  • 1 preserved lemon
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp honey
  • olive oil
  • 2 tbsp pine nuts
  • 30g fresh mint
  • 30g fresh dill
  • 4 tbsp yoghurt

Method

1.) Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C

2.) Chop up the cauliflower into florets

3.) Add the bulghar wheat and cauliflower to a pan and cover with boiling water. Simmer for 10 minutes then remove the cauliflower with a slotted spoon. Continue simmering the bulghar wheat until cooked. When done, drain and set aside to cool.

4,) Line a baking tray and place on the cauliflower. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with za’atar and salt and pepper. Get another baking tray and crush down. Leave the top tray on the cauliflower and place in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes. (In fact I forgot to do this straight away and ended up taking the cauliflower out halfway through but I think I got away with it. It may have been easier to crush).

5.) While this is baking, prepare the cherries. Destone the cherries, roughly chop and throw into a mixing bowl.

6.) Finely chop the preserved lemon, removing the pips and add to the cherries. Slice the lemon in half and squeeze the juice in from one of the halves. Drizzle in the honey and 3 tbsp olive oil. Give it a good mix.

7.) Toast the pine nuts in a frying pan on a low heat until they start to smell fragrant.

8.) Finely chop up the dill and mint. Mix with the bulghar wheat along with the juice from the other half of the lemon.

9.) Plate up the bulghar wheat and place on the cauliflower. Spoon over the cherry mixture, sprinkle over the pine nuts and spoon over some yoghurt.

Gougères

These cheese puffs were another small bite I made for my Eurovision party. They were also a good way to use up the rest of the gruyère I bought for the beer cheese sauce. They are best eaten fresh but I just warmed them up in the oven for 5 minutes at 150 degrees C. The recipe is from one of my favourite celebrity chefs – Rachel Khoo – and her book ‘Little Paris Kitchen’ so named as living in Paris, she couldn’t afford much of a kitchen.

Makes about 15

Ingredients

  • 60ml water
  • 65ml milk
  • 50g butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 85g plain flour
  • 35g gruyere cheese
  • 2 eggs

Method

1.) Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C and line a baking tray

2.) Measure out the water and milk into a measuring jug, grate the cheese, beat the eggs into a container and beat with a fork, measure out the butter into a pan

3.) Measure out the flour and melt the butter into the pan.

4.) Once the butter is melted, add the water and milk, the flour and beat, add about 2/3 of the cheese and beat in until melted

5.) Add half the egg and mix, then add the other half and beat until a glossy paste

6.) Put the dough into a piping bag (or into a freezer bag with the corner chopped off to make a nozzle).

7.) Pipe on the baking tray into about 15 walnut sized balls. Don’t worry about getting it perfect. I went back and topped them up.

8.) Wet a finger and pat down the points on each ball.

9.) Sprinkle over the rest of the cheese on the tops.

10.) Bake for 20 minutes.

Beer Cheese Dip

I made this beer-cheese dip to go with my pretzels. I don’t feel like I need to advertise it much – beer and cheese – what more could you want. As you can see, it makes a fair bit. The rest of it I mixed with some cooked pasta and roasted butternut squash and baked topped with some breadcrumbs as a makeshift mac and cheese. I used Newcastle Brown Ale as my beer of choice as I don’t much like hoppy beers and this one has a nice mellow flavour. The sauce will solidify as it cools down – there really is that much cheese, so make it ready to eat straight away or bung it in the microwave to melt. The recipe is adapted from the blog ‘Spend With Pennies’.

Ingredients

  • 60g butter
  • 35g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • pinch cayenne pepper (or paprika)
  • 250ml milk
  • 170ml Newcastle Brown Ale
  • 235g mature cheddar
  • 120g mozarella
  • 120g gruyère cheese
  • 2 tsp mustard

Method

1.) Grate the cheddar and the gruyère and chop up the mozarella

2.) Measure out the milk and beer into a jug and measure out the butter into a pan

3.) Measure out the flour. Melt the butter in the pan then add the flour, garlic, onion and cayenne powder. Beat to a paste and stir around the pan for 2 minutes.

4.) Add splashes of milk and whisk until each is combined into the paste, eventually forming a thick sauce.

5.) Add the cheeses to the pan and mix until all melted into a smooth gooey sauce.

6.) Stir in 2 tsp of mustard.

Pretzels

I wanted a few bites from a few different countries for my Eurovision party (lets not talk about the UK’s result) and decided to make some tasty German pretzels with a beer cheese dip. I found the pretzel recipe on the blog ‘Sally’s Baking Addiction’ but I halved it as the pretzels were part of a melee of things. Pretzels are a nice bread choice to make as you only need to let the dough rest for 10 minutes before you can crack on with making them. I didn’t sprinkle them with salt – I’ve never been too keen on the crunching into large salt rocks but feel free to do so before you bake.

