SIMPLE PINK & CREAMY RHUBARB FOOL

 

 

This simple pink & creamy rhubarb fool is made with the first picking of the most tender and pink rhubarb. These beautiful stems are a fleeting delight and are just starting to appear around now in my vegetable garden. Later in the season the stems will be tougher & not so pinky (although still delicious to eat) so you only have a short window of opportunity to pick it. Remember to pull the stems away from the plant (gently) rather than cutting them off. Take care also when cooking it as it needs a gentle touch or you will end up with a mush and you will lose the lovely pink colour- you have been warned. I have used Greek yoghurt for a  lighter version of the pudding but you can use whipped double cream if you prefer.

Serve with some little homemade shortbread biscuits.  Search for my recipe for Lavender shortbread thins and instead of the lavender substitute a small amount of finely ground, edible rose petals to make the prettiest biscuits to serve with this pretty dessert -is that pretty enough for you?

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LIGHTLY SPICED MOROCCAN LENTIL PIE

Easy meet free dish
Moroccan Filo Pie

 

This lightly spiced Moroccan pie but it can easily be made spicier by adding something like mango chutney or a hotter sauce. Pulses can be bland & usually need more additional flavourings than you think. It’s a good dish to make for those that don’t like meat and you can freeze it ahead of time. Handling the filo can be tricky but don’t worry if it all goes pear-shaped you can just use it scrunched up as long as you try to brush the butter between the layers.

I like to serve it as part of a vaguely inspired ‘Moroccan’ meal with grated carrot & cumin salad, cooked beetroot in yoghurt, flatbreads (sweet with honey & fennel seeds or savoury with seas salt & rosemary) etc. Lovely, easily  prepared food to share.

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CREAMY GRUYERE & LEEK & WALNUT TARTLETS

 

 

These little tartlets look impressive with light puff pastry cases and a creamy filling and, take my word for it, they are quite delicious to eat.

Serve as a starter or light lunch with a crunchy salad and crusty bread.  If you are catering for vegetarian for your Christmas dinner these can be served with all the trimmings. The little cases could be used for all sorts of tartlets. Try other fillings such as roasted peppers & tomatoes or caramelized onions just remember that the filling must be cooked before you put it into the cases. Pair your filling with any sort of melting cheese such as Brie or Camembert Continue reading “CREAMY GRUYERE & LEEK & WALNUT TARTLETS”

SIMPLE SMOKED TROUT MOUSSE

Smoked Trout Mousse

 

This smoked trout mousse can be served as an elegant starter or it’s perfect for a light lunch.  It can be made with smoked mackerel which is much more economical (and has a stronger flavour) but for a special occasion, the trout is lovely. It’s a handy recipe to have as you can make it a few days ahead, indeed the flavour develops so this is preferable anyway or you can freeze it.  Serve with warm melba toasts. Splendid.

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HOMEMADE BASIL PESTO A TASTE OF SUMMER

 

 

Homemade Basil Pesto

 

When I started writing this post we were basking in sunny weather now it’s a tad cooler and damp…I’m not complaining we have had lots of sunshine in Cumbria this year. I’m planning to enjoy some summery food and this homemade basil pesto really is a taste of summer. 

It takes me back to sunny Italian holidays where beautiful food and eating together were really at the heart of family life. Here the homemade pasta itself was very important and was served with just a tiny amount of sauce rather than being flooded with sauce as is more the case here. Indeed it was often just served with oil and parmesan. The key was good quality pasta either fresh or a superior variety.  Here we can buy better quality ones such as Barilla or De Cecco made from the finest durum wheat. For some strange reason I’ve often found this in bargain shops such as Poundland, so if you see it you can stock up! 

Cook the pasta in lots of salty water in a big pan and don’t overcook it, it should be served ‘al dente’ -with a bit of bite when you test it. to You do need a lot of basil so, if you have a greenhouse,  you could make a mental note to grow your own next year.  Traditionally the pesto is made in a mortar and pestle but I am using a food processor for ease.

