Yum in a bun – 5 reasons to cook veggie burgers this summer

With summer now in full swing in the northern hemisphere and most countries out of lock down, getting together with friends and family for a barbecue seems like hell of a good idea. That’s all well and good for meat eaters, but vegetarians often get forgotten when it comes to barbecuing – with a few grilled peppers or (the dreaded) kebab with chunks of under and over cooked pieces of something, that once resembled a vegetable, speared together on a stick.

Well you need to look no further than a good old burger or slider (a mini burger) and by taking a journey around the world for inspiration treat yourself to one of these delicious meat free options. A good burger is made by balancing and layering of flavours and textures set in a bun, bread or wrap. We need yum, we need crunch, we need gooeyness we need salty, sour and a little sweet – can’t really say it better than that.

Aubergine sliders with tahini sauce 

Here lovely rich flavours combine in this Middle Eastern-style burger with preserved lemon, pomegranates, tahini and ras al hanout – a classic spice mix. Simply make 4 larger burgers if you prefer.

Serves: 4

100g semi-dried tomatoes, sliced

½ preserved lemon, flesh discarded and skin diced

4 tablespoons pine nuts (35g)

4 tablespoons pomegranate seeds (50g)

4 tablespoons parsley leaves

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons honey

1 large aubergine (about 450g)

1 teaspoon ras al hanout

8 small ciabatta rolls (or 4 large)

50g salad leaves

salt and pepper

Tahini sauce

100g Greek yogurt

2 tablespoons tahini paste

1 small garlic clove, crushed

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Combine the semi-dried tomatoes, preserved lemon, pine nuts, pomegranate seeds, parsley, 2 tablespoons of the oil, the honey and some salt and pepper. In a bowl and set aside.

Make the sauce. Beat together the yogurt, tahini, garlic and lemon juice and season to taste.

Cut the aubergine width-ways into 8 thick slices. Combine the remaining oil with the ras al hanout and some salt and pepper and brush over the slices. Barbecue the aubergine slices for 4-5 minutes each side until well charred and softened. 

To serve, cut the rolls in half and toast the cut sides. Fill with the aubergine slices, tomato mixture, tahini yogurt and salad leaves.

Vietnamese sesame tofu banh mi burger with pickled vegetables

The tofu is marinated in a char sui sauce before being grilled and served in rolls with pickled vegetables, chillies, salad leaves and fresh herbs making this a delicious veggie alternative to the classic Vietnamese BBQ pork rolls, or ban mi.

Serves: 4

350 g firm tofu, drained

80 g hoisin sauce

4 tablespoons honey 

4 tablespoons dark soy sauce

2 tablespoons Shoaxing wine (Chinese rice wine)

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon Chinese 5 spice

1 French baguette 

50 g salad leaves 

2 tablespoons black and white sesame seeds

a few fresh coriander, mint and basil leaves

4 tablespoons mayonnaise

4 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce

Pickled vegetables

1 small carrot

½ cucumber

½ small red onion

50ml rice wine vinegar

50g caster sugar

2 tablespoons water

1 teaspoon salt

a few sesame seeds, to serve (optional) 

Make the pickled vegetables. Thinly slice the carrot length ways and then cut into long thin strips. De-seed and cut the cucumber into long thin strips. Thinly slice the onion and combine the vegetables in a bowl. Place the vinegar, sugar, water and salt in a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to the boil and then pour over the vegetables. Stir well and set aside until cold.  

Cut the tofu into 8 thick slices and place in a bowl. Combine the Hoisin sauce, honey, soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, sesame oil and Chinese 5 spice. Pour over the tofu, turning to coat thoroughly and leave to marinate for 30 minutes. 

Cook the tofu pieces on a hot barbecue for 2-3 minutes each side until charred and heated through.

To serve, cut the baguette into 10cm lengths and then cut each one almost in half. Fill each one with the salad leaves, fresh herbs, fried tofu and pickles and drizzle over the mayonnaise and sweet chilli sauce. Top with the sesame seeds.

Buffalo cauliflower burgers with blue cheese sauce

A classic American dish usually made with chicken wings is given a veggie makeover with chunks of cauliflower replace the more usual chicken. Pared with a blue cheese sauce, this is finger-licking good. The cauliflower is actually cooked in the oven, but you can toast the buns on the barbecue before assembling it.

Serves: 4

500g cauliflower florets

12 5ml full fat milk

75 g chickpea flour or plain flour

1 teaspoon mustard powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

2 tablespoons hot chilli sauce

1 tablespoon clear honey

15g butter, melted

4 burger buns

125g iceberg lettuce, shredded

Blue cheese sauce

75 g sour cream

50 g creamy blue cheese

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

½ teaspoon caster sugar

salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 220c/425f/gas mark 7 and line a roasting tin with baking paper. In a bowl, combine the gram flour or plain flour, mustard powder, cumin, paprika and a little salt and pepper. Gradually whisk in the milk with 50 ml cold water until the batter is smooth.

Dip each cauliflower floret into the batter and then shake off the excess so the cauliflower is just very lightly coated. Place on the prepared baking tray, leaving space in between each floret. Roast for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, warm the chilli sauce, honey and butter in a small saucepan until combined. Remove the cauliflower from the oven, drizzle over the chilli sauce and stir well until evenly coated. Return to the oven for a further 10-15 minutes until the cauliflower is tender and golden. Let cool for 10 minutes.

Make the sauce. Place the sour cream, blue cheese, vinegar and a little salt and pepper in a blender and whizz until fairly smooth. Stir in the chives, adjust seasoning to taste.

To serve, cut the rolls in half and toast the cut sides. Fill with the lettuce, cauliflower pieces and blue cheese dressing.

Super greens zucchini sliders whipped feta and kale crisps

Lovely vibrant green sliders served with crispy kale chips, perfect for vegetarians and meat eaters alike. You will need thick curly kale for the chips as it is more robust than baby kale leaves. Make all the separate parts ahead and barbecue the zucchini to serve.

Makes: 8

2 small zucchini (about 500 g)

1 lemon

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

8 small poppy seed rolls 

Kale crisps

100g kale, trimmed

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons sesame seeds

Rocket pesto

2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds

60 g rocket leaves

1 garlic clove, chopped

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Whipped feta

100g feta

25g creme fraiche

Trim the zucchini and cut length ways into 3mm thick slices. Grate the lemon and squeeze the juice into a bowl. Add the oil and some salt and pepper. Place the zucchini slices in a shallow dish, pour over the dressing and stir well to coat. Leave to marinate for 30 minutes.

