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.
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
4 large courgettes, roughly chopped
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.
It’s not just teddy bears that love eating outside, we all do. It is about fresh air, the smells, the sounds, the sights of the countryside that make us feel better, make us want to head for the hills (or back garden).
For me it also brings back childhood memories of harvesting, hay bales and after school picnics with mum and dad in the fields (funny how your memory tricks you into believing that every summer was hot and sunny…….. I suspect the truth is that many such afternoons were out on hold until the rain cleared!
It doesn’t matter if you only have access to a small piece of outside space, you can pretty much picnic anywhere, it is literally just about being outside where food seems to taste that much better. So if you get the chance, cook some of these great picnic dishes, pack up a few baskets or boxes and head out and make hay whilst the sun shines.
Marinated goat cheese with garden vegetables
Perfect for an alfresco summer spread, this marinated goat’s cheese goes well with lots of crusty bread and young veggies and crisp salad leaves. You need to make these up to 3-4 days ahead to allow the time for the flavours to penetrate the cheese. Keep in a cool dark place.
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
400 ml extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, halved
2 small red chillies, bruised
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, bruised
2 bay leaves, bruised
400 g fresh goat cheese (without rind; fridge cold)
selection of fresh summer vegetables, lettuce and bread rolls, to serve
Put the fennel and coriander seeds in a heavy-based pan, then heat gently until fragrant and beginning to pop. Add the oil, garlic, chillies, rosemary and bay, then warm gently to infuse. Leave to cool. Remove the garlic and rosemary.
Use your hands to roll the cheese into 18 small balls and put in the jar or container. Pour the oil over the top and store in a cool place (see headnote). Serve the goat’s cheese balls with summer veg/salads and bread, all drizzled with a little of the infused oil.
Tear and share feta and herb bread
A gorgeous cheesy bread, flecked with feta and fresh herbs, is something great to share with friends for an alfresco feast in the garden. It goes really well with the goat’s cheese balls too.
500g unbleached white bread flour
7 g sachet fast-acting dried yeast
2 tsp sea salt, plus extra for top
1 tsp sugar
4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
large handful fresh parlsey, chopped
handful fresh chives, chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
Put the flour in a large mixing bowl and stir in the dried yeast, salt and sugar. Make a well in the middle and gradually work in 3 tbsp of the oil and enough of the warm water to form a soft dough. Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Transfer to an oiled bowl, cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rise in a draught-free place for an hour or until doubled in size.
Meanwhile, mix the feta, parmesan and herbs in a bowl with the rest of the oil, then cover and chill.
Gently knead the dough once or twice (this is called knocking back) and roll out on a lightly floured surface to make a 25cm x 35cm rectangle. Sprinkle evenly with the cheese and herb mixture.
Roll the dough up from one long side to make a log shape. Cut into 7 thick slices, each around 5cm wide. Arrange 6 slices, cut-side up, in a circle on the prepared baking sheet, roughly 3cm apart, then put the last one in the middle and cover loosely with cling film. Leave to rise (prove), loosely covered with cling film, for 30-40 minutes.
Heat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/ gas 4. Brush the top with the beaten egg. Bake for 40-50 minutes until risen, golden and cooked through. Cover the top with foil if it starts to brown too quickly. When ready, transfer the tin to a wire rack for 5 minutes to cool. Remove the loaf from the tin and wrap the bread in a clean tea towel as it cools.
Persian chicken with spiced yogurt
Chicken marinated in cinnamon, cardamom, turmeric, cumin, honey and lemon, before roasting, is a gorgeous summery recipe that’s a doddle to make.
6 chicken legs
1 tsp ground cinnamon
6 cardamom pods, seeds removed and ground
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp clear honey
grated zest and juice 1 lemon
150ml Greek yogurt
a handful fresh picked parsley leaves
Heat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 6. Line a large roasting tin with non-stick baking paper. Divide the chicken legs into drumsticks and thighs by cutting through the joint with a sharp knife. Put in a large mixing bowl.
In a small mixing bowl, mix the spices with the olive oil, honey, lemon zest and juice and some salt and pepper. Pour over the chicken and toss well to coat all over.Put the chicken in the prepared roasting tin and roast for 45 minutes until golden and tender, turning Put the chicken in the prepared roasting tin and roast for 45 minutes until golden and tender, turning
Put the chicken in the prepared roasting tin and roast for 45 minutes until golden and tender, turning over halfway through and basting the chicken with pan juices.
Put the chicken on a board (or platter if serving straightaway) to cool. Put 2 tablespoons of the pan juices in a bowl with the yogurt, then mix well and season to taste. To serve, drizzle the yogurt over the chicken and scatter with parsley.
