Courgette flowers continue to be a joy. Cheering my mornings with their generous wide open petals reaching for the sky with happy abundance. Greeting bees and then once the bees have had their turn, they come into the kitchen for me. Such a versatile ingredient, cooked until wilted just so and still retaining texture, they taste a little of courgette and mostly of themselves.
(aka a Nutella Flavoured Energy Powerhouse)
I will not be doing a dry January this year (I never do), nor will I be doing Veganuary. Extremes in the harshest month of the year make no sense to me. I don’t think they do for anyone. Normality, and a little more self control are what I am aiming for. More exercise. Real food, lots of cooking. A little less meat, more fish, a lot more veg, and a lot of joy in the kitchen.
One issue I face is dealing with the snack attack. Yeah, you know what I mean. About 3pm, or whenever your digestive hormonal dip comes, you want something sweet, right? Something to lift you out of the deep? Now, I have the thing for that. It tastes fantastic, takes minutes. and stores really well. So, you can bring them to work in a little lunchbox, or keep them at home for when you need a little something-something.
This style of recipe is not new on this here internet, but maybe it might be new to you as it was to me. You know when you get an idea, and you play with it, and you think, I AM ON TO SOMETHING HERE. And then you google it and see a tonne of people doing similar already? That. Somethings are just in the ether. Anyway, ignore all that and just believe me when I tell you that you need to make this. They will satisfy every craving for something you probably shouldn’t eat (like Haribo), and you will feel great after.
Using dates as the sweet base for these truffles, I grind roast hazelnuts first, until relatively small, then I add cocoa (YES: Nutella flavour klaxon!). They need some fat to lubricate and soften (and yes folks, fat is no longer on the naughty step, nor is cholesterol, I do despair a little at all the conflicting constantly changing nutritional advice), coconut oil is a good choice and what I use as I like the flavour and the texture. It means the recipe is dairy free too. If butter is your preferred, it works well, but you will need to keep your truffles refrigerated. I also add some chia seeds.
Chia seeds are an ancient Aztec food, as valuable as maize, for energy and nutritional content. They are still part of the food culture in much of Latin America. There is lots of protein in chia seed, although there are some questions as to how available that is to digestion. What is good about them is that they are full of Omega-3 fatty acids and minerals, and a little goes a long way. They are an energy powerhouse too, so I put a little in my smoothie in the morning and I put a little in these truffles too. They add a nice bite. Flaxseed would work, if you can’t get your paws on chia seeds. Or just a little extra hazelnut.
Dates are a super food (and that term is so over used, isn’t all food super, when it comes down to it?), being gorgeous, rich and completely natural. I first started experimenting with them when I had a little too much time in the Dubai duty free (4 hours between flights en route home from Australia many moons ago). I spent my leftover foreign currency on dates, and lots of them, plain and stuffed with nuts. That was when I discovered the joy of a simple marriage of a date and an almond or a hazelnut. Then I put blue cheese in too and wrapped them with a bacon cummerbund before roasting for a perfect bite with friends. Dates can be naughty, and they can be nice, that depends on how you want to play with them.
I am pretty hooked on these. I know you will love them.
Are you on Snapchat? I am! Once I discovered it was a terrific and easy resource for sharing recipe videos and travel snippets and anything, really, I was hooked! It took me a while to figure out just how easy it was. The videos are only live for 24 hours and then disappear, so come on over ASAP if you want to see what I have been up to. My every day cooking that rarely makes the blog is all on there too. I am eatlikeagirl on there (as well as on twitter, facebook and instagram). Here is a snippet from today, and making these truffles. Spoiler: they worked out gorgeously in the end.
Note: these are not pro videos, obviously, but a series of videos taken throughout the day, a max of 10 seconds each. Photos too. Great fun! They also look much better on the phone than in this youtube upload, but I just wanted to give you a taste.
Any other recipe / culinary travel snappers out there? Please let me know!
makes approx 12
- 100g blanched roasted hazelnuts (roast them for 10 minutes at 180 deg C or until golden)
- 50g coconut oil
- 50g cocoa for the truffles, and 50g for rolling in
- 2 tbsp chia seeds (or ground flaxseed)
- 160g dates approx, weight with stones removed
- 2 tbsp maple syrup (or honey if you can't get maple syrup)
These are so easy. You need a food processor or good blender. Pulse the hazelnuts until small, then add the cocoa (hello Nutella flavours!), chia and dates. When a fine paste has been formed, add the coconut oil and maple syrup (the maple syrup may seem excessive given the sweetness of the dates but they do add a layer of flavour). Put in a bowl and cover with cling film before refrigerating. Don't be alarmed if there is a layer of liquid, this is just the coconut fat.
