Archive for the ‘At the market’ Category

Green asparagus with spring onions

10 June 2021

Some dishes are ideas more than recipes, they creep into our lives unawares.

I have had a few favourite asparagus recipes, and written about them, each time touting their priviledged status and every time I was completely sincere. And here I am, with yet another ‘favourite’. Seasons and appetites change, new preferences do not preclude lasting affections.

I made this simple dish last year, probably guided by the entrails of our fridge: asparagus and spring onions being (again this year) our spring staples. It remained etched in the margins of my cook’s memory. This year, it’s all I’ve wanted to do with asparagus.

Perfect company for an easy barbecue, it could also be cooked on the fire, but our balcony-intended cast-iron grill is too small and barely fits steak for six, so I make it in a skillet on the stove.

Asparagus with spring onions recipe

A rule of thumb for quantities is one third spring onions to two thirds asparagus

Asparagus (see note on quantities above)
Spring onion (see note on quantities above)
Olive oil
Soya sauce
Flaky sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Trim the tough ends of the asparagus stalks; rinse in cold water.

Trim the roots and leaf tips of the spring onions (I like to also remove one layer if it’s starting to wilt). Rinse the onions to remove any grit. With the blunt side of a wide knife, flatten (crush) the spring onions lengthwise.

In a large bowl, combine the asparagus and spring onions with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, a discreet splash of soya sauce, pinch of salt, and lots of black pepper. Toss to ‘dress’ the vegetables.

If using a barbecue, grill the vegetables / if using a skillet, add a bit of olive oil and fry over high heat for 5 to 7 minutes until the vegetables are nicely coloured and still firm.


Pear and apple butter

19 February 2021

Or food like therapy.

I like to think I’m an optimist, try to see the upside, focus on the good bits. I hate to wallow or complain, I have little reason to. This year has tested that.

And, the other day, I sank as far to that bottom as I ever will. I felt very sorry for myself. The UK seemed to be drifting away from the world even farther, with travel restrictions tougher, multiple mandatory tests imposed, hotel quarantines looming, all of which put the possibility of just crossing the water to go ‘home’ — always a basic reassuring given — more and more in question.

When, serendipitously, a friend left a bag with three kilos or pears on our doorstep.

It took me a couple of days to decide what to make of it, until the option presented itself as self-evident: pear and apple butter (I always have lots of apples on hand). I had never made it. I’m not sure I had ever had it. In fact, I sort of thought I was making something else: Apelstroop — or thick apple syrup, which I now realise is something different, made just with apple juice rather than purée.

Making apple butter is at once very easy and very time consuming. It is exactly the type of project to undertake at that moment when there is absolutely nothing to do, and no place to go. It is mindless. Meditative. And smells extremely good.

It was a bit of a springboard. Thanks, Claire!

Pear and apple butter barely adapted from Do Preserve by Anja Dunk, Jen Goss, and Mimi Beaven

2kg pears (it is also possible to use only apples, if that’s what you have)
1.6 kg apples
18 cloves
250ml (1 cup) water
60g sugar
120ml (1/2 cup) maple syrup
Juice from 1 lemon

Wash the fruit and chop it all up into medium chunks, peel, core, and all.

Place the chunks of fruit in a large saucepan with 250ml of water and the cloves. Cook until completely soft, about half an hour, stirring occasionally all the way to the bottom of the pan.

Pass through a food mill to obtain a soft purée.

Return the purée to wide pot, add the sugar, maple syrup, and lemon juice, and cook over low heat, stirring nearly continuously, especially as the purée thickens, For.A.Good.Long.While. A few hours probably, for that quantity, until the purée has become a dark brick spreadable ‘butter’.

Store in sterilised jars and keep in the fridge (Or process the jars for long conservation).

Chard gratin

8 October 2020

October 8th. I’ve developed quite a crush on this dish since this August, when our friends brought us a big bunch of chard from their garden. I made a gratin, Louise had SIX helpings, which echoed what everyone was feeling, though we were perhaps not as quick. It has now settled into our regular weeknights.

Chard gratin

750g chard
75g butter
3 Tbsps flour (I usually use spelt though a traditional béchamel would be with wheat, and white or wholemeal depending on my mood)
500ml milk
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg
1 garlic clove
A little olive oil or butter for the pan
Grated cheese, preferably gruyère

Preheat the oven to 175°C.

Trim the rough ends of the stalks and any bits of damaged leaves, chop the chard into roughly 2cm (3/4 inch) strips, wash in cold water, and dry thoroughly ( I use a salad spinner).

