Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Al Fresco Pizza!

As the weekend was so hot we were trying to spend as much of it as possible outside....
And therefore I was very excited when a friend telephoned to say that they were going to fire up their outside wood fired pizza oven for the very first time and would we like to spend an evening with them & pizza?
Obviously the answer was yes,
I made up a batch of pizza dough,
Mr. Chris made up a batch of tomato sauce,
and off we went.....
It turned out to be a wonderful warm evening with good food and good friends,
and I am totally in awe of the pizza oven... Want one in the garden !
[although I admit that it would have to be a very much smaller version!]

 it looks great when lit:

and was a perfect size for a couple of pizzas at a time:
that cooked really well:
We all agreed that a proper "peel" or tools to get the trays in and out of the oven would have helped but much praise was heaped on the very clever man who built it ....
and the pizzas were enjoyed by all,

The recipes:
Basic Pizza dough for four medium sized pizza:
9oz strong white bread flour
9oz plain white flour
1 1/2 [one and a half] teaspoons powdered dried yeast
1/2 [half] oz salt
about 12 fl.oz warm water
1 tablespoon olive oil plus a little more!

Put all the dry ingredients into a bowl, add the water and oil and mix to form a sticky dough, turn out onto a lightly oiled clean work surface and knead until all soft and silky ~ try counting 300 kneads or spending about ten minutes on this bit ~ then shape the dough into a round, put it into a bowl, cover and leave for an hour to rise, [until it has about doubled in size]
tip it out onto a lightly oiled work surface again, gently deflate, shape into a ball pop it back into the bowl, cover and leave for a further hour.... you can skip this second proving bit if you have not got time, or like a crispier base...it just makes a softer and slightly better textured base if you have time to include it!
Now the dough can be either divided into four and shaped into flat rounds using your hands or a rolling pin or it can be covered and put in the fridge until needed.

Top the pizza bases with your home made tomato sauce:
Reduced tomato sauce:
1 onion finely diced
1 clove garlic finely diced
olive oil
2 teaspoon dried herbs or a good handful fresh finely chopped ~ a mix of Basil, Thyme and Marjoram works well
1 tin tomatoes [or four to six fresh tomatoes skinned and chopped]
Tomato puree

Fry the onion and garlic in a little olive oil until softened but not browned ~ add the dried herbs at this point if using ~ Add the tomatoes mixing well to break them down and a good two or three teaspoons tomato puree.
Simmer the sauce until reduced, no longer watery but creamy and fragrant ~ about ten to fifteen minutes ~ adding the fresh herbs if using about half way through the cooking time.
Do watch and stir all the time as this sauce will catch and burn on the base of the pan if you leave it!!

use to spread over your pizza bases before adding other toppings of your choice such as cheese, onion, olives, sliced sweet peppers, sliced mushrooms etc etc

If  like most of us you do not have a wood fired pizza oven in your garden, pre heat your oven to its highest temp and cook on oiled baking trays or  a pizza stone in the top of the oven for 7 to 10 minutes until the cheese is melting and bubbling and the dough puffed up and browned...
enjoy!

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Lemon & Sultana flapjacks


Really fancied something sweet to eat yesterday afternoon,
and so I thought of flapjacks, but Friday being Friday and as ever really busy I ran out of time, so I kept the idea in my head and put a handfull of sultanas in a small bowl and poured some Lemoncello over them and left them to soak overnight,
and this afternoon I  made Lemon & Sultana flapjacks...



You need:
3 oz or 75g golden syrup
4 oz or 100g butter
3 oz or 75g soft brown sugar
8 oz or 225g rolled oats
juice & zest of one lemon
handfull of sultanas soaked overnight in lemoncello

Turn on your oven!
Put the butter, syrup and sugar into a pan and melt them all together, stirring slowly, then turn off the heat, add the lemon juice and zest, stir in the oats and coat them thoroughly in the melted mix then stir in the sultanas and any juice remaining around them.
Pour the whole mix into a buttered smallish baking tray [I usually line mine with a little baking parchment too] press down with the back of a spoon.
Bake in the pre heated oven at 180 for 35 minutes until golden.
Leave them to cool in the tin before carefully tipping them out and cutting into 8.

I find that this is plenty as I love flapjacks and will keep nibbling them, so I try not to make too many in one go!
They are a chewy, lemony sweet treat,
Do you have a favourite flapjack recipe?







