Peak tomato season is the best time to blitz up some delicious cool gazpacho. This is the type of recipe I think is best made without a recipe 😉
There are so many methods and recipes out there, I prefer to just start with whizzing up deliciously ripe tomatoes and then go from there, tasting as you go. If you go for 3 parts tomatoes to 1 part other veg you should be happy.
Here are some things I usually or sometimes add:
Red or Yellow peppers, cooked or raw
Garlic (not too much)
Good olive oil (a few good glugs or to taste)
Sherry or apple cider vinegar (add slowly to taste)
Basil, parsley or coriander
Water if needed to achieve the desired thickness
Salt and freshly ground pepper . . . THIS is usually where I stop but you could carry on experimenting with the following ingredients:
Bread soaked in water (often used in Andalucia, Spain)
Melon, peach, watermelon or other summer fruit to add a bit of sweetness (very nice !)
Beautiful silky strained thick yogurt … That’s all it is ! Total revelation the first time you try it. Like a homemade cream cheese.
It all starts with these beauties… 🙂 Jessica the super farmer and her Jersey cows. Don’t panic, keep reading ! This is how I do it, but Labneh can be made much more simply using shop bought whole milk yogurt. If you live in the south west of France, don’t miss Jessica’s mom Véronique at the local markets. The butter will change your life 🙂
In the spring the milk is extra rich with all the new green grass they are eating. The amount of creamy milk fat floating on the top of the is crazy.
Next step is to stir a bit of good salt into your yogurt. The fun begins finding the best way to strain it using a cheese cloth. If your fridge shelves are racks you can tie the cheese cloth onto the rack over a bowl. I place my cheese cloth over a large canning jar and shut the lid to hold the yogurt suspended in the jar. Empty out the whey after a few hours (my chickens get that 😉 ) so the ball of soon to be labneh is not sitting in liquid. The idea here is to get most of the liquid out of the yogurt leaving you with a thick spreadable yogurt “cheese”.
Stir the yogurt with salt and place it into the center of your cloth. Leave to strain over a bowl or large jar in the fridge for at least 24 hours and up to 36 hours. Check from time to time to make sure it is not dipping in its own liquid. Once well strained you are done ! The labneh can be stored for almost a week in the fridge.
Then what ?
Sprinkle with olive oil, Zaatar and olives to make a dip or spread
Its amazing how many different ways of cooking this dish that you will find! To parboil or not? Hot oven or moderate heat? Spice rub or just salt & fat? Olive oil or butter ? (I like both 😉 )
A lovely way to serve cauliflower for guests and easy enough to make for yourself and family. I served this version with a chickpea and chorizo salad, so added a bit of the rendered fat from the chorizo to the rub. Waste not …. 😉 Placing a dish of water in the very bottom of the oven seems to help cooking to the core.
Serve this punchy flavoured cauliflower with a chickpea and herb salad, Labné (strained yogurt) or thick yogurt, a tahini sauce or a green or chili sauce of your choice.
1 medium sized cauliflower
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons softened butter
2 Tablespoons paprika or Spanish Pimenton powder
1 teaspoon roasted ground cumin
1 teaspoon roasted ground coriander seeds
1 teaspoon roasted ground fennel seeds
1 teaspoon (or more if you like the heat) Harissa paste
1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup
1 teaspoon salt
Chopped coriander leaves to serve
Trim the cauliflower taking care to leave it intact. In a large pot of boiling salted water, parboil the cauliflower with the stalk facing up. Don’t worry if its not totally submerged. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.Remove the cauliflower using a spider or large spoon and carefully place it to drain (still upside down) in a colander.
Preheat the oven to 200°C and place a baking pan of water on the floor of the oven. To prepare the spice rub, combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl. Place the cauliflower into a baking dish (not too big) with the core facing down. Using your hands or a brush, rub the mixture all over the cauliflower and place it into the oven. Bake, basting and turning once at the halfway point, for 40 to 60 minutes or until it is knife tender.
Serve at the table, sprinkled generously with coriander, cut into wedges.
Originally inspired by perking up the “January detox” brown rice bowls I have been making an unprecedented amount of green sauces these past few years. When spring and summer finally arrives, there are even more nice green leafy herbs to play with. I have a running stock of some of the below recipes that keep well in the fridge and some are best to be used immediately.
