Vietnamese Spring Rolls

Vietnamese Spring RollsMy Christmas consisted mainly of something I like to call ‘chain snacking’. No sooner was my right hand picking the last of the mince pie crumbs off my expanding belly, I would find my other hand ferreting tentacle-like in the box of salted caramels nearby.  My right hand, not to be outdone, would then search out a cube of Turkish delight and be ready to shotgun it before the caramel had even had the chance to cling to one of my teeth. I suspect I looked like a combination of Homer Simpson and Vishnu, each of my 8 hands tossing the next treat into open jaws while a bowling ball sized lump expanded steadily at my midriff.

So now it is time for penance, and it will take more than holding of the breath and prodding of the belly to loosen these trousers. But the depths of winter is no time to turn to salads, so we must instead make comfort foods that are satisfying and wholesome, yet light. Most importantly, we cannot sacrifice flavour, otherwise our snouts will be back in the biscuit box before you can say oompa loompa. Continue reading

Purple Sprouting Broccoli

Purple Sprouting Broccoli

The first show of these cheery green stalks with their flowery purple heads is the sign that summer is on its way, and the stubborn root vegetables that have been squatting in the vegetable drawer all winter will soon be replaced with an array of brightly coloured and richly flavoured British produce.

Purple sprouting broccoli reaches a peak around mid April – it’s available from March but the stems can be a little woody and may require some rather fiddly peeling.  By April, they’re tender all the way down to the end, and require delicate treatment and careful cooking, followed by eating with much gusto and slurping. Continue reading

A Life In Food – Recipes – Gluten Free Salmon Fishcakes with Beetroot & Radish Salsa

salmon fishcakes with beetroot salsa

Gluten Free Salmon Fishcakes with Beetroot & Radish Salsa

Better late than never!  Here is the promised second beetroot recipe, not exactly focused on beetroot but nevertheless, the little purple chaps are definitely in there somewhere.

This a variation on several Italian themed fishcake recipes using polenta.  I have seen a version that uses salt cod, also soaking the polenta in hot water and including in the main mix (in Maxine Clark’s Flavours of Tuscany). Nigella Lawson’s recipe recommends the use of tinned salmon over fresh fish, and let’s be honest, we should be grateful for some way of using the otherwise inedible pink tinned mush (though I’ve found it goes well on rye bread with watercress if you use just the first 6 ingredients below)… Continue reading

Warm Beetroot and Butternut Squash Salad with Fresh Pesto Dressing

Beetroot and Butternut Squash Salad

This is a hearty and robust warm beetrot and butternut squash salad with pesto dressing that makes a great addition to any meal.

On opening my laptop a few days ago, the first message of the day was from eat the seasons, cheerily but firmly instructing me to ‘eat BEETROOT’.  Who could argue with such advice? I love their emails, they really help you to get a feel for the seasonal food of the time that leeches into your consciousness, and you know you will definitely eat BEETROOT if the chance arises.

Truth being, I never stopped eating beetroot.  A few weeks ago I put out a teaser of all the vegetables I bought from Riverford Farm Shop, promising recipes in abundance which I failed to deliver.  Well, now’s the time to come good on my promise – two, yes TWO recipes if not dedicated to, then at least containing that humble purple rogue – the beetroot.  Say goodbye to that crystal white choppping board, and say hello to rich earthy goodness.

Warm Beetroot and Butternut Squash Salad with Pesto Dressing

2 Beetroot
1 Butternut Squash
A Handful of baby spinach leaves
1 chicory bulb
Other mild flavoured salad leaves such as Lambs lettuce

Pesto dressing

1 good handful of basil leaves
1 tbsp pine nuts, toasted in a dry pan
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp grated parmesan
1 clove of garlic

1. Preheat the oven to 180 C.
2. Place the two beetroot in the middle of a roasting tray, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and place two sprigs of rosemary or thyme on them.  Roast for around 1 hour until the beetroot has softened but still remains slightly firm throughout (use a skewer to test).
3. Meanwhile chop the butternut squash (don’t peel it!) into chunks about the length of the beetroot – you’ll eventually be chopping the beetroot into wedges too, and you want them to all be a similar size.   Toss in olive oil.
4. Halfway through cooking the beetroot scatter the butternut squash around them, sprinkle with salt and pepper and return to the oven for the remaining 30 minutes.
5. Once cooked (the butternut squash will be lightly browned and caramelised), remove from the oven and set aside and keep warm – the vegetables should still be warm for the salad, but not hot.

roast beetroot and squash in the roasting tray

6. Make the pesto by toasting the pine nuts in a dry pan until golden brown all over, then puree in a small food processor or pestle and mortar with the garlic, olive oil, basil and parmesan.  Taste the dressing and adjust any ingredients.
7. Arrange the chicory, baby spinach and leaves in a salad bowl.  Add the beetroot and butternut squash, then drizzle over the dressing.  If you want some additional sharpness, toss in a tablespoon of red wine vinegar.  Mix together thoroughly and serve warm.
tossing the salad

This is a great recipe that would go equally well with Roast Turkey, a vegetarian Christmas Roast, or as a hearty and robust addition to any meal.  The next recipe will follow soon (ish) !

