Egg and cress

Egg and cress makes me think of summer.

I love it in sandwiches (I know lots of people don’t). Especially on a nice crispy white roll or baguette.

But recently I’ve been flipping through @Scandilicious new book The Secrets of Scandinavian Cooking and there’s quite a few open sandwiches with an eggy theme.

So I decided why not try egg and cress on lovely @PetersYard crispbreads for a quick lunch.


Wow it was fab. Helped of course that I had home grown cress and bantam eggs gifted from a friend.

Perfect with some crunchy breakfast radish on the side.

For a filling lunch for 1 you need:

2-3 bantam or small hens eggs, hardboiled

your favourite mayonnaise, a good dollop

1 tub of cress

3 Peters Yard crispbread or some slices of sourdough or rye bread

Chop the hard boiled eggs in with the mayo , stir in pepper and cress. Pile on bread or crispbreads, garnish with more cress and serve with crispy radish or some tomatoes

Festive menu, part 2 (cheese terrine)

The first of the recipes from my festive menu is the cheese terrine we had as a starter with Peters Yard crispbreads and a selection of smoked and cured salmon from Forman’s.

The terrine is adapted from a recipe in Delia Smith’s Christmas (the old version I’ve no idea if its in the recently published version). I particularly wanted to use a range of Lancashire cheeses but you could use any mix of cheeses you have and it would be a good way to use up what’s left of a cheese board. It makes a good starter or a light lunch dish (which is what I’ve been doing with the leftovers).

Cheese terrine

You need:

  • 275g of cottage cheese or other mild young soft cheese, I used Lancashire curd from Butlers but I think Brock Hall Farm soft goat cheese would also be brilliant.
  • 75ml mild good mayonnaise or greek yoghurt
  • sachet of gelatine powder or two leaves of sheet gelatine
  • 50g each of three hard cheeses, one of which should be a blue cheese, I used  Blacksticks Blue, Creamy and Tasty Lancashire combined (25g of each) and Goosnargh Goats all from Butlers Cheeses
  • tablespoon of chopped fresh herbs of your choice, I used flat leaf parsley
  • water and lemon juice to dissolve the gelatine
  • 150ml double cream
  • salt and pepper
  • a loaf or terrine tin 18 x 9 x 5 cm lightly oiled

Dissolve the gelatine as per the packet instructions. Blend the cottage/curd cheese with the mayonnaise/yoghurt until smooth. Cube the hard cheeses into 1/2 cm pieces. Whip the cream to the floppy stage.

Add the dissolved gelatine to  the soft cheese mixture and stir thoroughly. Add the hard cheeses, herbs, salt and pepper and mix. Then add the cream and stir through. Pour or spoon into the terrine mould. Cover with cling film and leave to set for 3 hours or more in the fridge. Turn out onto a plate and serve in slices or allow people to help themselves.

Enough for 8 as a starter.

Easy Lunch: Asparagus

I’ve said on here before how much I love asparagus and I’m very certain I will be saying it again before the season is over. Earlier in the week I went really simple with steamed asparagus and slithers of Ticklemore cheese popped under the grill until the cheese was just melting. The salty goats cheese was great with the asparagus. I didn’t take pictures though because I was so busy eating it.

Today I went for Parma ham, steamed asparagus and fried guinea fowl eggs.

Oh yum.

I don’t think you need instructions to be able to copy this, of course feel free to substitute the egg of your choice.

This week I am mostly eating asparagus from Norfolk.

Back of the fridge pasta

pasta with pestoYesterday when I was catching up with posts on a few of my favourite blogs I spotted a pasta blogging event that Mangocheeks at Allotment2Kitchen was taking part in. So I followed the links and ended up at Presto Pasta Nights, which this week (PPN #117) is hosted by Katie at Thyme for Cooking. The concept is that you blog about a pasta dish (well anything that has pasta or noodles in actually) and as pasta is one of my favourite quick dishes I thought it might be fun to take part especially as I had pasta for lunch on Monday from a mixture of things lurking in the fridge.

