I’m so excited. It only takes a small thing to get me going. I’ve just learned how to make snowflakes appear on my foodblog in December. Call it crass if you like. But I like it.
Oh the heartstopping flush of golds and reds, the turned soil, the rain on the window.
What’s on the table tonight? Our own Pink Fir Apples cooked in an emulsion of butter and water with saffron, a deeply flavoursome nut roast and dark dark greens.
Beetroot carpaccio with ricotta, gremolata and wild sorrel; wild Atrim goose stuffed with potato and apple with red cabbage, lettuce&chard braised in garlic broth and flash roasted pink fir apple potatoes; pear and apple crumble with plum icecream
I should be asleep. But I’m not. I should be out for the count. But I’m not. I should be warm and cosy under the duvet listening to the gentle snorts and incomprehensible sleep mumbles of my man. But here I am with cold feet and jet lag, whiling away the hours till sleep arrived from mid-Atlantic to meet me. So this is for John and Eleanor. You requested it today. Maybe it was the seed of guilt that I had not sent it to you that is keeping me awake!
This pepper dish serves you well for supper with good bread. As a starter. With tapas. Or completely whizzed and pulsed into a puree, spread onto a pizza base and dotted with dollops of mozarella and fresh basil. Or spread thickly on a bagel over some cream cheese. Or spooned over buttery new potatoes. Or pasta. It’s that versatile.
Halve as many red, yellow or orange peppers as you like. But don’t use green ones. Try hard not to break the halves, and leave the stalks on. Remove the seeds and the white stuff in the middle. Place in an earthenware dish. Into each pepper half, put one small tomato, one anchovy fillet, one clove of garlic, an olive or two and a leaf or two of fresh basil. Put a few tomatoes into the dish too. Add a scant spinkle of chilli seeds – or leave them out if you prefer. Generously glug golden rapeseed oil (and the anchovy oil) into each pepper, and around them. Add about 1.5ml deep syrupy balsamic vinegar to each pepper half. Season with salt and black pepper.
Place the dish in the middle of a preheated oven at 175C for at least an hour until they are soft. You want the peppers to collapse and to have a slightly charred edge. Leave in the oven for longer if they are not done. Then either serve hot, warm or cold as suggested above with a good Rioja or Barolo.
I love this song by Ane Brun – listen to it here on Youtube
“He falls asleep on her chest, The best sleep he’d ever met. Nevertheless he dreams of some stranger’s caress. He awakes and he knows maybe someone else is supposed to meet his hazy anticipating eyes. He draws the curtains aside unfolding the first morning light. He glances at his disenchanted life. Restlessness is me, you see, it’s hard to be safe, it’s difficult to be happy. It’s the changing of the seasons he says ‘I need them’ – I guess I’m too Scandinavian. The relief of spring, intoxication of summer rain. The clearness of fall. How winter makes me reconsider it all. Restlessness is me, you see, it’s hard to be safe It’s difficult to be happy. And then she awakes, reaches for the embrace he decides not to worry about seasons again”.
For years my friends teased me about my obsession with writing a cookbook on 1001 things to do with mince. I guess those times were linked to cooking on an extremely low budget and I needed to do something to lift my spirits; like writing a cookbook about mince. I can see the irony in it now.
But here I sit with a glut of courgettes, as there is every year. And every year those same friends say ‘why dont you write a cookbook about 1001 things to do with a courgette’. At risk of appearing both rude and crude, I have resisted. However here are a few ideas.
COURGETTE WITH LEMON
Slice the courgettes on the diagonal, drizzle with olive oil, rock salt and black pepper. Heat a ridged pan till it is smoking then sear the courgettes on both sides, leaving them to cook until they are only just done. Then turn into a warm dish and add the zest of a lemon and chopped lemon balm, a squeeze of juice and some beautiful golden rapeseed oil
Buried somewhere on this blog are a couple of versions of this summer staple. Grate 2 large courgettes and lay them on a clean tea towel. Sprinkle with salt and leave for 10 minutes. Then wrap the grated courgettes in the teatowel and squeeze hard over the sink. Loads of water will come out. You want to get it as dry as you can. Then soften shallot in oil in a pan the pedigree of which you can trust in the oven – my trusty copper frying pan is the one I use most often. It looks dead posh but actually came from Sainsburys about 12 years ago. I digress: when the shallot is soft, add squeezed garlic – as much as you like – stir it around a bit then add a little more oil and then the courgette. Season with pepper but no more salt, then add about 200g feta or goat cheese or goat curd and a really big handful of chopped fresh mint and chives. Then beat 4 eggs with 80ml plain yogurt (or you could use cream, or milk) and pour over the courgette and cheese mixture (keeping the heat fairly high). Move the mixture around a bit to make sure the egg is well distributed and keep on that high heat for 5 minutes – the purpose of this is to seal the bottom so it will easily turn out of the pan. Then clamp on a lid, turn down the heat and cook on low to medium for about 10 minutes. After that just put it under the grill till the top is golden brown. Then invert onto a plate and serve, you can eat this hot or cold. However there’s never enough left to eat it cold in our house.
