I visited Colombia about thirty years ago on a family holiday that also took us to Brazil, Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador. Though I still have memories of Bogotá – I remember the statue of Simon Bolivar in Plaza de Bolivar, the flamboyant Iglesia del Carmen and being driven around the old town areas – there’s a gap when it comes to remembering the food.

Luckily, Proexport Colombia recently invited me to attend a Colombian Cooking Masterclass in the Ambassador’s beautiful residence in Chester Square.

We spent a happy hour in the small basement kitchen, where renowned Colombian chefs Juanita Umaña and Diana García talked to us about ingredients and demonstrated several dishes, inviting us to touch, smell, taste and to get involved. We ate Colombian specialities straight out of the fryer and scribbled down tips and tricks before taking our seats in the ambassador’s dining room for a multi-course feast.

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The snacks we made with Juanita and Diana both featured yuca (manioc) flour. Pasteles de yuca croquettes stuffed with a spicy beef and egg mixture. Arepas (corn cakes) were double-fried – dough was rolled out, cut into discs, fried for a few minutes, then a slit carefully so that an egg could be dropped inside before being fried again. Arepas are most commonly made quite large, but Juanita and Diana made individual ones using quails eggs before creating a larger one with a hen egg.

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For lunch we were served a variety of dishes, all traditional favourites in Colombia. My fellow diners were particularly taken with the Ajiaco Santafereño (chicken and potato soup) but my favourites were the mixed seafood en leche de coco (in coconut milk), the Posta Negra Cartagenera (Cartagena braised beef), the dulce de leche crème brûlée and the sandwich of Oblea wafers and dulce de leche.

Recipe: Posta Negra Cartagenera (Cartagena Braised Beef)

Serves 6

Ingredients
Posta

1 tail of rump or rump tip of 3lb with its fat
1.5 teaspoon salt
0.5 teaspoon pepper
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon vinegar or 2 tablespoons bitter orange juice
Braising Liquid
3 tablespoons oil
4 sweet chili peppers, seeded and chopped
3 white onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tomatoes, chopped
Salt to taste

Method

  • Place the meat in a bowl or pan and marinate with salt, pepper, garlic and vinegar or bitter orange juice. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours.
  • Remove the meat from the refrigerator. Heat the oil in a pot over high heat and brown the meat on all sides, starting with the fat, until obtaining a dark caramel colour all over.
  • Add sweet chili peppers, onion, and garlic and sauté for 2 minutes.
  • Add tomatoes and pour in enough hot water to cover a third of the meat.
  • Braise for 45 minutes over medium heat to medium doneness. If you want it done more, place in a 350° F (180 °C) oven for 40 minutes more, or depending on your preference.
  • Remove the meat from the pot and let sit for some minutes.
  • Cut it in thin slices.
  • Adjust seasoning. If the sauce formed in the pot has dried out, add some hot water and reduce a bit, for all the flavours to integrate and obtain a nice gravy.
  • Serve the meat with its gravy, fried coconut rice and salad on the side.

 

Kavey Eats was a guest of Proexport Colombia. The recipe for Cartagena Braised Beef, published with permission, is from Colombia Cocina de Regiones, edited and published by MNR Comunicaciones y Ediciones, an authoritative book on the recipes of Colombia, with contributions from Juanita Umaña and Diana García.

 

One of the many things I enjoy about blogging is the social aspect – forging friendships with fellow bloggers, talking online, meeting in person. And when good things happen for the friends one has made, it’s really wonderful to be able to share the news.

Miss South, one half of North South Food, is not only a fellow food lover and inventive cook but she is also a very talented and articulate writer. Her posts on cooking on a budget, and the realities of living on the poverty line should be taken as a wake up call not only by politicians who are wildly out of touch, but also by food celebrities who mean well but haven’t got a clue either. For more about Miss South, read my recent Meet The Blogger interview with her, here.