After half an hour, stir the mixture through so that everything is well combined. Shape the mixture into small balls and dust in gorgeous cocoa. Eat at your leisure and enjoy! I would store covered in the fridge until you want them, just for consistency, but they are ok on the counter too.
I lived quite a sheltered life in terms of spice in my early years. Rural Ireland just didn’t have any then (things are different now). I discovered Bombay Mix and the wonderful fried lentils within when I went to university, and those fried lentils remain some of my favourite things to eat, and to make in batches to eat all by themselves.
Wild garlic pesto does feel a cliché but when it is so delicious, why shouldn’t it be? Wild garlic, if you haven’t cooked with it yet, is a broad garlic flavoured leaf, slightly sour, and fantastic with anything creamy, cheesy and it is the best pal for the humble spud. It grows abundantly in the shade, white flours sprouting out in clusters on elegant stems, leaping towards the sunshine.
It is wild garlic season here, but near me we mainly have three cornered leek (often confused for wild garlic), which is too grassy for pesto. I tried to source some proper wild garlic, I cried out for secret sources – I WON’T TELL ANYONE, I SWEAR! – but no joy, I failed. I am deeply impatient, and I had a visceral need for the stuff. Praise the internet for intervening and saving my brain and wild garlic free larder, a very kind twitter friend sent me some in the post, and I have been playing with it ever since.
Wild garlic pesto is made in many ways. I chose almonds for body, 36 month aged parmesan for that perfect cheesy umami hit, a lovely fruity extra virgin olive oil with a hint of bitterness and some wild garlic. I played with the volumes, and while they suspiciously come to the same amount in grams, the volumes are different, and they work very well, with just the right garlic punch and shade of green. The oil may seem a lot, but it needs this as a minimum or it is too dry. It also helps keep it fresh, protecting it from the air. Hey, it is healthy too, particularly as unheated and retaining all of the goodness. When using this pesto, I sometimes add more to thin it out or help it spread. Use your own judgement for yours.
As lovely as this is used in the traditional pesto sense as a dressing for pasta, it is great as a condiment elsewhere. This was lovely as a dressing for a crisp potato hash with bacon and eggs for brunch today, and beautiful on toast with some radishes.
Wild Garlic Pesto
- 75 grams wild garlic (fresh)
- 75 grams parmesan cheese (grated)
- 75 grams almonds (blanched)
- 200 ml extra-virgin olive oil
- sea salt (to taste)
Coarsely chop the wild garlic and pound in a pestle and mortar, or pulse in a food processor with the cheese and almonds. Add the oil slowly as you do.
Season to taste and enjoy immediately.
This will store well covered in the fridge for a week.
One for the veggies? No! One for all of us. This was one of those things that came together randomly in a helter skelter way, and I am so glad that it did.
When I was in France recently I bought some dried chickpeas from a farmer at the market. I cooked half of them last week, and they were so lovely. Great texture and taste, and even though they were dried, they were fresh, if you know what I mean? The cooked until plump and with bite. I was thrilled with them and saved the rest of my stash for this week.
I woke this morning feeling so tired but quite chirpy. I want to start the week well. It could be that spring is coming and I can feel it in my bones, and see it in the sky. Maybe it is the lovely weekend that I just spent in Lapland, the people I met, and the huskies, reindeer and general gorgeousness. Lately, I am increasingly aware of time, how precious it is, and how much I want to do. Our lives are in our hands, right? It sounds so simple, but like all simple things, it can be difficult to realise and implement.
The last 18 months have presented many challenges and I have felt overwhelmed and swept away at times. My Dad passing away, of course, this takes time to absorb and heal. The mammoth project that Project: Bacon turned out to be (my bacon opus is nearly there now, I am very pleased to reveal), and my responsibilities to my wonderful backers has been a huge part of this. I feel each disappointment keenly as they wait and I am further delayed. Life can kick and tease but it can also take your hand and dance with you. I want to do more dancing, and in colour.
Well, this week has been pretty good. I was nominated for the Red Woman of the Year yesterday. It was my second time being nominated, and I was really honoured to be included among such brilliant and inspiring women. It was awarded last night to a very deserving Deliciously Ella in the blogger category. Ella has achieved so much at the tender age of 23, and all in an effort to manage a debilitating illness. The result? Success (she no longer requires her medication as the result of her very healthy diet), a beautiful health food blog, a recipe app and a book on the way. She is self taught too. Thomasina Miers, food writer and restaurateur (Wahaca) and Laura Bates of Everyday Sexism, two women that I hugely admire, were recognised too. Good on Red for recognising these women, and also for illustrating their achievements so that they can inspire those coming behind them. You can see all of the winners on the Red website, and in the magazine soon too, I am sure.
