Recipe – Peach & Blackberry Crumble

Summer is slowly coming to an end with cooler, shorter days and the hedgerows are lined with wild blackberry bushes, their branches buckling under the weight of intoxicatingly perfumed fruit, staining our fingers and mouths purple. Anyway, that’s how I remember blackberry picking in the UK, long ago.

In Colorado we have to buy blackberries in little plastic cartons. They’re big, fat and juicy but don’t quite have the flavor of wild English blackberries. Still, they’re wonderful in pies and crumbles.

Mum used to make the most wonderful blackberry and apple crumble, always served with a jug of steaming hot custard (crème anglaise) but we don’t have the right kind of apples over here to make it just the way Mum used to make it, so I replaced the apples with local Colorado peaches which are at their glorious best right now.

The crumble topping has an oat and walnut crunch and this wonderful pudding is best served warm or at room temperature, along with a scoop of really good vanilla ice cream.

Note – any unused crumble topping can be frozen.

Peach & Blackberry Crumble

PEACH & BLACKBERRY CRUMBLE

(Serves, 6-8)

Ingredients for the topping (it can be made ahead and kept chilled in the fridge):

1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

3oz (85g) of all-purpose (plain) flour

3 oz (85g) of chilled butter, cut into tiny pieces

3oz (85g) of old fashioned oats, divided in two

3 oz (85g) of soft brown sugar

3oz (85g) of walnuts, chopped finely

For the filling:

1.5lb (680g) of fresh ripe peaches, stoned and sliced

12oz (340g) of fresh blackberries

The finely shredded zest of a small to medium lemon

2.5oz (70g) of sugar

1 heaped tablespoon of all purpose flour

Action:

Preheat the oven to 350F (180C). Butter a large, fairly shallow ovenproof dish. Gently toss all the filling ingredients together and set it aside while you make the topping.

Combine the flour, cinnamon, butter and half the oats in a food processor. Pulse until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the remaining oats, sugar and chopped walnuts.

Arrange the fruit and any of the released juices in the buttered dish and sprinkle the topping over the fruit. It’s up to you how deep you want the topping but I think less is more, so freeze the rest for another time.

Bake for 45-60 minutes until the topping is golden and the fruit is bubbling around the edges.

Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream or freshly whipped cream.

 

 

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Recipe – Pasta with Porcini Mushrooms & Tomato

We haven’t had a great mushrooming year so far, partly due to lack of rain and too many wildfires. Luckily, past years yielded so much that I still have several jars of dried porcini, so with the first chilly morning of the season, I wanted to make a mushroom-y and satisfying pasta dish.

You don’t have to pick your own wild mushrooms – in fact unless you know what you’re doing I don’t advise it. Most good supermarkets sell small packets of assorted edible dried mushrooms. I particularly love porcini for their deeply savory, intense, earthy and almost meaty flavor – and they make the best mushroom sauce for pasta.

Canned Italian tomatoes are a cupboard staple for me and there’s always a good hunk of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese in my fridge. Combined with porcini, they create a robust and hearty supper dish that’s really easy to make.

Pasta with Porcini & Tomatoes

FUSILI WITH PORCINI & TOMATOES

(Serves 4)

Ingredients:

1 large shallot, finely minced

2 and 1/2 tablespoons of butter

1 tablespoon of vegetable oil

2 slices of pancetta, chopped

1.5 cups (360ml) of chopped Italian plum tomatoes, along with their juice

1 oz (28g) of dried porcini mushrooms

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1lb (450g) of uncooked pasta

Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese to serve

Action:

Start by soaking the dried porcini in 2 cups of hot water for 30 minutes. Strain the mushrooms, capturing all the liquid. Rinse the mushrooms under cold water, chop them coarsely and add them back to their soaking liquid.

Heat the butter and oil in a wide sauté pan until foaming then add the shallot and pancetta. Sauté gently, stirring until the shallot is translucent and the pancetta is golden.

Add the chopped tomatoes and their juice, the chopped mushrooms and their soaking liquid and a good grind of sea salt and black pepper.

Simmer gently, uncovered for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Check the seasoning.

Cook the pasta according to instructions, drain and toss with the sauce. Serve with plenty of grated Parm to pass around.