Make kale crisps. Preheat the oven to 150c/300f/gas mark 3 and line a large baking tray with baking paper. Shred the kale into bite size pieces, discarding the thick stalk and place in a bowl, combine with the oil and caress until the leaves are well coated. Scatter over the prepared tray and roast for 18-20 minutes until crisp. Season with salt and pepper and scatter with the sesame seeds.

Make pesto. Toast the pumpkin seeds in a small frying pan over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes until golden. Cool and place in a food processor with the rocket, garlic, oil and a little salt and pepper. Blend until smooth.

Make the whipped feta. Place the ingredients in a blender and puree until really smooth. 

To serve, cook the zucchini slices on a hot barbecue for 2-3 minutes each side until charred and tender. Cut the rolls in half and toast the cut sides. Fill the rolls with the zucchini slices, whipped feta, pesto and some of the kale crisps. Serve with the remaining kale crisps on the side.

Sticky sweet chilli halloumi sliders with crispy onions

I didn’t think haloumi could get any better but adding a little sweet chilli jam is a knock out. You can temper the heat of the chilli sauce by using large mild chillies if preferred. It is best to cook the halloumi on a flat griddle plate on your barbecue if you have one, rather than the grill rack – or cook in a frying pan in the normal way. Make 4 large burgers, if preferred.

Serves: 4

250g halloumi

1 tablespoon olive oil

8 small wholemeal baps (or 4 large)

50 g rocket leaves

8 baby tomatoes, halved

Sweet chilli jam 

6 large red chillies, seeded and chopped

4 garlic cloves, chopped

1 teaspoon grated root ginger

1 teaspoon salt

100 ml rice wine vinegar

100 ml granulated sugar

Onion rings

125 g plain flour

30 g cornflour

250 ml sparkling water

1 onion, sliced

Sunflower oil, for deep frying

Heat the oven to 180c/350f/gas mark 4. Make the sweet chilli jam. Place the chillies, garlic, ginger and salt in a food processor, blend to a rough paste and transfer to a saucepan. Add the vinegar and sugar, bring to the boil and simmer gently, partially covered for 5-10 minutes until the mixture becomes a quite thick and sticky. Cool completely, bottle and store in the ‘fridge. Use as required.

Make onion rings. Sift the flours into a bowl, add the salt and then gradually whisk in the water to make a smooth batter. Let sit for 10 minutes. Fill a wok or old saucepan with 5 cm sunflower oil and heat until a cube of bread, added to the pan crisps immediately. Whisk the batter again and dip the onion rings in a few at a time and deep fry for 2-3 minutes until crisp and golden. Keep warm in the oven while cooking the haloumi.

Cut the halloumi into 3 mm thick slice. Heat the oil on the flat griddle of your barbecue or in frying pan over a high heat and fry the halloumi slices for 30 seconds each side until starting to brown. Brush with a little of the chilli jam and cook for a further 30 seconds each side until golden and sticky. 

Cut the rolls in half and toast the cut sides. Fill with the haloumi, rocket, tomato halves and the crispy onions and serve with a little extra chilli jam. 

Recipes © Louise Pickford

Photographs © Ian Wallace

Published in the book Burgers & Sliders © Ryland, Peters & Small and Cico Books


Summer dining, al fresco pizza night.

Warm evening, dusk falling, pizza oven at the ready – what else could anyone wish for. This feature was commissioned by Delicious UK for last summer’s August issue (2019) and we shot it on location here in France. The meal begins with a delightful cocktail called a Hugo, well maybe with a tweak, followed by three different pizzas, a great salad to share and a to die for summer cheesecake, with a hint of wicked about it. A definite recipe for success.

Elderflower Prosecco Spritzer with cucumber

I like to make the most of early summer elderflowers and make as much syrup as I can from the delicate flower clusters. It is so versatile and can be used in all types of dishes from cocktails like the one below; added to dressings, icings or sweet sauces. Here it adds a hint of perfume to Prosecco along with the refreshing bite of cucumber, tang of mint all topped up with a little tonic water, lemonade or fizzy water, depending on taste – my take on a Hugo.

Serves: 6

1/2 cucumber, peeled and seeded

ice cubes

180 ml elderflower cordial/syrup

1 bottle Prosecco

30 ml tonic water or sparkling water

lime slices

mint leaves

Cut the cucumber into thick slices. Fill wine glasses with the ice cubes and add 30 ml elderflower syrup, 150 ml Prosecco and 50 ml tonic water to each glass. Add the cucumber sticks, lime slices and mint leaves. Swirl and drink. 

Courgette, dolcelatte and mint with pumpkin seeds 

This fresh tasting summer pizza is a lovely option for this time of year when courgettes are at their best. Lemon flavoured olive oil adds an extra intensity to the finished dish and is available from most larger supermarkets. Alternatively infuse some extra virgin olive oil with lemon zest for several hours ahead of time.

Serves: 3

1 quantity pizza dough (see below)

1 courgette, trimmed

finely grated zest 1 lemon

a large handful mint leaves

150g dolcelatte, crumbled

150g buffalo mozzarella, sliced thinly

3 tablespoons pumpkin seeds

Lemon oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice, to serve

Preheat the oven to its highest setting and place either a pizza stone or oven tray on the middle shelf to heat up.

Meanwhile, very thinly slice the courgettes into ribbons. Place in a bowl with salt, pepper, lemon zest and 1 tablespoon lemon oil. Leave to infuse for 30 minutes.

Take your prepared dough and top with a third of the courgettes, mint leaves, dolcelatte, mozzarella and pepitas. Open the oven door and pull the rack out slightly with the hot stone or oven tray. Tip the board towards the stone/tray and pull the board firmly towards you so that the pizza base slips directly onto the heated surface. Cook for 6-8 minutes or until the dough is puffed at the edges and golden.

Serve drizzled with extra lemon oil. Repeat to make 2 more pizzas.

Tip: If you are a little wary of sliding the pizza into the oven, you can line your board with baking paper instead of flour. If you do this, sliding the pizza on the paper directly to the heated stone or tray is easier.

Pizza dough

Makes: 3 x 30cm pizza bases

There is little better than a thin, crispy, gooey pizza fresh from the oven but unless you have access to a giant pizza oven then cooking more than one pizza at a time is impractical, so cook one and share it between you, cooking the next and the next as you eat.

150 g plain flour

150 g strong white bread flour

2 teaspoons sea salt

1 teaspoon  dried active yeast

1 teaspoon olive oil

190-200ml water 

Combine both types of flour and  salt in a large mixing bowl. Place the yeast in a small bowl and stir in the water until dissolved. Add to the flour with the olive oil and work together until the mixture is just combined. Cover and chill for 15 minutes. 

