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. 


It’s picnic time…… yay!

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.

Serves: 6-8

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.

Serves: 6

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.

Serves: 6

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.

Serves: 6

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.

Serves: 4

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.

Images © Ian Wallace photographer

Recipes and styling © Louise Pickford

First published by Delicious UK 2018


Perfect popsicles – everyone’s favourite ice lolly

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!

4 apples

3 Lebanese cucumbers

Juice 2 limes

100g sugar

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.

4-5 pomegranates

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

Makes: 8

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

2 bananas

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.  

Tutti Frutti 

Makes: 8

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

2 oranges

1 lemon

2 limes

125g raspberries

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.

First published in The Popsicle Party by Louise Pickford, with photography by Ian Wallace

Published by Ryland, Peters & Small and Cico Books





Churros with chocolate & Pedro Ximenez sauce

Not quite straight, yet not quite curly.

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.

RECIPE

Churros with chocolate and Pedro Ximenez sauce

Serves: 6-8

250 ml water

120 g butter

180 g plain flour, twice sifted

pinch salt

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 sherry

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.


2019 cooking courses

So looking forward to a whole new year of exciting cooking classes at Come Cook In France. As well as some of my regular classes, this year I am adding some full day and residential courses, hosted by the wonderful Les Soeurs Anglaises in The Dordogne.

Dinner is served at Les Soeurs Anglaises after a wonderful day of cooking

The Cook Club courses are held in my kitchen at home and run from 9.30am to 2.30 pm. We cook up until about 1 pm when we sit down and enjoy the fruits of our morning’s labours. I run approximately 2 Cook Clubs per month.

23rd February – Japanese Cooking

The first course of the year is a fascinating look into some of my favourite Japanese dishes. I will be explaining some of the more unusual ingredients. I will demonstrate prepare and cook gyozas. Then together we will make Udon noodle soup with salmon and a tataki of beef.

6th March – Pasta Making

This is always a hugely popular course and this year we will be stuffing lasagne sheets to make cannelloni, hand-cutting pappardelle and using a pasta machine to make different flavoured linguine. You can then make one of 3 different sauces to serve with your own home made pasta.

23rd March – Fish Cookery

So many people seem a little fearful of cooking fish, yet are huge fans of eating it. This course is perfect as we look at some of our favourite whole fish and get to grips with scaling, filleting and cooking several completely different varieties.

4th April – French Classics Revisited

This is one of my favourite courses as I like to take some of the classic French dishes such as duck confit or tart tatin and give them my own twist. So duck confit could be spiced with star anise and hoisin sauce before roasting, whilst fresh mango makes a quite delicious tart tatin, especially with home-made palm sugar ice cream.

17th April – Thai and Vietnamese Cooking

As a huge fan of South East Asian cookery I love introducing people to the amazing flavours and unusual ingredients of this fascinating cuisine. We chop, slice, crush, pound and fry some of the most yummy dishes you can imagine.

18th May – Pizza Workshop

The first day course of the year is such an exciting one. Hosted by Les Soeurs Anglaises we will have access to a pizza oven in order to cook up some truly awesome pizzas. After an introduction of how to get your pizza oven started up, we will make pizza dough, allowing time for it to rise. In the meantime we will crack on with all the yummy toppings, finishing the afternoon off our wood smoked pizzas, fresh from the oven.

13th-17th June – Cookery Workshop

I am super excited about my first residential cookery course at Les Soeurs Anglaises. After a meet and greet welcoming dinner we will spend 3 days preparing, cooking, eating, dining, relaxing and sharing foodie stories in the beautiful surroundings of our accommodation. Using locally produced and sourced ingredients we will cook French inspired dishes with a nod to modernity.

Please email me at louise@comecookinfrance.com or go to my contacts page for more details.


A Scandinavian dinner

A dinner inspired by spring, the weather, Scandinavian design, great quality ingredients and sharing ideas and recipes with great friend, food writer Mary Cadogan.

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This spring is cold and wet and reminds me very much of the year we arrived in France from Sydney in 2013. We landed in May expecting balmy days and cool but pleasant evenings, but instead it was cold, wet and very grey. Not quite what we had expected but then not much one can do about the weather but get on and do what you love doing best – cooking, eating and sharing meals with friends.

For me inspiration comes from many different things. Travel, shared stories, design, colour, books and loads more. This menu came to Mary and I over a cup of tea (and one of Mary’s delicious ginger cakes) in her kitchen back in early 2014. We decided to collaborate on a Scandinavian inspired dinner and so together we set about creating a meal full of exciting flavours, colours and textures that we felt were all synonymous with the Scandinavian culture.

