Monday, 31 October 2011

Pumpkin Pie

Every year without fail I carve a grinning face into a pumpkin, but often, a couple of days after the trick or treaters have cleaned us out of sweets and chocolates the pumpkin just ends up in the compost bin. It is shame to let the flesh go to waste though because it can be made into soup, roasted or chopped up and put into a risotto, this year however I wanted to try my hand at a dessert, pumpkin pie.
I have tasted pumpkin pie before at Thanksgiving but I was keen to try making it myself with fresh pumpkin. I had a look at a few recipes online and picked the bits I liked the sound of from each. I think the result was delicious (even if I do say so myself!), it was rich and custardy but not too sweet because I used fresh pumpkin instead of puree and cream rather than evaporated milk.

Sweet short crust pastry (175g plain white flour, generous pinch of salt, 15g caster sugar, 110g cold unsalted butter cubed and about 2 tbsp cold water)
450g prepared weight pumpkin flesh cut into 1 inch chunks (I bought a very small pumpkin which weighed almost twice this, however once I had peeled and de-seeded it, it was about the right quantity)
2 eggs plus 1 extra egg yolk
75g soft dark brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Lots of freshly grated nutmeg (about 1/2 tsp)
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
275ml double cream

To make the pastry from scratch, sieve the flour into a large bowl, add the salt and sugar and mix. Add the cubes of cold butter and rub with your fingers to combine the fat and flour. Once there are no lumps of butter left and the mixture looks like bread crumbs add a dribble of cold water so that the crumbs will pack together to form a ball of dough. You can also add crushed pecans at this stage if you fancy. Wrap the pastry in lightly floured cling film and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, this relaxed the gluten in the flour and should stop it cracking when you roll it.
Grease a 23cm (9 inch) diameter tart dish with butter. Roll the chilled pastry out on a floured surface, keep rolling until the pastry is big enough to line the dish. Lift the edge of the pastry, slide the rolling pin underneath and use it to pick up the disc of pastry and transfer it to the dish. Make sure the dough is pushed into the corners of the dish and trim the excess pastry with a knife. Cover with cling film and put back in the fridge for another 30 minutes.

The method I used to cook the chunks of pumpkin flesh was steaming but you could roast it if you preferred. I put the pumpkin in the steamer just for a few minutes until it was soft and then pureed the pieces in a blender.
Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
While the pumpkin is steaming and the pastry case chilling, whisk the eggs and extra yolk together in a large bowl. Put the sugar, spices and cream in a pan, bring it to simmering point and mix everything together throughly. Pour the creamy mixture onto the eggs, whisking again. Then mix in the pumpkin puree.
Pour the finished mixture into the pastry lined dish and bake in the oven at 180C for about 40 minutes. The filling should have puffed up a little round the edges but still feel wobbly in the centre.
Allow to cool on a wire rack and serve with creme fraiche or as I chose, double creamed whipped, with a trickle of ginger syrup.
Best enjoyed on a chilly autumn evening, following a roast cooked by Ceri and whilst watching Downton Abbey.

Happy Halloween
Rachael x

p.s. don't chuck away the pumpkin seeds, if you roast them in the oven with a sprinkling of salt they taste amazing, better than popcorn!

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Wiltshire Lardy Cake

Wiltshire Lardy Cake by Charlotte

Lardy cake - a reminder of buying cakes on Saturday with my dad from a bakery in Gloucester, Jane's Pantry, a place that all Gloucester folk know well. What joy when I opened my favourite book, British Regional Food by Mark Hix, to find a recipe for Wiltshire lardy cake.

This recipe will not disappoint; it is gooey, fruity, doughy and sweet - great with a coffee on Sunday morning. It will definitely make you want to visit your local bakery too, which is always a good thing. And, if you cook and bake regularly, you may find you have most of the ingredients already...

200g lard, softened
50g butter, softened
200g mixed dried fruit (I used up old currants and a few tunisian sultanas that were festering in the back of the cupboard!)
75g mixed candied peel (I used some candied ginger and glacier cherries)
200g granulated sugar

for the dough:
650g strong white bread flour
2 tsp salt
1 tsp caster sugar
7g sachet yeast
400ml warm water

First make the bread dough: in a warm bowl mix the flour, salt, sugar and yeast. Add the warm water and mix to a soft dough. Knead by stretching and folding the dough for about 10 mins on a lightly floured surface.

Then mix the lard, butter, fruit, peel and granulated sugar together.

On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough to roughly three times as long as wide. Spread two thirds of the length with a third of the fruit mix, then fold both ends of the dough into the centre and press the edges firmly with your fingers. Repeat this process twice, using up the fruit mix, then roll the dough out to its original size.

Line a shallow baking tray with baking paper and turn the dough over, onto the tray. There should be enough room for the dough to rise again. Let the dough prove for 30 mins.

Pre-heat the oven to 190C and bake for about 45 mins. Turn the cake upside down and cool a little. Sprinkle with caster sugar and serve warm.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Best Steak Lettuce Wrap

Best Steak Lettuce Wrap by Charlotte

Thanks to friends Phil and Sonya I have discovered the best steak lettuce wrap. This is food that is very pleasing to the eye and mouth. It can be made in three shakes of a lambs tail and will be sure to give you that red meat fix.

