Thursday, 28 July 2011

Orzo pasta salad with peas, round courgettes and a few herbs

Orzo pasta salad with peas, courgettes and a few herbs

When I think of summer eating I have a strong image in my head and I’d like to share it with you if you don’t mind. Summer eating for me is light, fresh flavours, simple dishes and perfect produce. I dream of flat white peaches, dark blood coloured cherries, iridescent sardines, sweet crab and tender runner beans… I think of being in a lush, full country garden, bees and butterflies. It’s almost like a potager. I imagine a languid lunch eaten on white plates on an old wooden table, aged from years under the elements. There is flagstone paving that leads up a few steps into the garden beyond. Whatever food is eaten it is always enjoyed with something chilled and white, the glass is dewy on the outside where the cool wine has hit the warmed atmosphere of a late July afternoon. This image I have in my head is probably the result of indulging in few too many Rick Stein re runs recently. The reality of summer eating for me is sadly less romantic. I ate this salad for lunch 3 days on the trot in that darn windowless staffroom in Fife. A girl can daydream.

Orzo pasta
This is my take on a summery pasta salad. There are no rules, it is more of a framework than a recipe and works with whatever seasonal veggies you have in your fridge or whatever you like best. Think of this as a bit of inspiration.

Orzo pasta salad with peas, courgettes and a few herbs
Orzo pasta salad with peas, round courgettes and a few herbs.
Serves 4

300g of pasta, I used the pretty orzo
1 roasted chicken breast, shredded
fresh peas, shelled to give a handful or two
1 round courgette or 2 small standard courgettes, finely sliced
small handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped
couple of tablespoons of more flavourful herbs – I used mint and greek basil
few shavings of a hard aged cheese, I used pecorino
zest of 1 lemon
juice of at least one lemon
good glug of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet, orzo takes about 7-8 minutes.
Drain the pasta and run it under cold water for a couple of minutes until cool.
Add all the ingredients to the pasta, taste and adjust proportions as required.
Season to taste.


Sunday, 24 July 2011

Raspberry sorbet with vodka and lime (foraging trip part 2)

Our foraging trip last weekend was just so nice. It was just great being away from the city for a few hours. I am always amazed by the marvellous goodies we find when we start looking out a bit more. It makes me think about how much we miss day to day, zoned out in our own little worlds.  We came across crab apples, watercress, wild cherries, pineapple camomile, orange birch bolete, sweet cicely, rosehips, hawthorn and wild strawberries. Our main bounty, however, was lots of ruby red wild raspberries. These are smaller and slightly more tart and intense than commercially grown raspberries which of course you could use in this recipe instead.  “Glen ample” is a wonderful raspberry variety – large and plump with a pleasant acidity. It is widely available in different supermarkets.

This recipe makes an intense sorbet which really is very quick and painless to make, taking about 20 minutes from beginning to eating. I served it in a little glass with a wee hit of vodka and some lime zest. This recipe works on proportions, 4 parts fruit to 1 part sugar, so whatever quantity of fruit you find/buy you can enjoy it in sorbet form.

Raspberry sorbet

600g raspberries
150g icing sugar

to serve – vodka
lime zest

Mash the raspberries through a sieve with a bowl underneath to catch the puree.
Discard the pips (unless you are more inventive than me and have a great use for them).
Add the icing sugar to the raspberry puree and mix.
Have a taste, you may wish to add more sugar.
Pour into an ice cream maker.
Leave to churn until the required consistency is achieved.

(Note to the sister-in-law-to be, check out the glass, recognise it?)

Monday, 18 July 2011

Ridiculously easy vanilla and mascarpone ice cream with wild strawberries

Foraging; it’s my dirty little secret. Whenever I tell the joes at my work what I’ve been up to at the weekend I seem to get some funny looks. I guess they can’t imagine why I would I would want to traipse round some woodland for some scabby mushrooms. It is a fair point but without wanting to sound too self-righteous there is something comforting and magical about being a little more connected to nature. I think the main reason for my penchant for foraging is because it is essentially gambling. Gambling for nature geeks. You are investing time for an unknown reward. Sometimes luck is on our side and nature comes up trumps like when we found a few kilos of chanterelles in a weekend. I still fantasise about that trip (sad, I know). Last weekend we found a wee patch of wild strawberries or “the small fragrant one” as it’s Latin name translates to. They were like little red jewels by the side of the path. The “puggy” went ding, ding, ding.