Transfer to a lightly floured board and knead for 5 minutes or until the dough is smooth. Divide into 3 equal pieces and gently form into rounds. Place on a well floured tray, cover with cling film and chill overnight. Remove the dough from the fridge an hour before ready to cook. 

Preheat the oven to its highest setting and place either a pizza stone or oven tray on the middle shelf to heat up. 

Well flour a chopping board, set aside. Take one piece of dough, place it on a floured work surface and very gently press flat to form a disc. Using your fingers, again gently press the dough from the middle outwards until you form a rim about 1 cm from the edge, this will form a crust. Repeat this two or three times so that each time the dough becomes larger and thinner, keeping the crust in place. At this stage you can pick the dough up allowing it to hang down from to stretch it, turning it several times to form a 30 cm circle. 

Transfer the dough to the floured chopping board. This is now ready for the topping to be added.

Pizza with heirloom cherry toms, burrata and some herb pesto

This is definitely a pizza for the moment, with heirloom tomato varieties and burrata cheese. It is pretty dammed delicious

Serves: 3

1 quantity pizza dough (see above)

30 g mixed herbs, such as basil, mint and parsley

1 garlic clove, chopped

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

A pinch caster sugar

75 – 100 ml extra virgin olive oil

1 kg mixed heirloom tomatoes, halved, quartered or sliced

2 balls burrata, torn

salt and pepper

aa handful of rocket leaves and some shaved Parmesan, to serve

Preheat the oven to its highest setting and place either a pizza stone or oven tray on the middle shelf to heat up. 

Meanwhile, make the pesto. Place the herbs, garlic, lemon juice, mustard, sugar, olive oil and salt and pepper in blender and blend until smooth and vibrant green. 

Take your prepared dough and top with a third of the tomatoes, drizzle over a little oil and add salt and pepper. Open the oven door and pull the rack out slightly with the hot stone or oven tray. Tip the board towards the stone/tray and pull the board firmly towards you so that the pizza base slips directly onto the heated surface. Cook for 6-8 minutes or until the dough is puffed at the edges and golden.

Transfer to a plate and top the pizza with a third of the burrata, drizzle with the herb pesto and serve topped with rocket leaves and some shavings of Parmesan. Repeat to make 2 more pizzas.

Margarita with chorizo

My version of the classic Italian pizza. You only need half the amount of ragu sauce in the recipe for this pizza, but I recommend making it all up and freezing or bottling the rest to use next time.

Serves: 3

1 quantity pizza dough (see above)

1/2 quantity ragu sauce

100 g chorizo, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons drained capers

30 g pitted black or green olives

250 g buffalo mozzarella, sliced or crumbled

a handful basil leaves

Ragu sauce

Makes: approximately 500ml

1 kg ripe roma/plum tomatoes, roughly chopped

2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 tablespoon olive oil

1/2-1 teaspoon  sugar

salt and pepper

Make the sauce. Place all the ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to the boil, then simmer  gently for about 1 hour, or until thickened and reduced by half. Allow to cool. 

Make the pizza dough (see above)

Cook pizza. Preheat the oven to its highest setting and place either a pizza stone or oven tray on the middle shelf to heat up.

Take your prepared dough and top with a third of the ragu sauce, spreading it to within 2 cm of the edges. Add a third of the chorizo, capers, olives and mozzarella. 

Open the oven door and pull the rack out slightly with the hot stone or oven tray. Tip the board towards the stone/tray and pull the board firmly towards you so that the pizza base slips directly onto the heated surface. Cook for 6-8 minutes or until the dough is puffed at the edges and golden. Repeat to make 2 more.

Serve topped with fresh basil leaves.

Roasted pepper and aubergine Salad with labne and crispy fried spiced chickpeas

A great sharing salad to serve alongside the pizza of your choice. Labne is a thickened or strained yogurt, traditionally eaten in middle eastern countries. It is easy to make as you will see here, or you can buy it ready made. The salad can be prepared well ahead.

Serves: 6

250 g Greek yogurt

4 red peppers

2 medium aubergines

5 tablespoons olive oil

1 x 400 g can chickpeas, drained

Grated zest 1 lemon

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

150 g rocket or mizuna

a handful roughly chopped fresh herbs to include coriander, basil, mint , parsley and chives

salt an pepper

Dressing

juice half lemon

11/2 teaspoons agave syrup or honey

1/4 teaspoon sumac

3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 220 c/425f/fan-forced 200c. Line a baking tray with baking paper.  Place the Greek yogurt in a sieve lined with muslin. Let drain for 30 minutes until thickened slightly. 

Trim the peppers and cut each one into quarters, discarding the seeds and any internal membrane. Trim the aubergines and cut cross ways into 1 cm thick slices,  place in a bowl. Add 4 tablespoons of olive oil and some salt and pepper and stir really well, massaging the oil into the flesh. 

Heat a char-grill pan (or conventional grill) and once hot, cook the peppers on a high heat for about 5 minutes each side until well charred and starting to soften nicely. Transfer to a bowl and place a tea towel over the top. Set aside to cool. Then cut into strips.

Char-grill the aubergine slices, again over a high heat for 4-5 minutes each side until soft and golden. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, place the chickpeas into the prepared baking tray. Add the lemon zest, paprika,  remaining olive oil and some salt and pepper. Stir well and transfer to the oven. Cook for 20-25 minutes or until the chickpeas are crisp and golden. Set aside to cool.

Make the dressing. Place all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk until smooth. 

Combine the peppers, aubergines, rocket leaves and herbs in a bowl, then transfer to a large platter. Spoon dollops of the labne randomly over the top. Drizzle over the dressing and serve scattered with the chickpeas.

Yuzu Daiquiri cheesecake pots and salted praline crumbs

Finish off this lovely summer meal with a tangy, intriguing and utterly delicious cheesecake. Yuzu is a Japanese citrus fruit with an incredibly intense flavour – a combination of lime, grapefruit and mandarin. It is available from some larger supermarkets, special food stores or online. You can use a combination of the lime, grapefruit and orange or mandarin if you are unable to find yuzu. 

Serves: 8

200 g white chocolate, melted

50 g butter, melted

175 g digestive biscuits, crushed

75 ml Yuzu juice (see intro)

75 ml vodka

125 g caster sugar

600 g soft cheese

250 ml cream

Salted lime praline

125 g caster sugar

grated zest 3 limes

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Melt the chocolate in a bowl set over gently simmering water  (do not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water) stirring until smooth.  Take 8  Champagne cups or martini glasses and dip the rims into the melted chocolate for decoration, let cool. Reserve the remaining chocolate, keeping it warm.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan and pour into a bowl. Add the digestives and stir well until evenly coated. Divide between the glasses pressing them down lightly using the end of a rolling pin. Chill until required.

