Kohlrabi and carrot fritters

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If you have frequented a farmer’s market recently you have probably seen this extra-terrestrial looking, and strangely beautiful, ‘tentacle’-sprouting bulb.

They come in green and purple varieties and are often ignored by shoppers simply because they do not know what to do with them. I used to be in that category – until one rainy afternoon I was bored and in the mood for a culinary challenge. I’m so thankful for boring afternoons as some of my best recipes have been a result of them (we should all have sufficient free time to be bored on a regular basis – aside from food recipes imagine what ground-breaking ideas and inventions could be generated.)

Kohlrabi can be consumed either cooked or raw. In raw form it is an absolute treat. I loved its crisp texture and sweet flavour, a cross between a broccoli and a dessert apple. Sliced thinly it would go really well in a salad with apple or carrot, maybe some feta and a handful of nuts.

However I wanted a hot meal, and generously spiced, to keep me warm on a winter’s day. These fritters are deliciously moist and packed with flavour – the turmeric is optional and serves mostly aesthetic purposes, I like the splash of colour it adds. However the minted yoghurt is a must – a perfect soothing companion for the spiced fritters.

And did I mention that kohlrabi contains higher quantities of Vitamin C than oranges?

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Serves 2:
1 kolhrabi, grated
1 carrot, grated
½ onion, grated
1 clove of garlic, grated (alternatively garlic powder)
½ fresh red chili, finely diced (alternatively chili powder)
1 egg
1 tbsp plain flour
½ tsp turmeric (optional)

minted yoghurt:
200 ml plain yoghurt
a handful of fresh mint, chopped

lemon wedges, to serve

1. First, the yoghurt: chop up some mint leaves and stir into the yoghurt. Season to taste.

2. Wrap the grated ingredients; kohlrabi, carrot, and onion, in a tea towel and squeeze out any excess liquid.

3. Put in a large mixing bowl with chili, egg, flour and seasoning, and combine with a fork until you have a wet but firm batter. Shape little patties with your hands; there should be enough for six patties.

4. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan and cook the fritters over a medium-high heat until firm and golden on both sides. Serve with lemon wedges and minted yoghurt.

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Pumpkin and caramelised onion tart

DSC_0006Halloween has been and gone, but luckily pumpkins haven’t. My butternut soup-turned-into-a-tart recipe is so easy, especially if you can find one of those convenience packets of diced pumpkin.

The perfect lazy supper.

Serves 4:
500 g pumpkin or squash, such as butternut or acorn, peeled, deseeded and diced
50 g spreadable goat’s cheese
1 red chili, finely chopped
1 red onion, sliced
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp dried thyme
one sheet of puff pastry

1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celsius (fan-forced oven). Cook the diced pumpkin in boiling water for 10-15 minutes until tender. Drain well and roughly mash with the cheese, chili, thyme and seasoning.

2. While the diced pumpkin is boiling sauté the onion and garlic for 5-7 minutes until golden.

3. Unroll the pastry sheet and place on a baking tray. Wet the pastry edges with lukewarm water and fold the pastry to create a half inch border on all sides. Spread the pumpkin mixture on the pastry, making sure it fills up all the space and that it comes all the way up to the border.  Scatter over the onions and bake for 20-30 minutes until risen and golden.

Adapted from:
http://www.waitrose.com/content/waitrose/en/home/recipes/recipe_directory/p/pumpkin-and-oniontart.html
http://chewtown.com/2014/03/pumpkin-caramelised-onion-and-goats-cheese-tart/

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Nutella torte

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Anything improves with Nutella, doesn’t it? This naughty cake recipe is from Nigella Lawson and bears her voluptuous signature: rich, gooey, and ridiculously over-indulgent, it is a cake to knock you out. Packed with chocolate, Nutella, butter, cream, nuts, and liqueur, it has all good things in one cake tin. That said, for the sake of your health I suggest you refrain from eating it on a weekly basis, addictive though as it is!