Give it a go and I promise that you too will be transported to sunnier climes.

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CHOCOLATE & MARASCHINO CHERRY GATEAU

 

This CHOCOLATE & MARASCHINO GATEAU is a party pudding, one to impress and it does take some time and dedication to make but, as they say,  it’s worth it. I’ve followed my mother’s own recipe (with a few tweaks of mine) which seemed appropriate with Mother’s day coming up soon.  It was her take on the famous Black Forest gateau and would always be an impressive ending to her dinner parties. We children were so disappointed if ‘they’ finished it all and there were no leftovers! I hope that she would have been impressed with my effort to reproduce it.

 

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CARROT AND ORANGE SOUP OH SO SIMPLE

carrot and orange soup

Could this delicious soup be any easier to make? It ticks all the boxes for me; cheap to make, nutritious, 20 mins to make, one pan, family friendly, no meat, no dairy….I’m running out of positives and so far I haven’t come across any negatives.

I made this for a cookery demonstration on family-friendly healthy meals. The following week I was stopped by a lady in the street (we are a friendly lot in Cumbria). She explained that her granddaughter absolutely refused to eat any vegetables at all but now she was asking for this soup every time she visited -and that, my friends, is one of the greatest culinary achievements of my life.

If you want to make it into a more substantial meal it is lovely with homemade crispy cheesy croutons.

OH SO SIMPLE CARROT AND ORANGE SOUP

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FESTIVE PORK AND PISTACHIO TERRINE

 

This terrine is favourite ‘make ahead’ Christmas dish of mine as it freezes very well and I like to have a stash of ready-made meals to whip out when I am too busy enjoying the Christmas festivities to spend too much time in the kitchen. You could have it as a starter or as a light lunch. It’s a poor photo but you can see how to construct the terrine and what it looks like before you cook it in the oven.

The secret of a good terrine relies on plenty of fat and plenty of seasoning. Pressing it down after cooking makes for a more compact terrine in which the juices are well spread through the pate and it is much easier to slice. Leave it for at least a day before serving to allow the flavours to develop.

And here is the finished terrine looking splendidly festive!

Pork & Pistachio Terrine

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HALLOWEEN CREEPY SPIDERS!

 

Halloween creepy chocolate spiders

I just have to look at these Halloween Creepy Spiders to make me smile……..and they are fun to make and decorate especially for little fingers.  They would be a fun project for the half term holidays. 

I always loved (and still do) Halloween and Bonfire night and I can still feel the excitement that I did as a child!

We followed the Scottish tradition of ‘guising’ rather than the more American ‘trick or treating’ – you had to put some effort in before you got a reward! So it was either a song or a dance or you read a poem as this was regarded rather odd in Yorkshire we got away with mumbling a few words that were vaguely poetic before we held out our hands but we did go to town with the handmade costumes!  Bonfire night was next on the children’s calender of very exciting things. I know nowadays it is considered risky to have your own bonfire and much  ‘safer’ (probably) to go to an organised event but this misses the point. Where is the building excitement of scavenging for wood etc to burn on the fire and then building the fire (I think we had help with this part!), not to mention the anxiety that someone may maliciously set fire to it before the night.  Even more important to me was the lovely food that was associated with bonfire night, toffee apples, parkin, cinder toffee, sausages and homemade soup. Given the opportunity to go and see a spectacular firework display I’d rather stay home have a tiny fire, a packet of sparklers and the nice food any day!

Somewhere in between was the, much, more serious-Mischief night. I think this was a Yorkshire custom or at least Northern as I haven’t heard anyone else doing it other than in these areas. Opinions vary as to whether it was the night before Halloween or the night before Bonfire night. When I talk about it nowadays it always gives rise to a fair amount of consternation and tut tutting and a  lot of taking the moral high ground. Hm..mm,  it was, however,  fairly tame and ‘just’ mischief such as taking gates off hinges (putting jam under the bars of your gate usually protected yours if you were lucky), ringing doorbells and drawing smiley faces (only with lipstick) on the round orbs on some neighbour’s gate posts………………..nothing to get too worked up about unless you were that way inclined

Just to get things going I would start with these lovely chocolate spiders….