Pearl barley and aubergine salad with pomegranates
A make-ahead salad recipe, with pearl barley and aubergine, that’s great for a packed lunch or picnic on a summery day.
200 g pearl barley
2-3 tbs olive oil
1-2 aubergines (about 500g) thickly sliced
250 g cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
80 g pomegranate seeds
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp pomegranate molasses
2 tbsp each fresh mint, parsley and coriander, roughly chopped
handful of rocket leaves
Cook the pearl barley according to the packet instructions (about 40 minutes). Drain, refresh under cold water to cool and drain well. Put in a mixing bowl.
Heat a griddle or frying pan over a high heat. Put the olive oil in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper, then brush all over the aubergine slices. Cook for 3-4 minutes on each side until charred and tender. Set aside until cool, then roughly chop. Add to the pearl barley with the tomatoes, red onion and half the pomegranate seeds.
Put the remaining pomegranate seeds in a small sieve. Using a wooden spoon, press out all the juice from the seeds into a small bowl. Discard the seeds in the sieve, then whisk in the extra-virgin olive oil, pomegranate molasses and a little salt and pepper to taste.
Just before serving, stir in the herbs and dressing, then serve scattered with the rocket leaves.
Roasted peppers with basil
A simple vegetarian starter recipe; red peppers are slow-cooked – with tomatoes, thyme and capers – until soft and sweet then served with fresh basil. One for the glorious summer months.
3 large red peppers
2 garlic cloves, crushed
6 large cherry tomatoes, halved
3 thyme sprigs, leaves only
2 tbsp capers, drained and rinsed
3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 bunch basil leaves
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
handful fresh basil leaves
salt and pepper
Heat the oven to 220°C/ 200°C fan/ gas 7 and line a roasting tin with non-stick baking paper. Cut each pepper in half lengthways through the stalk, then scoop out and discard the seeds and membrane. Put the peppers cut-side up in the prepared baking tray and divide the garlic, tomatoes, thyme leaves and capers between them. Drizzle with oil, then season with salt and pepper and roast for 30 minutes.
Add a drizzle of balsamic vinegar to each pepper and roast for a further 10-15 minutes until caramelised and tender. Cool and serve at room temperature, scattered with fresh basil.
Chocolate swirl meringues, berries and white chocolate sauce
Try these decadent chocolate meringues for your summer picnic; they are easy to make ahead and assemble when you’re ready for them.
40 g dark chocolate, chopped
4 medium free-range egg whites
225g caster sugar
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
300 g mixed summer berries
For the sauce
250 ml single cream
2 medium free-range egg yolks
2 tsp cornflour
75 g white chocolate, chopped
Heat the oven to 150°C/130°C fan/gas 2. Line 2 baking trays with non-stick baking paper. Melt the dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally (don’t let the bowl touch the water). Set aside.
Put the egg whites in a large, clean mixing bowl and, using an electric hand-held mixer, whisk to stiff peaks. Gradually whisk in the sugar a tablespoon at a time until the mixture is thick and glossy. Beat in the vinegar and vanilla extract.
Drizzle the melted chocolate over the egg mixture and carefully stir once to swirl the chocolate through without combining it completely. Spoon the meringue mixture onto the prepared baking trays to make 12 meringue mounds.
Transfer the trays to the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 140°C/ 120°C fan/gas 1. Bake for 1 hour or until the meringues are set and pull away easily from the paper. Cool on a wire cooling rack.
Meanwhile make the sauce: heat the cream in a small pan until steaming (don’t boil). In a medium bowl, beat the egg yolks, cornflour and sugar until smooth, then stir in the hot milk. Return to the pan and stir gently over a low heat until the mixture comes to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 2 minutes, stirring continuously, then remove from the heat. Stir in the white chocolate until melted, then pour into a bowl, cover the surface with cling film and leave to cool completely. Once cool, keep in the fridge. Decant into an airtight container to pack.
Serve the meringues with the berries and a drizzle of the white chocolate sauce.
With the wondrous fresh bounty in our veggie plots, markets and shops, it seems a no brainer that we make the very most of summer ‘s fresh ingredients with some simply delicious main course salads – add a few slices of sushi grade salmon or a local soft goat cheese and summer never tasted do good.
Salmon sashimi salad with quinoa and miso dressing
150g red or white quinoa
60g baby Asian salad leaves
12 radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced
100g podded Edamame beans
1 small avocado, peeled, stoned and cut into wedges
400g sashimi-grade salmon fillet*
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
a handful of chives, snipped
chive flowers, optional
1 tablespoon caster sugar
2 tablespoons white miso paste
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Place the quinoa in a small saucepan with 300ml water. Bring to the boil and simmer gently, uncovered for 10-15 minutes until the grains are al dente and water absorbed. Set aside to cool in the pan.