The ten steps to steak wrapping:
1) Go to your butcher and get a tasty piece of rump steak (to cook whole)
2) Marinade the meat in lemon juice, chilli (fresh or dried) and fresh ginger
3) Grate carrot for salad
4) Make a dressing - I used lemon juice, sesame oil, fish sauce, fresh red chilli, ginger, salt and pepper
5) Mix the dressing with the carrot
6) Use a good sturdy leaf like Romaine as your wrap
7) Griddle or bbq your meat - a few minutes on each side will leave it pretty and pink
8) Slice the steak and put it in the lettuce with the dressed carrot
9) Get kitchen roll ready as the wrap may leak!
10) Enjoy

Saturday, 17 September 2011


When trying to decide how to best celebrate my birthday, I discovered that Alex James was going to be holding a festival on his farm in Oxfordshire which combined several of my favourite things all in one field, good food, music and cider. So with tickets to Harvest booked and a sprinkling of close friends I knew I had the recipe for an excellent birthday!

Charlotte and Julia also had a few surprises up their sleeves to make it an even more memorable birthday, starting with a delicious raspberry focaccia which we ate for breakfast at the tent before heading into the festival.

At Harvest there was an exciting array of yummy food stalls it was hard to decide what to eat first - and also easy to spend a small fortune.
We began with Meat Wagon burgers which were as delicious as always, the legend of the meat wagon has obviously not reached as far as Oxfordshire as there was no queue at all! Throughout the weekend we also ate fish and chips from the Sea Cow, which is another establishment local to us in London, hog roast with quince aioli from the Salt Yard tent, chorizo and haloumi wrap from Salad Days and Charlotte and Matt tried the fish dogs created by Mark Hix.
Other options included Mexican from Wahaca (which apparently David Cameron and his family had for lunch), the Mash Up gourmet pie company, Squid and Pear and a host of farmers market type stalls full of local produce. We'll have to go back next year to try all those!

There was a tent called the chefs table where you had to book in advance to secure a table which we hadn't done but we did sample some of the food by getting it to take away. All the dishes were made to recipes by the chefs appearing at the festival such as Ottelenghi, Emily Watkins and Stevie Parle. I had the excellent lamb meat balls with tomato sauce and polenta which were by Valentine Warner.

I have to say the music at the festival definitely played second fiddle to the food, this was no bad thing though, it just made for a very different festival experience. Usually we would be trying to find time to grab a burger in between bands, at Harvest however it was more a case of catching a few songs while deciding what to feast on next. There was always an eager crowd buzzing around the farmhouse kitchen stage, where as the bands sometimes had an active audience that you could count on one hand.

We thoroughly enjoyed watching all the cooking demonstrations, particularly when we managed to secure a seat on a hay bale close to the stage meaning we got to sample some of the dishes being produced.
On the Saturday we watched Nuno Mendes (Viajante), Stevie Parle (The Dock Kitchen) and Monty and Sarah Don. We then made sure we were in a prime position before Ottolenghi was due to take the stage. He cooked 3 dishes, a tomato based one with prawns, scallops and feta cheese which we managed to get a spoon full of, a salad featuring giant cous cous and a platter covered in a caramelized fennel dish.
Just as his set was coming to an end, the compare announced that it was the birthday of someone in the audience, they called me up on stage and everyone sang happy birthday while Ottolenghi presented me with an apple and olive oil cake which Julia had baked, smuggled into the festival complete with cake stand, iced and taken back stage!

The surprises didn't end there, on Sunday Charlotte and Julia tracked down Alex James by his cheese stall. They had carried a ceramic cheese dish to the festival which they filled with cheese on toast and got Alex James to give it to me!

On Sunday afternoon we watched Tom Kerridge (from The Hand and Flowers) cook cod with salt baked carrots and a fillet of sea bass with risotto which I think was the best recipe I got a taste of. Next on stage was the comedy duo of Mark Hix and Alex James who made loads of different dishes all containing cheese, they ran way over their allotted time slot much to the displeasure of Jay Rayner who was up next. The Sunday evening headliner was Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall who was promoting his new vegetarian cook book (recipes from which are likely to feature in future Keston Kitchen posts as it was one of my birthday presents).

We all had a brilliant weekend and I would definitely recommend the festival to any foodie fan. I am sure it will be bigger and better next year, if you are planning on heading to Harvest 2012 make sure you have full wallets and empty stomachs!

Rachael x

Monday, 5 September 2011

The Piedmonte Diet

by Charlotte

Who ate all the Piedmonte?

Sunday pranzo (lunch) a la Barbara

Bruschetta with tomatoes

Salami crostini

Salmon crostini

Tomato mozzarella focaccia


Cena (dinner)

Pasta al ragu

Pasta puttanesca (whore's pasta)

Birthday cake (record breaking-lightest sponge ever)

Merlot di Cascina Capriolo (courtesy of Alistair)

Pranzo - a kind of use up / get into Italian mode meal

Roasted red peppers

Insalata Caprese - home grown tomatoes (these crop up a lot) with mozzarella



Peaches & Birra

Cena - Anni's Courgette Pasta*

Grated courgette, capers, olives, lemon juice and zest, and mint. Served with linguine and Parmesan.

