The last few days have been gloriously sunny and bright- a real shock to the system after the wet, dank weather we’ve had since the start of the year. The only thing that really keeps me going towards from February to March is the promise of lighter days, warmer weather and finally being able to hang up my winter coat. It looks like I’ll be doing that a couple of weeks earlier this year- this weekend we even sat outside at the pub, squinting into the sun.
There is one bright and brilliant addition to the last push of winter that I always look forward to, though: blood oranges. It seems strange that this vibrant citrus fruit is in season during the winter, though I’m not complaining, as they always seem to arrive just when I need an injection of freshness and long for lighter foods. This year, I was lucky enough to find bergamots for sale alongside blood oranges at the brilliant Deli Downstairs, my local treasure trove. So I had a bit of a mad few weeks where every meal was finished with a juicy, plump Sicilian blood orange, bright juices streaming down my hands and feat like some sort of gory feast. But I also experimented with them in salads, puddings and bakes. The results are in.
Blood Orange Curd
Adapted from Steve Parle’s recipe, found here.
(makes 1 large jar)
You will need:
400ml blood orange juice (from about 8 blood oranges)
zest of 3 blood oranges
150g caster sugar
10 eggs (5 whole and 5 yolks)
200g butter, cubed
1. Sit a medium sized bowl over a pan of just simmering water. Add the blood orange juice, zest sugar and whole eggs along with 5 yolks. Allow to thicken for about 15 minutes, until it coats the back of a spoon. Stir in the butter, one cube at a time, waiting until each has melted before adding the next one. Tip into a large sterilised jar, allow to cool completely then refrigerate. Use within two weeks.
Blood Orange and Mascarpone Victoria Sponge
You will need:
175g caster sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
175g self-raising flour, sifted
1 blood orange, zest and juice
blood orange curd
1 tub mascarpone
1. Preheat the oven to 180C and grease 2 x 23cm springform cake tins, lining each with a circle of greaseproof paper and greasing again. Cream the butter and sugar together with electric beaters until light and fluffy. Gradually add the eggs, continuing to beat between each addition. Fold in the flour and orange zest, adding 1-2 tbsp of juice to lighten the mixture slightly.
2. Divide the mixture between the tins and bake for 25 minutes or until the cakes are risen, golden and a cake tester comes out clean. Leave the cakes in their tins for 10 minutes, before removing from their tins and cooling completely on a wire rack. Generously spread one cake with the mascarpone and curd before sandwiching with the second cake.
Pan Fried Mackerel with Blood Orange and Fennel Salad
(Serves 2 as a light lunch or starter)
You will need:
220g pack of green beans, topped and tailed
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
pinch of sugar1 fennel bulb, sliced thinly and any fronds reserved
2 blood oranges, peeled with any pith removed, sliced into rounds
large handful black olives, I used Kalamata
2 mackerel fillets, pin-boned (get the fish monger to do this for you)
small knob of butter
25g toasted flaked almonds
1. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, add the beans and cook until just tender. Drain and place in a large bowl of ice cold water to cool and crisp up. Whisk together 2 tbsp of olive oil with the balsamic vinegar, sugar and some seasoning. Place the fennel, blood orange slices, drained green beans and olives in a large bowl. Add the dressing and toss together then divide between two plates.
2. Add the remaining oil to a large, cold pan. Sit the mackerel, skin-side down, in the pan and turn the heat on to medium. Frying your fish this way means the fillets don’t curl up and ensures perfectly crispy skin. Keep frying, basting with the oil and adding a little knob of butter if necessary. Once the flesh of the fish has gone from translucent to opaque, it has cooked through. Flip over briefly and fry for a further 30 seconds. Top the salads with the fish fillets and sprinkle with flaked almonds and any reserved fennel fronds.
Bergamot and Blood Orange Pavlovas
You will need:
5 egg whites (from the curd, see recipe above)
2 bergamots, juice and zest
275g caster sugar plus a little extra
300ml double cream
1 blood orange, segmented
blood orange curd
handful pistachios, roughly chopped
1. To make the meringues, preheat the oven to 120C. Place the egg whites in a large, preferably metal or glass, bowl with a squeeze of bergamot juice. Whisk to stiff peaks. Mix the sugar with the zest of 1 bergamot then add in heaped tablespoonfuls to the whites, whisking between each addition. Line a large baking sheet with greaseproof paper, then drop on 6 even dollops of the meringue mixture, leaving as much space between each as your baking sheet will allow. Use a spoon to swirl each meringue nicely before placing the lower part of the oven for 1 hr 45 min- 2 hrs, until the meringues are crisp and dry and will easily lift off the baking sheet. Allow to cool completely.
