Friulian apple, nut and poppy-seed pie

I made this based on a recipe I got some time from one of my sources. The ingredients just sounded too good to ignore. I searched for it online and found it in the Telegraph’s recipe section.

Ingredients:
Serves 8

250g (9oz) plain flour
125g (4½oz) butter
100g (3½oz) caster sugar (I used 90g as it’s my policy to use 10% less sugar than any recipe calls for – it tends to bring out the other flavours)
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp cold whole milk
grated zest of 1 lemon
3 tart eating apples (didn’t use tart ones, which wasn’t a problem but will use at least one more to make the filling a bit more moist)
1½ tbsp grappa (of course, I used 2 tbsp, otherwise what’s the point of even opening the bottle!)
60g (2oz) raisins (didn’t have enough raisins so added cranberries and chopped figs)
175g (6oz) walnuts or hazelnuts, chopped
3 tbsp poppy seeds, plus extra to serve
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
ground seeds from 4 cardamom pods
icing sugar, for dusting (didn’t use but recommend as the cake it not sweet at all)

Instructions:
To make the pastry, put the flour and butter into a food processor and whizz until it looks like breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and baking powder and whizz again. Add the milk and half of the lemon zest and process again. The pastry should come together in a ball. Wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for half an hour.

Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas mark 5 and put in a metal baking-sheet to warm.

On a floured surface, roll out two thirds of the pastry and use it to line a 23cm (9in) spring-form cake tin so that the pastry comes about 4cm (1½in) up the sides. Roll the other piece of pastry into a circle slightly larger than the tin and put on a floured metal sheet. Refrigerate the cake tin and the circle for an hour.

Peel and core the apples and grate the flesh. Mix with the grappa, raisins, nuts, seeds, spices and remaining lemon zest. Pile into cake tin and put the circle on top. Pinch the edges together, then indent the rim with the tines of a fork. Cut a star in the centre to let out the steam.

Cook on the baking-sheet in the oven for 30 minutes. Let it cool in the tin then carefully remove. Sift icing sugar over the top and scatter on poppy seeds. Offer cream whipped with grappa.

Spicy sweet potato & tamarind soup

This is the most wonderful and complex soup I have had for a while and I already have some soup recipes on this blog that are truly wonderful. The soup combines tamarind with sweet potato and many other good ingredients such as cumin, coconut milk, star anise – the result is a mix of flavour competing for attention in a marvellous way. It is a Gordon Ramsay recipe that I found on the Times Online site. This is what he says:

Tamarind is a sharp and sour paste extracted from the seed pods that grow on trees in southeast Asia and India. You’ll find it in most supermarkets. The sweetness from the potato complements the sharpness from the tamarind perfectly in this recipe. You can substitute the potato with butternut squash or really ripe plantain.

Ingredients:
Serves 4-6

50ml sesame oil
1 large red onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 red chilli, chopped
2 tsp ground cumin
2 star anise
700g sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1cm cubes
400ml coconut milk
3 tbsp tamarind paste
1 tbsp light soy sauce
600ml chicken or vegetable stock
Handful of basil and mint leaves, shredded

Heat the sesame oil in a large saucepan and gently sauté the onion for 5 minutes until soft. Add the garlic, chilli (seeds as well) and dry spices and fry for a minute until the spices smell fragrant.

Add the potatoes and pour in the coconut milk. Stir in the tamarind and soy sauce, then add enough stock to cover the potatoes. Bring the soup to the boil, cover with a lid and cook for 20-30 minutes or until the potatoes are soft. Pick out the star anise and discard.

Remove the pan from the heat and blend until smooth. Pass the soup through a sieve into a clean pan. Stir in more stock or water until you have the right consistency, then reheat. Season with more soy sauce or salt to taste and add the herbs just before serving.

I also added some jambon pieces recently cut off the bone. Perfect texture and salty flavour to complement the soup.

Aubergine Parmigano

I plan to grow my own aubergines in the garden (so far, so slow), and tomatoes to make my own passata and I alreaday grow basil successfully. And although I don’t intend to keep buffalos to make my own mozzarella, this dish as close as I get to using ingredients that are mostly mine.

The recipe is easy to make, layering the aubergines, mozzarella, tomato and parmesan and cook it until it all melts. It’s also great for dinner parties and easy weekend lunches.

Serves 4
Total cooking time: 1 hr 30 mins
Preparation time: 30 mins
Cooking time: 1 hr

Ingredients:

* 3 Aubergines
* 2 tbsps Salt, plus one pinch.
* 400g Mozzarella, ripped into pieces.
* 1 jar Tomato passata
* 1 Pinch Fresh ground black pepper
* 1 Bunch Fresh basil
* 80g Parmesan, flaked.
* 2 tbsps Olive oil, for cooking

Instructions:

Pre-heat the oven to 180c / gas mark 5. Cut the aubergines into slices approximately 1.5cm thick, sprinkle them with salt, lay them on a plate and put another plate on top of them with a weight on the top to squeeze the aubergines together. This will draw out any bitterness in the aubergines. You don’t get many bitter aubergines and you may be lucky, but one day you will and it will ruin your dish unless you’ve salted them first so it’s just not worth the risk.

Leave for 30 minutes, then rinse the salt off and dry the aubergine slices.

Heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a non-stick frying pan and fry the aubergine in batches until golden, drain on lots of kitchen roll.

Once all the aubergine has been fried, take a big, deep casserole and layer starting with aubergine, then mozarella, passata, salt and pepper, basil and finally parmesan flakes. Continue until all the aubergine has been used. You should have 2-3 layers depending on how deep and wide your casserole is.

