September 26, 2012

Quinoa Stuffed Courgettes & Tomatoes

Gardening this year has been a bit of a rock-n’roll adventure. When we moved into our house last year, we made big plans for our small garden, and had great expectations of being able to feed from it. We imagined that vegetables would be a plenty. Reality was a bit different. I guess it has been a steep learning curve... We probably still have a lot to learn about gardening, and we also haven’t been very lucky with the weather conditions: far too much rain brought a constant flow of slugs and snails which devoured anything that was coming out of the ground: radish, carrots, spring onions, beetroots, courgettes, squash – they ate them all! The only plants which survived were the tomato plants, which however, have now been affected by mildew, and we’re not sure they will ripen before the plants die.

Anyway, all that to say that we had bought courgette seeds, of the variety ‘rondo di Nizza’, a round courgette type, which I thought I would use to make stuffed courgettes. However, our poor plants never made it to that stage. Thankfully, we found some when we were in France and I couldn’t resist cooking a big batch for my family alongside stuffed tomatoes. Stuffed tomatoes (usually with meat) are a very French end of summer dish that my grandma would have usually prepared. I hope you enjoy my veggie version.

Quinoa Stuffed Courgettes & Tomatoes – serves 6

• 6 round courgettes
• 6 medium tomatoes
• Salt and pepper
• Olive oil
• 1 shallot, peeled and chopped
• 1 red onion, peeled and chopped
• 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
• ½ red pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
• 1 small tomato, deseeded and finely chopped
• 1tsp ground cumin
• 200g cooked quinoa
• 50g feta, cut into cubes
• 50g mozzarella, cut into cubes
• 12 leaves fresh basil

1. Preheat the oven to 190°C.
2. Cut a slice (and save it) off the top of the tomatoes and courgettes and empty them, keeping half of the courgette flesh. Once they are empty, season the inside with salt and pepper.
3. Heat the oil in a frying pan and gently fry the onion and shallot for about 10min until they become soft. Add the garlic and pepper and fry 5 more minutes. Add the chopped tomato, reserved courgette flesh and ground cumin and fry for another 10min, stirring regularly.
4. In a large bowl, mix the content of the frying pan with the quinoa, feta, mozzarella and more salt and pepper. Stuff the courgettes and tomatoes with this mix, add a basil leave on top and add their lid on. Place them in a large oven-proof dish. Add a bit of water at the bottom of the dish and place in the oven for about 1h, until the tomatoes and courgettes are cooked through.
5. Serve warm with a green salad.

September 18, 2012

Mirabelle Galette

Before we went to France last week, my Mum told me on the phone that the mirabelle tree in their garden was covered with fruits. It was with delight that I found out that my parents had kept some for us. My Dad settled to the task of picking the little golden pearls from the tree, while I was snacking on the ones which were regularly falling from it. It was the first time that I got to enjoy the plums from this tree and they were as sweet and moreish as I thought they would be. We ate them as they were and my Mum also made jam and mirabelle tart. I offered to prepare a galette. As I took it out of the oven, you could still hear it sizzling for a good 15min.

We took a load back home with us, the last ones that were left on the tree, and came back with beautiful memories of food and good times spent together.

Mirabelle Galette – serves 6

• 250g wholemeal flour
• A pinch of salt
• A pinch of ground cinnamon + 2tsp
• Zest of 1 lemon
• 75g butter, cubed
• 1 small egg, beaten
• About 3tbsp cold water
• 3 large handfuls of mirabelle plums (or other plums)
• 3tbsp ground almonds
• 3tbsp maple syrup

1. Start by preparing the dough. In a large bowl, mix the flour with the salt, pinch of cinnamon, and lemon zest. Add the butter and rub it in with your fingers to form crumbs. Add the egg and mix with a fork so that the dough comes together. Add the water, 1tbsp at a time and mix this time with your hands in order to form a ball of dough. If the mixture is too crumbly, add water, 1tbsp at a time. Wrap the dough in cling film and place in the fridge for at least 30min.
2. In the meantime, halve the mirabelles and remove their stone.
3. Preheat the oven to 190°C.
4. Take the dough out of the fridge and roll it out with a rolling pin on a lightly floured work surface, to a circle of about 30cm diameter. Transfer the dough onto a baking sheet covered with baking paper.
5. Sprinkle the ground almonds on the dough circle, leaving an edge of about 3cm all around. Arrange the mirabelle halves on top. Sprinkle them with cinnamon and drizzle with maple syrup. Fold the edges over the mirabelles.
6. Place in the oven and cook for about 45min, until the crust is golden. Serve warm or cold.

