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

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

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

Aubergine sliders with tahini sauce 

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

Serves: 4

100g semi-dried tomatoes, sliced

½ preserved lemon, flesh discarded and skin diced

4 tablespoons pine nuts (35g)

4 tablespoons pomegranate seeds (50g)

4 tablespoons parsley leaves

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons honey

1 large aubergine (about 450g)

1 teaspoon ras al hanout

8 small ciabatta rolls (or 4 large)

50g salad leaves

salt and pepper

Tahini sauce

100g Greek yogurt

2 tablespoons tahini paste

1 small garlic clove, crushed

1 tablespoon lemon juice

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

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

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

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

Vietnamese sesame tofu banh mi burger with pickled vegetables

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

Serves: 4

350 g firm tofu, drained

80 g hoisin sauce

4 tablespoons honey 

4 tablespoons dark soy sauce

2 tablespoons Shoaxing wine (Chinese rice wine)

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon Chinese 5 spice

1 French baguette 

50 g salad leaves 

2 tablespoons black and white sesame seeds

a few fresh coriander, mint and basil leaves

4 tablespoons mayonnaise

4 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce

Pickled vegetables

1 small carrot

½ cucumber

½ small red onion

50ml rice wine vinegar

50g caster sugar

2 tablespoons water

1 teaspoon salt

a few sesame seeds, to serve (optional) 

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

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

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

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

Buffalo cauliflower burgers with blue cheese sauce

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

Serves: 4

500g cauliflower florets

12 5ml full fat milk

75 g chickpea flour or plain flour

1 teaspoon mustard powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

2 tablespoons hot chilli sauce

1 tablespoon clear honey

15g butter, melted

4 burger buns

125g iceberg lettuce, shredded

Blue cheese sauce

75 g sour cream

50 g creamy blue cheese

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

½ teaspoon caster sugar

salt and pepper

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

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

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

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

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

Super greens zucchini sliders whipped feta and kale crisps

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

Makes: 8

2 small zucchini (about 500 g)

1 lemon

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

8 small poppy seed rolls 

Kale crisps

100g kale, trimmed

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons sesame seeds

Rocket pesto

2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds

60 g rocket leaves

1 garlic clove, chopped

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Whipped feta

100g feta

25g creme fraiche

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

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

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

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

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

Sticky sweet chilli halloumi sliders with crispy onions

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

Serves: 4

250g halloumi

1 tablespoon olive oil

8 small wholemeal baps (or 4 large)

50 g rocket leaves

8 baby tomatoes, halved

Sweet chilli jam 

6 large red chillies, seeded and chopped

4 garlic cloves, chopped

1 teaspoon grated root ginger

1 teaspoon salt

100 ml rice wine vinegar

100 ml granulated sugar

Onion rings

125 g plain flour

30 g cornflour

250 ml sparkling water

1 onion, sliced

Sunflower oil, for deep frying

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

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

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

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

Recipes © Louise Pickford

Photographs © Ian Wallace

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


A little biscotti or two

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

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

Almond and salted chocolate biscotti

Makes: about 50

150g blanched almonds, toasted

250g plain flour

200g soft brown sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

60g chilled unsalted butter

3 eggs

1 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp vanilla essence

Egg wash

1 egg, beaten with 1 tbsp milk

Icing

200g dark chocolate

Sea salt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© recipe Louise Pickford