As I work from home quite a lot I get to rustle up whatever I fancy each day from whatever I can see in the fridge. I don’t often buy things specifically to use for lunch but instead muddle through with whatever I can find from leftovers and store cupboard basics. Its fair to say our cupboards and fridge are fairly well stocked so it not often that I struggle to make something tasty, but I do tend to really on pasta, salads and open sandwiches a lot.

On Monday the fridge yielded:

  • some cooked garden peas and new potatoes leftover from dinner the night before
  • the remains of a bunch of asparagus that had got hidden behind something else so it wasn’t in top form any more but still edible
  • some fresh tarragon pesto that was dangerously near its use by date
  • the last of a chunk of parmesan

So I headed to the cupboard and dug out the current pasta shape (some De Cecce Tortiglioni) and cooked it as per the packet instructions. I steamed the asparagus above the pasta for about 7 minutes and then cut it into 2cm lengths. Once the pasta was done I drained it, put it back in the pan and stirred in a couple of spoonfuls of pesto, and tossed it with the asparagus, peas and potatoes (cut into 1cm dice). Into a bowl with a good grating of parmesan on the top and there was my lunch. Maybe 15 minutes from fridge to table – not bad.

Note: The fresh pesto was Purely Pesto. I’m going to be doing a producer review soon so watch out for that.

In season: asparagus, part 1

The asparagus season has been going for a week or so now and so far I’ve only had one tasting just over a week ago and none since. It was great but once only is not good enough, there are only 6-8 weeks of the season, I refuse to buy asparagus out of season and I love the stuff so I really need to get focussed – I mean I’d eat it everyday if I could! So today, despite the heavy rain and blustery wind, I decided it had to be asparagus for lunch, preferably with some Jersey Royals alongside. A quick trip to the supermarket was required – now I know I should be buying this stuff at the local farmers shop/market/etc but:

a. there isn’t one near me and
b. its Monday so time is short for food shopping. 

I got what I needed – a good bunch of asparagus (it was from Hampshire – I’m really wondering where the East Anglia asparagus is this year after all its nearer – so much for Waitrose’s local sourcing policy!) and a small bag of Jersey Royals (and what happened to them being sold still in the soil it seemed so much better and they had them like that last year?).

Anyway back home with my haul of goodies I set to work to make a quick lunch. I like my asparagus simply done –I’m not one for turning it into soups it always seems best to me steamed or maybe grilled and then dressed with some oil or butter, or served with simple accompaniments such as poached egg, or a little cheese. Today I opted for steaming it above the potatoes and then serving it on a bed of parma ham, drizzling it with olive oil and sprinkling with a little bit of Sacanova Aged Mahon cheese, the potatoes were alongside with some oil and fresh mint.

Sweet and slightly nutty asparagus, earthy, nutty potatoes, sweet ham and a salty caramel tang from the cheese – perfection.

With only about 45 days left to get my fill how shall I have tomorrow’s asparagus?

A simple lunch

I’ve been blogging now for a couple of months and I’ve been looking at some of the other food blogs out there to see what goes on in the food blogging community. I noticed that some bloggers run ‘events’ as part of what they do and I thought it might be fun to join in now that I’m starting to get used to (or possibly obsessed by) the whole blogging thing.

Early on I’d seen the ‘In the bag’ monthly event that is run jointly by Julia at ‘A Slice of Cherry Pie’ and Scott at ‘Real Epicurean’ and was disappointed to have missed out on the January deadline; then I got so absorbed in playing with my blog, adding (and subtracting) widgets, reading Blogging for Dummies, checking out other blogs – you all know how it is I guess you’ve been there too – that I didn’t spot February’s ‘bag’ until it was so close to the deadline I knew I wouldn’t have time to think something up.

So as not to miss out again I watched closely for March’s bag to be announced and then got to thinking about what I could do with these three ingredients (leeks, cheese and eggs) which feature frequently in my cooking but, I immediately realised, rarely in one dish.

So off I went to do some researching in my various cookbooks.

