Sunday, July 10, 2011

Pea & Mint Dip

Today I had a craving for peas and mint and always love eating with my hands rather than cutlery (there's a reason I live alone!).  The solution?  A simple pea dip.  Takes moments to concoct and as long as one likes to savour.
I confess that I didn't measure anything but this made a good sized bowl that I imagine will be ok in the fridge for a few days to come.

Pea & Mint Dip

500g peas (fresh or frozen)
3 spring onions
garlic - as many cloves as you like (I use ready minced for speed)
handful of mint leaves
juice & zest of half a lemon
splash of balsamic vinegar
salt & pepper

1. Cook the peas in boiling water for 3-5 minutes.  Plunge into cold water to keep their colour and flavour.
2. Roughly chop the spring onions and garlic cloves.  Chuck into a food processor and tip in the peas.
3. Tear the mint leaves and throw them in along with the lemon zest and juice and a splash of vinegar.  
4. Grind in some black pepper and salt.
5. Blitz until you have something that resembles a dip.

And that's it.  Simple.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Elderflower Fairy Cakes

There are certain flavours and dishes that represent the seasons for me.  Venison casserole and swede make me shiver at the memory of long winters.  Asparagus and broad beans make me smile at the thought of nature creaking into life as spring emerges.  And the floral scent of elderflower is forever linked in my mind to British summers.  So what better ingredient to choose when I was asked to make cakes for a double celebration - not just my friends' wedding but their send off party as they leave Blighty and head for a new life in Oz?  Elderflower.

In addition to the traditional iced, boozy fruit cake and a blueberry and almond sponge, I whizzed up a couple of batches of these little treats.  Only to find that they got left behind in the mad panic to get aboard the wedding bus!  The best laid plans......

Elderflower Fairy Cakes
(makes 12)

110g salted butter, softened
110g caster sugar
2 medium eggs, beaten
2 tbsp elderflower cordial
80g self raising flour, sifted
1tsp baking powder
50g ground almonds
For the fondant icing:
175g fondant icing sugar
1 tbsp elderflower cordial
2-3 tbsp lemon juice (sieved)
Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/180°C/fan oven 160°C. Line a 12-hole bun tin with paper fairy cake cases and set aside.
Cream the butter with the sugar until fluffy and combined. Beat the eggs with the elderflower cordial.  Beat in the egg, a large spoonful at a time - alternate with a spoon of sieved flour to stop the mixture curdling.  
Sift in the rest of the flour and baking powder and add the ground almonds. Fold in until well combined and the mixture is pretty firm. Divide it between the paper cake cases and bake for 20–25 minutes or until golden, risen and springy to the touch. Cool the cakes on a wire rack.
Sift the icing sugar into a large bowl and stir in the elderflower cordial and lemon juice to make a smooth, thick icing. Spoon the icing over the cakes and spread it to the edges to coat the cakes. Leave to set.
Enjoy with a cup of tea for that quintessential British taste. Or a glass or two of champagne.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Forman & Field Smoked Salmon

To my utter astonishment and amusement, I was recently emailed by Forman & Field (the online gourmet shop that specialises in independent producers) who had read my blog and wondered if I'd review some of their smoked salmon if they sent a pack of their 'London Cure' to me.  Being deeply cynical 'where's the catch' was my immediate reaction followed by 'what if I don't like it?'.  Greed outweighed such silly concerns and so a package was promptly dispatched.

I rarely buy smoked salmon for myself and so to receive a pack of 'H. Forman & Son London Cure Smoked Scottish Salmon' was a real treat.  According to the packaging, Formans are the oldest salmon smoker in Britain, started in 1905.  They claim that their London Cure is one of the most delicate as the idea is to taste the salmon, not the smoke.  They also recommend that one doesn't serve the salmon with lemon as it disguises the fish's natural flavour.

So, what should one serve it with?  I took Formans' advice and had my first slice unadorned.  The fish had a rich, silky texture and melted beautifully on my tongue.  Although it was far from cloying, I decided that I personally needed a touch of acidity to cut through the richness of the fish.  It certainly wasn't the smokiest fish I'd ever tasted but instead had a sweet character that was akin to chestnuts and peat.

Formans' generous gift saw me through two meals.  The first, a simple open sandwich (on a gluten free roll) accompanied by a simple salad including my favourite broad beans with a drizzle of lime juice.  

The lime was a touch too far and so I experimented with alternative sources of acidity and arrived at an elegant solution of preserved lemons, dill, capers and mere touch of Dijon mustard which I mixed with prawns, peas and beans and served with the final slices of salmon, nestled on a bed of finest English round lettuce.  Springtime on a plate.