COURGETTE TEMPURA WITH GARLICKY TOMATO AIOLI
Slice courgettes on a broad diagonal so you get plenty of surface area. Beat one or two egg whites (depending on the size of the eggs) till really stiff, then fold in 75g cornflour, 50g plain flour, a pinch of salt. Then add the essential ingredient – about 190ml very cold carbonated water. Mix it all together, dip courgette slices into cornflour till lightly coated, tap them on the side of the plate and then into the batter and immediately drop into very hot rapeseed oil. They will pop and hiss and fluff up and will be ready in 2 minutes. Drain on kitchen towel. For the aioli, take 6 tablespoons of excellent mayonnaise mixed with some tomato puree and crushed garlic to your taste. Or you can make it yourself with a stick blender. The trick is to keep the blender flat on the bottom for 10 seconds then slowly lift it up. It will turn the ingredients into a beautiful emulsion 100% – every time. Use 2 egg yolks, a teaspoon of Dijon mustard, a pinch of salt, 15ml white wine vinegar and 250ml rapeseed oil. Then add a tablespoon of tomato puree and a crushed clove of garlic. I found this really easy method on the BBC Good Food Youtube clip and it is completely failsafe.
COURGETTE IN NUT ROAST
Use my usual recipe for nutroast already on this blog, but instead of using tomato and cheese in the middle, use grated courgette. Treat it to the salt and teatowel method described on this page, then mix with fresh herbs like lemon thyme or marjoram, and add a 1.5 cm layer in the middle of the nut roast. If you add more than than then I suggest increasing the cooking time.
INSIDEOUT NUT ROAST
Cut the courgettes in half then scoop out the seeds in the middle till you have a channel along ithe length. Lay the courgettes on a thick bed of seasoned de-seeded chopped tomatoes and spring onions, then lay the nutroast mixture on top of the courgettes. Season well and cover with more chopped tomatoes and spring onions. Bake covered in foil at 180 for 20 minutes then uncovered for 10 minutes.
Think of carrot cake. What’s the difference using a courgette? Not a lot is the answer. Essentially the carrot/courgette/whatever adds some texture but mostly it adds moisture. So any cake recipe which calls for grated carrot can also use grated courgette. For this recipe grate 2 large courgettes (about 200g) and treat as before. Then add them to 225g wholemeal flour, 1 tsp bicarbonate soda, the zest of an orange and 100g sultanas. Whisk 2 eggs, 175ml rapeseed oil and 4 tablespoons of orange juice into the mixture. Pour into lined muffin tins or greaseproof cups and cook for 25 minutes at 180C. bet there won’t be any left by tomorrow!
CHOCOLATE COURGETTE CAKE
OK so beetroot and chocolate is de rigeur. But I prefer courgette! Grate 500g courgettes and prepare as before. Mix 150g self raising flour and 200g wholemeal flour with 1 teaspoon of mixed spice and 300g raw cane sugar. I advise not using muscovado, which makes a lot of liquid in the cooking. Whisk together 3 eggs with 175ml rapeseed oil, two teaspoons of good vanilla extract. Then add the courgettes and the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix carefully. Finally add 140g toasted chopped hazlenuts, or even better in my view, pine nuts. Pour this into a lined 24cm springform tin and bake for 40-45 minutes. When it is done, let it cool completely, remove from the tin then carefully melt 200g 70% cocoa solids chocolate in the microwave and add 100ml hot cream. Mix well and it will thicken. Leave it 5 minutes then pour this ganche onto the cake. You can keep your devil’s foodcake. This is the one for me – light, deeply chocolatey, studded with nuts and a gooey topping. I dare you to eat only one slice!
Heavenly produce from Wymondham Farmer’s Market. Everything a Farmer’s Market should be – small, great range of food, plants, meat, bread,chutneys, eggs, fish, charcuterie. Here’s my favourite combination. Sourdough and MarshPig salami with fennel, a glass of cold beer on a hot day and Tour de France on the TV.