The good news I wanted to share is to spread the word about Miss South’s latest book, one that I’ve been really excited about seeing in print. It’s called Slow Cooked and has over 200 recipes to make in a slow cooker.

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Back when Miss South was recipe testing, I was quick to step forward and delighted to volunteer my services in helping her with some of the Indian recipes. Some tips gleaned from my mum about making your own garam masala made it into the book, as did the method I recommended for making keema. It’s a lovely feeling to contribute, even in such a tiny way, to someone’s book – I know it was a project that Miss South poured vast energy and effort into and the result is a super resource.

Using a slow cooker is a boon for many cooks. It’s great for those evenings when you’re so hungry by the time you get home you just want to walk in to something delicious, hot and ready to eat. A little prep in the morning, or the night before, and that’s exactly what a slow cooker can give you. It’s also a very economical way of cooking, using far less energy over several hours than a conventional oven or stovetop for a few. And if you are cooking in limited kitchen space (or perhaps no kitchen at all), it can be a lifesaver.

Of course, cooking in a slow cooker is not the same as cooking in an oven or on the stove. For those who’ve made slow-cooked stews or casseroles before, their first experiences cooking with a slow cooker can be disappointing. Food tastes bland and watery and it’s easy to give up.

One of the best aspects of the book is the excellent and detailed introduction Miss South gives to cooking in a slow cooker, spelling out the adaptations you need to make to ensure that you achieve great flavours when cooking this way. It’s immediately clear that Miss South has used her slow cookers (she has various models in different sizes) a lot and in this book she passes on all the tips she’s learned along the way. After the introduction, dive in to a fabulous range of slow cooker recipes, ranging from hearty meat stews to fish and vegetable dishes, soups and curries. There are even chapters on preserves and other pantry staples, cakes and breads and puddings.

Most recipes don’t have accompanying photos, but a good selection of dishes are showcased just inside the front cover. Usually, I’m a fan of having an image of every recipe so I can see what it should look like but most of the dishes in the book are classics that most of us are familiar with, so I find that I don’t actually miss them in this book. What I’m more interested in are the adapted versions that allow me to make all these recipes in my trusty slow cooker.

Not every recipe is to my taste – I was disappointed by the butternut squash curry which needs more spice, more punch, more flavour. But there are many recipes which more than make up for that one, such as the fantastic carbonnade, Miss South’s slow cooker adaptation of a Belgian beef stew made with beer, onions and mustard. I particularly love the mustard toasted baguette on top, though do note you’ll need use of a grill to toast the slices before sitting them atop the stew.

Note, Miss South isn’t as greedy as Pete and I – she lists the recipe as serving 4-6 with leftovers whereas I’d say it serves 4 with none leftover.

Miss South’s Carbonnade

Serves 4

Ingredients
500 grams stewing steak or beef brisket, cubed
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons plain flour
2 onions (preferably caramelised, recipe provided in the book)
1 carrot, diced
2  large flat mushrooms, sliced
1 heaped teaspoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
350 ml ale or stout
4 tablespoons wholegrain mustard
1 tablespoon room-temperature butter
1 demi baguette
chopped fresh parsley, to serve

Method

  • Place the beef, mustard powder, salt, pepper and flour into the slow cooker, toss well to coat the meat. Add onions, carrot and mushrooms and onions (we used raw), then sugar, vinegar, bay leaf, thyme, beer and half the wholegrain mustard. The meat should be about two-thirds submerged by the liquid.

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  • Give a stir, to mix in the mustard, then put on the lid and cook on low for 6 hours.

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  • After 6 hours, beat together the butter and remaining wholegrain mustard, 6 six thick slices from the baguette and spread the mustard butter on one side. Toast under a grill (butter side up) until the edges start to crisp and the mustard butter darkens.
  • Transfer the mustard toasts to the slow cooker, setting them gently onto the stew and pressing down just a little so the gravy soaks into their bases.
  • Replace the lid and cook for another 2 hours.

