Thursday, 2 August 2018

An easy peachy salad


Summer is definitely upon us! The heat has been so unusual in London that the thought of turning on the elements of the cooker is a big turn off.

Salads have been the stars of our meals recently. They give us that special cooling factor that our body craves in the heat. The salad that I have been making more often - changing some ingredients on the go - is one inspired by the Honey & Co crew. A white peach salad. The juicy fruit is now in season.

Honey & Co is one of my favourite places in London. The owners Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich are two of the friendliest and most creative cooks in the restaurant scene. Their food brings comfort to me. The lovely staff working there are a reflection of both. But I digress.

This peach salad can be a meal in itself. If you want to give it a boost, you can also add some slices of Parma ham. Yum! Instead of using roasted almonds I make my salad roasting pecan nuts with honey or maple syrup. The nuts enhance the sweetness of the peaches, adding texture and crunchiness to the salad. I also added some pea shoots that are in season now. The three elements of salt, acid and sweet come together in a colourful plate of pure beauty.

Honey is a big feature in this dish. It permeates the whole salad, from the restaurant name that inspired me to the recipe. Add honey and go :-)


My peachy salad with honey roasted pecans
Peach and Rocket salad with goat’s cheese and maple roasted pecans
Serves 4-6 people

Ingredients

5 white peaches, halved, stones removed (or you can use any type of peach or nectarines)
100g rocket
30g pea shoots (optional)
150g soft goat’s cheese
4-6 Tablespoons pecans, roasted (see recipe below)
Honey dressing (see recipe below)
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Honey dressing

1 teaspoon honey
3 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Make the dressing by whisking honey, lemon juice and oil together in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

Maple roasted pecans

1 cup pecan nuts
3 Tablespoons maple syrup
Sea salt

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Line a tray with parchment paper. Mix all the ingredients together and spread them on the tray. Roast for approximately 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, mix them gently and leave to cool. Store the unused nuts in an airtight container.
 

For the salad

Method

Cut the peaches. Arrange the rocket, peach, goat’s cheese on a large serving platter. Add the dressing and the pecan nuts and mix gently. Season to taste. Drizzle over with a little bit of honey. Serve.

A healthy note: Peaches have a low glycaemic load comparing to other fruits, making them a good option for those on a low blood sugar diet.

Till next week!

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Bake a cake for a good cause


This week I made this tahini & yoghurt bundt cake with pomegranate & rose drizzle plus pistachio dust. Recipe by Jamie Oliver for the Bake for Syria cookbook. This cake is simply delicious! I tweeked the amount of icing sugar on the pomegranate drizzle but it didn’t affect the flavours. 

For the recipe you should buy this beautiful cookbook, not only for its great cause but for all the other delicious treats you will find in there. The book is curated by Clerkenwell boy, whom I previously mentioned in this post. All the proceeds from this book is donated to Unicef to help and support the Syrian children affected by the war. You can have the book, the cake and eat it too. 

You can order you book through the Unicef Market online.

My tahini and yoghurt bundt cake with pomegranate and rose drizzle plus pistachio dust. Recipe by Jamie Oliver.

Till next week!

Thursday, 28 June 2018

Easy peasy and lemon squeezy - revisited


My kitchen is all green and yellow to celebrate the win in the World Cup against Serbia yesterday.
 
Whenever the Brazilian or English team play - in the evenings or at the weekends - we invite some friends over to watch the games with us. 

Last night, it was all about Seleção Canarinho, as we affectionate call our Brazilian squad. I reached for my infallible lucky charm recipe for fresh broad beans “hummus”. The score was Brazil 2 x 0 Serbia. The green hummus was also a winner!

Check the recipe here.

Till next week! 

Thursday, 21 June 2018

A galette s'il vous plait


The French are the masters of pastries, as most of you may know. One of my favourite French pastries is the galette, an open rustic crusty pie. It can be sweet or savoury. I have been craving this dish for some time. So, I set out to make one for our family this week.

The first ingredient arrived in my vegetable box: a beautiful bunch of asparagus, which is in full season now. I came across the other ingredient in an Italian deli in Soho that I visit regularly: a creamy and lovely ricotta di bufala. When I thought of putting both ingredients together in a galette, my mouth watered. France meets Italy.

