Monday, July 28, 2014

Courgette Pakoras

Much to my delight a small patch of paddock owned by my employers and adjacent to our offices was made over to staff allotment space earlier this year, and I have one of the plots. It is a nice size for a lazy gardener and I am delighted to see my courgette plants fruiting regularly and a few squash starting to set too. If you grow courgettes you may also be trying to deal with a glut right now and whilst one of my favourite ways to store the harvest is to make a lot of different courgette soups to freeze, these pakoras also make a great soup garnish if made quite small.
The recipe comes from a book I acquired in the late 1990s called 'Cordon Rouge' which is the recipe book of a long since closed vegetarian and vegan cafe/deli called The Red Herring, which was in the West End of Newcastle upon Tyne, close to many of the ethnic shops and was run as a quite bohemian workers co-operative.
They baked bread in a brick based oven in a bakery they had built themselves, and if I remember right it was the only place in Newcastle I could buy my much loved organic flour from Little Salkeld Watermill based in Cumbria.

But back to the pakoras. The recipe is for mixed vegetable pakoras and although I am majoring on courgette here, at other times of the year I would use a mixture of vegetables.

Vegetable mix:
175g courgette cut into short julienne* or 175 g courgettes/mushrooms/cauliflower sliced thinly
1tbs black mustard seeds
1 large onion finely chopped
2 cloves crushed garlic
1-2 tbs oil for cooking vegetables

Batter mix:
8tbs gram flour / chick pea flour
2tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
2tsp turmeric
3tsp garam masala
1.5tsp baking powder
0.5tsp chilli powder
0.5 tsp salt or to taste
1tsp ground black pepper

oil for frying approx 1 litre for a small fryer/pan

  1. Heat the 1-2tbs oil and fry the mustard seeds until they pop.
  2. Reduce the heat and add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is tender.
  3. Add the courgette/vegetables and fry gently for 2-3 mins until just softened.
  4. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
  5. Measure all of the batter ingredients into a large bow and stir well to mix.
  6. Stir the cooled vegetable mixture into the batter mix and stir well to bind the mixture together. You may need to add a small amount of water.
  7. Form the batter into rough balls. Small for nibbles/soup garnishes or larger for substantial snacks.
  8. Heat the oil in a large pan. The oil will bubble up when frying the pakoras so the pan should be less than half full of oil. The oil is hot enough when a cube of bread cooks quickly to a light brown.
  9. Gently drop the the pakoras into the hot oil (you can cook them in batches, too may at once will reduce the oil temperature too much)  and cook until a deep golden brown and cooked through. Turn the pakoras in the oil while frying to get an even colouration and cooking.
  10. Once cooked take out and drain on kitchen paper.

First pakora just into the oil
Not quite cooked enough at this point.
Draining on kitchen paper to remove excess oil

The cooked pakoras are to my taste, best when freshly fried but they can be re-heated in a warm oven when needed, or eaten cold of course.

* A microplane style coarse grater is quite good for this.

The soup I served these courgette pakoras with was a 'curried coconut, courgette and chickpea' soup based on a recipe from the Riverford Organic Farms website. I changed the recipe to leave out the cooked chickpeas but instead thickened the soup with chickpea flour. I also pureed the soup which is just personal preference. It is a lovely spicy combination using mustard seeds, cumin, chilli, ginger, turmeric, coriander and cinnamon, and it freezes very well.
I am submitting this recipe to the Spice Trail blog challenge run by Vanesther over at Bangers and Mash who has set the challenge for July to be a recipe including lots of summer spice.
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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Refreshing Pink Grapefruit and Pomegranate 'Mocktail'

So this month's Random Recipe Challenge from Dom at Belleau Kitchen  is to randomly choose a cocktail from our recipe collection, or the internet, in celebration of summer. Now I would normally be the first to be found pouring a cheeky cocktail on a summer's Sunday afternoon, but I am on self-imposed alcohol restrictions to try and lose some weight, so a 'mocktail' it had to be. Actually, I really don't like that term 'mocktail' as there is nothing of a mockery about a delicious summer drink served up in a nice glass even if it does lack a bit of kick.

So having few cocktail recipe books in my collection, and those all being of the alcoholic type, I turned to the internet and had an as random as I could browse through Yummly to find something I had the ingredients for. Now the trouble with doing things last minute is you never quite have all you need, so this is a bit of a mish-mash, but it was quite delicious and very simple.