Personally I like a touch of zing and so sorry H. Forman & Sons - this sampler will continue to add lemon (albeit in the preserved, salty form).  So, the overall verdict?  Lovely texture, gorgeous natural colour and subtle sweet flavour and very rich.  Not to be eaten everyday but then it wouldn't be such a treat, now would it?!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Cauliflower – My Vegetable Epiphany

My daily diet relies heavily on fruit, vegetables and pulses (oh, and I confess, wine!) and very happy I am with that indeed.  Nothing gives me greater pleasure than a pile of crisp radishes with salt and capers, a chickpea and spinach stew or an aromatic and warming dhal.  Vegetables and I enjoy a happy friendship.  I have even managed to overcome my childhood fear of the broad bean (curse those frozen vegetable mixes and thank goodness for my long suffering father who turned a blind eye to his three daughters picking them out and piling them on his plate before our mother noticed).  And yet there is one vegetable from which I have shied and, before a fortnight ago, had never purchased in my adult life.  The cauliflower.

Why?  Now that’s an interesting question and I’m not quite sure why.  Perhaps I associate it heavily with cauliflower cheese – which obviously is never going to pass the lips (or hips) of this cow’s dairy intolerant (and weight conscious) cook.  Yet a recent salad box from Whole Foods tickled my tastebuds with the joys that this bland, white veg can hold with their curried florets.  Could I recreate something similar at home I wondered?  I made up the following recipe which, I have to say, is rather delicious, either alone or alongside a silky bowl of dhal.  I made the recipe up by slinging ingredients together so forgive the rather vague quantities and adapt to your own taste.

Roasted Fragrant Cauliflower
(serves 3-4 as a side dish)
1 large head of cauliflower, outer leaves and stem removed, divide into florets
½ head of garlic, divided into individual cloves but left in their papery skins
1 lemon
2-3 tbsp olive oil
½ - 1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
1tsp ground cumin

Preheat oven to 180C
Pop the cauliflower florets and garlic cloves into a large roasting dish (ensure that the dish is large enough for them to sit in one layer)
Zest the lemon over the cauliflower, juice the lemon and pour over the veg. 
Pour in the oil, throw in the spices and mix well to coat everything with the pungent covering.
Throw in the lemon halves if you like roasted lemons.
Put in the middle of a preheated oven for approximately 30 minutes, tossing half way through.

Next time I may toast some almond slices and toss them in before serving and perhaps some flat-leaf parsley.  

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Berry Frozen Yogurt

I don't have a particularly sweet tooth.  Neither do I own a freezer nor an ice-cream maker.  Making a frozen dessert therefore does not exactly feature high up on my culinary agenda.  A recent stay with my friends Deb and Chris and their experiments with goats yogurt started to get my mind, and my tastebuds racing.  Goat and sheep yogurts have a pleasing tang which is perfect if you don't fancy something overly sweet.  A Sunday lunch for friends presented me with the opportunity to play in the kitchen and see what I could conjure up with a pot of sheep yogurt and the tiny freezer compartment of my fridge.  The result?  A simple (but delicious even if I do say so myself) dessert.  Delicious served on its own or, as pictured here, with leftover defrosted berries and a meringue nest.

Berry Frozen Yogurt
450ml yogurt (I used sheep)
275g defrosted, frozen berries
zest and juice of ½ a lime
1 tsp runny honey

Scoop the yogurt into a food processor.  Add the berries and their juices, lime zest and juice and honey.
Blend until smooth then pour the mixture in a freezer-proof container with a lid.
Freeze for approximately 2 hours. 
Remove from the freezer and break up the mixture with a fork.  Stir until smooth and return to the freezer.
After another couple of hours, repeat the process then return to the freezer.
Remove the frozen yogurt 15 minutes or so before you want to serve it to allow it to soften slightly.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Dial Dhal for Comfort

Just when the first buds dare to poke their heads above ground, the sun graces us with its presence for longer each day and nature starts to shrug off its wintery cloak, then, WHAM, Jack Frost cracks back into action and we're plummeted straight back into a chilly gloom.  These are times that call for bowl food that cossets and comforts with its pillowy textures.  That warms one through with gentle spices and a hint of chili.

For me, the one dish that is guaranteed to seep its warmth down into my very bones is dhal.  My version would undoubtedly horrify the purist amongst you, however it's quick, uncomplicated and never fails to bring a much needed smile as a gentle fug fills the kitchen.

