Archive for the ‘Seasonal’ Category

Forget flipping! Ban boring crêpes! Give these two exciting pancakes a go this Shrove Tuesday!

 

Whilst everyone else is tossing “flat as a pancake” crêpes, lemon-soused and sprinkled in sugar or slathering Nutella with sliced bananas (all of which were sold out at the local supermarket) think different and hit the latest pancake trends this Shrove Tuesday.

Whereas past trends have been avocado/vegan pancakes and pancake art, this year, think savoury pancakes stacked with streaky bacon and drizzled with unctuous golden syrup; thank you Sabrina Ghayour.  OR if you’ve got a sweet tooth and can’t end your meal without a sweet hit try Japanese soufflé-style pancakes – an internet gourmet-isation! OMG! Simple to make and absolutely amazing to eat; like eating a cloud.

Sweetcorn griddle cakes

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These savoury griddle cakes make for a great evening meal.  They can be totally vegetarian should you wish or deck them with bacon.  Heat is totally optional as is the sweet to drizzle over – we used golden syrup which worked really well at bringing out the sweetness of the corn.  We sprinkled some paprika over to add subtle warmth but chilli jam, sweet chilli sauce, sriracha or dried chilli flakes will work just as well.

Ingredients:

3 spring onions thinly sliced

1 large can sweetcorn drained (or 2 roasted corn on the cob)

150g feta cheese

1/2 bunch coriander

2 eggs

100ml milk

60g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 packet streaky bacon

oil for frying

optional: dried chili flakes, maple syrup, honey, chilli sauce

Method:

1st: Preheat the oven to 200ºC.  Place the bacon rashers onto an oven tray and bake until crispy.  Drain onto kitchen towel and reduce the heat to 100ºC.

2nd: In a large bowl mix the sliced spring onions, the can of drained sweetcorn, roughly chopped coriander and crumble the feta cheese in.  Add the flour and baking powder.  If using chilli flakes, add these now.  Season to taste but be careful as the feta and bacon will be salty.

3rd: Mix the eggs and milk together and stir into the dry ingredients. 

4th Heat a large frying pan over a medium heat with a splash of oil and spoon heaped spoonfuls of the mixture into the pan.  Fry in batches until golden brown on both sides and keep warm in a low oven whilst you cook the rest of them.

5th: Serve stacked with the bacon rashers balanced between them and drizzled with maple syrup, honey or chilli sauce.

Japanese Souffléd


Pancakes

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Begone crêpes! Flipping pancakes is a thing of the past as people turn to wobbling instead of tossing.  These super fluffy pancakes made with whisked egg white and cooked within a metal ring are twice the thickness of American-style pancakes but are extremely light in texture and wobble in a similar fashion to a soufflé.

Ingredients:

5 tbsp plain flour

1½ tbsp milk

1 tbsp melted unsalted butter

½ tsp vanilla extract

2½ tbsp caster sugar

2 large eggs; separated

¼ tsp cream of tartar or a few drops of lemon juice

Method:

1st: In a bowl, add milk, melted butter, vanilla extract and egg yolks.  Mix well.

2nd: Sift in the flour and gently fold in.

3rd: Add the egg whites and the cream of tartar (or lemon juice) to the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk for 5 mins before adding the sugar.  Whisk until the meringue holds its form and you can turn the bowl upside down and the meringue will not slide out.

4th: Scoop out ⅓ of the meringue and add to the egg yolk batter.  Once this is full incorporated, add the remaining ⅔ of the meringue and fold this in gently until everything is a pale yellow and there are no visible white streaks.

5th: Either add butter or use oil spray to the inside of the ring moulds and the griddle / frying pan.  Heat the pan to a low/medium heat and fill the mould ½ the way up.  Add a tsp of water to the pan and close the lid.  I used an upturned pan to create a dome.  Cook for 4-5mins.

6th: When you see the pancakes have risen to the rim of the mould, they are ready to turn over.  Do this with a spatula and take care.  Add a teaspoon of water to the pan and cover for another 3-4 mins until the pancakes are cooked and golden brown on both sides.

7th: Gently, remove the pancakes from their mould.  Serve these warm with any topping of your choice.

Pancake gourmet-isation!

 

 

 

 

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There is something very British about pheasant. Images of men in tweed, wearing Barbour jackets, valets reloading rifles before handing them back to their masters and hounds with bird in mouth come to mind. Cooks and servants at the manor preparing a banquet in celebration of the glut of birds shot.

