Monday, 24 September 2007

calvados, hazelnuts, ceps and the dill caterpillar

Just letting you know I had a great time in Normandy visiting our friend Mo.. she'd been foraging in the woods and got some beautiful ceps for my omelette - it's great in France, you can just take them to the local pharmacie and they'll test them for you.

We were near Domfront where there's a special appellation for Calvados Domfrontais - it's half apple, half pear and not many people make it any more. Don't worry, I've got a bottle stashed away to bring back for you. We were invited next door to the Baloche brothers' farm and I fell off the wagon when invited to taste their 1958 one. They don't make it on the farm anymore because of all the legal crap surrounding sprits these days, what a tragedy!

We also went to visit a farm growing edible flowers and herbs, mostly for restaurants and markets in the area. They had some amazing things, and they do workshops - should we have a trip sometime? They had some weird caterpillars that were camouflaged in the dill flowers! I got a couple of verveine plants and some anise hyssop to put in the garden in france..

I got a great haul of hazelnuts from Mo's garden as well as some lovely, firm, red cooking apples which will go in a tart later in the week I think.

beetroot houmous and roasted squash puree with chilli

I made these yesterday to kick off an autumn lunch - beautiful gem colours and warm autumn flavours, serve with flatbread or pitta.

beetroot houmous

600g cooked chickpeas
Juice of 1 lemon, or to taste
1 clove of garlic
1 large or 2 small cooked beetroots
2 tablespoons of tahini
2 tablespoons olive oil
pinch of ground cumin
sea salt

Mash the chickpeas roughly with a fork and finely grate the beetroot, conserving the bright juice. Crush the garlic clove with a little salt and combine all of the ingredients together, including any juice from the beetroot. Taste the houmous - it will have a sweet, earthy flavour - you may want to add more lemon or salt.

If you are short of time, you can opt to pulse all the ingredients together in a blender, but don't blend too smoothly as a bit of texture is a good thing.

I sometimes hold back a few chickpeas for garnishing, along with fronds of dill.

butternut squash puree with chilli

1 squash
3 large red chillis - don't use smaller, hotter chillis as you want the colour without excessive heat
2 cloves of garlic
3 tablespoons olive oil
zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
fresh rosemary - a couple of stalks
sea salt

Halve the squash and scoop out the seeds. Cover with foil and roast in a hot oven for about an hour, or until thoroughly softened. Leave to cool.
Deseed and finely chop the chillis. Remove the rosemary from the woody stalks and chop it. Finely slice the garlic. Soften these three ingredients with the olive oil on a low heat for about 5 minutes, then take off the heat and add the lemon zest. Scoop the flesh from the roasted squash and mix through the flavoured oil, add salt to taste.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Claudette and the veg box ...

Claudette is getting in the veg box on a near daily basis and enjoys frizee and aubergines!

Autumn, apples, figs....

Hey ... I can't believe the chill in the air , what happened to my indian summer? It is nice to be getting some proper apples and figs and pears though. I've got a delivery of conference pears bramley apples and russet apples (a sixteen kilo mixed box!) arriving tomorrow from the lovely guys from chegworth valley farm. I think tomorrow and thursday might be chutney making days if you've got any tips pippa! Sanchia and Alex are in thekitchen and I'm around if you want to pop by.