A blogger after my own heart is fellow Londoner Leyla Kazim, who is as enthusiastic about eating out in London and as excitable about travelling and eating around the world as I am myself. Find out more about Leyla in today’s Meet The Blogger.

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Hello and welcome, plea­se introduce yourself and tell us a little about the kind of content you share.

Hello! I’m Leyla and I’m a twenty-something lover of all things gustatory living in South West London. I started my blog in October 2012 – it’s intended to be a personal anthology charting the places I visit, the cultures I experience, the food I eat, and the impressions they make upon me.

My mum is Mauritian and my dad is Turkish-Cypriot – to say I was brought up surrounded by some pretty exceptional cooking is an understatement, and I have little doubt it’s because of my parents that food is such a huge part of my life today.

I studied Astrophysics at university and worked in a software company for several years – neither of which automatically marry themselves with the love of food. But I got to that age where I came to realise what I actually enjoyed doing with my time and what meant the most to me. So my work now is writing about food or photographing it. And when I’m not working, I’m eating.

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What are your earliest memories of cooking? Who or what what inspired you to cook?

Despite my mum being a pretty great cook, she was always very territorial in the kitchen. No one was really allowed to get involved or in her way, so I first learnt to cook rather late in life when I moved out of home to go to university and had to feed myself. It was the first time I had free range in a kitchen, and I was in my element. I started out not even being able to make an omelette, but quickly learnt a lot and soon found myself cooking whenever I wasn’t busy getting drunk.

A lot of my family on my dad’s side have been in catering most of their working lives. My parents themselves own a café / restaurant and I started working in it at the age of 12 on Saturdays. I did everything front of house and my dad was in the kitchen. Nowadays, I’m mostly found on the other side of things as a guest in restaurants. But I suppose you could say I’ve been in that sort of environment, one way or another, for most of my life.

Tell us the story of your most spectacular kitchen failure!

I made a sorbet once, with egg whites. It tasted of frozen egg white. God, it was awful.

Which food or ingredients could you not live without?

Lemons. The juice of them may as well run through my veins. That’s the part-Turk in me.

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Is there a particular cuisine or style of cooking that you seek out most often?

I’m attracted to food of the Levant like a homing missile. For me to delay a visit to a newly opened Middle Eastern restaurant for much longer than it takes to glance over the online menu, is nothing short of sacrilege. I guess it’s ‘in my blood’, as they say.

My two other favourite cuisines are Japanese and Spanish. Gah..

Which single dish could you not live without?

Bread. I can give up anything else you throw at me (with some protest). But I could not give up good bread. Did you know bread is considered sacred in Turkey and if people find a piece on the floor, they will pick it up and put it on a wall or something out of respect. You can have that little nugget for free.

How do you decide where to visit next?

Through much torture and deliberation. There are so many restaurants to visit in London alone and not enough time / money / metabolism / willing dining partners to even begin to make a dent. And I’m in restaurants more than the average Jo. Nowadays, I just slam my finger down on a map with my eyes closed and see what’s good in that area. That, or take recommendations.

What current / upcoming trends in the restaurant scene do you find the most exciting?

Middle Eastern food has had some sort of second coming of late, what with Sabrina Ghayour’s fabulous cook book Persiana, new London openings such as The Palomar and Arabica Bar & Kitchen, and Alan Yau is opening a lahmacun place on Shaftsbury Avenue soon. See you there.

What are the biggest turn offs for you, when eating out?

Bad table manners. Oh my, I cannot abide it. I can’t stand people chewing with their mouth open, loud chewing, talking with your mouth full, licking of fingers, wiping of fingers on jeans. And so on.

Do you have a current favourite restaurant (or top 3?)

I had lunch at Lyle’s last week and I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I wasn’t expecting it to be as good as it was. I’m 100% returning for their evening menu.

One of my favourite restaurants to date is Café Murano for exquisite Italian.

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What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you in a restaurant?

I was on a date once in a very posh restaurant and managed to set the menu on fire. It was a good ice breaker.

What’s your take on the never-ending “discussion” about taking photographs in restaurants?

As long as you’re not setting up a tripod and reflector box between tables, then I really can’t see a problem. Photos are ultimately taken to share with others through some sort of online channel, so it’s all free press for the restaurant. Thankfully, most seem to be entirely fine with it. I’m yet to be asked not to take photos, but then I haven’t eaten in Paris for a while..

Blogging killed the newspaper star. What do you think bloggers bring to the arena that appeals to your readers / differentiates you from traditional journalists?

I think people read national press reviews to enjoy the read, not necessarily to then pick up the phone and book a table at that restaurant. With bloggers however, I feel people are more likely to actually visit the places we have said are good. It’s the voice of the people – while there is more than enough room for both journalists and bloggers (and I do swing between the two), there’s no denying that bloggers have a very big influence.

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What’s been your favourite destination thus far, from a foodie perspective? Can you share a favourite memory from the trip?

The blog has only been running for two years, and there were a lot of places I visited prior to it that I haven’t written about. One highlight was Naples and the pizza that left me and my partner starting at each other wide-eyed after the first bite, with expressions of ‘Errr.. are you getting what I’m getting? Holy sh*t this is one of the best things I’ve ever put in my mouth.’

In more recent times, Japan. All of Japan. All three glorious weeks travelling around and eating my way through Japan. The fish is so iridescent and so luminescent that it doesn’t look like it can possibly be real. It’s all a bit incredible there, really.

Where are you going next?

Do I have an answer for this.

From December, I’ll be embarking on a nine month travelling expedition. I’m basically hitting all the countries that I’ve been desperate to eat in for as long as I can remember. There’s been some hard saving that’s gone into this, and I can’t quite believe it’s finally within grasping distance. The countries include: India, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Canada, Mexico.

As long as I don’t get hit by a bus in the meantime.

What three things can you never travel without?

