Recipe – Lavender Scented Syllabub

Syllabub dates back to mid-16th Century England and is a simple frothy confection consisting of cream whipped with sugar, lemon and alcohol such as wine, cider, or in this case, sherry.

I added the lavender blossoms because someone recently gave me a bag full and I couldn’t resist. The end result is a rather boozy, flowery fluff that’s really simple to make. On the other hand and if you prefer, don’t bother with the lavender – it isn’t traditional anyway.

Note – as the cream is thinned out with alcohol and lemon juice it does take longer than usual to whip up even with an electric whisk, so I imagine that before kitchen gadgets were invented, whoever had the job of making syllabub must have had pretty hefty arm muscles.

Topped with a scattering of minced crystallized citrus peels and a few edible flowers, it makes a very pretty dish but due to the amount of booze in it, it’s completely unsuitable for children.

Serve syllabub with delicate lemony cookies or perhaps some of those Italian sponge fingers for dunking (ladyfingers).

Syllabub

Lavender Scented Syllabub

LAVENDER SCENTED SYLLABUB

(Serves 6)

Ingredients:

4 fl oz (50ml) of sherry

The juice of one lemon

2 oz (50g) of fine white sugar

1/2 pint (275ml) of heavy whipping cream, chilled

Edible flowers and/or candied citrus peels to decorate

1 teaspoon of edible dried lavender blossoms (optional)

Action:

Combine the sherry, lemon juice, sugar and lavender in a small bowl and set it aside, covered for a couple of hours, to allow the lavender to soften.

Add the chilled cream to the sherry mixture and whisk until it becomes voluminous and holds its shape.

Divide among small glasses or tip the lot  into a pretty glass bowl. Decorate, cover and chill for an hour or so before serving.

 

Posted in Desserts, Gluten Free Desserts, Made in Under 30 mins | 2 Comments

Recipe – Caesar Potato Salad

I love a good potato salad, warm or otherwise. This one is particularly summery and is best served at room temperature.

With all the robust flavors of a classic Caesar salad, this will become a firm favorite. Although you can’t taste the anchovies, they’re essential for the dressing, so this wouldn’t be suitable for strict vegetarians.

You can make the dressing and cook the potatoes ahead of time – just don’t combine everything until the potatoes are quite cold. This keeps well, covered in the fridge for a couple of days.

You’ll need a pestle and mortar to pound the salt and garlic into a creamy emulsion.

Caesar Potato Salad

Caesar Potato Salad

CAESAR POTATO SALAD

(Serves 10-12)

Ingredients:

2lbs (1 kilo) of assorted baby potatoes – red, white, purple, whatever

4 cloves of garlic, peeled and cut into chunks

1/2 a teaspoon of sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 a teaspoon of finely grated lemon zest

2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon of cold water

4-6 anchovies from a can

1/3 cup (80ml measure) of finely chopped red onion

2 heaped tablespoons of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

A handful of chopped flat leaf parsley

Action:

Wash the potatoes and boil them in lightly salted water until they’re just tender. Drain and set aside to cool. Once they’re cool, add the minced red onion and stir to combine.

Make the dressing – start by pounding the sea salt and garlic in a pestle and mortar until you have an emulsion. Add the anchovies and continue to pound until everything is well blended and broken down. Add a good grind of black pepper, followed by the lemon juice and zest, a tablespoon of water and finally the olive oil. Carefully whisk to mix and set it aside until you’re ready to assemble the salad.

Toss the cooled potatoes with the dressing, adding the grated cheese and finally the chopped parsley to serve.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Salads & Appetizers, Vegetables / Vegetarian | Leave a comment

Recipe – Mile-High Blueberry Lemon Cake

Adapted from a dear friend’s high altitude recipe, this light and fluffy cake was made in Denver Colorado, which is approximately a mile above sea-level. How you might adapt the ingredients if you fancy baking this cake on the beach or at Everest base camp is beyond me but I’m sure it will taste good, however it turns out.

This is a lovely summery cake that’s perfect served with a scoop of really good vanilla ice cream or crème fraîche and a few summer fruits.