Now to the practicalities. If you are in possession of a mini-blender this will make the process of grinding your hazelnuts complacently easy, but if you lack this sort of equipment then grinding will be a pain – in which case I suggest you buy ready-ground nuts from a health/speciality store.

Serves 8:
6 large eggs, separated
125 g soft unsalted butter
400 g nutella (1 large jar)
1 tablespoon frangelico, rum, or water
100 g ground hazelnuts
100 g dark chocolate, melted
a pinch of salt

ganache:
125 ml double cream
1 tablespoon frangelico, rum, or water
125 g dark chocolate, chopped

topping:
100 grams peeled hazelnuts

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites and salt until stiff but still soft. It is paramount that you take care to not overdo the whipping or you will end up with an unappetising, grainy mass of eggs (trust me, I speak from experience!) Stop whisking as soon as the eggs have set.
  1. In a separate bowl, beat the butter and Nutella together, and then add the frangelico (or whatever you’re using), egg yolks and ground hazelnuts.
  1. Fold in the cooled, melted chocolate, then lighten the mixture with a large dollop of egg white, which you can beat in as roughly as you want, before gently folding the rest of them in a third at a time.
  1. Pour into a 23 cm round greased and lined springform tin and cook for 40 minutes or until the cake’s beginning to come away at the sides, then let cool on a rack.
  1. Toast the hazelnuts in a dry frying pan until the nuts take on a golden-brown colour: keep shaking the pan so that they don’t burn on one side and stay too pallid on others. Transfer to a plate and let cool. This is imperative: if they go on the ganache while hot, it’ll turn oily.
  1. In a saucepan, add the cream, liqueur or water and chopped chocolate, and heat gently. Once the chocolate’s melted, take the pan off the heat and whisk until it reaches the right consistency to ice the top of the cake. Unmould the cooled cake carefully, leaving it on the base as it will be too difficult to get such a damp cake off in one piece.
  1. Ice the top with the chocolate icing, and decorate with the cooled hazelnuts.

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Adapted from a recipe from ‘How to be a Domestic Goddess’ by Nigella Lawson

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Börek – Turkish pastries with feta and herbs

DSC_0069I adore Turkish and Turkish-inspired food. A friend and outstanding cook introduced me to a bunch of dishes which have now gone with her and her suitcases back to Istanbul.  In her absence, I am now endeavouring to recreate these fantastic dishes one by one. It is a way to enjoy delectable food but, more importantly, it is a way of reviving the memory of someone who is greatly missed. As is so often the case with food, it is inextricable from the people, sounds and scenes that are associated with it. When I cook Öykü’s food, the fragrances rising from the stove bring back the sound of joyful Turkish music and Öykü’s bouncy, contagious laugh. Hopefully I will soon be cooking alongside Öykü again, in Istanbul – I’m saving up for that plane ticket!

Meanwhile, the Böreks – a savoury pastry with a meat- or vegetable-based filling which comes in all sorts of varieties. This feta and herb version championed by Öykü is both seductively simple, healthy and unbelievably tasty – a prime example of Turkish cuisine. Authentic Böreks are made with a unique type of pastry sold from special ‘dough-shops’ in Turkey – difficult, if not impossible, to get hold of in the UK. The next-best thing, I’m told, is to use filo pastry, although you could also use puff pastry. It really comes down to your mood and preferences. Filo pastry makes a very light, snack-ish Börek whereas a puff pastry Börek is more substantial. With filo pastry you have to work quickly, because there is a risk of the pastry drying out. But you must also work gently, as the sheets are very fragile and will easily tear. To prevent any sort of pastry disaster I used double sheets of filo – this way, if there is a tear, the protection of an extra layer prevents the filling from spilling.