Sun cream – I have no desire to age prematurely. Some sort of GPS device for every moment of every day when I am lost – I have a terrible sense of direction. A notebook – if I don’t write it down, it didn’t happen (I also have a terrible memory). And a fourth one is my SLR.

What’s the best travel experience you’ve ever had?

We stayed overnight in a Berber tent on the fringes of the Sahara once. I woke up to find the nomads climbing some mighty sand dunes under a bruised sky just before the sun was due to come up. They were climbing to watch the sun rise over the desert – we joined them. It was incredible.

If we were to take a trip together, where would we go?

I think it would have to be Japan Kavey, right?

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Since you started blogging, has your style and content changed over time, and if so, in what ways?

If my writing hasn’t improved over these two years, then I quit. I started pretty terribly, so there was really only one way to go.

What is the hardest aspect of blogging for you?

Procrastination is a pain in the arse. But it’s a bit like exercise – once you start, you remember you quite enjoy it. Oh, just me then..

What inspires you to keep blogging regularly?

It’s the journal of my life, really. I get a lot of pleasure looking back on what I’ve done, places I’ve been, and I’m a person that loves to record things. I plan to post something weekly while I’m travelling – it will be an invaluable chronicle of what will be a once in a lifetime adventure.

Plus, people seem to like it – that’s always nice to hear.

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What are you absolutely loving cooking, eating, doing right now?

I’m desperately searching for some fresh hazelnuts but can’t find them anywhere – ahhh. Also, my plum tree in the garden is in its first year of fruiting. I picked four ripe ones yesterday. They were small, but goddamn they were the sweetest most exquisite plums I’ve ever eaten.

What’s the single most popular post on your blog?

Something about ribs – one of Gordon Ramsay’s recipes that I decided to cook and blog one day. I know nothing about SEO but something I did on that post has seen its hits rocket off towards the edges of the universe. I think that’s a strange anomaly and so I mostly ignore it. So the second most read blog is my 10 Things to Eat in Istanbul post – a lot of research, time and love went into it, so it’s really nice to see it appreciated.

Can we give a little extra love and attention to a post you love but didn’t catch the attention of your readers in the way you hoped?

Hows about a big up for my cousin’s gaff in Stamford, The Mad Turk. He’s doing the Turkish-Cypriot cuisine proud with the food coming from his kitchen. Great restaurant, wonderful food, and he’s a lot of fun.

 

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Guest Post by Tom Cox.

 

 

 

A while ago now Kavey invited me to review a cook book on her blog. Me and my girlfriend Nat often do our share of the cooking in the household (currently living with her parents and brother) and I decided this would be a great opportunity to try something new. So after reeling over the dozens of cook books available on the list Kavey provided me, with it being world cup time and my particular penchant towards the new and interesting, I eventually decided on the extremely colourful Brazilian Food by Thiago Castanho.

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First impressions were great, it had loads of really interesting looking chapters with really rich interesting pictures and a short excerpt from a review by Michael Palin (a personal favourite of mine). I decided we were definitely onto a winner.

The one thing that I really liked about the book is that it’s not just a cook book, it’s a tome on Brazilian cooking and culture with tidbits of history about Brazilian cuisine and history, quotes from anthropologists and all in all you really get a taste of the culture that cultivated this cuisine. However, this blessing is also a bit of a curse as it’s not the most accommodating of cook books with a lot of ingredients you’d struggle to find at your local supermarket and although there are a couple of tips about visiting an African/ Asian food shop there is some stuff I’m pretty sure has simply never made it to our shores (a bold claim I know but seriously try and find annatto oil). Some of the recipes had some pretty advanced cooking skills and weren’t altogether clear at times.

In short unless you’re a professional chef or some sort of super foodie (I consider myself a pretty good cook) then I reckon you’ll struggle with quite a few of the recipes.

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Ultimately I decided to go for one of the simpler looking recipes Galinha Caipira, or for those of us who’s Brazilian Portugese is a little rusty, Braised Chicken. This recipe, Thiago notes, was one of his grandmother’s and I hoped it would give us a good example of real wholesome Brazilian cooking. This recipe had very few of the really difficult to source ingredients apart from annatto oil, annatto now being a plant that I’ve developed somewhat of a disliking for after trying desperately to find in every random foodie looking shop I could find. I did discover that annatto oil is also known as achiote oil, but in the end I substituted oil, paprika and turmeric.

The recipe was quite simple but the picture was somewhat misleading and had a few ingredients in the picture that weren’t present. Although it called for both red and white onion in the ingredients, it made no mention of when to use one or the other in the method of so I went with my best judgement.

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We decided to serve this with Coconut rice (as opposed to the serving suggestion of Brazilian-style white rice) which I think was a fantastic choice in the end as what the main lacked in flavour the coconut rice made up for by being a real treat! The taste of the chicken dish was a little dull and didn’t really have anything distinctive about it; this should have been pretty predictable from the list of ingredients but I thought I’d give the book the benefit of the doubt, somewhat to our disappointment.

In summary if you have a good couple of days to source, prepare and cook a meal then I’d say go for it this book is a real visual treat and gives you bucket loads of really great insight into the vibrant country in which the food was developed. 

I’m sure if I’d had the time to dedicate to one of the more complicated recipes I’d have enjoyed it more but for the average cook I’m not so sure it suits. It’ll stay on my book shelf more as an interesting insight into Brazilian food and culture as opposed to something I’ll be trying to cook from again.

 

Kavey Eats received a review copy of Brazilian Food from Octopus Books. Brazilian Food is currently (at time of writing) available on Amazon for £20.40 (RRP £30).

 

If you ever attend a blogger event and spot a whirlwind of energy and smiles, a warm and exuberant character with a truly deep love for Indian food, you can be sure that you’ve found Zoe, aka The Spice Scribe. More recently, she also launched a second blog to share her love of chocolate.

Find out more in my third Meet The Blogger interview…

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Hello and welcome, plea­se introduce yourself and tell us a little about the kind of content you share.