I spent last night at Kate Bush’s new mesmerising show, Before the Dawn. You got tickets?! Yes, I was one of the lucky few to secure tickets, I made sure I wouldn’t miss out, and had 2 friends try for me (one succeeded so I am going twice!). I myself had two browsers and five tabs open in each, so I managed to get some too. She, too, is an inspiration. I am a lifelong fan (I heard Wuthering Heights when I was 3, and have been hooked since) and I was so thrilled to be there. The whole audience was so engaged and committed to her every note and move and she got several standing ovations throughout the show. It was the best gig of my life, but so much more. It was theatre, it was drama, it was fantasy, it was powerful and tender. It was all encompassing. After 3 hours, I didn’t want it to end. If you can at all, go.
I started to write this morning, but it was so moany and so dull, I had to stop myself. I mean, who wants to read that? I had fallen into a little pit of self pity. Woe is me, I couldn’t sleep last night, my tum was so poorly, I still have some of my book to do (panic! stress!) and so much work to finish. I am SO-VERY-TIRED.
And then I thought, pull yourself together, life is very short, and it isn’t much fun down this tiny shallow pit of not even proper despair, now is it? Especially when you are despairing because you are busy doing what you love to do? I don’t understand myself sometimes.
So I dragged my carcass to the kitchen and made myself a banana, raw honey and bee pollen smoothie (all whizzed with milk & a little yogurt, simple as that). Very worthy and I hoped, redeeming. I sipped away and thought, right! Lets get on with it.
I have an extensive cookbook collection – nay, huge – one that has got me into trouble because it becomes invasive, but I adore it and so I will fight for it. My favourites at the moment are Indian, Mexican and Italian books. Those cuisines remind me of summer, passionate places that make brilliant food (the secret ingredient is love, etc!). I particularly can’t get enough of three of the Grand Dames of cuisine – Diane Kennedy, Madhur Jaffrey and Claudia Roden. Such a pleasure to read, I don’t even need to go into my kitchen. I savour every bite with every word.
Today, I thought I would make use of my impulse purchased wildly expensive courgette flowers (zucchini blossoms if you are in the US), and make Diane Kennedy’s quesadillas containing them. Yes, definitely. I even contemplated making some queso blanco to go with them. I lined up a recipe, then binned that, before I thought about going to Peckham to buy some from the Gringa Dairy (it is very good). Then I got a hold of myself and told myself to calm down and get on with it. I was deep in procrastination now too.
I was more surprised than anyone when I started getting very involved with the World Cup Columbia vs Brazil match last weekend. I was out with some friends and when one spotted it she yelled “Niamh, what the hell is going on?!”.
I didn’t know.
I figured that this must be a very good game if it had managed to suck me into it. Or I was having a mini stroke? You see, I don’t really get football, nor do I watch it, normally. I never have. That goes for most sports. There are exceptions – the Olympics, for example, especially when they were on in London, limited amounts of tennis, that kind of thing – but when everyone you know is watching the World Cup, you want to be involved, right? Somehow? Well, we can do the snacks!
Magimix challenged me to come up with a Brazilian recipe using their kit (a Magimix 4200XL), so that was a good start. I already have a Magimix, battered from love and use and melted on the side as I placed it too near the cookers gas flames when I moved flat, but it still chugs away perfectly, and is one of my most treasured pieces of kitchen equipment. It is compact and speedy and it chops, grates, slices and kneads. Essentially, it does everything that I don’t want to do or can’t do when I am rushing. Which is a lot. I quite like the serenity of chopping and slicing and kneading when I have time, but more often than not Mr Magimix does it. It is more patient with kneading than I am, and it makes great pastry, as my super warm hands destroy it when I allow my paws to do it (I believe that that might be my super crap super power).
Ok! A snack challenge. The game was on for me. A game I could enjoy, finally!
I have never been to Brazil – a big black mark right there – but I know food, and I am already familiar with a lot of Brazilian specialities. I wanted something that would be a great snack, that would taste great, and that would have the right amount of challenge to be different and delicious, but not be too challenging to prepare. I whittled it down to about five things, the others will probably appear here in the near future.
I opted for home made (from scratch, natch) pastels with beef and cheese. Pastels appear to be the Brazilian version of the empanada. Maybe it is the other way around? I don’t know which came first, most South American countries have something similar. It seems fitting that the Brazilian snack that you cook for the final could also double as an Argentinian snack (sorry Brazil, I wanted you to win too). You can pretend, or to be authentic change the filling a little (no cheese, add eggs and olives to approximate my favourite empanadas from Mendoza, still one of the best things that I have ever eaten), and use lard in the pastry in place of oil. Remove the vodka too.