Combine the yuzu juice, vodka and half the sugar in a small saucepan and heat gently, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Bring to the boil and then remove from the heat. Leave to cool completely.

Warm the cream in a small pan until just tepid and gently stir in the reserved melted chocolate until smooth. 

Place the cream cheese in a food processor with the yuzu mixture and blitz until smooth. Then stir in the melted chocolate mixture and blend again. Using a piping bag with a large plain nozzle pipe the mixture into the glasses (or simply spoon the mixture into the glasses). Chill for at least 2 hours. 

Make the praline. Line a baking sheet with baking paper. Combine the sugar with 2 tablespoons of water in a small saucepan and place over a very low heat. Stir gently until the sugar is dissolved, not allowing the mixture to boil until it is. Bring to the boil and cook without stirring for a further 5-6 mins until the liquid turns golden brown. Pour the caramel onto the prepared tray and cool and set.

Roughly crumble the praline and place in a food processor with the lime zest and salt and blitz to make a slightly chunky crumb mixture. 

To serve remove the cheesecakes from the fridge and top with the salted lime praline.

all recipes © Louise Pickford

styling Louise Pickford

all photos © Ian Wallace


A little biscotti or two

Well I awoke this morning to grey drizzle. I know we need the rain and I am really happy about that, but I just couldn’t help but feel a little ‘blue’ SO, I am going to revisit a recipe from a Christmas feature from 2019 and make these highly addictive biscotti with salted chocolate to cheer myself up.

I hope you all have a go and enjoy them as much as me.

Almond and salted chocolate biscotti

Makes: about 50

150g blanched almonds, toasted

250g plain flour

200g soft brown sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

60g chilled unsalted butter

3 eggs

1 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp vanilla essence

Egg wash

1 egg, beaten with 1 tbsp milk

Icing

200g dark chocolate

Sea salt

Preheat the oven to 180c/fan-forced 160c. Line 2 large baking trays with baking paper. Place the toasted almonds in a food processor and blend until coarsely chopped. 

In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Gradually work in the butter until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in the chopped almonds. 

Whisk the eggs, oil, and vanilla essence together and stir into the crumbed flour mixture. Gently mix together with a large wooden spoon until the dough just comes together.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead lightly until the dough is soft and slightly sticky, about 8-10 times. Divide the dough in half and with lightly floured hands shape each one into a 20cm log. Transfer the logs to one of the prepared baking sheets flattening them slightly into a brick shape about 3 cm wide. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the top and sides of each slab with egg wash.

Bake the slabs for 25 minutes or until the top and sides are lightly browned. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 10 minutes. 

Using a serrated knife slice the dough into 1cm thick slices. Set the slices about 1 cm apart on the 2 trays (in batches). Return to the oven and cook for 10 minutes, turn the biscotti over and bake the other side for 8-10 more minutes until  golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes on the baking trays, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. 

Make the icing. Melt the chocolate in a medium bowl in the microwave (or use a double boiler) stirring until melted and smooth. Dip one end of each biscotti into the melted chocolate and immediately sprinkle one side with a little sea salt. Transfer to the wire rack and leave until the chocolate is set.

© recipe Louise Pickford

© Photo by Ian Wallace photographer


The beauty of a good chicken stock

When a recipe calls for chicken stock, always try and make your own as it really is so worth the effort (which to be fair, is not a actually a big deal). Why? Well, because not only does it taste better, it has no additives, it is so good for you with naturally occurring antimicrobial properties from the bones, and if using a cooked chicken carcass you are also getting more out of your bird and there is less waste.

This recipe uses a whole, uncooked chook, but I adapt it whenever I have any chicken leftover from my Sunday roast. Basically it’s a win win recipe.

Homemade chicken stock

It is always best to make a chicken (or any) stock at least one day ahead of you needing it, as the fat needs to be removed, leaving you with a lovely clean clear liquid. Once made the stock is left to go cold and then it is ready to refrigerate overnight. This sets the layer of fat on the surface of the stock, which can then be more easily removed the next day.

In France (where I live) you can buy several different types of chickens including a boiling chicken, which is an older bird with a good flavour, but the meat is tougher, due to the age. If you can’t get this where you live, a regular large chicken will do. If you can stretch to it, always buy free-range chickens, for ethical reasons.

If you end up making the stock, but not using it within a day or so, then pop it in to the freezer, where it will sit happily for up to 3 months.

Recipe

Makes: approximately 2L/8 cups (the one shown above has been reduced)

2 kg/4 1/4 lb boiling chicken, washed
2 onions, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 sticks celery, chopped
2 leeks, sliced
2 garlic cloves

2 teaspoons sea salt

a few sprigs parsley

a few sprigs thyme
a few black peppercorns, lightly bashed

If you are using a raw chicken, wash and dry inside and out, then place in a large saucepan. Add all the remaining ingredients and cover with 2.5L/10 cups of cold water.

Bring the water to the boil skimming the surface with a large spoon to remove any scum. Simmer gently, partially covered, for 3 hours. Strain the stock and leave to cool completely, then refrigerate overnight.

Carefully skim off the congealed layer of fat from the surface of the stock. You can now either use it as it is, or if you want a richer, deeper flavour then return it to the pan and cook again, uncovered this time, until it is reduced and has a depth of flavour you are happy with. Only at this point adjust the seasoning.

Tip. If using a cooked carcass, no need to wash it, simply pop it in the pan and continue as above.

Image © Ian Wallace

Recipe (not used from the book) ©Louise Pickford

Image published by Bauer Women’s Weekly Cook Books for More Slow Cooker


Warming the cockles with French onion soup

Just when I thought the cooler days were behind me, I awake to rain and chill, so lunch today is going to be a soup to warm those cockles – in this case my tummy. This recipe from my Delicious UK January 2020 winter menu goes one step further in yumminess with a side order of gooey cheese melts.

Red Onion Soup with Cheesy Sourdough Melts

Serves: 6

The addition of the gooey cheese melts gives this classic French onion soup a lovely modern twist. You can use sliced sourdough bread, ciabatta or French stock for the melts.