This recipe is my take on the classic strawberries and cream. This is a super rich and super quick ice cream. I served it with our tart wild strawberry find which cut through the richness of the mascarpone ice cream beautifully. A gooseberry or rhubarb compote would also work well. This recipe does require an ice-cream maker. I’m going to consider it a good investment as it cost the equivalent of 8 Haagen Daz tubs. I figured buying the machine will work out cheaper in the long run or at least this is how I tried to justify the purchase of more kitchen paraphernalia to the boyfriend.

Ridiculously easy vanilla and mascarpone ice cream

75g caster sugar
250g mascarpone
500g double cream
seeds of 1 vanilla pod

Mix all the ingredients together until smooth.
Switch on the ice-cream maker and pour in the mixture.
Leave it to churn until ready, for me it took about 10 minutes.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Oh Molly I've fallen for you and your pistachio and honeyed apricot cake.

Pistachio and honeyed apricot cake

As an avid Orangette fan I was excited to read Molly Wizenberg’s food memoir “a homemade life”. It’s the story of her life to date and the recipes that have intersected it. It’s such a beautiful read and so touching in parts. I think I may have even had a wee tear in my eye at one stage. I would just like to state that this is not normal behaviour for me, I’m normally ‘ard as nails hailing from Glasgow and all that.

If I am being completely honest quite a few of the recipes didn’t entirely appeal to me. An example of this would be ranch dressing and caraway seed potato salad. However, this pistachio and honey apricot cake recipe plus her incredible ability to convey the nuances of people, time and place in prose more than compensates. As I’ve written before food has nostalgic and comforting dimensions and it is this that Molly captures so beautifully. Although this book is sorrowful in places overall it is a really charming read filled with warmth. Who needs prozac when you’ve got this and pistachio and honeyed apricot cake?


It’s a nice dessert cake. I’m not going to lie and say it is the best cake in the history of  all desserts but it does fill me with exotic imagery and was certainly good enough for me to eat 3 slices in one afternoon. If anyone would like my copy of  Molly’s book just leave a comment to say so and I can post it on. First one wins. Whoop: my first blog competition!

Pistachio and honeyed apricots cake batter

Pistachio and honeyed apricot cake
Adapted from Molly Wizenberg’s “a Homemade Life”

Oven set to 170 degrees c
Grease and flour a 9 inch round tin – I used a springform tin and it seemed to work pretty well.

100g raw pistachios very finely ground
150g plan flour
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp salt
½ cup of milk
¼ tsp vanilla extract
110g unsalted butter at room temperature
220g caster sugar
3 large eggs
5 apricots
1tbsp runny honey

Combine the milk and vanilla in one bowl.
Combine the flour, nutmeg, salt and baking powder in another bowl.
In a third bowl mix the butter and sugar together with an electric whisk until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs, one at a time, to the butter and sugar mixture whisking well after each egg.
To this mixture add a third of the flour, mix with a wooden spoon and add a third of the milk mixture then stir.
Continue this process until all the batches are in the cake batter.
Pour the cake batter into the tin.
Half the apricots and place them in the batter cut side up.
Add some honey into the centre of each apricot.
Bake for 35 minutes or so until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Cool in the tin for 5-10 minutes and then turn out on to a cooling rack to cool completely.


Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Courgette and feta fritters (summer loving)

Courgette and feta fritters

“The twice bitten” has been going for a few months now. It has had a couple of thousand hits and has been read in almost 30 counties. I am in shock. Despite this I sometimes feel a bit awkward about the writing bit. It's not something I've done a lot of before. I'm finding it hard putting myself out there.

Coming up with the recipes and making the dishes is the easy part; I have been doing it everyday for the last 15 years. The photography isn’t too thorny an issue due to a 50 mm camera lens. It is the writing part I find tricky.