What a joie de vivre!


Ingredients for the filling.
Spread the filling over the dough...
...and fold the edges towards the centre.
My rustic asparagus galette.

Hazelnut galette with ricotta di bufala and asparagus

This recipe will make enough dough for two galettes that serve 6 people for a starter, or 4 people for a main. The filling recipe is for 1 disc.

I love making my galette dough using hazelnuts. They add a nutty flavour and crunchier texture.

Ingredients for the dough

125g organic whole grain spelt
125g organic white spelt
200g organic unsalted butter, chilled and cut in small square pieces
60g organic blanched hazelnuts
1 tsp fine sea-salt
1 tsp sugar
6-7 Tablespoons ice water

Method

Mix the hazelnuts, flour, salt and sugar, and pulse to combine. If you are not using a food processor, grind the hazelnuts and mix with the rest of the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

Add the pieces of butter and pulse until the mixture becomes coarse (don’t over-process). With the food processor pulsing, add the ice water gradually until the dough holds together.

Take the dough mixture out of the food processor and onto a work surface. Form into one ball. Divide the ball in half and firmly flatten each ball into a disk. Wrap tightly in cling film (preferably a non PVC brand) and chill them for at least 30 minutes before rolling out and using the filling. This dough will keep well for 1-2 days in the fridge, and in the freezer for a few weeks.

Ingredients for the filling

Extra-virgin olive oil
1 leek, big size and sliced
1 small onion, diced
½ fresh fennel, diced (optional)
2 garlic cloves, diced
150g ricotta di bufala or any other type of ricotta
Zest of 1 lemon
30g pecorino or parmesan cheese, grated
1 Tablespoon capers
Asparagus - as many you can fit on top
Egg for eggwash (optional)
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 200C degrees.

Sautée the leeks on extra-virgin olive oil, fennel and onions until caramelized; add the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes.

In the meantime, mix the ricotta, lemon zest, capers and pecorino cheese.

When the leeks and onion mixture is ready, turn off the heat. Leave it to cool for a while so it’s not too hot to place on top of the ricotta mix.

Take one disk of the pastry from the fridge. On a lightly floured surface roll out the disk into a 30cm circle. Transfer the dough to a parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 1⁄2 hour before using.

Spread the ricotta mixture followed by the leeks mixture on the refrigerated rolled-out dough, leaving about 3 cm of edges. Place the asparagus on top then fold the empty edges of the dough towards the centre.

If using eggs, brush the edges of the crust with them.

Sprinkle the remaining pecorino over the whole galette.

Bake the galette for 25 to 30 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling.

A healthy note: Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis): contains selenium, calcium, zinc, copper and folic acid. It has some powerful compounds with anti-cancer properties (indoles, isothiocyanates and sulforaphane), that promote cellular regeneration. It is a powerful stimulant to the liver and kidneys. Studies have shown that asparagus protects the liver from the effects of alcohol. It is a natural diuretic; helps to cleanse the arteries of cholesterol and is useful to control hypertension. It is used to alleviate menstrual difficulties.

Till next week!

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Slow-roasted cherry tomatoes


I Camisa & Son is an Italian deli that has had its doors open in Soho since 1961. It’s an institution. There you can buy authentic Italian produce. The main bulk of the food on sale still comes from small Italian producers and suppliers.

Whenever I am in the area, I can’t resist going to the shop to get something for my supper. Today was no different, as I had been craving for a good burrata*. There was no better place for me to buy the main ingredients I needed. There, I also got this vibrant punnet of plum cherry tomatoes (or cherry Roma tomatoes) which gave me the idea to slow roast them and having both ingredients together.

Back in my kitchen, I washed the cherry tomatoes (500g), halved them, placed them in a tray, marinated them with organic extra-virgin olive oil (cover them well), garlic (5 cloves, whole and crushed), Maldon sea salt and pepper. I slow roasted them for 1h30min at 160C degrees until golden. When they are ready I drizzle some balsamico vinegar on them. I put the burrata on a plate with some rocket leaves, basil leaves, and served with two or more spoonfuls of the cherry tomatoes. Yum! 


beautiful cherry tomatoes.
Ready to be slow roasted.
Roasted!
My slow roasted cherry tomatoes & garlic with burrata, rocket and basil.
Simplicity at its best!