© Photo by Ian Wallace photographer


Warming the cockles with French onion soup

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

Red Onion Soup with Cheesy Sourdough Melts

Serves: 6

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

75 ml olive oil

1.25 kg red onions, thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme 

150 ml red wine

1.5  Litres good quality beef stock

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

50 g butter, softened

6 large sourdough bread or ciabatta slices

100 g Camembert, thinly sliced

75 g Gruyere, grated

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

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

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

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

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

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


Saffron, the royalist of spices

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

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

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

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

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

Dried and fresh saffron

Saffron facts you should know

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recipes

Strawberry and saffron jam

Make: 4 x 300 ml jars

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

2 teaspoons saffron strands

1.5kg strawberries, hulled

juice 1 large lemon

1.25 kg granulated sugar

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

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

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

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

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

Home semi-salted cod with saffron aioli

Serves: 4

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

4 x 150 g cod fillets

2 tbsp sea salt

750g sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to drizzle

350g French beans, trimmed

a handful flat leaf parsley leaves

saffron aioli

1/4 tsp saffron strands

1 tbsp boiling water

2 egg yolks

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 tsp Dijon mustard

2 tsp white wine vinegar

200 ml mild extra virgin olive oil

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

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

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

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

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

Risotto Milanese with a twist

Serves: 4

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

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

4 sprigs fresh thyme, plus a few leaves to garnish

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

½ tsp saffron strands

50g butter

2 shallots, finely chopped

2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

300g Arborio rice

100ml Italian dry white wine

50 g freshly grated Parmesan cheese

salt and pepper

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

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

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

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

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

Simple lamb brochettes with saffron pilaf

Serves: 4

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

250g basmati rice

500g boneless lamb neck

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp ground sumac

75g butter

2 onions, thinly sliced

2 tsp cumin seeds

4 cardamom pods, crushed

1 cinnamon stick, bruised

75g raisins

75g pistachio nuts, chopped

1 tsp saffron strands

2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander

juice 1/2 lemon

salt and pepper

Greek yogurt and lemon wedges, to serve

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

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

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

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

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

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

Orange, cashew and saffron syrup cake

Serves: 10

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

175g unsalted butter, softened

175g soft light brown sugar

grated zest 1 orange (juice reserved)

3 eggs, lightly beaten

2 tbsp orange flour water

225g self-raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

75g cashew nuts, finely ground

orange and saffron syrup

pared zest and juice 2 oranges

125g caster sugar

1/2 tsp saffron strands

crème fraiche or Greek yogurt, to serve

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

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

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

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

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

First published by Food and Travel Magazine 2015

© recipes Louise Pickford

© photographs Ian Wallace



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.


Ingredient of the week……………. spelt

Risotto purists will be screaming abuse no doubt at this bastardised version of such a classic Italian dish, but I make no apology for taking it’s name in vain. I am a lover of a classic risotto, but this more nutty version is good too. Less creamy, yes, but I think the nuttiness and robust flavour and texture of spelt grains more than makes up for this. Widely recognised for it’s health benefits, this ancient grain is hardier and more nutritional than it’s more familiar cousin, wheat. If you aren’t so sure, give this delicious version a go.

Beetroot and Spelt Risotto with Camembert

A nutty and wholesome alternative to a more traditional risotto using pearled spelt berries

Photo by Ian Wallace

Serves: 6

300g pearled spelt grains

750ml-1 litre chicken or vegetable stock

350g raw beetroot, peeled and diced

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 red onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 tsp chopped fresh thyme, plus a few leaves to garnish

125g Camembert, sliced

25g grated Parmesan

55g pecan nuts

1 red whitlof, shredded

salt and pepper

Soak the spelt grains in boiling water for 20 minutes. Drain and shake dry.

Place the stock in a saucepan and heat gently until it just starts to simmer.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large saucepan and fry the onion, garlic, thyme and some salt and pepper for 5 minutes until softened. Add the beetroot and fry for a further 5 minutes.

Add the spelt and stir-fry for 1 minute until all the grains are glossy. Add the wine and simmer until reduced, about 3 minutes.

Then add half the stock and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Add the remaining stock and cook, stirring until the spelt is tender and most of the stock absorbed, about 10 minutes more. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in half the Camembert and all the Parmesan, cover pan and leave to sit for 5 minutes.

Heat a small frying pan and fry the pecans for 3-4 minutes until lightly browned.

Spoon the risotto onto plates and serve topped with the remaining cheese, pecans, the shredded whitlof and a few thyme leaves.


