A few days ago I shared my review of Grow Your Own Cake, published by Frances Lincoln. Click through to read more and to enter my giveaway to win your own copy of the book.

This intriguing cookbook features 46 recipes for savoury and sweet cakes and bakes featuring vegetables and fruits you can grow yourself. The author Holly Farrell, an experienced gardening writer, shares invaluable tips on how to grow and harvest each crop, before putting it to use in the recipe provided. Photography is by Jason Ingram, who illustrates both gardening tips and recipes throughout the book.

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Book jacket; sweet potato image by Jason Ingram

Pete and I have thus far made two recipes from the book, an Upside-down Pear Cake and this Sweet Potato and Marshmallow Cake, published below with permission from Frances Lincoln. I love the idea of taking a combination associated with American Thanksgiving menus and turning it into a cake.

We weren’t sure what to expect from this cake – in taste, in texture, in appearance. To our surprise the crumb is actually fairly light and not overly sweet, in fact it’s a lovely gently flavoured sponge which would work very well on it’s own, without the ganache filling or marshmallow fluff topping. We over-baked by just a few minutes, which gave the outside a slightly darker colour, but it didn’t affect the taste at all.

I am not sure adding mini marshmallows into the batter serves much purpose – as the cake cooks they seem to melt away leaving odd pockets in the sponge, lined with a crunchy sugar glaze – so I might skip those next time. The sweet potato cake is the real winner in this recipe, and you could lose the marshmallow elements if you wanted to and serve it as a simple unadorned sponge.

Sweet Potato and Marshmallow Cake on Kavey Eats (2)

Sweet Potato & Marshmallow Cake

If sweet potato & marshmallow casserole, the traditional Thanksgiving dish, is too sweet for your turkey dinner, use this great pairing in cake form instead. It is perfect after a long winter’s walk.

Makes a two-layer cake

Ingredients

Mashed sweet potatoes
800–900g/1lb 12oz–2lb sweet potatoes

Cake
400g/14oz plain flour
11⁄2 tbsp baking powder
3⁄4 tsp salt
1⁄4 tsp black pepper
1⁄2 nutmeg, finely grated, or 1⁄2 tsp ground nutmeg
165g/51⁄2oz unsalted butter
250g/8oz light muscovado sugar
4 eggs
450g/1lb mashed sweet potatoes
90g/3oz mini-marshmallows

Ganache
45ml/11⁄2fl oz double cream
100g/3oz white chocolate

Decoration
1⁄2 jar of marshmallow fluff (about 100g/31⁄2oz)
100g/31⁄2oz marshmallows

Equipment
2 × deep, round cake tins, 20cm/8in diameter, greased and base-lined

Method

  • For the mashed sweet potatoes, preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Roast the sweet potatoes for around 45 minutes until they are soft. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely, then pop them out of their skins. Mash well (use a potato ricer if you have one).
  • For the cake, preheat the oven to 170°C/325°F/gas mark 3.

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  • Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, pepper and nutmeg in a bowl and mix well; leave to one side. Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well to incorporate after each egg. Mix in the mashed sweet potato, then the flour and spice mix. Quickly stir in the mini-marshmallows and divide the cake mixture between the two tins. Make sure that all the marshmallows on the surface are coated with mixture to prevent them burning. Bake for 50–60 minutes. To check if it is ready insert a skewer into the cake; if it comes out clean the cake is cooked. Remove from the oven and leave for 10 minutes in the tins, then turn out on to a wire rack to cool completely.

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  • For the ganache, heat the cream in a small saucepan over a medium heat until just under boiling point. Pour over the chocolate and stir until it has melted and is smooth. Leave to cool until the mixture is thick enough to spread without running.

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  • To assemble, sandwich the two cake layers together with the ganache, spread marshmallow fluff on the top and sprinkle with whole marshmallows.

Sweet Potato and Marshmallow Cake on Kavey Eats (1)

Kavey Eats received a review copy of Grow Your Own Cake from Frances Lincoln, part of Quarto Publishing Group UK. Grow Your Own Cake by Holly Farrell, photographs by Jason Ingram is currently available from Amazon for £14.88 (RRP £16.99).

 

The premise of using vegetables in cakes is nothing new – carrot cake has been a well known favourite as long as I can remember, chocolate and beetroot cakes and brownies have gained popularity in the last decade and more recently courgette cakes are stretching peoples’ definitions of what a cake can be made with.