You can keep the roasted tomatoes in an air tight container in the fridge for up to two weeks. Just cover them with some extra-virgin olive oil.

* Burrata is a buttery and creamy fresh Italian cheese. It's made using mozzarella scraps blended with fresh cream.
 
A healthy note: Tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum) stimulates the regeneration of liver tissue, tonifies the stomach, and purifies the blood. It helps relieve high blood pressure and headache. Although tomato is an acidic fruit, it alkalizes the blood after digestion. It contains lycopene, an antioxidant with anti-cancer properties (organic tomato products, like ketchups or sauces, deliver three times more lycopene than a non-organic brand). Cooking or eating it with olive oil, avocado or nuts, has been shown to increase its antioxidant properties. The carotenoids present in tomatoes are fat soluble and are well absorbed into the body with the fats mentioned above.

Till next week!

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Homemade elderflower cordial


My latest pastime is to go into the garden every morning to appreciate my new vegetable patch, and enjoy all the plants and flowers that the season is bringing.

One of the drinks I enjoy most over Spring and Summer is elderflower pressé. I was blessed to buy a place where an elderflower tree came as part of the package.
Last weekend lots of flower-heads came through. Excited as a child, I picked some of them to make my first batch of elderflower cordial of the year. It’s easy and satisfying. I adopted and adapted a recipe from River Cottage which I’ve been using for many years now.

Elderflower and elderberry are the two gifts the trees in my garden give me every year. Hopefully, I will be sharing the elderberry recipe later on in the season.

In the meantime, if you can manage to pick some elderflowers, do make yourself a lovely cordial. Besides being tasty, it has lots of beneficial properties.

    
Elderflower tree.
Elderflowers.
Add some lemon zest...
...and boiling water. Let infuse overnight.
My homemade elderflower cordial.

Homemade elderflower cordial (recipe adapted from River Cottage’s)
Makes about 1.5 litre

This cordial is very versatile. You can use it as a refreshing cold drink with still or sparkling water; poured into a champagne or prosecco glass; as ice-lollies or jelly (see here); for using in icing for cakes or cupcakes; added to fruit salad; or however else it takes your fancy.

I use a lot less sugar then it is normally asked for in recipes. So, below I give you the option.

Ingredients

About 20-25 elderflower heads
Finely grated zest of 3 unwaxed lemons, plus their juice
600g- 1kg sugar


Method

 
Check the elderflower heads carefully and remove any insects. Place the flowers in a large bowl together with the lemon zest.


Bring 1.5 litres of water to the boil and pour over the elderflowers and lemon zest. Cover and leave to infuse overnight.


The next day, strain the liquid through a sterilized bag or piece of muslin, and pour into a saucepan. Add the sugar and the lemon juice.


Heat it gently to dissolve the sugar, then bring to a simmer and cook for a couple of minutes.


Use a funnel to pour the hot syrup into sterilised bottles. Seal the bottles with swing-top lids, sterilised screw-tops or corks.


A healthy note: Elderflower (Sambucus) has been used in traditional medicine, in many different cultures, for its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antiseptic properties. Rich in bioflavonoids, it contains an antioxidant that has anticancer properties.
Studies have shown that elderflower can be used for the treatment of colds &flu. It is a great diaphoretic (makes you sweat).
Elderflower has also been shown to soothe irritated sinus and mucus membranes, alleviating the symptoms of sinusitis and bronchitis. It is used in treatment for people with diabetes as it reduces blood sugar levels. For those suffering with constipation, elderflower can help relieve the symptoms due to its diuretic and laxative properties.

Till next week!

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

A Greek corner in Borough Market


As far as the culinary world goes, in London, you can almost visit any country without leaving the city. Last Saturday I went to Greece in the heart of Borough Market. I was invited by the people behind Oliveology to attend a workshop run by the Greek chef Despina Siahuli. Oliveology started trading in a small stall in Borough Market, in 2010. Nowadays, they have their own shop, which is located at the Three Crown Square section of the market.