Torta di Ali Perry - a French style apple tart served with natural yoghurt.

Espresso & Dolcetto di Cascina Capriolo

*New recipe!

Tuesday colazione (breakfast)

Chocolate cereal

Coffee and blood orange juice


Linguine al ragu

Cena - Pizza night #1

10 pizzas cooked at 350C

Toppings: mozzarella; artichoke; capers; tomatoes; olives; egg; peppers; onion; spicy salami; Parmesan

Wednesday colazione

Scrambled eggs with Parma ham and toast

Coffee and blood orange juice

Pranzo - Bar Roma, Santo Stefano Belbo

Bresaola con rucola e grano padano

Insalata caprese

Prosciutto e melone

Tomino e pesto con zucchine e melanzane

Prosciutto e mozzarella

A bottle of Arneis



Veal Milanese with rosemary potatoes and grilled aubergine halves filled with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil

Aperol spritz & Prosecco

Thursday colazione

Chocolate rice



Gazpacho a la Julia - smoother than an otter

Seabass stuffed with capers, lemon, parsley and breadcrumbs

Insalata caprese

Grilled radicchio with balsamic vinegar


Cena - a birthday dinner (hence the size)

Ten course dinner in the hills. Creative descriptions by Ali Perry...

Piedmonte focaccini with prosciutto lardo (sausage rolls)

Veal tartare with pear and Parmesan (brains)

Turkey with a salsa di tonno (Turkey mayo)

Tortina di courgette served with a cheese stuffed courgette flower (Wet quiche)

Starters over, onto the pasta...

Ravioli with sage butter (herb sacks)

The mains:

Pigs cheek and rabbit with courgettes and aubergines (Two meat and veg)

The puddings:


Baked peach with a kind of brownie on top

Gelato - the minty kind

Budino do cioccolato - an alcoholic dense chocolate bar

Coffee e grappa followed by obligatory horizontal lying down

Friday colazione

Coffee - no room from previous night


Insalata #2 (tomatoes, lettuce, egg, tuna and sweetcorn)

Cena - Pizza night #2

Nb. Night of the special double egg top a la Lloyd

Saturday colazione

Plum cake



Penne e pesto with artichoke and pancetta

Cena - Pasta e Pasta, Alba

Antipasti to share - Bruschette con lardo - melt in the mouth

Agnolotti Piedmontese a la ragu di Fassone - an area we think...

Other recommendations-

Risotto ai frutti di mare

Filetto de manzo Castelmagno (rare steak with cheese sauce - to die for)

Sunday colazione

Plum cake

Plums (susine - new word)




Insalata - tomatoes and cucumbers


Cena - Pizza night #3

Nb. 80% flour and 20% semolina flour - great for moving the dough around

Aperol spritz & Vino rosso di Cascina Capriolo

Monday colazione

Coffee and tea

Cornflakes (very Italian)

Pranzo - Sapori di Langa, Santo Stefano Belbo

Set lunch menu

Grissini - great breadsticks that looked like wizards fingers

Two types of baked pasta - one with courgette / one with aubergine

Two types of pasta - spaghetti al ragu / penne arrabiata

Two meat courses - grilled chicken / roast pork

Red wine & Coffee


Focaccia col formaggio - so greasy but good

Grazie mille a Barbara e Alistair. Ciao tutti.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011


by Charlotte

A while back I went to Barcelona and ate some amazing food. Around the same time I started hearing about Barrafina, and how it was London's Cal Pep (the best tapas place in Barcelona). Finally, about a month ago I went to Barrafina, and yes, I will be going back.

Barrafina is tiny and popular so one should abide by these rules:
If you are dining there for lunch arrive at 12.15 ideally, 12.30pm latest
At dinner you should aim to arrive by 6.30, no later

The best thing about it is you sit at the counter, not a table in sight. You watch the chefs pour you a glass of insanely good Spanish sherry and cook your food. Everyone is friendly and there's a real Spanish vibe amongst the packed in, hungry, excitable crowd. I was lucky enough to be advised by a regular diner (he chose everything) and our menu consisted of:
Summer Sherry 'En Rama'
Pimientos de Padron
Jamón de Jabugo
Chipirones - deep fired tiny squid!
Chips with Brava Sauce
Tortilla - it was a special that day and the name escapes me, however, it was quite possibly the best tortilla that has ever touched my lips
Beer to finish

A second trip is imminent...

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Barbeque the Italian way

by Charlotte

I recently gave these two recipes to our local magazine, Living South. Having spent some time thinking about a particular bbq in the hills of Bologna 7 years ago. On this occasion we got scooted into the hillside on the backs of mopeds vaguely knowing to keep an eye out for a patch of sunlight woodland. We found it and all the guys started to make the barbeque, lay a table, cook the meat and make all the salads – pretty impressive to us girls. It was all about the food, everything had to be perfectly chopped, dressed, marinated and presented. It was a delicious feast that I’ll never forget. Here are two Italian recipes that are good for sharing with friends.

Spiedini di miale (pork kebabs) - this makes six seriously meaty, authentic Italian kebabs.