Makes 2 drinks:

1 completely ripe pink grapefruit
1 lime
1 tbs pomegranate molasses or grenadine
1 tbs syrup from jar of preserved ginger
200ml cold ginger ale (diet version in my case)
strip of lime zest and sprig of mint to garnish

  1. Squeeze the juice of the pink grapefruit and the lime into a jug and stir in the pomegranate molasses and the ginger syrup until thoroughly mixed.
  2. Stain into a chilled jug and the add the cold ginger ale.
  3. Pour into whatever glasses you like to drink from and garnish with a strip of lime zest and a sprig of mint.
Enjoy, preferable sitting outside watching bees feed off the summer flowers.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Blackcurrant White Chocolate Cheesecake Ice-Cream

You would never put a dish with that name on a menu, far too long and clumsy to say, but that is quite simply what it is, so lets not be bothered with a name.

This last week I have been reluctant to do much cooking, or at least any cooking that involves heat, but this recipe was all about chilling and very welcome too. Even when it has clouded over here in North Devon it has remained hot and humid, and not at all conducive to standing any where near a hot stove or oven. How helpful then that the July 'We Should Cocoa' challenge, this month hosted by Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary, has the theme chocolate ice cream & toppings.

Because I have been eating and drinking rather too much of late I have tried to make this a low fat ice-cream. So the cream cheese I used was a low fat version and I swapped greek yoghurt for the cream. The recipe was loosely based on this cream-cheese ice-cream from the Epicurious Recipe site. I also needed to sneak some chocolate in so instead of the sugar I used white chocolate. I also added some vanilla and lemon zest and of course blackcurrants and shortbread crumbs to complete the 'cheesecake'. This recipe does not produce the silkiest of ice-creams but it is not too sweet, not too rich and with the sharpness of the black currants really quite refreshing.

300g low fat cream cheese
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
grated zest of half a lemon
1tsp vanilla extract
100g greek yoghurt
200 g milk
125g white chocolate'
icing/powdered sugar 'to taste'

100g ripe blackcurrants washed and lightly crushed, do add more if you want a more fruity ice-cream.
100g shortbread biscuits coarsely 'crumbled' (I used a bought 'all butter' biscuit)

  1. Blend together the cream cheese, lemon juice, lemon zest, vanilla and yoghurt until very smooth.
  2. Gently melt the white chocolate in the milk stirring until completed melted and smooth.
  3. Allow the milk mixture to cool until no longer hot then whisk in to the cream cheese mixture.
  4. Taste for sweetness and add powdered sugar to sweeten further if needed. Much will depend on your own taste and the brand of white chocolate used.
  5. If you have an ice-cream maker now freeze the ice-cream base according to the instructions. If not pour the mixture into a shallow plastic bowl and place in your freezer giving the cream mixture a good whisk every 30 minutes until nearly set.
  6. Once nearly set, quickly stir in the crush fresh blackcurrants and return to the freezer until ready to serve.
  7. If your shortbread was a little pale or soft I would gently toast the coarse shortbread crumbles under a grill until they are a light gold brown, then allow to cool completely before using. You want a crisp texture and toasty flavour to contrast with the soft ice-cream.
  8. To serve, place generous scoops of the ice-cream into glass sundae dishes and sprinkle a portion of shortbread crumbles on top.
  9. Enjoy in the sunshine!
This recipe is being submitted to the July 2014 We Should Cocoa Challenge run by Choclette of Chocolate Log Blog and this month hosted by Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary, do pop over to Elizabeth's blog page to see all the other Chocolate Ice-Cream and toppings submissions.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Barnstaple Real Food Market

I was delighted to hear earlier this year that North Devon was about to get a new monthly food market to be held in Barnstaple's rather grand pannier market on the second Sunday of the month; and I eagerly went along to the first one in June. We arrived early before the crowds, and it was really nice to have time to talk to some of the stall holders before they became too busy to stop and chat. I loved the way the space had been used to place tables down the middle for anyone to stop, sit, drink and enjoy whatever they had bought.
The market ran through until mid afternoon and with hot food as well as the usual market produce for sale it was a perfect place to shop for a picnic and just enjoy it all on the spot. As we had arrived soon after opening so our picnic was breakfast, courtesy of some amazing brownies from The Green Brownie and great coffee from Ivan's Coffee
I was rather taken with Ivan's setup and in particular the use of old band kit;
And what a neat trick for using fairy lights!
The coffee was very good too.

There were plenty of stalls to choose from and we came away with a nice loaf of bread from The Red Dog Bakery
Some freshly picked crab that tasted so sweet and fresh.
Local cheese and the so hard to find raw milk.

So the market is back on Sunday 13th July with an even bigger line up of local producers. For up to date information take a look at the market's  Facebook  page or follow them on Twitter.

