Tomatillo Time

August has brought the first crop of Tomatillos to the UK. Rarely grown here, I eagerly await their arrival and celebrate the short season with the ultimate green salsa that elevates barbecue to ridiculously insane heights of deliciousness.

Repeat after me: [toh-muhtee-oh].

Physalis philadelphica

Physalis philadelphica and Physalis ixocarpa are part of the nightshade family – similar to the more common Cape gooseberry (Physalis peruviana) found in most supermarkets here, but larger, and green. Think green tomato with a papery husk.

Fresh, zingy and packed with complexity, this classic salsa is like nothing else. If you make your own from scratch, it blows any shop-bought version out of the water. The magic happens when you char the ingredients over fire before blending it all together. If you see tomatillos, buy them. Buy them all.

Ingredients:

  • 400g fresh tomatillos
  • 2 green jalapeños
  • Juice of ½ lime
  • ½ onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 bunch fresh coriander
  • pinch of salt

Method:

  1. Remove the husks from the tomatillos – give them a little wash as you’ll find that the flesh is a little sticky underneath. Pop the fruits on the bbq along with the onion and Jalapeños to blister the skins. (You could or grill them in the oven or colour them in a pan if you don’t have access to a bbq).
  2. Chuck everything in a food processor and blitz it up into a rough salsa. How easy is that!

blistering tomatillo and jalapeno fruits

 

tomatillo salsa

 

Best. Salsa. Ever.

Baked Sharing Pancake

What better way to enjoy food than sharing? This dish is a joy-inducing crowd-pleaser and ideal for a lazy weekend brunch with family and friends.

I think that it works best in a cast iron skillet or small oven-proof pan (about 23cm), but a baking tin will suffice if you don’t have one.

This is my twist on Jamie’s One-cup pancakes with blueberries recipe as part of the Food Revolution campaign 2017. Simple, simple recipes that anyone can master, and everyone will love.

gorgeous baked sharing pancakes

Ingredients: (serves 4)

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 250ml milk
  • 150g self-raising flour
  • 20g butter
  • 175g blueberries or raspberries
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • Crème fraîche to serve
  • Icing sugar to dust

Method:

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 180°C (160°C fan).
  2. Whisk the eggs, milk and vanilla together in a large bowl.
  3. Sift in the flour and mix to make a batter.
  4. Heat the butter in a 23cm baking tin or pan in the oven. Once melted, carefully swirl it around, pour in the batter and sprinkle over a handful of blueberries or raspberries (about 50g).
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and cooked through.
  6. Whilst the pancake is baking, pop the remaining soft fruit in a small pan with the maple syrup and cook over a low heat, stirring frequently until it turns into a sauce.
  7. Dust the pancake with icing sugar and serve with a dollop of crème fraîche and the sauce. Do be careful with the pan – it’ll be hot hot hot.

This is a great way to use up frozen berries (i’m forever popping the last few from the fridge into a freezer bag before they turn).

 

Christmas Cake

Here’s a classic fruit cake which I reluctantly refer to as a Christmas Cake, as it seems a shame to restrict beautiful food to a particular time of year, religion and belief :o)

Festive Cake?

Albeit an incredibly delicious cake, the joy of this is all in the making for me; the family can all get involved in the various steps of the process and feel equally proud of the results – there’s always going to be plenty to go round, and more than enough to share with friends and family. I was so chuffed at how well received it was this year.

This recipe is lifted from Jamie Oliver’s Christmas Cookbook, his latest (and potentially greatest) book to date. Developed from refinements on classic recipes and innovative twists over nearly two decades, it certainly won’t be gathering any dust on my shelf.

My 5-year-old daughter, Winter, was particularly keen to get involved with this bake and I found myself having to reel her in at times so I had a moment to pause and think before crashing ahead. #SuperKeenBean

Ingredients:

  • 75g dates
  • 75g prunes
  • 100 glace cherries
  • 400g mixed dried fruit
  • 1 apple
  • 100ml stout or porter
  • 1 clementine, zest and juice
  • 200g unsalted butter
  • 200g soft light brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 200ml milk
  • 300g plain flour
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder

Method:

  1. Find yourself a 20cm square cake tin, grease it with butter and line it with greaseproof paper.
  2. Roughly chop the dried fruit in a food processor and transfer to a mixing bowl.
  3. Grate in the apple, add the stout, clementine juice and zest, and set aside.
  4. Beat together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy and then mix in the eggs one at a time, followed by the milk, a little at a time.
  5. Combine the two mixtures and then sift in the flour, spices, baking powder and cocoa, folding everything together.
  6. Pour the cake mixture into the lined tin and bake for 2 hours at 150°C.
  7. Allow the cake to rest in the tin for 30 minutes before transferring it to a wire rack to cool completely.
  8. You can finish the cake however you like – you may want to just eat it like that – but we chose to coat it in a thin layer of apricot jam followed by marzipan and finally a fairly thin layer of royal icing.

