Fancy figs

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So I woke up this morning to rain and wind battering outside.  Autumn is in full swing and I feel like it’s already just a matter of time before Christmas.  How did that happen?  Meanwhile, it’s been a busy time in my kitchen with a heavy work load seeing my already bursting cupboards fill up even more in a whirlwind of shoots and recipe testing.  I also recently worked with chef Valentine Warner on some lunches for furniture makers Another Country, which was full on but great fun. 

When there’s been a spare moment, I’ve been trying to make the most of Autumn produce as it is probably my favourite season for fruit and veg.  There’s something so exciting about the deep colours and flavours at this time of year.  It also lends itself particularly well to hunker-down comfort dishes, the perfect excuse to indulge.  In particular, some purple and green figs in local Turkish greengrocer’s caught my eye.  Their honeyed flavour is incredibly versatile in both sweet and savoury dishes so I’ve been making the most of them in puddings, jams and a steak salad.  I’ve actually been hanging on to some of these recipes for a little while, since last year in fact, but wanted to re-test them and take a few new (better) snaps.  I hope they are worth the wait. 

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Steak, fig and rocket salad
Serves 2

You will need:
1 rump steak
3 thyme sprigs, leaves picked and finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 ripe figs
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 bag of rocket
1 chicory bulb, leaves torn
50g walnuts, toasted
parmesan, shaved, to serve

 Method:

1.  Begin by marinading the steak.  Mix together the chopped leaves from 1 rosemary sprig with the garlic, a generous pinch each of sea salt and cracked black pepper and 1 tbsp olive oil.  Rub all over the steak, cover and leave in the fridge for about a couple of hours. 

2.  Meanwhile, make the dressing.  Scoop out the flesh of two figs and mash with a fork.  Mix with the remaining oil, rosemary, red wine vinegar as well as some salt and pepper.  Set to one side.

 3.  Preheat the grill and chop the remaining figs into wedges.  Drizzle with a little balsamic, season with salt and pepper and cook until starting to caramelise.  Heat a grill pan until scorching hot before adding the steak.  Cook for between 3-5 minutes on each side, depending on your preference.  I like my steak still crawling, so I’ve gone for the lower cooking time.  Leave to rest for about 5 minutes before slicing. 

4. To serve, toss the rocket and chicory with the dressing, figs and toasted walnuts.  Divide onto two plates and arrange the steak on top, scatter over some shaved parmesan and drizzle with any remaining dressing.

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Goats milk, honey and thyme ice cream with fig ripple

 You will need:
4 egg yolks
100g honey
1 tbsp corn or potato flour
500ml goats milk
1/2 vanilla pod, split
3 sprigs of thyme, leaves picked and roughly chopped
4 plump figs
50g golden caster sugar

 Method:

1. Combine the yolks, corn or potato flour and honey in a large bowl and mix until thick and creamy.  Slowly add in about 100ml of the goats milk and whisk to combine completely.  Heat the remaining milk in a large saucepan along with the vanilla and thyme.  When just coming up to the boil, remove from the heat and gradually, slowly, pour over the yolk mixture, whisking the whole time.  Discard the vanilla and pour everything back into the saucepan.  Heat very gently, until thick, custardy and clinging to the back of the spoon.  Allow to cool before chilling for at least 4 hours. 

2.  Meanwhile, scoop out the flesh of the figs and place in a small saucepan along with the caster sugar.  Bring to a boil before lowering the heat and allowing to simmer for about 5-7 minutes, until thick and syrupy – add a little water if necessary.   The fig should have completely broken down, but you might have to help it along a little with a fork.  Allow to cool completely. 

3.  Turn on your ice cream maker and churn the cool custard, following manufacturer’s instructions.  When the mixture is very thick, tip half into a plastic tub.  Spoon over half of the fig and ripple through.  Add the remaining mixture and repeat with the last of the fig.  Freeze for at least 4 hours, ideally overnight before tucking in. 

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 Chocolate and Fig French Toast
Serves 1 greedy person

You will need:
2 slices bread (naughty white bread is best here, or brioche)
1 egg
75ml milk
knob of butter
a couple of thin squares of dark chocolate
1 fig, flesh scooped out and mashed or a few tbsp fig jam

Method:

1.  Whisk the egg and milk together in a shallow bowl.  Spread one slice of bread with the fresh fig or fig jam and top with the squares of chocolate.  Sandwich with the second slice of bread.  Heat the butter in a large frying pan until melted and foaming. 