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COMPETITION

I have 5 copies of Miss South’s Slow Cooked to giveaway to Kavey Eats readers! Prizes include delivery within the UK.

HOW TO ENTER

You can enter the competition in 3 ways – the more ways you enter, the higher your chances of winning:

Entry 1 – Blog Comment
Leave a comment below, telling me about your favourite slow cooked dish.

Entry 2 – Twitter
Follow @Kavey on Twitter. Existing followers are, of course, welcome to enter! Then tweet the (exact) sentence below.
I’d love to win a copy of @northsouthfood’s Slow Cooked from @EburyPublishing and Kavey Eats! http://goo.gl/Ny79Lh #KaveyEatsSlowCooked
(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!)

Entry 3 – Instagram
Share an image of your slow cooker (empty or full) via your Instagram feed. In the caption, tell me about your favourite slow cooked dish. Make sure you include my username @Kaveyf and the hashtag #KaveyEatsSlowCooked.

RULES & DETAILS

  • The deadline for entries is midnight GMT Friday 21st November, 2014.
  • 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 5 winners will be selected from all valid entries using a random number generator. The first name selected will win the first prize. The second name selected will win the second prize.
  • Entry instructions form part of the terms and conditions.
  • Where prizes are to be provided by a third party, Kavey Eats accepts no responsibility for the acts or defaults of that third party.
  • Each prize is a copy of Miss South’s Slow Cooked, published by Ebury Press. Free delivery within the UK is included.
  • The prizes cannot be redeemed for a cash value.
  • The prizes are offered and provided by Ebury Press, Random House.
  • One blog entry per person only. One Twitter entry per person only. One Instagram entry per person only. You may enter all three ways but you 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 Instagram entries, winners must be following @Kaveyf at the time of notification. Blog comment entries must provide a valid email address for contacting the winner.
  • The winners will be notified by email, Twitter or Instagram so please make sure you check your accounts for the notification message. 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 review copy from Random House.
Slow Cooked is published by Ebury Press and currently available on Amazon for £13.48 (RRP £14.99).

The five winners are @DwarfHammyMum @ali991 (twitter entries), Sue Turner-Smith, Snigda, Christy Beckett (blog entries).

 

I don’t usually make Halloween dishes.

But I had a crate full of home-grown butternut squash in my kitchen when a friend of mine gave me a block of his home-made black garlic cheese. The handover, in a central London coffee shop, probably looked like an illicit drug tryst – the cheese resembled a very large block of resin – but cheese is my drug of choice these days!

Immediately, the orange and black colours of Halloween popped into my mind and I decided to adapt the recipe for ever popular Pete’s Cheesey Potato Bake into a Butternut Squash, Black Garlic & Blue Cheese Bake. (I added blue cheese to the black garlic cheese to give a more salty kick).

Of course, few of us make cheese from scratch at home but there are many recipes on the web that show you how to make American processed cheese slices from a combination of regular cheese, dry milk powder, milk and gelatin. I can’t give away my friend’s confidential recipe for his black garlic cheese, but you could experiment with the addition of black garlic to one of these recipes.

Because I liked the idea of the orange and black appearance, we layered the blue cheese below and the butternut squash and black garlic cheese on top, but if you use regular cheeses, you can mix all the ingredients together in the dish.

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Butternut Squash, Black Garlic & Blue Cheese Bake

Serves 2

Ingredients

1 medium butternut squash
100 grams black garlic cheese
200 grams strong blue cheese (we used Stilton)

Method

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  • Peel the butternut squash, halve and scrape out the seeds and pulp from the centre. Cube the flesh and add to a pan.

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  • Parboil the squash by bringing the water to the boil and let the squash cook for a further five minutes, remove from the heat and set aside.
  • Preheat the oven to 180 C (fan).
  • Chop the blue cheese into small pieces and scatter along the bottom of two individual baking dishes (or one larger dish).

