Summer dining, al fresco pizza night.

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

Elderflower Prosecco Spritzer with cucumber

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

Serves: 6

1/2 cucumber, peeled and seeded

ice cubes

180 ml elderflower cordial/syrup

1 bottle Prosecco

30 ml tonic water or sparkling water

lime slices

mint leaves

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

Courgette, dolcelatte and mint with pumpkin seeds 

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

Serves: 3

1 quantity pizza dough (see below)

1 courgette, trimmed

finely grated zest 1 lemon

a large handful mint leaves

150g dolcelatte, crumbled

150g buffalo mozzarella, sliced thinly

3 tablespoons pumpkin seeds

Lemon oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice, to serve

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

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

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

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

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

Pizza dough

Makes: 3 x 30cm pizza bases

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

150 g plain flour

150 g strong white bread flour

2 teaspoons sea salt

1 teaspoon  dried active yeast

1 teaspoon olive oil

190-200ml water 

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

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

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

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

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

Pizza with heirloom cherry toms, burrata and some herb pesto

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

Serves: 3

1 quantity pizza dough (see above)

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

1 garlic clove, chopped

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

A pinch caster sugar

75 – 100 ml extra virgin olive oil

1 kg mixed heirloom tomatoes, halved, quartered or sliced

2 balls burrata, torn

salt and pepper

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

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

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

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

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

Margarita with chorizo

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

Serves: 3

1 quantity pizza dough (see above)

1/2 quantity ragu sauce

100 g chorizo, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons drained capers

30 g pitted black or green olives

250 g buffalo mozzarella, sliced or crumbled

a handful basil leaves

Ragu sauce

Makes: approximately 500ml

1 kg ripe roma/plum tomatoes, roughly chopped

2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 tablespoon olive oil

1/2-1 teaspoon  sugar

salt and pepper

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

Make the pizza dough (see above)

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

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

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

Serve topped with fresh basil leaves.

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

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

Serves: 6

250 g Greek yogurt

4 red peppers

2 medium aubergines

5 tablespoons olive oil

1 x 400 g can chickpeas, drained

Grated zest 1 lemon

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

150 g rocket or mizuna

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

salt an pepper

Dressing

juice half lemon

11/2 teaspoons agave syrup or honey

1/4 teaspoon sumac

3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yuzu Daiquiri cheesecake pots and salted praline crumbs

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

Serves: 8

200 g white chocolate, melted

50 g butter, melted

175 g digestive biscuits, crushed

75 ml Yuzu juice (see intro)

75 ml vodka

125 g caster sugar

600 g soft cheese

250 ml cream

Salted lime praline

125 g caster sugar

grated zest 3 limes

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

all recipes © Louise Pickford

styling Louise Pickford

all photos © Ian Wallace


The beauty of a good chicken stock

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

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

Homemade chicken stock

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

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

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

Recipe

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

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

2 teaspoons sea salt

a few sprigs parsley

a few sprigs thyme
a few black peppercorns, lightly bashed

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

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

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

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

Image © Ian Wallace

Recipe (not used from the book) ©Louise Pickford

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


Green goodness in a bun – a super healthy veggie slider

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

Super greens courgette/zucchini sliders whipped feta and kale crisps

Makes: 8

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

2 courgettes or zucchini (about 500g)

1 lemon

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

8 small poppy seed rolls 

Kale crisps

100g kale, trimmed

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons sesame seeds

Rocket pesto

2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds

60g rocket leaves

1 garlic clove, chopped

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Whipped feta

100g feta

25g creme fraiche

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published by Ryland Peters & Small and Cico Books