A change of blog details

Hello to all the followers of my blog A Food Stylist’s Blog. Firstly I would like to thank you all for following me and my posts over the last 3years.

As my life and business has evolved in France I am now finding that most of time is take up with running my Cookery School and all the spin offs from it – Come Cook In France – therefore I am now blogging directly from the website www.comecookinfrance.com

If you wish to continue following my posts and my life in France (and I really hope that you all will) please click on the link, go to the blog page and you can then subscribe there.

Again, thank you everyone.

Louise

 


Feeling the need to eat chocolate!

I don’t know why but I can’t stop thinking about chocolate today, must be feeling the need to indulge I guess. Anyway, I decided to take a look back at some of the chocolate features I have done in the past and came across this rather romantic shoot with a kinda glam/vintage/gold look – a bit kitsch I suppose. Well to be honest, the food is the hero and I know they all tasted fantastic.

Whether you call them churros (Spain) doughnuts (UK) or beignets (France) this deep fried pastries are 100% delicious especially when drizzled with a rich chocolate sauce.

Cinnamon spiced churros with chocolate Grand Marnier sauce

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Serves: 6

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

chocolate Grand Marnier sauce

125 g dark chocolate

100 ml single cream

2 tbsp Grand Marnier

vegetable oil for frying

Heat the water and butter in a saucepan over low heat, stirring 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 (this will be almost immediate). Leave to cool for 5 minutes.

Using an electric whisk beat the eggs into the dough one at a time until smooth and slightly glossy. Spoon the dough into a piping bag fitted with a 1cm star nozzle.

Heat vegetable oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan to a depth of 7 cm until it reaches 170c/330f on a sugar thermometer (or until a small amount of the dough sizzles as soon as it is dropped into the oil). Carefully pipe approximately 15 cm lengths of the dough straight into the hot oil, using a knife to cut the dough off at the nozzle. Fry 3 at a time for 3 minutes until crisp and golden, turning half way through using metal tongs. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen towel. Keep warm in a moderate oven while cooking the rest.

Combine the sugar and cinnamon on a plate and roll the churros in the mixture until coated.

Meanwhile, heat the chocolate and cream together in a small saucepan over a low heat, stirring, until the chocolate melts. Remove from the heat Grand Marnier. Arrange the churros on a platter and serve with the chocolate sauce for dipping.

Chocolate pecan tartlets

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Serves: 6

pastry

200 g plain flour, sifted

1/2 tsp salt

100 g chilled butter, diced

50 g caster sugar

2 egg yolks

2-3 tbsp iced water

filling

100 g dark chocolate

20 g butter

80 g light soft brown sugar

2 medium eggs

100 ml golden syrup

1 tsp vanilla essence

200 g pecan halves

icing sugar, to dust

vanilla ice cream, to serve

Heat the oven to 200c/400f/gas mark 6. Make the pastry. Sift the flour into a bowl and stir in the salt. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine crumbs and stir in the sugar. Make a well in the middle and work in the egg yolks and enough water to just bring the dough together.

Gently work the dough into a ball, flatten to a disc and wrap in cling film. Chill the dough for 30 minutes. Divide the dough equally into 6 and roll each one out to an 18 cm disc. Press into 6 x 12 cm tartlet tins.

Prick the bases with a fork and chill for a further 20 minutes.

Line the pastry cases with baking paper and baking beans and bake blind for 12 minutes. Remove the paper and beans and bake for a further 5 minutes or until pastry is crisp and lightly golden. Leave to go cold. Reduce oven temperature to 170c/325f/gas mark 3.

Melt the chocolate and butter together in a small saucepan, stirring until smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar. Whisk the eggs, golden syrup and vanilla essence together until smooth and then stir in the chocolate mixture.

Place the pastry cases on a baking tray and divide the nuts between each one. Carefully pour in the filling. Bake the tartlets for 20 minutes or until just firm in the centre, remove from the oven and set aside to cool for 30 minutes. Dust with icing sugar and serve with ice cream.

