Uncategorized

Postcards from a Traveller’s Table: Sizzling Santorini

Departing from the cruise ship on a tender at 8.30am, we had committed to explore before the heat became depleting. Up the Fira mountainside via a cable car that was less than mechanically reassuring in its jerking, screeching assault, we reached the top to be greeted by the unmistakable stench of donkey dung!

A mission to locate a pharmacist quickly achieved (aloe vera for burnt bits and a potion to combat ‘holiday tummy’) and we left a disappointingly littered and graffitied main road to explore the promised white-washed iconic Greek buildings snuggling up along winding cobbled streets.

And, it was lovely – really lovely. The picture postcard-perfect cobalt-blue sky and turquoise Aegean sea combined to provided the perfect backdrop to this beautiful village of vibrant white homes gently sprawling down the mountain-side to meet the water – just idyllic. However, the thing about cruising is that you only ever get to have time for a quick snapshot of a visit. For us, with our family-wide food obsession, our plans for each port inevitably focus on the identification of a restaurant for lunch. Not for us the long coach trips visiting historical monuments or being shepherded around places of interest by a militant with a lollipop. We’ve firmly cast aside any thoughts of cultural exploration in favour of food…every time! Sorry, but there it is and I’ve given up feeling bad about our lack of cultural curiosity!

So, lunch followed a morning of relaxed meandering through bougainvillea-decorated narrow and winding cobbled streets of artisan shops, tempting us to part with our Euros. Homemade Greek jewellery, hand-blown glass ornaments (picked up a rather lovely albeit large piece for home) jostled with tee-shirts and sneakers printed to order (some rather rude!), core ingredients for every Greek-kitchen and all manner of sweet delicacies guaranteed to expand the waistline (my downfall will surely be homemade baklava). Oh, and what is the Greek obsession with male sex organs and the scary sizes to which they produce wooden versions doubling as corkscrews?!

Moving on. Hot but breezy, our morning of browsing culminated in an al fresco lunch on the mountainside overlooking the sea – the warm breeze and delicious cold local white wine were great accompaniments to a fabulous light lunch, the star of which was John’s choice of a prawn risotto with Pernod (a dish that I have since replicated successfully and blogged).

Back down the mountain in the cable car (after queuing in the sizzling heat for an age) and our view is that we must come back to this little group of volcanic islands for a proper holiday and that we should do it before it is ruined by the hoards of tourists being regularly disemboweled from cruise ships (9,000 in one day when four of them turn up at the same time!)071916_3775 copy 071916_3771 copy 071916_3769 copy 071916_3768 copy 071916_3767 copy 071916_3766 copy 071916_3763 copy 071916_3762 copy 071916_3761 copy 071916_3760 copy 071916_3758_1 copy 071916_3757 copy 071916_3754 copy 071916_3753 copy 071916_3751 copy 071916_3750 copy 071816_3809_1 copy

 

Postcards from a Traveller’s Table

Two weeks out of the kitchen, sunning myself on a cruise ship, disembarking for a few hours to get just a little taster of Venice, a couple of Greek islands and Montenegro, but now it’s back home. I take loads of pictures whilst away and rather than sticking the lot up (too boring unless you were there). I’m going to put up a few at a time over the forthcoming weeks with a little big of blog about our time in each place and of course, what we ate! Hope you enjoy ‘postcards from a traveller’s table’, the first one of which will go up at the weekend. In the meantime, the cooking and blogging resumes tomorrow, just as soon as the washing machine is finished it’s continual cycles!

Light and Lovely Lemon Mousse

What can I tell you – light, fresh, yummy, yummy, yummy, zesty, sweet, heavenly springs to mind. This is just a lovely, lovely lemon mousse that takes a bit of effort but is soooooo worth it. Try it and I guarantee you’ll add it to your favourites list!

Serves 4

What you need…

1 x 1 pint mould, filled with cold water

1½ dessertspoons gelatine powder

45ml cold water

1½ eggs (I know! See tip!)

1 egg yolk

50g caster sugar

65ml lemon juice

Grated zest of 1½ lemons

125ml double cream, lightly whisked to soft peaks

What to do…

Take a large bowl (bigger than the one that you are going to whisk the eggs and sugar in), tip in a load of ice, top up with water and set aside.