75 ml olive oil

1.25 kg red onions, thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme 

150 ml red wine

1.5  Litres good quality beef stock

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

50 g butter, softened

6 large sourdough bread or ciabatta slices

100 g Camembert, thinly sliced

75 g Gruyere, grated

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan and gently fry the onions, garlic, thyme, and a little salt and pepper over a low heat for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until the onions are well caramelized. 

Add the wine and reduce by half, then stir in the stock. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for 20-25 minutes until rich and flavourful. Add the parsley and adjust seasonings to taste.

Butter one side of the sourdough or ciabatta slices. Layer the Camembert and grated Gruyere over the non buttered side of 3 slices. Top butter-side up with the remaining slices. Press firmly but gently together.

Place a large non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. Add the sandwiches and top with a piece of foil. Weigh the slices down with a second pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes each side until the bread is crisp and golden and the cheese melted. 

Spoon the soup into bowls. Cut each sourdough slice in half and serve alongside the soup.

Tip: you can make the soup a day ahead and keep in the fridge, giving it even more flavour.


Green goodness in a bun – a super healthy veggie slider

A simple healthy slider (or mini burger) first published by my UK publishers Ryland Peters & Small in a book entitled Burgers + Sliders. This recipe was voted their best ever veggie burger, so go for it and get healthy and happy.

Super greens courgette/zucchini sliders whipped feta and kale crisps

Makes: 8

Lovely vibrant green sliders served with crispy kale chips, perfect for vegetarians and meat eaters alike. You will need thick curly kale for the chips as it is more robust than baby kale leaves.

2 courgettes or zucchini (about 500g)

1 lemon

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

8 small poppy seed rolls 

Kale crisps

100g kale, trimmed

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons sesame seeds

Rocket pesto

2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds

60g rocket leaves

1 garlic clove, chopped

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Whipped feta

100g feta

25g creme fraiche

Trim the courgette/zucchini and cut lengthways into 3mm thick slices. Grate the lemon and squeeze the juice into a bowl. Add the oil and some salt and pepper. Place the courgette/zucchini slices in a shallow dish, pour over the dressing and stir well to coat. Leave to marinate for 30 minutes.

Make kale crisps. Preheat the oven to 150c/300f/gas mark 3 and line a large baking tray with baking paper. Shred the kale into bite size pieces, discarding the thick stalk and place in a bowl, combine with the oil and caress until the leaves are well coated. Scatter over the prepared tray and roast for 18-20 minutes until crisp. Season with salt and pepper and scatter with the sesame seeds.

Make pesto. Toast the pumpkin seeds in a small frying pan over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes until golden. Cool and place in a food processor with the rocket, garlic, oil and a little salt and pepper. Blend until smooth.

Make the whipped feta. Place the ingredients in a blender and puree until really smooth. 

To serve, heat a griddle pan until hot and cook the courgette/zucchini slices for 2-3 minutes each side until charred and tender. Cut the rolls in half and toast the cut sides. Fill the rolls with the zucchini slices, whipped feta, pesto and some of the kale crisps. Serve with the remaining kale crisps on the side.

© Louise Pickford http://www.comecookinfrance.com

© photography Ian Wallace http://www.ianwallacephotographer.com

Published by Ryland Peters & Small and Cico Books


2020 – An exciting year ahead at Come Cook In France

Residential workshops

So excited to be able offer residential workshops as well as my private day courses. These 3 day/4 night courses are co-hosted with local venues in the region and in 2019 we hosted our first one at the truly stunning Creative Workshop and Accommodation venue Les Soeurs Anglaises in La Dordogne, SW France. Next year we will be running 3 workshops together, throughout the year.

Dates at Les Soeurs Anglaises in 2020

Spring workshop 23rd – 27th April 2020 6 places available BOOK NOW

Summer workshop June 18th – 22nd 2020 FULL

Autumn workshop 17th – 21st September 2020 BOOK NOW

Details

● Four nights accommodation and continental breakfast 

● Welcome mezze dinner with wine. 

● Three fun, informative, half-day cooking sessions with after-class tasting meals 

● An excursion to a local farmer’s market and/or visit to an artisan food maker (vinegar, cheese, nut oils, mushrooms, and/or a vineyard) 

● Recipes and a Come Cook In France folder 

● 3 light meals (prepared by your host) including all beverages (wine, waters, etc.) 

● Local transport from and to Angouleme train station and Bergerac airport 

● *Air and train fares to and from collection points in France are not included. 

Prices

A: Single occupancy of Superior double bedroom with en suite: 1350€ per person.

B: Shared occupancy of Superior double bedroom with en suite: 1150€ per person.

C: Single occupancy of Twin bedroom shared bathroom 1100€ per person

D: Shared Twin bedroom / shared bathroom: 950€ per person 

Minimum 8 participants (max 12 residents)

  • A non-refundable deposit of 300€ is required for confirmation of booking

Itinerary

DAY 1 Travel day, you will be sent information regarding transportation to Les Soeurs Anglaises (pick-ups are generally late afternoon) from Angouleme train station and Bergerac Dordogne Périgord Airport (EGC). Welcome, meet and greet dinner at the house.

DAY 2 Morning at the local marché. After a light market lunch, there will be an cookery class in L’Espace kitchen where the evening meal will be discussed and prepared.

DAY 3 We will meet in L’Espace kitchen where we will prepare a three course lunch to enjoy al fresco (weather permitting). The afternoon and evening will be free time for you to relax and enjoy the accommodation. A light evening meal will be provided.


DAY 4 You will have another chance to relax and have spare time to yourselves. There will be a light lunch provided. The afternoon session will be preparing and cooking the four course evening meal, again to be enjoyed together al fresco (weather permitting).

DAY 5 Brunch followed by departures before lunch.

  • Please note that this is a proposed itinerary and is subject to modest modifications, depending on available fresh produce, new opportunities, and the wishes of the workshop leader
  • opportunities, and the wishes of the workshop leader

Toutvent Manoir

I am also delighted to be co-hosting with Toutvent Manoir. Re-opened in spring 2019, Toutvent is a beautifully restored 18th century French property situated in the Charente on the border of the Dordogne. Located 5-minutes drive from Aubeterre- sur-Dronne, listed in Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (The Most Beautiful Villages in France) the Manor house sits in an enviable hill-top position with stunning views over the Dordogne valley.

Dates at Toutvent Manoir in 2020

Early Summer workshop 14th – 18th May BOOK NOW

Details

● Four nights accommodation and continental breakfast 

● Welcome mezze dinner with wine. 

● Three fun, informative, half-day cooking sessions with after-class tasting meals 

● An excursion to a local farmer’s market and/or visit to an artisan food maker (vinegar, cheese, nut oils, mushrooms, and/or a vineyard) 

● Recipes and a Come Cook In France folder.

