By Emma Benson, 17-May-2013 01:00:00
I bought a fabulous bunch of little fresh carrots in the market the other day. As I chopped off the tops, to make sure the carrots stayed nice and crunchy in the fridge, I started thinking what a waste it was to throw out the leaves, as they looked so healthy and green.
I googled for information on using carrot tops and came across this one from a book called Roots, by Diane Morgan. The recipe is basically a normal pesto, but uses chopped carrot tops in place of the more usual basil. According to the various items on Google, carrot tops are rich in vitamin K, and high in chlorophyl, which is apparently antiseptic and fights various nasty illnesses!
I largish bunch of carrot tops (just the leaves) - about 20-30 g
1 large clove garlic - chopped
a good pinch of sea-salt
3 tbs pine nuts - toasted for 5 mins in an oven at approx 150C
30g grated Parmesan, Grana Padano or Peccorino
Chop up the carrot tops into smallish pieces and place in bowl of food processor.
Add chopped garlic, salt, cheese, toasted pine nuts and a goog glug of olive oil.
Whizz the contents and gradually pour in more olive oil through the spout until the contents are amalgamated into a nice loose paste.
Ta! Da! Carrot top pesto! Even my fussiest child loved it!!
By Emma Benson, 05-May-2013 13:28:00
This recipe is brilliant for when rhubarb is abundant and glorious! If you've had enough rhubarb crumbles, fools and syllabubs, why not try this terrific chutney?
The lovely thing about your own home-made preserves is that you can store them away on your shelves for another day, where they look industrious and homely, and you can give jars to friends as little home-made presents!
This recipe is adapted from a recipe in one of my very favourite cook books - Plenty, by Diana Henry. Like all her recipes, this one is perfectly balanced and brings out the flavour of both the rhubarb and chilli.
Diana suggests eating this with makerel fillets, and I love it with all types of cheese, especially goats cheese!
400 ml cider vinegar
600g caster sugar
4 star anise (whole ones if you can, as they look pretty in the jars!)
1 whole pieces of ginger preserved in syrup
2 birdseye chilli - chopped up with seeds
2 fat red milder chillis - flesh only - chopped up small
2 red onions, finely sliced
700g fresh rhubarb - chopped into approx 2cm pieces
Place the sugar and vinegar in a large wide pan over a low heat, stirring constantly to disolve the sugar. Bring up to a boil, then add star anise and chillis. Simmer for 10 minutes.
Add the onion and continue to simmer for another 10 minutes.
Finally add the rhubarb, bring back to the simmer and cook for 4 or 5 minutes.
Leave to cool, then decant into clean sterilised jars. top with circles of waxed paper and lids
By Emma Benson, 12-Feb-2013 13:13:00
It's Shrove Tuesday, and the children are bound to want pancakes when they get home so I will be rustling up some traditional pancakes with lemon and sugar - but what about pancake day for those on a gluten and or dairy free diet? Well!! I came across a brilliant recipe recently by Diana Henry, for Saigon Crepes, made with rice flour and coconut cream! I tried them out and they were a winner, so I thought I'd post how I made them.
115g Rice Flour
3 tsp ground turmeric
4 tsp garam masala or curry powder
2 tsp soft brown sugar or grated palm sugar
pinch of salt
300ml coconut cream (not coconut milk - Waitrose have it in little tins)
3 or 4 finely chopped spring onions
ground nut oil
Make the crepes as per normal pancakes by mixing all the dry ingredients in a large bowl, making a well in the middle and mixing in the coconut cream and water to lightly combine.
Stir in the spring onions (you could of course add other things like corriander, dill, chives) and leave the batter to rest for about 30 minutes while you decide what to put in the middle!
When ready to cook the crepes, heat a good non-stick frying pan with a little groundnut oil, then add a ladle of batter, tilting the pan to distribute evenly and thinly. The middle takes a little longer to cook than traditional pancakes, but the wait is worthwhile.
When the edges are looking crisp and you can see bubbles coming up through the batter in the centre, the crepes should be ready to flip over. Cook briefly on the 2nd side, then slide onto a plate and place in a warmish oven to keep while you make the rest.
Stack the crepes on top of each other in the warm oven, while you make the filling.
You could make a vegetarian/vegan filling with tofu, bean sprouts, pak choi or whatever you feel like (leave out the fish sauce, of course!), but this is what I made:
225g good quality pork mince (I like Waitrose's Gourmet Pork Sausage Meat)
225g frozen prawns (I had ready cooked prawns in the freezer, but you could use raw or freshly cooked if you have them)
5 or 6 chestnut mushrooms, finely sliced
1 large clove of garlic, minced with a good pinch of salt
1 fat red chilli - deseeded and finely chopped
2 Kaffir lime leaves finely shredded (if you have some, but don't worry if you don't)
100g fresh bean sprouts
1/2 onion, finely sliced
1/2" fresh ginger - peeled and finely chopped
Squeeze of lime
freshly chopped corriander
Heat some groundnut oil in a wok on a medium heat and fry the mushrooms adding the ginger and then the garlic.