Galette de Mirabelles – pour 6 personnes

• 250g de farine complète
• Une pincée de sel
• 1 pincée de cannelle en poudre + 2cc
• Zest d’1 citron
• 75g de beurre, coupé en cubes
• 1 petit œuf, battu
• Environ 3cs d’eau froide
• 3 grosses poignées de mirabelles (ou autres prunes)
• 3cs d’amandes en poudre
• 3cs de sirop d’érable

1. Commencer par préparer la pâte. Dans un saladier, mélanger la farine avec le sel, la pincée de cannelle et le zeste de citron. Ajouter le beurre et le frotter avec les doigts de façon à former des miettes. Ajouter l’œuf et mélanger à la fourchette. Ajouter l’œuf, 1cs à la fois et mélanger avec les mains pour rassembler la pâte en une boule. Si la pâte est trop friable, ajouter de l’eau, 1cs à la fois. Envelopper la pâte dans du film alimentaire et la mettre au réfrigérateur pendant au moins 30min.
2. Pendant ce temps, couper les mirabelles en deux et les dénoyauter.
3. Préchauffer le four à 190°C.
4. Sortir la pâte du réfrigérateur et l’étaler sur un plan de travail à l’aide d’un rouleau à pâtisserie, sur un diamètre d’environ 30cm. Transférer la pâte sur une plaque à four recouverte de papier sulfurisé.
5. Parsemer la pâte d’amandes en poudre en laissant un bord d’environ 3cm. Arranger dessus les moitiés de mirabelles. Parsemer de cannelle en poudre et arroser de sirop d’érable. Plier le rebord sur les mirabelles.
6. Mettre au four pour environ 45min jusqu’à ce que les bords soient dorés. Servir tiède ou froid.

September 06, 2012

Aubergine Rolls

It was when swimming in the sea yesterday, doing back stroke, that I noticed that the sky was different. It was no longer the bright blue sky of hot summer days, but rather a paler blue and lower light, distinctive of very early autumn. You can feel in the air that we are at the turn of a new season and I find these moments pretty magic. I remember reading once that the Aboriginal people of Australia count at least 9 different distinct seasons, which I found very interesting as you can usually notice that within what we call one season, there can be very different patterns between the beginning and the end of the season.

I still want to cook so many things with the wonderful summer fruits and vegetables before summer really goes away. These simple aubergine rolls were an idea I had at the back of my mind. We liked to snack on them as we were getting the BBQ ready for dinner along with a glass of Pimms.
Aubergine Rolls – makes about 20 rolls
• 1 aubergine, finely sliced
• 4 tbsp cooking olive oil
• 1 red chilli, finely sliced
• 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
• A sprig of thyme, leaved pricked
• Salt and pepper
• 150g German smoked cheese (or any other semi-soft smoked cheese), cut into 4cm long chunks

1. Preheat the oven to 190C.
2. Mix together in a small bowl the olive oil, chilli, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper. Brush the aubergines slices on both sides with the oil mix and place them on a baking sheet covered with baking paper.
3. Place in the oven for 10min, then take out and turn the aubergine slices around. Put back in the oven for another 10min until they are cooked through.
4. Leave to cool down for a bit, then roll a piece of cheese in a slice of aubergine. Place back on the baking sheet. Repeat until you run out of aubergine slices. Put back in the oven (or on the BBQ) for 8-10min until the cheese starts melting. Serve straight away.