● 3 light meals (prepared by your host) including all beverages (wine, waters, etc.) 

● Local transport from and to Angouleme train station and Bergerac airport 

● *Air and train fares to and from collection points in France are not included. 

Prices

A: Single occupancy of Superior double bedroom with en suite: 1350€ per person.

B: Shared occupancy of Superior double bedroom with en suite: 1150€ per person.

C: Single occupancy of Twin bedroom shared bathroom 1100€ per person

D: Shared Twin bedroom / shared bathroom: 950€ per person 

Minimum 8 participants (max 10 residents)

  • A non-refundable deposit of 300€ is required for confirmation of booking

Itinerary

DAY 1 Travel day, you will be sent information regarding transportation to Toutvent Manoir(pick-ups are generally late afternoon) from Angouleme train station and Bergerac Dordogne Périgord Airport (EGC). Welcome, meet and greet dinner at the house.

DAY 2 Morning at the local marché. After a light market lunch, there will be an cookery class in Toutvent kitchen where the evening meal will be discussed and prepared.

DAY 3 We will meet in Toutvent kitchen where we will prepare a three course lunch to enjoy al fresco (weather permitting). The afternoon and evening will be free time for you to relax and enjoy the accommodation. A light evening meal will be provided.


DAY 4 You will have another chance to relax and have spare time to yourselves. There will be a light lunch provided. The afternoon session will be preparing and cooking the four course evening meal, again to be enjoyed together al fresco (weather permitting).

DAY 5 Brunch followed by departures before lunch.

  • Please note that this is a proposed itinerary and is subject to modest modifications, depending on available fresh produce, new opportunities, and the wishes of the workshop leader


Saffron, the royalist of spices

This pungent, vibrant, intriguing spice has captured the hearts and imagination of thousands before me, leaving it’s stain on a fascinating and turbulent history. The tiny thread-like stigma from a variety of crocus known as crocus sativus is the world’s most expensive spice. It is used to colour and flavour food, dye clothes and as well as having some health benefits.

The name derives from the Arabic word zafran, meaning yellow, a reference to the golden colour that saffron turns both our food and clothes. With bright purple flowers each plant only produces just 4 and each flower only 3 stigmas. It takes over 75,000 flowers to produce 500g of spice (450 for just 10g). Add to this the fact that even today saffron strands are picked and removed by hand, it’s easy to understand why saffron is, ounce for ounce, more expensive than gold.

From ancient times, it’s colour, aroma and flavour seduced royalty. Cleopatra bathed in it, believing it made her more alluring. The Romans alleged it would cure many ills. Indians used it to dye clothes whilst Buddhist priests decreed that all their robes would be dyed orange with golden saffron. Trade brought wealth and power to merchants and growers but along with that came conflict culminating in a 14 day saffron war in 1374.

Originating in the Arab world, saffron spread from India in the east and to Europe and as far as America to the west. By the 16th century it was being farmed in large quantities in England. Former geophysicist turned saffron farmer David Smale tells us “these days saffron is more associated with exotic locations such as Iran, Morocco and Spain, but in the past English saffron has been, by reputation, the best in the world”. David, among other British saffron farmers, is looking to put the UK back on the saffron map.

Above all else saffron is celebrated and loved for it’s culinary delights. The flavour is  hard to define, but I liken it to a pungent, aromatic, but slightly metallic honey with powerful overtones of hay or dry grass made warm by the sun; it is both exotic and familiar. Often associated with rice dishes such as Indian biryani, Arabic pilaf and Spanish paella this golden spice is also the star of many classic seafood soups, bouillabaisse from Marseille, being the most famous. It is just as good in sweet dishes such as cakes, breads and even ice cream. I love to add a teaspoon of strands to vodka or gin adding an aromatic flavour and glorious colour.

Dried and fresh saffron

Saffron facts you should know

Rich in Vitamins A, C and a good source of beta carotene, saffron has long been regarded as having medicinal benefits. It has antibacterial qualities and can aid digestion, help treat stomach aches and bronchitis. There are on going studies to see if it can be beneficial in helping prevent cancer.

Today over 90% of the saffron we buy is grown in Iran, often then being packaged in Spain.

Price does not necessarily indicate quality. Buy, try and find the brand you like best, from a reputable supplier.

Buy strands rather than the powder, which should be more red than yellow or orange. The redder the stigmas, the better the quality.

Add saffron cautiously, a little can go a long way and remember you can add but you can’t take away.

As a rule saffron is steeped in water or another liquid before being added to a dish as it isn’t water-soluble. However certain dishes, such as Indian biryani, Arab Pilaf and Spanish paella have the strands scattered over the top of the rice as it cooks, staining it that wonderful golden hue where it sits.

If you are lucky enough to have a saffron farm nearby, buy direct from them for freshness.

Recipes

Strawberry and saffron jam

Make: 4 x 300 ml jars

This recipe is adapted from one that is made at a local saffron fam in The Charente Maritime Safran de l’Estaire. The addition of saffron is subtle but intriguing. You will need a sugar thermometer for this recipe and because strawberries have a low pectin level the resulting jam is not as set as some, but nonetheless delicious.

2 teaspoons saffron strands

1.5kg strawberries, hulled

juice 1 large lemon

1.25 kg granulated sugar

Grind the saffron strands to form a powder using a pestle and mortar. Set aside.

Put the strawberries and lemon juice into a large saucepan and place over a low heat until the strawberries soften. Then simmer gently, uncovered for about 20 minutes until really pulpy. Carefully remove about 1/3 of the strawberries using a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add the sugar and the powdered saffron and stir gently until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and simmer without stirring for about 40 minutes or until the jam reaches 105c/221f on a sugar thermometer. Remove any scum from the surface of the jam.

Meanwhile, sterilise the jars. Wash and dry the jars thoroughly and sit, facing upwards, in a roasting tin lined with baking paper. Place in a preheated oven 100c/220f until required.

Ladle the jam straight into the hot sterilised jars and seal immediately. Label and date the jars once the jam is cold. Store for 2up to 12 months in a cool, dark place. Refrigerate once opened.

Home semi-salted cod with saffron aioli

Serves: 4

Salt cod with aioli is a classic combination popular throughout Spain and southern France.

4 x 150 g cod fillets

2 tbsp sea salt

750g sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to drizzle

350g French beans, trimmed

a handful flat leaf parsley leaves

saffron aioli

1/4 tsp saffron strands

1 tbsp boiling water

2 egg yolks

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 tsp Dijon mustard

2 tsp white wine vinegar

200 ml mild extra virgin olive oil

Place the cod fillets in a plastic container. Scatter over the salt, turning the fish so that it is salted all over. Cover with cling film and place in the fridge for 2 hours. Turn the fish over half way through.