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  • Spread the squash over the top.
  • Cube the black garlic cheese, and scatter over the squash.

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  • Bake for about 40 minutes, until the squash is cooked through and the cheese on top has melted.
  • Serve hot.

Of course, if you don’t have black garlic cheese (and don’t fancy making your own) you can enjoy the delicious combination of sweet butternut squash and salty cheese with any combination of cheeses you like.

Other winter squash / pumpkin ideas:

I’m also entering this post into the following blog challenges: Shaheen’s Vegetable Palette, Ren’s Simple and in Season, Hannah’s Credit Crunch Munch by Helen and Camilla), Emily’s Extra Veg (founded by Helen and Michelle), Nayna’s Let’s Cook for Halloween, Vohn’s No Waste Food Challenge (founded by Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary) and Sarah and Katie’s Speedy Suppers (though I’m bending the rules a touch on cooking time, the prep is so quick and easy, I hope they won’t mind).

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Extra-Veg-Badge-003 Lets cook for halloween logo no-waste-food-badge speedy-suppers

 

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Icelanders love their hot dogs! Who knew?

Well, anyone who’s spent any time in Iceland, that’s who; recommendations to seek out Icelandic pylsa abound and I’m adding one more to the pile!

An Icelandic pylsa is much like a hot dog anywhere in the world… with a few little touches that make it a little different. Firstly, if you order your hot dog með öllu (with everything) you’ll get crispy fried onions – usually the kind you can buy ready made from the supermarket – and finely diced crunchy raw onions, both spread along the roll underneath the frankfurter. You can skip the raw onions if you must by ordering með öllu nema hráum (with everything except raw) but why would you? On top you’ll get ketchup and mustard, as you might expect, plus another condiment you might not; remúlaði. Remoulade is a mayonnaise-based sauce most commonly served with fish but in Iceland (and Denmark too) it’s become a key hot dog condiment as well.

The most famous hot dog vendor in Iceland is probably Baejarins Beztu Pylsur, sold out of two mobile vans in Reykjavik. Their sausages are made by Sláturfélag Suðurlands, a food-producing cooperative owned by farmers from southern and western regions of Iceland. I’m curious as to why these are named vinarpylsa, which I think translates to ’friend sausages’. Anyone?

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I liked my Baejarins Beztu Pylsur hot dog a lot but personally I was just as happy with the hot dogs I ate elsewhere in Iceland at tourist sites and in petrol station restaurants. My favourite was the bacon-wrapped example from an Olis petrol station’s Grill 66 fast food restaurant.

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The remoulade served with hot dogs in Iceland is pale yellow but my recipe (below) is green as I’ve upped the quantity of parsley. I’ve also skipped the mustard since mustard is one of the other condiments to be squirted on anyway. By all means, adjust your remoulade recipe to better match the Icelandic style.

Icelandic Bacon-Wrapped Hot Dog

Ingredients per hot dog
1 frankfurter sausage
1 rasher of streaky bacon, smoked or unsmoked
1 hot dog bun
(Optional) 1-2 tablespoons finely diced raw white onion
1-2 tablespoons crispy fried onions
Squirt of ketchup
Squirt of sweet mustard
Squirt of remoulade sauce (see below)

  • Wrap a rasher of streaky bacon around each frankfurter. Fry gently in a pan until the bacon is cooked and has taken on a little colour.
  • Slice the hotdog bun from the top, without cutting all the way through.
  • Open the bun and add a layer of raw onion (if using) and a layer of crispy onion.
  • Top with the bacon-wrapped frankfurter.
  • Add ketchup, sweet mustard and remoulade over the top and serve immediately.
    Tip: I spooned some remoulade into a freezer bag and snipped off a tiny corner, in an attempt to make it easier to pipe, but I still made quite a mess. If you have an empty nozzled squeezy bottle, that would be perfect.