I’m Zoe Perrett, or, as most folks know me online, The Spice Scribe. I write about Indian food and the wider culture surrounding it. What perplexes people is that I’m a white, Essex-by-way-of-East-London girl – and my only tie to the country whose cuisine I so love is its food! I also blog about chocolate just for fun – but Indian food is my ‘true culinary calling’.

On Culinary Adventures of the Spice Scribe I share information on regional food, the UK Indian food scene in terms of restaurants, street food and supperclubs (the latter two both big loves of mine), food books, ingredients, produce guides, interesting characters, festivals… basically and broadly, anything related to Indian food that captures my heart and imagination which I think might resonate with readers.

Is there a story behind your blog’s name?

Hours of endless mulling… and a well-documented love for alliteration. The name of its ‘chocolate offshoot’, ‘Culinary Adventures of The Cocoa Nut’ clearly identifies it as a sibling, and, happily, manages to get in a pun to boot!

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Why did you choose to blog about Indian food and culture?

I don’t know if I chose Indian food. Maybe it chose me. Perhaps it was simply ‘Korma, Kheer and Kismet’, as the title of a new Indian food book I can’t wait to read puts it, that drew me in! Indian food just got under my skin. It makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end, and for some reason, I feel deeply connected to it. Sometimes just a whiff of a particular ingredient or dish will provoke a deep and unexplainable emotional response in me.

Does blogging about Indian food and culture present any particular challenges?

There’s too much to ever hope to cover if I were to learn – and type – 24/7! Even Cyrus Todiwala, one of the foremost authorities on Indian cuisine, concedes that if one were to devote many lifetimes to understanding India’s endlessly complex and varied kitchens, they would barely be able to scratch the surface.

Then there’s fact I don’t have a natural tie to the cuisine, which I find both a curse and a blessing. On the one hand, it means some are quick to dismiss you as someone who knows nothing on the topic; on the other, it drives me to learn more and better in order to disprove that notion – something that only serves to benefit my own development in the long run!

Thus far, the many who champion what I do far outnumber the few who criticise – fingers crossed that remains the case…

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With Cyrus and Pervin Todiwala

What are your earliest memories of cooking? Who or what inspired you to cook?

Despite the ‘Indian thing’, my strongest memories are of cooking with my paternal grandmother – Nanny Win. More and more I’ve realised that this could be why Indian food ignites the feelings that it does within me.

She may not have used spices or Indian recipes, but when I eat things like keema and the soft, slightly sweet bread rolls called pav; the Indian rice pudding ‘kheer’, or milk-based sweetmeats, it takes me straight back to Sundays spent eating her savoury mince and nutmeg-topped milk puddings made rich with tinned ‘Tip Top’ cream.

I recently wrote a ‘food memory’ piece for my Parsi friend the Bawi Bride – it was all about Nanny Win’s cooking – and how, strangely, it actually had many parallels with ‘Parsi bhonu’.

What are the biggest influences on your cooking at the moment?

My go-to flavours are generally Bengali or Keralite. For the former, I’ll use mustard oil, dried red chillies, white poppy seeds, the mustard-mango relish called ‘kasundi’, slit green chillies and panch phoron – a mixture of 5 whole spices that speaks to me louder than any Indian masala… except, perhaps, for South Indian sambhar powder.

For the latter, coconut oil and grated coconut meat are ever-present in my kitchen – I’ll make simple vegetable stir-fries – ‘thorans’ – tempered with the oil in which I’ve fried mustard and cumin seeds, dried lentils (interestingly almost used as a ‘spice’ in this manner down South), curry leaves, chillies, and turmeric, and finish them with coconut.

I’m also currently obsessed with ‘pittu’ – a mixture of lightly-fermented rice flour that’s rolled to resemble irregular grains of cous cous, layered with fresh-grated coconut, and steamed in log-shaped moulds. You eat it with coconut gravy, sambhar or relishes. Traditionally it’s a breakfast item but I could live off it!

Which food or ingredients could you not live without?

Mustard oil, ghee, kasundi, curry leaves… there’s more on my own essentials here.

My cupboards are ridiculous, with spices shoehorned into any and every kind of container; multiple masalas; many types of dal, rice, and flour; condiments and esoteric speciality items. I also can’t resist a bargain – so there’s evidence of bulk buying. I might not be Indian, but I think my kitchen might fool you!

Which food writers / chefs do you find most inspirational?

Food writers – Chitrita Banerji. Culinary anthropologist Ammini Ramachandran. Pamela Timms, another ‘outsider’ drawn into India by its edible allures. Chefs – Cyrus Todiwala AND his wife Pervin – who many forget is a great chef in her own right. The family has done great things for ALL kinds of Indian food, but particularly with promoting Parsi and Goan fare.

Palash Mitra (Scarfes Bar), Gautham Iyer (Iyers Cafe), and Ashish Bhatia (Turban Street Cafe) are all doing interesting things and share my obsession with understanding all they can about the history, tradition and cultural issues around Indian food – as do the boys at Brighton’s Curry Leaf Cafe.

I also think streetfood and supperclub chefs deserve to be held in just as much esteem. Jhalmuri Express’s Angus Denoon never stops yearning to learn more from the Kolkata street food-wallas from whom he learned his craft. And working at the Damn Good Curry supperclub, Nilanjani Pai’s devotion to perfecting the last detail of each and every dish so that it’s absolutely as authentic as she can get it never fails to astound me.

Are there any particular cookery books you cherish above the rest of the shelf?

I have about 200 Indian cookbooks and foodie memoirs. They’re all pretty special – but some favourites include Chitrita Banerji’s ‘Bengali Cooking – Seasons and Festivals’; Rinky Bhattacharya’s ‘The Bengali Five Spice Chronicles’; ‘The Calcutta Cookbook’, given to me by my great mate Angus Denoon, owner of The Everybody Love Love Jhal Muri Express street food business; and a load of funny little finds I wouldn’t part with for love nor money. Many are on Indian regional cuisines; priced in rupees and written by Indian housewives. My Ceylonese cookbook from the 1950s is also a treasured gem.