Make the dressing. Place the mirin, sake and caster sugar in a small saucepan. Heat gently, stirring until it reaches the boil. Simmer for 1 minute, then set aside to go cold. Whisk in the remaining ingredients until evenly combined.
Transfer the quinoa to a bowl and stir through the salad leaves, radish slices and edamame beans. Add half the dressing, stir well.
Season the salmon fillets and sprinkle with the sesame seeds, pressing lightly into the flesh. Drizzle with a little oil. Heat a dry frying pan until hot. Add the salmon and cook for 30 seconds each side until just charred on the outside. Cool for 10 minutes and then thinly slice.
Arrange the quinoa salad on plates with the seared salmon and avocado wedges. Scatter over the chives and chive flowers (if using) Drizzle with the remaining dressing to serve.
Sashimi grade salmon is available from some good quality fishmongers. Ask your supplier and explain what you are using the fish for as it needs to be super fresh. Also if it is designed specifically to made into sushi it will come as a long thin fillet, ideal for slicing.
BBQ’d Korean chicken Noodle salad
500g skinless chicken thighs fillets
200g dried green tea soba noodles
2 carrots, trimmed
1 cucumber, seeded
1 nashi pear
100g bean sprouts
2 little gem lettuce, cut into wedges
a handful coriander leaves
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon crushed black pepper
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 tablespoon clear honey
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoons gochujang*
a few micro herbs, to garnish, optional
Cut the chicken into 2cm pieces and place in bowl. Combine the marinade ingredients, pour over the chicken and stir well. Marinate for 2 hours.
Cook the noodles by plunging them into a pan of boiling water. Boil for 4 minutes until al dente. Drain, refresh under cold water and pat dry.
Cut the carrot and cucumber into long thin julienne. Peel, quarter and core the nashi pear and cut the flesh into thin batons. Combine the carrot, cucumber, nashi and bean sprouts. Set aside.
Make the dressing. Toast the sesame seeds in a dry frying pan. Transfer to a spice grinder and grind to a powder. Place in a bowl and stir in the remaining dressing ingredients. Set aside.
Preheat the griddle pan until hot. Thread the chicken pieces onto metal or bamboo skewers and griddle for 3-4 minutes each side until charred and tender. Rest for 5 minutes.
Arrange the noodles in bowls and top with the salad, scatter over the micro herbs, if using. Drizzle over the dressing and serve with the skewers of chicken on the side.
Gochujang is a red chilli spice paste with a sweet, spicy flavour. It is widely used in Korean cooking and is available from specialist food stores or online.
Marinated buffalo mozzarella with orange and fennel with basil oil
4 x 150g balls buffalo mozzarella
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2-4 oranges, depending on size
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 small head fennel, trimmed
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey
75g Niçoise olives, pitted
60g picked watercress leaves
60g basil leaves
150ml extra virgin olive oil
a few edible flowers, such as primulas or nasturtiums, to garnish, optional
Place the mozzarella balls in a bowl. Finely grate the zest and squeeze the juice of 1 orange into a bowl. Stir in the olive oil and season to taste. Lightly toast the fennel seeds and bash with a pestle and mortar. Add to the marinade and pour over the mozzarella. Set aside until required.
Make the basil oil. Wash the basil leaves in cold water. Then blanch the leaves in boiling water for 1 minute. Drain and immediately refresh in iced water. Drain again and dry really well with paper towel. Place in a liquidizer with the oil and a little salt and puree until really fine. Strain the oil through a fine sieve (reserve both the basil pulp and oil, separately).
Peel and cut the remaining oranges into then slices. Shave the fennel into fine slices using a mandolin (or sharp knife) reserving any fronds. Remove the mozzarella balls from the marinade and strain the juices into a bowl. Stir the lemon juice and honey into the marinade to use as the dressing.
Arrange the mozzarella on plates with the shaved fennel, orange slices, olives and watercress leaves. Drizzle over the marinade dressing, basil oil and some pepper. Serve scattered with fennel fronds and edible flowers, if using.
Tip: what to do with the basil pulp. There is still a good flavour in the basil pulp so add a little salt and pepper and toss through pasta.
Carpaccio of courgette, melted goat cheese and lemon with warm honey
2 large courgettes
60g baby spinach leaves
a handful fresh basil leaves
21/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 sprigs fresh lemon thyme or savory, chopped
200g goat cheese
4 tablespoons clear honey
4 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
25g Parmesan, shaved
Using a mandolin, very thinly shave the courgettes lengthways. Arrange the slices on 4 serving plates, overlapping them to fit, if necessary. Take the courgette trimmings (there will be side
pieces left) and grate then on a box grater. Arrange the grated courgette in the centre of each plate. Top with the spinach and basil leaves.
