Kale has had some brilliant press lately as a cure-all superfood. Whoever does its PR deserves one hellova pat on the back. I mean, it’s a cabbage. And although delicious, who ever thought that a cabbage could have so much appeal? Yet somehow kale is everywhere now- in juices, salads, stews and even crisps. A fad, perhaps, but this leafy veg actually deserves it’s moment in the limelight- it’s full of beta carotene, Vit C, K and calcium. It has a gorgeous, earthy taste and is genuinely versatile- steam it, bake it, have it stir fried, boiled, juiced or massage it (really) with some olive oil, lime juice and salt for a few minutes to tenderise it, then add pine nuts and cranberries for a salad worthy of a Californian health fanatic.
I’m putting my two cents in with my recipe for Kale pesto. My take has chilli and rosemary in it, for extra punch. I also bake the garlic and chilli in the oven first as I find this adds a lovely smoky flavour. This recipe makes a large amount- it should last you all week. Have it with pasta, gnocchi, drizzled on baked aubergine, roasted sweet potatoes or butternut squash, mixed with a little water for a salad dressing, spread on toasted bread or a homemade pizza, in sandwiches, mixed with mince and made into burgers, stirred through peas with a little goats cheese, in a potato salad, as a dip, dolloped on soup, with white beans, lamb, fish, chicken or swirled through mash. Your pick.
Frequent readers of this blog (all two of you) will note that there’s been a small change to the way I write recipes- I’ve now added imperial measurements, which I hope will be useful.
You will need:
200g/7oz kale (approx 1 bag), woody stems removed
4 garlic cloves
2 long red chillies
3 large sprigs rosemary, leaves picked and finely chopped
1 lemon, juice and zest
25g/1/2oz Parmesan, grated
50g/1oz pine nuts, toasted
150ml/5fl oz extra virgin olive oil
1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. Place the garlic cloves (still in their skins) and chilli on a small oven tray and bake for about 20-25 mins, until the chilli is starting to char and the garlic is soft. Allow to cool completely.
2. Meanwhile, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the kale and simmer until just tender, about 3-5 min. Drain very well, squeezing out any excess water.
3. Place the kale, rosemary, lemon zest, Parmesan and pine nuts in the bowl of a mixer (or use a handheld blender). Squeeze the garlic out of their cloves and add these along with the chillies, removing the seed if you like. Whizz to a paste, then slowly drizzle in the olive oil with the motor running. Add lemon juice to taste and a little water if very thick.
Pot Roast Pheasant with Fennel and Chorizo
You will need:
2 medium onions, sliced
2 large fennel bulbs, sliced chunkily
3 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
150g chorizo, sliced
100ml sweet and dark sherry, preferably Pedro Ximenez
500ml fresh chicken stock, from the chiller cabinet
1 tin butter beans or cannellini beans
a few sprigs of thyme
crusty bread, to serve, optional
1. Preheat the oven to 160C. Add a little oil to a frying pan and cook the onions and fennel slices until softened and beginning to go golden. Add the garlic slices and continue to fry until just soft. Remove and place in a large casserole dish or pot.
2. Add another splash of oil to your frying pan and heat until really hot. Season the pheasant and brown on all sides, this should take no more than 5 mins. Nestle the pheasant in the casserole dish, sitting on top of the fennel and onion.
3. Fry off the chorizo slices until browned and crispy. Add these to the casserole dish as well. Deglaze the frying pan by pouring in the sherry, simmering for about 5-7 mins, stirring and scraping the pan as you go until slightly reduced and sweet-smelling.
4. Meanwhile, add the stock to the casserole dish and bring to a gentle simmer. Add the reduced sherry, beans and thyme sprigs. Cover and place in the oven for 1 hr 30 mins until the birds are cooked through and the sauce is thick and glossy. Serve with some crusty bread for dipping and mopping, if you like.