As leeks seemed to be the key ingredient I started by looking for different ways with them that also used both eggs and cheese (for this first attempt I didn’t want to drop one of the ingredients even though you are allowed to, that seemed way too easy). There were plenty of choices with leeks and cheese and a few with leeks and eggs but little that combined all three beyond the inevitable leek and cheese flan/tart/quiche – delicious but very obvious – I was hoping for something a little different and also a dish that could perhaps become a new favourite in my cooking.

I did spot a leeky Welsh rarebit recipe in Hugh F-W’s River Cottage Year that looked rather tasty but decided it felt a little too much like a hearty winter dish and I wanted something that would work well as a fresh and light spring dish. I was also reminded how versatile leeks are, its so easy to fall to just steaming them and serving as a side dish when with a little imagination they could shine in their own right.

Some of the ideas that I toyed with along the way but discarded were (some of my general sources of inspiration are shown in brackets for those who want to pursue any of these):

  • Chargrilled leeks with shavings of a hard sheep’s cheese, or with a mayonnaise or hollandaise (Sybil Kapoor, Simply British)
  • Lightly steamed, dressed with a vinaigrette and finely chopped hard boiled egg (Hugh F-W, The River Cottage Year and Simon Hopkinson, Roast chicken and other stories)
  • A la grecque (Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book and Margaret Costa, Four Seasons Cookery Book) – fundamental flaw with this one was that it didn’t use the eggs or the cheese – oops! But it is delicious.
  • With pasta in a kind of vegetarian carbonara style or with homemade pasta (using the eggs) and a leeky cheesy sauce (any Italian cookbook will help).
  • As a kind of French onion style soup with a nice melted cheese crouton (I think this was from a Jamie Oliver book where he does a three types of onion soup – I think its Jamie at Home but can’t seem to locate it right now – sorry).
  • In a risotto (any Italian cookbook).
  • As a gratin….

And so it went on – lots of fun delving in recipe books, finding great ideas, discounting them because they either didn’t use all three ingredients or they didn’t seem to fit with the fact the weather was getting wonderfully spring like. I was beginning to think that I wouldn’t be submitting again this time…….

Then sitting flicking through River Café Cookbook Green, I noticed what seemed like

frittata after
frittata after

in the chapters devoted to March and April (with wild salad leaves, with sorrel, with spinach and prosciutto). Something started to stir – I really like frittata and other similar styles of omelette and I often cook one with a delicious fresh cheese called Buxlow Wonmil that I get when I’m in Suffolk.

There wasn’t going to be chance to get any of that particular cheese for this dish but I did want the refreshing tang that it has, so goats cheese seemed a possibility and thinking back to the leeky cheesy rarebit that I’d liked the sound of I remembered that Waitrose stock a Welsh goats cheese (Pant ys Gawn) that would fit the bill. I was beginning to feel like I might be in business. A spring frittata made with good British ingredients to be served, hopefully, with a side salad of early spring salad leaves (I was really hoping for some sorrel as I’d spied some in the herb section at Waitrose recently)

So off to the supermarket this morning to get the ingredients (sadly there isn’t a farmers market near where I live other than going into London to Borough market, which I love but rarely have time for, hence a huge reliance on the local Waitrose.). There was no sorrel left but I did find some English watercress and had to settle for some French lambs lettuce as none of the leaves seemed to be English just yet. So here’s the recipe.

For 2 as a light lunch you need:

4 medium eggs (organic for preference)
½ – 1 Pant Ys Gawn goat’s cheese (I used a whole cheese but see later) – or other fresh tangy soft cheese
1 slim leek
Maldon salt
freshly ground black pepper
Salad leaves of your choice

Make sure the grill is on and warm before you start

The Leek: Top and tail the leek and cut into chunks about 1 inch in length then slice these into quarters, rinse the leek thoroughly to remove any grit and drain or spin in a salad spinner. Heat a little butter in an omelette or other shallow pan (of about 6-7” in diameter). Add the leeks and allow them to soften for a maximum of 5 minutes, you are aiming for them to retain some of their crunch.

