Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Pickled Summer Strawberries


At the weekend, I set out in what can only be described as the most torrential rain of the summer. I was off to the Tate Modern to see the Agnes Martin retrospective. Having purchased tickets weeks ago - rains, winds nor floods were going to stop me and it was worth to every soggy-toed minute. Her work, which I had never seen in person - blew me away. 

It is ethereal but grounded -  it demands attention but also captivates - enveloping you as you stand in front of each uniform square canvas with its seductive textured whites and luminescent heavily brush stroked colors. 
Her work is painstakingly precise but achingly flawed - its this human element that gripped me more than anything - the perception of perfection but the reality of the imperfect, the bowed hand drawn lines and such. 

On the opening wall were are few words of Martin's - "beauty is the mystery of life. it is not just in the eye. it is in the mind. it is our positive response to life"


This recipe is about preserving the beauty of summer for just a little bit longer - capturing the strawberries in their best moment, their sweetest - most beautiful - and savoring it for a little longer. Preserving is as much about the moment and the perception of perfection as it is about finding the beauty in the newly created.  These pickles have a personality of their own, the sweetness comes through of course but that subtle acidity from the vinegar and a bit of unexpected tang from the peppercorns compound the flavor of the berry so that it truly becomes something else. 
Of course I will advocate for using ingredients in the moment, but as you know, sometimes in summer especially, there are just too many materials peaking at exactly the same moment. This recipe is intended to preserve the flavors for a little longer but also prevent anything going to waste. 

I have been using the pickled strawberries, and the gorgeous deep pink pickling liquid in a variety of ways. I invite you to create your own flavors with them too.
I whipped a little ricotta with some salt and olive oil and spread it on rye, then I topped it with the sliced pickled strawberries, toasted walnuts and some fresh basil, chives and a drizzle of honey. 

I have also mixed the strawberries in with some fresh spinach, cold quinoa, almonds, blueberries and herbs for a lovely salad. 

Drizzle the liquid over yogurt in the morning or muesli  - the color against the white is heavenly - and reminds me of one of Martin's paintings with is stark white background and glowy pink stripes. 

- enjoy
 Pickled Strawberries 

675 grams strawberries, washed & hulled
1 cup water
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3 strips of lemon peal
20 coriander seeds
20 pink peppercorns 
3 green cardamom pods, crushed
In a sauce pan over low heat,  lightly toast the cardamom, peppercorns and coriander seeds until fragrant (about 2 mins).

Then add the water, vinegars, sugar salt and lemon peel to the pan and bring to a light simmer over medium low heat. Stir until sugar has dissolved and ingredients have combined.  Then add strawberries to the pan, hull side down and simmer 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and let the mixture cool. Place strawberries and liquid into a clean, lidded storage jar and store the refrigerator overnight. 
They will keep in the fridge for about 5 days or so. 




Thursday, January 22, 2015

Olive Oil Cake with Bay & Orange

This is a cake to linger over. 
The kind of cake I would make if my dearest girlfriends were in town. The entire afternoon would be spent around the table, deep in delicious conversation, with cup after cup of tea and a slice of this cake.  
The table itself doesn't really matter, only that there is one. It could be smartly dressed in the crispest white linen, delicate sea foam colored tea cups and glimmers of gold and glass. 
Or it could have nothing of the sort, bare well worn, well loved wood, the softest washed linen napkins and handmade grey mugs with chunky handles, perfect for holding. 

This cake is comfortable in any setting. 

It sticks to the roof of your mouth in the most delightful, not too sweet way. Better than the way peanut butter does; with more elegance. The subtle bay infused olive oil is the backbone of this recipe. 
Its the sticky bit, the rich bit. 
And as your tongue moves to the roof of your mouth, your nose picks up the aroma of the bay. The orange is there too, vibrant but not loud. Its doesn't compete with the bay or the olive oil. The three are harmonious. 

It is unfussy this cake. In this recipe it has an icing glaze, but it needn't. It is made in a fancy bunt pan because I wanted to use one but could just as easily be made in a loaf pan. The most important part is infusing the olive oil, everything else just falls into place. 
I combined some of this recipe with some from here. Both recipes are lovely on their own and I would recommend trying each. I must say, I wouldn't mind having both writers to tea either.

