No-knead focaccia

No-knead focaccia
I wanted to make some focaccia for an apéritif dinatoire the same day, and my sourdough starter was dozing in the fridge. What to do? A spot of research, and I found a no-knead recipe on the blog Un déjeuner de soleil — in French, but written by an Italian. It looked just the ticket — quick and easy, with little hands-on time. I was very impressed by the result too — crisp on the outside, with a chewy, open crumb. It went down very well.

So here’s my English version. Note, it makes a very large focaccia. You could easily halve the recipe if there are only a couple of you. I have about a third of it left over, so I’ve frozen it and we’ll see how well it survives reheating.
Read More

Kedgeree

Kedgeree
This dish was one of my very regular standbys when I was a student: cheap, filling, nourishing. I always followed Delia Smith’s recipe, published in the Evening Standard in the mid-70s. I haven’t made it for years, mainly due to the impossibility of finding Finnan haddock in France. I got it once in Grand Frais a few years ago, but now they only seem to have French-produced bright yellow smoked haddock (a Brexit effect?). Still I decided to try it, and it’s a lot better than it looks. It doesn’t stain everything else bright yellow, and the actual flesh is white, albeit a tad over-salted.

So here’s the recipe. You can use other hot-smoked fish: kippers for example, or Arbroath smokies.
Read More

Sourdough blini

Sourdough bliniI came across this recipe via Google, and it’s such a quick and easy method of making blini, with good results, that I decided to record it. It doesn’t rely on the starter for rising, so you can use surplus starter straight from the fridge, or refreshed starter —- it doesn’t matter. The recipe makes a large quantity, but they keep well covered in the fridge for a couple of days, or you can freeze them. Reheat for 20 seconds or so in the microwave. As well as the obvious topping of smoked salmon and soft cheese, I like them with butter and honey, or maple syrup and cream.

Officially, blini are made using buckwheat flour (which is gluten-free), but if you don’t have any then wholemeal wheat flour is a fine substitute. And while they are quick and easy, try to plan ahead so you can keep the batter in the fridge overnight, or at least a few hours.
Read More

“Asian” salad


I think I could live on Spanish salads, at least in the summer months. They’re always so colourful, and usually include protein and a bunch of vitamins, with different textures and a balance of sweet and sharp. Fruit often features, especially on the Costa Tropical, where avocados and mangos are a major crop.

I’ve already featured ensalada tropical; this salad is one we had in our favourite restaurant, which describes it as “ensalada asiatica”. It doesn’t seem that Asian to me; I guess it’s because it features Thai sweet chilli sauce. This is Steve’s first attempt at replicating it, and it was a little on the sweet side; next time about half of the mango will be replaced with slices of orange, so that’s how I’ve written the recipe. It was absolutely delicious though. I’m normally ambivalent about prawns but these were amazing; I am a convert now.

The basic recipe is below; adjust quantities and proportions according to taste, and you don’t need to include all the elements as long as there’s a good balance of crisp, soft, sweet and sharp. Needless to say everything should be perfectly ripe. If you can’t get miel de caña (a very local product), pomegranate molasses or maybe reduced balsamic vinegar would be good substitutes.

We eat this as a starter, but you could make it a light main course.
Read More

Cheeseboard tart


After inviting friends for dinner we often find ourselves with a large amount of surplus cheese. On this occasion I was home alone with not much in stock for dinner other than a couple of eggs and the deteriorating remains of a week-old cheeseboard. So it was a pleasure to stumble across Rosie Birkett’s recipe in the Guardian a couple of days ago for precisely this situation — I had all the ingredients on hand except for pickled onions. It was so good I’m recording my slightly adapted version here in case the online version disappears. Gorgeous bubbling, gooey cheese, with a crunch and a bit of acidity added by celery and cornichons. A salad would be good with it.

You can use any cheese you have, hard or soft. I had no soft cheeses, but I had a couple of stubs of Pyrenean tomme, some Morbier, and an unidentified but fairly mild blue cheese.
Read More

Smoked haddock Monte Carlo

I first encountered this delicious dish in a cookbook called The Recipes That Made A Million, by Franco Lagatolla, published in 1978. Lagatolla ran a few swanky Italian restaurants in the smartest parts of London in the 1960s. There is lots of name-dropping featuring the likes of Princess Margaret, Gregory Peck, and Frank Sinatra. The fact that I still have it after multiple house moves is testament to the fact that it has some really good traditional Italian recipes in it. The beef olives for one, and an amazingly good albeit labour-intensive lasagne featuring meatballs with pine nuts, sultanas, and lemon zest in them.

This recipe is clearly not traditional Italian, but it’s one of the most sauce-stained pages in the book. I hadn’t made it for many years, decades even, due to lack of proper smoked haddock in France. Of course when I did buy some, I wasn’t at home but in the UK, so I recreated the recipe based on my memory and a bit of googling. Hence this is a bit different from the original but just as good, and quite easy to make. Well, if you don’t count the poached eggs, which must be proper ones, not done in an egg poacher. Cheffy hint: poach them in advance, set aside in a bowl of warm water, and have a pan of boiling water ready to reheat them for 30 seconds when you are ready to serve.