12 x 1 inch cubes of pork (I use pork fillet)

6 Italian sausages – Cumberland are a perfect substitute

6 slices streaky bacon, cut in half

18 sage leaves

2 cloves of garlic, peeled

1 lemon, zested and halved

Extra virgin olive oil

6 skewers, soaked if wooden

Firstly marinate the meat. Twist the sausages into three so they balloon, cut them and put them in a bowl with the pork and the halved bacon. Add 12 of the sage leaves to the bowl. Using a pestle and mortar crush the garlic, remaining sage leaves and lemon zest to a pulp and then add four tablespoons of olive oil and the juice of half the lemon. Pour over the meat, mix and leave to marinade for 1-3hours.

Skewer the kebabs; I roll the bacon (two rolls per skewer), fold the sage leaves in half and alternate with three pieces of sausage and two pieces of pork per kebab. Put on the barbeque. If you fancy, throw some rosemary sprigs onto the coals before you put the meat on so that the leaves flavour the kebabs while cooking. When the meat is golden and cooked through serve the kebabs with the remaining lemon juiced squeezed over them.

Radicchio - the round purple lettuce from the Veneto with a bitter taste.

1 large radicchio, halved lengthways

Olive oil

Balsamic vinegar

Season the halved radicchio on the cut side with salt and pepper, and rub with olive oil. Barbeque cut side down for a few minutes until hot through – the closed leaves will actually keep in the steam and help the lettuce cook. Turn it over and grill for 3-4 minutes more. Splash with balsamic vinegar and serve as a super side dish.


Monday, 18 July 2011

Pork Pies & Potted Things...

Pork Pies & Potted Things by Charlotte

The al fresco dining afternoon/soiree was planned for a beautiful mid July afternoon. Everything was going well, a little too well. To spice things up the rain arrived, I cancelled the borrowing of the bbq and announced grilled food with kitchen/lounge party as the order of the day.

In keeping with my Mark Hix obsession I had two recipes from British Regional Food planned, plus some salads, Matt's homemade burgers with Fergus Henderson ketchup, plus bits and pieces that others were turning up with, such as chilli halloumi, a large Tuscan sausage, Brasilian potato salad, homemade scones and raspberry coulis and Borough red wine. Treats, so many treats.

So, my chosen Mark Hix recipes were Pork Pies and Potted Shrimp. Two absolute classic dishes that Greg Wallace would be thrilled to get his little hands on.

The pies are very simple and tasty, requiring fatty pork shoulder and pastry made with hot water and lard; intriguing, warm and as Rachael will agree, the lard is key!

Here's what Mark says about his Pork Pies -

Makes 6-8

Homemade pork pies are nothing like the ones you buy in the shops. The pastry is easy to make and if you haven't got a mincer at home on your mixing machine, you can just chop the meat up very finely by hand. A helpful butcher might mince the filling for you. All you do is take a large disc of pastry and shape it round the filling into a bulgy-sided pie, then join it to a smaller circle of pastry at the top by pinching round the edge. You could use this recipe to make two big pies, or even one very large one.

I prefer to eat the pies warm rather than cold, as that brings out the flavour and the pastry tends to be crisper. You can also add other seasonings such as anchovy essence, mace or allspice and a bit of sage to suit your taste - it's entirely up to you.

For the filling

1kg boned shoulder of pork, including 20-30 per cent fat

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the hot-water crust pastry

500g plain flour

1tsp salt

175g lard

1 egg, beaten

First prepare the filling: chop some of the best bits of pork into rough 1cm dice and mince or finely chop the rest. Season it well and mix in the diced meat. Take a small teaspoonful of the mixture and fry it to check the seasoning, then adjust it if necessary. Pre-heat the oven to 200C/gas 6.

Then make the pastry: mix the flour and the salt in a bowl and make a well in the centre. Bring 200ml water and the lard to the boil, then stir it into the flour with a wooden spoon to form a smooth dough. Leave the dough covered for about 15 minutes or so, until it can be handled.

Divide the dough into 6-8 equal pieces. Take one of the balls of dough and divide it into two balls, one twice the size of the other. Roll the larger piece on a lightly floured table to about 12-14cm in diameter. Use the smaller piece to make another circle about f half the size for the top. Put some of the filling in the centre of the larger circle, lay the smaller circle on top and raise the sides of the larger one up, then pinch the lid and the top of the sides together with your fingers. If it looks a bit of a mess, you can reshape it, as the pastry is quite pliable. Repeat with the rest of the pastry and filling.

Brush the pies all over with the beaten egg and cook them for 35-40 minutes. If they are colouring too much, cover them with foil and turn the oven down.

Serve them warm or cold, preferably with homemade piccalilli.

Next up Potted Shrimp...

Potting things is of interest to me. Its simple but exciting, several small filled ramekins giving off different aromas gets most peoples attention.

Mr. Hix, of course, did not disappoint - I came across his recipe for potted shrimp with tales of the shrimpers of the Sefton coast. I went to the fishmonger to check out the brown shrimp on offer and found them to be rather pricey. We had a chat and started talking about potting crab, which got me all excited and I ended up leaving with both shrimp and crab.

I potted them both in the same way according to the recipe and actually would have to say I enjoyed the crab rather a lot. The shrimp were good too but do have a slight maggoty look about them which most people managed to point out at some point.