I use a fruity, medium bodied olive oil because I want to taste it in the cake but still want the bay to come through. 
I very gently heat the olive oil. If it gets too hot it will begin to bitter and lose some of its richness. It should be warm to the touch, but not hot. A minutes or so on the heat is all really. Then drop in the bay leaves, 3 or 4, fresh if possible and keep warming over a very low heat until the aroma of the bay hits your nose. Leave on the heat about 5 minutes more, taking care that it does not get too hot. Then remove from the heat and let it stand, 2 hours as a minimum but better overnight. 
You can make a bit extra if you like and use it to drizzle over salads or a goats cheese. Its not a bad thing to have on hand. 


Olive Oil Cake with Bay & Orange

10 bay leaves 
80ml fruity medium bodied olive oil (infused with 3 or 4 bay leaves as above)
150g white flour
50g ground almonds
200g golden caster sugar 
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 eggs 
50ml cointreau 
zest from half a medium orange 
juice from 1 orange 

For the Icing
100 grams icing sugar
1 tbsp cointreau 
3 tsp of almond milk (or regular milk)

Preheat the oven to 180 (350F) degrees 
Grease and flour your pan carefully. 

In a bowl sift together dry ingredients: flour, almonds, sugar and baking powder. 
Then in a small bowl gently beat the eggs together with the salt. Tip into the dry mixture along with the olive oil, cointreau, zest and juice from the orange. Gently stir to combine, making sure the batter is free from any lumps. 

Pour batter in to your greased and floured baking pan. Top the batter with the remaining bay leaves. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 1 hour depending on your pan. When a tester is inserted, it should come out clean. 

When the cake is done, remove it from the oven and turn it over onto a cooling rack. Let it cool completely before icing. 

For the icing, combine the sugar with the almond milk and cointreau. Stir well to combine, again making sure there are no lumps. With a spoon drizzle as much or little of the icing down over the top of the cake as you like. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Kale & White Bean Soup

I love catching snippets of other peoples stories. I often find the words of strangers floating over the air and past my ears. Sometimes they are wickedly funny, and sometimes tender. They can be heartbreaking too and deeply relateable. 
I wouldn't call it eves-dropping. I'm not leaning in close to hear a bit of juicy gossip or craning my neck to get a good look at the person on the phone. Its more passive than that, more like receiving a gift. A gift because it makes the individuals I am sharing the space with seem more real and just simply less like, the masses. 

Often, these little soundbites are good enough that I don't want to let them pass by and so jot them hastily down. And every once in a while, I feel like I was meant to hear those words. That I was standing or walking past in that exact moment to hear that exact phrase. 
The other day it happen. As I was gazing out of the window at the London skyline: gherkin, shard, cheese grater ... on a seemingly deserted train into Waterloo I heard, as if from nowhere, "Do you face into the wind?"

Do you know that feeling?When you stand, arms glued to your side, ridged as a board, bald faced with the wind whipping past your ears so fast its dizzying and all you can do is just brace. 


It stuck with me, I didn't even need to write it down. I just kept repeating it over and over to myself. All day, and the next - turning it over, smoothing it down, wearing it away - until it shone. 


This recipe for Kale & White Bean Soup is for those days where you feel like you have spent the entirety of it facing into the wind. 
I have made it possibly hundreds of time - I don't measure anything, I don't count or figure, I just do. And in doing, is has become less of a recipe and more like a salve. 
It is a soup to warm the belly, clear away the cobwebs and bring you back into your self. The cumin and vinegar are the important parts really. You could use anything on hand otherwise (cabbage if not kale, kidneys if not cannellini, faro instead of potato) but below is my preferred ingredient list.







Kale & White Bean Soup

serves 4(ish)

1 large bunch of lacianto kale, chopped
1 16oz can cannellini beans
3 medium potatoes, chopped into 1/4 pieces (preferably scrubbed with skin on)
4 cups good quality stock
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic 
knob of ghee (or butter or evoo)
salt & pepper to taste 








In a large stock pot saute chopped onion in the ghee over low heat until soft and transparent. Add minced garlic and cook a few minutes more. Add in the cumin and toast until fragrant. Pour in the red wine vinegar. Cook until liquid is reduced by half and then add in the chopped potato. Saute a few minutes more stirring to coat the potatoes in the butter and vinegar mixture. Add the stock and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender and nearly cooked. Then add the kale, cannellini beans and salt & pepper to taste. 
Simmer until kale is tender and potatoes are cooked through. 