Thursday, 24 May 2012

Wild Garlic Mousse

So this is the recipe that I begged from the chef at the Wellington in Boscastle last year... it creates a very light mousse that is flecked with green and tastes just great when served with a little fresh salad &sliced mozzarella - I love wild garlic and the scent when you walk through a woods that is lush with it is just amazing... serving this dish is evocative of those walks in the woods... fresh and zingy and highly scented!

You need:
100g wild garlic
10g flat leaf parsley
100ml milk
2g agar agar       [I used vegegel ~ double the amount suggested on the packet  & I presume you could
                            also use gelatin]
2 egg whites
100ml cream

These quantities made enough for 4 ramekins.
Method:
Whizz or finely chop the wild garlic and parsley then, in a small pan, simmer them in the milk.
Add the agar agar [or other setting agent following the instructions on the packet!] and stir well ~ remove from the heat
Whisk the egg whites into the mixture while it is still warm and then when it has cooled down to room temperature fold in the whipped cream.
Divide into small dishes and chill.

hope  you enjoy!
Mr. Chris enjoyed the mousse and the tarts in my last wild garlic post so much that he has suggested that we go gather more wild garlic this weekend....
might need a few more recipes....

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

my morning in pictures....

Bright sunshine for a day taken off work as the Olympic torch relay came through town,
the sun lit up the town...
the parade surrounding the torch bearer came through....
and then came the Olympic torch!

Fun way to spend a sunny morning,
the only opportunity I am likely to  to have to witness such an event in my lifetime,
and a view of a modern ritual............

are you going to watch the torch pass by?

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Wild Garlic

I just adore when I walk into a sheltered woodland and the strong scent of wild garlic greets me....
We went walking at a great place just like this today, near the top of Cheddar Gorge:
Wild garlic everywhere!
and so I just had to collect some because it is just a great food to cook with!
So after our walk, where I also spotted some very pretty wild orchids, and after tidying up the front "garden"
[well it's not really a garden but I try...]
I headed for the kitchen to try out a couple of recipes,
one is from http://allotment2kitchen.blogspot.co.uk/2011/04/wild-garlic-and-feta-quiche.html
which is a wonderful blog and very inspiring as well as being full of delicious recipes!
I made two quiche, and the combination of wild garlic and feta works seriously well.... I highly recommend it

The second thing I tried was a recipe a scrounged from the chef of the Wellington at Boscastle after eating it there last year....
a wild garlic mousse
which looks very pretty
is just set
and after we have tasted it
I will post the recipe!!
so it has been a wild garlic day...

Badgers....

Watched a mother and very small badger in the garden last night,
so beautiful to see them...

Badgers have been visiting since the big boundary wall at the bottom of the garden came down in a gale over a year a go and I feel very lucky to have had the experience of watching them, big badgers, smaller badgers, climbing badgers, digging badgers, all pottering around the garden,
however this is the first time I have been fortunate enough to see a mother with its little one.

The very large wall is scheduled to be rebuilt soon, and I will miss these night time visitors.


Tuesday, 15 May 2012

good morning!

a little warmth and morning sunshine brings me out onto the patio for coffee.....
sunshine!
good morning!

replacement squash!

So these are the squash seeds I planted on getting back from holidays and discovering the grow house gone....

the ones that were in the grow house did not survive the weather and the slugs... but these seem to be doing ok at present, at least they germinated fast! These are avalon butternut and burgess buttercup, just need the blue banana to germinate and I will be happy.....
fingers crossed!

Sunday, 13 May 2012

More asparagus...

Having cut a further bunch of this years amazing asparagus glut I decided to try a more regular recipe for dinner tonight so....
Its lemon & asparagus again
but this time an adaptation of a traditional simple Italian sauce and takes no longer to make than it does the pasta to cook!
Trim your fresh from the allotment asparagus and cut into bite size chunks reserving the tips, steam until its done as much as you like it [adding the tips half way through the cooking time]
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and add the pasta of your choice, [today I used spaghetti as that was what was left in the cupboard but fettucine and linguine both work well too] and cook until done to your taste.
While your pasta is cooking combine freshly squeezed lemon juice with a little lemon zest and extra virgin olive oil [and yes it really does have to be a decent olive oil] and when they are mixed stir in very finely grated fresh Parmesan if you are not vegetarian or a finely grated vegetarian alternative if you are.... but please not a dried one, a fresh one or it will not melt into the pasta properly... this stirring in of a cheese will make the sauce go all creamy and you can season to taste with a little black pepper.
Drain pasta and stir in the lemon sauce slowly to give the cheese a chance to melt over the pasta and create yumminess, next stir in the lightly steamed fresh asparagus and serve, with a little green salad if you wish or with a few toasted pine nuts sprinkled in,
however it is delicious as is.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Lemons & Asparagus