Makes 10

Ingredients

  • 180ml tepid water
  • 5g yeast
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp soft butter
  • 250g plain flour
  • 120g baking soda
  • 2,000ml water (or how much fits into your pan)

Method

1.) Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C

2.) Measure out the flour into a large bowl and add the salt and sugar. Mix around with a fork as you don’t want the yeast to hit the salt.

3.) Sprinkle the yeast into the tepid water and let it brew for 10 minutes.

4.) Pour the yeasty water into the flour and mix with your hand to form a ball. Tip out onto the counter top and knead for about 7 minutes until the dough is smooth.

5.) Let it sit for 10 minutes

6.) Boil the 2000ml of water and once boiling, add the baking soda. Line a baking tray.

7.) Cut the dough into 10 equal pieces

8.) Roll each piece into a rope (probably a bit longer and thinner than mine if you want really neat pretzels).

9.) Shape the dough into pretzels.

10.) Add the pretzels to the baking soda bath – I did two at a time but you can judge based on the size of your pan. Leave for 15 seconds, flip over and leave for 15 more. Then remove to a baking tray with a slotted spoon. (This step gives the distinctive pretzel taste).

11.) Once all the pretzels have been dunked in the baking soda mix (they look a bit puffy after this) and are all on the baking tray, bake for 12 – 15 minutes until golden brown.

Asparagus and Crab meat Soup

When I was a kid I loved Chinese food as I had good access to it with all the Chinese takeaways. Over time, that love has broadened to include many more cuisines from South East Asia as I’ve had more exposure. Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean and Thai food I also now love though I await the day when vegetarian versions of Char Sui Buns are readily available (yes I should make some!). All these cuisines have a few things in common for me – they have a few central ingredients which are used to create many different dishes, they’re fresh, flavourful, healthy, quick to make and the meat recipes are generally quite easy to substitute. This recipe from ‘The Vietnamese Market Cookbook’ is a great example of this.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • Chicken flavoured stock
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 onion
  • 200g crabmeat
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp cornflour
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • rice noodles (I didn’t measure these – enough for 4 – I really like the wide strip ones)
  • 1 punnet of shitake mushrooms
  • pepper
  • coriander leaves

Method

1.) Peel and chop up the onion

2.) Heat the oil in a large casserole dish and fry the onion until soft

3.) Boil some water and make up 1.5 litres stock

4.) Add the crabmeat to the pan and fry for a couple of minutes then add the fish sauce and fry for one more minute

5.) Pour in the stock and turn up the heat

6.) Slice up the mushrooms and asparagus and add to the pan with the rice noodles. Reserve the tips of the asparagus as they cook quicker.

7.) Cook on a high heat for 5 minutes until the noodles are soft, after 3 minutes, add the asparagus tips. While this is cooking, chop up the coriander leaves.

8.) When the soup is done, sprinkle in some pepper. Serve up with a garnish of coriander.

DOuble baked potatoes with courgette Salad

Just sat watching the Eurovision semi-final today which is cheering me up after a hard day. Can’t believe how rude some people are. Reaalllly hope Russian Woman gets through, it’s too funny. Was half-tempted to buy a boiler suit for my Eurovision party on Saturday as that’s what the singer wears though it wouldn’t be great if she wasn’t in the final. This meal is really two side dishes but the double baked potatoes with Gorgonzola just sounded too tasty (they were). Gino d’A Campo specifies Gorgonzola dolce in his recipe though it’s the only Gorgonzola I seem to find in the UK. The courgettes are meant to be marinated but they’re tasty as is – my husband got the benefit of it more as he eats my cooking the day after as he doesn’t like waiting for dinner (or he just throws it away when he gets to work – who knows!). I used McCain’s frozen baked potatoes as I wasn’t organised enough to bake potatoes in the oven for an hour and a half. I would recommend getting them over microwaving standard potatoes for those of you who love the crispy skin.

Serves 3

Ingredients

  • 3 courgettes
  • 1 tsp mustard
  • 1/2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp parsley
  • 3 tbsp oregano
  • 3 tbsp tarragon
  • 3 baking potatoes (I recommend McCain’s frozen)
  • 25g butter
  • 1 leek
  • 100g mascarpone (probably fine with sour cream/mix of cream and yoghurt)
  • 100g dolce gorgonzola

Method

1.) Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C

2.) Chop up the courgettes into large chunks as per my lovely picture

3.) Add to a bowl, chop up the herbs, peel and chop up the garlic and add them, the olive oil, the honey and the white wine vinegar and some seasoning

4.) Leave to marinade for 4 – 6 hours, turn over once

5.) If using normal potatoes, prick with a fork and bake on a roasting tray for 1.5 hours

6.) If using McCain’s, microwave them for the recommended time.

7.) While they’re cooking/microwaving, clean and slice the leek, melt the butter in a frying pan and fry until soft.

8.) Tip them out into a bowl, crumble in the gorgonzola, add the mascarpone and season with pepper

9.) Once the potatoes are done, scoop out the inside and mix up with the mascarpone etc

10.) Stuff back in the potatoes – they will be full to the brim!

11.) Bake for another 20 minutes until going golden.

12.) Serve with the courgettes.