Monday, 28 February 2011

Sweet violet scented sugar

Fortune cast me a favourable glance this afternoon. Trudging back along a muddy path towards the railway crossing, I stumbled across a patch of sweet violets huddled underneath two old chestnut trees. The small purple flowers were in abundance, so I felt guilt-free in confiscating a handful. I've yet to decide what to make with the sugar, but I'll keep you posted. Kind of feels like I need a bit of zesty lime in the equation somewhere...

Sweet violet scented sugar

A handful of sweet violet petals

Granulated sugar

Scatter a layer of violet petals at the bottom of a jar. Cover with sugar and repeat the

process, building up petal/sugar layers until the jar is full. Leave for about a week,

then remove the violets.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Monday, 21 February 2011

Roast beetroot with smoked mackerel, horseradish cream and hawthorn shoots

The countryside yields a meagre harvest in the final few weeks of winter. I found myself clutching at straws in late January; returning from the wood with nothing but a couple of herb bennett leaves and a bag of pine needles. There's a bit of young nettle growth knocking around, but that's about it.

So it was with genuine excitement that I wrote about the emergence of hawthorn shoots last week. These young leaves have a gentle nutty flavour; it's best to pick them now as they get increasingly bitter with age. Spring abounds. Nearly.

Serves 4

8 Small beetroots

4 Smoked mackerel fillets

3tbsp Creme fraiche

3tbsp Creamed horseradish

Olive oil

Salt & pepper

1 Lemon

Hawthorn shoots

Heat your oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Give the beets a good scrub; dry with kitchen paper, then quarter. Season in an oven-proof dish, drizzle with olive oil and roast for about 45 minutes. Mix the creme fraiche and horseradish together in a small bowl. When the beetroot is cooked, transfer into a medium-sized bowl, flake in the mackerel and spoon in the horseradish cream. Toss briefly with salad tongs, just so the beetroot and mackerel lightly catch the horseradish cream. Serve with a squeeze of lemon juice and fresh hawthorn shoots.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Artichoke and pancetta ciabatta

It felt like spring was in the air yesterday. The sun was shining, slender crocus buds peered skyward out of flower beds - there was even a light peppering of Hawthorn shoots among the hedgerows on Highgate Lane. These young leaves were known as 'bread and cheese' back in the day, and are great nibbled straight off the hedge or gathered and tossed into a spring salad. For a moment I completely forgot about warming soups, thick stews and brooding winter sustenance, raiding the fridge in search of something quick and zesty. Today it's raining.

Artichoke and pancetta ciabatta
Serves 4 as a light lunch

1 Large ciabatta
A pack of marinated artichoke hearts
8 Rashers of smoked pancetta
A handful of rocket leaves
Parmesan shavings
Olive oil
Salt & pepper
Lemon wedges, to serve

Brush a piece of ciabatta with olive oil and place oil-down on a hot griddle pan. While the ciabatta's toasting, fry the pancetta for a couple of minutes until crispy and transfer onto kitchen paper. The rest is essentially an assembly job; artichoke hearts, broken pancetta splinters and a scattering of rocket leaves. Finish with parmesan shavings, a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper and a good squeeze of lemon juice.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Butterscotch mousse

This is essentially the same way that I make chocolate mousse; beat

the cream, whisk the egg whites but fold in velvety butterscotch

instead of melted chocolate.

75g Unsalted butter

100g Light brown sugar

300ml Double cream

Seeds from 1 vanilla pod

2 Eggs, separated

Slowly melt the butter in a pan on the hob. Add the sugar, vanilla and

a splash of cream. When the sugar has melted, take off the heat and

stir in the egg yolks. Whisk the remaining cream to thicken, then stir

in the butterscotch. Whisk up the egg whites; when they're fluffy

carefully fold into the creamy mixture. Spoon into teacups; chill in

the fridge for a couple of hours before serving with a sprinkle of

chocolate shards.

Thursday, 3 February 2011