2. Meanwhile, whisk the double cream until stiff peaks form. Add the zest of the remaining bergamot and a squeeze of the juice. Sweeten to taste with a little caster sugar, but keep in mind that the meringues are very sweet. Once ready to serve, place each meringue on a serving place the pile high with the cream, segmented blood orange slices (in the photos for these posts I used bergamot segments, but feel these were too sour), a dollop of blood orange curd and a sprinkle of the pistachios. Serve immediately.
Blood Orange Jelly with Custard
(makes 5-6 individual or 1 large jelly)
You will need:
For the jelly:
3 leaves of gelatine
300ml fresh blood orange juice (about 8 blood oranges)
For the custard:
290ml double cream
zest 1 blood orange
2 large egg yolks
2 tbsp caster sugar
1. Begin by making the jelly. Place the gelatine leaves in a bowl of cold water so they are completely submerged. Leave for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, gently heat the blood orange juice and sugar until just dissolved. Do not boil. Set the sweetened juice to one side, then squeeze out any excess liquid from the now softened gelatine leaves and add to the pan. Stir for a few minutes, until all the gelatine has melted. Pour into a medium sized bowl or, for individual servings, ramekins and wine glasses work well. Allow to cool before chilling until completely set- at least 4 hours but preferably overnight.
2. Make the custard. Place the cream and orange zest into a pan and bring slowly to the boil. Set aside to cool briefly. Beat the yolks and sugar in a medium-sized bowl briefly until combined and creamy. Pour over the cooled cream and then clean out your pan. Return the mixture to the pan and stir over a low heat, until thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. This should take about 10 minutes- do not simmer or boil at any point. Strain if necessary and use to top the set jellies. Return to the fridge for a further hour before serving.
I can’t remember the last time I had a big birthday bash. Dinner and drinks, yes, absolutely. It’s a great excuse to get a few friends together at a favourite watering hole for a nibble and natter. But there’s normally just a few of us. Low key and lovely.
But, but. This year I’ve got a bigger birthday and that merits a bit more in way of celebrations. Three sound about right. So I had a summer lunch with family back in Sweden a few weeks ago, dinner at the delicious Brawn on the day itself and finally a do at Wilton’s Music Hall on the following Friday. Why not, after all?
The lunch I made for family and friends back on the island in Stockholm was a cross cultural affair with recipes inspired by my time at Leiths mixed in with a few family favourites. A sort of pan Moroccan-Swedish smörgåsbord with spiced lamb, tahini and aubergine meeting smoked fish, saffron and Västerbotten cheese. I’m not saying it necessarily made any kind of logical sense as a menu, but I figured it was my party and I’d cook what I wanted to. I’ve copied the full menu below.
|Jasmine from the garden|
Admittedly there was a ridiculous amount of food but in my defence, there were 23 of us! And my family are pretty good eaters, it must be said. Luckily, I had some help from Toby, my trusted sous chef, who was particularly proud of the Moroccan meatballs he made (they have been mentioned several times since) and he insisted I post the recipe. The quiche calls for delicious Västerbotten cheese (a tongue-tingling tangy Swedish cheese), which is available at Waitrose and Ocado, however, a strong cheddar works just as well. For the terrine, I used a large rectangular bread tin, no need to go out and buy a special dish.
|Lemon, Tarragon and Olive Chicken|
|Tahini Green Peppers|
(Lamb meatballs in tomato and cinnamon sauce)
A Recipe from Leiths Cookery Bible
You will need:
250g minced lamb
1/2 onion, peeled and grated
1.5 tbsp parsley, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp mint, chopped
1.5 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp ground cinnamon
salt to taste
For the sauce:
250g chopped tinned tomatoes
1 tsp parsley, chopped plus extra
1/2 tsp ground ginger
3-4 cinnamon sticks
salt and pepper to taste
1. Place the mince in a large mixing bowl and combine with the onion, parsley, garlic, spices and salt and pepper. Mix well.
2. Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a large pan and add the tomatoes. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer. Add parsley and cinnamon and stir. Allow the sauce to simmer and thicken for about 15-20 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, shape the mince into meatballs. Add to the sauce and simmer gently until cooked through. Remove the cinnamon stick and check the seasoning, adjusting with salt, pepper and sugar.
4. Serve scattered with parsley and accompanied by a bulgur salad and flatbreads.
Smoked Mackerel, Trout and Saffron Potato Terrine
Adapted from the Chef’s Chef website.
For 1 large terrine mould, you will need:
600g Smoked mackerel (whole, approx 400g if you are using fillets only)
300g Floury potatoes
About 4 Smoked trout fillets (or two packets)
75g Butter, softened
two generous pinches of Saffron
1 tbsp Dill, finely chopped plus extra
1. Peel the potatoes and cut them into chunks. Boil in a large pan of salted water along with a pinch of saffron. Line a large terrine mould or bread tin with a double layer of cling. You may find it easier to do this if you lightly wet the sheets of cling first. There should be plenty of overhang.