Grate the lemon zest and set aside. Squeeze the juice into a bowl and whisk in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, salt and pepper. Spoon about half of the dressing over the courgette carpaccio, set the rest of the dressing aside.
Preheat the grill to medium. Slice the goat cheese into rounds (if not bought as individual rounds) and arrange on a piece of oiled tin foil, on baking tray. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and scatter over the reserved grated lemon zest, chopped thyme or savory and some black pepper. Warm under the grill for 30 seconds or so until just starting to soften.
Meanwhile, warm the honey in a small saucepan until it just starts to bubble. Remove from the heat.
Carefully slide the warm cheese onto the courgettes and scatter over the spinach and basil leaves, pine nuts and shavings of Parmesan. Pour the remaining lemon dressing over the top and finally drizzle the salad with the heated honey. Serve.
Seared tuna salad with crisp flatbreads and aubergine salsa
2 flat breads or flour tortilla
1/2 teaspoon baharat spice*
4 x 125g tuna steaks
100g Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons tahini paste
2 Lebanese cucumbers, sliced into wedges
50g rocket leaves
1 medium aubergine, trimmed
1/4 red onion, finely diced
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1/2 small garlic clove, crushed
125g cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
grated zest and juice 1/2 lemon
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon pomegranate molasse
sea salt and pepper
sunflower for deep frying
Roll the flatbreads up and cut into thin slices to form strips about 5mm thick. Heat about 5cm of sunflower oil in a deep frying pan until hot (check by frying ne strip of bread, it should sizzle as soon as it enters the oil). Fry the bread strips, in batches over a high heat for 1-2 minutes until crisp and golden. Drain on paper towel, transfer to a bowl and add the spice mix and sea salt. Toss and set aside.
Heat a ridged griddle pan until hot. Cut the aubergine lengthways into thin slices about 5mm thick. Brush the slices with oil and season with salt and pepper. Griddle for 4-5 minutes each side until charred and soft. Let cool and then dice the flesh.
Meanwhile, place the diced onion in a bowl, add the vinegar and let soak for 10 minutes. Drain.
Combine the diced aubergine, infused onion, garlic, cherry tomatoes, mint and lemon zest. Season and stir well. Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, honey, pomegranate molasses and season to taste. Stir about half through the salsa.
Preheat a griddle pan until hot. Season the tuna fillets and sear over a high heat for 30-60 seconds until cooked to your liking. Rest for 5 minutes.
Beat the Greek yogurt and tahini together until smooth and season to taste.
Spread a little tahini on plates and top with the aubergine salsa, tuna fillets, rocket leaves and crisp flatbreads. Drizzle over the remaining dressing and serve..
Baharat spice is a Middle Eastern/North African spice mix traditional used to flavour meats. You can buy it online or from specialist food stores.
Sweltering temperatures in Europe and beyond have us all craving a little respite and what better way to cool down than with a thirst quenching ice lolly – oh the sheer joy of a popsicle! Today’s fruitier, healthier, innovative and wide ranging versions of frozen ice on sticks are a far cry from the fluorescent, mass-produced, overly sweet versions from our childhood. From artisanal producers to innovative chefs the 21st century popsicle has arrived. Here are a few of my favourites from my latest book The Popsicle Party, published by Ryland, Peters & Small and Cico Books.
Refreshing apple and cucumber pops
Makes: 6-8 popsicles
The name says it all really and so pretty. It’s also great for kids who think they don’t like cucumber. Give them one of these and see just how easy it can be!
3 Lebanese cucumbers
Juice 2 limes
Quarter and core ½ an apple and cut into wafer thins slices. Take 1/2 a cucumber and again cut into wafer thin slices. Reserve the slices.
Pass the remaining apples and cucumber through a juicer. Add the lime juice and sugar and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.
Divide the apple and cucumber slices between the 6-8 moulds and top up with the apple and cucumber syrup. Either add the sticks at this stage or freeze until the mixture is firm enough to add the sticks. Return to the freezer for a further 4-6 hours until frozen. .
To remove the popsicles from their moulds, dip into hot water for a second or two. Gently pull from the moulds.
Lime, pomegranate and rosewater popsicles
Makes: 8 small (80ml)
Pretty in pink may well have been the name of a 70’s pop song, but it works equally well to describe this delicious and refreshing fruit popsicle. The rosewater is lovely with the flavour of the pomegranate and gives it that Middle Eastern allure.