For me, it goes much further than that, as I’ve long been a huge fan of fellow blogger Kate Hackworthy who writes the much-loved and respected blog Veggie Desserts. As the blog name and tagline suggest, the recipes Kate develops and shares are all about using vegetables in ‘cakes, bakes, breakfasts and meals’ and Kate has won much recognition for the innovation of her recipes, and the stunning photographs with which she illustrates them. You’ll find everything from cookies featuring romanesco cauliflower, cupcakes featuring cucumber, peas or spinach, and cakes full of celeriac, kale and swede! So when I first heard about a cookery book focusing on vegetable- and fruit-based cakes I was already primed for these kind of recipes!

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However, publisher Frances Lincoln have taken a different slant for this new title and teamed up with established gardening author Holly Farrell (who has written multiple books on kitchen gardening and contributed to a range of gardening magazines) and Jason Ingram (a garden and food photographer). Holly is also a keen baker, and in Grow Your Own Cake, she treats the garden as a larder for her baking, providing not only recipes but advice on how to grow the main crop featured in each one.

The recipes range from savoury to sweet, using both fruit and vegetables from the plot, with detailed and well-illustrated guidance for the novice gardener looking to grow some of their own produce in their garden or allotment.

There are fifty recipes in the book; some are already classics, such as the carrot cake and beetroot brownies I mention above. Others such as fennel cake and pea cheesecake are more unusual. Recipes are organised somewhat seasonally, with the first chapter covering spring and summer cakes and the second autumn and winter ones. Next come afternoon tea ideas, puddings and savoury bakes.

Many of the recipes are appealing and I’m waiting eagerly for the main ingredients to come into season in our allotment, rather than buying from the supermarket out of season. I’d like to try the rose cake (featuring home made rose water), the parsnip winter cake (ours didn’t survive the slugs so none for us this winter) and the tomato cupcakes, to name a few.

Photography is lovely – pretty and practical without being overly fussy in the styling, a little old school but comfortingly so. My only complaint on this front is that while there are plenty of photographs of the gardening element of the book, there aren’t as many food images as I’d like to see – it’s frustrating not to have a picture of the finished dish for many of the recipes, especially when they are unfamiliar – what kind of colour do the tomato cupcakes have, for example and how should the icing for the sweet potato and marshmallow cake look? A few more images on the food side would be a huge help.

Thus far, Pete and I have made two recipes from the book, the Upside-down Pear Cake and the Sweet Potato and Marshmallow Cake; both have worked well, though the lack of photographs has made it feel a little more of a shot in the dark, even with Holly’s fairly clear instructions. Most importantly, both were delicious, and I’d happily make and eat both again.

I have permission to share the Sweet Potato and Marshmallow Cake recipe with you, so keep your eyes peeled for that in an upcoming post.

Sweet Potato and Marshmallow Cake on Kavey Eats (1)

In the meantime, here’s an opportunity for you to win your own copy of this lovely book:

GIVEAWAY

Frances Lincoln are offering two copies of Grow Your Own Cake for a Kavey Eats reader giveaway. Each prize includes delivery to UK addresses.

HOW TO ENTER

You can enter the giveaway in 2 ways – entering both ways increases your chances of winning:

Entry 1 – Blog Comment
What kind of fruit or vegetable have your tried in cakes and what did you think?

Entry 2 – Twitter
Follow both @Kavey on Twitter. Existing followers are, of course, welcome to enter! Then tweet the exact sentence (shown in italics) below.
I’d love to win Grow Your Own Cake published by @Frances_Lincoln from Kavey Eats! http://bit.ly/KaveyEatsGYOC #KaveyEatsGYOC
(Do not add my twitter handle or any other twitter handle to the beginning of the tweet or your entry will be considered invalid.
Please don’t leave a blog comment about your tweet either; I track twitter entries using the competition hash tag.)

RULES, TERMS & CONDITIONS

  • The deadline for entries is midnight GMT Friday 6th May 2016.
  • The two winners will be selected from all valid entries using a random number generator.
  • 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 Grow Your Own Cake by Holly Farrell and Jason Ingram, published by Frances Lincoln. Delivery to UK addresses is included.
  • The prizes are offered by Frances Lincoln and cannot be redeemed for a cash value.
  • One blog entry per person only. One Twitter entry per person only. You may enter both ways but you do not have to do so for each individual entry to be valid.
  • For Twitter entries, entrants must be following @Kavey at the time of notification.
  • Blog comment entries must provide a valid email address for contact.
  • The winners will be notified by email or Twitter so please make sure you check relevant accounts for the notification message.
  • If no response is received from a winner within 10 days of notification, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be picked and contacted.