A great way to use up bunches of herbs you may have on hand for other recipes but don’t use them up fast enough. These lovely homemade condiments are starting to take over my fridge space. Beware… they are addictive 🙂
A great great way to add zing to, well…. anything !
dress up eggs on toast
or avocado’s on toast
the always delicious grain bowl
plopped into a bowl of soup (hot or cold)
on a tomato salad
on a sesame noodle salad (Scallion ginger sauce)
on a lovely piece of meat (Gremolata for example)
add flavour to a stir-fry
next to any curry recipe (green chutney for example)
Here are a few of my favourites:
Pesto Obviously ! You’ll find loads of recipes online… I like mostly basil, but some parsley. I use a really hard sheeps cheese, because that’s my regional cheese 😉 I never use pine nuts as they cost a fortune and usually come from China (a bit far), but walnuts, pumpkin seeds etc… work great. I like to make mine in a mini chopper or food processor, not a blender (and too lazy for the pestle and mortar). I freeze portions during peak basil season. Here’s my version using local wild garlic…
Salsa Verde is so versatile. Delicious on meat or fish. A great boost in flavour. Use the best tinned anchovies you can find.
Scallion ginger sauceOne of my perfect simple meals… Hot bowl of rice, some Kimchi or sautéed greens, a fried egg with a good spoonful of this on top. A bit of Echo’s Chili sauce (see recipe below) would be good too.
Love this one inspired by a recipe from my friend Echo. This keeps forever in the fridge. Absolutely delicious and just spicy enough. Great in noodle or rice dishes. I learned from Echo that Vodka is a pretty good substitute for Chinese rice wine.
2 cups chopped hot chili peppers (a mix of colours is fine, but try to chop fairly evenly.
1/4 cup vodka (or chinese rice wine)
2 Tablespoons sugar (add a bit more if you prefer it sweeter)
2 cloves of garlic chopped
Chunk of ginger about the size of your thumb
2 teaspoons salt
Mix all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Spoon into sterilized jars and seal. Let sit at room temp for 2 days and then its ready to eat. Store in the fridge for AGES !
The key to keeping sauces a long time in the fridge (this goes for store bought ones too, is to not “contaminate”. Meaning always use a clean and totally dry spoon to scoop out your sauce or paste to avoid mold.
Do you have any favourites to add to this list ! I’m always looking for more ideas. Share in the comments 🙂
I always try to have low sugar snacks in the freezer for an afternoon bit of delight with a cuppa tea. I have a rotating list of favourites such as my Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins, but THIS, my friends is my current CHOSEN ONE ! Extremely moist, absolutely sweet enough and have a delightful squidgy yet fluffy texture. You know what I mean 😉
I usually use locally produced flour made from an ancient wheat variety but in my last batch I used half organic Chestnut flour. EVEN BETTER ! Chestnut flour is full of loads of vitamins and minerals and tons of fiber. I enjoy playing around with different flours, and this recipe has, so far, been very forgiving.
If you have access to a blueberry farm, they freeze well, popped directly into a bag and back into the freezer. I always have a stock for baking, porridge and smoothies.
In a large bowl, combine the flour with the baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. In a medium bowl, combine the oil, maple syrup and mix well using a whisk. Add the eggs and mix well, then the yogurt and vanilla.
Preheat the oven to 180°C (gas 4 or 350°F). Prepare a 12 cup muffin tin, greasing if needed.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix using a wooden spoon (a few lumps are ok). Gently fold the blueberries into the batter. The mixture will be quite thick.
Divide the batter between the 12 cups (I use a soup spoon). Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the muffins are golden and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Leave to cool before removing them from the tin.
These keep well for 2 days at room temperature in a airtight container. They also freeze really well.
This is a delightfully simple dish that is brightened up by this beautiful coconut sambal (that I could just eat by the spoonful). Paneer cheese is one of my favourite things to put in a sauce and this is a nice change from my usual tomato based Matar Paneer.
The original recipe called for Halloumi, mostly because Paneer is not always easy to find. I make my own Paneer from fresh raw milk and it’s SO easy, give it a try.
Summer came late this year so I had this recipe put aside waiting for the green peppers to turn orange, red or yellow.
1 or 2 x 225g blocks of Paneer (if you use one, its just more saucy 😉 ), patted dry and diced into 1cm cubes (or make your own)
2 red peppers, roughly chopped
2 red onions, roughly chopped
4 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp of salt
6 cloves of garlic, chopped
zest and juice of 1 lemon plus extra wedges (add juice and taste before adding all !)
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
A handful of coriander leaves
For the Sambal:
150g desiccated coconut
1 clove of garlic
zest and juice from half a lime
a small handful of coriander leaves
Add the sambal ingredients to a food processor and blitz until combined. Transfer to a serving bowl and set aside.
Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large frying pan over a high heat and add the paneer cubes. Stir-fry for 5-7 minutes or until golden-brown. Then transfer them to a plate and set them aside until later.
Return the pan to the heat, add the remaining 2 tsp of olive oil and add the garlic. Stir-fry for a few minutes until the garlic starts to brown (carefful not to burn it). Remove and put aside. Pile in the onion, pepper and salt. Stir-fry until soft, about 10 minutes.
Add the zest and juice of the lemon, the turmeric and cumin seeds. Mix well, add 250ml of water and cook for another 10 minutes.
Transfer the sauce to a food processor or use a hand blender to blitz to a paste.
Return the paste to the pan and place over the heat. Stir in the paneer and mix in until warmed through. If it’s dry, add a splash of water to loosen it.
Transfer it to a serving bowl, scatter over some coriander leaves, the crispy fried garlic. Serve with some lemon wedges and sambal with basmati rice.
It’s HOT HOT HOT outside, but I need to fill my freezer with “not too nasty” snacks to keep me and the kids happy with our afternoon tea.
What’s a girl to do ? Get out my solar oven !
Baking in a solar oven can be a bit limited, but when the oven temp gets up to around 150°C I have a few favourite recipes that seem to work well (this Berry Clafouti is nice too).
These delicious muffins freeze really well (to then be quickly defrosted in the ……. SOLAR OVEN 😉 ) They have hardly any sugar (the dark chocolate helps though) and lots of oats to add structure and fiber. They are practically good for you 😉
This is a forgiving recipe. Any milk will do and I sometimes play around with the flours. I had some beautiful Farro flour that a friend brought me from Provence. So here I used half of the whole wheat flour I can get locally and half Farro flour.
I make my own vanilla extract by soaking sliced open vanilla pods in vodka for about a month. WAY better than the shop bought stuff and dead easy !
1 cup milk (whatever you have, I used fresh Jersey cow milk)
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (or any other spice you fancy with chocolate)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup melted butter or oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup chopped dark chocolate
Prehead your oven to 180°C (350°F) if you are not using a solar oven 😉 . Line or grease a muffin tin.
Mix your oats with the milk and set aside to soften while you prepare the other ingredients.
In a large bowl whisk the egg and sugar until smooth. Add vanilla and melted butter or oil. Add flour, oat-milk mixture, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Stir until well combined but don’t over mix (muffin rules !).
Fold in the chocolate and distribute the batter between the 12 muffin tins.
Bake for 15 – 18 minutes or until a knife comes out clean. In my solar oven at 150°C they took less than an hour.
All goes in the blender and blend away until you reach a nice smooth texture. I suggest adding the lime juice and the honey gradually until you reach the mix of sweet and sour that pleases your palate. Add more salt if needed and blend one last time. This will keep in a jar in the fridge for at least a week…
AND this is a whole egg mayo ! No more forgotten egg whites in the back of the fridge.
Due to the egg white being included its lighter in colour and, to me, tastes more like shop bought mayo (in a good way 😉 ).
Below is the basic recipe, but add stuff to your hearts content ! I added a clove of my sun roasted garlic and a chunk of the white part of a spring onion. You could add raw garlic to make Aioli or herbs, roasted red pepper, a touch of fresh horseradish, pesto, wasabi, hot sauce, smoked paprika, blue cheese, chipotle, ginger etc. . .
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice or white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dijon mustard (room temperature)
1 cup vegetable oil
salt & pepper to taste
All ingredients go into a recipient that is just wide enough for the head of the stick blender (very important). Most stick blenders come with their own jug, which is perfect.
Slowly lower the stick blender into the jug until it touches the bottom. Start blending (high speed is fine). Very quickly the mixture will start to emulsify, you can then start to slowly lift the stick blender up whilst blending. You may need to move it from side to side near the top to get all the oil down.
Et voila ! In less than 2 minutes, you have mayonnaise 🙂
HEAVEN ! I love this time of year… One by one, the spring veg show up in the market and in the garden 🙂
Lunch becomes more fresh and simple… Quick to prepare. Less cooking, more green, more crunch, feels healthy… The chickens LOVE radish greens, so everyones happy 🙂
To celebrate the arrival of the first broad beans and peas in our garden, I made a simple lunch adding fresh purple asparagus, bright red radishes and fresh herbs piled high on a beautiful slice of toasted sourdough bread after smearing a thick layer of the first fresh goats cheese from Anita’s farm. A good shake of Espelette pepper and some local fleur de sel and we felt like we where the richest people in the world. Quite sure that any great chef would be delighted to have access to this quality….
Feeling fortunate and pretty pleased with myself !