Paprika Roast Chicken with Red Pepper, Olive and Apricot Couscous
You will need:
200g dried apricots
75g butter, softened
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp smoked paprika
handful parsley, optional
1 whole chicken, approx 1.5kg
1 lemon, zested and juiced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 lemons, juice and zest
100g green olives
3 long red peppers, cut into chunks
Rocket, to serve, optional
1. Preheat the oven to 190C. Finely chop about 75g of the apricots and mash into the butter along with the garlic, 1 tsp paprika, seasoning and, if you like, some roughly chopped parsley. Loosen the skin covering the chicken breasts and generously dot the butter underneath, smoothing down as you go.
2. Place the rest of the butter into the cavity of the chicken, along with the juiced out lemon halves. Scatter most of the apricots, half of the olives and all of the red pepper chunks into a large roasting tin. Mix together 1 tbsp of oil with the lemon zest, juice, 1 tsp paprika and some seasoning. Use half to toss through the vegetables and the remainder to rub or brush this liberally all over the chicken. Sit the bird in the roasting tray, tucking in as many stray bits of vegetable and fruit underneath as possible. Roast in the oven for approx 1 hr 20 mins, until cooked through and tender.
3. Towards the end of the cooking time, cook the couscous according to packet instructions. I like to tip it into a large bowl, pour over boiling water, covering by at about 2 cm. Tightly cover with cling then leave for about 10 mins. The water should have been absorbed and the couscous soft. Fork the remaining oil through the couscous along with some seasoning.
4. Once the chicken is cooked, place on a chopping board to rest. Tip the fruit and veg into the couscous along with the rest of the olives and apricots, as well as a little of the juices from the roasting tin. Fork through to distribute then season to taste- adding a little more oil or lemon juice if necessary. Serve with the chicken and a rocket salad.
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.
It’s Shrove Tuesday and Pancake Day! An absolutely brilliant British institution- why don’t all nations have a dedicated day for eating pancakes? We generally go to town and have some savoury (generally stuffed and baked) followed by a few (or perhaps more than a few) with sugar, lemon, melted chocolate, ice cream… It is only once year, after all.
In Sweden, pancake day isn’t nearly as big as it is in the UK. Instead, they have semlor- wonderful cardamom-scented buns, filled with marzipan and whipped cream especially for Shrove Tuesday. So fair play, really. However, when it comes to pancakes, the Swedes have got something right. It’s called a pancake cake. And it is exactly what it says on the tin- a stack of pancakes layered with fillings, most often cream and berries, and served as a cake with messy slices cut out of it.
One of my favourite books as a child was a beautifully illustrated story book called the Pancake Cake about Mr Pettson and his cat, Findus. For the cat’s birthday, Pettson sets out to make a pancake cake. For this he needs flour, which involves going to the shop. But his bicycle has a flat tyre and the pump is locked in a shed. And the key for the shed is at the bottom of a well, so they need a ladder. But the ladder is in a field with an angry bull in it. So they have to distract the bull, to get the ladder to get the key to get into the shed to get the pump to… you get the picture. Hilarity ensues.
This is my hat tip to Pettson and Findus. A very simple blueberry and lemon flavoured pancake cake that can be made as outrageously tall as you like. For a smaller cake, simply halve the recipe.
Blueberry and Lemon Pancake Cake
You will need:
400g plain flour
4 eggs, beaten
4 tbsp melted butter plus more for frying
2 lemons, zested and juiced
290ml double cream
blueberry jam- or your favourite jam, raspberry and strawberry also work very well
blueberries, to serve
1. To make the pancake batter, sift the flour into a large bowl along with a pinch of salt. Make a well and add the eggs, milk, butter and 100ml of water. Whisk together until you have a thick batter. Add most of the zest and a squeeze of lemon juice. Set to one side for about 20 minutes to let any bubbles or lumps of flour settle.
2. Fry your pancakes. For this cake I used a small frying pan, but you could just as well use a large one. Melt a little butter in a hot pan and add half a ladle full of the batter. Immediately swirl the pan around to evenly disperse the mixture. Once bubbles start to appear on the surface and the bottom seems dry, flip the pancake over using a spatula. Fry for another minute or so. This first pancake is likely to be a disaster- this is the universal pancake rule. Eat it immediately sprinkled with sugar and then carry on making more pancakes. As you can gain confidence, you can try having two pans on the go at the same time and perhaps doing some pancake flips?