The traders due to attend the next market are: Olde Forge Fish, Yetland Farm, Monty's Caribbean Kitchen, Garden Jars, Calaca Loca, Stephano's Home Made Foods, Caprine Capers, Ivans Coffee, French Kitchen, Quiet Waters/Loud Flavours, Ashridge Dairy, SeaDog, Wessex Pantry, Wood Smoked, Jakes Bakes, Bampton Game, Barton Farm, Copperhill Chocolates, Evergreen Farm, Laurel Farm Herbs, Western Morning News, The Little Pantry, Middle Campscott Farm, Bobs Eggs, Devon Caterers, Wheelwright Kitchen, KT's Kitchen, American Hotdogs, Bulldog Fish Farm, John's of Instow, The Green Brownie, Big Pot Kitchen, Glampig, Red Dog Bakery, Cranfield's Foods, West Kidland Farm, Boom Kitchen, Posh Kebabs, Norsworthy Goats Cheese.

Barnstaple Real Food

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Cumin Crackers for The Spice Trail Challenge

When Vanesther of Bangers and Mash blog announced that the next spice in the Spice Trail Challenge was cumin my first thoughts were to try out a recipe that paired chocolate and cumin. I did initially make a batch of chocolate and cumin fudge but it was just 'ok', not special in any way, so I had another think and decided to make some cumin crackers. These were much more successful at showcasing the gorgeous aroma of cumin and they pair very well with cheese or simply as a savoury snack.

The recipe was inspired by one I found on the BBC food website from John Whaite (Great British Bake Off contestant) for asian spice crackers. This recipe has a number of spices as well as cumin and quite a lot of salt so I decided to tinker with it to bring the cumin center stage and cut back on the salt. I also tried a blend of two flours using a small amount of coarse semolina flour for texture but plain flour is fine too.
10g whole cumin seed
4g freshly ground black pepper
4g / 1 level tsp of a good vegetable stock powder such as Marigold reduced salt bouillon
6g / 1 level tsp sea salt
1 half tsp sugar or neutral flavoured honey
70g butter
1tsp sesame oil
30g course semolina flour*
270g italian OO flour*  
extra flour for rolling out dough

*or just 300g in total of plain white flour 

Pre heat the oven to 200C Gas 7

Line 2-3 baking sheets with parchment paper

  • Lightly toast the whole cumin seeds in a dry frying pan and then coarsely grind in a pestle & mortar or spice grinder.
  • Weigh the flours into a bowl and stir in the cumin, black pepper, stock powder, salt, sugar/honey.
  • Rub the butter and sesame oil into the flour mixture until you have a fine crumb texture.
  • Add approx 80-90ml of cold water gradually to the bowl to bring the dough together into a firm ball. You want a cohesive but not sticky ball of dough. 
  • Knead lightly until the dough is smooth.

  • Cover the dough and rest for 30 minutes or more to 'relax' the dough. Unless the kitchen is quite warm I will just leave the dough on the counter and cover with the bowl, saves wasting cling film.
Rolling & Shaping
Now roll the dough out thinly, if you have a pasta rolling machine that you get on with you may find that quite useful for getting an even, thin dough. I prefer to use a rolling pin as I get tangled up with my pasta roller. After getting the dough quite thin I then swap to my 'cracker' rolling pin which I found in a TK Max shop many years ago. This gives a nice texture to the crackers.
Otherwise you may have a pastry docker or simply use a fork to prick holes over the dough which helps them bake evenly and without bubbling up.

If you are hot on presentation you might want to use a cookie cutter to stamp out your crackers or if you are unfussed and perhaps a bit lazy like myself you will just cut them out with a blade/dough scraper into whatever rectangular size you like.


Place the cracker pieces onto the lined baking sheets. They can be positioned quite close as the dough will not spread.

Bake in the pre heated oven for 8-10 minutes until an even golden brown. You may need to turn the trays around half way through each bake to get an even colour on the crackers. Keep an eye on them as the dough can turn dark brown very quickly.

Transfer the baked crackers to a cooling rack.

Once cool, store in an air tight container to keep crisp.

The crackers are very good with cheese, as a scoop for an avocado dip or as a nibble with drinks.

I am submitting this recipe to the June 2014 Spice Trail Challenge, where you will find all the other Cumin recipes submitted to Vanesther's blog challenge.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Avgolemono Soup with Pastina from 'Cold Pasta' by James McNair

Well it is nearly summer and perhaps there will come a point when hot food seems a bad idea which I think was why I bought this book many years ago, but perhaps I was more tempted by the £1.99 price tag, who knows. What I do know is the book along with a few other 'bargains' has languished on my bookshelf and rarely been opened and never used.