If I were coming for dinner, what would you cook for me?

I wouldn’t – I’d take you to Nel’s (Nilanjani’s), safe in the knowledge that her version would knock anything I tried to make into a cocked hat! But if I had to, probably poha – a tossed-up mix of flattened rice, spice, and all things nice, followed by Bengali bhapa ilish (river fish steamed with chilli-ed mustard paste), white rice, and a nice ‘dry’ (gravy-less) dish of spinach with a pinch of panch phoron. Dessert would be mishti doi – an amazing Bengali sweet yogurt set in clay pots which absorb the moisture. It develops a crust like clotted cream and is no less lovely.

What’s the single piece of equipment you wouldn’t be without?

I’m really low-tech in the kitchen, but an electric spice grinder (mine’s James Martin brand; I’m not proud!) is a godsend for making masalas. Ideally I want to get my hands on a wet-and-dry grinder soon, too. Other than that it’s a dabba (spice tin) filled with little katoris (dishes) containing my most commonly-used spices and kept close to the cooker. And, of course, a pressure cooker. Once you learn to cook by number of ‘whistles’ rather than ‘minutes’, you’ve cracked it, and dal is near-instant.

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Filming a recipe for charity campaign, Curry For Change

What are you absolutely loving cooking, eating, doing right now?

Cooking: Picking my way through interesting regional recipes in Pushpeth Pant’s ‘India’. I find preparing a certain ingredient, like pumpkin, in a number of different ways ultimately instils a great instinct for recognising the provenance of a dish.

Eating: As I also blog about chocolate as The Cocoa Nut, I often have some lovely things to try lying around at home – at the moment I’m trying to eke out a box of Marc Demarquette’s ‘African Queen’ chocolates, newly awarded 3 stars at the Great Taste Awards – and I can tell why!

Otherwise, it’s Sri Lankan short eats (savoury snack items) I pick up from the hot cabinet at a local corner shop, or fish vindaye, octopus cari, and £1 fresh-rolled dal puris from the Mauritian guys at a chicken shop in Walthamstow.

Doing: As always, introducing people to new Indian ingredients, regional cuisines, foodie folks, cookbooks and places that make their eyes light up. There’s nothing more satisfying than someone falling in love with something you’ve been able to show them.

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What’s the single most popular post on your blog?

My Own Mahabharata – an Indian Vegetable Epic’. This is a guide to – and ambitious attempt to demystify – the endlessly fascinating world of the weird and wonderful vegetables (and a few fruits) that you see in Indian stores.

It’s by no means definitive – I still see many, many items that leave me scratching my head today, and people from different regions will use the same name to describe a different beast from their neighbours, or use a totally different name for a common vegetable.

But I do think it’s a useful primer, and I tried to make it as accessible as possible to people from all over so that they’re game to actually buy and try a few of whatever catches their eye in an Indian supermarket!

Can we give a little extra love and attention to a post you love but didn’t catch the attention of your readers in the way you hoped?

Probably ‘The Indian food places at which Indian foodies scoff’ where I asked many of my foodiest friends to share their top tips for eating Indian (and Pakistani) food in London.

Lots of lesser-known regional, neighbourhood-y places are mentioned; all endorsed by people that I know know about good food! If you want to know where chefs like Cyrus Todiwala and Vivek Singh eat with their families on their days off, you need to read this post.

 

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Blog URL: Indian food: http://culinaryadventuresofthespicescribe.wordpress.com/ and Chocolate: http://culinaryadventuresofthecocoanut.wordpress.com/
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/TheSpiceScribe and https://www.facebook.com/CulinaryAdventuresofTheCocoaNut
Twitter handle: https://twitter.com/TheSpiceScribe and https://twitter.com/The_Cocoa_Nut
Instagram handle: http://instagram.com/zoeperrett

 

PetecourgettePete came into the house one recent Monday evening with an overgrown courgette from the back garden, brandishing it in the manner of a cartoon caveman and his trusty club.

The quiche he made with half of it the next evening was so fantastic that I begged him to make it again the next night. Begged!

My cries went unheeded for three whole days! He made me wait till Friday before he gave in and made it again. And yes, it was just as delicious.

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Be warned though, even though the courgette is salted and squeezed out before cooking, it still releases moisture during cooking and creates a bit of a soggy bottom. Mary Berry might not approve but it didn’t bother us a bit!

 

Pete’s Courgette, Blue Cheese & Cherry Tomato Quiche

Ingredients
1 packet (320 grams) ready rolled shortcrust pastry
500g grated courgette
100g blue cheese (we used Stilton but any good blue will be fine)
2 large eggs
200ml single cream
Handful cherry tomatoes

Note: of course you can make your own shortcrust pastry, or buy it in block format and roll it yourself. From a 320 gram packet, there will be a little leftover, which you could use to make jam tarts or individual pies.

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 200 °C (fan).
  • Line an 9 inch (23 cm) flan dish with the pastry. The rolled sheet will be slightly too narrow so cut off one end and use to complete the circle.
  • Line with foil or parchment, fill with baking beads (or rice) and blind bake until golden; about 15-20 minutes/
  • Grate the courgette, add a teaspoon of salt, mix well and leave to drain in a sieve or muslin draining bag for about an hour.

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  • Once the tart case is baked, remove from the oven and set aside to cool down.
  • When ready to assemble and bake the quiche, preheat the oven to 170 °C (fan).
  • Crumble the blue cheese across the base.

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  • Squeeze as much water as you can from the grated courgette and layer over the blue cheese.

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  • Beat the eggs and cream together.
  • Pour the eggs and cream gently over the courgette  and blue cheese.
  • Halve the cherry tomatoes and place onto the tart, cut face up.