Place the saffron strands in a small bowl and soak in boiling water for 5 minutes. Place the egg yolks, garlic, mustard, vinegar and salt and pepper in a bowl and whisk with electric beaters until pale and frothy. Very gradually whisk in the oil a little at a time until the mixture thickens and becomes glossy. Add the saffron and the liquid and whisk again. Cover the surface with cling film and set aside until required.

Preheat the oven to 200c/400f/gas mark 6 and line a roasting tin with baking paper. Place the potatoes in the prepared tin, season well and drizzle over 1 tablespoon of the oil, stir well to coat. Roast for 40-45 minutes, stirring halfway through until the potatoes are browned and tender.

Wash and dry the salted fish. Place the fish in a steamer, cover and cook for 4-5 minutes until cooked through. Rest for a few minutes. Meanwhile, cook the beans in a pan of lightly salted, boiling water for 2-3 minutes until al dente. Drain well.

Divide the potatoes and beans between warmed serving plates and top with the fish and a spoonful of the saffron aioli. Drizzle with a little extra oil. Garnish with some parsley and serve at once.

Risotto Milanese with a twist

Serves: 4

A classic risotto Milanese is made with saffron and frequently served with osso bucco. Here the marrow bones are used on their own to add a lovely depth of flavour to the rice dish.

4 small veal bones (ask your local butcher to source these for you)

4 sprigs fresh thyme, plus a few leaves to garnish

1-1.2 litres good quality chicken stock, heated until just boiling

½ tsp saffron strands

50g butter

2 shallots, finely chopped

2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

300g Arborio rice

100ml Italian dry white wine

50 g freshly grated Parmesan cheese

salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 225c/425f/gas mark 7 and line a roasting tin with baking paper. Place the veal bones in the prepared tin, sprinkle the marrow with salt and pepper and top with a thyme sprig. Roast for 20-25 minutes until the marrow is hot all the way through (check with a metal skewer) and sitting in a pool of melted marrow. Keep warm.

Place the stock and saffron strands in a saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer.

Meanwhile, melt the butter and in a saucepan and gently fry the shallots and garlic with a little salt and pepper over a low heat for 10 minutes until really soft, but not browned. Add the rice and stir for about 1 minute until all the grains appear glossy.

Increase the heat to medium. Add the wine and simmer for 2-3 minutes until it is almost all evaporated. Gradually start adding the gently simmering stock about 200 ml at a time, stirring the rice constantly with a wooden spoon, allowing the rice to absorb most of the stock before adding more. Continue this for about 20 minutes until the rice is al dente and the stock all but absorbed.

Stir in the Parmesan and the juices released from the bone marrow and as soon as the cheese is melted spoon into serving bowls. Place a roasted bone marrow in each bowl and serve scattered with extra cheese and some thyme leaves.

Simple lamb brochettes with saffron pilaf

Serves: 4

With its origins firmly imbedded in the Middle East saffron is integral to many of the countries classic dishes and pilaf is just one of these. Here the rice is cooked separately and served with brochettes of spiced lamb.  

250g basmati rice

500g boneless lamb neck

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp ground sumac

75g butter

2 onions, thinly sliced

2 tsp cumin seeds

4 cardamom pods, crushed

1 cinnamon stick, bruised

75g raisins

75g pistachio nuts, chopped

1 tsp saffron strands

2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander

juice 1/2 lemon

salt and pepper

Greek yogurt and lemon wedges, to serve

Place the rice in a bowl and cover with cold water, leave to soak for a couple of hours. Drain and shake dry.

Cut the lamb into small bite size pieces. Combine 2 teaspoons of the sumac with the oil, salt and pepper and toss with the lamb. Thread onto skewers and set aside until ready to cook. Combine the remaining sumac with 1 teaspoon salt.

Melt 25 g of the butter in a frying pan and fry half the onions with a little salt for 15 minutes until crisp and golden. Set aside.

Melt the remaining butter in a saucepan and fry the remaining onion and spices with a little salt and pepper for 5 minutes. Add the rice, stir well to coat the grains and add 500ml water. Bring to the boil and scatter over the raisins, pistachio nuts and saffron, cover and simmer over a very gentle heat for 12 minutes. Turn the heat off and leave to sit for a further 10 minutes, then stir in the coriander.

Meanwhile, char-grill the lamb either under a hot grill or on a ridged grill pan for 2-3 minutes each side until cooked on the outside but still pink inside. Transfer to a plate and squeeze over the lemon juice.

Serve the rice scattered with the crispy onions and the brochettes with some yogurt and the sumac salt.

Orange, cashew and saffron syrup cake

Serves: 10

The saffron and orange syrup is poured over the cake as soon as it comes out of the oven, so it absorbs both flavour and moisture as it cools, resulting in a lovely aromatic and moist cake. It keeps well for 3 days wrapped in foil and stored in an airtight tin.

175g unsalted butter, softened

175g soft light brown sugar

grated zest 1 orange (juice reserved)

3 eggs, lightly beaten

2 tbsp orange flour water

225g self-raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

75g cashew nuts, finely ground

orange and saffron syrup

pared zest and juice 2 oranges

125g caster sugar

1/2 tsp saffron strands

crème fraiche or Greek yogurt, to serve

Preheat the oven to 170c/150f/gas mark 3 and grease and line a 1kg loaf tin. Using electric beaters, beat the butter, sugar and orange zest together until pale and creamy and then gradually whisk in the eggs and orange flower water a little at a time until combined, adding a little flour each time to prevent the mixture curdling. Fold in the remaining flour, baking powder and ground cashews until evenly combined.

Spoon into to the prepared tin and smooth the surface making a slight indent in the centre. Bake for 11/4 hours, covering the surface of the cake with foil after 45 minutes if it begins to brown. Pierce the cake with a skewer, if it comes out clean, the cake is ready.

Meanwhile, make the syrup. Place the juice of all 3 oranges and the sugar in a saucepan and bring slowly to the boiling, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Add the orange zest and simmer for 5 minutes or until the mixture is thickened and syrupy. Remove from the heat and stir in the saffron. Set aside to infuse, keeping it warm.

As soon as the cake is cooked, pierce holes all over the surface using a metal skewer. Spoon over 2/3 of the syrup and leave the cake to cool in the tin.