Links: Eat The Seasons, Riverford Farm Shop
Twitter: @RiverfordShops

Wild Mushroom & Madeira Sauce

 Wild Mushroom & Madeira Sauce

I feel somewhat guilty about calling this ‘wild’ mushroom sauce, having read Mark Williams post on his excellent and informative site Galloway Wild Foods about restaurants habitually claiming any remotely unusual mushroom ingredient to be ‘wild’ when they are no more wild than than a punnet of mushrooms from the local supermarket.  I accept it entirely – I’m only adding on the wild bit because it sounds better than ‘mushroom and madeira sauce’.   Shameless really, though I do recommend if you can actually find some wild mushrooms this autumn then use them instead of the shitake. I tried it with dried porcini but they took over the flavour too much, which is a shame as then I could have legitimately called it wild mushroom sauce…

Anyway, guilt aside, it’s a lovely rich yet light (is that possible?) sauce that would go fabulously with lamb or as a gravy for a vegetarian sunday roast.  This recipe is dedicated to @moretomushrooms and their hard work throughout October, the month of mushrooms!

Ingredients

1 finely chopped shallot
1/2 finely chopped carrot
same volume of finely chopped celery
small cube of butter and 2tsp olive oil
1tsp sea salt
1 tbsp worcester sauce (vegetarian and gluten free version if needed)
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
500ml vegetable stock
1.5 tbsp cider vinegar
2 bay leaves
2 ‘sprigs’ of sage
200g shitake mushrooms (wild looking ones)
butter and olive oil
salt and pepper
juice of one lemon
100ml of madeira
1 tsp of cornflour
2 tbsp finely chopped parsley

  1. Mix madeira and cornflour thoroughly and set aside.
  2. Lightly saute first 5 ingredients in small saucepan for 10 minutes
  3. Add stock, worcester sauce, balsamic vinegar, sage and bay leaves.
  4. Cook mixture until reduced by 1/3, add cider vinegar, continue to cook for 5 minutes
  5. Meanwhile, tear shitake mushrooms into 3 pieces per mushroom,
  6. Heat small cube of butter and olive oil in pan then add the mushrooms. cook for 5 minutes, turning only a couple of times.
  7. Add salt and pepper to taste, squeeze of lemon juice, then add the reduced stock, and the madeira/cornflour mix, check and adjust seasoning.
  8. Add parsley just before serving and stir.  Serve with lamb or roasted portabello mushrooms.

Smoky Chipotle Paella – Warming Autumnal Fare

smoky chipotle paella

After a summer trip to Valencia, and a rather beautiful Paella Valenciana, I’ve been inspired to come up with my own alternative interpretation.  Paella was traditionally cooked over wood from orange trees which gave it a smoky aroma, so I’ve used smoked ‘Chipotle Meco’ chillies to try and reproduce this effect.  Chipotle Meco are Jalapeno chillies that have been smoked for long periods of time (often several days) to impart a really smoky and rich flavour that can do incredible things to a dish.  They’re quite rare, and most of them don’t get outside Mexico (the chipotle more often seen in the UK are the smaller and cheaper ‘Chipotle Morita’ variety).  Handily I have a small store that I sell them through on ebay, so I always have plenty to hand!!

The dish is medium hot, a mild version can be made by using only 1 chipotle meco chilli.  This version contains no meat, but is richly flavoured thanks to the chipotle chilli – feel free to use chicken stock and add meat if you like, I’d recommend rabbit or hare in the spirit of the original recipe (they’re also at their best in Autumn), duck is also an option.  Use seasonal greens, and add green beans or runner beans if they’re still in season.  Remember – whatever you think the authentic paella is, it probably isn’t, so experiment!

RICE

1 shallot
2 carrots
1 long red pepper
1 small chilli pepper, deseeded
olive oil
1-2 chipotle meco chillies
1 pint (568ml) vegetable stock
1 tsp tumeric
1tsp paprika
250g short grain rice (paella rice or
arborio)

GREENS

1 handful sliced kale (cavolo nero if in season)
1 handful sliced pointed cabbage or savoy cabbage
small handful frozen green peas
juice of 1 lemon

CHIPOTLE FINISHING SAUCE

1 tsp fennel seeds
9 black peppercorns
1-2 tsp sea salt crystals
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1tsp red wine vinegar
soaked reserved chipotle from
above

1. Put the chipotle meco chillies into a pan with the hot vegetable stock and turmeric and keep on a low heat.

2. Meanwhile, dice the shallots, carrots, peppers and chillies and fry in olive oil with the paprika over a medium heat for 10-15 minutes.

3. Add the rice, stir for 5 minutes until coated.

4. Remove the chipotle chillies and reserve, then add the vegetable stock to the rice mixture. Put the lid on and cook for 10 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, slice the greens and place in a bowl with frozen peas and the lemon juice. Set aside.

6. Grind the dry dressing ingredients then add the reserved chipotle chillies, olive oil and vinegar and puree.

7. Add the greens to the rice mixture and cook for a further 5 minutes.

8. Take the rice mixture off the heat, stir through the finishing sauce, serve and enjoy!