Put the lid on and bake for 1 hour – the top layer of parmesan should be golden brown and the mozzarella should be melted. Aga: roasting oven, shelf on oven floor for 30 minutes then transfer to the simmering oven for 30 minutes.

Serve with crusty bread and green salad.

Normandy pork with cider

Ok, I’ve been delia-ed. This is a Delia recipe and it works a treat. This is what she sayz:

I’ve always loved Normandy and the abundance of recipes that include apples and cider. That said, the cider produced in my native Suffolk is what I always use, not to mention the apples. What does genuinely come from Normandy, however, is the crème fraiche – something that we in England can never replicate and whilst the half-fat version is not quite as luscious, it’s fab for cooking.

Ingredients:
Serves 2

1 x 180 g jar Bramley apple sauce (Delia prefers Sainsbury’s one but I have used the Waitrose one)
1 teaspoon oil
1 teaspoon butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 lb (450 g) shoulder of pork
8 fl oz (225 ml) Aspall dry cider
2 fl oz (55 ml) Aspall cider vinegar
salt and freshly milled black pepper
2 rounded tablespoons half-fat crème fraîche

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 3, 325ºF (170ºC). Cut the pork into 11/4 inch (3 cm) cubes. Then, heat the oil and butter in a 9½ inch (24 cm) shallow, ovenproof pan or casserole and cook the onion in it over a medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring now and then. Then increase the heat and add the cubes of pork and stir over the heat for a couple of minutes. The pork doesn’t need to be browned, just lightly coloured.

Next, add the cider, cider vinegar and a generous seasoning of salt and freshly milled black pepper. Bring everything up to simmering point and then transfer the pan or casserole to the oven and cook, without a lid, for an hour, by which time the liquid will have reduced considerably.

Then, stir in contents of the jar of apple sauce and the crème fraîche and return to the oven, again without a lid, for a further 15 minutes. New potatoes with butter and chives and some spinach with a squeeze of lemon would be a nice accompaniment.

Chicken with fennel and thyme

A brilliantly simple chicken recipe. Fennel and thyme make for a deliciously refreshing change and the result is rather Italian.

Serves 6
Ready in about 40 minutes

Ingredients
4 tbsp olive oil
4 garlic cloves, finely sliced
20g bunch fresh thyme, leaves picked
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
200g smoked lardons or pancetta pieces
2 fennel bulbs, each cut into 12 wedges
1 red onion, sliced into 12 wedges
300ml dry white wine

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan180°C/gas 6. Put 2 tablespoons of the oil into a non-stick roasting tin. Add the garlic, thyme, 1 tablespoon sea salt and 2 teaspoons ground black pepper and mix. Add the chicken and turn to coat. Scatter with the lardons or pancetta, add the fennel and onion, and drizzle with the remaining oil. Cook for 15 minutes, then increase the oven temperature to 230°C/fan210°C/gas 8.

2. Pour the wine into the tin and cook for another 10 minutes, or until the chicken is golden and the vegetables tender. Serve with the Lemon-dressed tagliatelle.

Nutritional Information per serving:
371kcals
17.7g fat (5g saturated)
41.6g protein
3g carbs
2.2g sugar
1.9g salt

Crushed new potatoes with mint & feta

This is one of the best things for summer side dish – the lemon zest and juice in the dressing turns potatoes into light and zesty treat. Mint and feta take it to yet another level.

I got this recipe from Ocado website – it has many decent ones that have served me well. Unlike Waitrose recipes, they are simple to prepare but certainly don’t taste simple.

Ingredients

Serves 4
Cooking time 20 mins

* 3 tbsp Fresh Mint
* 200g Feta Cheese
* 4 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
* 1 Lemon, unwaxed
* 1 Red Onion
* 1 pinch Black Pepper
* 500g New Potatoes
* 1 tbsp Honey

Cook the new potatoes in a large pan of boiling water until tender, about 10 minutes, depending on size. Drain thoroughly and set to one side.

Pour the oil into a small bowl add the finely grated zest and juice of the lemon and the honey. Whisk. Using the end of a rolling pin or a large wooden spoon, roughly crush the potatoes, not so they are completely broken up but just enough so their skins split and the flesh is exposed so it soaks up some of the dressing.

Finely chop the red onion and sprinkle over the potatoes. Chop the mint and crumble the feta and add to the potatoes, drizzle over the dressing and toss to mix, season well with black pepper and salt if desired, not forgetting the feta can be a bit salty. Serve with salad leaves.

Pea and smoked bacon soup

This is my favourite pea and ham soup. The herbs and spices seems odd for this recipe but work a treat. Whenever I make it I can’t have enough of it.

Ingredients
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion chopped
1 clove garlic crushed
4 rashers/125g bacon chopped
600ml/1pt vegetable or chicken stock
300ml/1/2pt milk
500g peas, frozen or fresh
2 large or 3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
4 slices/125g cooked ham cut into small pieces
1/2 tsp nutmeg, best freshly grated
1/2 tsp thyme (dried or fresh)
1/2 tsp ground coriander

Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Gently fry the onions, garlic and bacon over a low heat for about 10 mins until the onions are soft and the bacon is browned.

Add the potatoes and stock to the pan, bring to the boil, turn down heat and simmer for about 10 mins until potatoes are cooked.

Pour in milk and tip peas into pan, simmer for a further few mins until peas are done. remove from heat.

Serve with big wedges of homemade crusty bread or with Pain Quotidien baguette.