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Icelandic Remoulade Sauce

Makes a small jar, can be stored in the fridge for a couple of weeks.

Ingredients
120 ml mayo
2-3 tablespoons flat parsley leaves
2 medium spring onions
2 medium pickled gherkins
1 tablespoon pickled gherkin brine or cider vinegar
Optional: 1 tablespoon anchovy paste
Optional: 1 teaspoon mustard

  • Place all the ingredients in a food processor or a grinder that can handle wet ingredients.
  • Blend until smooth.

Of course, there’s more to Icelandic cuisine than hot dogs. I’ll be sharing more from our trip soon!

 

This ice cream is very much inspired by a recipe from The Bojon Gourmet, a blog I discovered via Pinterest. It caught my eye when I was looking for ideas on new ways to put some of our enormous apple harvest to good use. I replaced Alanna’s cream base with a rich and very sweet custard base and roasted my apples until the sugars not only caramelised, but the edges caught and blackened to add texture and a touch of bitterness. I didn’t include a crumble as it tends not to stay crisp for long and our ice creams usually last at least a few weeks in the freezer. That said, this one’s disappearing fast!

Serendipity struck when making the custard ice cream base: I decided to use up 75 grams of sugar mix leftover from a recent apple pie making session. The leftover sugar had a little cinnamon and plain flour mixed into it (for thickening the pie filling) and I topped it up with an additional 25 grams of plain sugar. I blended and cooked my custard using my wonderful Froothie Optimum 9400 power blender, and found that the inclusion of the flour resulted in a beautifully smooth and thick custard.

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Burnt Apple & Bourbon Ice Cream

Ingredients
For the roasted apple

2 medium apples, peeled, cored and diced
2 tablespoons bourbon whiskey
100 grams light brown sugar (I use Billington’s sugars)
0.5 teaspoon cinnamon
0.5 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of allspice
For the ice cream base
250 ml double cream
150 ml full fat milk
100 grams sugar
1 pinch salt
3 large egg yolks
0.5 teaspoon cinnamon
Optional: 1 tablespoon plain white flour
To make the ice cream
Custard
2 tablespoons bourbon
Roasted apple mixture

Method

For the roasted apple:

  • Preheat the oven to 200 °C.
  • Toss all the ingredients together to combine and transfer to a small roasting dish. Roast for about 45 minutes, checking on progress once or twice during the cooking time. If the apples are not yet caramelised, with a little charring on some edges, roast for longer until they’re ready.
  • Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. These can be made the day before churning the ice cream and stored in the fridge until needed.

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For the ice cream base:

  • I combined all the ingredients and used my power blender to both mix and cook the custard for several minutes. The speed of the powerful blades generates enough heat to cook the custard while continuing to mix it so that nothing catches. No burnt bits, no lumps and very quick.
  • Alternatively, you can make your custard the traditional way by gently heating cream, milk and half the sugar in a pan until it reaches boiling, then removing from the heat. Meanwhile beat the remaining sugar and egg yolks together in a large bowl. Slowly pour the hot cream and milk over the eggs, whisking continuously, and then pour the combined mixture back into the pan and cook until it thickens. Make sure you stir continuously so that the custard doesn’t catch and burn.
  • Once cooked, set aside to cool. The custard can be made the day before churning the ice cream and stored in the fridge until needed.

To make the ice cream:

  • Add two tablespoons of bourbon to the custard base and mix well.
  • Add the roasted apple mixture. Alanna puréed some of hers and adds the rest whole, but I decided to leave all of it whole. I added only three quarters of the mixture as I thought it would be too much but in retrospect I could certainly have all of it.
  • Churn in an ice cream machine until ready.

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With the fruit, bourbon and spices this ice cream is very reminiscent of mince pies and Christmas pudding.

The Smart Scoop: Sage by Heston Blumenthal

For the last couple of years I’ve been using a Gaggia ice cream machine. I’ve been happy enough with the results, but have sometimes wished it would churn the ice cream till it was just a little more solid. I have worked around this by transferring the finished ice cream to a freezer container and popping into the freezer to solidify further.

