Friday, 22 June 2012

Asparagus, Pesto and Mozzarella Tart

I don't know why my guests found it so funny that my dining room window sill was full of chitting potatoes the other night. I haven’t planted them for so long that they have just become part of the furniture to me... There was much laughter, they seemed to think that when you come for supper at mine you don't know if this kind of thing is decoration, a project or a starter!

Gaga is a vegetarian so I made a delicious asparagus tart, she loves asparagus, and the others just like a good laugh at my expense, I should have fed them the shrivelled potatoes and sent them on their way! I've had quite a few recipe requests since I tweeted a photo of the tart, so I thought I best share it. It really is very simple and delicious, perfect when you need something quick...

You can make your own rough puff pastry, which is much simpler that making actual puff pastry, but for this I cheated and bought a ready made roll. After being at work all day there was a very short window of time to prepare food before people arrived, so menu planning had to be very strategic.

Unroll the pastry into a baking tray and spread about 5 heaped teaspoons of pesto over the whole sheet so there is an even layer, I used this home-made Wild Garlic Pesto which was delicious. Leave a 2/3 centimetre gap round the edge to allow the pastry to puff up. Then line up spears of uncooked asparagus all the way along (remember to snap the ends off) you will probably need about 20 spears.

Tear up a ball of mozzarella and scatter over the top. I added a little grating of Parmesan too, for saltiness, a little drizzle of olive oil and some black pepper. Then bake in the oven, at 180°C for about 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown round the edge.

Lovely buttery pastry with asparagus, melted cheese and aromatic pesto, I'll definitely make it again. I served it with this cold Roasted Ratatouille, a simple green salad and some fresh bread. When the guests had calmed down from the hilarity of the potatoes we all had a lovely and delicious evening...

Friday, 8 June 2012

Roast Cauliflower, Cumin and Yoghurt Soup

I have long taken inspiration from Claudia Rodan, her book Arabesque is never far from hand and I'm still discovering new amazing things in it that I have never cooked. A three hour roast lamb was the most recent with cinnamon couscous, chopped dates and almonds, delicious.

So when Carruthers and Kent, Gosforth's lovely independent fine wine company, suggested we team up and put together an evening of food and wine inspired by the Middle East I was instantly planning the menu. It will be a lavish tasting feast with matched wines on the 19th July as part of the EAT! Festival. So if you fancy trying that lamb and many more tasty treats please click here for more details...

My menu planning has taken me cover to cover in lots of Claudia's books as well as experimenting with lots of my own ideas. This is a little soup that came about one lunchtime when trying to balance the lovely sunshine with the fact that I was still freezing cold. It is a roast cauliflower and spicy cumin soup but using yoghurt instead of cream adds a freshness that makes this soup summery and light as well as deep with spice and warmth, and it is also very simple.

I used half a cauliflower and made enough to serve 2-3 people. Simply chop the cauliflower into small florets and place in a baking tray, add 5 peeled shallots, a big glug of olive oil, some salt and 2 teaspoons of ground cumin. Shake it all up and roast in the oven for about 30 minutes at 180°C, until golden brown, after about 15 minutes throw in a couple of cloves of garlic, giving it a stir at the same time. When it is ready throw it all in a pan with 300ml of chicken stock and a bay leaf and simmer until everything is very soft, about 20 minutes.

When it is ready remove the bay leaf and puree until smooth and add 2-3 tablespoons of yoghurt. Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper to suit. To serve scatter with some toasted cumin seeds and a little drizzle of olive oil. It is a fresh light soup that is warming and spicy at the same time, perfect for this changeable weather we're having...