 

 

 

 

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Recipe – Zucchini, Lemon & Elderflower Cake

Let’s face it, zucchini (courgettes) are pretty tasteless and watery; for instance, if you want to roast them, they’ll need to be salted first to remove excess moisture and to ensure they keep their shape in the roasting pan. Then you’ll want to add garlic, tomatoes, onion, peppers, etc., because on their own they’re a bit ‘blah’.

However, firm young zucchini when grated and drained a bit (and squeezed to get rid of excess water), make a great addition to cake, yielding a moist result. You can then add other things for flavor such as chocolate, lemon, elderflower syrup and so-on.

Here’s a simple recipe for a wickedly moist and luscious cake but be sure to use young zucchini/courgettes only. Once they start to get a bit hefty their extra weight is all water, so just chop the big ones up and add to a salad.

Note: this cake is dairy-free.

Zucchini, Lemon & Elderflower Cake

ZUCCHINI (COURGETTE) LEMON & ELDERFLOWER CAKE

(Enough for 8-10 slices)

Ingredients:

1 and 1/4 cups (300ml measure) of fine (caster) sugar

6 tablespoons of a good, fruity, extra virgin olive oil

2 large eggs at room temp, lightly beaten

1/3 cup (80ml) of almond or coconut-vanilla milk

1 teaspoon of pure vanilla

2 cups of *cake flour, sifted together with:

1 and 1/4 teaspoons of baking powder

1/2 teaspoon of fine sea salt

1 and 1/2 cups (360ml measure) of grated zucchini that’s been drained for about 30 minutes then gently squeezed out to remove any excess moisture

4 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, divided

2 tablespoons of elderflower cordial mixed with 2 extra tablespoons of fresh lemon juice (optional)

2 tablespoons of finely grated lemon zest

1 level cup (240ml measure) of powdered (icing) sugar

Action:

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a 9″ x 5″ (23 x 13 cm) loaf pan and line it with parchment.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and sea salt in a bowl and set it aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk the olive oil together with the eggs and sugar until light and airy then whisk in the almond milk. Stir in the vanilla, lemon zest and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, followed by the sifted flour mixture. Fold everything together with a large metal spoon until combined, then stir in the shredded zucchini.

Scrape the batter into the loaf pan and bake for 45-55 minutes. Test with a toothpick or skewer – the cake is ready when a few crumbs stick to the skewer and the surface is lightly golden.

Pierce small holes over the surface of the warm cake with a toothpick and drizzle the elderflower-lemon juice mixture over the top. Cool in the pan for 20 minutes then lift out and cool completely on a rack.

One the cake is cool, stir the remaining 2 tablespoons of lemon juice into the powdered sugar and pour the glaze over the cake. Decorate with chopped candied citrus peel, toasted flaked almonds or whatever you like – or leave it simply glazed.

*Cake flour is slightly lighter that regular wheat flour. For every cup (240ml measure) of regular flour, replace 2 tablespoons with cornstarch/cornflour and sift together. That’s it.

 

 

 

 

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Recipe – Pasta with Smoked Trout, Broccoli & Lemon

Being landlocked in Colorado, our selection of available fresh fish leaves much to be desired but we do have excellent smoked Rocky Mountain trout.

The flavors of smoked trout, lemon, broccoli, anchovy and garlic, combine brilliantly to create a surprisingly hearty dish. All you’ll need to accompany this is some extra Parmigiano Reggiano to pass around – and perhaps warm crusty bread for the very hungry.

Note: a fish or seafood pasta dish is rarely offered with grated cheese, in fact it’s somewhat frowned upon. However, in this case it works beautifully but leave it out if you prefer.

Pasta with Smoked Trout & Broccoli

Spaghetti with Broccoli, Smoked Trout & Lemon

SPAGHETTI WITH SMOKED TROUT, BROCCOLI & LEMON

(Enough for 2-3)

Ingredients:

6 oz (150g) of your favorite pasta shapes

6 anchovy fillets in olive oil plus 1 taablespoon of their oil

2 fat cloves of garlic, minced

8oz (230g) of young broccoli, broken into small florets with some of the tender stalks, chopped

8 oz (230g) of smoked cooked trout, torn into bite sized pieces

Extra-v olive oil

The finely grated and chopped zest of 1 medium lemon

1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice

A good handful of flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

1-2 oz (30-60g) of grated Parmigiano Reggiano plus extra to pass around

Freshly ground black pepper

Action:

Bring a big pan of salted water to a rapid boil and drop in the broccoli. let it simmer for 4 minutes then remove and set it aside. Use the water for the pasta.