To make the béchamel: Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the flour and stir continuously with a wooden spoon until the flour and butter lump together and create a mass. Continue cooking briefly, then add the milk, one large splosh at a time, stirring continuously, until all the milk is used up. If the béchamel still looks quite thick, add some water until the consistency is edging towards runny.

Now season the béchamel with a generous pinch of salt, pepper, and freshly grated nutmeg. Taste and adjust.

Rub an ovenproof dish with the garlic clove and grease the dish with a very little bit of olive oil (or butter). Add all the chard, it should seem as if it’s too much => It will reduce a lot while it cooks. Pour the béchamel over the chard as evenly as possible so everything is covered. Now sprinkle enough grated cheese to cover the whole gratin in a thin layer.

Slide into the oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the top is golden.

Goes well with good sausages or a sturdy fish such as salmon.

‘Save the plums’ jam

6 October 2020

October 6th. Reliably, like every year in early October, there is a bowl full of old plums in my kitchen. They are already at varying degrees of bruised, shrivelled, and slightly alcoholic. They’ve been there for a week. I don’t think it’s intentional, but always during the last shimmer of plum season I buy lots, and only ever manage to save them in the nick of time, with jam.

I cut up the plums yesterday, mixed them with just under half their weight in sugar, added the juice of one lemon, and let them macerate overnight in the fridge, stirring once or twice as the sugar tends to slide to the bottom.

Now to figure out whether to add anything. I usually turn to ginger or bay leaf with plums, but today I am wondering — cardamom?

Save the plums’ jam

1kg plums
850g light brown sugar
Juice from 1 lemon
Optional: 6 pounded cardamom pods / one or two bay leaves / finely cut ginger

Wash and pit the plums. In a bowl, mix together the plums, sugar, lemon juice, and the spices or herbs if using. Cover and leave to macerate overnight in the fridge. Stir once or twice as the sugar will sink to the bottom.

The next day, transfer the mixture to a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring to a boil, and cook at a lively simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring regularly.

Meanwhile, in another pan half-filled with water, bring to a boil and sterilize 3 or 4 jars for 5 minutes.

Once the simmer slows down and the jam is ready, scoop the jam into the jars and close the lid immediately.

[ => To check that the jam is setting, place a spoonful in a saucepan in the fridge for a few minutes and check that the liquid is starting to run thick.]

Wait a few weeks, if possible, before using.

Earlier ‘save-the-plums’ jam ventures:

Greengage plum jam with lemon and bay leaf
Damson and Victoria plum jam with lemon and ginger
Plum jam with candied ginger

Plum cake with lemon and buckwheat

5 October 2017

IMG_5809

Autumn is here, majestically, and there are just a few more chances to eat plums before apples and pears, like cuckoos displacing another’s eggs, occupy our fruit baskets until spring.

In this season, plums signal cake — a streak of autumn riding on the rays of summer; the rhythmic reassurance of an oven heating after months of outdoor grilling and barely any cooking.

And to the point, I already have at least one October plum cake on these pages somewhere. It is a fine plum cake, but there can never be too many, and as a genuine ritual it bears validation.

Like many of my cakes, this one is easy. It is loosely based on a basic pound cake recipe, simply transmogrified by those plums, some lemon zest, and a scattering of buckwheat. An astonishing combination.

IMG_5723

Plum cake with lemon and buckwheat

240g butter
Juice and zest from one lemon
1 lb (450g) plums (one or a combination of greengages, Victoria plums, Italian plums, quetsches but not the plump watery supermarket varieties that have no taste)
200g light brown sugar plus one or two tablespoons for the plums
4 large eggs
100g flour
50g buckwheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
100g ground almonds (or almond flour)

Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F). Line with parchment paper and butter generously a 25cm (9″) round cake form.

Let the butter soften at room temperature.

Zest and juice the lemon. Set aside.

Wash, cut, and stone the plums. Toss the quarters with the lemon juice (not the zest!) and one or two tablespoons of sugar. Set aside.

Beat the softened butter and sugar thoroughly with a wooden spoon until creamy.

Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring well between each egg. Once all the eggs are incorporated, add the flours together with the baking powder, then the ground almonds and the lemon zest.

Gently add the plums to the batter and stir to combine. Scrape into the prepared cake tin, slide into the oven, and bake for about 40 to 50 minutes. The cake will be done when a knife/toothpick/skewer comes out clean (the juicier the plums, the longer it may take).

Let cool a little or completely before serving. As always, thick yogurt or clotted cream are fine companions.


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