Recipe as follows -

180g unsalted butter

Juice of a lemon

A good pinch of ground mace or nutmeg

Pinch of cayenne pepper

1 small bay leaf

1tsp anchovy essence or paste

210g peeled brown shrimps (or crab meat – I used a mix of brown and white)

Salt and freshly ground white pepper

Melt the butter in a pan, add the lemon juice, mace, cayenne pepper, bay leaf and anchovy essence and simmer on a low heat for 2 minutes to infuse the spices. Remove from the heat and cool the mixture until it is just warm.

Add the shrimps and stir well, then season with salt and freshly ground white pepper. Put the mixture into the fridge and stir every so often. When the butter starts to set, fill 4 ramekins with the mixture or spoon it on to plates. If you aren't serving them that day, return the ramekins to the fridge and cover with clingfilm. Don't serve the shrimps straight from the fridge, as the butter will be too hard to spread nicely on to the toast, and won't taste as good. Serve with hot buttered toast and lemon halves.

Sunday, 10 July 2011


A world of extremes on Worthy Farm.

Devoted Keston Kitchen followers will have enjoyed, and been somewhat overwhelmed, by Charlotte and Matt's food diaries from their gastronomic tours (see On Location Paris and On Location Sicily for the comprehensive documentation of their holiday feasting).

Not to be outdone, Rachael and I decided to document our food consumption at our annual trip to Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts; the funnest five days of the year.

A scary prospect, given that we usually abandon our foodie ways and focus on finding excellent bands and dancing like lunes; relying on cider and rum to fulfil our nutritional needs.

However, as we have developed into mature women, we have become increasingly aware of the fine eateries that can be found on our treks between stages. In fact, there is an array of local, health-restoring, delicious meals to be bought.

But Glastonbury is a world of extremes. You will see from the food catalogue below that we have not abandoned our festival roots - there is an irrepressible urge for fried bacon in the mornings (of whatever quality) after particularly riotous nights. And Rachael has been on autopilot on the pre-festival supermarket run for over a decade: I had to point out that there is no need for a 29 year old woman who has been on Leith's cookery courses to eat dairylea dunkers. But the shopping list hasn't changed since Reading back in '99.

(to note Rachael has already been here for a day guarding the pitch, but no food record exists)

I arrive at midday and decide that I must immediately have a pint of cider and a burger.
This was to reward the extreme mission I had just completed - it is too traumatic to go into, but involved carrying twice my body weight in camping equipment, sequined clothing, wellies and cider through the London rush hour - train/tube/train/bus - trekking through many many muddy fields and a heroic effort with an airbed and a £2 pump.

I was just at the point of collapse when Rachael announced that Meat Wagon were making their debut appearance at Glastonbury. Halleluiah.

Rachael and Julia both ate Dubble Bubble burgers.

Generally Glastonbury involves one proper meal a day*, followed by snacking on random items from the '99 list. Therefore for dinner:

Julia: Snack a Jacks. Hummous. Bread.
Rachael: Sainsbury's pasta salad. Dried apricots.

Rachael: cereal bar, carton of apple juice, satsuma.
Julia: woke to the immediate realisation that cereals bars wouldn't cut the mustard and headed straight for the nearest bacon buttie vendor.

Rachael: Bread roll, hummous, french fries (s&v), caramel chocolate wafer biscuit (those ones with the red and gold foil), apple, dairylea dunkers

(Julia still full of bread and meat)

Rachael: Stonebaked pizza: peppers and mushrooms
Julia: Stonebaked pizza: meat feast

Rachael: Cereal bar, carton of apple juice, satsuma.
Julia: Bacon baguette the size of my forearm

Rachael:Bread roll, avocado, McCoys (steak flavour), caramel chocolate wafer, apple, dairylea dunkers
Julia: no need

Rachael:Thali Cafe butternut squash curry with rice
Julia: Realised severe lack of veg in recent days - headed to Manic Organic for a vegetable stir fry and side salad.

Rachael:Cereal bar, carton of apple juice, satsuma
Julia: Sorreen malt loaf, apple, orange juice

Lunch (or more accurately, random snacks dispersed though the day)
Rachael: carrot cake, smoothie, doritos (cool original), apple
Julia: carrot cake, watermelon, iced-coffee

Rachael: Made a pilgrimage to Pie Minister for a Henny Penny pie (of course) - chicken and porcini mushroom. With mash and mushy peas

Julia: Discovered an amazing organic falafel stand with no queue. Falafel on flat bread with hummous and three salads (carrot and orange, beetroot, leaves)

Let's just say it involved a service station and a very long drive. Best not to divulge.

*Unless you are Robert or Jack, in which case you buy 4 meals a day, at least one of which is a Meat Wagon burger.
**not necessarily consumed in the am.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Goosnargh Cakes (pronounced 'Goozna')

These little beauties are easy to make, they can be served as a sweet or savoury biscuit/cake, and not only that, they come from my favourite cookbook of the moment - British Regional Food by Mark Hix. These tasty little cakes, or biscuits, come from the north west, Lancashire to be precise. They can be dusted with sugar for a sweet kick or served with some cheese if you are that way inclined. This week I have been mostly eating Goosnargh cakes with cheese at my desk at 11am. Satisfying it has been.