Kavey Eats received a review copy of Grow Your Own Cake from Frances Lincoln, part of Quarto Publishing Group UK.
Grow Your Own Cake by Holly Farrell, photographs by Jason Ingram is currently available from Amazon for £14.88 (RRP £16.99).

 

Do you know Niagara-on-the-Lake?

No? Well you can probably guess a couple of things about it at least – that it’s near Niagara Falls, and that it’s on the shores of a lake! That’s all I knew too, but last autumn I visited for myself, and discovered a lot more.

What I came away with, as well as an appreciation of the warmth of the local population and the beauty of the landscape, was some serious envy about the quality and variety of fresh produce grown here. Readily available directly from the farm, at farmers markets and in local stores, it’s put to fantastic use by local producers, restaurateurs and home chefs.

Inn the Pines Farmgate Shop

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Very much a farming community, many of the farms have a farmgate shop – exactly what it sounds like, a shop or stall from which farmers sell direct to their customers just yards from where the produce is grown.

We stopped at Inn the Pines in St. Catharines to admire their produce, watch happily squawking chickens enjoy freshly harvested corn on the cob, and chat to owners Cheryl and Barney Barnes – that’s Barney posing on the back of his pickup and feeding the chooks. As we learned a little about some of the produce they grow and sell to both restaurateurs and home cooks, an elderly couple arrived to buy corn by the barrow-load, deftly peeling away the husks which will no doubt be thrown onto a nearby compost heap and bemused by my request to take a photo.

There’s something rather special about buying produce direct from the farmers; one of the things I can’t help but envy, as a London-based city slicker.

Whitty Farms & 13th Street Bakery

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Whitty Farms is another local farm just outside  St. Catharines, and like Inn the Pines, has been handed down through the generations. Today, it’s the turn of Doug and Karen Whitty, and just like Inn the Pines, customers can buy direct from the farm.

But there’s another treat not to be missed alongside all the fresh produce and that’s the output of 13th Street Bakery. Their butter tart may be a contender for best in Niagara, if not all of Ontario or indeed the entirety of Canada; if anyone is looking for someone to do a more comprehensive survey, point me at the application form right now!

Butter Tarts are a much-loved treat across Canada and there’s hot debate on just what a good butter tart should (and shouldn’t) be. A basic butter tart has a filling of butter, sugar, syrup and egg baked in a flaky pastry casing, often with the addition of Canadian maple syrup. Purists eschew the addition of pecan nuts or raisins, let alone anything more exotic . It’s less clear cut whether ‘traditional’ allows for a firmer or softer filling but the ongoing argument is a good excuse to taste as many examples as possible.

The Whittys, with their friends John and June Mann also set up 13th Street Winery at the same site, more of which in an upcoming post.

Upper Canada Cheese Company

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Another favourite stop for me as a cheese addict, Upper Canada Cheese Company in Jordan Station is a small local creamery producing a range of cheeses from the milk of local Guernsey cows and goats.

We tried a selection including Niagara Gold, a semi-firm washed-rind based on traditional Loire Valley cheeses, Comfort Cream, a camembert-style soft bloomed rind cheese which is best when super ripe, the maple-smoked version of Jordan Station, another semi-firm cheese and Nanny Noir, a goats milk camembert-style cheese rolled in vegetable ash and allowed to ripen for four weeks. We also tried an experimental new blue cheese – great flavour but some more work needed on the texture.

This is everything you want of a cheese shop – great cheeses and very helpful staff happy to give tasters and help every customer find just the cheese (or cheeses) they need.

White Meadows Farms Maple Shop

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Maple syrup is produced across quite a swathe of Canada and I had already tasted and purchased a lot of it during the few days I spent in Montreal and Quebec, before heading down to Niagara. (So much, in fact, that my case was overweight and I had to post a box of goodies home to myself, thus instantly rendering my bargainous purchases into some of the most expensive maple syrup ever!)

But I was still keen as maple-mustard to visit White Meadows Farms and sample their four grades of maple syrup, and to taste their range of maple syrup products – sauces and mustards, vinegars and salad dressings,  maple sugar and maple butter (maple syrup boiled until it’s dry and whipped into a spreadable form, respectively), fruit and maple jams, and of course, traditional maple candies.