Enter Dom's Random Recipe Challenge #39 for May to go grab yourself any of your unused, unloved cookbooks and give them one last chance before the spring clean has them out the house for good. I had a few in my pile, including a fair number of charity fund raisers (Challenge Anneka was in there, never used as well as the Food Aid cookbook) but this James McNair title won and my recipe was the 'Avgolemono Soup with Pastina'. According to the recipe this traditional Greek soup would normally be served hot, but I liked it cold so cold is fine by me.
I had most of the ingredients but no tiny pasta shapes in the cupboard so I just broke up some very think spaghetti into as short lengths as I could by hand. I have scaled the recipe back to use just 1 egg as the full recipe states it will serve 10-12 as a first course and I just needed to feed myself.

2 cups home made chicken stock
one third cup tiny pasta shapes
1 egg
2 tbs fresh lemon juice
salt, pepper
lemon slices and parsley to garnish

  1. heat the chicken stock to a boil and cook the pasta until very al dente.
  2. beat the egg in a bowl until frothy and then beat in the lemon juice.
  3. slowly drizzle one third of the hot stock onto the egg mixture whisking constantly
  4. add the egg mixture back to the pan with the pasta and heat (stirring constantly) but do not boil, just cooking until lightly thickened.
  5. season to taste, and then cool and chill until needed.
  6. to serve stir the soup to distribute the pasta and pour into bowls.
  7. garnish with sliced lemon and parsley if desired.
I did not have any parsley but the buckler sorrel was looking fresh and tender so I picked a few of those highly citrus leaves and garnished with those. I think this would be a perfect soup to soothe a summer cold.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Vanilla Spiced Fig Relish from 'Mes Aigres-Doux, Terrines et Pates' by Christine Ferber

Christine Ferber is a highly acclaimed french jam maker, her jams are sold in the shops of  the legendary pastry chef  Pierre Herme so I think she must be rather above average. I have never purchased any of her preserves but I have three of her paperback recipe books and I am completely wedded to her apricot confiture that combines fresh and dried apricots along with white wine and vanilla. It is delicious, and I have made it several times. It was the first recipe that came to mind when I started thinking about what I might make for this month's Spice Trail Challenge, organised by Vanesther of Bangers and Mash. The spice for this month is vanilla and is being guest hosted by Solange Berchemin of Pebble Soup. There are so many delicious possibilities, but I wanted to try something new. Knowing how common vanilla is in both the sweet and savoury preserves from Christine Ferber I started to look through the 'relishes' section of this book for inspiration and finally settled on a relish made with figs.
   Now I must confess to cheating on the ingredients as the recipe called for fresh figs and not just any figs but Bourjasotte Noires figs, which when I looked them up do not appear any different to the black figs found in many supermarkets but regardless I did not have any, so I used dried. I soaked them for several hours in the wine included in the recipe to try and soften them up as much as possible, but the final relish is of course different in texture and balance but really not too bad, and the vanilla really does stand out and complement the flavours.
The recipe stated the relish should be stored for two to three weeks in the fridge before using so I made it at the beginning of May and finally tried in the last week. The author recommends it goes well with liver pate, parma style ham, a cured beef similar to bresaola and a french cheese Saint-Felicien.  I tried mine with some Spanish cured ham and manchego cheese:
And also some cold roast chicken and sliced chorizo:
I think the relish was too powerful for chicken but it stood up to both the chorizo and the cured ham and manchego cheese very well.

I will give you the recipe as I made it, with dried figs:

25 semi dried figs
240 ml white wine vinegar
430 ml Gewurztraminer wine
110g granulated sugar
220g flower honey
20 black peppercorns
3 vanilla pods

  1. Rinse the figs and dry carefully with a cloth or paper towels.
  2. Remove the stems and cut the figs into quarters.
  3. Soak the dried figs in the wine overnight and drain off and reserve the wine the next day.
  4. In a non reactive saucepan bring the vinegar, strained wine, sugar, honey, black pepper and vanilla pods to a boil.
  5. Continue to boil gently and skim any foam from the surface until the liquid is reduced by half and has formed a light syrup.
  6. Add the figs to the pan and simmer gently for 15 minutes.
  7. Pour the relish into a large kilner jar and store in the fridge for 2-3 weeks before serving.
  8. Continue to store in the fridge.

Should my fig plant ever produce a bumper crop I may try the fresh fruit version!