Triple layer chocolate and Tia Maria mousse

triple chocolate mousse 1

Serves: 8-12

cake base

60 g dark chocolate

2 medium eggs, separated

55 g caster sugar

2 tbsp cocoa powder, sifted

mousse

4 gelatine leaves (200 bloom)

50 ml Tia Maria

300 g dark chocolate

3 medium egg, separated

250 ml double cream

satin glaze

150 g dark chocolate

60 g unsalted butter

90 thickened cream

1 tbsp liquid glucose

Preheat the oven to 180c/350f/gas mark 4 and oil and line the base of a 22 cm cake tin baking paper. Make the cake base. Melt the chocolate in a bowl set of a pan of just simmering water (do not let the bowl touch the water) and stir until melted. Cool for 5 minutes. Whisk the egg whites and sugar together for 3 minutes until thick and glossy and then stir in the egg yolks, cocoa powder and finally the melted chocolate until evenly combined. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Oil and line the base and sides of a deep 20 cm loose bottom cake tin. Press the cooled cake into the base of the tin so it fits as snuggly as possible. Set aside.

Make the mousse. Place the gelatine leaves in a bowl and cover with cold water, leave to soak for 5 minutes until the leaves soften. Squeeze the water from the gelatine and place in a small saucepan with the Tia Maria. Heat very gently, stirring until the gelatine is completely dissolved.

Melt the chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of just simmering water (do not let the base of the bowl touch the water) stirring until smooth. Let cool for 5 minutes, then beat in the egg yolks and cream and stir in the gelatine mixture. Whisk the egg whites in a clean bowl until stiff and carefully fold through the chocolate mixture until evenly combined. Pour over the cake base and chill for 4 hours or until firm.

Make the glaze. Place the chocolate, butter, cream and liquid glucose in a small saucepan and stir over a gentle heat until smooth. Cool for 5 minutes and then very carefully pour over the top of the set mousse. Chill for a further 1 hour until set.

Carefully remove the mousse cake from the tin and peel away the paper. Decorate the top with your preferred decorations. To serve use a knife dipped into hot water to help cut smoothly through the three layers.

Divine chocolate cups with salted cocoa nib caramel shards

divine choc cups 1

Serves: 6

Cocoa nib are lightly crushed cocoa beans. They are readily available from larger supermarkets, health food stores or online.

250 ml double cream

1/2 vanilla pod

125 g dark chocolate

2 egg yolks

1 tbsp caster sugar

salted cocoa nib caramel shards

125 g caster sugar

3 tbsp water

2 tbsp cocoa nibs

1 tsp sea salt

Preheat the oven to 140c/275f/gas mark 1 and place 6 x 100 ml cups or ramekin dishes in a baking tin. Place 175 ml of cream in a small saucepan and scrape in the seeds from the vanilla pod. Heat gently until the cream just starts to simmer, but do not allow the mixture to boil. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 20 minutes.

Melt the remaining cream and chocolate together in a bowl set over a pan of just simmering water (do not let the bowl touch the water) stirring until smooth. Beat the egg yolks and sugar together and stir in the chocolate cream and vanilla cream until combined.

Divide the mixture between the cups and pour in enough boiling water to come half way up the sides. Transfer to the oven and bake for about 30-35 minutes until they are just firm in the middle. Cool and then refrigerate over night.

Make the caramel about 30 minutes before serving. Place the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat very gently without stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved. Bring to the boil and cook for about 5 minutes until the liquid turns a golden caramel colour.

Meanwhile, place a sheet of baking paper on a baking tray and have the cocoa nibs and sea salt to hand. As soon as the caramel is ready pour onto the prepared paper and allow it to form a thin pool. Immediately scatter over the coco nibs and sea salt and set aside to cool and set. Break the toffee into shards and serve a few shards on top of each chocolate cup.