Fresh asparagus from the allotment goes beautifully with the fragrant flavour of lemons and this is a quick and simple supper dish for two perfect after a busy day [especially one spent repairing a blown away grow house!] because its so quick, and very tasty.
The lemon brings out the flavour of the asparagus and the addition of the almonds also compliments it well.
I will also be entering this recipe for the 'one ingredient cookery challenge' who have lemons as their ingredient for this month.
It is hosted this month by Nazima & Laura :
Working London Mummy [http://www.workinglondonmummy.com] and How to Cook Good Food [http://www.howtocookgoodfood.co.uk/] I am quite excited as I have never entered a blog competition before!  [hope I have done it right]

So correctly entered or not,  here is my recipe:
Fresh Asparagus & Lemon Cous Cous

Ingredients:
225 g cous cous
225 ml boiling water
2 lemons [unwaxed!]
3 Tablespoons ground almonds
1 small knob butter
1 bunch fresh asparagus

Method:
1. Place the cous cous into a large bowl that has a tight fitting lid or that you can cover.
2.Finely grate the lemon zest from the 2 lemons into a jug, add their juice and the boiling water.
3. Tip the liquids over the cous cous, stir briefly with a fork, cover and set aside.
4. Clean your asparagus and remove the woody part of the stems, slice it into bite sized pieces reserving the tips.
5. Steam the asparagus for about ten minutes [or until it is cooked as much as you like it], adding the tips half way through the cooking time.
6. Melt the butter in a small frying pan add the ground almonds and stirring gently all the time cook them until brown and fragrant
7. Remove cover from cous cous tip over the ground almonds and using a fork mix thoroughly.
8. Divide the cous cous equally between two warmed plates, top with the steamed asparagus, season to taste and add a further sliver of butter if you'd like.....

enjoy!

re claiming the grow house!

This is where the grow house used to be,

The up side down pots are covering my surviving seedlings, but it all looked a little sad!
this was the state of the sheds:

But I had a heap of grow house stuff that I had collected from the neighbouring field yesterday, could we make it happen?

Well we spread the bits out,
checked the plastic, hmmed and harrrred
and the clever Mr. Chris managed to cobble it all together again using bits from another old grow house and a supply of waterproof repair tape!
It took about three hours, while I was planting, fine french beans, borlitti beans, cannelloni beans, salsify and spring onions,
So the repaired cover went back on and I buried it all about a foot into the ground and its a bit shorter than it was but :
The grow house is back!
Yeah!
I am so pleased!
but no more gales please....
and I now have to replace the tomato, squash, sweet potato and basil seedlings that did not survive... but the cucumbers seem fine, so they are hardier than expected.

so off now to plant more seeds
[this will be a third attempt at some of the tomatoes ~ good job I had plenty of seed!]
                                                                         wish me luck!


Saturday, 5 May 2012

A Gale?

Just driven back from a week away in Cornwall, unpacked, fussed the cat, watered the indoor plants and popped down the allotment and
No green house
vanished ... gone....blown away!
seedlings that were in it all looking very very sad.

Having looked at all the nearby plots and not seeing it in bits anywhere
I peeped over the hedge
and
                    way
                                   way
                                                  way off in the distance
                                                                                        spotted what looked like a heap of green plastic,

[Luckily it was a plastic green house and not a glass one!]

It took me over an hour to retrieve it all
In pieces
and It will take a great deal of bodging to create anything useful out of what is left!

However
as well as a heap of plastic and twisted metal poles
I also have a heap of asparagus

every cloud has a silver lining!

Friday, 4 May 2012

Tomatoes

Tomatoes,
Freshly picked from the allotment these are a delight,
but that is still a long way off.
I have seedlings on the windowsills, small plants in the allotment grow house, and a few I have dared outside under bottle cloches so hopefully there will be fresh tomatoes later.