Put a large saucepan over the heat with a steamer and bring to a simmer.

Tip the gelatine into the water to soften. Set aside.

Put the eggs and yolk with the sugar into a large heatproof bowl and pop into the steamer. Use a handheld electric whisk and beat for between 5 and 10 minutes until the mixture is pale and fluffy and the whisk leaves a distinct trail.

Remove from the heat, setting onto a tea towel on your worktop to prevent slipping. Add the lemon juice and zest and continue to whisk until the mixture is cool.

Stick the gelatine into a microwave for a few seconds to melt and then tip into the mixture. Whisk to incorporate.

Put your mixture bowl into the iced water bowl and pop in a balloon whisk. For 15 – 20 minutes (whilst you clear up) keep coming back to the mixture and give it a gentle little whisk, also scraping down the side of the bowl until the mixture is just starting to set. Fold in the cream so that it is evenly incorporated.

Empty the water from your mould and then tip your mixture in. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours. To unmould, fill your sink with hot water to a height just below that of your mould. Pop the mould into the water and remove when you see the sides of the mousse just coming away from the mould. Invert onto a pretty plate (remember to breathe – it will plop out – I promise!!!) and serve to a very appreciative audience! Enjoy – it is simply heavenly!

Tip…

This is half the original recipe – works perfectly for us when we’re on our own but obviously, you can’t really have half an egg. For the half, chuck an egg in a measuring jug, beat it with a fork just to mix it all together, see how much liquid there is and the chuck half down the sink. Sorry, but there it is: either this or double up and invite friends around or eat a lot of lemon mousse (not necessarily a problem!!!)

Inspired by…

No idea! Another once clipped from a magazine years ago that I have made and enjoyed successfully over at least 2 decades!

How easy…

It is easy, but it does take time and there’s quite a lot of clearing up. That said, it can be prepared 24 hours in advance so hey, job done if you have friends coming around!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frozen Raspberry and Orange Parfait in a Dark Chocolate Case

This is the most fantastic dessert for a boiling hot summer day – I know we don’t get many but you can make this and then whack it in the freezer until the glorious British weather delivers a freakily hot day! It’s refreshing, light but sweet; the ripeness of the raspberries married to fresh, sweet orange and then all encased in dark chocolate is just a wonderful combination.

Serves 8 – 10

What you need…

1 x 20cm deep spring-form cake tin, lightly oiled

175g dark chocolate, broken into chunks

1 tablespoon water

15g unsalted butter

500g fresh raspberries

2 tablespoons clear, runny honey

150ml orange juice, freshly squeezed (makes all the difference)

175g caster sugar

2 egg whites

Pinch of salt

300ml whipping cream

Mint leaves and 3 or four extra raspberries, to garnish

What to do…

To make the chocolate case, tip your chocolate chunks and water into a heatproof bowl and put into a steamer over a pan of simmering water. Melt the chocolate and then stir in the butter. Spoon the chocolate into the base of the tin and spread it evenly up the sides of the tin – you can go all the way to the top and have thin coating of chocolate or just half way, as I did, to have a thicker chocolate case. Pop the case in the fridge.

To make the frozen parfait, use your food processor break down the raspberries into a pulp and then press them through a sieve into a jug to create a pip-free purée. Stir in the honey and set aside.

In a large bowl, use a handheld electric whisk to beat the egg whites and salt together to form soft peaks. Set aside. Rinse off your whisk and then in a smaller, separate bowl whisk the cream until it also forms soft peaks – no more. Set aside. Rinse off your whisk again.

Clean out the sieve and use it to strain the orange juice into a saucepan. Add the sugar and place over a low heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat to high and boil fiercely, without stirring, for 3 minutes. Quickly tip the hot orange syrup into the egg whites, whisking the whole time and keep going until the mixture is thick and resembles an uncooked meringue.

Using a balloon whisk, lightly fold in the raspberry purée and when fully incorporated, gently do the same with cream.

Tip the lot into your chocolate case and whop into the freezer for at least 5 hours but preferably overnight.

