Thursday, 28 April 2011

Arancini with an orange and pear salad

Yesterday's Beetroot and Broccoli Risotto

Arancini filled with Mozzarella and Ham

Orange and Pear Salad

I was in the mood for risotto and my mum recommended I try Aldo Zilli's risotto with purple sprouting broccoli and beetroot so I gave it a go.
I used normal broccoli as my local veg lady didn't have any purple sprouting. I found that the risotto was lacking a bit in flavour so if I make it again I will par-boil the broccoli first.
Whenever I make a risotto I like to make too much so that I have enough left-overs to make arancini.
Arancini 'little oranges' are a Sicilian speciality. There is a traditional recipe (fried rice balls covered in breadcrumbs, filled with mozzarella, tomato sauce and mincemeat) but they can also have many different fillings. I like to use left-over risotto as the rice is already flavoured and has a sticky texture which is perfect for moulding. Yesterday I filled the vegetarian's with mozzarella and added ham to mine.


Serves: 2
Yesterday’s risotto, divided into palm size sections.
2 slices whole meal bread turned into breadcrumbs
2 free range eggs, whisked and seasoned
Buffalo mozzarella, quartered

M: Slice or two of ham

Wrap each piece of mozzarella in the risotto and mould it with your hands into the shape of a ball. Dip the rice ball into the egg and then roll it in the breadcrumbs until covered. Repeat with all sections of risotto until you have numerous balls.

M: Wrap the mozzarella in the ham first before following above instructions.

Heat olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan until bubbling hot. Lower the heat and gently fry the risotto balls for a few minutes on each side until the arancini is golden brown all over.

Cut open and watch the mozzarella ooze out. They are pretty filling so I serve mine with a refreshing salad.

Orange and Pear Salad

Serves: 2
1/2 orange, segments peeled and pith removed
1/2 pear, sliced
Chunk of blue cheese, crumbled
Chunk of cucumber, sliced
Handful walnuts
A few lettuce leaves
Olive oil

Mix all the ingredients together and drizzle with a little olive oil. 

Monday, 25 April 2011

My First BBQ!

My first BBQ!

Lemon Roasted New Potatoes
On Easter Sunday I made my first ever BBQ! I have always been in charge of the food that goes on to a BBQ but never had to man the fire too. As I was with my mum and 92 year old grandma this weekend, I pulled the short straw and somehow ended up with all the responsibilities as they read their books in the gleaming sunshine. My mum was a great sous chef for a bit but she soon got bored and retreated back to the garden. My BBQ was an absolute disaster to begin with but after three hours, three attempts and three phone conversations to friend, boyfriend and brother I finally managed to keep the coal burning long enough to cook the food on top. I think I know where I went wrong and pretty sure the next BBQ i do will be a great success.  We had chicken marinated in lemon, rosemary, paprika and honey. Minted lamb kebabs, chipolatas, minted halloumi kebabs, cauliflower and lemon roasted new potatoes.
The lemon roasted new potatoes were delicious so I will share this recipe with you.

Lemon Roasted New Potatoes

2 handfuls new potatoes, halved
1/2 juice of lemon
1/2 lemon,cut into wedges
Handful parsley, finely chopped
Sprig rosemary
1 bay leaf
4tbsp vegetable stock
Olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper

Heat the oven to 200º/Gas mark 6.
Add all the ingredients together in an oven-proof dish, drizzle with olive oil and season with sea salt and black pepper. Cook in the oven for about 50 minutes, turning occasionally. 

Easter Bank Holiday Weekend

The Norfolk Cottage

Local Lambs

Easter Eggs
Eggs eaten over the Easter bank holiday weekend - cadbury's, goose, chicken and lindt.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Goose Egg Omelette

Goose Egg Omelette

Goose Egg Omelette with Focaccia and Cherry Tomatoes

The neighbour in Norfolk had goose eggs for sale so we decided to get a few and make a delicious omelette for breakfast. The texture was spongy but light and the omolette was extremely filling. We had a few fried tomatoes at the side, which added moisture. Next time I will try cooking them in the dish.

2 goose eggs, whisked
Knob of butter
Sea salt and black pepper
½ garlic clove, thinly sliced
2 leaves lemon balm
3 sticks of chives
Handful parsley, chopped
1 sprig rosemary
1 sprig thyme

P: A few slices of smoked salmon

Heat butter in a non-sick frying pan. Season the eggs and add to the pan. Cook over a medium heat. When egg is almost completely cooked but still slightly runny on top sprinkle over the chopped herbs and garlic and fold in the sides. Quickly turn over the omelette for one minute to seal the sides.

I served mine with yesterday’s focaccia and a few fried cherry tomatoes.

