Archive for the ‘Seasonal’ Category

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

Pear and almond cake with honey and cardamom

4 October 2020

October 4th. It’s been raining for days. Not a downpour, a steady mizzle. The occasional interruption a pause — a tease, to lure us outside — but never long enough to be safe from the next drizzle. Everything is steeped, the grass is shimmering.

Looking out, droplets dribbling down the window like sea spray, it feels like the earth may drown. We need a buoy. A book, a game, a film? A cake.

This recipe is a variation on one I found on the blog My Darling Lemon Thyme a few weeks ago while looking for a dairy-free pear cake (it happens to also be gluten-free). It’s an excellent recipe and I’ve used it a couple of times since for riffs and improvisations. This latest incarnation is worth writing down.

Almond and pear cake with honey and cardamom based on the Spiced Pear and Almond Cake from My Darling Lemon Thyme

4 eggs
120g (2/3 cup) soft brown sugar
Scraped seeds of one vanilla bean or a teaspoon vanilla extract
Zest from one lemon
80ml (1/3 cup) extra virgin olive oil
200g ground almonds
120g white spelt flour (or use 300g almonds and 45g rice flour)
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsps ground cardamom seeds
2 tsps ground ginger
Two generous pinches of salt
300g peeled and finely chopped pears (I had little pears and used 6 or 7 in total)
2 Tbsps runny honey
A handful of flaked (sliced) almonds
Icing sugar (optional) for dusting

Preheat oven to 180°C. Oil a cake tin and line it with parchment paper. [The quantity works for a 30 x 10cm loaf or 23cm round tin.]

Beat the eggs, sugar, and vanilla vigorously for 5 minutes.

Add the lemon zest and the olive oil gradually, beating to incorporate completely.

Add the ground almonds, sifted flour, baking powder, cardamom, one teaspoon of ginger, and the salt. Mix until just uniformly combined.

Peel, core, and cut the pears. Toss in a bowl with the honey and the other teaspoon of ginger.

Gently mix the pears into the batter, scrape the mix into the cake tin, and cover with the flaked almonds. Slide the cake into the oven and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until a knife or skewer comes out clean.

Let cool in the tin for about 10 minutes before de-moulding. Serve warm or at room temperature.

The cake keeps for a few days (at room temperature for about 24 hours and then preferably in the fridge).

Lamb with hummus, salad, and tahini

18 September 2019

For the last days of summer, a few more weeks of tomatoes and, with luck, another dinner or two outside.

I am incapable of meal planning; rather the opposite. I rarely know in the morning what we will have for dinner tonight, and who can possibly know on a Sunday what they will want to eat on Wednesday? I realize it makes much organizational sense, but food here is not so much a practical matter as an impulse and a craving, even within the confines and limits of the daily humdrum of cooking for six.

And so the necessity for fast food. One could of course have made the hummus and the flatbreads oneself, but that hasn’t so far fitted into the picture of having dinner ready in twenty minutes.

It’s a family favourite, through the ages. We make it often, while tomatoes last.

Lamb with hummus, salad, and tahini
I’ve not made hummus in a long time, though I’ve had a fantastic recipe for years, which I must eventually share

Tomatoes, cucumbers, and flat leaf parsley
Red onion (optional)
*
Light tahini (sesame paste)
Fresh lemon juice
Water
*
Onions (about half an onion per person)
Garlic (one small clove per person)
Olive oil
Salt, freshly ground black pepper
Minced lamb (about 100g per person)
Cumin and fennel seeds, ground in a mortar
*
Hummus (home made or good store bought)
*
Warm flatbread or other good bread to serve

For the tahini sauce: Put a few tablespoonfuls of tahini paste into a bowl, pour a little lemon juice, and stir. Incrementally add lemon juice and a little water, until the tahini has achieved a desired, runny consistency and just the right amount of acidity. **The tahini will initially thicken before it becomes runny with added liquid.**

For the salad: Wash and chop the tomatoes, cucumbers, and parsley into a salad. Very thinly slice the red onion, if using. Lightly season with olive oil and lemon juice.

For the lamb:
Peel and chop the onions. Smash, peel, and roughly chop the garlic.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy frying pan. Brown the onions over medium heat until just beyond deep golden, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and fry for a minute or two until translucent. Add salt and pepper. Remove the onions and garlic from the pan and set aside.

Turn up the heat to high and brown the meat, in batches if necessary. **The meat will release some liquid and start to stew rather than brown if the pan is too crowded.**drizzle

Mix the onions and garlic into the meat and season with cumin, fennel seeds, salt, and pepper.

To serve:

Slather the plate with one or two tablespoons of hummus. Place the spiced lamb over the hummus, then the salad, and, finally, drizzle some tahini. Serve with warm pita or toasted bread.

 

 

Edible gifts | Christine Ferber’s Christmas jam

29 November 2018

In her book Mes Confitures, Christine Ferber writes that her Christmas jam pays tribute to the tradition of berawecka, a fruit bread traditional in Alsace and neighboring German speaking countries during the holidays. It gives pride of place to the dried pears of the region and includes a plethora of other dried and candied fruits, nuts, and spices.

Indeed, this jam has no fewer than 21 ingredients! A fact that would ordinarily have me fleeing it like the plague. But in some instances, particularly around Christmas, my disposition mellows and I might find myself uncharacteristically drawn to somewhat tedious, day-long cooking challenges.

The reward, of course, is an unusual gift that unfurls in every bite, layer after layer, one fragrance after another, and which will hopefully, in an explosion of taste, convey all the affection (and time!) folded lovingly into each little jar.

Christine Ferber’s Christmas jam
Warning: this jam not only has 21 ingredients, it also takes 2 days to make!

1.7 kg quinces
1.7 kg (170 cl) water
1 kg caster sugar
200 g dried pears, very finely sliced
200 g dried figs
100 g dates
100 g prunes
200 g dried apricots
100 g raisins
50 g candied lemon peel
50 g candied orange peel
Juice from 1 untreated orange
3-4 pinches finely grated zest from an untreated orange
Juice from 2 untreated lemons
3-4 pinches finely grated zest from an untreated lemon
Pinch ground cinnamon
Pinch ground cardamon
5 g aniseed
150 g shelled walnuts
150 g blanched almonds

Wipe the quinces to remove all fuzz. Rince the fruit with water, remove the stalk and flower, and cut into quarters (do not peel or core the quince).

Place the quince quarters into a large (jam) pan and cover with 1.7 kg (170 cl) water.

Bring to a boil and simmer gently for an hour, stirring the quince around occasionally. Strain through a fine mesh sieve to gather 1.3 kg of juice.

Slice the dried pears very thinly and let them soak in the quince juice overnight.

The next day, pit and cut all the dried fruit as thinly as possible: figs, dates, prunes, and apricots. Finely dice the candied lemon and orange peel. Finely cut the angelica if using. Chop the walnuts and almonds.

Pour the quince juice and marinated pears back into the jam pan (or large heavy-bottomed saucepan). Add the sugar, and all the dried fruits (figs, dates, prunes, apricots, raisins), candied fruits (lemon and orange and angelica), citrus juices and zests, and spices.

Bring the jam to a boil, stirring continuously. Skim any foam that comes to the surface. Leave at a lively boil for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring continuously and skimming if necessary. **Do not overcook! 5 to 10 minutes is sufficient. My batch was a bit too thick, I will be wary next time.** Add the walnuts and almonds and cook for another 5 minutes. Check that the jam is setting (place a spoonful of juice in the fridge and, once cold, check that the juice has ‘gelled’).

Sterilize the jars for 5 minutes in a pan of boiling water. Fill the jars immediately and seal tightly.


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