Juice 2 limes
30 g caster sugar
2 teaspoons rosewater or orange flower water
fresh rose petals, dried rose petals and lime wedges, to garnish (optional)
Cut the pomegranates in half over a bowl lined with a large sieve to catch all the juice. Setting 1/2 a pomegranate to one side, squeeze out as much of the juice as you can from the seeds pressing the seeds down with a metal spoon.
Measure the juice, you need 500 ml for this recipe (chill the rest to drink).
Stir the lime juice, sugar and rosewater into the pomegranate juice and stir until the sugar is dissolved.
Divide the reserved pomegranate seeds between 8 small popsicle moulds and pour in the juice. Either add the sticks at this stage or freeze until the mixture is firm enough to add the sticks. Return to the freezer for a further 4-6 hours until frozen.
To remove the popsicles from their moulds, dip into hot water for a second or two. Gently pull from the moulds.
Banoffee salted caramel creams
Not sure what there is to say about this other than make it, freeze it, eat it – oh so delicious.
4 tablespoons golden syrup
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
300 ml double cream
25 g caster sugar
25 g blanched almonds
1 tablespoon cold water
a little sea salt
4 tablespoons butter caramel sauce
Place 3 tablespoons of the golden syrup and cocoa powder in a bowl and stir well the cocoa powder is dissolved and the syrup smooth.
Place the bananas, cream and sugar into a blender and blend until completely smooth. Pour the banana cream into 8 popsicle moulds. Carefully drizzle in the chocolate syrup and using a skewer swirl through the cream to form a ripple effect.
Either add the sticks at this stage or freeze until the mixture is firm enough to add the sticks. Return to the freezer a further 4-6 hours until frozen.
Meanwhile, line a small tray with foil. Place the almonds, water and the remaining golden syrup in a small frying pan. Heat gently until the syrup begins to boil. Increase the heat and cook for 3-4 minutes until the almonds are browned and glazed with the syrup.
Transfer the nuts to the prepared tray and sprinkle with salt. Leave to cool. As soon as they are cold, chop roughly.
When ready to serve, pop a small metal tray lined with baking paper into the freezer for 10 minutes to chill. To remove the popsicles from their moulds, dip into hot water for a second or two. Gently pull from the moulds.
Place the popsicles on the prepared tray and immediately drizzle over the caramel sauce and top with the nuts. Return to the freezer for 10 minutes to set.
Remember ‘rockets’ that multi-coloured ice pop from your childhood? This homemade version looks great and tastes even better than the original.
250 g caster sugar
500 ml cold water
Place the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat gently, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Boil for 1 minute, then remove from the heat and cool completely.
Squeeze the juice of the oranges, the lemon and limes into separate bowls. Add enough of the sugar syrup to sweeten each fruit juice, ending up with approximately 150 ml of each juice (you will still have sugar syrup leftover).
Place the raspberries in a blender with 100 ml of the remaining sugar syrup. Blend until really smooth and then taste for sweetness, adjust accordingly.
Pour a layer of the orange juice into each of 8 popsicle moulds. Transfer to the freezer and allow the mixture to freeze completely (about 1 hour).
Pour in an equal layer of lime juice. Either add the sticks at this stage or freeze until the mixture is firm enough to add the sticks. Freeze again until firm and repeat this process withy the remaining 2 juices. Return to the freezer for a further 4-6 hours until frozen.
To remove the popsicles from their moulds, dip into hot water for a second or two. Gently pull from the moulds.
Buttermilk, raspberry and pistachio pops
Makes: 6 popsicles
Here yogurt and buttermilk are sweetened with agave syrup, a recent addition to the many different types of sweeteners and sugars, has a lower GI than many alternatives as it is largely a fructose based sugar. Now widely available from health food stores and supermarkets, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find – honey can be substituted.
250 ml Greek yogurt
250 ml buttermilk
150 ml agave syrup
125 g fresh raspberries
25 g finely chopped, unsalted pistachio nuts
Whisk the yogurt, buttermilk and agave syrup together until combined.
Divide the raspberries between 6 moulds and top up with the buttermilk mixture. Either add the sticks at this stage or freeze until the mixture is firm enough to add the sticks. Return to the freezer for a further 4-6 hours until frozen.
To remove the popsicles from their moulds, dip into hot water for a second or two. Gently pull from the moulds and dip the ends into the chopped pistachio nuts.
Cool watermelon, strawberry and lemon pops
Makes: 8-10 popsicles
All you need is a slug of vodka and you’d have the perfect frozen daiquiri! But, hey who needs alcohol when you can enjoy this healthier fruit version in the form of an ice pop.