Saffron, the royalist of spices

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

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

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

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

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

Dried and fresh saffron

Saffron facts you should know

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recipes

Strawberry and saffron jam

Make: 4 x 300 ml jars

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

2 teaspoons saffron strands

1.5kg strawberries, hulled

juice 1 large lemon

1.25 kg granulated sugar

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

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

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

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

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

Home semi-salted cod with saffron aioli

Serves: 4

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

4 x 150 g cod fillets

2 tbsp sea salt

750g sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to drizzle

350g French beans, trimmed

a handful flat leaf parsley leaves

saffron aioli

1/4 tsp saffron strands

1 tbsp boiling water

2 egg yolks

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 tsp Dijon mustard

2 tsp white wine vinegar

200 ml mild extra virgin olive oil

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

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

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

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

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

Risotto Milanese with a twist

Serves: 4

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

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

4 sprigs fresh thyme, plus a few leaves to garnish

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

½ tsp saffron strands

50g butter

2 shallots, finely chopped

2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

300g Arborio rice

100ml Italian dry white wine

50 g freshly grated Parmesan cheese

salt and pepper

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

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

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

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

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

Simple lamb brochettes with saffron pilaf

Serves: 4

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

250g basmati rice

500g boneless lamb neck

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp ground sumac

75g butter

2 onions, thinly sliced

2 tsp cumin seeds

4 cardamom pods, crushed

1 cinnamon stick, bruised

75g raisins

75g pistachio nuts, chopped

1 tsp saffron strands

2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander

juice 1/2 lemon

salt and pepper

Greek yogurt and lemon wedges, to serve

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

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

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

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

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

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

Orange, cashew and saffron syrup cake

Serves: 10

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

175g unsalted butter, softened

175g soft light brown sugar

grated zest 1 orange (juice reserved)

3 eggs, lightly beaten

2 tbsp orange flour water

225g self-raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

75g cashew nuts, finely ground

orange and saffron syrup

pared zest and juice 2 oranges

125g caster sugar

1/2 tsp saffron strands

crème fraiche or Greek yogurt, to serve

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

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

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

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

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

First published by Food and Travel Magazine 2015

© recipes Louise Pickford

© photographs Ian Wallace


New cookery workshops

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

Photography © Lesli Lundgren

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

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

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

Dates

Spring workshop 23rd – 27th April 2020 BOOK NOW

Summer workshop June 18th – 22nd 2020 FULL

Autumn workshop 17th – 21st September 2020 BOOK NOW

Details

Four nights accommodation and continental breakfast 

● Welcome mezze dinner with wine. 

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

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

● Recipes and a Come Cook In France folder 

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

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

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

Prices

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

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

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

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

Minimum 8 participants (max 12 residents)

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

Itinerary

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

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

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


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

DAY 5 Brunch followed by departures before lunch.

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

Take a look at some of the previous workshops


Roasted Courgette Soup with Lemon and Mint

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RECIPE

Roasted Courgette Soup with Lemon and Mint

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

Serves: 4

4 large courgettes, roughly chopped

2 lemons

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1-11/4 litres chicken or vegetable stock

A large handful roughly chopped mint leaves

2 teaspoons honey

Salt and pepper

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

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

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

Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes.

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


Summertime salads

With the wondrous fresh bounty in our veggie plots, markets and shops, it seems a no brainer that we make the very most of summer ‘s fresh ingredients with some simply delicious main course salads – add a few slices of sushi grade salmon or a local soft goat cheese and summer never tasted do good.

Salmon sashimi salad with quinoa and miso dressing

Serves: 4

150g red or white quinoa

60g baby Asian salad leaves

12 radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced

100g podded Edamame beans

1 small avocado, peeled, stoned and cut into wedges

400g sashimi-grade salmon fillet*

2 tablespoons black sesame seeds

a handful of chives, snipped

chive flowers, optional

Dressing

80ml mirin

75ml sake

1 tablespoon caster sugar

2 tablespoons white miso paste

1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

2 teaspoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon sesame oil

Place the quinoa in a small saucepan with 300ml water. Bring to the boil and simmer gently, uncovered for 10-15 minutes until the grains are al dente and water absorbed. Set aside to cool in the pan.

Make the dressing. Place the mirin, sake and caster sugar in a small saucepan. Heat gently, stirring until it reaches the boil. Simmer for 1 minute, then set aside to go cold. Whisk in the remaining ingredients until evenly combined.