I always try to make wrappers myself, whether for pastel, empanada, dumplings, spring rolls or any other little parcel of gorgeousness wrapped in something crisp or steamed. It is always worth the effort, as you get a far superior result and lots more satisfaction. I love the geekery of it, getting down to the nitty gritty and understanding where the recipe came from. Also, it is not always possible to source wrappers if you don’t live in an urban centre, or a particular country, so I always like to provide a recipe for those of you that can’t, as well as for myself.
Some days demand chicken wings. Today is one. The best bit of the chicken for snacking on, the skin to flesh ratio being somewhere in the region of can-solve-most-of-lifes-problems, chicken wings are also very reasonable. Even in my local posh butcher, a kilo of lovely free range wings costs just over £5.
Everyone should have a recipe for hot wings in their repertoire. So easy and so gorgeous, spiked hot crisp wings dipped into a soothing cool blue cheese dip is all that you have ever wanted after a bad day. Or any day. Frank’s Louisiana Hot Sauce is what makes the wings sing, you could make your own, and it is the kind of thing that I often do, but in this case, truly, Frank’s have done all the work and made a great sauce. So, like every other hot wing fanatic on the planet, I use that.
They take little work. I roast the wings until the skin is just crisp, prepare the hot sauce which takes, oh, 2 minutes, then douse the wings in the sauce before returning to the oven for a little bit. Then I prepare the dip, which again is
very complicated, ridiculously easy, a mish mash of strong blue cheese with natural yogurt, blended until they yield, and embrace each other.
Easy, and perfect for January blues, right? Enjoy.
Recipe: Hot Wings with Blue Cheese Sauce
So, you’ve made some Bajan pepper sauce, and you really like it. What next?
So many things! It takes a little work to make but lasts for ages and it is so flavour packed that it is the perfect base for lots of marinades and sauces. I have come with several recipes which I will share with you. Starting today, with Bajan Pepper Sauce Chicken Wings.
Chicken wings are fantastic. Boney, yes, but who cares? Those bones bring moisture and flavour. The ratio of skin to meat is deliciously high, and when cooked those wings are so crisp and juicy. They are relatively cheap too, even from the best organic free range birds.
I baked these ones. Baking them is healthier, you still get lovely moist flesh and crisp skin, although it won’t be as crisp as fried. They are still lovely though, I have just eaten a big bowl of them and I want more.
The marinade is very simple: Bajan Pepper Sauce (homemade, of course), natural thick yogurt (with no sugar), 2 cloves of peeled chopped garlic and the juice of a fresh lime. That is it. Marinade overnight for best flavour. I use one third pepper sauce to yogurt so that the heat is present but gentle and then use half and half for a more firey dipping sauce. Feel free to adjust to your taste if you want it punchier.
Recipe: Bajan Pepper Sauce Chicken Wings
It is an indulgent time of year, and this recipe is at the pinnacle of indulgence. Despite the bacon, it is a sweet, and is wonderful on pancakes or simply on brioche toast as I have done here. I also fancy some with some eggy bread.
A nod to Bill Granger first. The first time I had honeycomb butter was with his ricotta hotcakes at one of his cafés in Sydney about 6 years ago. I was captured by it. Searches for honeycomb recipes at the time failed, and I was not happy with the alternative of chopping a crunchie and putting it in my butter.
I researched further and figured out it was a simple combination of sugar, brought to temperature and bicarb to make it aerate. I played around with sugar and golden syrup combinations until I got the perfect chewy crisp honeycomb. Too little golden syrup and it is dull and too fragile, too much and you will lose your fillings. I also add a little cider vinegar to boost the bicarb and I add water, as this makes it less likely to fail in the early minutes when it is very easy to scorch the sugar.
Next is my candied bacon, one of my many recipes for it. This is a recent favourite, a simple light brown sugar and chipotle blend. The bacon is smothered in it, and it is baked until the sugar is approaching toffee. You are left with a wonderful sweet, smoky, hot and savoury candied bacon that is wonderful on its own or – honestly – most things.
Combine the two and mash them into butter? Divine. Just be careful, as in my enthusiasm to devour it, I injured the top of my mouth (slightly) with the sharp honeycomb. Totally worth it though.
Enjoy! It is a cracker. Ban the brandy butter and bring on the bacon and honeycomb butter.
Notes on the recipe: if you can’t get chipotle, substitute chilli. If you don’t want the heat, just omit it.
