I’ve mentioned at length how the prospect of a slimy sandwich at lunchtime fills me with despair. So any opportunity to have something a little different just lifts my day. Flush with fruity black olives from the lovely people at Taste of Spain, and a wealth of tinned tomatoes from Cirio, I rustled up a calzone.
I made the dough a little thick, and so it was very filling! The olives were sweet and had definite wine-like flavours that were complex and interesting. For the tomatoes I used Cirio Pizzassimo, which might be my new favourite thing-that-comes-in-a-tin. It’s a pizza-style tomato sauce, but thick and herby. I tried it cold out of the tin and was amazed at how delicious it was. And hot it was even better! This is definitely going to become a regular in my store cupboard for quick pasta sauces, pizza toppings and ragus.
Tomato and black olive calzone (makes 2):
325g plain flour
½ teaspoon sugar
7g sachet yeast
About 250ml tepid water
4 tablespoons olive oil
8 Spanish black olives, halved
½ tin Cirio Pizzassimo sauce
Large handful of grated Cheddar
- Combine the flour, salt, sugar and yeast and gradually add the water until you get a soft dough. Knead for 10 minutes, cover with olive oil and leave in a warm place to rise for about an hour.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C. Knock back the dough and divide into two. Shape and roll into two rounds and flatten out. Cover half of each base with tomato sauce, dot with olives and a sprinkle of cheese. Fold over and wrap – I don’t know the proper way to seal a calzone so I use a Cornish pasty crimped style. Back for 30 – 35 mins until golden and cooked through.
This is a cracking bread recipe, perfect with dips and spreads. One of those that can be tweaked according to what you’re in the mood for. I’ve also used it as pizza base and it’s great there too.
Shallot and rosemary foccacia (makes a loaf about 20cm square):
750g plain flour
½ teaspoon sugar
2 x 7g sachets yeast
About 500ml tepid water
5 tablespoons olive oil
2 sprigs rosemary
1 large shallot, sliced into rings
- Chop the leaves from one sprig of rosemary. Mix these with the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, then gradually add the water until you have soft, sticky dough. Knead for 5 – 10 mins until smooth and elastic. Cover with the olive oil, then cover the bowl with cling film. Leave in a warm place for an hour until it doubles in size.
- Heat the oven to it’s highest setting. Get the dough out, punch it down and spread into a large loaf on a baking tray dusted with flour. Top with the shallot rings, sprig of rosemary and a few grains of sea salt. Cover with a tea towel and leave to prove for 10-15 mins while the oven warms up.
- Bake for 25 – 30 mins, or until the bottom sounds hollow when tapped. Allow to cool before eating.
Sometimes, things don’t turn out the way you expect. You feel cross with your self inside and yet you’ve presented something perfectly acceptable, it’s just you know it should be better.
I was commiserating just this point with a friend at a Jubilee party this weekend. She’d made cupcakes, of the supremely fine-crumbed and meltingly-soft icing kind, but was grumpy at the fact that her cake toppers and decorations hadn’t arrived, and had to make do with other finishings. Of course I and everybody said they were fantastic (the squirt of jam on the inside was genius!) but she couldn’t look past it. Equally with what I’d brought – it was supposed to be Heston’s infamous Meat Fruit, inspired by Cumbria Foodie’s brilliant recreation. I’d already planned to change it up with making a mushroom version as opposed chicken liver, but I couldn’t quite get the spherical moulds in time. It was never going to be orange-shaped but I wanted to persevere with the rest of the recipe anyway.
It was difficult at first, as I’d moved it from chicken livers which must be prepared in a certain way for safety reasons; yet mushrooms don’t have the same concerns. So how do you transfer the mushroom flavour into a parfait effectively? I surfed around for parfait ideas but I couldn’t move for sweet recipes which start with an egg and sugar sabayon – far too sweet for this. After a little more research I found a baked eggs and cream technique which when added to a reduced mixture would capture the texture and flavour I was after. I could allow it to be rich as the orange jelly would have a welcome tang against the smooth pate. I was very pleased with how it turned out; creamy and woody with the citrus cutting through it.
And to accompany I made some walnut bread. In hindsight this would’ve been perfect wholemeal but it did the job.
Mushroom parfait with orange jelly and walnut bread (makes 6 individual parfaits and 1 400g loaf):
For the parfait:
40g dried mushrooms
4 garlic cloves, minced
½ onion, diced
150ml Marsala wine
A few sprigs of thyme
300ml double cream
For the orange jelly:
40g liquid glucose
4 sheets leaf gelatine
½ teaspoon orange food colouring
For the walnut loaf:
500g strong bread flour
25g butter, diced
Salt and sugar
300ml warm water
30g walnut pieces
- Combine the mushrooms, garlic, onion, port, wine and thyme in a jug and leave to infuse overnight.
- Place the satsumas into a saucepan, cover with water and simmer for 2 hours. Strain off the liquid into a bowl containing the gelatine. Mash the oranges with a fork and push through a sieve. Add the glucose and then stir in the gelatine until dissolved. Pour a layer of this mix into your moulds (I recommend silicone ones to remove them easily afterwards). Pop this into the fridge until needed.