Transfer the quinoa to a bowl and stir through the salad leaves, radish slices and edamame beans. Add half the dressing, stir well. 

Season the salmon fillets and sprinkle with the sesame seeds, pressing lightly into the flesh. Drizzle with a little oil. Heat a dry frying pan until hot. Add the salmon and cook for 30 seconds each side until just charred on the outside. Cool for 10 minutes and then thinly slice.

Arrange the quinoa salad on plates with the seared salmon and avocado wedges. Scatter over the chives and chive flowers (if using) Drizzle with the remaining dressing to serve.

  • Sashimi grade salmon is available from some good quality fishmongers. Ask your supplier and explain what you are using the fish for as it needs to be super fresh. Also if it is designed specifically to made into sushi it will come as a long thin fillet, ideal for slicing.

BBQ’d Korean chicken Noodle salad 

Serves: 4

500g skinless chicken thighs fillets

200g dried green tea soba noodles

2 carrots, trimmed

1 cucumber, seeded

1 nashi pear

100g bean sprouts

2 little gem lettuce, cut into wedges

a handful coriander leaves

Marinade

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon caster sugar

1 garlic clove, minced

1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon crushed black pepper

Dressing

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

2 tablespoons dark soy sauce

2 tablespoons sunflower oil

1 tablespoon clear honey

2 teaspoons sesame oil

1 teaspoons gochujang*

a few micro herbs, to garnish, optional

Cut the chicken into 2cm pieces and place in bowl. Combine the marinade ingredients, pour over the chicken and stir well. Marinate for 2 hours.

Cook the noodles by plunging them into a pan of boiling water. Boil for 4 minutes until al dente. Drain, refresh under cold water and pat dry.

Cut the carrot and cucumber into long thin julienne. Peel, quarter and core the nashi pear and cut the flesh into thin batons. Combine the carrot, cucumber, nashi and bean sprouts. Set aside.

Make the dressing. Toast the sesame seeds in a dry frying pan. Transfer to a spice grinder and grind to a powder. Place in a bowl and stir in the remaining dressing ingredients. Set aside.

Preheat the griddle pan until hot. Thread the chicken pieces onto metal or bamboo skewers and griddle for 3-4 minutes each side until charred and tender. Rest for 5 minutes. 

Arrange the noodles in bowls and top with the salad, scatter over the micro herbs, if using. Drizzle over the dressing and serve with the skewers of chicken on the side. 

  • Gochujang is a red chilli spice paste with a sweet, spicy flavour. It is widely used in Korean cooking and is available from specialist food stores or online. 

Marinated buffalo mozzarella with orange and fennel with basil oil

Serves: 4

4 x 150g balls buffalo mozzarella

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2-4 oranges, depending on size

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 small head fennel, trimmed

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon honey

75g Niçoise olives, pitted

60g picked watercress leaves

Basil oil

60g basil leaves

150ml extra virgin olive oil

salt

a few edible flowers, such as primulas or nasturtiums, to garnish, optional 

Place the mozzarella balls in a bowl. Finely grate the zest and squeeze the juice of 1 orange into a bowl. Stir in the olive oil and season to taste. Lightly toast the fennel seeds and bash with a pestle and mortar. Add to the marinade and pour over the mozzarella. Set aside until required.

Make the basil oil. Wash the basil leaves in cold water. Then blanch the leaves in boiling water for 1 minute. Drain and immediately refresh in iced water. Drain again and dry really well with paper towel. Place in a liquidizer with the oil and a little  salt and puree until really fine. Strain the oil through a fine sieve (reserve both the basil pulp and oil, separately).

Peel and cut the remaining oranges into then slices. Shave the fennel into fine slices using a mandolin (or sharp knife) reserving any fronds. Remove the mozzarella balls from the marinade and strain the juices into a bowl. Stir the lemon juice and honey into the marinade to use as the dressing.