We start with an apero. Mary’s delicious red currant vodka served with my take on cured herrings. Steep red currants and sugar in a good quality vodka for 2 weeks, turn the bottle and gently shake every few days to help disperse the flavours. The resulting liqueur is vibrant red, slightly sweet and reassuringly warming.

Making the most of the terrific mini blinis so readily available in the supermarket I topped them with smoked herring, creme fraiche, shredded apple and poached quail’s eggs. I like the smoky richness of the fish and the eggs balanced with the freshness of the crisp apple.

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The first course is one of my favourite ways of serving a young goat cheese like the Chabichou from the region. Lightly whipped with a little buttermilk and a good fruity extra virgin olive oil. I then serve it with homemade crisp breads flavoured with dill seeds or anise. The flavours combine well and the starter is light. I love the contrasting colours here too with nigella seeds and a touch of summer with nasturtium petals and a few salad leaves. It tastes as fresh as it looks.

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For the main course we opted for a meat and a fish dish, either as a sharing course, or for those who have a preference for one or the other. Mary’s marinated salmon (barbecued on a cedar plank giving the fish a lovely deep smoky flavour) is served with pickled vegetables to offset the richness of the fish – it is a fabulous example of a well balanced dish.

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Cooking on cedar planks is is actually an ancient way of cooking something that needs to be protected from the fierceness of the flames or heat, as in indirect grilling. The Finnish have loimulohi (blazing salmon) where the fish is nailed to a plank and cooked over coals and the North West coast American Indians used red cedar planks to cook pacific salmon on. Today you can buy varying sizes of cedar planks online or make your own. The wood is pre-soaked in water to prevent it from catching fire. It is fun and does add a light smokiness to the fish.

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Spring heralds the arrival of young lambs born over winter and fed on the tender sweet grass shoots that give the meats it’s lovely flavour. Lamb works well with fruit and although fresh red currants are out of season, they are a fruit that freezes exceptionally well, even still on the stalk (as a stylist every summer I buy excess berries to keep in the freezer for any out of season photo shoots, pictured here). Here though the flavour in the dish comes from redcurrant jelly echoing the Scandinavian love of paring meat with  fruit. A side of mesclun and radish salad and baby new potatoes in a dill dressing round of the dish perfectly.instagram-in-stream_tall___wheatberry-salad-copy.jpg

Wheat berries are packed with fibre, protein and iron, so not only do they add a distinctive nutty flavour and texture to a dish, they are very healthy too. I love the pickled onion and dried cranberries here. The salad is sweet, tart and nutty all at once.

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Queen of baking and desserts, Mary triumphed with two sensational desserts to round off a very wonderful meal. Swedish pancakes are smaller than their European and American counterparts. They are particularly light too and not dissimilar to the French crepe. The ice cream is incredibly simple (Lingonberry jam is available online or from Ikea and some specialist food shops).

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The Norwegians call this cake The World’s Best Cake and they may well be right. A layer of sponge, covered in meringue with toasted almonds, filled with cream and berries – sounds pretty amazing and it is! And just when you thought that sounded good, it even has a tablespoon of vodka in the filling.

This is quite an involved meal so if it seems a daunting task pick and choose the dishes that inspire you the most. There should be something for everyone here. I hope we did Scandinavia proud, I know not everything is authentic but we made avery effort to be as true as we could to the cuisine of the Nordic countries whilst use those ingredients that we could find locally.

THE RECIPES

Smoked herring blinis

Makes: 12

100 g smoked herring

12 quails eggs

1 apple

1 tsp white wine vinegar

12 mini blinis

2 tbsp crème fraiche

a little watercress

extra virgin olive oil, to drizzle

Make the topping. Cut the herring into small bite size pieces and reserve. Very gently crack the quails eggs into small dishes. Poach the eggs in gently simmering water for about 1 minute until soft set. Remove with a slotted spoon and cool in cold water. Transfer to kitchen towel to dry and set aside.

Just before serving very finely julienne the apple and toss with the vinegar. Spread each blini with a little crème fraiche and top each one with a slice of herring, a poached egg and garnish each with the apple and watercress . Season with salt and pepper and serve drizzled with a little oil.

To make red current vodka

Layer 250g red currents and 175g caster sugar in a bottle and pour in 1 litre of vodka. Screw tight and leave to infuse for 2 weeks, gently turning and shaking the bottle from time to time.

Dill crisp breads with goat cheese

Serves: 6

150 g soft goat cheese

3 tbsp buttermilk

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

a handful of nasturtium flowers (optional)

a sprinkling of nigella seeds

a few salad leaves

crisp breads

150 g plain flour

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp dill seeds or anise seeds

50 ml cold water

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Make the crisp breads. Preheat the oven to 200c/fan-forced 180c and lightly oil 2 large baking trays. Sift the flour, salt and baking powder into a food processor and stir in the dill seeds. Add the water and oil and process until the ingredients just come together. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead dough into a ball.