Notwithstanding the ominous warnings online concerning filo (enough to put anyone off a filo project!), with double sheets and lack of perfectionism these Böreks actually turned out well and weren’t much of a hassle at all. With the ingredients to hand, it’s the kind of thing you can whip up for a teatime snack in half an hour. Wash it down with a cup of potent muddy Turkish coffee and you’re transported to warmer climates…

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Makes 12 böreks:
6 filo pastry sheets
200 g feta cheese
1 tbsp dill, chopped finely
2 tbsp parsley, chopped finely
pepper, freshly ground
1 egg yolk + 1 tablespoon olive oil, for glazing
nigella seeds, to sprinkle

1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees celsius. Remove filo pastry from the fridge and bring to room temperature.

2. Prepare the filling: Combine feta, herbs and pepper in a bowl and smash the feta with the back of a fork.

3. Arrange a double sheet of filo pastry on baking parchment. Cut into four squares. Spoon a tablespoon of filling in the center of each square, then wet the edges of the pastry with water and quickly fold into a triangle. Repeat with the remaining pastry sheets.

4. Brush with glaze and sprinkle with nigella seeds.

5. Bake until golden brown, about 10-15 minutes.

Adapted from http://almostturkish.blogspot.co.uk/2007/03/puff-pastry-bundle-gen-milfy-brek.html 

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Blackberry-apple jam

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I’d never made jam before.  But there I was, with half a kilo of tenderly foraged blackberries, so plainly perfect for a jar of jam. So with excitement and a certain nervousness, I set about the job. However, as seasoned jam-makers will know, I soon realised that making jam is very easy indeed – and now I’m only wondering why on earth I hadn’t attempted it sooner.

Especially this time of year, making jam is a wonderful way of encapsulating the flavours of summer for the scarcer months ahead. You don’t even need fancy gadgets like a thermometer. Just fruit, sugar, perhaps some spices, and you’re good to go. My batch was promptly spooned on top of a pungent Camembert. Too good for words.

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(makes 475 g  or one jar of jam):
500 g blackberries
1 apple, peeled and core removed, chopped
200 g caster sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon cloves
4-5 tablespoons water

1. Put everything in a saucepan and simmer gently for 15 minutes.

2. Turn up the heat, bring to a rolling boil and boil rapidly for 10-12 minutes – don’t stir.

3. Test to see if the jam has set: spoon a little onto a cold plate, leave for a minute and then push the jam with your finger. If the jam crinkles and separates without flooding back, setting point has been reached.

4. Leave for 15 minutes or until cool and pour into a sterilised jar.

Adapted from:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/strawberry_jam_82129
http://www.soendag.dk/opskrifter/desserter-og-kager/brombaer-aeble-marmelade-med-stjerneanis
http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/11750/angelas-flexible-jam-recipe

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Autumnal blackberry-pear cake

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Autumn is when Edinburgh is at its best. As the festival crowd disappears the city breathes a sigh of relief. And the trees sigh with us, letting go of their leaves which come to rest, tanned and crisp, underfoot. The tumultuous summer weather gives way to beautifully bright and calm September days. Days perfect for scrambling about picking blackberries, which are in season now. Blackford Hill is an Edinburgh hotspot for the little black jewels. Aside from endless bushes of the stuff the hill offers spectacular views of the city – as breathtaking as the panoramic view from Arthur’s seat, but without the tourists – need I say more?

After months of living in a flat with no functioning oven I’m delighted to be able to go ba(r)king mad at my new place. And, even more importantly, my new flatmates enjoy homemade cakes as much as I do. So, to celebrate my new abode and the coming of autumn, I made this spiced fruit laden cake. The result? Couldn’t be happier! Sophisticated but simple, flavourful but infinitely light, this will go with any occasion. However it is important that the pears are very ripe, as the juices help to keep the sponge deliciously moist. Alternatively you can use tinned pears.

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Serves 6-8:
100 g blackberries
2 ripe pears
100 g sugar + 2 tablespoons
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon cloves
100 g soft butter
100 g plain flour
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder
25 g flaked almonds

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.