RECIPE: CHIPOTLE & BROWN SUGAR CANDIED BACON AND HONEYCOMB BUTTER
Chipotle and Brown Sugar Candied Bacon
250g bacon chopped into strips or bacon lardons, I prefer smoked
100g light brown sugar
1 heaped tablespoon of chipotle powder or blitzed dried chipotles
Combine the bacon, sugar and chipotle, insuring every bit of the bacon is covered. Spread on one layer on a buttered greaseproof paper on a baking tray and bake at 180 deg C for 15 – 20 minutes until the sugar is dark and glossy like toffee. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
Candied Bacon Honeycomb
Put 300g white sugar, 150g golden syrup, 1 tbsp cider or white wine vinegar and 100ml water in a pan with high sides – a stockpot for example.
Bring to the hard crack stage over a medium heat – 140 to 150 deg C (and do use a thermometer) – take off the heat and add the 2 tbsp of fresh bicarbonate of soda (it loses potency), ensuring there are no lumps in the bicarb. Stir through, the honeycomb will puff up.
Add two thirds of the candied bacon and stir through. Pour into a dish lined with buttered greaseproof paper. Leave to cool.
Making the butter
Take a palm sized amount of the honeycomb and smash it up in a sandwich bag with a rolling pin or something similar, until it is in small chunks (not powder). Combine well with 250g butter and the rest of the bacon. And you’re done.
Store the rest of the honeycomb for future use in a an airtight container, dip it in tempered chocolate to make homemade bacon crunchies.
As the nights close in and the days get colder, I increasingly reach for comfort. I want something rich and delicious and I want it fast. Some treats in the fridge, whether delicious cheeses or spreads that welcome toast, are perfect winter fodder.
Over the last few years I have become a little obsessed with duck and chicken liver parfaits and pates. Duck liver parfait is one of my favourite things in the world. Regular doses of it spread liberally on some bread or just from a spoon at times that required it, powered me through the intensity that was writing my book. I am going to share a recipe for that too, but for now I want to start with Chicken Liver Paté.
Easy, cheap, rich and delicious. That spells recession Christmas to me. People are afraid of chicken livers. Why? Liver in general gets a bad press because it is often served over cooked and rubbery. It is associated with times of deprivation, when those little chicken livers are so luxurious when cooked just right. Liver needs to be underdone to get the tenderness that it deserves, and that you deserve as you eat it.
My chicken liver pate is basically a butter rich chicken liver spread with some onions and spices, cooked gently, blitzed until smooth and then – if you want super smooth paté this is essential – pushed through a sieve. I also like to add cream for some extra luxury. In my current role as Spice Santa, with my giant jars of spices carted back from Grenada, I gently infused some cream with some whole bright red mace, like a mini jaded octopus, and some lovely bay. I also used rum, but really, it is barely detectable as this is about the spices and the liver, so feel free to substitute some brandy if that is what you have.
I think that this is perfect for Christmas, and you can make it in advance. I serve mine in little bright espresso cups, which I love.
Ps. this really is cheap. 400g of organic chicken livers set me back £2.50.
RECIPE: Chicken Liver Paté
400g chicken livers
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
100ml good rum or brandy
1 bay leaf
1 whole piece of mace of a pinch of mace powder
ramekins or little cups for serving
Bring the cream to just before the boil (take care not to boil it) with the bay leaf and mace and leave to cool and infuse for 1 – 2 hours. The longer the better.
Melt 125g of the butter and sauté the onions until soft but not brown. Add the chicken livers and sauté over a medium heat, turning frequently to ensure that they are evenly cooked for 4 – 5 minutes until brown but still soft, and therefore pink inside. Add the garlic for the final minute.
Blitz the liver mixture in a blender until it is as smooth as you can get it. Add the rum / brandy to the pan and reduce by half. Take the bay leaf and the mace out of the cream and add to the alcohol before adding to the livers and blitzing again. Taste and season with sea salt to your liking.
For super smooth paté, pass it through a sieve. If you can’t be bothered it will still taste great, but you will get a better texture if you do.
Divide the mixture between your ramekins / cups and leave in the fridge to set to cool. This will take about a half an hour. Then melt the remaining butter and pour on top of the little pots of paté to seal them.
Cool until the butter is set and you are ready to go. Or you can save for later.
Kale chips. You are starting to worry now aren’t you? You are remembering that I have recently been to the west coast of Canada (British Columbia), and now you are worried that I have gone all – well, west coast – on you?
Don’t worry, I haven’t. You can still expect to see lots of pork belly, Iberico lard, and all lovely, tasty, and yes, fatty things here. For, we are embracing of all things food.
And that includes kale chips.
Kale chips! What am I talking about? Raw food people love them. They dehydrate kale for hours so that they are left with crispy dry kale. I don’t have a dehydrator so I came up with a way of doing these in the oven. They are a fabulous (and quick) sulphurous little snack.