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  • Bake for 30-40 minutes until the filling has firmed up and taken on a little golden brown colour.

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  • Best enjoyed hot but can also be served warm or cold.

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For more courgette recipes on Kavey Eats see:

For courgette inspiration from others, see my suggestions at the bottom of this post.

 

For the second of my new Monday Meet The Blogger series, I talk to Miss South, one half of the sibling duo behind North South Food.

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Hello and welcome, please introduce yourself and tell us a little about the kind of content you share.

I’m Miss South, one half of North/South Food. (Mister North is the other half and he’s my big brother). We set the blog up in 2010 to allow us to talk to each other about our love of food and how it was different in our two parts of the world. He’s in the North (West Yorkshire) and I’m in south London (Brixton) and we thought it would be interesting to see how who two people who grew up together cook in our different worlds now.

Is there a story behind your blog’s name?

We tried to think of all kinds of clever puns and then realised that simple was best. Plus it abbreviates nicely…

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What are your earliest memories of cooking? Who / what inspired you to cook?

My parents cooked and my granny was a traditional Irish farmer’s wife who baked brilliantly. I grew up around food and was encouraged to be interested in it, so promptly rebelled and at the age of 19 could barely make toast. I lived on dry cereal and instant noodles. I developed gallbladder issues (genuinely not connected to my terrible diet!) and became very ill. From my sickbed on the sofa, I was forced to watch Ainsley Harriott turning his way through Ready Steady Cook and realised I could either let him annoy me or get up and learn something. So oddly enough, I owe it all to Ainsley Harriott. Not sure many bloggers can say that.

What are the biggest influences on your cooking at the moment?

I’m actually getting MORE obsessed by my slow cooker. I thought I’d have reached peak slow cooker when I finished my book Slow Cooked in March, but no. I’m constantly adapting recipes and trying to create fresh deep flavours in there. I’ve also been combining this with loads of lovely salads in the recent hot weather.

Tell us the story of your most spectacular kitchen failure!

I will let you into a little secret. I have kitchen disasters quite often. I think the worst recent one was when I misread a slow cooker recipe and added 4 teaspoons of baking powder to a pudding. I ended up with 3 and a half LITRES of rubbery salty steamed pudding that tasted metallic and soggy. I was cooking for someone I’d never met before and while their mouth said ‘it’s not that bad’, their eyes said ‘they asked you to write a cookbook’? I then re-made the recipe and it was fantastic. Unfortunately only I ate it though.

Which food or ingredients could you not live without?

I am an umami obsessive. I can’t do without savoury things like parmesan, anchovies, miso and tomatoes. I also worship at the shrine of butter. Margarine is like a swear word to me. And you will pry my potatoes from my cold dead hands.

Which food writers / chefs do you find most inspirational and in the same spirit, are there any particular cookery books you cherish above the rest of the shelf?

I have always been Team Nigella. I went straight from Ready Steady Cook to her columns in Vogue in the 90s. The first few ‘proper’ recipes I cooked were from those. I bought myself How To Eat and it was my first ever cookbook and still the one I use the most. I had a collection of recipes from early in my cooking career clipped from magazines, family members etc. and it got lost in a house move 10 years ago. I still miss it and now clip obsessively into Evernote instead.

Most of my food influences are women. I don’t know if that’s coincidence. I adore Lindsay Bareham and cooked so much stuff from her Evening Standard columns when I first moved to London in the early 2000s. My family swears by Marcella Hazan. I would trust Claudia Roden with my life. I’m loving Sally Butcher’s books and I’m obsessed by Diana Henry and Bee Wilson’s writing at the moment (books from both are by my bed currently.) I particularly enjoy reading cookbooks at night. Gives me interesting dreams.

If I were coming for dinner, what would you cook for me?

Honestly I have no idea. But I would never have cooked it before. I have a slightly stressful habit of cooking new and complicated dishes for people who come round for dinner, usually something I have no idea how to cook and basically winging it. I’m surprised people come back. If I was sensible, I’d just roast a chicken…

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If we were meeting for a meal out, which restaurant would you choose?

It would probably have to be in Brixton Village if I were in author/tourist guide mode after writing Recipes from Brixton Village. I particularly like Okan for okonomiyaki or El Rancho De Lalo for hearty Colombian.

However if I was relaxing and money was no object, it would be the Hawksmoor or somewhere serving mountains of seafood.

If we were to take a trip together, where would we go?

In fantasy land I’d either like to go to Japan (and you’d make a great tour guide) or the Deep South. In reality, I suffer from agoraphobia and the thought of travelling really doesn’t do it for me. This is why London suits me so well. One can feel like you’ve gone places without having to travel.

Maybe I’d take you to my home city of Belfast though and feed you an Ulster Fry. You could travel the world off one of those.

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Since you started blogging, has your style and content changed over time, and if so, in what ways?

Sometimes I find it hard to believe how much my style has changed since I started blogging. It’s much tighter and more concise. I find it much easier to sit down and write than when I first started. I blog for different publications now and practise makes it much easier. I also started out blogging my attempts to learn to cook and early posts featured me being hesitant, making mistakes and not blogging my own recipes. My confidence and skills in the kitchen has increased so much I find it hard to believe I’m the same person!

What is the hardest aspect of blogging for you?

Definitely the photography. I just don’t find it very interesting and I’m also not very good at it. I can spend longer trying to get a decent photo of certain things than cooking them. Mister North however is a supremely talented photographer (he shot the images for Slow Cooked in fact) and if I could, I’d get him to take them all.

What inspires you to keep blogging regularly?

Quite simply I really really enjoy it. I love to write and the blog allows me to do that. I also enjoy the structure it gives my week. Having something to come up gives me focus and interest. I’ve found since going to once a week posting on a Sunday, the routine works well and I don’t have to think about it as mud, it just falls into place.

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What are you absolutely loving cooking, eating, doing right now?