When I heard that the Sage by Heston Blumenthal range of appliances included an ice cream machine, called the Smart Scoop, I was intrigued by some of the extra features it offers over my Gaggia. It’s also a good looking machine with its handsome brushed stainless steel surface.

Instead of just having a timer function that switches off when the time is up, the Smart Scoop offers a range of settings from sorbet through frozen yogurt and gelato to ice cream. Once you’ve chosen the texture you’re aiming for the ice cream maker starts freezing and churning. It automatically senses how hard the mixture is so it can alert you when it’s ready. Alterrnatively, you can use manual mode to freeze and churn for a set time according to your own recipes.

There’s an alarm to alert me when the ice cream is ready. I can adjust the volume (or set it to mute) and I can choose between a regular beeper and an ice cream van-style musical tune.

The Smart Scoop also has a function to keep the finished ice cream (or sorbet) at your chosen consistency for up to three hours so I don’t need to come running the moment the alarm goes off.

With our Gaggia, I always have to stay close, especially as the machine comes to the end of it’s timer run. Sometimes the ice cream isn’t finished and I have to turn the dial again to give it more time. Sometimes the motor starts to strain as the ice cream becomes too solid for the machine to churn any further and the paddle stops rotating; then it’s a case of having to switch the machine off quickly and transfer the ice cream into another container to pop into the freezer. The Smart Scoop solves both of these problems.

Niggles?

I wish the Smart Scoop ice cream bowl was dishwasher safe; this seems to me to be an oversight for the modern kitchen.

And of course, like most ice cream machines with integrated freezing unit, it’s large and very heavy. This, of course, is the same for all the models that I’ve come across.

Overall?

I’m really happy with it and shall be sharing many more sorbet, froyo and ice cream recipes to come.

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Other ideas to make the most of apple season:

And if you’re interested in the history of apples, read my post about a Visit to the National Fruit Collections at Brogdale.

This ice cream is my entry into the September / October #BSFIC challenge, Anything Goes.

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Kavey Eats received a review machine from Sage by Heston Blumenthal and an Optimum 9400 blender from Froothie. All opinions are my own. Please see the right side bar for a special offer on buying the Froothie Optimum 9400 with an extended warranty via my affiliate link.

 

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You’d think, wouldn’t you that, for people who’ve grown their own fruit and veg for over 15 years, the thrill of harvesting home grown produce would not quite as shiny as it once was?

But you’d be wrong.

I still get excited every time Pete brings in a bowl of fresh raspberries or tomatoes from the back garden, I make him pose for pictures with many of the fruits and vegetables and I practically skip with delight when I harvest our crop myself. Pulling back the enormous leaves of a courgette or the smaller ones of strawberry plants to reach hidden fruits, gently twisting plums and apples to see if they are ripe enough to come away easily, braving scratches galore to pick juicy blackberries and gooseberries… and then grinning in wonderment at a bounty that is, quite literally, the fruits of our own labour!

When it comes to harvesting the first fruit or vegetable of a variety we’ve not grown before, I have a tendency to sing or squeal (both of which can be mistaken for each other, truth be told).

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I mean, just look at this beautiful winter squash. Doesn’t it make you joyous? It has a classic pumpkin shape and colour, but I’m not sure which variety it is… You can see that it’s actually still a little under ripe in the centre – we weren’t sure how to tell when it was ready and it could clearly have done with a little longer on the plant. But there was plenty of ripe orange flesh to enjoy.

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With all orange-fleshed winter squashes, I really like the way that roasting concentrates their sweetness. If you can’t find a fat round pumpkin, use butternut squash for this recipe, as it’s very similar in flavour.