Wrap in cling wrap and chill for 15 minutes. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to a large thin rectangle about 2 mm thick. Cut into long thin triangles. Transfer to the prepared trays and bake for about 15 minutes until crisp and lightly golden. Cool on a wire rack.

Combine the cheese, buttermilk, oil and salt and pepper in a bowl until smooth. Spread on a plate and scatter over the nasturtium flowers, salad leaves and the nigella seeds. Drizzle with a little oil and serve with the crisp breads.

Plank barbecued salmon

Serves 6

You will need a thin cedar plank 30cm x 20cm for this recipe, these are available from specialist cookware stores or online.

800g salmon fillet, skin on

2 tbsp sea salt

2 tbsp caster sugar

1 tbsp white peppercorns

1 tsp fennel seeds

large bunch dill

1 tbsp rapeseed oil

sauce

2 tsp each dijon and wholegrain mustard

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp sugar

100g crème fraiche

2 tbsp roughly chopped dill

Line a dish with cling film, large enough to take the salmon. Mix the salt and sugar. Crush the peppercorns and fennel seeds in a pestle and mortar or spice mill and stir into the sugar mix. Finely chop the dill stalks and reserve the fronds for later.

Sprinkle half the salt

mixture over the cling film, then scatter over half the dill stalks. Put the salmon on top and sprinkle with the remaining salt and dill stalks. Cover the fish tightly with cling film and put in the fridge overnight.

The next day, soak the cedar plank in water for 2 hours. Meanwhile, make the sauce. Combine the mustards, lemon juice and sugar in a bowl with a little salt. Stir in the crème fraiche and dill. Chill until required.

Unwrap the salmon and brush off most of the marinade, pat it dry with kitchen paper. Brush the salmon lightly with oil on all sides and place on the prepared planks, skin side down. Cook the salmon for 12-15 mins over hot coals or on a heated griddle pan, covered with a tent of foil, or the barbecue lid. Serve on the board scattered with dill sprigs with a bowl of sauce on the side.

Swedish pickled vegetables

Serves: 6

600ml water

500g sugar

400ml white wine or cider vinegar

1 shallot, peeled and thinly sliced

2 tsp white peppercorns

2 bay leaves

1 tsp allspice berries

2 cinnamon sticks

250g baby carrots or carrot sticks

250g baby beetroots

1 head fennel

half a cucumber

Put the peppercorns, bay leaf, allspice and cinnamon stick into a large pan and dry roast the spices until they give off their perfume. Add the water, sugar, vinegar and onion and bring to the boil. Stir to dissolve the sugar, then remove from the heat and leave to cool.

Peel and trim the carrots and trim the beets. Cut the fennel into wedges. Bring a pot of salted water to the boil and have ready a large bowl of iced water. Cook the vegetables one type at a time, the beets for 15-20 minutes, the carrots and fennel for 5 minutes. As they are cooked scoop from the water and cool quickly in the iced water. Cut the cucumber into sticks and keep these raw.

When the vegetables are cool transfer to four jars and cover with the pickling liquid. Leave to marinade for 24 hours and eat within 3 days. To serve, drain off the pickling liquid and serve with the mustard cream (recipe above).

Roast glazed lamb with herb flowers and red currants

Serves: 6

2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary with flowers

2 tbsp dried oregano flowers (or fresh from the garden)* available from specialist stores or online

1 tbsp fennel seeds, crushed

4 whole all spice berries, crushed

1.75 kg boneless leg of lamb, butterflied

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

3 tbsp red current jelly

mesclun, radish and hazelnut salad

3 handful mesclun leaves

6-8 radishes, very thinly sliced

50 g hazelnuts, toasted and roughly chopped

a few red currants, optional

3 tbsp hazelnut oil

2 tsp red wine vinegar

1 tsp whole grain mustard

1 tsp clear honey

salt and pepper

Combine the rosemary, oregano flowers, crushed fennel and crushed allspice in a bowl and add some pepper. Place the lamb on a board and using a sharp knife score the flesh in a diagonal pattern all over. Brush with oil and rub the herb and spice mixture into the lamb, cover and leave to infuse overnight.

Preheat the oven to 230c/210c fan-forced. Arrange the lamb on a rack set over a roasting tin with 150ml cold water in the bottom of the pan. Combine the red currant glaze with a little salt and brush all over the top of the lamb. Transfer to the oven, immediately reduce the temperature to 190c/170c fan-forced and roast for 30 minutes until browned. Remove the lamb to a platter and wrap loosely in foil. Transfer the pan juices to a small saucepan, reducing slightly, if necessary and keep warm.