Mile-High Blueberry Lemon Cake

MILE-HIGH BLUEBERRY LEMON CAKE

(8-10 servings)

Ingredients:

1/2 cup (120ml measure) soft butter

1 and ¼ cups (300ml measure) of sugar

2 cups (480ml measure) of cake flour

2 teaspoons of baking powder

Pinch of sea salt

¾ cup (180ml measure) of milk plus 3 tablespoons

1 teaspoon of pure vanilla

4 egg whites

1.5 – 2 cups (360ml-480ml measure) of fresh blueberries, picked over

For the syrup –

2-4 lemons (to yield 1/2 cup juice)

1/2 cup (120ml measure) sugar

The zest from all the lemons (use a potato peeler but be careful not to include any white pith)

Action:

Preheat the oven to 375F.  Grease and flour a 10” x 14” cake pan.

Cream the softened butter and 1 cup (240ml) of sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually fold in the flour and a pinch of salt followed by ¾ cup (180ml) of milk and the vanilla,  mixing well together.

In separate bowl beat the egg whites until soft peaks form, then gradually beat in 1/4 cup sugar until you have a glossy meringue. Starting with one tablespoon of meringue, add it to the cake mixture to lighten it, then fold in the remaining meringue, followed by the remaining 3 tablespoons of milk and finally the blueberries.

Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan, even the top and bake for approximately 35 minutes. Test for done-ness with a toothpick (it should come out clean).

While the cake is baking, make the lemon syrup.

Combine the lemon juice with 1/2 cup (120ml) of sugar in a small saucepan. Bring it to a boil over a medium-high heat then immediately lower to a gentle simmer. Cook for approximately 10 minutes or until it’s a bit syrupy. Turn off the heat, add the lemon zest and allow it to infuse for 20 minutes.

Remove the cake from the oven and using the same toothpick, pierce holes all over the cake at about 1-2 inch (2.5 – 5 cm)  intervals. Strain the lemon syrup all over the cake and allow it to cool in the pan before cutting it into sections and serving with fresh fruit, ice cream or whatever you prefer.

 

Posted in Desserts | 4 Comments

Recipe – My Favorite Kale Salad

Salads made with kale became a bit trendy a few years ago and many restaurants still have them as a menu fixture. Kale salad can range from the downright awful – chunks of raw kale tipped straight from the supermarket bag, stalks and all and completely inedible – to the sublime.

Really good kale salads are dense, soft and satisfying. The sort of salad that even after five minutes of eating, the pile on your plate has magically remained the same size.

This version is one of my favorites. You can add finely minced onion, all sorts of fruit dried or otherwise and toasted nuts give it crunch and substance.

The trick is to work the chopped kale with a little sea salt in your hands to soften and transform it to what seems like a semi-cooked state before adding everything else.

Kale salad tastes even better on day two, so make extra.

Note: have you ever thought of roasting kale in the oven?  Kale crisps are incredibly simple to make and a great way to get kids of all ages to eat their greens – recipe below. They make a delicious, healthy appetizer or snack that won’t stick around for long one you’ve offered them up (but don’t serve them outside if it’s remotely breezy as they’ll float away before you can say “yum!”)

Kale Salad with Toasted Pine Nuts, Currants & Parmesan

KALE SALAD

(4 servings)

Ingredients:

1 bunch of kale, rinsed and torn into small pieces, stalk and tough ribs discarded – or a 5 oz (140g) packet of tender, baby kale

1 level teaspoon of sea salt

1/3 cup (80ml measure) of lightly toasted pine nuts (toast them in a dry skillet and watch like a hawk as they can burn in a nanosecond)

¼ cup (60ml measure) of dried currants

¼ cup (60ml measure) of extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons of lemon juice

½ tablespoon of clear honey

1/3 cup (80ml measure) of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Action:

Chop the kale leaves very finely then tip them into a large bowl with the sea salt and work it with your fingers, massaging the kale until it wilts.

Transfer to another bowl, discarding any green liquid.

Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice and honey and add this to the kale along with everything else, except for the grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

Let it sit at room temp for 20 mins then adjust the dressing to taste and finally add the cheese.

Give it all a good final toss, cover and chill in the fridge for 1 hour and up to 2 days.