However after last years glut as well as freezing some, both whole and as a fresh tomato sauce, making relish and using them in as many meals as possible I also oven dried some and stored them under oil in jars. I still have the last few oven dried and I thought that they, and the herby olive oil that they are stored in, would go very well in a fritata with some of the last of our potatoes.

I think it worked well:

Fritata:
about 1/2 lb potatoes thickly sliced
1 or 2 onions thickly sliced
few leaves of fresh sage, shreaded or a teaspoon of dried
oven dried tomatoes chopped, or one or two fresh tomatoes, sliced
hand full of grated cheddar cheese - preferably a strong flavoured one!
4 eggs
salt & pepper to taste
Butter &/or olive oil to fry

  • Steam or boil the potatoes for 10 to 15 minutes to part cook.
  • Meanwhile in a large pan melt the butter or heat the oil and gently cook the onions to soften them, when they are soft but not browned remove them from the pan and set asside.
  • Next take your part cooked potatoe slices and fry them in butter or oil in your large pan until browned, layer your previously cooked onions ontop and sprinkle over the sage, turn down to a medium low heat.
  • In a jug or small bowl mix together your eggs and seasoning and then pour over the onions and potatoes, allow to sink down into the layers.
  • Leave this to cook for fifteen minutes until the base and middle is cooked, layer your tomatoes over the top and then sprinkle over the cheese.
  • Finally, place the pan under a heated grill to cook the top, melting and browning the cheese
Enjoy warm on its own or serve with fresh veg or salad!

Thursday, 3 May 2012

focaccia & cocktails

Had friends coming round for drinks the evening, and so I thought I would make focaccia to have on the table as nibbles, I love bread and this tray bake type of bread is perfect for cutting up into squares to share.

I made a couple of trays, one with fresh rosemary and the other one with olives and sun dried tomatoes.So the evening was one with good friends, good bread and good cocktails.

Focaccia
I used fresh yeast as I had some left in the fridge from when I made croissants but dried yeast works just as well. This recipe produces a soft risen dough as can be seen from the pictures, rather than a flatter crisper dough, just because that is how I prefer my focaccia!

1/2 pint warm water
2 heaped teaspoons fresh yeast [or about 1 1/2 dried]
1 lb 2 oz strong white bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons fine ground salt [table salt]
Olive oil - extra virgin if poss
sprigs of fresh rosemary, sun dried tomatoes, olives and  coarse sea salt for the toppings [or whatever else takes your fancy!]
Medium baking tray with edges greased or lined with a sheet of baking parchment

  • Mix the yeast into the water in a jug or small bowel and leave it to stand for a few minutes while you put the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl.
  • Stir about 3 good tablespoons of olive oil into your yeast/water mix and then pour the whole lot into the flour and stir to combine - now at this point I use a small palette knife to bring this all together into a soft dough, but the other way is to get your hands into what will be a sticky mess at first and bring it all together with your fingers - either way once you have it together into a softish ball tip it out onto a lightly oiled surface and knead for about ten minutes. [If you prefer tip it out onto a lightly Floured surface but don't mix the two or you will get into a mess!]
  • Form this dough into a round ball, place it into a clean bowl and cover it with cling film or a damp tea towel to stop it drying out. Leave the dough in a warm place for about 1 1/2 hours until it has doubled in size.
  • Then tip the dough out onto a lightly oiled surface and push your fingers into it to deflate it, then gently knead again for one or two minutes before forming it into a ball popping it back into its bowel and leaving it to rest for ten minutes.
  • After it has rested tip it out into the baking tray and using the tips of your fingers push it gently from the middle out into the corners of the tray  until it fills it - it should then be left to raise in the tin [ covered with a tea towel or cling film] for about 30 minutes.
  • At this stage pre heat your oven to hot [200 oC] and sort out your toppings
  • The next stage is to uncover your dough and press your fingers into the top of it to create a dimpled effect, drizzle olive oil over the surface and sprinkle with your toppings before putting it into the hot oven to cook for about 30 minutes until the top is brown and the bread cooked through.
Your kitchen will smell great!
Cut the bread into squares or slices to serve.

Cocktails
Two cocktails were served with the bread,   Man-bor-tini and V Falls but I did not mix them, the creation of cocktails I leave to others, but there is a well worn copy of Diffords in the house!