Maple syrup, made from sap collected from maple trees, is graded by colour into Light, Medium, Amber and Dark. Canadian maple syrup must be 100% maple sap, and the finished product must have a sugar level of 66%, achieved by boiling natural sap to evaporate the water content which thickens the consistency and concentrates the sugars. The boiled syrup is then filtered before being packaged for sale. The colour is governed by the sap, with early season sap usually producing the lightest finished syrup. Dark is harder to find, as it’s produced right at the end of the season when the sap is at its richest and the strong flavour is not to everyone’s taste.

Dark proved to my favourite, and I bought a few bottles to bring home.

Welland Farmers’ Market

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Wellands Farmers’ Market is not as huge as the amazing markets I visited in Montreal and Quebec but it’s the perfect place to buy local produce, and there’s a great selection. However, I was focused on just one main ingredient, after our hosts chefs Anna and Michael Olson set us a cooking challenge! More on that cooking experience in an upcoming post…

The best thing about the market, aside from the top quality produce itself, were the very friendly stall holders, keen to tell us about their goods and to welcome us to their town.

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The market consists of two main buildings dating from 1919, and some outdoor marquees as well. Alongside fruits and vegetables you can find fresh meat and eggs, charcuterie, local honeys, fresh baked goods, cheese, chocolates, flowers and wine.

Kavey Eats visited Ontario as a guest of Destinations Canada. With additional thanks to Anna and Michael Olson for being our hosts, and Diane Helinski for being our tour manager and guide.

 

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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.

 

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.

 

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!)

 

As a late comer to making frittata my enthusiasm for this simple dish is as yet unabated. Its versatility is particularly welcome in this hot and muggy weather – it can serve as breakfast, lunch, dinner or an anytime-snack and is just as good hot or cold. And of course, the variations are endless, making it easy to use different seasonal combinations throughout the year.

Facing the annual courgette glut (a bounty I wholeheartedly welcome), a frittata leapt immediately to mind when thinking of how best to enjoy our harvest.

I love the combination of courgette and mint, and knew a tangy creamy goat’s cheese would balance the sweetness of courgette.

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Courgette, Goat’s Cheese & Mint Frittata

Serves 4-6

Ingredients
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, for cooking
500 grams courgette, washed and diced into approximately 1 cm cubes
Salt and pepper
Handful mint leaves, washed and finely chopped
6 large eggs, beaten and seasoned with salt and pepper
150 grams of soft goat’s cheese, chopped into small pieces

Method

  • Heat the vegetable oil in large frying pan or sauté pan that is suitable for use on stovetop and under the grill.
  • Add courgettes, seasoning with a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper and the mint leaves.
  • Cook for several minutes until the courgette is cooked all the way through.
  • Switch on your grill to preheat, on a high setting.
  • Pour the beaten egg into the pan and about a third of the goat’s cheese, mix gently and allow to cook for a couple of minutes.
  • Use a spatula to pull the egg in a little from the edges of the pan and cook for another couple of minutes.
  • To check whether the base has set, shake the pan to check whether the frittata is starting to come loose; if it hasn’t, give it another minute or two on the hob.
  • Spread the remaining goat’s cheese across the top of the egg and courgette mix.
  • Transfer the pan to the grill and cook for a few minutes, until the egg has set and the goat’s cheese has taken on some colour.
  • Remove from the grill and give the pan another shake. The frittata should now be loose on the bottom of the pan; if it’s not quite loose, use a spatula to help free it.
  • Place a large plate over the pan and flip to turn the frittata out. I like the goat’s cheese to show on top, so use a second plate to turn it the right way up again.
  • The frittata can be enjoyed piping hot, warm or cold from the fridge. Slice into wedges to serve.

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Here are more great frittata ideas:

What are your favourite ingredients to add into a frittata?

 

Traditionally, the key ingredients in the Japanese dish shira-ae are white – white tofu, white miso and white sesame seeds; shiro means white in Japanese and the ae suffix denotes a vegetable dish with dressing. What’s unusual from my European perspective is the low amount of liquid ingredients in the dressing; the silken tofu provides both additional moisture and the body of the sauce.

This can be also used with other greens such as spinach or seaweed, or your own selection of vegetables.

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Here’s the recipe. To learn more about the ingredients, keep reading.

Saya Ingen Shira-ae | Green Beans with a Tofu, Miso & Sesame Dressing

Serves 2-3 as a side dish

Ingredients
300 grams green beans (French beans)
100 grams silken tofu (pressed tofu is not suitable for this recipe)
50 grams lightly toasted white sesame seeds
2 teaspoons miso paste *
2 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons mirin (rice wine)

* Shira-ae traditionally uses white miso paste, the mildest and sweetest miso. I prefer the saltier and more pungent flavour of red miso, so it’s the type I most commonly have in the fridge. Red miso gives my shira-ae dressing a darker colour than it would have if I used white miso.