I’m also a fan of simple salads with just a handful of ingredients and a simple dressing. The cooler weather we had in early September lead me towards a warm salad featuring giant couscous as the base. Chorizo for it’s wonderful warmth and smokiness and I love wilted baby spinach leaves for colour, texture and taste. The dressing is made using oil flavoured when frying the chorizo.

Chorizo, Squash & Spinach Giant Couscous Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients:
600 grams pumpkin aka winter squash (peeled weight) or butternut squash
2 tbs olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
150 grams giant couscous (dried weight; I used Sainsbury’s)
150 grams cooking chorizo, diced
2 tbs vegetable oil
600 grams winter squash (peeled weight)
2 tbs olive oil
100 grams baby spinach
For the dressing:
3 tbs chorizo oil (see Method)
3 tbs cider vinegar
1 tbs molasses (very dark) sugar
Optional: salt and pepper

Method

  • Preheat your oven to 180 °C (fan).
  • Peel and cube the pumpkin . Toss in the olive oil and a little salt and pepper. Roast for approximately half an hour, until soft all the way through. Exact time will depend on your pumpkin and how large you cut the pieces.
  • While the pumpkin is cooking, fry the chorizo in vegetable oil – chorizo doesn’t need oil to fry but we want to create excess chorizo-flavoured oil to use in the salad dressing. Once cooked, set the chorizo aside in a bowl and drain the oil into a separate bowl or jam jar.
  • While the pumpkin is cooking, cook the giant couscous according to the packet instructions. Once it’s ready, drain and set aside.
  • Make the salad dressing by combining 3 tablespoons of drained chorizo oil, the same of cider vinegar and a tablespoon of dark sugar. Shake or whisk to combine, taste and adjust balance as you prefer. Add salt and pepper if desired.
  • Once the squash is ready, remove from the oven and while still hot, stir the spinach leaves through, to wilt them.
  • Combine with the couscous, chorizo and dressing.
  • Serve warm.

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Kavey Eats received giant couscous product samples from Sainsbury’s.

 

It’s funny what can upset you, isn’t it? Funny odd not funny ha ha.

The attachments we form to inanimate – and frankly insignificant – objects can verge on the ridiculous.

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Like many kids, my sister and I helped mum in the kitchen and developed a love of food and cooking from an early age. Mostly, we cooked from mum’s collection of cookery books but when I was 12, my interest was re-galvanised by cookery lessons at school and I decided I wanted to learn more about baking. I bought my very first cookery book, one of the Marks & Spencer’s St Michael series; Good Home Baking by Mary Cadogan was newly published in 1983 and I loved cooking from it. I have strong and quite distinct memories of making the individually shaped Vienna bread rolls and some of the biscuit recipes many times, as I strove to improve my skills.

Fast forward a few years and I left for university, but failed to take the book with me. When I next came home and tried to find it I discovered, to my enormous upset, that mum had given it away! Had it been any of the other books we cooked from, it wouldn’t have been a big deal but this was my book, my first cookery book and I wanted it back! It was one I had learned and loved cooking from and I felt its loss far more keenly than my rather chagrined mum had anticipated. Of course, she offered to buy me another copy but it was no longer readily available and eventually I stopped sulking and let it go.

But actually, several times in the years since then, I’ve found myself thinking about that one cookery book and wistfully wishing I still had it. It’s not that I feel I need those recipes to make bread rolls or biscuits. Maybe it’s just nostalgia? For years, I’ve browsed charity shop shelves in the hope of spotting it. Others in the St Michael series have popped up now and then and I’ve bought all kinds of other fabulous finds. But I never spotted my book.

Of course, there’s one thing we have at our fingertips now that we didn’t have back when mum gave my precious book away: the internet! A couple of weeks ago, I suddenly decided to try and track down the book on the web. To my delight, it took all of ten minutes to find several second-hand copies on sale via Amazon Marketplace and a few days later my “used very good” copy arrived.

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As soon as I started flicking through the pages, I recognised many of the photographs.