To remove from the tin, either rub the sides with a hot cloth or – much more fun – go around the outside of the tin with a kitchen blow torch. I then take a steak mallet and gently bang the sides just to make sure that the case has loosened away from the tin. Open your tin mechanism and gently ease the sides away from the parfait. If you’re feeling brave, carefully insert a fish slice all around the bottom of the parfait to separate the chocolate base from the tin-base and then ease it onto a pretty serving plate. If you’re not feeling so brave, just lift the parfait, cake tin-base and all, onto the serving plate. Decorate with raspberries and mint, cut into slices and serve immediately – absolutely delightful: an English summer right there on a plate and a perfect antidote to a hot, sticky summer’s day (or evening) – yummy!

Tips…

The original recipe used white chocolate rather than dark but I elected to use the latter, believing that it would be a better foil for the raspberries. I’m also not that keen on white chocolate. However, if it is your thing, swap out the dark for the white!

If there isn’t a crowd of you when you first serve this, you can quickly cut the parfait into slices and then re-freeze those not required for another day.

Frozen Rasp Parfait slice w

Serving suggestion…

Whizz and then sieve raspberries to create a purée, then stir in some Chambord black raspberry liqueur to suit your taste. Just a little on the side of your frozen parfait is quite delicious!

Inspired by…

Josceline Dimbleby

How easy…

It’s not hard, but takes quite a bit of time and creates a fair old mess. That said, the dishwasher was quickly loaded and doing its business and l like the fact that this can be made waaaay in advance.

 

 

Prawn and Pomegranate Salad with Mint and Coriander

This is quite simply a really yummy salad: the delicate fishiness of prawns intermingled with citrusy, fresh coriander, the cool cucumber, the aromatic, sweet mint and then the tart piquancy of pomegranate seeds. All of those flavours rolling around together are just fabulous and the pomegranate seeds make the salad look like it’s bejeweled! Simply lovely served with barbecued fish! Try it – you’ll love it!

Serves 4 as a side dish or starter

What you need…

Seeds from ½ pomegranate (buy ready-prepared if you can – lot’s easier)

7cm length cucumber, peeled, sliced and then quartered

2 large handfuls coriander, chopped

Small handful mint leaves, torn

A selection of your favourite salad leaves (I like rocket, red chicory, baby gem, baby spinach, iceberg)

200g cooked prawns

for the dressing

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 dessertspoon white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon runny honey

A squeeze of lemon juice

Sea salt and black pepper

What to do…

Into a screw-topped jar, tip all the dressing ingredients, screw the lid on tightly and set aside.

In a large, roomy salad bowl, chuck in all your ingredients.

Just before you are ready to eat, shake your dressing like mad and then pour over the salad before tossing all the elements together so that everything is evenly mixed and coated with dressing.

Tips…

Sometimes, I buy raw prawns and cook them in a splash of oil and salt about 30 minutes before we eat this salad, adding them at the last minute. The slight warmth of the prawns seems to emphasise the other flavours – really lovely.

A variation on the pomegranate is strawberries, hulled and quartered. Less tart, they give the salad a gentler tone.

For extra crunch, include some sugar snap peas that have been sat in boiling water for 2 minutes before being refreshed in cold water and then drained.

Include basil and parsley to make up the leaves if you happen to have any in the fridge. There are no rules, just a mix of flavours you enjoy together.

Inspired by…

I’m not sure: I think I made it up!

How easy…

See, it’s just salad, which I’ve always viewed as something that should be dead simple but really tasty.

 

Heavenly Hasselback Potatoes

I first saw these a few weeks ago on MasterChef and having tried them once, they’ve adorned our plates several times since, so popular are they! They tick all the boxes – easy, exceedingly tasty – something between sautéed, really great chips and roasties – they taste fantastic anyway and I just love the way they look after they’ve fanned out in the oven during cooking. My version is slightly healthier than the original (unusually for me), which uses butter as well as oil.

Serves 4

What you need…

12 medium potatoes

5 tablespoons rapeseed oil

Sea salt (course crystals work spectacularly well, giving these potatoes a lovely glistening crunch)

What to do…

Preheat your oven to 200°c/400°f/gas 6.

Take each potato and put it onto a wooden spoon and cut across it at roughly 3mm intervals. Because the potato is on the spoon, your knife won’t be able to cut all the way through but will stop on the lip of spoon: it is this that enables the fanning out of the potato during the cooking process – so damned easy but so impressive (well, I’m easily pleased).

