bramble and nectarine flan

Pete picked the first of the brambles on Saturday – we didn’t get much from them the year before, as the landlord hacked the plants right back, but they’ve returned to glory this year. I must clear some freezer space, because they are truly delicious.

There weren’t all that many, and there was also half a pack of frozen pastry left from the walnut and stilton flan, and there were some nectarines in the fruit bowl.

Pete rolled the pastry into the rectangular flan tin, and tipped the baking beans straight on top. It’s a trick everyone does once, I think, so just as well to get it over. We fished them out, added some greaseproof paper and put them back. Blind baked it at gas 6 for 15 minutes.

In the meantime, I put about half a packet of digestive bikkits in a plastic bag, and whacked them with a rolling pin, all the time muttering the name of my least favourite client under my breath. Added a couple of tablespoons of ground almonds.

Into a shallow pan went blackberries, 2 fat nectarines and a cinnamon stick (well, why not?) and some water, and I cooked this down until the nectarines were soft, and I had a nice brambly syrup. The nectarines were fished out, set aside to cool, and then cut into neat(ish) slices.

The digestive/ground almond was spread across the pastry base, and then the brambly mixture poured over the top, and the nectarine slices placed over that. Then it went back in the oven for 15 minutes.

When it came out, it looked nice, but a bit dry. Pete said “add some alcohol”, so we poured a shot glassful of Cointreau over the top. It was still a bit dry, but we didn’t care – we soused it in double cream and scoffed it anyway. It rapidly became known as Cointreau Pie.

apricot and blueberry upside down cake

We had some apricots going wrinkly, and some blueberries that needed using up. I halved the apricots and removed the stones, then put them and the blueberries in a shallow pan with a little water, some honey, and a good pinch of ginger. Simmered them gently for about five minutes.

I beat 125g of butter, 200g of granulated sugar and a slosh of vanilla essence until light and fluffy, then added 40g ground almonds, 125ml of yogurt, 125ml of milk and two eggs, and beat again. Then folded in 150g plain flour and a teaspoon of baking powder (I never use self raising).

I put the fruit in the bottom of an 8" silicone sponge pan, and poured the cake batter on top. Cooked at gas 4/180˚C for about 45 minutes.

This would work well with any soft fruit, I think – it certainly worked very well with blueberries and apricots!

originally posted at Reactive Cooking

impulse soup

The weather was unseasonal and rainy, and forecast to be like that for the week. Neither P nor I are feeling particularly well, either, and so we decreed Soup.

There wasn’t much in – we’ve cancelled the box from Box Bush Farm, as we weren’t happy with the service. The last box we had contained spinach, lettuce, a limp cabbage and some chard, and two bunches of carrots – not very varied, we thought. There were a few apples and bananas too, but we have been disappointed. So we are currently veg boxless until I decide whether to give Abel and Cole a try. Anyway, I digress.

We had lots of carrots. Lots. But not much else. So I sliced them very thin with the fancy addon for the Kitchenaid mixer, and hurled an onion in there too, and sweated them down in some oil. Rummaging in the fridge brought forth a jug of stock from the Moroccan rack of lamb I did last week, so that went in. And a carton of creamed tomatoes, and a mugful or so of lentils. Left it to cook for about 90 minutes.

Lovely – the stock gave it a lovely spicy flavour. And it will do us for the week.

originally posted at Reactive Cooking

moroccan style rack of lamb


Ages ago – a couple of years – we bought half a salt marsh lamb for Lots of Money. The meat was beautiful and it was worth every penny, and for some reason the rack remained in the freezer.

We hauled it out on Saturday, with a view to roasting it for Sunday dinner, but when the time came round, we didn’t really fancy it. However, out of the freezer it had come and thus it had to be used up.

So on Sunday night, in the slow cooker, I put four carrots, one courgette and a dozen shallots and a sliced red pepper, together with a glug of olive oil, and left it on low for four hours.

Then on Monday morning, in went some cardamon seeds, pomegranate seeds, a pinch of paprika, a sloosh of tomato ketchup, some apple juice, some water, a load of tamarind paste, and the rack of lamb, cleaved into two. In rummaging through the kitchen drawers at the weekend looking for something, I found some natural cotton bouquet garni bags, so in one of them went bay leaves, savoury, sage and parsley (all from the herb garden). I seasoned with salt and pepper, put the lid on, and left it on low for about 10 hours.

The meat fell off the bones, and the flavour was wonderful. We had it with plain boiled potatoes, as there was plenty of veg in with the meat.

a sort of moussaka

There is a glut of courgettes in the fridge; we normally do a sort of pasta bake with tomatoes, basil and mozzarella, or stir fry them, but I caught a glimpse of some cookery programme the other day where somebody was making a moussaka with courgettes instead of aubergine, and so I thought I’d give it a try.

There was a tub of lamb/lentil moussaka lentil mix in the freezer, which was nice – we’ve just done three days on the trot working till seven, and the last thing I want to do at that hour of the night is to construct moussaka from scratch! Padding out moussaka or spag bol – or any other mince based dish – with lentils makes it go a lot further, thus aiding the budget, and we like the texture too.