To make these crispy treats, I dress a single layer of kale with a generous splash of extra virgin olive oil. I then sprinkle them with sea salt and smoked Spanish paprika and roast them in a hot oven until crisp. Don’t neglect the salt, they just don’t taste good without it.
Recipe: Sea Salt & Paprika Kale Chips
Kale, as much as you want to make chips from – washed, dried & cut into strips
extra virgin olive oil
Preheat your oven to 180 deg C.
Spread the kale in a single layer on a large oven tray. Don’t be tempted to put more as it just won’t crisp evenly.
Coat in the olive oil, a couple of tablespoons should do it.
Sprinkle with the paprika and sea salt and toss. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty.
Roast until crisp – this will take 10 – 12 minutes. Watch carefully as they will burn.
You’re done. Now it is time to eat them. They eat really well hot or cold.
Are you ready? For a molten hot slightly spiced delight? With spiced sweet sausage and gorgeous bright green olives? Stuffed with homemade ricotta, some punchy sweet spicy sobrasada and some earthy sage?
I think you are ready.
These are good. This recipe is based loosely on Ascolane Olives, stuffed olives from the Ascole region in Italy, and usually stuffed with the likes of pork, veal, lard and parmesan. Spuntino in London do a lovely version with anchovies, parmesan and sage. In fact there is a lovely recipe for these in the Polpo Cookbook (a lovely book, and one I would heartily recommend for Italian food fans).
Mine are different. From my previous post you will have seen that I was in Spain last week, with the Olives from Spain folks. We visited olive groves in the sunshine and tasted many varieties from the large queen olives to the very small.
That, combined with a trip to the market in Sevilla the next day was exciting and inspiring. Ideas flooded as I hopped from stall to stall, wanting to buy far more than I could ever take home. As I stood there with some Spanish queen olives in my hand and eyed the sobrasada (in the UK you can buy it from Brindisa too), I decided to make a Spanish version of the Ascolane when I got home.
Home made ricotta is something that I make regularly. The recipe is in my book and I include a version below. Why make it at home? It is so delicious, rich and creamy. It is ridiculously easy too. Just try it, and you will keep making it too.
The light creaminess of the cheese with the rich sauciness of the sobrasada (and I mean saucy in the bold way), all held together with some earthy sage, makes a terrific stuffing for the lovely delicate queen olive.
Enjoy! And do let me know how you get on with it.
Note: use fine dry breadcrumbs, if making your own be sure to toast them in a medium oven for about 10 minutes. Dry breadcrumbs stick and clump less. Feel free to substitute (good) shop bought ricotta if you can’t be bothered. The ricotta recipe will make more than you need but you won’t be sad about that.
RECIPE: Fried Spanish Queen Olives Stuffed with Sobrasada, Homemade Ricotta & Sage
1 litre full fat milk
pinch of sea salt
juice of 2 lemons
muslin to drain the cheese and a colander
16 large pitted green olives – mine are Spanish queen ones from Brindisa
12 large sage leaves and extra to serve
pinch sea salt
3 bowls containing: one containing 1 egg, beaten; one containing plain flour; one containing breadcrumbs
oil to fry the olives, I actually used Iberico lard but this is hard to come by
Make your ricotta by bringing your milk and cream with the salt to 90 deg C (just before it boils if you have no thermometer). Take off the heat and add the lemon juice. The curds and whey will split (if not add more lemon juice). Strain through a muslin lined colander and leave to sit for a couple of hours to drain.
Weigh out 100g and mash with the sobrasada and shredded sage leaves. Season with sea salt and fill each olive. The easiest way is with a syringe. I used the end of a small teaspoon. This is fiddly but take your time, it is worth doing properly.
Breadcrumb by dipping the stuffed olives in the flour, then the egg, and then the breadcrumbs. If the breadcrumbs aren’t fully coating the olive, dip in the egg and breadcrumbs again.
Heat enough oil / lard to cover the olives and when a piece of bread starts to fizz and brown on addition, add the olives and fry for a minute or two until golden brown. Drain on kitchen roll. Add the extra sage leaves for 30 seconds or so until they crisp. So delicious! Use these to decorate (and eat).
Serve hot and be careful not to burn yourself as the filling can sometimes escape through the bottom.
What, what, what? N’duja devilled eggs! What are those pray tell?
Well, dear reader, I think the devilled egg is much maligned. I love it in every form from the most simple, to one that’s been pimped with anything from spices to pork (or pork and spices), as I have done with this n’duja one.