The eggs: break the eggs into a bowl; add a splash of milk and some salt and pepper. As soon as the leeks have softened a little pour the eggs into the pan and allow to cook slightly. Draw in parts of the sides a few times to create a little fluffiness in the texture. Once you think you have a good base but the eggs are still runny for most of the depth then…..

Add the cheese, which you have crumbled or cut into small chunks. Cook for a little longer and then pop the pan under the grill (be careful with the handle if its not heat proof) to cook the frittata from the top. This will take about 3-4 minutes if the grill is hot.

Remove from the grill and allow to cool slightly, slice and serve with your chosen salad leaves.

I was pretty pleased with the result, the leek flavours showed through well and they were soft enough but still with some bite, the cheese contrasted with them nicely and had a good tang and the salad leaves (dressed with just a little extra virgin rapeseed oil) made for a nice soft balance. I think probably the whole goats cheese was a little too much as the egg flavour was a bit lost so when I make this again I’d probably scale back to ½ of the cheese. 

I really enjoyed the whole ‘In the bag’ challenge; it made me think about some ingredients differently, gave me chance to read lots of recipe books and generated lots of ideas for ways to have leeks that I’d either forgotten or not thought of before.

So I’ll be looking forward to whatever is ‘In the bag’ in April.

A pea soup for spring

It was the first day of spring on Saturday and the weather ran exactly to form – sunny and warm but with a slight bite to the wind. We all wanted something for lunch that fitted in with the weather – salad would perhaps be too summery and at first we though that soup would be too hearty. What we needed was something that was fresh enough to keep the mood of spring and summer to come but warming enough to take the edge off that wind.

After some time spent flipping through cookery books I found a recipe for pea soup that seemed to fit the bill. Now of course peas aren’t in season right now (and I’ve been working hard at cooking more seasonally of late) but in fact most of us never actually get to have really truly fresh peas straight from the plant, out of the pod and into the pot (or our mouth). Unless you grow your own peas, or know of an excellent source where you can be sure you will get the peas the same day as they were picked, then its very likely the case that the best tasting peas you’ll eat at home will be ones from the freezer. The frozen pea is actually pretty good, its well known that the time from picking to packing is very short and this preserves the sweetness (according to Bird’s Eye field to frozen is 2 ½ hours), and you can now get organic grown frozen peas to lessen the guilt of not buying fresh!

So we settled on pea soup. The recipe comes from a book called ‘The Little Book of Soup’ and was contributed by Gary Rhodes (it’s a nice little book and I’ve cooked a number of soups from it adapting as I go. It also supports homeless charities through donating 70% of proceeds). The recipe in the book suggests it feeds 4 as a generous starter but as we had 4 and this was our main dish for lunch I roughly doubled up the quantities (I didn’t actually have enough frozen peas to do double so I guess the original might be thicker in texture). Below I’ve listed the quantities I actually used and in brackets those quoted in the recipe:

1 litre of chicken stock (600ml water or stock)) – in my opinion stock is always a better base for soup as it gives an added dimension that helps lift the flavour up a level – but as you can see Gary suggests water and since he’s a Michelin starred chef and I’m not we have to grant that he might know a thing or two about making soup.
750g frozen peas (450g podded fresh peas or frozen)
salt and pepper
pinch caster sugar
2 desert spoonfuls of Greek yoghurt (100ml whipping or single cream)

The method is pretty easy you basically bring the stock to the boil add the peas bring back to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes until the peas are tender. Then you add the seasonings of salt, pepper and sugar and liquidise/blend the whole lot with whatever kitchen implement you have to hand for that purpose. Gary suggests you could push it through a sieve to get a really smooth finish and I imagine for a dinner party this might be worth the effort but for a quick light lunch with friends I’d say it’s overkill and time ill spent. Put it back in the pan and warm through adding the yoghurt or cream (or crème fraiche would also work well) just before serving. We garnished it with some fresh chopped mint leaves or for a more wintery take you could try crispy lardons or strips of salami.

Taste wise it was just what we had hoped for, fresh flavours with depth from the stock and just enough soupy warmth to make it a great dish for the start of spring.