P: Add a few slices of smoked salmon.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

England Meets Italy in the Norfolk Countryside: Local Asparagus, Focaccia and Pizza

For the bank holiday weekend three generations of women in my family went to Norfolk– my grandma, my mum and me. The car was packed full with us, two cats (Figaro who has now returned, slightly larger than before but not as large as he used to be – see post) and my dog Sally.
We may have been in the English countryside but my cooking palette was in Italy so I thought I would try and combine the two.
After a long drive up from London we had a snack of local asparagus (the first of the season, which was early this year) with a lemon vinaigrette dressing. I then got to work on kneading the dough for the focaccia and pizzas; I was in a real bread-making mood! I just about had enough time for a brisk walk across the fields before the sun set, my dough rose and it was time to finish off the pizzas. My grandma is a semi-pescatarian (she eats white meat and fish but prefers vegetarian dishes) so I hadn’t quite escaped ‘The Vegetarian’ for the weekend. I decided to make a pescatarian and a vegetarian pizza.
For dessert we had strawberries and blueberries with a dollop of yoghurt and drizzle of local honey. 

Asparagus with lemon vinaigrette

Mama’s Lemon Vinaigrette
Finally, I was taught mama’s famous lemon vinaigrette dressing and now I can share it with you. It’s not actually famous it’s just that my grandma and I can never make it as good as her so we insisted on a step by step lesson. It’s quite simple actually.

10tbsp olive oil
5tbsp lemon juice
½ tsp English mustard
Pinch off brown sugar
Sea salt and black pepper
1tsp white wine vinegar

Add all ingredients together and test for flavour.

Focaccia with Rosemary
Focaccia with Rosemary
Focaccia is eaten all over Italy. Classic focaccia is famous for the many indentations that cover the surface. Fred Plotkin says ‘the bread should be like a series of hills and valleys.’ Some regions add dry white wine to the dough and you can also add toppings such as onions, tomatoes, peppers and cheese. Here is a classic focaccia recipe, based on one by Aldo Zilli.

Makes: 1 loaf

750g strong white untreated flour
1 tsp salt
1½ tsp easy bake yeast
4tbls butter, melted
450ml warm water
Olive oil
Sea salt
Sprig of rosemary, torn

Sift together the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl and stir in the yeast. Add the butter and rub the mixture until it looks similar to breadcrumbs before stirring in the warm water.

Turn out the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead until it is smooth and springs back when gently pressed. Place into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with cling film and leave in a warm place (I use an airing cupboard) for 45 minutes. The dough should almost double in size.

Heat the oven to 200º/Gas mark 7.

Gently knead the dough and knock back the air, then roll into a shape to fit your pan with the thickness of 2cm. Place on a greased baking sheet. Using floured fingers make indentations at 2.5cm intervals. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and rosemary.

Bake in the oven for 5 minutes, and then reduce temperature to 180º/Gas mark 6 and cook for a further 10 minutes.
Can be served warm or cold.
Pescatarian Pizza
Vegetarian Pizza
Pizza: As I was making focaccia as well as pizza I was aware this was a pretty bready dinner so decided to mix strong white untreated flour with wholemeal flour for the base. It was a healthy and interesting alternative to the usual white pizza base. The flour was particularly delicious as it was super fresh from the local mill at Garboldisham, Norfolk.
Pizza Base:
250g strong untreated white flour
250g wholemeal flour
7g easy bake yeast
Pinch of sugar
1tsp salt
250/300ml warm water
2tbsp olive oil
Tomato sauce:
1 packet passata (approx 400g)
Small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
Sprig of thyme and rosemary
1 bay leaf
Olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper
Mozzarella, sliced
Small chunk of Parmesan, grated
P: 2 small cans tuna fish
9 anchovy fillets, drained
10 calamity olives, pitted and halved
V: Handful of spinach
Portobello mushroom, thinly sliced
5 cherry tomatoes, halved
Tomato sauce: Fry the onion in a little oil until colour starts to turn, add the garlic for a few minutes and pour over the passata. Sprinkle the sauce with the fresh herbs and season to taste. Leave to cook on a low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Pizza Base: Sift together the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl and sprinkle in the yeast. Stir in the olive oil and gradually add the water to make a soft dough.

Turn out the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead until it is smooth and springs back when gently pressed. Place into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with cling film and leave in a warm place (I use an airing cupboard) for 45 minutes. The dough should almost double in size.

Heat the oven to 200º/Gas mark 7.

Gently knead the dough and knock back the air. Cut the dough in half. Grease two baking trays and gently roll each piece of dough to fit each tray (mine were approx 10x10”).
Spoon on the tomato sauce, scatter with the mozzarella followed by your choice of toppings and finishing with a sprinkle of grated Parmesan.Cook in the oven for 15/20 minutes.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Boules, Moules Frites and Mille-feuille

Moules Frites

To complete my 'holiday' in France I played a game of Boules in the park this weekend. Not long after losing at boules to commiserate I decided to give up sport for the day and head to my local pub, the Junction Tavern in Kentish Town and continue my French vacation there. My friend Helen had recommended the moules-frites (Mussels cooked in a tomato sauce with chips). I haven't eaten Mussels for years as I remember have a slight phobia of a crunchy bit in the past but these were delicious! They are now set the play a vital role in my summer menu's. They were also a very fitting continuation of my afternoon of boules. 
Not wanting the Sunday day to end we headed down the road to the pub The Oxford where I treated myself to the mouth-watering wafer-thin pastry and sweet and sour blackcurrant filling of their pudding of the day - Mille-feuille.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Ratatouille with Crumb Topping

