Ooh, Easter Biscuits. These have been on the tea table in our house since I was a little girl. This is my mother's recipe which probably came from one of those 1950's Good Housekeeping recipe books. A buttery shortbread style biscuit with spice and currants. Easter is not the same without them. Makes about 24 biscuits.
Such an easy way to use leftover over pitta breads or to make to go with dips at a party. These pitta bread crisps will keep in an airtight container for at least a week, if not longer.
For Shrove Tuesday, beautiful vibrant green pea pancakes made with British grown and milled marrowfat peas from Hodmedod's. Hodmedod's are the Suffolk pulse pioneers and produce a wide range of pulse flours. I bought the gluten free bundle which included Buckwheat, Yellow Pea, Green Pea, Quinoa and Fava Bean. I found that the flavour of the green pea pancakes mellowed beautifully and was even sweeter after baking in the oven. The pancakes also make excellent layers in place of pasta for lasagne and cannelloni.
- Hodmedods Marrowfat Pea Flour
- Ready to flip
- Pea Green pancakes rolled and stuffed
- Cover with cheese and bake
I'm a sucker for a Wooster's malt loaf and often buy one with my weekend bread order. I was reminded recently, via Twiitter, about my Malted Fruit Loaf recipe from the Chalice Recipe Book, written by me in the 80's. It's an old faithful recipe which is best made with wholemeal flour and Suffolk honey. It's quick and easy, is fat and sugar free and doesn't need yeast. Why not give it a try?
I made three little jars of Seville orange curd yesterday, to use up the last of my oranges. It's a touch of sunshine for February. My lemon curd recipe works for any citrus fruit, just mix and match. Long, slow cooking is the secret for a good curd. Use a double boiler or a heatproof bowl over a pan of hot water. Take your time! This recipe makes about 800g which should just about fill two standard size jam jars. Make sure that used jars are spotlessly clean and sterilise by warming in the oven. The curd should keep in a cool place in perfect condition for about three months.
If they start the day by dunking a rusk into their mug of tea you'll know that you're with a true South African. Rusks in their various forms have been baked since the 17th Century. They are no longer the hard white, flour and water biscuits that sustained the Voortrekkers whilst on the move, but since commercialisation in the 1930's, and the production of the iconic Ouma Rusk, buttermilk rusks are now part of the national culture. For those who enjoy baking and live with a Saffa, me included, there's always a jar of homemade buttermilk rusks by the teapot.
I'm trying hard to eat more salad and keep off the comfort food. Salads made with grains, pulses or seasonal vegetables are more than just about lettuce and are a great way to provide a hearty meal and a good way to incorporate some exciting herb flavours. Toasted Pearl Barley with Lemon and Herbs makes a nice change from rice. It is a little more chewy, has a delicate nutty flavour and is filling. It soaks up the bold flavours of a rich meat or vegetable stew too, if like me that's all you want to eat at the moment. So serve as you prefer, hot or cold, both work equally well.
Don't waste the flesh of your pumpkins this Halloween. Chop the flesh into chunks along with onions and carrots cut to the same size. Add some crushed garlic, salt and pepper and a few sage leaves. Splash a little olive oil over and mix well before roasting in a hot oven for about 30/40 minutes until soft but not charred. Use to make Roasted Pumpkin Soup or a delicious and colourful Roasted Squash and Blue Cheese Pizza.
I've been cooking on my tiny little barbecue in my tiny little back yard while I wait to move house. All my belongings are in storage. I have one frying pan, a handful of cooking tools and the smallest fridge you have ever seen, with a bloody stupid shelf at the bottom, where all the salad stuff is stored underneath meaning I have to move everything, everyday to get at a friggin' leaf of lettuce. I realise how spoilt I've been in the past in my beautiful kitchen BUT it hasn't stopped me! My local farm shop butchery has been providing me with the best ever flank steak and at about £7 a slab it's an economical steak meal for the three of us here in lockdown. So I've been making fajita's because my friend Nic Miller (follow her on Twitter @nicmillerstale or Insta @millerstale) shared her recipe for wheat tortillas and I wanted to make them. Mine came out square, I'm blaming the lack of a rolling pin. You'll find the recipe and instruction for my fajita seasoned flank steak here. Flank steak is often seen on a menu described as a bavette steak. This is not the cut to use if you don't 'do' rare. The flank has long muscle fibres and can be tough if overcooked, it's also very lean and best sliced thinly across the grain for optimum tenderness. Cook it on a very high heat for 2 or 3 minutes a side and then cover with foil and rest for 10 mins. I generally put mine in the oven after it has been turned off, so no heat, just warm surroundings. Slice and serve rolled in the tortilla with fried onions, peppers, tomato salsa, guacomole, grated cheese, sour cream and slobber your way through.
