Chard, Garlic and Sorrel Tart

Lawks, I love a tart! (Insert Carry On joke here).

Did they ever make Carry On Cooking? I think not. Shame – the double entendre capacity of cooking is immense. Cream puffs and toasted nuts. I saw on the internet the other day a list of saucy Bake Off sayings. I don’t know if Mary Berry really did actually say the words ‘moist crack’ on the TV, but it’s hilarious (if you’re British and have a childish mind) to imagine that she did. 

This is not a comedy tart, it doesn’t raise an eyebrow and say ‘oo madame’ like more showy-off tarts, but it has an immensely satisfying small list of ingredients that meld themselves into a remarkably fine tasting tart. I make mine quite thin, but you can increase the filling or decrease the size of the tin to make it deeper if you want.

A word on sorrel: I don’t think I’ve ever seen it in the shops. Which is a shame as it’s every bit as useful as rocket. The very lemony sharp flavour of the leaves is really useful. If you’ve got a garden and you like growing herbs for cooking, get a sorrel plant or throw some seeds on the ground and it grows like a weed and comes back every year. There are different kinds, a heart-shaped small one (buccleuch, pronounced ‘buckler’) that creeps rather like ivy in cracks in walls or between plants in the ground, and a large-leafed kind that looks very like spinach and is called broad-leaved sorrel. Either will do and will return each spring without you having to do anything.

OR, if the more likely scenario is in play, which is that you don’t have any sorrel, I suggest you zest half a small lemon and put that in instead. Or of course you can always add a tablespoon of herbs you particularly like, such as tarragon, or chervil, or even just chives. 

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Chicken Shawarma, Anna-style

Since I learned to make my own pitta breads. (I KNOW – get me, yawn…) I make loads of dinners for myself and James with pitta breads on the side. Falafel you can find here, I also make lamb Kofta, (not yet posted this), and sometimes I just do a mezze of salads and humous and various spicy things if we don’t want meat.

I’ve called this shawarma. It kinda isn’t that. It’s not roasted on a spit, for a start, it’s marinated and then roasted in the oven. But the flavours are those you’d expect to get if you were in a middle eastern take-away or restaurant. It has had The Male Seal Of Approval. Which means it is, apparently, pretty good…herbs-and-spices-for-chicken-schwarmaServes 3-4 depending on appetites and whether you serve it with or without some carb on the side.

You have chicken options here:

  1. Buy a 1-1.5kg / 2-3 lb. whole chicken and joint and bone it yourself, if you fancy practising that. I quite enjoy doing it, it’s a bit of Sweeney Todd feeling. Or should that be Mrs Lovett, seeing as she made the pies..? Anyway, the DIY route is, natch, much cheaper than buying it ready cut-up, and is not hard. I’ll post a tutorial one day.
  2. Buy a few of packets of boned breast meat, and if you like brown, some boned thighs as well. You need about 800g to 1.2kg
  3. Don’t bother with removing the bones and just buy the joints you like, bone-in. It will marinade just as well, only take longer to cook. 

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Blackberry Friands or Cupcakes

I love it when I find a recipe that uses up egg whites!! I always have loads in the freezer from making quiches and mayonnaise, both of which I love. If you don’t have any in the freezer…. try making some mayonnaise… or a quiche. floured-blackberries

Last weekend, in the dog-days of the English summer, James and I went blackberrying in the lower hills of the South Downs. I didn’t want very many, it’s mid September and little fingers have picked too many off the bushes already as they walk their dogs along the footpaths, so I knew we’d be too late to get enough for jam; but I had a hankering (maybe it’s being pregnant) to make a blackberry-type cake. We got a small tupperware box, and got blown about on the hill, and I huffed and puffed my bump around the gorse and was happy to get back to the car. Once home I was even happier to get onto the real business of baking.

A couple of weeks ago I’d never heard of a friand. Now they are my new favourite thing. I don’t have a very wide range of sweet things that I make, being not particularly sweet-toothed and believing that sugar is pointless/verging on the harmful as an actual food stuff, but of course like most people I do love cake. The ones I do make I make over and over, and have a tendency to binge eat them in front of The Good Wife or House of Cards or some other brilliant US drama. These friands are going to become part of my regular go-to cakes, I just know, it.  I’ll be making them all year round with different flavours.