2. De-bone mackerel and remove the skin, separating the flesh into fillets.
3. Place mackerel fillets on the base and sides of the mould, packing tightly. You should find that the fillets will easily mould to each other and can use any smaller pieces to patch up any gaps.
4. Once the potatoes are cooked through, drain them and return to the hot pan for a minute to get rid of any excess moisture and fluff them up a bit. Add the butter, dill, a little lemon juice to taste. Mix together so that the potatoes begin to break up a bit. Season with salt, pepper and another pinch of saffron if desired.
5. Layer the centre of the mould with the potato mix and smoked trout and close the terrine with the rest of the mackerel.
6. Close cling film over the top of the mould and weight lightly for 4 hours minimum in the fridge, ideally weighted down and overnight.
7. Remove from the tin and from the cling. Cut into generous slices and scatter with dill.
|Look who I found hanging out by the cake…|
|Dinner party table decorations: Spring greens in a vase and plump tomatoes. Why not?|
We had some friends round for dinner a couple of weekends ago and I’m afraid, dear reader, that I rather overdid it. It’s been a good few months since we gathered a group around our hearth and broke bread. So I decided to do five courses and make amends with the dinner party deities.
First up, a cocktail- the thyme martini, which is surprisingly light and refreshing. Course numero uno was a mini beetroot mousse with horseradish cream (sort of inspired by this recipe). Second, a light salad of smoked mackerel, apples, pickled shallots and dill vinaigrette (see my recent post) followed by an Italian style rabbit stew with added kick from a flavoursome gremolata. This was served with cheesy polenta mash and lemony spring greens. And that wonderful Sicillian aubergine stew, the camponata, for the vegetarian option, which was also livened up with gremolata. A selection of cheeses, with pickles and honeyed walnuts and finally, the coffee granita and hazelnut choc-chip biscuits from the last post. Personally, I could hardly move afterwards, so it may well have been a bit too excessive. But these feasts happen so rarely…
For me, the real highlight was cooking with rabbit, a first for me. It is surprisingly versatile and pretty straightforward to prepare. Just a little bit bony perhaps. I’m thinking some rabbit ragu with tagliatelle could work nicely for a future supper. I just have to wait till the next time I’m in Crouch End to go to the wonderful Budgens (the only supermarket in the world to sell the produce they grow on their roof- they call it food from the sky), they stock a really decent selection of game and wild meats.
|Time for a cocktail: fragrant thyme martini|
You will need:
A bunch of fresh thyme
100 g caster sugar
1. First, make the thyme syrup by combining the water, caster sugar and a handful of thyme (about 10 sprigs) in a pan. Let this come to the boil and leave to simmer for about 10 minutes. Take off the heat and leave to infuse overnight.
2. Remove the sprigs and any stray leaves from the syrup and pour into a bottle or jar. It will keep in the fridge nicely for a few weeks.
3. To make a thyme martini, combine two shots of vodka and one shot each of the syrup and lemon juice. Shake with ice and pour into a martini glass. Decorate with a sprig or two of thyme. Sit back, enjoy and pretend you are Don Draper.
|Traditional hearty Italian rabbit stew with gremolata and polenta mash|
Italian Rabbit Stew with Gremolata
You will need:
100ml olive oil
4 celery stalks, diced
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 large carrots, diced
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 kg rabbit, jointed
200ml red wine
1L chicken stock
1 tbsp juniper berries
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
1 tbsp rosemary needles
2 bay leaves
1 tin chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato purée
salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the gremolata:
Large bunch of fresh flat leaf parsley
Zest of 2 lemon
3 cloves of garlic
1. Heat the oil in your largest pan. Add all of the vegetables and cook until softened, giving the pot a good stir every so often.
2. Add the pieces of meat and cook until browned on all sides. If your pan isn’t quite big enough, you may want to do this in a separate frying pan, then add the rabbit to the pot with the veg.
3. Pour in the wine, bring to the boil, then lower the heat until the mixture is simmering. Add the juniper berries, peppercorns,rosemary, bay and chopped tomatoes and cook for 10 minutes. Then add enough stock to cover all the meat before finally stirring in the tomato purée.
4. Continue to cook, uncovered, for two hours, or until the meat is tender and falling off the bone. Season with salt and pepper.
5. Meanwhile, make the gremolata. Wash the flat leaf parsley and leave to dry (or use one of those salad spinners if you have one.) Finely chop the garlic cloves and I mean really finely. Zest the lemon and finely chop the parsley. Combine in a pretty bowl and leave to one side.
6. Depending on your meat and your guests, you may want to make things easier for them by fishing out the joints and removing the meat from the bone. Add this back to the stew and leave to simmer a few more minutes before serving.
7. Serve with cheesy polenta mash and the bowl of gremolata for your guests to sprinkle liberally over the stew.
Fish phobics, look away now.
On hot buttered toast.