I sliced up three courgettes – this isn’t helpful, really, as they were all different sizes, but do some. I cut them in rounds, about 1cm thick. Then I tossed them in a bowl with plenty of olive oil, put them on a baking tray, and cooked them at 210˚ for about 20 minutes. While that was going on, I made a white sauce with some nutmeg in it.

Then I heated up the lentil/lamb mix in the microwave for a couple of minutes, to get everything kick started. Layered a dish with moussaka / courgettes/white sauce / moussaka / courgettes / white sauce, topping with grated mozzarella. We have a thriving basil plant on the kitchen window sill right now, so I scattered a load of basil leaves after the first layer of white sauce.

Baked at 180˚ for about 25 minutes. It worked really well, and I’ll be doing that again.

lunch: stir fried swiss chard

lunch (before)

We are overrun with green leafy stuff at the moment – there was a bag of Swiss chard left from last week, and this morning the veg box brought a pointy cabbage, a bag of spinach and some chinese leaves. Something had to be done.

So for lunch, we chopped up some garlic and fresh ginger, a couple of spring onions and the chard.

Put some noodles on to boil with a teaspoon of sesame oil in the water (gives them a nice flavour).

Then into a hot wok with some ground nut oil, went garlic, ginger, chilli flakes, sesame seeds and spring onions. Stirred around for a bit, then added the chard, and fried until it wilted. Lobbed in a goodly splash of tamari.

Put noodles in bowl, spoon green stuff over. Lovely.

cucumber stir fry

cucumber and onion

I’m always looking out for things to eat for lunch that aren’t “crackers, cheese and cold meat”, especially at this time of year when soup is off the menu.

I found 1 1/2 rather tired cucumbers in the veg drawer, which is odd, as we normally demolish them quite quickly. They’re only courgettes in another form, so I decided to cook them for lunch.

I chopped them into chunks (didn’t bother skinning them), and peels and cut an onion in half, before slicing it as thinly as I could (not very :). Minced up some garlic and fresh ginger.

Put some noodles on to cook, and heated some groundnut oil in the wok. In went a teaspoon or so of sesame seeds, followed by the garlic, ginger, cucumber and onion.

Stirfried it all for about 5 minutes or so, then added a little soy sauce, and some torn basil leaves, as we happen to have a basil plant on the kitchen window sill.

Drained the noodles and added them to the wok. Made a really nice change.

broad bean summer salad

broad beans

A bag of broad beans arrived in the veg box on Friday; we like ‘em, but you don’t get many once you’ve removed them from the huge furry pods.

I simmered them for about ten minutes, then drained, blanched, and put in a big bowl. I fried off a pack of pancetta cubes and put them to drain on some kitchen roll, then fried some cold potatoes from the fridge in the fat, and drained them similarly.

Then they went into the bowl with a tin of tuna and a dressing made from the juice of half a lemon (that was in the fridge in clingfilm), a little walnut oil, and a generous teaspoon of dijon mustard.

Lovely summer food.

originally posted at Reactive Cooking.

chinese style green beans

Still more green beans to eat …

Topped and tailed them, chopped into 2cm chunks (this is starting to sound like a repeat :). Simmered for 6/7 minutes. Drained and rinsed in cold water.

Chopped an onion and some garlic, oh and some fresh ginger. Heated groundnut oil in the wok, added about a dessertspoon of mustard seeds and waited for them to pop. Then hurled in onion, garlic and ginger and cooked until soft, splattering self in hot oil in the process.

Added the beans and some five spice powder, stirred about for a couple of minutes, added a good splash of tamari, cooked for about 2 minutes.

I used too much oil, but it worked really well. We had it with basmati rice, which had the juice of half a lemon added to it, which is really nice.

And now the green beans are all gone – hurrah! But another veg box arrives tomorrow …

First published at Reactive Cooking.

lentil dosas

lentil dosas

I’ve been wanting to make these ever since I spotted them in one of my bread books, but I’ve never been organised enough to do it – they’re remarkably simple, but you need to start them 32 hours in advance, according to the book.
Take 3/4 cup of long grain rice (I used Basmati, as we had no long grain), 1/4 cup of red lentils, and combine in a bowl with 1 cup of warm water.

Cover with clingfilm, and leave for 8 hours.

Then, blitz the contents of the bowl in a food processor, and return to the (rinsed out) bowl, recover with the clingfilm, and leave for 24 hours.

Then stir in some salt, ground black pepper and 1/2 tsp (ish) of turmeric. The recipe said to add fresh coriander; we didn’t have any, but I did lob in some grated fresh ginger. It claimed it would make 6 x 6″ dosas, but I made them a bit smaller for ease of scoffing – just heat up a heavy based frying pan, add some oil, and cook them like drop scones or whatever.

They were utterly delicious – we ate them with some leftover black-eyed peas in tomatoes that I cooked up at the weekend to accompany our (home made) chicken dansak. We shall be having them again!

First published at Reactive Cooking.