As I said earlier, as long as I have my slow cooker, I’m a happy bunny. I’m playing around with cooking offal and off cuts in it especially at the moment. I’m also enjoying baking. It must be the GBBO effect. I’m determined to finally master pastry. I loved writing both Recipes from Brixton Village and Slow Cooked but having done well over 350 recipes between the two books, I am enjoying being able to cook in a leisurely fashion right now!

What’s the single most popular post on your blog?

The two most popular blog posts are the ones where I talked about my experiences of living on benefits and the issues around food poverty from the perspective of someone who understands why it isn’t as simple as buying 10kg bags of rice and lentils. Food for Thought won me a Young British Foodies Award last year and A Letter to Jamie Oliver went properly viral last summer, leading to the blog being featured on the Food Programme on Radio 4.

Can we give a little extra love and attention to a post you love but didn’t catch the attention of your readers in the way you hoped?

I think I’ll let the readers just dip in and out as they fancy it. I’d feel weird picking a post of my own, but Mister North’s experiences of making black pudding with fresh blood is worth a read…

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What’s the one question you wish I’d asked you but didn’t?

Not probably a question you’d have asked, but I think it makes sense to explain. We blog under pseudonyms because it was easier to start with and now it’s become my persona so I keep it separate to my day to day ‘me’. That’s why there’s no ‘real name’ or photo.

 

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Blog URL: http://northsouthfood.com
Twitter handle @northsouthfood
Pinterest profile: http://www.pinterest.com/northsouthfood/
Instagram handle: http://instagram.com/northsouthfood/

 

We are experiencing a glorious courgette glut at the moment, as you may have guessed! We’ve had courgette frittata, courgette soup and courgettes stuffed with sausage ragu… and courgette crisps, courgette-saka, grilled courgettes, stir-fried courgette… we even tried a chocolate courgette cake but that one’s not for sharing as we didn’t love the recipe we tried. We’ll be having another go, though! We still have plenty of courgettes to enjoy – green baton shapes and yellow globe ones.

Like most people, some evenings we are too tired or short of time to make anything fancy but want to resist the easy temptation of a takeaway or ready-meal.

Using ready-made, ready-rolled puff pastry as the base of a quick and easy tart makes for a tasty dinner, and one that can easily be adapted to seasonal ingredients.

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On this occasion, we used fresh mozzarella but you could also use a soft goat’s cheese or a brie or camembert-style cheese. A little blue cheese is a very tasty addition too.

Likewise, you can certainly use different herbs or spices. Za’atar, the Lebanese blend of wild thyme, sumac and sesame seeds, works particularly well with courgettes.

Try not to make your layer of toppings too deep, however, or they won’t cook through in the time it takes for the pastry to puff up and brown.

Puff Pastry Cheese, Courgette & Mint Tart

Serves 4

Ingredients
1 sheet ready-rolled puff pastry (all butter is the tastiest)
250-300 grams soft cheese of your choice, thinly sliced
1 medium baton courgette, very thinly sliced
Fresh mint, or your choice of herbs or spices
Salt and pepper

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Method

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C (fan).
  • Cut the unrolled sheet of pastry onto 2 or 4 pieces. (We cut ours into two, but each tart was enough for two people).
  • Very lightly score a border around each piece, about 1.5 – 2 cm in from the edge. Take care not to cut right through the pastry.
  • Within the border area of each piece of pastry, lay out a layer of soft cheese.
  • Top with an overlapping layer of courgette pieces.

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  • Sprinkle with herbs or spices.
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes until the pastry is risen and golden brown.
  • Serve hot.

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For more courgette recipe inspiration, please see the list at the bottom of my Sausage Ragu Stuffed Courgettes recipe post.

 

I love the courgette season!

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Many home gardeners and allotmenteers love growing courgettes as these summer squashes are easy to look after and usually give an abundant harvest. But it’s surprising how many don’t like eating them as much as they do growing them; they give most of their bounty away. Of course, I am happy to share a few gorgeous courgettes with friends – it’s a lovely feeling giving someone home grown produce picked from the plant moments before. But Pete and I love eating courgettes so it’s very much a case of finding as many ways as possible to enjoy them while they last.

We like to grow different varieties. For many years, we’ve grown yellow spherical courgettes – they taste the same as green ones but look, they’re just so beautiful! We have also grown green balls and both green and yellow varieties of the regular baton shape. I’m thinking about planting some of the pale green or white types next year.

By the way, while we use the French word courgette, the Americans took the word zucchini from Italian, which seems appropriate since courgettes were developed in Italy after the Cucurbita genus was introduced to Europe from the Americas. That said, Americans now seem to refer to yellow courgettes by the umbrella term of summer squash rather than as yellow zucchini, I’m not really sure why.

Any courgette / zucchini variety can be used for this recipe, but it’s best to choose smaller fruits rather than large ones.

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Sausage Ragu Stuffed Courgettes

Serves 3-4

Note: My photos show three halved courgettes, but we had enough leftover ragu to stuff a fourth courgette the next day. Exact portions will depend on the size of courgettes used.

Ingredients
Vegetable oil, for cooking
1 small onion, diced
400 grams (1 tin) chopped tomatoes
2 teaspoons fresh oregano, finely chopped (or 1 teaspoon dried)
600 grams herby pork sausages, skin removed
Salt and pepper, to taste
3-4 small courgettes, halved and scooped out
125 grams (1 ball) fresh mozzarella, sliced
Fresh oregano, to garnish

Tip: Read the instructions before starting – you can prep the sausages, courgettes and mozzarella while other elements of the recipe are cooking.

Method

  • Heat a little vegetable oil in a large frying pan and cook the onion over a low to medium heat, to soften.

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  • Add the tinned tomatoes and oregano and let the tomato sauce cook. You can peel the sausages during this time.

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  • Add the sausages to the tomato sauce and use the edge of a wooden spoon to break them into pieces. Continue to break the sausages down, mixing them into the tomato sauce, for the first several minutes of cooking.