Arrange the mozzarella on plates with the shaved fennel, orange slices, olives and watercress leaves. Drizzle over the marinade dressing, basil oil and some pepper. Serve scattered with fennel fronds and edible flowers, if using.

  • Tip: what to do with the basil pulp. There is still a good flavour in the basil pulp so add a little salt and pepper and toss through pasta. 

Carpaccio of courgette, melted goat cheese and lemon with warm honey 

Serves: 4

2 large courgettes

60g baby spinach leaves

a handful fresh basil leaves

1 lemon

21/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 sprigs fresh lemon thyme or savory, chopped

200g goat cheese

4 tablespoons clear honey 

4 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

25g Parmesan, shaved

Using a mandolin, very thinly shave the courgettes lengthways. Arrange the slices on 4 serving plates, overlapping them to fit, if necessary. Take the courgette trimmings (there will be side

pieces left) and grate then on a box grater. Arrange the grated courgette in the centre of each plate. Top with the spinach and basil leaves.

Grate the lemon zest and set aside. Squeeze the juice into a bowl and whisk in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, salt and pepper. Spoon about half of the dressing over the courgette carpaccio, set the rest of the dressing aside.

Preheat the grill to medium. Slice the goat cheese into rounds (if not bought as individual rounds) and arrange on a piece of oiled tin foil, on baking tray. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and scatter over the reserved grated lemon zest, chopped thyme or savory and some black pepper. Warm under the grill for 30 seconds or so until just starting to soften.

Meanwhile, warm the honey in a small saucepan until it just starts to bubble. Remove from the heat.

Carefully slide the warm cheese onto the courgettes and scatter over the spinach and basil leaves, pine nuts and shavings of Parmesan. Pour the remaining lemon dressing over the top and finally drizzle the salad with the heated honey. Serve.

Seared tuna salad with crisp flatbreads and aubergine salsa

Serves: 4

2 flat breads or flour tortilla

1/2 teaspoon baharat spice*

4 x 125g tuna steaks

100g Greek yogurt

2 teaspoons tahini paste

2 Lebanese cucumbers, sliced into wedges

50g rocket leaves

Aubergine salsa

1 medium aubergine, trimmed

1/4 red onion, finely diced

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

1/2 small garlic clove, crushed

125g cherry tomatoes, quartered

2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

grated zest and juice 1/2 lemon

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons honey 

1 teaspoon pomegranate molasse

sea salt and pepper

sunflower for deep frying

Roll the flatbreads up and cut into thin slices to form strips about 5mm thick. Heat about 5cm of sunflower oil in a deep frying pan until hot (check by frying ne strip of bread, it should sizzle as soon as it enters the oil). Fry the bread strips, in batches over a high heat for 1-2 minutes until crisp and golden. Drain on paper towel, transfer to a bowl and add the spice mix and sea salt. Toss and set aside.

Heat a ridged griddle pan until hot. Cut the aubergine lengthways into thin slices about 5mm thick. Brush the slices with oil and season with salt and pepper. Griddle for 4-5 minutes each side until charred and soft. Let cool and then dice the flesh.

Meanwhile, place the diced onion in a bowl, add the vinegar and let soak for 10 minutes. Drain.

Combine the diced aubergine, infused onion, garlic, cherry tomatoes, mint and lemon zest. Season and stir well. Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, honey, pomegranate molasses and season to taste. Stir about half through the salsa.

Preheat a griddle pan until hot. Season the tuna fillets and sear over a high heat for 30-60 seconds until cooked to your liking. Rest for 5 minutes. 

Beat the Greek yogurt and tahini together until smooth and season to taste.

Spread a little tahini on plates and top with the aubergine salsa, tuna fillets, rocket leaves and crisp flatbreads. Drizzle over the remaining dressing and serve..

  • Baharat spice is a Middle Eastern/North African spice mix traditional used to flavour meats. You can buy it online or from specialist food stores.

© Recipes Louise Pickford

© Photographs Ian Wallace

First published by Food & Travel magazine August 2018



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.