Ratatouille with Crumb Topping
Fillet of Sea Bream, Ratatouille and Roasted Baby Potatoes

I had a craving for vegetables so I decided to make a delicious ratatouille. This dish can end up quite mushy so to avoid this, make sure the vegetables aren't cut up too small. The breadcrumb topping on this particular recipe adds a lovely crunch.
Serves: 4

2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1/2 aubergine, chopped into chunks
1 red onion, quartered
1 red pepper, cut into chunks
1 courgette, halved then cut into chunks
Handful cherry tomatoes
A few sprigs rosemary
A few sprigs thyme
1 tin chopped tomatoes
Handful, capers
Olive oil
Sea salt & pepper

Crumb Topping:
300g spinach
15g roughly chopped basil
3 slices brown bread
Chunk of butter
Chunk of Parmesan, finely grated 

Heat the oven to 180º.  Place all ratatouille vegetables except the tinned tomatoes and capers in a dish, sprinkle with olive oil, sea salt and black pepper and scatter with the fresh herbs. Roast for 35 minutes.

Add chopped tomatoes and capers to the dish, stir the ingredients together and return to oven for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, lightly toast the bread and then place in a food processor and turn into crumbs. Wilt the spinach in a pan then add the bread along with the butter and basil. Stir until the butter is melted then remove from heat.
Add the crumb topping to the dish, sprinkle with Parmesan and return to oven for 10 minutes.

I served this with a fillet of sea bream, the vegetarian had a poached egg and we both had a few roasted baby potatoes. There were some leftovers from the ratatouille which I heated for lunch the next day.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Spicy lentil stew: chorizo or tofu

Spicy lentil stew with chorizo

It was such a lovely sunny day today that I mentally prepared the perfect salad to have for dinner. Unfortunately for me a minute before I was about to jump off the bus to leisurely visit the vegetable lady, the rain started to pour down uncontrollably like it wasn’t going to stop. Everyone on the bus was in a state of panic and people in the streets were darting for cover. Something took over me and I automatically joined in with the panic and ended up running home and knocking over anyone in my way. Suddenly feeling cold in my spring outfit I had a rummage through my fridge and came up with this warming dish. By the time it was ready, the sun was shining again but I was happy to be eating a dish full of flavours. The vegetarian liked his tofu version too.

Approx 250g puy (French) lentils
1tsp ground coriander
1tsp ground cumin
1tsp paprika
1tsp chilli flakes
1 tin chopped plum tomatoes
1 tin or equivalent of water
A few sprigs of thyme and rosemary
Squidge of tomato puree
1 small red onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed and finely chopped
2 red peppers, chopped into chunks
Olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper

V: Chunk of tofu, chopped
M: Chunk of chorizo, chopped

Fry the onion and garlic in a little olive oil for about 8 minutes. Once the onion has softened add the spices and stir for a minute. Stir in the red pepper and add the tinned tomatoes, lentils and water. Bring to the boil and tomato puree and herbs. Leave to simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, and adding more water if necessary so that the sauce doesn’t dry out.

After 20 minutes, divide the mixture into two pans. Add tofu to one and chorizo to the other. Continue to cook both for a further 20 minutes.

Serve with salad and crusty bread.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011


Leek, Spinach, Broccoli and Blue Cheese Quiche
Leek, Spinach, Broccoli and Blue Cheese Quiche with Smoked Salmon

To continue with my pretend travels around France, today I made a quiche. I was feeling lazy after a busy day so I used ready made pastry for the base. The quiche works perfectly with a light green salad but I was in the mood for smoked salmon so I added a slice to the side of my portion. This dish is great warm or cold so I have saved a small portion to have for lunch tomorrow.

Serves: 2, with leftovers

Ready made shortcrust pastry
Handful, broccoli heads
2 small leeks, chopped
3 handfuls, spinach
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
handful cherry tomatoes, halved
Chunk of blue cheese, sant agur is my favourite, crumbled
Small chunk of parmesan, finely grated
4 free range oraganic eggs
Splash of milk
Sea salt and black pepper
Dash of olive oil

M: Serve with a slice of smoked salmon

Heat the oven to 180º.
Brush a quiche dish with a little olive oil and roll out the pastry on top. Line the base of the pastry with baking paper and then fill it with baking beans. Place on a baking tray and bake blind for 20 minutes. Remove the beans and baking paper and return to the oven for another five minutes to cook the base.
Meanwhile, heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and gently fry the garlic and leeks for a few minutes before adding the spinach. Cook the spinach until it starts to wilt. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Blanche the broccoli in boiling water for two minutes. Drain and set aside.
Whisk the eggs together with a splash of milk and season.
Layer the pre-cooked pastry with the spinach, leeks and broccoli. Crumble over the blue cheese, evenly pour on the whisked eggs and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Finally, decorate the top with the tomato halves.
Place in the oven for 25 minues.

Leave the quiche to stand for 5 minutes before serving. Serve with a green salad.