OVEN BAKED KALE CRISPS

Ingredients:

1 bunch of kale, rinsed, tough stem and ribs removed, leaves torn into bite sized pieces

1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon of sea salt

Action:

Preheat the oven to 350F / 180C

Line a cookie sheet or shallow roasting pan with baking parchment

Pat the kale dry and toss it with the olive oil, making sure every piece is well coated. Add the sea salt and toss again.

Arrange the kale on the baking sheet and bake for 10 mins, or until the edges have turned a light golden brown. Serve immediately.

Posted in Made in Under 30 mins, Salads & Appetizers, Vegetables / Vegetarian | Leave a comment

Recipe – Quick Raspberry Freezer Jam

Any jam that can be whipped up in under 30 minutes is fine by me. I love the tangy sharp sweetness of fresh raspberries and paired with a warm croissant (and a blob of creamy mild goat cheese on the side), this is my idea of breakfast heaven.

You can make this jam with strawberries or stone fruit but as the title suggests, it needs to be kept in the freezer as it doesn’t have the shelf life of regular preserves. You’ll need an assortment of small, seal-able freezer-proof containers. That way you can defrost just enough whenever it takes your fancy.

Quick Raspberry Freezer Jam

Raspberry Freezer Jam

RASPBERRY FREEZER JAM

(Makes about 12 cups so adjust for lesser quantities)

Ingredients:

14 cups (3.4 liters) of crushed raspberries, strawberries, blackberries or whatever you prefer (crushed with a potato masher or blitzed briefly in a blender)

2.5 cups (600 ml measure) of organic cane sugar

The juice of 2 lemons

2 level teaspoons of sea salt

4 level tablespoons of powdered pectin

Action:

You’ll need a large heavy saucepan for this.

Put all the ingredients in the pan, stir to mix and slowly bring it to a boil. Let it bubble away, stirring every minute or so for 20 minutes. Take it off the heat, allow to cool then transfer the jam to sealed freezer-worthy containers.

That’s it!

Posted in Cookies & Edible Gifts, Desserts, Made in Under 30 mins | 2 Comments

Recipe – Buttermilk, Lemon & Lavender Sorbet – and a Buttermilk Chocolate Sorbet

If you have an ice cream machine, here are two delicious sorbet recipes that contain buttermilk. Buttermilk adds a hint of richness which makes a nice change from the single dimension of a regular sorbet.

Despite it’s buttery flavor, buttermilk is clean-tasting and almost devoid of fat, so the intense flavors of lemon and lavender (and chocolate) can really shine through.

I wouldn’t necessarily serve them together but as I’d dusted off the ice cream machine in preparation for summer use, I felt compelled to make them both  – and when a 17-year old taster proclaims them to be absolutely delicious, then you know they’re good.

I like to use powdered buttermilk reconstituted with water but fresh buttermilk will also work well. Either way, both of these sorbets make a really impressive summer dessert  and take no time at all to make, provided you have the machine.

I recommend making the mixture for the lemon and lavender buttermilk sorbet the day before, because dried edible lavender blossoms are rather grey-looking but once they’ve had an overnight soak in the mixture, they revert back to their pretty purple flower color.

Note – if you can’t find edible lavender, the lemon buttermilk sorbet is quite wonderful without.

Buttermilk Sorbet with Lemon & Lavender – and a Chocolate Buttermilk Sorbet

BUTTERMILK, LEMON & LAVENDER SORBET

(Makes approx 6 cups/1.4 liters)

Ingredients:

1/2 cup (120ml) of freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 3 lemons)

The finely shredded zest of 3 lemons

2 heaped teaspoons of dried edible lavender blossoms

2 cups (470ml) of fine white sugar

4 cups (950ml) of buttermilk

Action:

Gently dissolve the sugar with the lemon juice, zest and lavender blossoms over a very low heat, stirring frequently. Once the sugar has completely dissolved, take it off the heat and add the buttermilk, stirring well to blend, then transfer the mixture to a bowl – cover and chill overnight in the fridge.

When you’re ready to make the sorbet, just tip the cold mixture into the ice cream machine and process until it’s done. Transfer the sorbet to the freezer in a sealed plastic container to firm up completely.