Molten chocolate and dulce de leche puddings

molten chocolate pudding 1

Serves: 4

100 g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing

100g dark chocolate

2 eggs, plus 2 egg yolks

1 tsp vanilla essence

125 g caster sugar

100 g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

4 tsp salted caramel sauce

cocoa powder, to dust

double cream, to serve

Preheat the oven to 180c/350f/gas mark 4. Line the bases and brush the insides of 4 x 150 ml metal dariole molds with melted butter and chill for 10 minutes. Arrange the molds on a baking tin.

Meanwhile, melt the butter and chocolate together in a saucepan, stirring until melted. Remove from the heat and leave to cool for 5 minutes.

Beat the eggs, egg yolks, vanilla essence and sugar in a bowl, using an electric whisk, for 3-4 minutes until thick and fluffy. Sift over the flour and carefully fold in along with the chocolate mixture until smooth.

Spoon half the mix into the prepared molds, add 1 teaspoon of salted caramel sauce to the middle of each one and cover with the remaining chocolate mixture to about 5 mm from the top. Bake for 15 minutes until the tops are set and slightly cracked. Remove from the oven but let cool in the tins for 5 minutes.

Invert the puddings onto serving plates tapping the bases lightly if necessary. Remove the paper from the bases. Dust with cocoa powder and serve immediately with cream.


 

 

 


On the griddle

I love the first barbecue of year. Here are a few of my favourite recipes for grilling, indoors or out, so you can enjoys these dishes where ever you are in the world.

We kick off with super succulent spicy tiger prawns (cooked in the shells to help keep the flesh moist) with a lovely salty/sweet/sour salad with fresh mango – a throw back to my days in Australia where the mango season is a joy to behold.

Sausages are sausages are sausages, well no actually and these ones are a good quality pork variety from the butchers served with a homemade salsa rossa and a piquant mustard mayonnaise.

Aubergines are a great meaty alternative for a veggie burger. Here they take on a South American flavour with chimichurri sauce and wickedly delicious crispy fried onion rings.

No barbie would be complete without a good old steak, so add a Mexican twist with a spicy japeleno salsa.

If seafood is your thing, then you should definitely try barbecuing shellfish in either covered with foil in metal dishes or wrapped up in foil parcel . It’s a lovely way of keeping all those juices. Pared with chorizo they are really yummy.

Vietnamese sesame and soy prawns and mango salad

vietnamese-sesame-and-soy-prawns-copy-e1523956477714.jpg

Serves: 4

12 large raw prawns

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp fish sauce

2 tsp caster sugar

1 tsp sesame oil

1 mango, peeled and stoned

1 cucumber

a handful fresh Thai basil, coriander and mint

125g grape cherry tomatoes, halved

4 tbsp salted cashews nuts, chopped

dressing

3 tbsp fish sauce

3 tbsp caster sugar

2 1/2 tbsp fresh lime juice

1-2 small red chillies, thinly sliced and seeded if wished

sea salt

Thai crispy fried shallots, to garnish

Prepare prawns. Using small scissors cut down the back of each prawn, through the shell and carefully pull out the dark vein and discard. Wash and pat dry. Place in a shallow dish. Combine the soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar and sesame oil, stir well to dissolve the sugar. Pour over prawns and set aside to marinate for 2 hours. Drain and pat dry.

Meanwhile, thinly slice the mango and cut into long thin strips or julienne. Thinly slice the cucumber and cut into julienne. Place in a bowl and add the herbs and cherry tomatoes.

Whisk together dressing ingredients until the sugar is dissolved.

Thread the prawns onto bamboo skewers. Heat a barbecue or griddle pan until hot and cook the prawns for 2-3 minutes each side until charred and cooked through. Toss the salad and dressing together adding the cashew nuts. Serve prawns and salad topped with crispy shallots.

Griddled sausages with salsa rossa

Grilled sausages with salsa rossa A

Serves: 4

1 large red pepper

2 tomatoes, diced

  2 tbsp red wine vinegar

1 tsp caster sugar

1 tsp dried oregano

100g good quality mayonnaise

1 tbsp whole grain mustard

8 premium pork sausages

Heat the barbecue or griddle pan until hot and cook the pepper for about 10 minutes, turning from time to time until charred all over. Set aside for 5 minutes and then slice open catching any juices in a small saucepan.