Just before serving, arrange the salad leaves in a bowl and scatter over the radishes, hazelnuts and a few red currants, if using. Blend together the oil, vinegar, mustard, honey and salt and pepper. Drizzle over the salad leaves and toss lightly. Slice lamb and drizzle over the pan juices. Serve with the salad.

Potato salad with dill salsa

Serves: 6

1 kg baby new potatoes, scrubbed

1/2 bunch fresh dill

1/2 bunch fresh flat leaf parsley

150 ml extra virgin olive oil

1 small garlic clove, crushed

1/2 tsp caster sugar

2 tsp dijon mustard

2 tsp white wine vinegar

salt and pepper

Scrub the potatoes and place in a large saucepan of lightly salted water. Bring to the boil and cook for 10-12 minutes until tender.

Meanwhile, place all the remaining ingredients in a food processor or blend and blend to form a smooth green sauce.

Strain the potatoes and return to the pan, add the pesto and stir well until coated. Serve with the lamb.

Wheat berry salad

Serve 6

300g wheat berries

1 red onion

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

4 tbsp rapeseed oil

100g dried cranberries

50g pistachios, roughly chopped

bunch mint

bunch chives

handful baby spinach leaves

Cook the wheat in plenty of boiling salted water for 25-30 minutes or follow pack timings, then drain well and leave to cool. Peel and thinly slice the onion and mix with the vinegar.

Add the cranberries and pistachios to the wheat berries and mix well. Pick the leaves from the mint and snip the chives, then stir in thoroughly. Add salt and pepper to the onion, then mix in the oil. Tip onto the wheat berries, add the spinach leaves and toss everything together until the berries are glistening.

Lingonberry and cardamom ice cream with Swedish pancakes

Serves: 8

Ice cream

4 cardamom pods

400 ml double cream

400 g jar lingonberry preserve

Pancakes

3 large eggs

350 ml milk

150 g plain flour

50 g butter, melted

3 tbsp caster sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

butter, for cooking the pancakes

icing sugar for dusting and clear honey for drizzling

raspberries to serve

Make the ice cream. Put a plastic food container into the freezer. Split the cardamom pods, remove the seeds and crush them to a powder in a pestle and mortar. Whip the cream to firm peaks.

Tip the lingonberry preserve into a bowl and fold in the cardamom cream. Transfer to the chilled container and freeze for at least 4 hours, or overnight.

Make the pancakes. Mix the eggs with about ¼ of the milk in a food processor. Add the flour and process again until smooth. Add the remaining milk and all the ingredients and process briefly to mix. Pour into a jug.

Heat a knob of butter in a small pancake pan. Add a tablespoon of batter and cook until the edges turn brown, then flip and cook again briefly.

Keep warm while you make the remaining pancakes. Serve warm with lingonberry ice cream, a drizzle of honey and a light dusting of icing sugar.

Norwegian cloud cake

Serves 8

100 g self raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

100 g caster sugar

100 g softened butter

4 egg yolks

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tbsp milk

meringue

4 egg whites

100 g caster sugar

100 g icing sugar

2 tbsp flaked almonds

filling

500 g summer berries

1 tbsp icing sugar, plus extra for dusting

1 tbsp vodka, optional

300 ml double cream

1 sachet vanilla sugar

Heat the oven to 180C/fan 160C. Line two baking sheets with baking paper and draw a rectangle on each, 10cm x 22cm. Turn paper over and fix to the baking sheets with a little butter on the corners.

Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl, add the remaining cake ingredients and beat for 2-3 mins until light and fluffy. Spread half the mixture evenly over each rectangle.

To make the meringue, whisk the egg whites in a large bowl until it forms stiff peaks. Continue whisking while adding the sugars to make a stiff heavy meringue. Spread half the meringue over each cake mixture, spreading it over the edges to enclose it. Smooth one meringue flat and form swirls and peaks with the other. Sprinkle the almonds over the peaks.

Bake the cakes for 30 minutes until the meringue is golden and crisp. Leave to cool on the baking sheets.

Tip the berries into a bowl, halving any that are large and sprinkle with sugar and vodka if using. Stir well, then leave to macerate until the juices flow, about 1 hour.

To assemble the cake whip the cream with the vanilla sugar (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)  to stiff peaks. Set a sieve over a bowl and strain in the berries, reserving the juices. Invert one flat meringue cake onto a wire rack, peel off the paper and put the cake on a platter, meringue side down. Spread with the cream and then cover with berries. Invert the other cake, peel off the paper and put on top of filling, meringue side up. Dust with icing sugar and serve cut into thick slices.