2. Cream the sugar and butter, then add the eggs one at a time, and stir until you have a thick and cohesive batter.

3. In a separate bowl, mix flour and baking powder, and stir into the cake batter. Pour into a lined 6-inch baking tray.

4. Peel the pears and slice them thinly. Arrange on top of the cake – with your fingers, gently press them halfway through the batter. Arrange blackberries on top of the batter and sprinkle with a mixture of 2 tablespoons sugar, cinnamon and cloves. Finally, sprinkle with almond flakes.

5. Bake in the oven for about 20-25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Adapted from a recipe from http://www.foodfanatic.dk/p%C3%A6ret%C3%A6rte-med-marcipan

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White chocolate mousse with raspberries and liquorice

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My dissertation is due next week, and while it’s been a challenging, sometimes even enjoyable process, the urge to get up from the books and cook has been stronger than ever. Cooking is always a refuge from everyday stress, but these past months it has been more than that. Working on the dissertation day in and day out, progress can be quite difficult to track. After a day spent in the library you can ask yourself, what have I actually accomplished today? 

‘I’ve been thinking’ is hardly a satisfactory answer, although that is often the case. In the kitchen, however, the end product is deliciously tangible, it’s there to be seen and enjoyed; gratification is instant. This is why I’ve spent so much time in the kitchen lately. It keeps me sane.

Ever since the awesome Danish chocolatier Summerbird launched their sensational white chocolate flødebolle with raspberries and powdered liquorice I have been obsessed with these flavours. After a couple of attempts I have finally managed to put together a decent dessert to show off these flavours that complement each other so well. Liquorice powder is a bit of a specialty which can be bought from Harvey Nichols. It was 5.50 but very economical, trust me. The powder is so finely grained and so potent it will take you years to see the bottom of the tin! (e. g. so many more white chocolate mousses to be had…)

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Serves 4:
a punnet of fresh raspberries (when out of season you can use frozen ones)
a squeeze of lemon juice
2 tablespoons caster sugar
½ teaspoon liquorice powder

white chocolate mousse:
175 grams white chocolate
90 ml milk
2 egg whites
¼ teaspoon lemon juice
225 ml double cream

1. Add sugar and lemon juice to raspberries and mix thoroughly, mashing the berries a little to release some of their juice. Divide between four glasses.

2. Melt the chocolate, stir in milk and set aside.

3. Whip the egg whites and lemon juice until stiff, then fold into the chocolate mixture until well combined.

4. Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks and gently fold into the chocolate mixture.

5. Give the marinating berries in the glasses one more stir before spooning the chocolate mixture on top. Chill for at least 2 hours.

6. Sprinkle with liqourice powder just before serving.

Adapted from a recipe from Nigella Lawson Community

 

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Summer risotto with courgette and pine nuts

DSC_0170There’s a risotto for every season, but the creamy rice dish is particularly apt for showing off the flavourful vegetables of summer. This is the time to get creative – with a risotto, anything goes. Delicate courgettes, deep purple aubergines, fragrant sunripened tomatoes, sweet peas… pick anything you fancy, the choice is overwhelming!

Even weeds should not be overlooked. I’m lucky to have a small courtyard at my disposition, if only temporarily, which is abundant with dandelions. Pretty as they are, lighting up like little suns, I had to sneak a few for my risotto, just to see what they taste like. All parts of the dandelion are edible, the leaves and the flowers too, although the green base of the bloom tastes slightly bitter. In contrast, the petals have a lovely sweetness which added a hint of flavour to the risotto.
Now that I’ve satisfyed my curiousity I’m going to leave the rest of the flowers in peace, though. Their golden beauty does after all last longer in the garden than on my tongue…

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  Dandelions in my courtyard 

Serves 2:
1 courgette, sliced wafer-thin
1 onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 cup risotto rice
2 tablespoons olive oil
chicken or vegetable stock
a knob of butter
juice of ½ lemon
25 g feta cheese
25 g parmesan, grated
20 g pine nuts
dandelion flowers or other edible flower, to finish (optional)

1. Toast the pine nuts in a dry pan until browned and fragrant. Set to one side.

2. In the same pan, heat a tablespoon of olive oil and fry the courgettes over a high heat. Season with salt and pepper. Make sure there is only one layer – you may have to fry in several batches. Place on kitchen towel and set to one side.