300g strawberries, hulled and halved
3 tablespoons icing sugar, sieved
500 g watermelon
Juice 1 lemon
Combine the strawberries with the sugar and leave for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Discard the watermelon rind and dice the flesh.
Place the strawberries and all the juices, the watermelon and lemon juice in a blender and blend until smooth. Divide the juice between 8-10 small popsicle moulds.
Either add the sticks at this stage or freeze or leave until the mixture is firm enough to add the sticks. Return to the freezer for a further 4-6 hours until frozen.
To remove the popsicles from their moulds, dip into hot water for a second or two. Gently pull from the moulds.
Known for both its culinary and health benefits, honey is one of nature’s true gifts. I wanted to find out more about how honey gets from the flower to our toast, so I headed off to a local honey producer in Charente Maritime, SW France where three generations of the same family have been producing honey for more than 50 years. Christian Robert along with his son and grandson were delighted to share their knowledge with me.
‘Preparation begins in the winter’ he told me ‘whilst the bees are dormant’. Bees begin foraging for nectar in early spring as the first flowers begin to appear. They transform the pollen to honey in the combs and then cap it with a layer of wax where it remains until collected by the beekeeper. Once full the combs are removed for processing and replaced by new frames and the cycle continues throughout summer. Once collected the beekeeper removes the outer wax coating revealing the liquid honey beneath. It is filtered in an extraction machine, stored in barrels to separate off the sediment before being heated gently (below 40c) and poured into jars for selling.
So what is honey exactly
It is a highly concentrated sugar solution made up of 70% sugar (fructose and glucose) and less than 20% water plus vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Extracted honey can be liquid, crystalized (set honey) or partially crystalized and this crystallization is a natural occurrence that takes place when the percentage of glucose is higher than that of fructose.
Honey is categorised by the type of flowers from which the nectar is sourced. This is also what gives honey its flavour. The darker the honey the more intense the flavour.
Different honey varieties
Monofloral honey, considered a premium honey, is produced by nectar collected from just one flower source such as acacia, leatherwood, manuka, heather, orange blossom and other single flower varieties. It can be runny or set, light, dark, creamy or crystalline.
Polyfloral honey is made from the nectar of different flowers and is likely to be labelled simply as honey and again the colour and texture varies. Blended honey, also labelled just honey, is made by combining different flavoured honeys together and is usually the cheapest of all the types sold. The flavour of these is milder and I think, inferior. These honeys will have been heat-treated and possibly pasteurised.
Then we have ‘raw’ honey, so called due to the method of processing and must be 100% unprocessed, so once extracted it is warmed only enough to pour into jars and not enough to change it’s structure. Often sold directly from producers ‘raw’ honey is perhaps the most desirable of all honey, especially as there is now a growing demand by consumers for locally sourced honey.
The taste test
The best way to decide which type of honey you prefer is by tasting different ones, see what you like and what you don’t. As well as colour, the texture of honey differs too and is classified as creamy honey, set honey or a thin honey. Set honey is crystalline but this doesn’t mean that the honey is old or has ‘gone off’ it is just that the glucose content is higher than the fructose content. The flavour will remain the same.
In cooking stick to runny honeys for salad dressings and marinades, as they are easier to combine with other ingredients. A thicker, darker honey is great in cake baking as this will add both flavour and moisture.
Over time all honey will set and crystalize, but it can easily be softened by warming it in a water bath or microwave. Honey will remain in the same state for up to 2 years but must be stored in a cool, dark place (not refrigerated) even once its been opened.
The health benefits
Of course honey is not only used in cooking it is also prized for its apparent health benefits. There has been much written and reported over the years to suggest honey can cure or aid everything from the common cold, sore throats, help with digestion, combat ulcers and more recently help prevent hay fever. ‘Raw’ locally produced honey is thought to be beneficial as it will contain minute quantities of the very flowers that give you the sniffles, gradually building up immunity.
It is a fact that ‘raw’ untreated honey retains all it’s original enzymes and antioxidants and has antibiotic and antimicrobial properties and protects against bacteria. Of all honeys, manuka honey is generally accepted as having the most health benefits due to a higher percentage of certain components it contains. In fact medical grade manuka honey is used to help heal wounds.
Because honey contains natural
fruit sugars it means that our bodies absorb the energy they provide more
quickly than other sugars, making them an ideal quick ‘energy fix’. It is
important to remember though that any sugar should be consumed in moderation but
if you are only going to eat one type of sugar today, make it honey on your
Honey facts – things you never knew about honey and
Honeybees are the only insects that produce food for humans
They visit anywhere between 50 and 100 flowers on each trip
Honey is more than 1 to1.5 times sweeter than sugar therefore you need less in order to sweeten something
Honey is a natural antibiotic used for thousands of years to help soothe burns. The World Health Organisation lists it as a sore throat aid.