2. Dip the fig and chocolate sandwich in the egg and milk mixture to coat thoroughly.  Quickly transfer to the pan and fry over a low heat until golden on both sides and the chocolate has melted and is beginning to ooze out.  Serve straightaway. 

Blackberries in winter

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Blackberries are, for me, the most winter-y of all fruits.  There is something about their jewel-like shapes and dramatic colour that makes them particularly well suited for these darker months.  And although they are in season and most perfect, ripe for the picking, during the early autumn (when these recipes were in fact shot), they are easily found in the supermarkets right through the winter months, intended for porridge topping and jam making.  They have a sweet-tart thing going on, which makes them wonderful for desserts- they come into their own baked into cakes and crumbles.  But they can also be served with meat, in particular game and, as I’ve done here, in a simple winter salad.  The recipe for thumb cookies is a take on a traditional Swedish cookie called often made with raspberry jam called ‘hallongrottor’ which literally translates to rasbberry ‘caves.’  As a child I couldn’t resist them and always pestered my aunt to make them whenever she came to visit.  Potato flour (note, flour NOT starch!)  is super silky and adds a wonderful crumbly texture to the cookies. If you can’t find it, you can either substitute with more plain flour or try adding a little cornflour. 

All photographs here are by Faith Mason, do have a look at more of her work on her site!

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Kale, Cobnut and Blackberry Salad
Serves 4

You will need:
For the salad
2 large handfuls cobnuts (or use shelled hazelnuts if out of season)
1 bag kale- i used a mixture of green and purple
1 lime- juiced
1 punnet black berries

For the dressing
100g blackberries
1 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
a few sprigs of thyme, leaves picked 

Method:
1) Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas mark 6.  Crack open the cobnut and remove from their leafy and hard shells.  Place on an oven tray and toast for about 20 mins, until golden, tossing halfway through.  Allow to cool completely. 

2)  Meanwhile, tear the kale into smaller pieces, discarding any larger woody stems.  Place in a large bowl along with the lime juice and a generous pinch of salt.  Gently massage the leaves for a few minutes, until they start to break down and become more tender- you’ll notice a gradual change in colour as they go darker.  Add the blackberries and cobnuts and toss.

3)  Blitz the blackberries, balsamic and olive oil along with a pinch of salt and 1/2 tsp ground black pepper.  Add the thyme leaves and blitz for another few seconds.  Use to dress the salad.

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double blackberryGinger, mint and blackberry fizz
Serves 2

You will need:
150g blackberries
small handfull mint leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 ball stem ginger, roughly choppped plus 1 tbsp of the syrup
1 tsp golden caster sugar
50 ml bourbon
ice
ginger ale
mint sprigs, to serve

Method:
1) Blitz together the blackberries, mint, ginger, syrup and sugar.  Strain through a fine mesh seive.  Add to a cocktail shaker with the bourbon and a large handful of ice.  Shake vigrously, then pour into two ice filled glasses.  Top with ginger ale and garnish with a mint sprig.

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Blackberry, vanilla and bay thumb cookies
Makes aprox 30 cookies

You will need:
150g blackberries (fresh or frozen)
4 fresh bay leaves
150g golden caster sugar
240g plain flour
80g potato flour
pinch vanilla powder
1 tsp baking powder
225g unsalted butter, cold and cubed

Method:
1) Place the blackberries, bay leaves and 50g of the sugar in a saucepan along with about 50ml of water.  Bring to the boil then lower the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the fruit has completely broken down and is very jammy.  Allow to cool completely. 

2)  Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6 and line a baking sheet with parchment.  In a large mixing bowl, combine the remaining sugar, flours, vanilla and baking powder.  Add the cubed butter and mix together with your finger tips, working quickly to form a dough.  Alternatively, pulse in a magimix. 

3.  Roll the dough into small balls- about the size of a walnut.  Place these on the baking sheet before carefully making small indents into each with your thumb.  Don’t worry if the dough cracks a bit, the cookies will still hold together.  Fill each hole with a spoonfull of the jam.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, until just starting to turn golden.  Cool completely on a wire rack.

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Blood Oranges and Bergamot

 

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. 

