Aubergine Parmigiana

It’s been a wonderful year for tomatoes and aubergines and I have had a bumper crop!  But, to be honest I’d make this dish at anytime of year as the flavours are somehow rich, lively and vibrant yet comforting.   Just what you want in any season.  Layers of soft aubergine, bright tomatoes, zingy fresh basil and unctuous, stringy mozzarella  topped with a crunchy breadcrumb and parmesan topping.  Yum yum pigs bum!  Except there is no meat in this – pig or otherwise!

The first time I made this for Chloe (my goddaughter) was before she was vegan.  She loved it so much that I now regularly make it for her using vegan mozzarella and parmesan both of which are really excellent in this dish.  The brand I use is Violife.  When I make if for myself I use dairy cheese.  If I am making for both Chloe and me then a cocktail stick pushed in to the assembled dish stops any confusion and – in our house – leads to a chorus of “spot the vegan” sung to the cartoon tune of “stop the pigeon”.   I make it in individual dishes but there is nothing to stop you making this in one large dish for a family sharing meal though you’ll need to adjust the cooking time by adding an extra 15 mins.  I usually accompany the dish with either a dressed salad or green beans as a side. Continue reading

Mushroom Soup

There is a distinct nip in the air in the mornings now and I am beginning to turn away from salads in favour of something more homely and comforting.  A bowl or a mug of soup is the equivalent of a food hug and I am happy to huddle down in the kitchen with some, yet, if the weather sunny it’s something I often take outside to eat in the garden. It makes a great packed lunch put into a flask especially if you take a bread roll to eat alongside (or dunk in) !   I particularly like taking this soup with me when I take the dogs for a walk.   It fits right in with foraging for sloes and picking wild damsons or blackberries for a crumble or pie.   I love  Plum, Hazelnut and Sloe Gin Crumble  so I am always on the look out for damsons.  Mind you a great apple pie is hard to beat and there are lots of apples about at the moment as well as wild blackberries.

When I was young, soup tended to come in tins.   We weren’t allowed anything to do with the Campbells in our house (something to do with the Campbells betraying the rest of the clans to the English at a highland gathering they were hosting) so it was either Heinz or Baxters.   Tomato was my favourite (Heinz) and Oxtail or Mushroom were my brothers.   I have very fond memories of those days but homemade mushroom soup is an absolute revelation compared to the canned stuff.   I will never be able to open a can of it again.

Mushroom soup maybe doesn’t look the prettiest soup in the world but boy does it taste wonderful.  There are a lot of mushrooms about in the countryside right now.  As I much as I’d like to be able to channel my inner Antonio Carluccio I’m not an expert when it comes to identifying mushrooms so I often end up making this with bought mushrooms rather than foraged ones. *  My favourite one for this are chestnut or field mushrooms though you could always garnish this with some fancy varieties such as girolle or morel if you wanted to look fancy! Continue reading

Irish Apple Cake

It’s been a bumper year for apples in my garden and the old Bramley Apple Tree is weighted down by the fruit   There are lots of windfalls which means a constant battle between me and the dogs (who like to use them as balls) as to who gets to the best ones first!

This apple cake is an ideal one to use those windfalls up.  It makes a wonderfully moist cake, spiced with cinnamon and has a crunchy top   It’s a great pudding cake when served slightly warm with cream/custard/icecream but I confess I like it best as a plain slice with a cup of tea in the afternoon    It’s comforting and very “moreish” and somehow makes me think of something your great-granny would have served – an apron tied round her middle and bustling around making tea in her Brown Betty teapot (with a tea cosy of course!)

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Squidgy Chocolate Olive Oil Cupcakes

This is a twist on my Chocolate Earl Grey Cake.   It is gluten free and vegan.  It leaves out the earl grey stage and added a topping. Totally delicious. Somehow chocolatey, squidgy and crumbly all at the same time. Great for celebrating the forthcoming weekend on a Friday and great for lifting the spirits on a Monday. Who am I kidding?   These are great anytime – stick a candle on top and they are an instant birthday party!  They are also quick to whip up and very easy to make – particularly if you use the easy “cheat” topping.

 

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Thai Noodle Salad with a Spicy, Creamy Peanut Dressing

Yum!   This Thai Noodle Salad is vegan and (if you use rice noodles as I have here) gluten free.  But that’s just a bonus because what really matters is it’s crispy, crunchy, sweet, sour and with a bit of a kick so you feel just so happy and healthy after eating it that Its a real boost   Best of all its simple and quick and the longest part time wise is slicing the vegetables Continue reading

Crescentini

It’s a beautiful sunny day here in Suffolk today.  I don’t know about you but, over the last few weeks, unlike a normal Summer I’ve started to believe that the sun will keep on shining.  No-one seems to be complaining about the awful British weather for a change and we are all are actively looking for new topics of conversation. 