HALLOWEEN CREEPY SPIDERS

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A (TINY) TASTE OF MOROCCO

 

 

A warm welcome with fresh mint tea

I loved my recent trip to Morocco. I knew that I would love the food and it met all my expectations and more.

Moroccan food is a fusion of Berber (tagine & couscous), Arab (fruit and nuts), Moorish (pastilla-pastries with meat, eggs or a sweet filling) and Jewish (marqa Hzina, Dfina, Chakchouka)

Generally, it is quite sweet with fruit, either dried; dates and apricots or fresh; peaches, kiwi, figs etc., and a lot of nuts such as almonds, argan, pistachio and pine nuts.

Good morning Homemade yogurt (Raib) with orange blossom water

We enjoyed wonderful breakfasts (no need for lunch) with homemade yoghurts flavoured with orange blossom water (who can resist anything made with orange blossom water or, for that matter, rose water..not me). Homemade breads and pancakes were served with goat’s cheese, quince jams and olives.  Small dishes of olive or argan oil were set out as well as honey –perfect for dipping into with the lovely bread.  Argan oil was a new discovery; this is a rich, nutty oil, made from the kernels of the Argan nut grown in a particular region of Morocco –Essaouira.  It is used widely in cooking and for dipping as well as in many beauty & health products.  Interestingly the oil production involves only women, working mainly in cooperatives, giving them some autonomy & income in this deeply patriarchal society

Homemade breads

Referencing the country’s French colonial past –we enjoyed flaky croissants with almond and honey or pastries with dark chocolate and pistachio nuts…absolutely delicious! And mint tea was usually served with small cakes & biscuits which were more Arabic, often deep fried and then dipped in honey with e.g. sesame seeds or ground almonds.      

Tagine with couscous

The most common dish served is the tagine which is a sort of stew or casserole. The tagine actually refers to the traditional conical dishes made of earthenware. Popular tagines were e.g. lamb with quince or dried apricots or beef with prunes & eggs with and are cooked very slowly (preferably over charcoal) with many different spices and then eaten with homemade bread and couscous.  We were lucky enough to be served one in traditional Berber home with bread straight from the oven.  My favourite (and the one I made in the cookery school*) was a tagine of chicken with preserved lemons and olives with various pepper spices, ginger, turmeric and saffron.

Market day -spices, vegetables & fresh pomegranate juice

Moroccan cooking is so fragrant with time and great care spent in getting the correct and best mix of spices and herbs. We saw wonderful displays of spices in the markets including saffron the most expensive spice of all.  Fortunately, you don’t use much at a time and it was much cheaper than you would buy it here.  Most famous of the spice mix is the Ras Elhanout which is a blend of up to 35 different spices including various peppers, cumin, star anise, coriander, ginger, iris root and nigella. Fresh orange juice is available at every food market as well as fresh pomegranate juice, which was delicious. Alongside were street food stalls selling egg sizzling kebabs, stuffed pastilla, harira soup, chickpea baguettes and…….when you are exhausted from looking around a quick sit down with………..even………………………more fresh mint tea. It is really refreshing but is usually served very sweet so we learnt to ask for it without the sugar.

Tuna & egg salad with homemade flat bread

We were never offered any choice as what to eat and always told (very charmingly) that we would be brought wonderful, Moroccan food to eat–and we were.

 I was very taken with the Moroccan people, they were kind, gentle and respectful with a measured tolerance…………….we could (should) learn a lot from them. Plus anyone who decorates my food table with fresh rose petals every day should really be cherished.

*Cookery class at La Maison Arabe :

http://www.lamaisonarabe.com/en/ateliers-cuisine.html

In Marrakesh we stayed at the delightful traditional Riad Ilayka

https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotel_Review-g293734-d650805-Reviews-Riad_Ilayka-Marrakech_Marrakech_Tensift_El_Haouz_Region.html