But what to make first? Should it be Coffee Kisses or Glazed Nut Loaf or Tea Brack or Sticky Gingerbread, all of which I remember making?

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In the end, the decision was easy. I cast my eye over the box of product samples waiting to be reviewed and settled quickly on a selection of Nutural World Nut Butters. Made by the delightfully named Mordechai Chachamu (I genuinely think his might be the single most charming name I’ve ever encountered), these nut and seed butters are 100% natural with just one ingredient each. Mordechai gently roasts the nuts and seeds to bring out their flavour, then processes them to smooth or crunchy. The regular jars hold 170 grams and range in price from just £1.98 for the Sunflower Butter to £5.60 for the Macadamia Nut Butter. Also in the range are Cashew Nut, Pumpkin Seed, Hazelnut, Brazil Nut, White and Brown Almond, Pecan and Pistachio.

You can buy these from the Nutural World website, at Broadway and Camden markets and on eBay and I urge you to give them a try. They’re absolutely delicious and a wonderful alternative to their better known cousin, peanut butter.

Which is why I chose a classic peanut butter recipe from Good Home Baking to put some of Nutural World’s nut butters to the test – Peanut Biscuits.

Because I wanted to try three different variations, we first mixed up the biscuit dough without any nut butter, divided it into three and then added a different nut butter to each portion. Of course, you can make a single batch and add whichever nut butter you choose to your mix.

As we’re not fans of margarine, we also switched margarine to butter and we adapted the method to use our food processor. Of course, you can mix by hand.

These biscuits are what I’d call old fashioned in style – they’re crunchy and crumbly rather than soft and chewy and the flavours are subtle rather than smack-in-the-face. They’re perfect with a big mug of tea.

Old Fashioned Nut Butter Biscuits

Adapted from Mary Cadogan’s Peanut Biscuits
Makes about 24 biscuits

Ingredients
275 grams plain flour
0.5 teaspoon baking powder
0.5 teaspoon salt
0.5 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
100 grams butter
225 grams soft light brown sugar
100 grams crunchy nut butter of your choice
2 eggs

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 180 °C (fan).
  • Process flour, baking powder, salt, bicarbonate of soda and butter in a food processor until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  • Add the sugar and eggs. If using a single nut butter, add this in too.
  • Process until the mixture comes together as soft sticky dough, with the ingredients thoroughly combined.

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Our dough divided into three portions; adding Nutural World Macadamia Nut, Cashew and Brazil Nut butters

  • If making a variety of nut butter biscuits, scrape the dough out of the processor, divide into portions, add nut butter and beat in thoroughly using a fork or spoon.

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  • On a baking tray lined with either a silicon mat or baking paper, spoon out dollops of biscuit dough and use a fork to pat each dollop down and create criss-cross lines on the surface.
  • Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown.

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  • Leave to cool on the baking tray for a couple of minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Kavey Eats received nut butter samples from Nutural World.

 

We’ve been growing a variety of cucumbers called Lemon this year – so named not because of their flavour but their size, shape and colour.

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The skins on ours have been tougher than we expected, so we’ve peeled them before adding them to salads.

This one was combined with very thinly sliced red onion, chopped sugar snap peas, some home grown lettuce and a few cherry tomatoes and tossed in my default jam jar salad dressing.

Jam Jar Salad Dressing

Ingredients
1 teaspoon French mustard
2 teaspoons honey
3-4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
3-4 teaspoons olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

This dressing can easily be varied to ring the changes. Substitute soy sauce for mustard. Switch cider vinegar for the balsamic. Use rapeseed oil instead of olive, or even sesame oil for an Asian flavour. Instead of honey try maple syrup or muscovado sugar.

Method

  • Measure ingredients to a small jam jar.
  • Seal and shake hard until well combined.
  • Taste, add more mustard, vinegar, honey or seasoning if required and shake again.
  • Pour dressing over salad, toss and serve immediately.
 

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.

 

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.

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