3. Allow your pancakes to cool completely on a wire rack. Whip your cream quite stiffly, adding a little squeeze of lemon juice and any remaining zest. Sweeten if you like. Layer the pancakes on a serving plate, alternating with the jam, cream and berries. Finish by spreading the top layer with cream and decorating with more blueberries and perhaps a sprig of mint.
I hope that you were able to spend some of it with loved ones, some of it relaxing, some of it cooking and some of it eating!
I rather overdid it, partly because as a Swede celebrating Christmas in the UK, I have twice the festive fun. First there’s a traditional Swedish ‘jul’ on the 24th with a heaving smörgåsbord of ham, meatballs, spiced bread, red cabbage and Janssons temptation (a creamy potato gratin with sweet conserved sprats- odd but delicious). All washed down with plenty of beer and snaps, of course.
In Sweden this gluttony is traditionally followed by an hour of conking out in front of Donald Duck’s Christmas, broadcast every year at the same time to the delight of every Swedish child and every exhausted Swedish parent. Presents are opened when it gets dark (so about 3pm, then) and then just to add some pagan flair, everyone dances around the Christmas tree. And then if all that wasn’t enough I also got to have a proper English Christmas on the 25th with Toby’s family- a full turkey with all the trimmings, Christmas pudding, mince pies, the whole schebang. So I’m still pretty much still full. Roll on healthy eating this month!
In the meantime, here’s a recipe for a Swedish festive classic- Lucia buns. Saffron was, of course, a very expensive spice (and it still doesn’t come particularly cheap) and therefore used to flavour sweet bread in the run up to this celebratory season. But I think these buns are delicious all year round and, seeing as I have a freezer full of them, I may well be enjoying them well into Spring!
The pictures in this post are curtsy of the fantastically talented photographer, Faith Mason. You can see more of her work here. More to come from the photo shoot we did together recently, including paprika spiced chicken with apricots and a pheasant casserole!
Saffron Buns (also called Lucia Buns)
Makes about 30-35 buns
You will need:
200g unsalted butter
500ml full fat milk
3g saffron strands
1 sugar cube
50g fresh yeast
pinch of salt
125g caster sugar
2 eggs, beaten + 1 egg, beaten
1 kg plain flour + extra for kneading
handful of raisins or sultanas
1. Melt the butter over a medium heat in a large saucepan. Add the milk and heat to body temperature (you can test this by sticking your finger into the pan- it should not feel hot or cold, just wet!).
2. Bash the saffron in a pestle and mortar with the sugar cube. The cube will act as an abrasive and break up the strands into a rough powder. Add this to the butter and milk.
3. Crumble the yeast into a large bowl and add the salt, sugar and about 3 tbsp lukewarm water. Mix to dissolve the yeast. Pour the saffron, milk and butter mixture into the bowl and whisk together before adding the 2 beaten eggs.
4. Add enough of the flour, about 900g-1kg to form a dough, mixing with a substantial wooden spoon initially, then using your hands to bring the dough together. Turn the dough onto a floured work surface and knead for about 10 minutes, until you have an elastic dough. Clean out your bowl and return the dough to it, cover with a kitchen towel and leave to rise in a warmish place for 1- 1.5 hours, until doubled in size.
5. Heat the oven to 220C. Line to baking sheets with parchment or lightly grease with a flavourless oil. Tip the dough out onto your floured work surface. Knead briefly to knock out some air, then divide the dough into 2 parts. Divide each of these into 4 and then into 4 again- so you end up with 32 pieces of dough, although you may find that you want to divide some bigger pieces into two buns, depending on how accurate you are with your dough-dividing!
6. Roll each piece into a long, thin sausage. Place the sausage in front of you, vertically. Roll the top end down to the right. Roll the bottom end upwards to the left. You should end up with an ‘S’ shape. Stick a raisin into the middle of each end and place on your baking sheet. Continue with the remaining dough. Leave each baking sheet to prove for about 30 minutes before brushing lightly with the remaining beaten egg.
7. Bake in the hot oven for 10-12 minutes, until golden and baked through. Leave to cool under a tea towel- this will stop them from drying out. Enjoy with a mug of mulled wine or freeze for later.