Thomas Becket famously dined on pheasant the night before his infamously violent death in 1170. Tudor kings and queens dined on elaborate pheasant dishes with colourful plumes adorning the roasted bird. And we often read about pheasant being cooked in Dickensian stories and Austen novels, so it surprises me, that all things considered, how infrequently we see it in restaurants and supermarkets.

Both chicken and pheasant were recorded as having been brought to Europe by Phoenician traders but chicken with its bland taste and texture has won universal acclaim; with people usually eating chicken more than twice a week in different reincarnations.

Fast forward to the present day:

This Christmas, my nephew mentioned he’d never tried pheasant; actually, neither had the rest of us in the family. As Christmas Day traditions must be kept (turkey is a must) we tried cooking pheasant for the first time in the run up to Christmas.

Having read the butcher’s instructions on the label of the plucked, prepackaged, plastic wrapped pheasants and several internet searches later, it was clear that pheasant are in danger of drying out in the oven.

On taking the bird out of its packaging to place on its roasting trivet, the smell was strong and putrid. Slightly worried about this we looked at each other quizzically and thought, let’s just give this a go, if we don’t like it we just won’t cook it again. Admittedly whilst it sat on the trivet the smell seemed to dissipate and our fears were allayed.

We were not inflicting food poisoning on ourselves a few days before Christmas! Phew!!

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We prepared a herb butter and squeezed this between skin and breast meat. And stuffed the cavity with dried prunes and figs – the pheasant can take bold flavours; having bold flavours (and smells) itself. Truss the bird up before putting it into the oven so that the stuffing remains in the cavity and if you have any streaky bacon (we didn’t) protect the breast meat by laying several rashers across it.

Roast the bird on its trivet of vegetables for anything from 1hr 10mins to 1hr 30mins at 180°C. Allow to rest whilst you tend to gravy and mashed potatoes and any other vegetable side dish you’re serving.

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In terms of flavour, the breast meat had a slight herby/gamey taste but otherwise was quite transient and could pretty much carry other flavours with it but the leg meat, especially the drumstick was very strong and bold in flavour. Texture-wise this again was different, the leg meat was juicy, however, the breast meat was very dry.

I dare say that with repeated practise you’d be able to hone in your pheasant roasting skills or maybe even prefer cooking it in a slow cooker or in other guises.

With gravy, stuffing and mash this makes for a delicious autumnal/wintery evening meal sat in the warmth of your homely kitchen. As with other birds, the key is not to dry it out – the herb butter and streaky bacon will go a long way in protecting the integrity of the breast meat but keep an eye on this. Depending on the size of the pheasant being served it may be pertinent to think of half a bird per person so that they can try the leg and breast meat as there are joys to be had in both.

Pheasant season runs from 1st October to 1st February, so even if you’re not up to cooking pheasant during the Christmas season you can give it a go in the new year. If I can locate pheasant back home, I’d definitely be game to give it another go (pun intended).

Enjoy

Gastrorob

When day and night are of equal length and druids encircle Stonehenge; the moon grows fat and glows blood-red.  Summer turns to autumn.  Farmers and their families work hard to ensure their crop comes in before the first frost.  It’s harvest time.

The more delicate crops, beans and leafy greens, get picked first.

The pumpkin, large, round and orange, peaking out from under its deep green leaves, soaking up every last ounce of summer sunshine until eventually it too must be picked.  But whilst the rest of the crops are ready to be consumed, the pumpkin has another month to develop.  As it further ripens, its starches turn into sugars giving the pumpkin its sweet taste.  The pumpkin needs this time to mature and for its skin to harden.

Come late October, the pumpkin has reached perfection.  The excess of them meaning that they get churned out as Halloween pumpkins but for others, it is time to give thanks to the hare, the spirit of the land, for a bumper crop in this year and for the next.

And a whole pumpkin baked in the oven, a la river cottage, can’t be anything less than delicious!

Whole Oven Baked Pumkin

Ingredients:

1 whole pumpkin

250g Grated cheese (Gruyére,cheddar, emmental, etc)

300ml Double cream

500ml Vegetable stock (or chicken stock should you prefer)

2 Bay leaves 

Rasp of Nutmeg

Salt & pepper

Method:

1st: Pre-heat your oven to 190°c. Place the pumpkin on a baking tray and cut the top quarter off the top of the pumpkin. Reserve to one side.

2nd: Scoop out the seeds from the interior and any fibrous bits.