Serve topped with a slice or two of parmigiano reggiano, a drizzle of olive oil & crusty bread. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

Winter Citrus Salad

This salad is inspired by my many winters spent in California. The citrus fruits there are excellent this time of year but in truth they are the world over and that makes this salad very transferable. The sharp bright flavor of the grapefruit and orange is a welcome contrast to many of the heavier dishes of the season. 
The avocado and the roasted garlic in the dressing are grounding and lend earthiness to the dish. It would not be amiss on the table alongside smoked salmon, cream cheese and a dark rye bread. It also pairs quite nicely with fizzy prosecco. 

I quick pickle red onion often and usually have some on hand. It keeps well in the fridge for a few days. It is a more mellow accompaniment to salads or on top of chili. One small red onion makes quite a lot. Add a few ice cubes to a bowl, a heaping tablespoon of red wine vinegar, good pinch of salt, a couple of tablespoons of sugar and cold water. Swish ingredients together, add thinly sliced onion, I run mine over the mandolin and let is sit for at least 2 hours before using. Leftovers can be stored with some of the liquid in a jar in the fridge.  

Winter Citrus Salad
serves 4

1 large orange
1 large of each red, white and pink grapefruits
2 ripe Hass avocados or 1 larger one.
1 heaping table spoon of pickled red onion slices

For the dressing:
juice of one lime
2 tsp honey
1 medium sized clove of roasted garlic, smashed.
1/2 tsp salt
scant pinch of red chili pepper
1/8 cup of olive oil


To make the dressing
Combine the lime juice, honey, garlic, salt and chili. Stir to combine until the garlic is mostly mixed through. Then slowly whisk in the olive until emulsified.

To prepare the salad
cut the top and bottom of the orange and grapefruits to just expose the flesh. Standing each on end, moving the knife in a vertical direction, cut away the skin and pith until only the flesh is left on the fruit. Then turn each on its side and cut into 1/4 thick round slices.
Next slice the avocado in half an remove the pit, then cut into 1/4 thick slices and remove the skin.

Arrange the grapefruit & orange slices on a plater alternating with some of the avocado slices. Top with a few of the pickled red onion slices and pour over the dressing, serve immediately.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Seeded Rye Bread

I find a change of scenery can sometimes spark a renewed interest in the familiar. This recipe for Seeded Rye Bread was born out of a trip to Copenhagen and an instant love for the gorgeous Rugbrod I encountered on my visit there.  

The city of Copenhagen is full of amazing design to look at, open friendly people to chat to and some of the most beautifully plated and oh so delicious food I have had to date. I loved that many places lavished dishes with visual attention and created unique visual compositions but  when the flavors hit my palette there was a welcome familiarity of flavors. Of the restaurants and cafes we visited, there was a consistent focus on whole, healthy foods which I was also very excited to find. I particularly loved Grod, Coffee Curators & Host.


Many places served up thick slices of Rugbrod with various dishes. It is a dark hearty fermented style loaf bread. Scattered through the bread are nuts and seeds of various types and a gorgeous crisp top crust. I found it particularly satisfying dunked into a hot bowl of soup during one of my lunches. But is also conjured up thoughts of an old familiar recipe for Irish brown bread and I begin thinking about marrying different aspects of the breads together. 




The resulting bread comes together quickly even though there many ingredients. I prefer to measure the ingredients by weight as I find it the most efficient and accurate method. 
It is also preferable to bake the bread in two small loaf tins. It is dense and the baking times are more accurate when using 4" x 8" loaf pans. Grease them well on the bottom and sides. 

7oz dark rye flour
2oz self raising white flour
2oz oat bran
2oz porridge flakes 
2oz sesame seeds
2oz pumpkin seeds
2oz sunflower seeds plus a handful to sprinkle on top of the bread
15 hazle nuts halved 
1 1/2 teaspoons bread soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp brown sugar
1 egg beaten 
285ml butter milk 
285ml of plain natural yogurt 

Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl to combine. In a separate bowl, lightly beat egg then add buttermilk and yogurt. Stir to combine. Slowly combine wet into dry mix. IT will be quite thick and sticky but be sure to stir well so that there are no pockets of dry ingredients at the bottom of the bowl. If the mix needs more moisture add a tablespoon or two more yogurt. 

Pour equally divided mixture into the two greased loaf tins. Sprinkle remaining sunflower seed on top of each and gently pat into the mixture. 

Bake at 200 celsius/400 fahrenheit for 1h 15m - 1h 30m (depending on your oven temperature or until a tester stick comes out clean.  After 45 take the tins out of the oven an cover with foil. Then return to bake for the remaining time.