While the pasta is cooking per instructions, heat the anchovy oil, anchovies and crushed garlic together in a wide pan, breaking up the anchovy fillets, until you have a lovely fragrant mush.

Add the drained broccoli and give everything a good stir over a low heat, then add the smoked trout and a few tablespoons of the pasta cooking water, followed by the cooked pasta. Drizzle a little extra-v olive oil over and toss well to combine.

Add the lemon juice, lemon zest, parsley and a good grind of black pepper. Continue to toss, then add the grated cheese, giving it a final toss before serving in warmed bowls – with extra cheese passed around.

 

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Recipe – Quick & Easy Cheese Crackers

I recently made the mistake of buying some frozen puff pastry vol-au-vent cases thinking I was buying a puff pastry sheet.  I wasn’t in the mood for making vol-au-vents, nor deciding what to stuff into them, so I rolled them out into thin sheets, sprinkled with finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano and a dash of cayenne, then folded and rolled again…

These are lovely little crispy, flaky-cheesy bites with a bite; perfect served with a chilled glass of wine.

The trick is to prevent them from puffing up, as you’ll see – but overall, this is a very simple recipe that’s a perfect way to use up any puff pastry you may find lurking in the back of your freezer.

You’ll need two cookie/baking sheets of equal size.

Quick and Flaky Cheese Crackers

QUICK FLAKY CHEESE CRACKERS WITH CAYENNE

Ingredients:

A sheet of frozen puff pastry, thawed

1-2oz (28-56g) of finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano or sharp cheddar, mixed with dash of cayenne (optional)

A sprinkle of finely milled sea salt

Action:

Preheat the oven to 425F / 220C

On a lightly floured board, roll out the pastry until it’s very thin and trim it into a neat rectangle. Sprinkle the cheese and cayenne over half of the pastry and fold the remaining half over. Roll again until the cheese is well distributed.

Cut into small squares or rectangles and arrange on a cookie sheet lined with baking parchment; scatter a little sea salt over the pastry squares, then cover with another piece of baking parchment.

Place the second cookie sheet on top. This will prevent the pastry from puffing up but will still give you a crispy cracker.

Bake for 18-20 minutes until golden, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

These crisp little nibbles will keep for a week in an airtight container at room temperature.

 

Posted in Cookies & Edible Gifts, Salads & Appetizers | 1 Comment

Recipe – 5-Minute Ice Cream

It’s so hot right now in Colorado. Flaming hot, to be precise. All I can think of is a soothing dish of ice cream to take my mind of our wildfires.

My sister made me this for me a couple of weeks ago and I was amazed by how delicious it was – not to mention simple to make. All you need is a freezer and a food processor, Vitamix, or Nutri-Bullet-type blender.

And you must like bananas.

I didn’t add sugar because I don’t think it needs it but if you want something sweeter, use maple or agave syrup. This is not so much a recipe, more a frozen blend of your favorite fruit. A splash of half and half, coconut milk or whatever your creamy bev of choice happens to be (mine is half and half)  followed by a few pulses in the blender – and you can eat it right away.

For a firmer ice, scrape the mixture into a container and freeze for 30 minutes.

Another option would be to replace the frozen berries with a dollop of creamy peanut butter, a tiny splash of pure vanilla and a scoop of organic cacao powder. Really, the possibilities are endless.

Keep a supply of frozen bananas slices in your freezer – they’re great in smoothies as well.

FIVE MINUTE ICE CREAM

5-Minute Ice Cream

5-MINUTE ICE CREAM with FROZEN BANANAS & BERRIES

(Makes 2 generous servings)

Ingredients:

2 ripe (but not overripe) bananas, peeled, cut into slices, then frozen

A handful of frozen blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, etc

4-8 fl oz (225-250ml) of liquid such as soy, almond or coconut milk – or for a slightly creamier result, use half and half or real cream

Maple or agave syrup to taste if you think it needs it

Action:

Put the frozen fruit in the blender with a small amount of the liquid and pulse. Add more liquid and pulse again until you have a soft ice cream consistency. Add sweetener to taste, pulse once more and transfer it to the freezer – or eat it right away if you can’t wait.

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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