Pour the rapeseed oil into your baking tin and pop it onto the hob over a high heat. Once the oil is hot, place in the potatoes, cut-side down into the oil, swizzle them around and then turn them over so that the cut-sides are facing upwards. Sprinkle with plenty of salt and pop them in the oven to let them do their thing. How long they take depends on their size – 40 minutes for medium potatoes but longer for bigger ones. Keep an eye on them and remove them from the oven when they are crisp on the outside but still soft in the middle.

Serve and enjoy this lovely new (for me) version of the humble potato!

Inspired by…

Annie, a contestant on MasterChef, who in turn attributed the recipe for these Swedish potatoes to Nigella Lawson

 How easy…

Very, very easy – they do themselves while you do other things!

 

Chicken Breasts Duxelle with Whisky and Mustard Cream Sauce

Ooooh, this was such a surprise – the photograph does not do this dish justice – it is absolutely scrumptious. The duxelles provide a rich depth of flavour that lifts the humble chicken breast to a thing of utter deliciousness and the whisky and mustard cream sauce – simply sublime – we could have easily licked the dish clean were it not for our impeccable manners – try this one – we will be having it again and again. Easy, cheap and so, so special. Yummy doesn’t cover it!

Serves 4

What you need…

Cocktail sticks!

Small baking dish, lightly buttered

4 large boneless chicken breasts, skinned

1 tablespoon rapeseed oil

Sea salt and black pepper

2 tablespoons whisky

3 tablespoons white wine

3 tablespoons water

Chicken stock made from a stockpot and water

for the duxelle

45g butter

150g brown mushrooms, cleaned and finely chopped

6 spring onions, chopped

1 small carrot, peeled and finely chopped

3 teaspoons fresh rosemary needles, finely chopped

Sea salt and black pepper

for the sauce

30g butter

2 tablespoons plain flour

1 egg yolk

150ml soured cream

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 teaspoon whisky

1 teaspoon sugar

What to do…

Let’s start with the duxelle, which you can do in advance if you like. Heat the butter over a moderate heat and fry the mushrooms, spring onions, carrot rosemary, salt and pepper for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

Take your chicken breasts and either cut pockets into each breast by slicing horizontally or flatten gently with a mallet. Either stuff the pockets with the duxelle or spoon down the length of one side of the breast and fold over. Either way, pinch to close and ‘pin’ together using cocktail sticks – they won’t look pretty but don’t worry, you’re removing the cocktail sticks later.

Heat the oil over a moderate heat and seal the breasts as best you can (given the cocktail sticks) all over and without browning. Season with salt and pepper. pour over the whisky and flame it (love a bit of drama!). Pour over water and wine. Cover and gently poach over a low heat for 20 minutes.

Remove the breasts from the pan and pop them into your baking dish. Remove the cocktail sticks and discard. Pour the remaining pan juices into a jug and add enough chicken stock to make 250ml.

To make the sauce, melt the butter over a moderate heat and tip in the flour. Using a balloon whisk, quickly beat together and cook for 1 minute. Slowly add in the hot stock, whisking all the while, until thickened. In a jug, lightly beat the egg yolk and then pour over the soured cream, mustard, whisky and sugar. Mix together. Off the heat, gradually add the cream mixture to the hot sauce, whisking again. Return to the heat and whisk until thickened. Don’t let it boil. Pour the sauce over the chicken and pop into the oven for 25 minutes to warm through. Clear up so that when you sit down to enjoy this deliciousness you are not surrounded by the debris of pots and pans! Pour wine, sit down and enjoy!

Chicken Breasts Duxelle close up w

Serving suggestion…

Rice works well with maybe some greenery (tenderstem brocolli, sugar snap peas perhaps) on the side.

Tip…

I chopped my mushrooms, carrots and rosemary in a mini food chopper – much quicker than doing it manually, even though each ingredient was done separately.

Inspired by…

Lynn Bedford Hall, New Creative Cuisine

 

 

A Little Kitchen Nugget

I realised that this food blogging culinary adventure might have gone distances that perhaps we hadn’t anticipated when two distinct things happened last week.