I didn’t measure anything, so quantities are vague depending on how many people you are feeding. Start with the assumption of about 200 g of haddock per person and work from there. No photo either, sorry!

Read More

Bosworth jumbles done wrong

Bosworth jumbles
I was browsing through my Evernote notebook of clipped recipes looking for suitable cakes for my Christmas charity cake stall, and came across a very brief recipe for Bosworth jumbles. No idea where I got it from. It sounded very easy, and I had all the ingredients, so I went for it.

I baked them in mini muffin moulds and I think they will be perfect. Just the right size to go with a cup of espresso, and a lovely texture midway between cake and shortbread. Before I started this blog post I decided to google them, hoping to find the source. I found several recipes, but unlike the one I had (“whack the mixture into a muffin tray”), they all said to shape them into an S-shape, with one outlier going for a figure 8. You can read about their history here.

Anyway, I will stick with my mini muffins. They are so easy — just be careful not to overbake or they will be hard rather than slightly crumbly. You could drizzle icing over them if you like — a simple icing of lemon juice and icing sugar would be good, and will use some of the juice of the lemons you zested. Other flavours will work too — orange zest, or simply vanilla for example.
Read More

Hazelnut pesto


I can’t even remember the last time I made pesto — it must be decades ago. I do usually have a jar of commercial pesto in the fridge for perking up pasta dishes though. I was impelled to try by the massive bush of basil in the tub outside the door — I’ve never had such a flourishing plant, while everything else wilts in the heat.

I had some leftover roasted hazelnuts from a salad, so I used those instead of pine nuts. Excellent idea — the toasty flavour really came through. And fresh pesto is an eye-opener — so zingy and green. If you have a food processor, that’s the obvious tool — I didn’t replace mine when it broke, so I used the mini chopper to start with and finished off with a stick blender. I’m not hardcore enough to use a mortar and pestle.

This recipe makes a small jar — it will keep for about a week in the fridge covered with a slick of olive oil, but it’s best to use as soon as possible.
Read More

Ukrainian Paska bread

After a long break from baking due to no oven, I was going to make some Hot Cross Buns, but then I stumbled across a recipe for Ukrainian Paska (Easter) bread, and it seemed a good moment to make this. I’m not at all familiar with Ukrainian cuisine, but it’s easy to see this is a typical enriched, brioche-style bread flavoured with citrus. This is a relatively plain one — apparently it’s common to include raisins, making it similar to a panettone (let’s not go there — I still haven’t succeeded with that).

I made a few changes. The quantity of dough in the original recipe is massive, so I halved it — apparently I don’t have as many friends as Marie does 🙂 The quantity below filled a standard loaf tin plus a tall 15-cm springform tin I bought to make panettone (still unused for that purpose!). I converted the cups to metric measurements. I added saffron because it didn’t seem right to do an Easter bread without that. I reduced the sugar because I’ve never encountered an American cake or sweet bread recipe that wasn’t far too sweet for me. And I had to adjust the amount of flour as I was using French T45 patisserie flour which I expect absorbs less liquid than US all-purpose does — the specified quantity gave me a very sloppy dough.

The end result looks great, and the crumb is very light. I was expecting the flavour to be a bit more punchy though — I couldn’t really taste the saffron, although it did make a nice golden crumb. If I make it again I’ll add more citrus zest and also some diced candied orange and lemon peel.

The bread keeps quite well in a plastic bag to keep it from drying out, and it also freezes well. I can confirm it makes good toast, and it will also be excellent as pain perdu or bread and butter pudding.

And finally, allow plenty of time for making and proving. Best to use a stand mixer, but of course you can do it by hand. It really needs to prove in a warm place, standard room temperature won’t do — I used the dough proof setting on my microwave and it worked brilliantly.

Read More

Roasted tomatoes with labneh

I’m posting this recipe mainly as an advert for Sabrina Ghayour’s book Simply. A revelation. I know next to nothing about Persian food, but this was a 99-centime Kindle deal. My first experience of a cookbook on Kindle too — I was very dubious, but it works pretty well on the iPad.

This is the first recipe in the book, and the first we tried. It’s a cracker. Within about three weeks we’ve had it three or four times. Making labneh was another first — I had no idea how easy it is. We now have jars of it preserved in olive oil.

Ingredients: I did find za’atar easily at the spice stall in the market. Pul biber (mild chili flakes, mainly produced in Turkey), an ingredient in many recipes in this book: nope. Eventually I bought some online, and it was well worth it; it brings a lovely smoky, complex flavour and I foresee I’ll be using it regularly. Alternatives: Mexican ancho pepper or (maybe) piment d’Espelette.

Again I urge you to try this, and then buy this book or any of her others. Such a burst of exotic, sunshiny flavours. A great tapa or starter.
Read More