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  • Then cover the pan and leave the ragu to cook for about an hour. During this cooking time, once the sausage is cooked through you can taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.

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  • After an hour, remove the lid and turn the heat up a little to allow the sauce to reduce – this will take about 10 to 15 minutes. You want quite a dry ragu, as the courgettes will release juices as they cook. Prepare the courgettes during this time.

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  • To prepare the courgettes, slice them in half and carefully scoop out the seeds and pulpy flesh from the centre. Leave a nice thick layer of flesh in the skin, and take care not to pierce the skin while you’re working.

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  • Preheat the oven to 160° C (fan).
  • Stuff the courgettes with the ragu and pack down tightly.

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  • Bake the courgettes for 30 to 40 minutes until the courgettes have softened and the ragu has taken on a little colour.

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  • Slice the mozzarella finely and arrange over the top of each courgette half. Add a sprig of fresh oregano for decoration, if using.

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  • Return to the oven and bake for another 15-20 minutes, until the mozzarella has melted and taken on a little colour.

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  • Serve with your chosen side. You can see that we had some of ours with an extra dose of courgettes in the form of courgette crisps – thinly sliced, lightly floured and deep fried!

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Looking for more delicious ideas for courgettes / zucchinis?

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Do you have any favourite recipes for courgettes?

If so, please do share them here – we still have lots more on the plants and I’m always looking for new ways to enjoy them!

(You are welcome to include recipe links in your comments, but they may not appear straight away; comments with links are usually diverted into an approval queue to check they aren’t spam!)

 

Given how much I love salmon, it’s a glaring omission that I’ve not yet shared any recipes here for cooking with this beautiful and popular fish. I am vowing to rectify this as soon as possible!

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Norwegian salmon images from Shutterstock

I’ve recently had my eyes opened to the quality of Norwegian salmon, a fish that is abundant in the cold, clear waters off Norway. It has smooth, red flesh and a rich, fresh flavour, it turns a pretty delicate pink colour when cooked and the well-defined flakes fall apart easily. It’s perfect to enjoy in hot dishes and cold in summer salads. It’s also often described as one of the superfoods – this oily fish is rich in protein, omega-3 fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and vitamins A and D – so is a healthy as well as tasty choice.

NORGE logo 2-pack-art

Look for the NORGE logo on pre-packed Norwegian salmon in Morrisons this month. This logo is a guarantee that the product is of Norwegian origin and can only be used on products caught, farmed and processed in Norway and on licenced products in foreign markets.

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It is also comforting to know that Norway is considered to have one of the most responsible fishing industries in the world. In 2007 an independent research institute carried out a survey of the ways in which fishing nations are dealing with the challenges presented by illegal fishing and unregistered and unreported fish, as well as the United Nation’s rules of governance pertaining to responsible fishing practice (the FAO Code of Conduct). This detailed analysis concluded that Norway is a world leader in fishing management. In assessing the extent to which different countries are acting in accordance with the UN’s Code of Conduct for responsible fishing management, Norway ranks top followed by the USA, Canada, Australia and Iceland.

Scandilicious

COMPETITION

Kavey Eats and the Norwegian Seafood Council are offering one reader of Kavey Eats a hardback copy of Signe Johansen’s book Scandilicious, Secrets of Scandinavian Cooking and a £25 Morrisons voucher. The prize includes delivery within the UK.

HOW TO ENTER

You can enter the competition in 3 ways:

Entry 1 – Blog Comment Leave a comment below, sharing your favourite way to eat salmon.

Entry 2 – Facebook Like the Kavey Eats Facebook page and leave a (separate) comment on this blog post with your Facebook user name.

Entry 3 – Twitter Follow @Kavey on Twitter. Existing followers are, of course, welcome to enter! Then tweet the (exact) sentence below.
I’d love to win £25 Morrisons vouchers + a copy of Scandilicious from @norwayseafood and Kavey Eats! http://goo.gl/VxiGqh #KaveyEatsSalmon
(Do not add my twitter handle into the tweet; I track entries using the competition hash tag. And please don’t leave a blog comment about your tweet either, thanks!)

RULES & DETAILS

  • The deadline for entries is midnight GMT Friday 22nd August, 2014.
  • Entry instructions form part of the terms and conditions.
  • Kavey Eats reserves the right to alter the closing date of the competition. Changes to the closing date, if they occur, will be shown on this page.
  • The winner will be selected from all valid entries using a random number generator.
  • Where prizes are provided by a third party, Kavey Eats accepts no responsibility for the acts or defaults of that third party.
  • The prize is a hardback copy of Signe Johansen’s book, Scandilicious and a £25 Morrisons voucher. It includes free delivery within the UK.
  • The prize cannot be redeemed for a cash value.
  • The prize is offered and provided by the Norwegian Seafood Council.
  • One blog entry per person only. One Twitter entry per person only. One Facebook entry per person only. You may enter all three ways but do not have to do so for your entries to be valid.
  • For Twitter entries, winners must be following @Kavey at the time of notification. For Facebook entries, winners must Like the Kavey Eats Facebook page at time of notification.
  • Blog comment entries must provide a valid email address for contacting the winner.
  • The winner will be notified by email, Twitter or Facebook. If no response is received from a winner within 7 days of notification, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be picked and contacted.

Kavey Eats received a Morrisons voucher from the Norwegian Seafood Council.

 

I’m an avid blog reader. That may seem an obvious thing to say as a blogger myself but I know many bloggers who rarely read more than a handful of other blogs, and few outside their circle of friendship. I regularly read a few hundred blogs – easy to do with an RSS reader – and I also read individual posts from several hundred more, most of which I stumble across via various social media platforms. There are so many really great blogs out there; an astounding number actually. I’d really like to share some of my old and new favourites with you.

Today, I’m starting a new series in which I approach bloggers I admire and ask them to tell us a little more about themselves and their site.