They may remind you of shortbread with a caraway kick. Pretty darn good.

275g plain flour, sieved
225g unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
20g caster sugar
2tsp caraway seeds
icing sugar to dust (optional)

Preheat the oven to 150 degrees.
Put the flour and butter in a bowl and rub together with your fingers until you achieve a breadcrumb-like consistency.
Add the caster sugar and caraway seeds and mix well. It should now be a smooth dough (mine was a little sticky so I added a bit more flour). If you think the dough is warm chill it in the fridge for ten minutes.
Roll out onto a lightly floured surface to about 1cm thick. Cut into rounds, I used a 7cm cutter.
Dust with sugar (or not if you're taking the savoury cheese route).
Bake for about 20 minutes until they just begin to colour.
You can dust again while hot and cooling on a wire rack.

Thanks Mark.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Harry Potter marathon sweets

If like us, you are planning a Harry Potter marathon, in order to watch all seven spectacular films before the final battle arrives on our screens in July, it may be wise to take a few minutes to consider what sweets to serve. The films are long and require much snacking. We are now over half way through, having watched four films and the list below details the sweets which have worked well for us so far:

Strawberry liquorice wands
Popping candy (super loud)
Bertie Botts every flavour jelly beans
Jelly snakes
Chocolate caramel frogs
Jelly babies

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Green Gazpacho

Summer Soup: fresh and green as pastures new

Selecting the starter for Supper Club numero dos was a drawn-out affair. I was feeling despondent after weeks of making roasted vegetable terrines that did not set, when Charlotte stumbled across this recipe from Plenty by Ottelenghi. It ticked all the boxes: seasonal, light and a perfect match for Rachael's delicious ricotta and sun dried tomato stuffed chicken which would be making its debut as our Main.

A somewhat risky choice to feed a room of strangers (cold soup?!) but the guests lapped it up and cried for more (they didn't get it, we were carefully controlling portions so that they had room for the main, trio of desserts and exquisite macaroons we had in store).

The reason for its success? The nuts and basil give it a rich, full flavour; the chilli gives it a kick. And if you put that combination of delicious green things in a glass it can only lead to one thing: a taste fresh as a summer's day.

I served the soup with croutons made from homemade soda bread. Baking your own bread is a bit extravagant for croutons and not strictly necessary, but that's just how we roll in the Keston Kitchen.


Jules xxx

Green Gazpacho
(Serves 6 - big portions)

2 celery sticks (including the leaves)
2 small green peppers, deseeded
1 large cucumber (weighing about 350g), peeled
3 slices stale white bread, crusts removed
1 fresh green chilli
4 garlic cloves
1 tsp sugar
150g walnuts, lightly toasted
200g baby spinach
25g basil leaves
10g parsley
4tbsp sherry vinegar
225 ml olive oil
40g Greek yoghurt
250g ice cubes
2tsp salt
white pepper preferably, but black works too)

2 thick slices bread
4tbsp olive oil

To make the croutons, preheat the oven to 190C. Cut the bread into 2cm cubes and toss them in the olive oil and a bit of salt. Spread on a baking sheet and bake for about 10 mins or until golden and crisp. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Roughly chop up the celery, peppers, cucumber, bread, chilli and garlic. Place in a blender and add the sugar, walnuts, spinach, basil, parsley, vinegar, oil, yoghurt, water, half the ice cubes, salt and pepper. Blitz the soup until smooth.
(n.b. our blender is small so I had to do it in batches).

Lastly, add the remaining ice and pulse once or twice to crush it a little. Serve at once with the croutons.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Ginger, Lemon and Garlic Baked Salmon

Ginger, Lemon and Garlic Baked Salmon. By Ceri.

This is a really fresh fish dish, perfect for Spring or Summer and is one of my favourites from my contribution to the Keston Kitchen Calendar for the month of May. I was given this recipe by my previous boss, Jill. My colleague, Sarah and I would poise with our notepads at the ready whilst she dictated recipes to us. The flavours go really well and the end result is succulent fish and tasty spring greens, full of flavour. A lot of people have asked me for this recipe, so I'm happy to be sharing it. It will also work with trout and most other types of fish.

Serves 4

4 well sourced salmon fillets

2 large cloves of garlic, crushed

A thumb sized piece of fresh ginger, grated

300 ml olive oil

Juice of 2 lemons

Baby leeks

Baby corn

4 spring onions chopped

600 g fresh baby leaf spinach

Salt and Pepper

1 large roasting tin

Preheat the oven to 180 / Gas mark 4.

Pour the lemon juice and olive oil into a bowl and stir it together with a fork. Add the garlic and ginger, mix and season with salt and pepper (ideally, make this an hour before baking so the flavours infuse). Put the spinach into the roasting tin. It may look like a lot of leaves, but it cooks down considerably when baked. Press it down into the dish if necessary. Now place the salmon fillets on top of the spinach and add the spring onions, leeks and baby corn around the side.

Finally pour the sauce over the entire dish and bake for 35 minutes. When you remove from the oven, the spinach will have cooked down and the sauce will have doubled due to the water from the veg with all the flavours soaking into the spinach. Serve with roasted sweet potato wedges or mash. You will have some sauce in the bottom of the dish which you can put on the table in a jug for your guests to add extra if they wish.