It has got me thinking about summer holidays and in particular a wonderful June I spent with my husband in Italy.  One particular hotel served the most wonderful breakfasts on your own personal patio overlooking the sea.  Blue skies and blue sea and the air perfumed with hibiscus.   Trays came laden with coffee, tea, cereals in little pots, yoghurts, various jams and – best of all in my greedy opinion –  a selection of pastries.  And the best pastry of all was a crisp full of buttery almond ness with a dash of apricot and was named the crescentini.

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Ok. I admit that I made up the name crescentini.   I don’t know what it was actually called.  Nor do I know how it was made but when I got home I had to try to copy it. My version I think nails it.    It’s tons easier to make than a croissant as it uses puff pastry so there is no proving or kneading.  It takes about 5 mins to assemble and about 20 to cook. As soon as it comes out the oven it’s a battle not to gobble them down straight away and risk burning the roof of your mouth or wait 5 mins whilst they cool.  Yet they are delicious cold and even keep for a few days – unlike that almond croissant I compared it to earlier.  How good is that? Continue reading

Omelette with Broad Bean Tops

If you grow your own veg you want to get the most out of every crop you plant and this dish gives you a way of getting another meal from your broad beans from a part of the plant you may not have considered.  If you don’t grow your own you can substitute with baby leaves of spinach, chard or even pea shoots that you can but nowadays at the supermarket.  If you don’t want to make an omelette the broad bean tops are great used in a stir- fry

Broad bean tops are really a gardeners treat.  They are delicious and taste leafy and beany both at the same time – something that will probably only make sense when you eat them! Plus which if you do pinch them out it not only decreases the chance of getting bad infestations of blackfly to which broad beans are prone in summer, but it concentrates the plants energy into the beans and pods themselves rather than struggling to grow taller.  It’s a win-win! Continue reading

Rhubarb And Redcurrant Jam

Don’t stop reading because you think this jam is going to take too long and be too complicated to make   Read on and you’ll see it takes less than 30 mins to make including chopping.   It really is a doddle to make and tastes so much better than anything you can buy!

I have been flat out in the garden trying to get everything planted so there are lots of veggies to eat in the next few months  we’ll, that is, if things go well   There hasn’t been much to harvest  in this bit of the year known as the hungry gap but things are changing

What there has been though is lots of rhubarb so I’ve been making lots with that   Apart from crumble I’ve previously posted recipes for Rhubarb and Orange Streusel Cake and Rhubarb and Ginger Queen of Puddings so I thought I’d put in some recipes that preserve rhubarb (it does freeze beautifully in chunks too) for when you have to stop picking it at the end of June.  So I am posting this recipe on jam and will add posts for rhubarb gin and rhubarb cordial shortly.

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Forager’s Soup

This soup is also known in our house as “the gardeners revenge” and, despite certain peoples’ initial reservations, is absolutely delicious.  Honestly it really is.  Give it a go and you will have bragging rights when it comes to your cooking/eco credentials as well as a lovely full tummy!

If you can, and are brave enough to try it, please don a pair of gloves (to avoid stings) and go out and gather the wild greens that are all around us as well as growing unwanted in our gardens. Obviously choose where you pick – beside a busy road or a park used frequently by dogs are not good ideas!  I have chosen leaves that are easy to identify or well known such as nettles and wild garlic, otherwise known as ransoms (follow your nose for these) and every gardeners despair, ground elder. I find it particularly satisfying to pick the nettles and ground elder that grow in my garden (much to my despair) and turn them into something delicious to eat –  apparently I get a determined look in my eye as I venture out with the colander and gloves to pick them.

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Nettle tips, wild garlic, ground elder and spinach from the garden

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My Favourite Easter Recipes

Easter is finally with us and we have a four day bank holiday weekend   Yippee!   It’s a time when amongst all the chocolate there is usually some room left for other food and the recipes in this post are some of my favourites for the Easter weekend. Some are traditional, some aren’t.    But there should be one or two that will appeal to you.  Many can be made in advance and it can be nice to have some time to potter about in the kitchen preparing food to share with family and friends, particularly with the radio on.

Let’s hope for good weather despite the forecasts but we if not there is always the prospect of a lie in and another Easter Egg! Continue reading

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