Firstly, husband John wandered into the kitchen and tentatively enquired as to whether we might have an ‘old faithful’ for supper that evening, rather than another new foray into recipes unknown. Recognising this as a plea for some normality in a kitchen that was becoming increasingly frenetic, with recipe books strewn over most work surfaces, bags of flour and caster sugar occupying almost permanent fixtures together the food processor, whisks and remnants of previously tried dishes, I acquiesced. Cheat’s spag bol, a stalwart of days old -appearing on our table weekly before blogging – was produced that evening. Connagh, who has got used to the surprise that we call supper, was ecstatic to see this huge bowl of familiarity (not that he doesn’t enjoy all the new dishes, particularly the chocolate-based desserts). He took his bowl to the table and was poised with the freshly grated Parmesan over his supper, when he stopped, “Are you photographing this or can I just eat it?!” I’m still not sure whether to laugh or cry!

Meanwhile, the Mary Berry-inspired honeycomb ice cream definitely hit new heights (and continues to – thank you so much to those lovely people who’ve been sharing) The wee graph on my website spiked skyward, my Facebook foodie page went berserk and even the BBC liked my tweet!

So, mindful that our weekly menus need to be peppered with some ‘old faithfuls’, I continue trawling through cookery books, watching a myriad of cookery shows on television and ripping recipes from magazines. Lovin’ it!!!! (So do they really!)

Celery Soup

OK, don’t, like I did, dismiss this out of hand – I cannot believe how unexpectedly, stunningly delicious this soup is! Honestly! I was asked to make celery soup by John, following a visit to his acupuncturist – bear with me – it’s worth it. Just so you’re in the loop, he had his gall-bladder removed two years ago and his digestive system has never been right since (another story for another time). The acupuncture is working (again, another story) but the lovely lady he sees recommended celery soup, saying it would help with digestion. I put off making it for several weeks, pronouncing it dreary and was subsequently astonished at how lovely such a basic soup is. Then comes the good bit – I researched the health properties of celery – wow! It’s a super food – it has incredible properties – I’ve included a summary underneath the recipe. But I urge you to try this one – easy, quick, cheap delicious and spectacularly good for you!!!!!

Serves 4

What you need…

Splash olive/rapeseed oil

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 red onion, chopped

450g celery, cleaned, trimmed and sliced

400ml boiling water from the kettle

1 chicken stock pot (I use Knorr)

What to do…

Pour the hot water onto the stockpot and, using a small balloon whisk, dissolve to create your stock.

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over a moderate heat and then tip in the garlic, onion and celery. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 5 minutes, until softened.

Add the chicken stock, bring it to the boil, pop a lid on the pan and then reduce the heat to low, simmering gently for 15 minutes.

Transfer the soup to your blender and whizz until smooth and thick.

Pour into big mugs or soup bowls and enjoy your celery soup, reflecting that in life, it is often the simple things that bring the most satisfaction. Enjoy!

Tip…

I use Waitrose Cooks’ Ingredients frozen chopped garlic – a quick shake direct into the pan rather than all that peeling and chopping business.

Serving suggestion…

I like this soup straight up, but if wanted a little variation, try a little swizzle of double cream or perhaps a few drops of truffle oil.

Inspired by…

James Tanner, Ready Steady Cook

How easy…

You can practically do it in your sleep!

Let’s talk about celery…

OK, so clearly it contains loads of water and that’s always good. However, if we look at the vitamins and minerals: A, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, C, K, potassium, manganese, copper, phosphorus, magnesium and calcium are amongst the long list associated with this humble vegetable.

 

Moving along more scientifically, celery is a rich source of flavonoids which studies have shown lower inflammation as well as reducing the risk of heart disease, enhancing the immune system and inhibiting the growth of abnormal cancer-causing cells! It also contains something called pectin-based polysaccharides – including apiuman (I’m out of my depth here) which appear to have special importance in producing anti-inflammatory benefits, with studies demonstrating improved integrity of the stomach lining, decreased risk of stomach ulcers and better control of levels of stomach secretions!

Because chronic oxidative stress and excessive inflammation are key risk factors in the development of many cancer types, it’s not surprising that scientists are interested in the potential benefits of celery intake for cancer prevention. While there is speculation about celery benefits for stomach cancer, colon cancer, and bladder cancer, there are as yet no actual human research studies in any of these areas. Hopefully, future research studies will address the potential cancer-related benefits of celery much more closely.

My vote is that it has to be good for you and that this simple soup is a great way to get your quota!