3. Now the risotto – heat another tablespoon of olive oil and sauté onions, garlic and risotto rice for about 5 minutes. Then add your stock gradually until the rice is cooked, should be about 18-20 minutes.

4. Turn off the heat and blend parmesan, butter and lemon juice into the rice. Crumble the feta cheese and stir well. Finally fold the courgettes gently into the risotto.

5. Serve with toasted pine nuts and perhaps a pretty flower.

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Instant chocolate mousse with marinated strawberries

DSC_0168This has been my go-to recipe for chocolate mousse for years. Celebrated for its quickness (and I kid you not this is instant mousse), amazingly it is also as delicious as any traditional chocolate mousse. By traditional I mean a mousse that has eggs in it, which necessitates  hours of resting in the fridge before serving. In this recipe the eggs are swapped for marshmallows – a genius invention by fellow lazy chef Nigella Lawson. We’re talking rather large quantities of marshmallows, though, so stick to dark chocolate – 75% cocoa or even 80 % – or your mousse will be sweeter than sweet.

I like to experiment with different toppings – but they will always have an acidic note to balance the sweetness of the mousse. This time I marinated some strawberries with sugar and lemon zest for a fresh and fruity twist. I love how the juices from the strawberries stream down the mountain of mousse and mix with every chocolatey spoonful. Pure joy.

Makes 4 (large) mousses:
150 mini marshmallows (if you can’t get mini then chop up some regular sized marshmallows)
50 g butter
250 g dark chocolate, minimum 75 % cocoa, broken into pieces
60 ml hot water (from a recently boiled kettle)
285 ml double cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

for the strawberry topping:
100 g fresh strawberries
1 tablespoon sugar
zest of ½ lemon

1. Slice the strawberries and put in a small bowl with sugar and lemon zest. Give it a good toss and leave to set in the fridge.

2. Put the marshmallows, butter, chocolate and water in a saucepan.

3. Put the saucepan on the hob, over heat, though keep it fairly gentle, to melt the contents, stirring every now and again. Remove from the heat.

4. Meanwhile, whip the cream with the vanilla extract until thick, and then fold into the cooling chocolate mixture until you have a smooth, cohesive mixture.

5. Pour into 4 glasses or ramekins and put in the fridge until chilled (20 minutes or so). Heap a spoonful of marinated strawberries on the centre of each mousse and serve.

Adapted from Nigella Express by Nigella Lawson

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Spaghetti alle vongole

DSC_0166Seafood has a reputation of being luxurious but you’d be surprised how inexpensive a helping of super fresh first-rate mussels actually is. I paid less than £2 for mussels for two – and that’s live mussels from the fishmonger. A super cheap fast food, mussels are actually the perfect student food. Drench them in garlic and chili and have them with heaps of spaghetti – it’s the best meal you’ve ever had.

Of course you need a drop of white wine to make that sauce and then you can hardly call it a budget dish. But what a wonderful excuse to buy a bottle of wine on a weekday. In fact, why not make every Wednesday a vongole day?

Serves 2:
500 g live mussels
2 cloves of garlic, diced
1 red chili, seeds discarded, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
zest of 1 lemon
1 small bunch parsley, chopped
100 ml dry white wine
300 g spaghetti, dried

1. Set a pan of salted water to boil. Meanwhile inspect the live mussels: they should be tightly closed. If any of them are open give them a sharp tap to get a reaction. If they don’t close throw them away. Then rinse the remaining mussels, the good ones.

2. About 5 minutes before the pasta is cooked heat the olive oil in a saucepan and sauté the garlic and chili for a few minutes until they’re starting to take colour. Then throw in the mussels and the white wine and put the lid on, steaming the mussels for 2-3 minutes.

3. Drain the pasta and toss it with the mussels, adding lemon zest and parsley to the mix. Serve and go to seafood heaven.

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