Note: I have used Clearspring organic tofu, a long life firm silken tofu made with organic soy beans, spring water from Mount Fuji and nigari, a naturally occurring mineral rich coagulant derived from sea water. See below for my tofu lowdown.

Method

  • Prepare and cook the green beans as you like them. My preference is that they have a little crunch left in them.
  • Once cooked, drain and tip into a bowl of cold water to stop them cooking further.
  • In the meantime, grind the sesame seeds using a mortar and pestle, food processor or spice grinder.

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  • Mix the ground sesame seeds with the miso paste, sugar, mirin and tofu. Silken tofu is so soft and moist it will easily break up and combine with the other ingredients.

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  • Drain the beans well and mix with the dressing.

Tofu, Miso and Sesame Seeds

Tofu

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Tofu is made by coagulating soy milk (itself made by soaking, grinding and heating soy beans and water) and straining the resulting curd. Originating in China about 2000 years ago, the technique spread to Korea and then Japan in the 8th century, coinciding with the spread of Buddhism – tofu is an important source of protein in a Buddhist vegetarian diet.

Incidentally, if you ever wondered about the English-language name, it’s taken directly from the Japanese, which is itself taken from the Chinese dòufu. Dòufu translates as “bean” “curdled”, giving us the name that is more prevalent in the United States – bean curd.

The variety of tofu available in East Asia is amazing!

Broadly speaking, tofu products divide into fresh and processed.

Fresh tofu comes in many different textures, the result of a range of different coagulants used to make it as well as differing production techniques.

Silken tofu is the softest kind and, because it’s not curdled, strained or pressed after coagulation, it has a really high moisture content. You can find both soft and firm silken tofu, but both are far softer and wetter than pressed tofu.

Firm tofu does retain a fair amount of moisture, but not as much as silken tofu. Its surface often retains the pattern of the muslin or mould used to strain and press it. The firmest tofu is pressed rigorously and has an almost rubbery texture, a little like paneer or halloumi.

There are also a number of processed tofu products included fermented, pickled and dried tofu. These include stinky tofu, which smells much like a very ripe soft European cheese. Just like cheese, it tastes far better than it smells!

Dried tofu is very light, does not need to be refrigerated and is usually rehydrated before use. There are many shapes and textures available.

Another type is frozen tofu. Large ice crystals, which form on freezing, leave cavities when the tofu is defrosted, creating a spongy texture. This type of tofu is often sold cubed and freeze dried.

Tofu can also be deep fried, usually after being cut into cubes or triangles, or into thinner pieces to create pouches for inari-zushi. Obviously, the firmer and drier types of tofu are better for frying.

These days, tofu is readily available in the UK, though you won’t find the sheer variety available in Asia!

It is often associated in the West with a vegetarian or vegan diet, with detractors dismissing it as bland and unappetising. Personally, I love the stuff. Yes, the flavour is subtle but it’s a very versatile ingredient. It’s also very healthy as it’s high in protein but relatively low in calories and fat. Depending on the coagulating agent used, it can also be high in calcium and magnesium.

Miso

Miso is made by fermenting soybeans, and sometimes additional grains such as rice or barley, with a fungus known in Japanese as kōjikin. The resulting paste is used as a seasoning throughout Japanese cooking. There are many, many different varieties available in Japan, often broadly divided by their colour. White is the mildest and sweetest. Red, aged for longer, is stronger and saltier and darkens with age through red into brown.

Sesame seeds

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Sesame seed is oldest known oilseed crop, with archeological evidence suggesting it was already being cultivated 5500 years ago. Sesame seeds have a very high oil content and the oil itself is very stable with a long shelf life, making it easy to store in hot climates. Once the oil has been extracted from the seeds, the protein-rich remaining meal can be used as animal feed.

Most wild species are native to sub-Saharan Africa, where the genus originated, but the cultivated type, Sesame Indicum, originated in India. A hardy, drought-tolerant crop, sesame is now grown in tropical regions around the world with Burma, India and China the biggest producers (in 2010).

Of course, the seeds are popular in seed form too; they feature in many cuisines around the world, far too many dishes to list here.

Pale straw-coloured “white” seeds are the most common, but black varieties can be very striking, especially when combined with the white. I loved the jin doy spheres I enjoyed at A Wong a few months ago.