They were the first to bring organic, unpasteurised Kalamata olives to the UK. Some of these have a unique flavour. This is due to the fact that the olives don’t go through a mechanical and chemical method. They are cured with fresh water and left to naturally ferment. It is a very slow process and undeniably labour intensive. It takes about 6-9 months to reach the end of the process. When ready, they are preserved in organic extra-virgin olive oil, organic vinegar and mixed wild herbs. I had never tried some of them before and it was a revelation.

At the workshop, I learnt how to use some of the traditional ingredients, supplied by independent artisan farmers from different parts of Greece.

Despina showed us how to use bulgur wheat as a filling for aubergine, onions and peppers. The mixture was cooked in tomato sauce, with loads of fresh herbs, smoked paprika and dried oregano. Once the bulgur was cooked, we filled the vegetables with it, and oven roasted it for…

The second dish we prepared was a dip made from slow cooked white beans, with garlic and potato. We blended them all together, adding some fresh herbs. It was served with the delicious wild capers and Kalamata olives from the shop.

The salad was one of the star dishes. It was made with incredible barley rusks called Dakos, plus unpasteurised feta cheese and hazelnuts. To finish, a drizzle of a flavoursome dressing made from grape molasses.

To accompany the meal, I had – what else? – some Greek wine: the 2016 Markou Vineyard Schinopeuko Retsina. It was a good surprise to me because the first time I drank retsina wine I really disliked it. Marianna Kolokotroni, the shop owner, explained that some lower quality retsina have a bad reputation - not only for their taste but also because they can give you an unpleasant headache. The wine we had at Oliveology was of another level. The Markou had the flavours of pine resin that developed into a mixture of refreshing citrus and herbal  aftertaste.

For a nice, sweet finish, Despina melted some dark chocolate which we used to coat some almonds and hazelnuts. There were also prunes soaked in Mastika drink, stuffed with nuts and covered in chocolate. 


Sourdough toast with soft Greek goat's cheese and wild thyme honey.
Bulgur wheat being cooked with loads of fresh herbs...
...to be used as a filling in some vegetables.
Refreshing Mastika drink.
Nuts and prunes covered with dark chocolate and sprinkled with bee pollen.

I was really impressed with the quality of Oliveology’s ingredients and the passion of everyone involved in the business. I came home inspired to explore other flavours from Greece. I will now be visiting the shop more often. The extra virging olive oil selection is now a must. But, first, I’ll share with you one of the healthy and mouth-watering recipes I learned in the Greek corner of Borough Market.
Yamas!  


Some of the fabulous ingredients I brought home.

Blend all the ingredients together.

My Greek white bean dip!

White beans dip with fresh herbs and wild capers (by Despina Siahuli’s)

Serves 8-10


Ingredients

200g dried white beans (i.e. cannellini)
1 bay leaf
2 medium garlic cloves
100g potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped (optional)
1 Tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
1 Tablespoon flat parsley, chopped
3 Tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
Wild capers and olives for garnish

Method

Soak the beans overnight in cold water. In the morning, drain the beans, place them in a large pot and cover with fresh water. Bring to the boil and let it boil for 5 minutes. Drain and rinse.

Place the beans back in the pot, cover them with fresh water (make sure that there is plenty of water covering the beans). Bring them to a gentle boil, add the bay leaf, the garlic cloves and the potatoes, if you are using them.

Cook the beans until tender – it will take 1-2 hours, depending on the beans. Once they are cooked, drain and reserve the cooking liquid. Remove the bay leaf. Leave the beans to cool.

Put the beans and the garlic (and the potatoes) with 20ml of the cooking liquid into a blender, or food processor. Add the fresh herbs, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Add more liquid if needed.

Taste and adjust seasoning. Garnish with EVOO, fresh chopped herbs, capers and olives.

A healthy note: Cannellini beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) are one of the best sources of fibre. Research has shown that the high content of fibre can help lower cholesterol and prevent the quick rise of blood sugar levels after a meal. It makes them especially good for people diagnosed with diabetes, hypoglycaemia or who are insulin resistant. Cannellini beans are rich in Leucine, an aminoacid that is beneficial in exercise recovery.

Till next week!