Honeybees communicate with each other by dancing Honeybees only sting when they are protecting their colony and not when they are foraging for nectar
Rosewater and pistachio baklava pave
100 g shelled pistachio nuts
50 g almonds
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons soft brown sugar
8 sheets filo pastry
50 g unsalted butter
grated zest and juice 1/2 lemon
200 g clear honey
2 tablespoons rose water
1 litre vanilla ice cream, softened
dried rose petals buds, to serve
Make the baklava. Preheat the oven to 180c/fan-forced 160c. Place the pistachio nuts, almonds and cinnamon in a food processor and blend until the nuts are coarsely ground. Stir in the sugar and reserve 4 tablespoons for serving.
Lightly oil 23cm square tin. Cut each pastry sheet in half and
trim to fit into the tin. Brush each sheet with butter and press into the
prepared tin to make 8 layers. Scatter over the nut mixture and then top with
the remaining sheets of pastry, brushing with melted butter each time.
Brush over any remaining butter and bake at for 20 minutes. Reduce
the temperature to 160c/fan-forced140c and bake for a further 20-25 minutes
until pastry is crisp and golden. Remove from the oven and using a skewer prick
the surface all over the pastry.
Meanwhile, prepare the syrup. Place the lemon zest, juice, honey and 100ml water in a saucepan and heat gently until boiling. Simmer for 5 minutes, remove from heat and stir in the rose water. Immediately pour three quarters of the honey syrup over the baklava and leave to go cold in the tin.
Assemble the pavé. Turn the pastry out of the tin and cut in half. Spread a third of the ice cream into the base of a lightly oil 12×22 cm loaf tin and place one half of baklava on top. Repeat with the ice cream and remaining baklava and finally the remaining ice cream. Smooth the top and cover with cling film. Freeze overnight. Turn out cut into slices, drizzle over the remaining syrup and decorate with dried rose petals and reserved chopped nut
Coconut sesame prawns with honey sauce
dried thin egg noodles
large raw prawns
tablespoons clear honey
tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine
cloves garlic, crushed
tablespoons light soy sauce
teaspoon sesame oil
tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
oil, for deep frying
Place the noodles in a bowl and add boiling water to cover. Leave to soak for 20 minutes, drain well and pat dry on kitchen paper. Peel and de-vein the prawns and wrap 8-10 noodles around each. Deep-fry in 5 cm vegetable oil for 3-4 minutes until crisp and golden, turning half way through. Drain on kitchen paper and transfer to a warmed platter.
Make the sauce. Place honey, rice wine, garlic, soy sauce and sesame oil in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 2 minutes and pour over the prawns. Garnish with sesame seeds and coriander.
Roasted chicken salad with warm honey dressing
free range chicken, butterflied
tablespoons olive oil
1 tbsp quatre epices (or mixed ground spice)
500 g sweet potatoes, peeled cut into cubes
tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
tablespoon clear honey
tablespoon lemon juice
tablespoon preserved lemon, diced
tablespoon chopped fresh coriander
red chilli, seeded and diced
the oven to 200c. Place chicken in a large bowl and rub. Combine the oil quatre
epices, salt and pepper in a bowl and rub all over the chicken. Cook on a
barbecue or grill pan for 20-25 minutes each side until cooked through,
brushing over a little honey about 5 minutes before finished cooking (skin side only).
the chicken is cooking, place the sweet potatoes in a roasting tin with a
little oil, salt and pepper and roast for 45 minutes, stirring half way through
until charred and tender.
Meanwhile, make the dressing. Blitz together the oil, honey, lemon juice, preserved lemon and coriander and stir in the chilli and some salt and pepper to taste.
chicken into pieces and toss with the dressing. Combine the sweet potatoes,
spinach leaves, red onion and herbs in a bowl and toss well. Transfer to a
platter. Pile the chicken in the middle drizzling any pan juices over the
salad. Serve at once.
Herb infused honey pots – to give as gifts, small pots of honey flavoured with herbs such as fennel flowers, lavender, rosemary etc. Simply stir in your favourite flavours, seal and store until required.
Without wishing to offend churros oficianados, here is my version of this delightfully light, fluffy and totally divine Spanish doughnut. Traditionally Spanish churros are piped, in an almost figure of eight shaped whirl, directly into hot fat and deep-fried before being coated in cinnamon sugar. They can be served as simply as that or they can be served alongside a steaming cup of real hot chocolate. For a slightly more wicked treat I like to dunk them or drizzle them with melted chocolate flavoured with Pedro Ximenez, an intensely dark, sweet dessert sherry.