Round courgette, lemon and mint

Looking through the blogs I follow (Orangette, Michelle Humes and The Wednesday Chef et al) is wonderful but also a little tough. It is hard knowing that I'm not at their level, not yet able to convey so eloquently the thoughts and emotions that are so integral to their blogs. Not to mention their wit…I guess it is my perfectionist tendencies slipping through although I do realise it is unrealistic to expect to be as awesome as these guys after a few months considering they have been doing it for years.

Eventually I’ll remember that this blog was only meant to be a self indulgent journey. A process that might be fun and I would hopefully learn some new skills along the way. It would give me a chance to collect and develop new recipes; a catalogue of all the things we like to eat.

So here is the easy bit. This recipe embodies summer eating - tasty, simple and perfect with a wee glass of something chilled. Salty feta, creamy courgette and fresh lemon zest and mint.

Courgette mix

Courgette and feta fritters  - serves 2
Adapted from the Jojo Tulloh  for the Telegraph 

2 medium courgettes, grated
100g of crumbled feta
2 spring onions, finely chopped
zest of 1 lemon
8-12 mint leaves to taste
1-2 cloves of garlic, smeared to a paste
8 gently rounded dsp of plain flour
1 beaten egg
seasoning to taste
oil for frying

Salt (about 1 tsp) the grated courgette and leave for at least 15 minutes.
Pat the courgette dry with kitchen towel, maybe give it a gentle squeeze.
Add it the feta, lemon zest, spring onions and mint, stir.
Add in the beaten egg and flour, stir.
Season to taste.
The mixture will be relatively loose don’t worry.

Put a large frying pan onto a moderately high heat with a few tablespoons of oil.
Once the pan is hot add a heaped spoonful of the mixture to the pan and flatten gently to make a fat pancake shape.
Leave to cook for a few minutes until golden brown, flip over and fry the other side.
Continue this process, frying a few at a time till the mixture is used up.
Rest the fritters on some kitchen towel.

I served it with a simple green salad and some lemon wedges.


Friday, 1 July 2011

The banana bread and the commute (making it sweeter)

Banana bread

I get up early, really early. It starts with a 05. on the alarm clock. This never boosts morale on waking. It is just about the only time I’m not hungry and the thought of eating churns my stomach over pretty good. Sometimes, just sometimes I’ll manage to eat something before I go to work. If I do, it is normally a few slices of this banana bread wrapped in tinfoil that the lovely boyfriend has sneaked into my packed lunch as a treat. I’ll eat it on the train during my 30 mile commute.

I’ve got a love/hate relationship with my commute. I hate it because it is 3 hours of my life everyday, expensive and often involves getting rained on. One of my many skills is being able to step off the train at the exact moment that the rain comes on. Skilled. On the other hand I love it because there are few commutes that travel along miles of beautiful Scottish coastline, cross an iconic bridge and feature wild deer, herons and seals.

Sometimes it is achingly beautiful like when the beach was covered in the lightest icing sugar dusting of snow. Some mornings the sea is so calm and translucent that it has that tropical vibe. Tropical; an adjective rarely used to describe Fife. I like it best on those heavy skied days where the colours look like a Lucien Freud painting.

Regardless of whether my commute is a love it or hate it day, it is always made a little bit better with banana bread. Moist, not too sweet but nothing remotely like bread.

Banana bread 
Banana bread – adapted from ‘the humming bird bakery cookbook’
You will need to grease and flour a loaf tin
Oven preset to 170 degrees

270g light mucovado sugar
2 eggs
250-350g of ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
280g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1tsp ground ginger
140g melted unsalted butter

Cream the sugar and eggs together with an electric whisk until smooth.
Add the mashed bananas to this mixture.
Sift in the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon and ground ginger into mixture.
Stir with a wooden spoon until all the ingredients have been incorporated.
Add the melted butter to this mixture and stir until mixed.
Pour into the loaf tin and pop in the oven for an hour.
A skewer put into the middle of the cake should come out clean.
Leave for a few minutes and then turn out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.