Monday, 30 May 2011

On location: Paris

Two hungry Londoners in Paris.

On arriving in Paris for a two night, three day sojourn, pretending to be French, I decided to keep a food diary. The Sicily diary had been a great success, as well as highlighting how much one can eat. So here's what happened en France.

Day Un
Petit déjeuner:
Café au lait and cappuccino
Pain avec beurre et confiture (rouge)

Déjeuner: Le Timbre
Pea soup with pork croutons (!)
Terrine with onion marmalade and cornichons
Cochons noir (black pig) with fava beans
Confit du canard with sweet red peppers (stuffed with mashed potato - genius)
Espresso x 2

Diner: Le Hangar (good recommendation by Time Out)
Salmon tartare with basil on cucumber
Salad of haricots verts with Parmesan - oh so good
Boeuf stroganoff with small crispy potatoes - rare steak mixed in with cream and wine...
Matt, with his strong love for duck, went for a duck and foie gras pie with mash and nutmeg topping - zut alors!
Espresso x 2 served with small biscuits and gooey chocolate truffles

Day Deux
Petit déjeuner:
Café au lait x 2
Croissant x 2 (good dipping in coffee occurred)

Déjeuner: Nanashi (organic Japanese bobo canteen - bourgeois bohemian)
Organic lychee lemonade (oooh)
Chirashi salmon - hot rice, salad, smoked salmon chunks, ginger, sesame seeds and some small shoots
Chicken bento - bulgar wheat and rice mix with chicken and shitake mushrooms in a real tasty sauce. with leaves, tomatoes, carrot and sesame seeds, broccoli and courgette. Small feast in a box.

Warm white asparagus, rhubarb and radish salad. Mouth watering.
Crab with an egg yolk on top, with yellow courgettes and apple puree. Fancy pants. Creamy. Yellow. Good.
Veal cooked in liquorice with perfect seasonal vegetables
Suckling pig flavoured with tobacco with perfect seasonal vegetables
Chocolate ganache with glazed fruits, nuts and orange cream
A small goats cheese

Day Trois
Petit déjeuner:
Two boiled eggs x 2
Café au lait x 2

Déjeuner: Le Pommette
A mozzarella type cheese with garlic and truffle oil
Green salad avec tomatoes, goats cheese, grapes and potatoes
Meats with salad and rosemary potatoes

Diner: (waiting for the train)
One salty sausage, half a goat's cheese and a bag of Lays crisps (a must)
Followed by a coke, an Orangina and a Lipton ice tea - salt overload

Bon appetit!

Monday, 2 May 2011

Sausage rolls

A couple of weeks ago Charl had some of her uni friends round for lunch, it was a sunny spring Sunday afternoon so we had a picnic in the garden before heading to the park.
My contribution to the spread was some homemade sausage rolls, they are really quick to make (as long as you have some puff pastry already defrosted and you aren't hideously hungover). You can definitely tell the difference from frozen pre-made sausage rolls and using homemade pastry makes them even more buttery and tasty. We ate them along with some delicious salads, crusty bread and a cheese and ham cake that Julia had made from a recipe in that weekends Guardian magazine. They were very well received, one of our guests, Leo, even said he would never be able to eat bought sausage rolls again because they wouldn't be as good!!

Best served warm from the oven

Rachael x

400g puff pastry (either bought or homemade)
450g pork sausage meat
1 onion peeled and grated
2 tbsp chopped fresh sage
1 egg beaten

Mix the sausage meat, sage and onion together in a bowl and season with a little salt and pepper.

Roll out the pastry on a floured surface as thin as you can into the shape of a rectangle. Cut the rectangle in half length ways.

Divide the sausage mixture in half and form them into 2 rolls the same length as the strips of pastry.

Place a roll of sausage meat down one side of each of the pieces of pastry, brush the beaten egg along one side of the pastry and fold the rest of the pastry over to meet it, covering the sausage meat. Use your fingers to make sure the edges are completely sealed together.

Slice the 2 large rolls into 2 inch portions. Coat the sausage rolls with some more beaten egg and use scissors to make a V shaped snip in the top of each one.

Place on a baking sheet and cook in the oven at 220C for 20-25 minutes.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Pop Up Supper Club

Pop-up Supper Club - Take #1

The idea of a pop-up supper club in the lounge had been floating around the Keston Kitchen since the end of summer 2010. The first one finally took place on March 12th. The evening was a brilliant success and a great time was had by all.

Behind the scenes

When we realised we were serious about popping-up in the lounge, the preparation started with finding a date that we could all do. Not as easy as it sounds when you have four busy girls, and Lindsay on board! March was decided, so then came the task of the menu. We worked to our own guidelines; a four course menu of seasonal dishes, with ingredients sourced as locally as possible. We all like a challenge, and March, being the most sparse month of the year when it comes to fruit and veg, certainly provided that.