Having always been a lover of doughnuts (not that surprising really – deep-fried batter, crispy on the outside, light and fluffy in the centre and then dipped in spiced sugar – who wouldn’t) but actually not that crazy about the jam filled ones, I was wowed when I first came across churros on a holiday in Majorca, one of Spain’s Balearic islands – the fact that they were served with chocolate was the icing on the cake.
Developed centuries ago by
Spanish shepherds in the hills, where cooking was limited to cooking over a log
fire, a cake-like batter was dropped into hot fat until crisp and then serve
dusted with cinnamon sugar. Naturally enough the idea caught on and today this
wonderful snack food is popular all over the world, in one form or another.
And now that I live in SW France, the Spanish border is a short drive away, so I get to enjoy one of my favourite dishes much more often with regular trips to Spain’s Basque region. Luckily they have also caught on here in France and you often find a churros van at the local markets and fetes. Normally in France they tend to be served either completely straight or more like these ones, but really the shape is completely up to you – whether you a curly fan or a straight fan – they still taste the same!!
So let’s get cooking.
You will need water, butter – salted or unsalted, is your choice – plain flour, a pinch of salt, 3 medium eggs, caster sugar and cinnamon for the churros. Then for the sauce you need dark chocolate, single or pouring cream and a small glass (or two) of Pedro Ximenez sherry.
Pour the water into a medium saucepan, adding the butter. Place over a low heat until the butter melts. – you are literally warming it enough to melt the butter and there is no need to boil the mixture.
Remove the pan from the heat and tip in the flour and salt in one go. Then beat well with a wooden spoon until it becomes thick and sticky and the mixture comes away from the pan edges.
At this stage you need to allow the batter to cool slightly, so that when the eggs are whisked in, the heat is not so high that it starts to cook the eggs – they will cook once the batter is piped and fried – so using either a balloon whisk or electric beaters, whisk in them in one at a time until you have a smooth batter.
Spoon the glossy batter into a piping bag fitted with a 1 cm star nozzle. Make sure you scrape in as much of the batter as you can, don’t waste any! Meanwhile, heat a good amount of vegetable oil in a wok or heavy-based pan, to a depth of about 7 cm, until it reaches 180c on a sugar thermometer (or until a small amount of the dough sizzles as soon as it is dropped into the oil).
Carefully pipe 15 cm lengths of the dough straight into the oil, using a knife to cut the dough off right by the nozzle. Fry 3-4 churros at a time for 2-3 minutes until crisp and golden, turning half way through using metal tongs. As soon as the churros are cooked, remove them using a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen towel. You can keep them warm in a moderate oven heated to 180C/325F/Gas Mark 4 if you like, whilst cooking some more.
Whilst the churros are cooking, you should have time to mixc the sugar with some cinnamon. Place the mixture on a plate and as soon as the churros are ready roll them in the sugar until they are evenly coated.
Meanwhile, heat the chocolate and cream together in a small pan over a low heat until the chocolate melts. Remove from the heat and stir until smooth, then add the sherry. If you prefer you can do this ahead and warm the sauce through just before serving.
Arrange the churros on a platter and serve with the chocolate and Pedro Ximenez sauce for dipping or if you like drizzle it all over the churros.
with chocolate and Pedro Ximenez sauce
250 ml water
120 g butter
180 g plain flour, twice
3 medium eggs (size 3)
75 g caster sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
100 g chocolate
150 ml single cream, plus
extra to drizzle
a small glass Pedro Ximenez
vegetable oil for frying
Heat the water and butter in a saucepan over low heat until the butter melts.
Tip in the flour and salt and beat well with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes away from the pan edges.
Cool for 5 minutes, then whisk in the eggs one at a time, using electric beaters or a balloon whisk, until you have a smooth batter.
Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a 1 cm star nozzle.
Heat vegetable oil in a large heavy-based pan to a depth of 7 cm until it reaches 180c on a sugar thermometer (or until a small amount of the dough sizzles as soon as it is dropped into the oil).
Carefully pipe 15 cm lengths of the dough straight into the oil, using a knife to cut the dough. Fry 3 at a time for 2-3 minutes until crisp and golden, turning half way through using metal tongs. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen towel.
Combine the sugar and cinnamon on a plate and roll the doughnuts in the mixture until coated.
Meanwhile, heat the chocolate and cream together in a small pan over a low heat until the chocolate melts. Remove from the heat and stir until smooth, then add the sherry.
Arrange the churros on a platter and serve with the chocolate and Pedro Ximenez sauce for dipping.