Rouleaux d’Aubergine – pour environ 20 rouleaux
• 1 aubergine, coupée en tranches fines
• 4cs d’huile d’olive
• 1 piment rouge, émincé
• 1 gousse d’ail, pellée et émincée
• Une branche de thym, effeuillé
• Sel et poivre
• 150g de fromage allemand fumé, coupe en lamelles de 4cm de long

1. Préchauffer le four sur 190C.
2. Mélanger huile d’olive avec le piment, ail, thym sel et poivre, dans un petit bol. Brosser les tranches d’aubergine avec un pinceau, des 2 côtés et les mettre sur une plaque a four recouverte de papier sulfurisé.
3. Mettre au four pour 10min, puis tourner les tranches d’aubergine et remettre au four 10min jusqu’à ce qu’elles soient cuites.
4. Laisser refroidir quelques instants, puis rouler un morceau de fromage dans une tranche d’aubergine. Le mettre sur la plaque de cuisson. Répéter jusqu’à épuisement des aubergines. Mettre au four (ou sur le BBQ) pour 8-10min de façon à ce que le fromage commence à fondre. Servir de suite.

September 01, 2012

Blackcurrant & Gooseberries Hemp Slices

During the short period when blackcurrant and gooseberries were in season, earlier this summer, I made these snack bars. We had taken them for a beach picnic. I had forgotten about them until I stumbled upon pictures I had taken at the time. As we had really loved them, I decided to make them again today, this time with blueberries, raspberries and the first blackberries I picked in the wild this morning (but any berry of your choice will do). Taking a bite of these bars, I was first surprised with the earthy taste of the hemp flour. Soon enough comes the tartness and juiciness of the berries. The two seem to make a great combo. It was also my first time using hemp flour. Hemp flour is made by milling whole hemp seeds and has a rich nutty flavour and a dark green colour. But it is also high in essential fatty acids and proteins and is gluten free. I like mixing it with rice flour to balance the strong nutty taste of the hemp.

Have a great weekend x

Gooseberry & Blackcurrant Hemp Slices – makes 8 bars

• 1 punnet gooseberries (about 150g)
• 1 punnet blackcurrant (about 150g)
• Juice of ½ lemon
• 2tsp vanilla sugar
• 85g brown rice flour
• 85g hemp flour
• 100g porridge oats
• ½ tsp baking soda
• 100g honey
• 100g coconut oil

1. Place the berries in a small saucepan with the lemon juice and vanilla sugar. Cook on a medium heat for about 20min until they form a purée.
2. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
3. In a large bowl, mix the flours with the baking soda and porridge oats.
4. In a small saucepan, heat gently the coconut oil and honey until melted and liquid.
5. Mix the liquid with the flour mix until large crumbs form.
6. Line a 20cmx20cm square dish with parchment paper and spread half of the mixture in it, pressing it gently. Add a layer of berries. Finish with a layer of the dry mixture. Press gently with a spatula or the back of a spoon.
7. Place in the oven for 35-40min. Leave to cool down before cutting into slices and serving.

Barres au Chanvre, Groseilles à Maquereau et Cassis – pour 8 barres

• 1 barquette de groseilles à maquereau (environ 150g)
• 1 barquette de cassis (environ 150g)
• Jus d’1/2 citron
• 2cc de sucre vanillé
• 85g de farine de riz complète
• 85g de farine de chanvre
• 100g de flocons d’avoine à porridge
• 1/2cc de bicarbonate de soude
• 100g de miel
• 100g d’huile de noix de coco

1. Mettre les groseilles et cassis dans une petite casserole avec le jus de citron et le sucre vanillé. Cuire à feu moyen environ 20min jusqu’à l’obtention d’une compote épaisse.
2. Préchauffer le four à 180°C.
3. Dans un saladier, mélanger les farines de riz et chanvre avec es flocons d’avoine et le bicarbonate de soude.
4. Dans une petite casserole, faire fondre l’huile de noix de coco avec le miel jusqu’à l’obtention d’un mélange liquide.
5. Verser le liquide dans le mélange sec et mélanger jusqu’à l’obtention de miettes grossières.
6. Couvrir un plat à four carré de 20cmx20cm de papier sulfurisé. Y répartir la moitié du mélange de miette et presser avec le dos d’une cuillère. Ajouter la compote de fruits rouges. Finir par une couche du mélange sec. Presser légèrement avec une spatule ou le dos d’une cuillère.
7. Enfourner pour 35-40min. Laisser refroidir avant de couper en tranches.