Coating with Jam

Little hands working hard to roll out the royal icing on a sprinkling of icing sugar. rolling out the icing for the Christmas cake

We used a simple Scandinavian (Ikea!) cookie cutter to stick mini sugar pearls to the cake with a dab of water.

decorating the christmas cake

The finished ‘Festive Cake’:

Christmas Cake

Enjoy!

(Note to self – steady on the royal icing).

Baked Blueberry Pancake

We often freeze fresh berries when we have a few left over that would otherwise spoil. This is great way to use them up in a ‘store-cupboard’ pancake; a serious breakfast crowd-pleaser.

HipstamaticPhoto-480767919.663206

Ingredients:

  • 3 Eggs
  • 250ml Milk
  • 125g Self-raising flour
  • 50g Caster sugar
  • 1 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 25g Butter
  • 175g Blueberries (or other berries)
  • 1 tbsp Maple syrup
  • Icing sugar to dust
  • Crème fraîche to serve

Method:

Pre-heat the oven to 220°C (200°C fan). In a small pan, slowly cook down 100g of berries with the maple syrup to make a sauce.

For the pancake, whisk the eggs, vanilla and milk together. Sift in the flour and add the sugar. Mix to make a batter.

Pop a 23cm cake tin or pan into the oven with the butter. Once the butter has melted, pour in the pancake mix and scatter over the remaining berries.

Bake for 15 minutes until beautifully golden,

Dust with icing sugar and serve, topped with the blueberry sauce and crème fraîche.

IMG_1783

It can be a challenge to remove the baked pancake from the tin – I’ve found that a springform tin works well as long as you can get a good seal. Otherwise, you can always serve it straight from the tin.

You can make smaller individual ones too – just reduce the cooking time a little.

 

 

 

As always, recipes are merely guides – feel free to experiment, mix it up and swap out ingredients depending on what you have and how you’re feeling. 

IMG_1788

Reflecting on FRD2014

I was appointed as a Food Revolution Ambassador a mere 10 days before the big event on 16 May 2014. I still remember exactly how I felt receiving that email – simply overjoyed. And then it hit me… what am I actually going to do?!
A few days later I’d secured a slot with my son’s primary school, St James’ in Cheltenham – the relief I was feeling after getting a gig for Food Revolution Day was mixed with bouts of panic as I fretted about what I was actually going to do on the day.. Thankfully, the Ambassador’s Facebook pages are filled with helpful folk and fantastic ideas.
The message for the 2014 campaign was that “We need every child to understand where food comes from, how to cook it, and how it affects their body. This is about setting kids up with the knowledge they need to make better food choices for life.
I settled on something simple yet effective and chose to take a selection of fruits, herbs and vegetables in to do a little ‘Show & Tell’ for the reception children. I hoped to relay key messages about seasonality, healthy eating and balance. Did I forget that there were 2 reception classes? Maybe. Was I slightly overwhelmed having 60 eager 5-year-olds sitting in front of me? No comment.
Selection of fruits, vegetables and herbs
Alas, it was the most brilliant and enlightening of experiences. The children were engaging and intrigued, enthusiastic and seriously switched-on! They looked, touched, smelled and identified before jumping at the opportunity to taste. I had to enrol the teachers to help with cutting as we just couldn’t keep up!
Teaching the children
I foraged some Wild Garlic from next to the stream on the walk to the school thinking that they’ll definitely learn something new here.. How wrong was I! “Oh yes Alex, they’re Ramsons – we have them in the garden at home”… Unbelievable. Big tick for that little girl’s parents.
Wild Garlic
An hour flew by and I wished that we’d had more time. Great kids, great attitude and lovely feedback. #exhausted (but thinking about what we can do next).
Note to self; look for local sponsorship to cover the costs next time. What to do with all these offcuts and leftovers?
Voilà!
using leftovers
This year, Food Revolution Day will be held on May 15th and I can’t wait to get involved. The campaign is focussing on making practical food education compulsory in all schools. Have a look at www.foodrevolutionday.com, sign the petition and support the movement.