- Two lovely pieces of flank
- Seasoned and herbed up
- Freeze in bags for later
- Cook over a very high heat and only for a couple of minutes a side
- Slice across the grain once it has rested
- Add your own salsa, avocado and cheese
- they call me square
It's going to be hot this weekend so prepare for some al fresco fire cooking. Make yourselves a jar of dry rub ready for your beef. Spice blends, or dry rubs are rubbed into meat before cooking. Some say that salt should not be included in a rub as meat should be dry brined by rubbing in salt a day in advance, in order for the salt to penetrate the meat. The spices in a rub do not tend to penetrate the meat but will help form the delicious spicy crust (or bark). However as we are all so short of time in our busy lives, I make an all in one rub, mixing the salt into the rub and leaving it on the meat overnight in the fridge. Sugar is a matter of taste and needed to help caramelise the crust. I use just a little on beef. Experiment with your own spice blends and store in an airtight jar. Use on a whole joint of rib eye or sirloin for a real treat.
- Cooked on a high heat over the fire creates a good bark but still pink in the middle
- I had a joint of very lean sirloin which I rubbed and left for 24hrs
- Making the rub in a mini blender is easy
As the weather is getting warmer and the nights are drawing out I start to get excited about summer, having fresh garden produce and forgetting about cooking warming winter soups and stews. Discover the difference that a few fresh herbs can make to your spring salads by either adding them into the salad, providing a nice contrast to the crunchy leaves of lettuce, or blitzing them into a simple vinaigrette dressing. As herbs begin to shoot in spring, or I’m lucky enough to find some that have over-wintered well, I spruce up even the plainest of salads with a few sprigs of fresh herbs. Be brave and experiment with different herbs adding vitality, texture and flavour to your meals. Make the bulk of the salad with mild flavour leaves such as Cos, Romaine, Little Gem or Lollo Rosso. Lovage – use the leaves sparingly as they add a very strong savoury flavour when raw. The first stems of spring provide the most delicate flavour. Try rubbing the salad bowl with bruised leaves to impart a milder flavour. Chives – the snipped stalks add a delicate onion (or garlicky if using Chinese chives) flavour. Hard boiled eggs, crumbled crisp bacon, watercress, steamed Jersey Royals, raw or steamed freshly podded peas all contrast well with chives and will liven up a leaf salad. Chickweed – or hip weed as I call it, now grown commercially for the restaurant trade and used in both salads and garnishes. Full of vitamin C and tastes slightly grassy, throw this in in abundance as it’s delicate, mild flavoured and if from your garden, free! Winter purslane – sometimes called Miners lettuce and grows rapidly in the spring. Add the narrow early leaves or the curious stem-wrapping leaves for a cool, mild flavour also providing a succulent and juicy texture into a leaf salad. It’s also very nice wilted as in the spinach recipe. Chervil – use the stem and leaf chopped into salads to add a subtle aniseed flavour. It complements eggs, fish and cucumber particularly well. Crab, goats curd and chervil is a favourite combination of mine.
The lockdown and subsequent closure of restaurants has proved a big problem for suppliers to the industry. Creedy Carver duck is just one that has found itself with a surplus stock and limited outlets. It's a superb free range product that generally only the Chefs get their hands on. I got mine from Field and Flower and ate duck breast with my spiced plum sauce made with plums from the freezer.
Why not make some to give as a Christmas gift? Biscotti are very easy to make and keep in an airtight container for weeks. These Almond and Cranberry Biscotti are delicious but feel free to replace the cranberries in the recipe with more almonds or chocolate drops or experiment with other types of nuts of dried fruit. Just watch the temperature of the oven when drying out the biscotti so as to make sure the cranberries do not burn.
I never need an excuse to light a fire outside and cook ‘al fresco’ and now it’s officially barbecue season that’s where I’ll be. The golden rule of cooking on a barbecue, or wood fire, is to cook over embers, not flames and to distinguish whether you are cooking something that requires searing rather than slow cooking. So, it’s always best to cook meats that require a fierce heat as soon as the flames have died down, and the embers are still glowing. Then grill ingredients such as fish, which require slower cooking, as the temperature of the fire drops. By mid-summer the herbs in my garden are at their best and plentiful so can be used liberally on barbecued food. Gutsy herbs indigenous/native of the Mediterranean and Middle East work very well in barbecues and include rosemary which adds an aromatic and resinous flavour working very well with fatty and rich meats such as lamb. I like to use the straight, small woody branches for my lamb, onion and rosemary skewers. Oregano and marjoram are both closely related and I still struggle to identify between the two growing in my garden. Oregano has a more pungent and domineering flavour whereas marjoram is slightly more delicate, also faintly savoury and lightly sweet scented. If using oregano then use a little more sparingly. It has a special affinity with tomato based dishes and sauces and works very well when put with lemon and garlic in a marinade. Coriander can be chopped and mixed into natural yoghurt with Indian spices to create a delicious marinade for both chicken and fish. The pungent, slightly citrus flavour marries well with lime zest and juice to make a herb butter which is delicious served on seafood cooked on a barbecue. Dill is often associated with Nordic or Russian cuisine and is used extensively in Persian cuisine. I love it with fish, particularly salmon which barbecues very well. Combined with sumac a Middle Eastern spice which adds tartness and astringency to food it makes a perfect marinade for salmon. Mint adds another dimension to whole grilled courgettes that have been allowed to cool a little and then drizzled with oil, salt and pepper and chopped mint. The same combination is also delicious on grilled halloumi cheese.