Turn the cooled cake out onto a platter and cut into slices. Serve drizzled with the remaining syrup and some crème fraiche or Greek yogurt.

First published by Food and Travel Magazine 2015

© recipes Louise Pickford

© photographs Ian Wallace


New cookery workshops

Really excited to share two new cookery workshops dates for 2020!

Photography © Lesli Lundgren

After the terrific success of this year’s workshop in June Come Cook In France and Les Soeurs Anglaises are really excited to announce a further three cookery workshop dates next year in April, June (already fully booked) and September.

Our first will take place in APRIL as spring heralds in some fabulous new year’s produce, including asparagus, spring lamb and the first local strawberries.

Then, as summer makes way for autumn we again celebrate the season’s best produce including mushrooms, pumpkins and figs for our final course of 2002 in SEPTEMBER.

Dates

Spring workshop 23rd – 27th April 2020 BOOK NOW

Summer workshop June 18th – 22nd 2020 FULL

Autumn workshop 17th – 21st September 2020 BOOK NOW

Details

Four nights accommodation and continental breakfast 

● Welcome mezze dinner with wine. 

Three fun, informative, half-day cooking sessions with after-class tasting meals 

● An excursion to a local farmer’s market and/or visit to an artisan food maker (vinegar, cheese, nut oils, mushrooms, and/or a vineyard) 

● Recipes and a Come Cook In France folder 

3 light meals including all beverages (wine, waters, etc.) 

● Local transport from and to Angouleme train station and Bergerac airport 

● *Air and train fares to and from collection points in France are not included. 

Prices

A: Single occupancy of Superior double bedroom with en suite: 1350€ per person.

B: Shared occupancy of Superior double bedroom with en suite: 1150€ per person.

C: Single occupancy of Twin bedroom shared bathroom 1100€ per person

D: Shared Twin bedroom / shared bathroom: 950€ per person 

Minimum 8 participants (max 12 residents)

  • A non-refundable deposit of 300€ is required for confirmation of booking 

Itinerary

DAY 1 Travel day, you will be sent information regarding transportation to Les Soeurs Anglaises (pick-ups are generally late afternoon) from Angouleme train station and Bergerac Dordogne Périgord Airport (EGC). Welcome, meet and greet dinner at the house.

DAY 2 Morning at the local marché. After a light market lunch, there will be an cookery class in L’Espace kitchen where the evening meal will be discussed and prepared.

DAY 3 We will meet in L’Espace kitchen where we will prepare a three course lunch to enjoy al fresco (weather permitting). The afternoon and evening will be free time for you to relax and enjoy the accommodation. A light evening meal will be provided.


DAY 4 You will have another chance to relax and have spare time to yourselves. There will be a light lunch provided. The afternoon session will be preparing and cooking the four course evening meal, again to be enjoyed together al fresco (weather permitting).

DAY 5 Brunch followed by departures before lunch.

  • Please note that this is a proposed itinerary and is subject to modest modifications, depending on available fresh produce, new opportunities, and the wishes of the workshop leader.

Take a look at some of the previous workshops


Roasted Courgette Soup with Lemon and Mint

It’s hard to bemoan the summer harvest when you have lovingly cared for your soil, seedlings, shoots, plants and finally the fruits, but given that I only planted 1 courgette plant this year, I am still struggling to use all my courgettes! I have of course travelled the well trodden path of shredding, spiralling, grating, frying, pickling et all, but just when I had got to the end of my courgette recipe tether, I remembered a truly wonderful soup I enjoyed a year or so back in a small cafe in Beckles, Suffolk in the UK. It was of course the recipe of today’s blog.

Today’s freshly picked courgettes and mint, sadly the lemons were shop bought. If straight from the garden, wash well and then pat dry.

Firstly, trim courgettes and cut approximately into 2 cm chunks. Take 1 lemon, chop roughly into abut 12 pieces. Add to a paper lined roasting tin with some, salt, pepper and a good slug of olive oil. Stir well. Then into the oven.

Meanwhile, peel, trim and finely chop some garlic cloves and an onion or too, depending on the size.

You’ll also need to finely grate the zest of a second lemon. Remember if they are waxed, give them a good wash and dry before using.

While the courgettes are roasting you can start frying the remaining ingredients in a large saucepan. Use olive oil and add some salt and pepper to the pan. I like a small pinch of chilli flakes here, but this is optional.

Once the onion has softened you want to measure your chicken stock. I always make my own stock, but you can use stock cubes. I measure the amount I need, then make sure I have a little but more, just in case I need to thin the soup down.

At this stage the courgettes should be nicely browned. Have a peak in the oven and remove them or continue to cook for a while longer, if necessary. You can see in the pic, that both the courgettes and the lemons have charred edges.

Using tongs, pick out and discard the lemons, squeezing any juice back into the pan. Scrape all the courgettes and pan juices into the waiting saucepan, then add enough stock to just cover the courgettes. Bring the pan to a simmer and cook.

While the stock comes to the boil, roughly chop a good handful of the picked mint leaves and squeeze the lemon juice.

And now for my secret ingredient – well obviously not so secret now! I like to add a good slug (about 2 teaspoons) of runny honey. The sweetness is the perfect balance for the sourness of the lemons. Add, taste, then add more if needed.

Once the soup has simmered for a few minutes you can add the remaining ingredients. The soup is now ready to blend – I like to blend it as is, check I am happy with the texture and if necessary, I will add a little more stock and heat through.

RECIPE

Roasted Courgette Soup with Lemon and Mint

Now we are ready to eat. I thorough recommend drizzling another good slug of olive oil over each serve – don’t forget to the bread to mop the bowl clean. Enjoy

Serves: 4

4 large courgettes, roughly chopped

2 lemons

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1-11/4 litres chicken or vegetable stock

A large handful roughly chopped mint leaves

2 teaspoons honey

Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 220c. Cut the courgette into 2 cm chunks and place in a roasting tin lined with baking paper. Cut 1 lemon into similar size chunks and add to the pan with half the oil, salt and pepper. Stir well and roast for 30-35 minutes, stirring halfway through,  or until the courgettes are browned and softened. Discard the chunks of lemon.

Finely grate the zest of the remaining lemon and squeeze the juice into a separate bowl. 

Heat the remaining oil in a saucepan and fry the onion, grated lemon zest, garlic and a little salt and pepper for 5 minutes until soft. Add the roasted courgettes and any pan juices and pour in the stock. 

Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the lemon juice, mint leaves and honey. Process with a stick blender or in a liquidiser until really smooth. Adjust seasonings to taste and serve hot, or if preferred allow to cool, chill and serve cold.