I have written about n’duja many times, I even have an n’duja pig. It’s a spicy spreadable sausage from Calabria in Italy and is so utterly addictive, that I worry what is in it. This week, I have been working on some recipes that use it as an ingredient as I want to enter a competition (you know how I love them). So it’s been an n’duja kind of week.
I had a little left over at the end of my n’duja frenzy, and fancied something brunch-like and snack-like, so I pimped my devilled egg. This is simple, spicy and meaty, and is in an egg. What’s not to love?
Eggs love chilli and spices (egg curry, huevos rancheros), pork and eggs are a dream team (bacon and eggs etc.). I kept this simple, working with the strengths of the n’duja, the spiciness and richness, adding a little red wine vinegar to cut through the richness, a little fresh oregano to lift it and a fresh juicy seasonal English tomato, to give it some fruitiness.
It’s easy, quick and a little different for a weekend brunch. I think some little quail ones would make a lovely pre dinner canapé too.
Notes on the recipe:
N’duja is widely available through Waitrose and good Italian delis.
If in a rush you can substitute a tbsp of tomato puree for the tomato, but be sure to cook it through. A fresh tomato in season is fruitier though and will give better, lighter results.
To peel the tomato, cut a cross through the skin at the bottom and pour boiling water over for 15 seconds or until you see the skin at he cross start to pull away.
I think oregano works really well here but parsley would be a decent substitute.
Recipe: Naughty But Nice N’Duja Devilled Eggs
Serves approx 4 – they are quite rich
50g n’duja sausage
1 good tomato, peeled deseeded & diced
1 tbsp fresh chopped oregano leaves
1 tsp good red wine vinegar
Sauté the diced tomato gently for about 10 minutes in a little olive oil until soft.
Chop or tear the n’duja and add it to the tomato. Stir thoroughly and let it sit over a low heat.
Add the oregano and vinegar, stir and taste, adding more vinegar if necessary (that depends on your n’duja and tomato).
Boil the eggs until hard boiled (about 6 – 7 minutes from room temperature with boiling water from the kettle to start).
Cool by submerging in cold water (they will continue to cook otherwise). Peel , half, scoop out the yolk and mix with the n’duja mixture. Season to taste although you may not need any.
Put a teaspoon of the egg yolk and n’duja mixture back in each egg. Leftovers are chefs spoils.
Serve cold. Enjoy!
Rabbit Empanadas! I loved them. You loved the idea of them. I couldn’t just sit there and scoff them while tweeting the pictures then blogging about it so you could covet them, now could I? Well, I could but I didn’t think that fair. So, I asked the chef at Fierro Hotel – Hernán Gipponi – if he wouldn’t mind sharing, and very generously he did, and in English too. Thanks so much Hernán.
I read the recipe and thought, but of course! Rabbit confit, that explains why they were so rich and delicious. The wonton wrappers give a crisp, light and delicious shell. And the piquant little bites of apple, the sweet onion and the crunch of the pecan nuts. Well, I have to stop typing as I now want to order them again.
Make them, do! They’re gorgeous.
Rabbit Empanadas Recipe
1 Rabbit (clean, about 2kg)
rosemary (to taste)
garlic (to taste)
Olive Oil (enough to cover the rabbit)
2 Granny smith apple
2 onions, finely diced
50 grs pecan nuts
Wonton dough (8cm x 8cm)
1 egg (beaten)
Preheat the oven to 90 C. In a deep oven tray place the rabbit, crushed garlic and rosemary. Cover with plenty of olive oil. Confit for 45 minutes per kg of rabbit (about 90 minutes for a 2kg rabbit).
Clean the rabbit and shred the meat (taking care of not leaving any bones)
Saute the onions in a little olive oil. In a bowl mix the shredded rabbit meat with the apples, onions and pecan nuts (all finely chopped). Season to taste with salt, pepper and olive oil.
Place the mix with a spoon in a wonton dough square and paint the edges with egg. Fold in the middle forming a pocket and squeeze tightly so the empanadas won’t open while cooking.
Deep fry or bake the empanadas until golden brown.
Serve with a sweet & sour sauce dip of your choice. (we use a Hoisin / Worcestershire mix)
This makes about 60 empanadas, that can be kept in the freezer.
I expect that I am not the only tail chaser this close to Xmas. Running around, doing last minute laundry, frantically packing suitcases, checking presents. Have I everything? Yes-I-think-so. I do, don’t I?
Time for a snack! I am about to embark on an epic overnight trip to Ireland. Train to Holyhead, ferry to Dublin, and then train to Waterford, followed by an hour car drive home. Long, eh? And you thought Ireland was close to England, didn’t you?!It’s as close as you make it, and with all of my recent trips home, a budget jaunt was called for. So, the ferry it is.