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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

Method:
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
(Serves many)

You will need:
175g butter
175g caster sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
175g self-raising flour, sifted
1 blood orange, zest and juice
blood orange curd
1 tub mascarpone

Method:
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

Method:
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
(Serves 6)

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

Method:
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.

Double jelly pavlova

 

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)
25g sugar

For the custard:
290ml double cream
zest 1 blood orange
2 large egg yolks
2 tbsp caster sugar

Method:
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.

Panzanella for Sorting Days

We’ve been up to our elbows in life and flat admin here at ASH HQ.  Lots of late Spring cleaning- out with the old, in with the new.  Well, less of in with the new, actually.  Mostly chucking out the old in overflowing bin bags destined for the tip. 

For hot, sorting days you need something quick and easy that you can eat standing up, spooning into your mouth between outbursts of ‘ I wanted to keep that!’   Panzanella is excellent throw-together weekend food.  This Italian bread and tomato salad is summery and fresh, but still satisfying enough to fuel lugging and lifting.  And although I’m not suggesting that heritage tomatoes are easy to come by, my local (not fancy) greengrocers has recently started stocking them, so they can be found if you look out for them.  Of course, normal tomatoes would work just as well- ideally plump, ripe ones on the vine.   

Controversially, I’ve added Dijon mustard to my recipe.  It is by no means traditional, but I love mustard in my salad dressings, so I’ve added it here for a bit of peppery sharpness.  Taste your tomatoes before you make the dressing, if they are a bit under-ripe and don’t have much in way of sweetness, perhaps replace the Dijon with some balsamic for some sugar with that acid hit. 

A final note on storing tomatoes- there is nothing worse than biting into a cold, firm tomato.  For this recipe, take them out of the fridge and let them come to room temperature. 

My Panzanella

You will need:
1 red onion
1 lemon
600g mixed heritage tomatoes (or vine tomatoes)
1/2 sourdough baguette (or other crusty bread)
Extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
sea salt
black pepper
large handful basil, torn

Method:

1.  First, slice the red onion finely.  Place in a bowl and pour over the juice of half a lemon.  Mix thoroughly, cover, and set aside for about an hour.  The onion will loose its rawness and turn a beautiful, vibrant purple.   

2.  Chop up the tomatoes- it doesn’t have to be especially neat.  Place in a large bowl.  Tear the bread into chunks and add these to the bowl along with the onions, drained of the lemon juice.

3.  Mix together the dressing to your liking.  Mine was about 1 tbsp lemon juice to 3 tbsp olive oil and 1 tsp Dijon, along with plenty of salt and pepper.  Toss these over the rest of the ingredients and leave for a few minutes before finally adding torn basil leaves. 

Beef Salad- Vietnam Style.

This is a simple weekday supper that is quick to make when you’ve come home hungry but don’t want to skimp on a fresh but filling supper.  The dressing I used for this is a take on the Vietnamese dipping sauce, Nuoc Cham, which  as it has a wonderful interplay of sweet, sour, salty and spicy.   It works as well with light and crispy spring rolls or prawns as it does in meatier dishes like this.

Vietnamese Beef Salad

You will need:
(for two hungry people)

2 beef steaks (skirt or frying steak, for example)
Sesame oil
Sesame seeds
Crispy lettuce or bag of crunchy salad mix  (I also had some baby corn in the fridge, so I used that.  You could also add green beans or mange tout).
Finely sliced carrot
Finely sliced cucumber
1 red chili, sliced (and de-seeded if you can’t take the heat)
juice of 1 lime
1 tsp fish sauce
1 small garlic clove, minced
2 tsp mirin or brown sugar
2 spring onions, sliced
Torn up mint leaves, to serve. 

Method:

1.  Flash fry the sliced beef in sesame oil, for no more than 2 minutes on each side, less if the steaks aren’t particularly thick.  You just want them to get a good bit of colour, but still be nicely pink in the middle.  If you have a grill pan, use that. Put the steaks to one side to rest for a few minutes before slicing.  Meanwhile, get cracking with the sesame seeds and dressing.

2.  Toast sesame seeds in a hot pan- keep an eye on them as they’ll burn in seconds. 

3. To make the dressing combine lime juice, chopped chili, fish sauce and mirin (or sugar).

4. Combine the your salad leaves with the sliced carrot and cucumber and top with the beef.

5. Serve drizzled with the dressing, a sprinkling of sesame seeds, spring onions and mint.