3rd: Fill the pumpkin with the cheese.  Use any cheese you wish, I used a packet of pre-grated cheese which had a mix of Emmental, Gruyére, Cheddar and Red Leicester, but you are more than welcome to stick to one cheese or combinations of cheeses that you prefer.

4th: Pour in the pot of cream.

5th: Add the bay leaves, nutmeg and salt & pepper.  Top up the pumpkin with your choice of stock but make sure not to fill it to the brim.

6th: Put the lid back on the pumpkin and place it in the oven for approx 1hour (this can take any length of time from 45mins to 1hr 15mins), until the flesh comes away from the pumpkin’s skin or a knife can be pushed through (careful not to pierce the skin).

“At this point the pumpkin is in real danger of collapse.  The larger the pumpkin, the greater the danger!  Don’t panic, it will look deflated but will taste delicious.” HFW.

7th: Fish out the bay leaves and serve piping hot.

If there is any leftover, scoop the remaining flesh out and blitz with some extra cream, cheese & stock.

The perfect pumpkin recipe to celebrate this fantastic gourd and welcome in those longer autumnal evenings.

As you already know, I have recently embarked on an “eat seasonally” ideology.  And as greatly moral as this is, it can be harder than it sounds in a place such as Gibraltar where firstly there isn’t any land to cultivate and grow produce – therefore relying on imported produce – and secondly but more specifically, we don’t really have four seasons. 

We go from hot to wet to warm again!

But who’s complaining?! Considering the glorious summers we enjoy in this region that can sometimes start as early as late April and last well into early November; it is not hard to understand why there can be an abundance of colourful fruits and vegetables on sale at our local grocers and markets; especially towards the end of summer and triumphantly ending their season in autumn.

Last to be picked off their trees and vines, and having soaked up every last ounce of summer sun, flesh ripened into sweet nectar; skins full to bursting – it is the purple, deep red to blue-black fruits and vegetables that make their prominence known within these autumn months.

Purple foods have become a hot produce colour of late (cranberry juice, pomegranate juice, pomegranate molasses, to name but a few).  They contain a phytochemical called anthocyanin, which is responsible to help fight free radicals and some cancers but may also protect against heart disease, diabetes and colon cancer.  Purple foods are good at preventing age-related memory loss, keeping the eyes and urinary tract healthy and lowering the risk of gum disease and stomach ulcers.

My Purple Plum Crumble is a remarkably easy dessert to make; my nephew’s favourite, and quintessentially autumnal.  The scents of cinnamon and nutmeg wafting through the house make this the perfect autumn pudding.

Plum Crumble

plum crumble

Ingredients:

  • 12 fresh plums, cut in half and stone removed
  • 50g butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • 1 star anise
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • A few raspings of fresh nutmeg
  • A splosh of red wine or water
  • 4 tbsp golden syrup
  • 4 tbsp caster sugar

For the Crumble:

  • 100g butter
  • 180-200g plain flour
  • 100g Demerara sugar

Make the crumble first: In a food processor pulse the butter and plain flour (this can be done by hand by fluttering the butter and flour between your fingers and thumb) until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.  Add the Demerara sugar to the mixture and place into the fridge.

1st: Preheat the oven to 200˚C.

plums

2nd: Sauté the plums for a few minutes in a hot frying pan with the butter and sugar.

3rd:  Add the vanilla, star anise, nutmeg, cinnamon, golden syrup and red wine (I sometimes substitute the wine for port or a mix of water and wine or just water).  Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 6 – 8mins.

4th: Once the plums have broken down into a thick, syrupy texture, place into an oven dish and cover with the crumble mixture.

(Optional Extra: add flaked almonds to the crumble mix).

5th: Bake in the oven for 20-25 mins or until golden brown.

6th: Allow to cool slightly before serving with double cream or cold vanilla ice-cream or both!

Here are other simple ways to eat purple foods:

  • I have previously extolled the virtues of porridge in Oat to A Good Start – so add a handful of blueberries or blackberries to this superfood to make it a super breakfast
  • Beetroot hummus and pita bread
  • Add aubergine to the meat mixture for Spaghetti Bolognese or Lasagne
  • Use pomegranate when making lamb tagines
  • Make a mixed berry compote to go over pana cotta
  • Blitz Greek style yoghurt with frozen berries and freeze for an easy ice-cream

I apologise if the mantra ‘Eat the Rainbow’ sounds totally naff; almost as if I’m stealing the Skittles motto but if a handful of blueberries in my brekkie are going to help me against all sorts of ailments then bring them on by the punnet-load!