I love this tidbit from Wiki’s page on sesame seeds: “Upon ripening, sesame fruit capsules split, releasing the seeds with a pop. It has been suggested that this is root of the phrase “Open Sesame” in the historic fable of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves in One Thousand and One Nights. The opening of the capsule releases the treasure of sesame seeds.”

Suribachi & Surikogi

One of my favourite purchases from our last visit to Japan was a beautiful suribachi (grinding bowl) and surikogi (wooden grinder). This very Japanese mortar and pestle is perfect for grinding sesame seeds, which are quickly pulverised against the ridged inner surface of the bowl.

Did you know that Iwo Jima’s Mount Suribachi was named for this humble kitchen tool?

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This dish is such a quick and easy one to make and is both healthy and utterly delicious. I hope you enjoy it and do please leave me a comment to let me know what you think!

Kavey Eats received product samples courtesy of Clearspring.

 

Given how much I enjoy coleslaw – it’s a must-have accompaniment to breaded chicken fillets, deep fried chicken and chicken burgers – it’s a little surprising to me that I’d never made my own; It’s not exactly complicated to shred some raw vegetables and toss in a home-made dressing, after all.

I was finally prompted to do so by my desire to road test two food slicer appliances I was sent for review.

But I couldn’t decide which recipe to use for the dressing. I found many recipes for mayonnaise sweetened with a little sugar or tarted up with horseradish or mustard. I found yoghurt-based recipes and recipes for buttermilk with maple syrup. I found recipes for dairy-free vinaigrette versions. I even found a recipe for a flour-based roux “mayonnaise” that looked like no mayonnaise I’ve ever heard of!

But when I asked friends for tried and tested suggestions, one recommendation immediately stood out:

My friend Jaxie told me about  her partner’s condensed milk and vinegar dressing, assuring me that although it “sounds insane”, actually, “it’s bloody delicious”. As I love condensed milk in coffee, there’s always some in our house, so I just had to give this unusual coleslaw dressing a try.

She advised that TS adds mustard powder for extra flavour, but I had a eureka moment and decided to use some wonderfully smoky sweet paprika I bought from a Spanish market in London last May. I chose cider vinegar to pair with the condensed milk as I love the gentle fruitiness it provides.

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All I can say is “Wow” – this was definitely a winner!

The tart vinegar balances out the intensely sweet condensed milk. The smoky paprika gives a fabulously earthy flavour that brings to mind the smoky aromas of a summer barbecue.

For me, an equal amount of cider vinegar and condensed milk created just the right balance, but you can adjust the ratio to create a sweeter or sharper dressing if you prefer.

Although I’ve provided approximate amounts for the salad vegetables, I suggest you grate as much or little coleslaw as you like, mix up a batch of dressing and mix it in a little at a time until you have a ratio of salad to dressing that works best for you.

You can always mix up another batch of dressing if you need more.

Smoky Paprika Coleslaw | An Unusual But Winning Recipe

Ingredients
For the salad

100-150 grams (about a quarter of a small) white cabbage
100-150 grams (about a quarter of a small) red cabbage
100-150 grams (about 1 medium) carrot
For the dressing
3 tablespoons condensed milk
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
Half teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
Salt and pepper, to taste

Note: The salad ingredients are, to my mind, the three core choices for a traditional coleslaw. You might also like to add red or white onion or sliced spring onion greens.
Note: Make sure you use sweet smoked paprika rather than the hot kind. The smokiness is key to the flavour of this dressing and sweet paprika gives a pleasing but mild kick.

Method

  • Combine the dressing ingredients and mix well. Add a little more vinegar or condensed milk if you would like the dressing to be a touch tarter or sweeter. Taste, adjust seasoning and set aside.

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  • Remove any damaged or tough outer cabbage leaves. Wash your vegetables. Top, tail and peel the carrot.
  • Grate your vegetables using a food processor or finely shred by hand. Mix together in a large bowl.

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  • Add the dressing to the salad and combine thoroughly. If you prefer lightly dressed coleslaw, you can add the dressing in batches, mix well and add more as required.

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  • Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 2 days.

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I absolutely love the simple combination of condensed milk and cider vinegar, and will definitely make this again, not just for coleslaw but as a general salad dressing.

The addition of a generous amount of smoky sweet paprika provided a very distinctive flavour for my coleslaw but you could stick to TS’s original suggestion of mustard powder or try other spices and herbs, to ring the changes.

 

I’m entering this recipe into Helen and Michelle’s Extra Veg Blog Challenge.

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Coming soon… a side-by-side review of the two food slicers pictured.

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