BUTTERMILK CHOCOLATE SORBET

(Makes approx 4 cups / 950ml)

Ingredients:

5 fl oz (142ml) of half & half or very thin cream

4 oz (114g) of *vanilla sugar

6 oz (170g) of very good dark chocolate chips (about 70%) or chocolate cut into small chunks

2 cups (474ml) of buttermilk

Action:

Gently dissolve the sugar in the thin cream (or half & half) over a low heat then bring it to a simmer. Remove it from the heat and add the chocolate pieces, whisking until the chocolate is completely melted.  Add the buttermilk, whisking to blend thoroughly.

Proceed as above.

*Vanilla sugar is easy to make; just add a split vanilla pod to a fairly large, screwtop glass jar of fine white sugar and let it absorb the flavor for about a week. As you use the sugar, just add some more – the vanilla pod will keep doing it’s job for ages.

 

 

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Recipe – Fig and Gorgonzola Pizza with Caramelized Shallots

A fabulous pizza where the sweetness of dried figs and caramelized shallots complements the smooth, tangy unctuousness of the Gorgonzola. The only thing that takes a bit of time to prepare are the onions and they can be made in advance and kept in the fridge or frozen for several months.

Other than that, you can whip this up in under 30 minutes, especially if you buy a raw ready-made pizza crust.

I make a batch of caramelized shallots/onions a couple of times a year and store them in small containers in the freezer. Defrosted and gently re-heated, they make a perfect topping for steak, burgers, grilled salmon; beaten into mashed potatoes, folded into an omelet or used as a topping for bruschetta. Caramelized onions (onion jam) takes approximately 45 mins to 1 hr, although the actual prep time is about 5 mins.

Non-vegetarians can add shredded prosciutto for an even more decadent pizza.

Pizza with Fig, Gorgonzola & Caramelized Shallots

FIG and GORGONZOLA PIZZA with CARAMELIZED ONION

(Serves two hungry people or 6 as an appetizer snack)

Ingredients:

For the caramelized onion that can be made ahead –

8 oz (227g) of shallots, red or yellow onions

2 oz (57g) butter

1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon of honey

2 tablespoons of sherry vinegar

A sprig of fresh thyme

*A raw pizza crust, approx 12ins across (I used a ready-made thin raw crust…don’t feel guilty using shortcuts like this when you have such fabulous toppings)

6 oz (170g) of Gorgonzola diced or sliced – however you prefer

4 oz (113g) of soft-dried black mission figs, stalks trimmed and halved lengthwise

Sea salt, freshly milled black pepper

Action:

Starting with the shallots/onion, slice them very thinly across in rings then sauté over low heat in the warmed olive oil and melted butter, until soft and translucent; approx 5 mins.

Add the honey and vinegar – season to taste with salt and pepper. Throw in the thyme sprig and cover with a tight fitting lid (or use heavy duty foil if you don’t have one). Cook on a very, very low heat for about 45 mins to an hour, stirring occasionally. If they look a bit dry along the way, add a tablespoon of water. Once they’ve become glossy, jammy and meltingly tender, crank up the heat to rapidly boil off any residual liquid. Remove the thyme stalk and set the onions aside to cool (once cooled you can freeze them or store in the fridge for a week).

For the crust ( in my case, made by someone else) – pre-heat the oven to 400F /200C. Arrange the raw crust on a baking sheet, brush lightly with olive oil and bake for 5 mins (can be done ahead).

Pile on the toppings and finish with a drizzle of olive oil. Bake until the cheese is bubbling and the edges of the crust are golden, approx 10-12 mins.

Notes:

The toppings’ quantities are only meant as a guide. Use more or less, at will.

Fresh figs, mozzarella and caramelized onions make a lovely, milder-tasting alternative if fresh figs are in season (which isn’t often in Colorado). Simply snip the stalks off and split them lengthwise into 3 slices per fig as they’re much larger than dried ones. Buffalo mozzarella is best if you can get it.

You can also use figs of the calimyrna variety but they won’t be as darkly dramatic as black mission figs.

 

Posted in Made in Under 30 mins, Pasta, Vegetables / Vegetarian | Leave a comment