They didn’t invent them, but I do have my heros Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi to thank for introducing me to them. But stop – is that the Food Police at the door? Maybe, because yet again I’ve messed very slightly with the recipe.  It’s a French delicacy with a history of its own, and is very popular in Australia, appaz, so I don’t feel too guilty. Ottolenghi makes them with blackcurrants and puts cinnamon in, which I didn’t really like the first time I made them. I use almond essence and vanilla, and I make them with less sugar, and smaller. For some reason, I like having two (or three) on my plate, instead of one. Can’t think why.

The picture above is actually some painfully expensive supermarket blackberries I used for my first attempt, but the ones we picked in the wild were much smaller, which is actually better for the cake as they don’t take over the entire friand but stud it with flavour like they should.delicate-friands

  • 125g butter, melted and cooled a bit.
  • 60g plain flour (or gluten-free flour)
  • 60g blanched almonds
  • 50g unsalted pistachios ( you can leave these out as they’re fiendishly expensive and just use 110g almonds if you prefer)
  • 140g caster sugar
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • ¾ tsp almond essence
  • ½ tsp vanilla essence
  • 3 egg whites
  • pinch salt
  • 1 tbs mashed banana (an Ottolenghi master stroke)
  • 120g blackberries or small fruit of your choosing, tossed in a heaped tablespoon of plain flour, like my arty pic above.

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Falafel

I first had falafel in Paris in the 1980’s when Cathy, wonderfully glamorously, lived there. We used to visit a take-away place in the cool area of la Mairie and get the now familiar pitta bread stuffed with crunchy cold salads and hot falafel, freshly fried and crispy on the outside, soft and mysteriously spicy on the inside, topped with some creamy and equally mysterious sauce – which I later worked out was tahini. This was long before anyone had opened a falafel bar in the UK. They were exotic and alluring and I felt very well travelled just eating them.

Gung-ho as my family has always been about food, we thought – ‘we can make those!’- and embarked on a few attempts in our kitchen when I was a teenager, using our ancient chip-frier on our even more ancient gas cooker. My memory of this is of infrequent success, mixed with quite a lot of disintegrated chickpea mess floating in the hot oil.  We probably had to make do with a lot of salad for our tea on those nights… I’m afraid we gave up after a while.

For years afterwards my experience of falafel was limited to the occasional take away, either drunk at the end of the night in lieu of a kebab, or from a very decent take away place on Old Compton Street when I lived in London.  More recently I’ve tried a few packet versions where you just add liquid… they were…well…ok I suppose…

BUT, then along came Yotam Ottolenghi. My experience of both eating and cooking falafel was transformed when I started using Ottolenghi’s recipe in his masterpiece of a book Jerusalem. Not only did they not fall apart, they were more delicious than anything I’d had in from a packet, a cafe, or a take-away – drunk or otherwise. 

So here is the recipe that I’m sharing with you. Far be it for me to mess with the legend that is Yotam, but I have to say that I almost double the spices and flavourings, mainly because I don’t make as much mixture as his recipe calls for (there are usually only two of us eating), but I still usually chuck roughly the same quantities of spices that he specifies.

I know, I know, fiddle with an Ottolenghi recipe at your peril, his testing is rigorous and his flavour balancing is unsurpassed. But there it is. I add more flavouring. I can hear the knock on the door from the food police as I write…

falafel-ingredients

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Potato Pancakes

I just love me anything fried. Along with massive salads it’s one of my favourite types of food to eat. I think mum must have made fried things when we were kids, although we weren’t a chip pan sort of a family. Actually, I’m wrong, we did have a chip pan in the 1980’s. Anyway, I digress, here are some lovely potato pancakes to have for lunch. Mum has always served them with some plain yoghurt, and some homemade apple sauce.  If you grind a bit of salt and pepper on your yoghurt and then top with apple sauce it’s just a great combo.