The menu

The menu was decided; trout to start, some local pork in the middle, rhubarb and custard dessert, and something sweet to end. A lot of hours went into testing recipes, tasting ingredients, and collecting everything on the Friday before the big day. A big thank you to Jesse Dunford Wood, an amazing chef that we stumbled across at the Mall Tavern in Notting Hill. He kindly discussed our menu with us and offered to help us source the trout for the starter and smoke some of it on the roof of the pub! I can safely say the smoked trout was out of this world, with an incredible intense flavour that just made you want to have one more piece. Also, a big thank you to Kurt at Volcano Coffee Works, who I spent a couple of hours tasting coffee with and choosing the right blend for the end of the night. Finally, thanks to the bees of Nunhead who make really good honey, which we used in the mini merigue cupcakes with toasted hazelnuts and cream.

The blues versus the reds

On the day we spruced up the lounge, which has never looked so good. Rach sorted the tables so that we had a blue end and a red end. Very pretty and also pretty practical for those on waitressing duty. The red table became the rowdy table after about 5 minutes. They all hit it off and the chatter, laughter and drinking continued long into the night, with the blues occasionally trying to match the noise levels from the reds - a difficult undertaking. The food ended around midnight and we all got talking. I can only compare it to a brilliant dinner party with great guests. Suddenly it was 1am and then it was 3am when the last four guests left, as good friends, with numbers swapped and plans made.

Now, we're putting together our next menu and guest list for June 4th, take #2, ensuring the night will be as entertaining and delicious as the first... Book early if you fancy coming along.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Courses for Sauces

Last year I received a very exciting present, a mornings course at Leith's cookery school in West London. I enjoyed it immensely and was lucky enough to get to go on another one as my Christmas present! I went on the second course earlier this week, this time I opted for the sauces workshop as I thought that was an area of cooking that I needed to learn a lot more about. I hoped the course would provide me with a good grounding in making basic sauces and a better understanding of the different types that can be made.

I was not disappointed! The course was a full day and they really packed everything in. The day started with a 1 hour demonstration where we were explained to about making stock (I learnt something new in the first 5 minutes - that brown stock is made from bones that have already been cooked and white stocks from raw bones). The chef also talked about the key mother sauces (e.g. white sauce) and the daughter sauces that can be made from them (e.g. cheese or bechamel). He then demonstrated making a port sauce, a creamy sauce and hollandaise.

We were provided with booklets which contained the instructions on making all the sauces covered during the workshop and more. We were then let loose on the kitchens, there were 16 of us and 2 teachers.
One of the reasons you get through so much on the course is the team of people who are busy in the background doing your washing up and delivering the ingredients to your bench as you require them.
The first thing we turned our hand to was making a jus, we reduced white and red white, browned vegetables and chicken wings and put them into the wine along with some chicken stock. We then left our pans to gently bubble away for a few hours, skimming the fat off the surface regularly.
Meanwhile we made a Mornay sauce with Gruyere and Parmesan and then got started on our lunch - a chicken breast with a creamy tarragon sauce which was delicious.
After lunch we strained our jus and left it on the hob to reduce.
During the afternoon we made mayonnaise (which if you have patience is very easy to make but disturbingly, pretty much the only ingredients are egg yolk and veg oil), basil pesto and a creme anglaise (custard).

Overall I thought it was a great day and would definitely recommend it to other people. Although pricey you get to use wonderful ingredients and come away with the confidence to do it all again by yourself.

Back in the Keston kitchen i am very keen to try out some of my new skills (and the other ladies want to learn too)! I have made pesto before and tried my hand at white and cheese sauces before with moderate success but the stuff I learnt about stocks, jus and emulsions will be invaluable.

The creme anglaise was put to good use a couple of days later when our friends from round the corner (Ady's ladies) came for dinner. Of course we needed something to go with the creamy custard so I made an apple tart. If you want to have a go at creme anglaise yourself, instructions are below. The ingredients listed make a very light, runny sauce. If you want it thicker just add more yolks and use full fat milk or cream. For thick set custard the chef recommended 6 yolks and a pint of double cream!

Creme Anglaise

1/2 pint semi skimmed milk
1 vanilla pod or a few drops of vanilla essence
2 egg yolks
1 tbsp caster sugar (plus a bit more if you fancy)

Scrape the seeds out of the vanilla pod, mix the seeds on your chopping board with a sprinkling of sugar - this stops the seeds clumping together. If you opt for vanilla essence add it at the end.
Place the sugary seeds, empty pod and milk in a pan and bring slowly to the boil. If you fancied chocolate custard, add 30g dark chocolate at this stage.
Beat the egg yolks in a a bowl with 1 tbsp of caster sugar. When the milk has just started to bubble take it off the heat (remove the vanilla pod) and pour it, a little at a time into the bowl with the egg yolks. Adding slowly to start with will help prevent the eggs being cooked and scrambled by the hot milk.
Once mixed well, return it all to the pan and put it back on the hob. Stir continuously over a low heat for a few minutes until the mixture thickens. Do not let it boil. The key signs that it is thickening, are steam coming off the mixture, the bottom of the pan will begin to feel velvety and the mixture will coat the back of your spoon.
Immediately strain the sauce into a cool bowl, straining will remove any unwanted lumps off egg or pieces of vanilla pod and decanting from the pan straight away prevents it cooking further.
To finish add the vanilla essence (if you didn't use vanilla seeds) or you could try adding orange zest or alcohol (like calvados). I also added a bit more sugar.
Eat hot or cold, with fruit, apple pie or crumble or just on its own!

Rachael x