- Preheat the oven to 160°C. Pour the mixture into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer until you have about 100ml of liquid left at the bottom of the pan. Pour this into a blender and whizz to a paste. Crack in the eggs and pour in the cream and keep whizzing until smooth. Sieve this mix into silicone moulds and place this into a tray half-filled with boiling water. Place this into the oven for 20 – 25 minutes until the tops just start to brown. When cooked remove from the water and place into the fridge until needed.
- For the bread mix together all the dry ingredients, rub in the butter and add the water until you have a smooth, elastic dough. Knead for 10 minutes. Cover with clingfilm and leave to rise for an hour in a warm place. Work the dough again and form into a loaf shape. Slash the top of the loaf a few times and cover with a teatowel. Leave for 20 minutes to settle and preheat the oven to 220°C. Pop the bread in the oven for 30 minutes or until hollow sounding when knocked. Remove to a wire rack to cool before serving.
- To serve, slice the bread and turn out the parfaits.
Sometimes, when you’re cooking dinner you just know it’s going to be good, you can feel it. This was one of those times.
It was an excuse to eat peas, this one: the peas are a recipe from attending Waitrose Cookery School recently (more on that in a future post). I know it’s a classical French recipe but this is just so damn tasty. This from someone who isn’t that bothered about peas. Seriously, they’re amazing. Try this on their own. I would of course usually roast a chicken in my favourite Heston way, but on this occasion I was caught short and had to cook the chicken on the quick and roasted it in the traditional way. It was fine, but I do miss the succulence afforded by lovely brined meat. All that aside, this combination of chicken and braised peas is just brill. The gravy is inspired by a method described in Alex Mackay’s new book Everybody, Everyday.
By the way, note only the breasts were required for this recipe. I used the other parts of chicken for meals elsewhere in the week.
Roast chicken with petits pois a la français (serves 4):
For the chicken:
1 onions, quartered
1 head of garlic, halved horizontally
For the peas:
1 onion, peeled and finely diced
4 rashers bacon, sliced
1 sprig of rosemary, leaves picked and finely chopped
250g petits pois
2 little gem lettuces, shredded
A large handful of parsley, finely chopped
For the gravy:
600ml chicken stock
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon cornflour
Sourdough bread, to serve
- Preheat the oven to 200°C.
- Free the chicken from its trussing, put it in a roasting tray, slather it in olive oil and season well. Pop a quarter of the onion and half the garlic in the cavity, and scatter the remaining alliums around the chicken. Pop in the oven for 1 hour to 1hr 30mins, until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast reads 70°C+. Allow to rest, covered, for at least 15 mins before carving (only the breasts are required for this recipe).
- When the chicken has been in for about 30 mins, melt the butter in a large saucepan and gently fry the onion for a couple of minutes until softened. Add the bacon and rosemary and cook for a couple more minutes, then add the peas and lettuce. Cover and allow to raise for 30 mins, stirring occasionally. When the peas are tender check for seasoning and add the parsley.
- For the gravy, boil the stock and soy together until reduced by a quarter. Mix the cornflour with a splash of water and whisk this in. When the chicken has been removed from the oven add the juices from the pan to the gravy. Serve everything together with sourdough bread to soak up the gravy.
Isn’t it great when things just work out? I had some bananas blackening on my windowsill, and the next day some nice person emails me a bunch of Cadbury’s Fairtrade recipes, including this one for chocolate banana bread. Serendipity. I don’t even particularly like bananas, but I seem to be cooking a lot with them lately.
This was lovely – exactly what you’d epxect – but not quite chocolatey enough for me, so I slathered it in chocolate spread (Fairtrade of course). Perhaps I’ll just add more chocolate next time.
Fairtrade Fortnight is 27th February – 11th March. Find out more here.
Chocolate banana bread:
75g Cadbury Dairy Milk Fairtrade milk chocolate
250g self-raising flour
Pinch of salt
1 level teaspoon baking powder
150g Fairtrade caster sugar
100g butter, softened, plus extra to serve
50g walnuts chopped
1 tsp vanilla extract
Finely grated zest of 1 Fairtrade orange
475g Fairtrade whole bananas (about 4 small ones), peeled
- Preheat the oven to 170°C. Lightly oil and line a loaf tin with parchment paper.
- Sift the flour, salt and baking powder into a large bowl. Add the sugar, butter and nuts rub it in until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
- Whisk the eggs, vanilla extract and orange zest in another bowl. Add the Fairtrade bananas and mash. Then melt the Cadbury Dairy Milk Fairtrade milk chocolate and fold it into the banana mixture.
- Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the banana mixture. Gently but thoroughly bring all the ingredients together with a wooden spoon, then pour into the prepared loaf tin. Smooth the top and bake in the oven for 1- 1 ¼ hours or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
- Allow to cool for 5 minutes before removing the cake from the tin. Serve sliced and buttered