What to have? Not much in the fridge, so I slipped and slided to the shop, along the shiny reflective river of glass that my street had become. I contemplated and tried not to fall. Something light is required, for I am not a good traveller. I will also be awake through the night. I quite fancy some mozarella, and I do have slow roasted pulped tomatoes with a nice pinch of chilli which would make a fruity dressing, with something bold like parsley, and maybe some pomegranate molasses for sweetness and umami, and sumac for sourness to balance the sweetness. Done.
I spy some pretty, sweet and perfectly ripe baby plum tomatoes, pita breads and some buffalo mozarela bocconcini. I slip-slide home, cargo in hand and starving.
Quick, delicious and light and a festive red and green into the bargain. I feel healthier for it. A perfect quick snack which works very well with some rocket on the side. The pepperiness and texture is a good addition.
I wish you all well on your journeys home this Christmas, if you’re making them. I am off to embark on mine, wish me luck and see you on the other side!
Ingredients (per person):
1 pita bread, toasted and opened
4 baby plum tomatoes/cherry tomatoes, quartered
Some red onion, sliced finely
3 buffalo mozarella bocconicini (or 1 normal ball)
some flat leat parsley to garnish
Dressing (enough for 4/5):
3 tbsp roasted tomatoes or the equivalent in small juicy ones
a glug of extra virgin olive oil
a handful of flat leaf parsley
1 tsp pomegranate molasses
a pinch of dried chilli flakes
a pinch of sumac
S&P to taste
Make your dressing by mashing everything together. Blend if necessary but only lightly.
Arrange the mozarella, red onion and tomato on one half of the open pita and drizzle with the dressing. Grill until the mozarella is starting to melt. Just a minute or so.
Serve with a garnish of parsley while still warm.
Seasonal eating is all the more fun and exciting, when you can forage and get the food for free. The ultimate bargain, and usually something that’s quite hard to find to buy. Wild Garlic is the perfect example of this. I’ve not had time to go to any food markets, and had no idea where I could forage it. I’ve looked around the local parks to no avail, and tried on twitter, coaxing friends and followers to reveal their secret stash with the promise that I would not tell anyone. I got some tips but there was no time to investigate. I was resigned to a wild garlic free week, when fellow blooger Danny (@fooodurchin on twitter and blogging at food urchin) revealed that his garden was teeming with it, and offered to bring me in my very own wild garlic plant.
Excitement! I couldn’t wait. I popped down to Borough to meet him, we had a great chat, and I left with a large blossoming and lovely plant. I couldn’t resist devouring a leaf or two there and then, although I am not sure I would advise this as it’s a little astringent raw. I enjoyed it but will not be responsible for this should you try it.
What to do with it? Well, to start try and keep it alive, so far so good. The flowers are delicious and gorgeous in salads, the leaves great in pestos and mayonnaise, soups and salads. I had a vegetarian friend over for dinner and thought it might be nice to start with something quick and light, that could be done in minutes and free up time for chatting and wine, the most important part of the evening after all!
Wild Garlic can be a little sour, so I wanted to balance it with something sweet, and smooth out the flavour with something light. I decided on tomatoes and cream cheese with a little chilli to lift the flavours. So, I blanched about eight wild garlic leaves for 20 seconds or so, rosted some nice tomatoes from Borough market with a little balsamic vinegar for about 20 minutes at 180 degrees celsius, chopped a dried red chilli very finely, and mixed these with about 4 tablespoons of cream cheese. I griddled some good fresh bread, lightly brushed with some olive oil and liberally spread the veggie pate. It was fragrant and light and a nice little stop gap. I’ll be adding it to my repertoire for future quick dishes!
Sometimes, with food, instant gratification is called for. As close to instant as is possible in any case. I am not talking about reaching for the haribo (although, that has been known to happen), but something flavoursome, healthy, crispy and super quick.
Don’t worry, I haven’t lost my mind and am not about to tout the health benefits of leftover pork belly or a bag of crisps. Tasty: yes. Healthy: not so much. The snack I am about to describe, is colourful, pretty and delicious and so easy, it’s ridiculous.
Take one tortilla (corn or flour), add a handful of chopped tomatoes, the best you can get, I like sweet, ripe cherry tomatoes. Top with some grated manchego (or similar cheese) and put in a preheated oven (180 degrees celsius should do it) on a lightly oiled tray. Toast for 5 minutes or until the cheese has melted. Drizzle some good extra virgin olive oil on top and season with salt & pepper. Serve with a handful of greens as a garnish, I used pea shoots but rocket would be good too.
Sit back, briefly admire your handiwork, for it will be pretty, and eat. Run back into the kitchen and prep another as you’ll probably want one. I almost always do.