Ingredients

  • 200g potatoes, peeled. (approx 215g unpeeled
  • 50g onion, peeled and grated (messy but better than chopped)
  • 1 egg white, beaten to a froth but not stiff
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cornflour

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Swedish Apple Cake

This is another of those recipes that came from a booklet we got with some bit of electrical kit like a mixer or a processor.  You can keep it as a whole cake but I think it’s another one that works brilliantly when cooked in a square tin and cut up into individual little square cakes then frozen and defrosted when the mood for a Swedish apple cake takes you.  The cake is cooked for longer than a lot of sponge cakes – it needs to in order to cook the apples and deal with the moisture that the apples have brought into the equation – and this means that you end up with soft sponge, melting apple and some crunchy sponge on top.  Excellent.

Excellent with coffee or tea. Also excellent as a dessert – especially warmed up, dusted with a bit of sieved icing sugar and served with cream.  

About the ingredients:
If you haven’t got cooking apples you can make it with dessert apples but be sure that they’re on the sharp side. And reduce the sugar in the sponge by about a quarter. But really you should use cooking apples.

Makes 16 little square cakes

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Kale Crisps

This recipe is for Keith’s mum Marion who’s been waiting for ages for me to post it!

My boyfriend and I had these in Los Angeles last year at The Standard Hotel on Sunset Boulevard, sat by a pool with a beer before dinner.  Is that image sickening enough for you and do you now hate me? My work here is done.

The point is, it was the first time I’d come across them and I was amazed – I thought them super cool and we scoffed the lot pretty darn quickly. That I knew they were healthy was a massive bonus. Salty pre-dinner snacks are a weakness of mine (see post on tomato salsa, which I eat tons of with tortilla chips). I now serve these delicate crisps as often as I can get my hands on some good strong kale, and people always love them, even people who you might expect to turn their noses up at something so…well – righteous.

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Roast Chicken

This may seem like a no-brainer of a recipe, but there may be some of you out there who’ve never dared to go for it. You’re throwing cash down the drain buying parts of a bird in a plastic tray: you can get a whole bird for the price of two chicken breasts, then eat the leftovers for up to three days, which is easily how long it’ll keep in the fridge. You’re also chucking your money away buying a ready-roast chicken. A basic one from Tesco’s costs £7.50, (and I’m blocking my ears and la-la-la-ing when it comes to M&S prices), whereas the same sized raw chicken is £4.50. There’s no way you’re going to spend £3.00 on oven costs, and the ready-roasted ones have often got… you guessed it… SUGAR on them.

Pre-heat the oven to hot – that’s 220º C. Ignore all other advice. 

Here’s the sort of pre-oven look you want to achieve:ready for a roasting

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Lovely Fish Paella

There are plenty of foods (..er..most of ’em I fink) that I find it possible to sit dreaming about during the day as I look forward to my meal that evening. Plain white rice isn’t one of them. I’d much rather have a potato. BUT there are three rice dishes that I adore, and they’re all on the comforting side of the spectrum.  No dry tasteless bits of starch here. One is kedgeree, which I posted about recently, the second is risotto, which we’ll post about soon. The third is this ‘ere paella. It is, in no uncertain terms: lush.

It’s inspired by a fantastic recipe from Rick Stein. Actually it’s not ‘inspired’ at all –  it’s basically his recipe, I just alter bits and bobs depending on which ingredients I have available. Like a lot of recipes on this blog, it doesn’t matter if you’re not exact with the quantities or if you change things. Good home cooking is NOT about putting exactly the teaspoon of that and exactly the weight of the other or following a recipe like a slave. Mostly it’s about making it so that it tastes the way you like it.  I hope Rick Stein will forgive the mash-up of his recipe.paella ingredients

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Chocolate Orange Cake

This has been in the family for years and years. I think our mother found it in one of those booklets that come with a food mixer. I added the idea of putting a sticky syrup on the top. Like our Crunchy Lemon Squares, I think it’s best make in a big tin and cut into individual squares which can then be frozen and eaten when the fancy takes you. If you put it in your lunchbox when it’s still frozen it’ll be just lovely by the time it gets to coffee break.

About the ingredients

Use 70% chocolate, which doesn’t have to be at all expensive. All I need to say is Lidl and Aldi. Don’t even think about using some rubbish 40% chocolate or milk chocolate because it will be just plain cheap and nasty and far too sweet. The walnuts are entirely optional. They give a little more density and, well, nuttiness to the cake but you can easily leave them out.

Makes 16 little square cakes

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