Chop the pepper, discarding the seeds and add to the pan with the tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, oregano and some salt and pepper. Bring to the boil and simmer, uncovered for 25-30 minutes until thickened and the liquid is evaporated. Puree until smooth.

Stir the mayonnaise and mustard together.

Cook the sausages on the griddle for about 10 minutes, turning until charred and cooked through. Serve with the sauces.

Aubergine burgers with chimichurri and crispy onions

aubergine-burgers-with-chimichuri-copy.jpg

Serves: 4

2 medium aubergines, trimmed

2-3 tbsp olive oil

1 large onions

100ml milk

1 egg, beaten

100g dried breadcrumbs

4 burger buns

50g rocket leaves

aioli (optional)

chimichurri sauce

1 bunch flat leaf parsley

1/2 bunch fresh coriander

125 ml extra virgin olive oil

3 tbs red wine vinegar

1 garlic clove, chopped

1 tsp ground cumin

a pinch dried chilli flakes

salt and pepper

Start by making the chimichurri sauce. Whiz all the ingredients in a food processor or blender until fairly smooth and adjust seasonings to taste.

Thinly slice the onions into rings and place in a bowl. Cover with the milk and soak for 5 minutes.

Cut the aubergines horizontally into 3mm thick slices. Season the oil with salt and pepper and brush the slices with the seasoned oil. Heat the barbecue or griddle pan to high and once hot, grill the aubergine slices for 3-4 minutes each side until charred.

Drain the onion rings and dip firstly into the egg and then into the breadcrumbs to completely coat the rings. Heat 5cm vegetable oil in a wok until it reaches 180c on a sugar thermometer (or until a cube of bread crisps in 20 seconds). Deep-fry the onion rings for 2-3 minutes until crisp and golden. Drain on kitchen paper.

Slice rolls in half and char-grill until toasted. Fill rolls with aubergine slices, rocket leaves, onion rings, chimichurri sauce and aioli, if using.

Barbecued beef skirt with jalepeno salsa

barbequed-beef-skirt-with-jalpeno-salsa-copy.jpg

Serves: 4

1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary

2 garlic cloves, crushed

grated zest 2 limes

1 tsp each salt and pepper

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

650g beef skirt steak

salsa

2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

½ bunch coriander

2 jalepeno chilies, seed and roughly chopped

1 garlic clove, crushed

juice 1 lime

¼ tsp caster sugar

serving suggestions

cherry tomatoes, avocado and coriander

Place the rosemary, garlic, lime zest, salt, pepper and oil in a bowl and stir well to combine. Place the meat in a shallow dish, add the marinade, stir well and leave to marinate for at least 4 hours or overnight. Return to room temperature 1 hour before cooking.

Make the salsa just before you cook the meat to keep the lovely vibrant green colour. Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth, season to taste.

Preheat a barbecue or grill pan until hot, spray lightly with oil and add the meat. Cook for 3-5 minutes each side, depending on how well you like the meat cooked. Transfer to a board and rest for 5 minutes before slicing. Serve with the salsa and some cherry tomatoes, avocado and coriander leaves.

Clams and chorizo cooked on the griddle

clams-with-chorizo-copy.jpg

Serves: 4

1 kg small clams

150g chorizo, diced

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

grated zest and juice 1 lemon

50ml white wine

2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

salt and pepper

beer, to serve

Soak the clams in clean water for 30 minutes, then rinse well and drain. Divide between 4 small metal dishes (or make foil parcels).

Add the chorizo, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice and wine to the pans and seal each one under a sheet of foil (or wrap the foil up tightly forming a sealed parcel).

Heat the barbecue or griddle pan until hot, add the dishes or parcels and cook for 3-4 minutes until the clams have opened. Check one parcel to see. Scatter over the parsley and serve with beer.