Alternatively, a cheeky glass of red wine a day is also high in antioxidants!

Enjoy.

Be it the bleakest winter or the height of summer, there are always tomatoes.

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I’m not trying to be cloyingly obvious with the statement but surely if it’s in the sunnier months where the vegetable (or should I say fruit?) has had months of intense heat and sunshine to help it ripen and fill it with the goodness of the fertile soil and summer sun, it follows that this is when a tomato is at its best.

Each fruit or vegetable has a prime time when it’s at its seasonal best. That means extra flavour, extra crunch, extra juiciness.

So why is it that walk into any supermarket, grocers, corner shop, in the middle of winter, you will always find a tray, box or pack of plump, red tomatoes?

They have been engineered for efficiency and convenience.

They have probably been cultivated in a polytunnel/greenhouse.  This artificial environment grows tomatoes that may look the part but do they actually taste like a tomato should if they haven’t been exposed to sunshine?  Simple: No. These tomatoes will be firmer (able to withstand transportation bruising), full of water and tasteless!

Take for example my simple yet delicious summery, tomato salad.  It’s not so much a recipe as a couple of ingredients and seasonings in a bowl:

Tomato Salad

Chop tomatoes into different sizes depending on their variety, chop a couple of cloves of garlic, season, and a generous glug of extra virgin olive oil and some balsamic vinegar.  Tear basil leaves and mix everything around so that the flavours get to know eachother.  Do not serve cold. 

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Admittedly, in summer is when you are going to get different variety of tomatoes in supermarkets and there are so many varieties around that each time you make the salad it will be slightly different.

Serve this salad in winter and firstly it won’t be that appealing but mainly you will have a tasteless, watery salad.  However, in summer the flavour will be much sweeter, juicier and the colours of the different varieties will make your salad come alive!

So why eat seasonal?

If taste alone is not convincing you that eating seasonally is best then here are a few other reasons:

1) Cost Effective: as the produce is in abundance, prices are lowered to shift the volume that has been grown – any not sold get thrown out!

2) Nutritious: as grown in respective conditions, the product exhibits all its natural nutrients as the phytochemicals that give the fruit/vegetable its colour and give it its antioxidant properties are developed to their most effective.

3) Environmentally Friendly: seasonal fruit and veg don’t have to travel as far as when off season therefore reducing the amount of fuel needed to transport them.  Chemical washes and wax coatings (used to protect the produce on long journeys) can be dispensed with.

4) Supporting the Community: Normally local producers are responsible for selling seasonal produce – its the large supermarkets that import from all over the world and charge an excessive price for tasteless fruit and veg.

5) Break the habit: Try to get into the habit of buying your fruit and veg from the public market or independent shops in town rather than from supermarkets.

In Gibraltar we may not have areas for people to grow enough fruit and veg to sell but there are several people who try to grow their own produce.  I know of a couple who purchase an organic veg box from a local gentleman who will supply them with a variety of his produce at a very reasonable price.  Opening the box is like Christmas-come-early in anticipation of what you’ve got to cook with!

calendarseason copyFollowing the seasons can be difficult if you are already in a cooking pattern.  But with a little imagination you might find that you rediscover something you always enjoyed eating but have stopped cooking.  This not only applies to fruit and veg but to meat and fish too.

I was once told by a fisherman to only eat sardines in a month without an R, namely May-August.  The main reason being that April is spawning season hence we shouldn’t fish sardines before then for fear of depleting stocks and making it an unsustainable food source.  Lamb becomes a desired menu item in Spring. Cheaper cuts can be served all year round but a joint of lamb is at its most flavoursome in Springtime.

Eating seasonally leads us into a more sustainable eating system.

Our main difficulty in Gibraltar is that most of our food is imported from the Uk or Spain by supermarkets.  Buying organic is not necessarily buying seasonal.  The fact that nothing sold is grown/reared here means that very little food we get is local.  Our nearest sources of food come from Morocco and Spain.  There is very little space to make ourselves available of allotments and ground share initiatives to grow our own.

To find out what foods are in season at the moment click on the following link: www.eattheseasons.co.uk   It’s a great site that not only gives you foods which are in season at the moment but also which wines are best during these months. 

With summer being the season of abundance now might be the time to give this a go.

You might find, as I am sure I will, that you never eat a wintry tomato again.