Dhal (serves 2)
125g red lentils
1pt water
1 bay leaf
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1tsp ground turmeric
knob of fresh ginger, peeled and halved
sprinkling of cardamom seeds, crushed
1tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
zest and juice of 1 lime
2 large handfuls of spinach, washed
can chickpeas, drained
fresh coriander, chopped

1. Rinse the lentils, pop into a saucepan and cover with the water.  Bring to the boil, skimming off any white foam that bubbles up.
2. Reduce to a simmer and add the bay leaf, garlic and ground spices.  Stir and simmer for approximately 25 minutes with the lid on the pan.  Add more water should it start to look a little dry,
3. Stir through the tomatoes, the zest and juice of the lime (I throw in the lime halves for added flavour).
4. After 10 minutes, stir in the spinach and chickpeas and cover the pan.
5. As soon as the spinach has wilted, turn off the heat, season with salt to taste and serve.

Comfort guaranteed and no need to dial for a take-away!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Cranberry and Cinnamon Cake

I adore baking.  There is something rather magical yet simple about the whole therapeutic process which produces sweet goodies to be shared with loved ones.  So, when heading over to see dear friends for lunch last weekend and a belated festive celebration, it made perfect sense to make a treat that used cranberries and cinnamon to conjure that christmassy feeling.  I used the fresh cranberry cake recipe from but couldn't help but tweak it!  

Cranberry and Cinnamon Cake
Streusel Topping
65g chopped or flaked almonds
20g unsalted butter, melted
20g light soft brown sugar
¼ tsp ground cinnamon

160g plain flour
¾ tsp baking powder
½ tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
2 eggs
300g caster sugar (I only used 225g)
100g butter, melted and cooled
¾ tsp vanilla extract
250g fresh cranberries

Heat the oven to 150C. Grease an 8inch loose bottomed or spring form cake tin.

Method – Streusel
Combine the butter, almonds, brown sugar and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Work the mixture between your fingers to form large crumbs. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Method – Cake
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, ground cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl. Combine the eggs and sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until it is well combined (around five minutes).
Add the butter in a slow stream with the mixer on low, then turn up the speed to medium and beat for another couple of minutes. Stir in the vanilla.
Fold in the flour mixture a few large spoons at a time.
Stir in the cranberries.
Pour the butter into the prepared cake tin and smooth.
Sprinkle the streusel over the batter.
Bake in the centre of the oven until it is golden and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean, about 1 hour to 1hour 10 minutes.
Let the cake cool in the tin on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then turn out and cool completely. 

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Venison, Chestnut & Mushroom Casserole

I am going to gloss over the fact that 2010 saw a woeful lack of posts from this particular blogger.  I could conjure all manner of tales of devoting my time to learning to tap dance, to walk a tight-rope or saving small amphibians in the outer hebrides.  Or I could admit the very boring truth - that I've been devoting too much time to establishing myself as an independent businesswoman.  Too much of my life has become dictated by work that is clear and my outside interests and passions have taken something of a backseat.  Well, time for a change!

I still devour cook-books avidly and every morning I eat my breakfast whilst reading food blogs and even dabble occasionally in the kitchen but somehow the outcomes have not made it to Lemon Soul.  Whilst reviewing the imbalance of my life, I spied the perfect opportunity to kick-start the change with regards to blogging. A couple of meat-loving girlfriends were coming over for Sunday lunch.  Not only did I have a rare opportunity to cook meat but, aha, also an opportunity to take pictures and blog.  So, here it is.  A stew that is perfect for a very long and leisurely lunch on a wintery Sunday.

Venison, Chestnut & Mushroom Casserole
500g venison steak, cubed
2 tbsp cornflour/plain flour seasoned with salt and black pepper
olive oil
2 banana shallots, peeled and finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 rashers smoked bacon, chopped into small pieces
200g mini chestnut mushrooms, wiped clean
300ml red wine
300ml hot chicken or vegetable stock
2 tbsp tomato puree
bay leaf
2 springs fresh thyme
200g pack of vacuum pack of cooked, peeled chestnuts
chunk of dark chocolate

Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas 2.
First remove any traces of fat or sinew from the venison. Pat the meat dry with kitchen towel, then toss the meat in the seasoned flour (I find that throwing everything into a plastic bag is easiest – just remember to zip it shut!).
Heat 2tbsp of oil in a flameproof casserole and brown the meat until browned all over to seal in the flavour.  Remove the meat.
Add 1tbsp or so of oil to the plan and tip in the onion and garlic. Fry until soft.  Add the bacon and fry until it starts to crisp, adding more oil as necessary.
Add the mushrooms, add the chestnuts (breaking larger ones into smaller chunks) and return the meat to the pan.
Add the wine, stock, herbs and stir in the tomato puree.  Season, stir thoroughly and bring to the boil. 
Reduce to a simmer and then either simmer on the oven top or put in the oven. Cook for 1 ¼  hours if you are going to reheat the dish, else cook for 1 ½ to 1 ¾ hours, adding the chestnuts 30 minutes before the end of the cooking time.
When cooked, throw in a chunk of dark chocolate and stir until melted.