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Hello and welcome, plea­se introduce yourself and tell us a little about the kind of content you share.

Hello! I’m Gary and I’ve been writing Big Spud since 2007. I keep it as a record of things I’ve cooked and enjoyed, but continually amazed that other people want to read it. I have a focus on potato recipes, but genuinely interested in all foods and cuisines. I use Jamie Oliver and Heston Blumenthal as inspiration for a lot of my cooking, and it ranges from the everyday to the flashy.

Is there a story behind your blog’s name?

I had the nickname Spud as a boy, and when my son came along he inherited it. I can’t be Spud any more so I’m now the Big Spud! I’ve been using the name online for years.

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What are your earliest memories of cooking and who inspired you to cook?

I always hung around the kitchen on a Sunday helping Mum with the roast. But it wasn’t until I left home and had to fend for myself that I really picked up the wooden spoon.

What are the biggest influences on your cooking at the moment?

I love all cuisines and especially Italian-influenced food. But another food blogger MiMi of meemalee.com has just released a book all about Asian noodle dishes and I’m cooking a lot of those lately!

Tell us the story of your most spectacular kitchen failure!

I had an annual tradition of making cheese straws on Christmas Eve growing up. I preheated the oven and carried on making my pastry. 20 minutes or so later, once I’d rolled and cut out my straw shapes, I opened the oven to find the Christmas Day turkey sat there in its carrier bag where Mum had left it to defrost. The plastic had emblazoned the bird with the Tesco logo! Still tasted OK the next day though.

It was less funny when I did exactly the same thing the next year…

Which food or ingredients could you not live without?

Salt and pepper may be an obvious choice but I must have Maldon salt. The flavour is irreplaceable.

Which food writers / chefs do you find most inspirational and in the same spirit, are there any particular cookery books you cherish above the rest of the shelf?

I adore the gung-ho can-do spirit of Jamie Oliver. Everything he makes looks achievable, delicious and fun – and it usually is. Whatever you think of the person, his cooking is excellent. At the other end of the scale Heston Blumenthal strives to make every meal the most exceptional it can be. By focusing on each detail you end up with a dinner very much the sum of his parts. His recipes are rarely simple, but the results are always worth it.

I try to capture a little of both personalities in all the cooking I do.

If I were coming for dinner, what would you cook for me?

I would have to make you a roast chicken with roast potatoes and other trimmings. It’s a bit of a signature.

 

What’s the single piece of equipment you wouldn’t be without?

A couple of my best Heston Tojiro knives. Easily my best friends in the kitchen.

What’s your kitchen white elephant?

I try to be fairly ruthless, but I have some beautiful Chinese porcelain spoons that I mean to use every week but I’ve probably used three times in about ten years.

 

What is the hardest aspect of blogging for you?

My photography is awful. I want to snap and eat straight away, I don’t have time to prep a stage for the photo. A decent camera + lenses would help. But that’s another expense I don’t need!

What inspires you to keep blogging regularly?

Seeing how people react. I only ever set out to write this blog for myself, but I love getting Tweets, Facebook comments or blog comments discussing the latest post.

I only write when I have something to say. And because I’m cooking every day, more often than not something comes up.

 

What are you absolutely loving cooking, eating, doing right now?

Stir fry noodle dishes are a staple right now – with MiMi’s book for inspiration we’re tearing through them in our household. So much variety!

What’s the single most popular post on your blog?

It’s a no-brainer: perfect roast potatoes. It was the culmination of a loooot of research and it’s also a popular question: how do you make perfect roast potatoes? When Christmas Eve rolls around this post goes nuclear.

Can we give a little extra love and attention to a post you love but didn’t catch the attention of your readers in the way you hoped?

Heston’s fish pie, influenced in part by his famous Sounds of the Sea Fat Duck dish, can be a notoriously difficult and time-consuming dish to pull off. I spent a lot of time thinking about the recipe and reimagining it as a simplified salmon dish that captures the essence of it. It didn’t really get much attention at all relative to the thought I put into it. In hindsight it probably only clicks with people who’ve tried the Heston fish pie and would be grateful for the short-cuts!

 

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Blog URL: http://bigspud.co.uk
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/thebigspud
Twitter handle: http://twitter.com/bigspud
Pinterest profile: http://www.pinterest.com/thebigspud/
Instagram handle: http://instagram.com/TheBigSpud

 

I guess I’m like a kid with a new toy at the moment. Here’s another power blender recipe for you, made once again in my Froothie Optimum 9400 blender.

We’re in the midst of a courgette glut (something I’m very happy about as I love them and feel rather sad in those occasional years when our harvest fails). This quick and tasty soup recipe is a great way to use courgettes. It’s also the perfect choice for the courgettes you failed to spot and which grew a bit larger than you intended; of course, you can make it with smaller courgettes too!

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Quick Courgette & Blue Cheese Soup | Made in a Power Blender

Serves 2

Ingredients
850 grams roughly diced courgette (weight after removing ends and scooping out seeds)
75-100 grams strong blue cheese
30-50 ml double cream
Salt and pepper, to taste

Method

  • Place courgette into blender jug. Pulse until courgette has been liquidised. You may need to pause between pulsing once or twice to shake the jug, and help distribute the courgette to within the blade’s reach. Don’t be tempted to add water, as it’s not necessary (and you don’t want to water down the flavour of your finished soup).
  • Once the courgette has been liquidised, add the blue cheese and cream and switch on the blender, ramping it up to the highest speed.
  • Leave it running for 6-7 minutes until the soup is piping hot.
  • Taste and add seasoning, blend for another few seconds and taste again.
  • Serve immediately.
  • Great with fresh bread or toast.

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Check out these posts for more great power blender soup recipes:

 

Kavey Eats received an Optimum 9400 blender from Froothie. Kavey Eats is a member of the Froothie brand ambassador programme, but under no obligation to share positive reviews. All opinions published on Kavey Eats are 100% honest feedback.

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