Add the pork mince and break up with wooden spoon, stirring to break up any lumps. Add the chopped chilli and lime leaves and continue to cook for a few minutes until the pork is cooked through.
Add the prawns and toss through the mixture to heat through, adding fish sauce and lime. Season with pepper, but check before adding any more salt.
Fill the crepes with a generous amount of filling and sprinkle a little freshly chopped corriander on top, before wrapping over and serving - two crepes per person seemed about right!
I hope you like them!!
By Emma Benson, 01-Nov-2012 22:59:00
The shops are groaning with pumpkins at the moment, and various people have asked for ideas on how to use them, and/or the carved out 'goujings' from making Halloween lanterns! Here are a couple of simple ideas to use them up, in ways that I hope you will find delicious!
Pumpkin and Basil Gnocci
675g pumpkin flesh (preferably chopped into similar sized pieces - roughly the size of a large dice)
110g plain flour
50g Parmesan or strong cheddar
50g chopped fresh basil
1 large free range egg, lightly beaten with fork
Handul of fresh sage leaves
Preheat oven to 200C
Toss pumpkin with salt, pepper and olive oil in a roasting tin, and cook in the oven for about 20 minutes.
Remove and mash with the juices from the pan.
Seive flour into mashed pumpkin and stir well with a wooden spoon, then add basil, cheese, egg salt and pepper. Stir well until it all comes together as a nice dough. Turn out onto a floured surface and very gently knead, just to pull it all together. Check the seasoning.
Pull off pieces of dough, about the size of a large hazelnut, and roll into small balls. Gently push the tines of a fork down onto each ball, to make a stripe in the surface of the 'gnocci'.
Meanwhile, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Drop in the gnocci and cook until they float to the surface. At this point they are cooked and need fishing out with a slotted spoon. Put gnocci aside on a warm plate.
Melt the butter in a frying pan and just as it is about to go brown, add the sage leaves. Allow them to sizzle for a few seconds, then pour over the hot gnocci.
Add a little more torn basil if you like, and eat with a nice green salad! YUM!
Pumpkin and Barkham Blue Tart
Pastry base, already cooked - one large or 6 small
450g pumpkin pieces
50g strong cheddar
200g Barkham Blue (or other good blue cheese) chopped into chunks
2 large eggs and one extra yolk
275ml douple cream
Preheat oven to 200C
Toss pumpkin in olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast in the oven for about 20 minutes. Remove and allow to cool.
Wash the spinach and shake off the excess water, place in a large pan with a lid and wilt down over a medium heat with a pinch of salt. Squeeze out all the cooking water and chop spinach and drain well. Leave to cool.
Reduce oven temperature to 180C
Lightly beat the eggs until combined. Add the cream, cheddar a little salt and pepper (remember that the cheese is salty, so go carefully)
Spread the cooled spinach over the base of the tart case. Top with the roast pumpkin and chunks of blue cheese, then pour the custard mixture over the top - taking it as deep as you dare.
Place in the oven for 30-40 minutes (or 20-25 minutes if doing small tarts)
The tarts are nicest, I think, when allowed to cool to almost room temperature, and served with a fresh green salad.
By Emma Benson, 22-Jun-2012 13:40:00
I was trimming some of our very overgrown hedges the other afternoon (one of the few recently where it hasn't been pouring with rain!) One of the largeish branches that needed lopping was a piece of elder, with quite a few decent heads of elderflower - so I cut them off and went off into the garden to find a few more. Under our large apple tree I have a black elder 'sambuccus nigra', which has pink flowers - I picked about 6 of the heads - and put them in with the others. I made my elderflower cordial, and to my delight, the colour from the pink heads came through in the cordial!!
Here is what I did!
4 lb caster sugar
2 pints water
3 oz citric acid
2 unwaxed lemons
about 20 heads of elderflower
Put the sugar and water in a pan and bring to the boil, stirring gently to dissolve the sugar.
Pour over the elderflower heads and stir in the citric acid.
Grate in the zest of the 2 lemons, then cut the lemons into slices and add to the mixture. Stir.
Cover the bowl and leave in the fridge for 24 hours to infuse.
Strain the mixture through a seive, lined with muslin, then pour into clean bottles. Seal well. Keep in the fridge or in a cool dark place.
I think elderflower cordial is nicest made with sparkling water!
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