Aga Caponata

Aga Caponata

I recently took part in a fun Twitter challenge. Jenny Linford (@jennylinford) invited her followers every day for a week to name their seven favourite cookbooks. As well as making my choices, which wasn’t easy, I so enjoyed browsing the hashtag #7favouritecookbooks. Of course many of the books mentioned were my own favourites too while some I’d heard about but never owned (and now want to!) and some I’d never come across but now want to explore. The books in my selection were well used by me, obviously, and in several cases constituted just one example of work by my favourite cookery writers like Delia Smith and Diana Henry.

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Recently for friends I made the roasted vegetable couscous dish in Delia’s Summer Collection, one of my seven choices. They all remarked how the dish had stood the test of time and that it reminded them what an excellent book it is. We agreed on what an impact it had had and how it had changed the way we cooked: suddenly we were needing fresh coriander and limes all the time and as for roasting vegetables as an alternative to boiling or frying them, this was a revelation.

I make this type of roasted ratatouille all the time now, sometimes with the harissa dressing and couscous, but mostly to serve with roasted or barbecued meat. Leftovers are delicious warm or cold with a dollop of hummus. This summer I’ve been making a similar dish which particularly complements fish, but also goes well with meat; it’s the Sicilian caponata. The authentic way of making it is to fry each vegetable separately but the other day I thought I’d try roasting them all together in the same way I’d do the roasted ratatouille; this seemed to me to be the ideal Aga way. Only the tomatoes are prepared separately and then added at the end.

I was guided by the caponata recipe in Xanthe Clay’s lovely book “The Contented Cook”.

Aga Caponata

Ingredients

  • 1 large aubergine, cubed
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, peeled, cut into 10 or 12 wedges
  • 1 fat garlic clove, crushed
  • 2 red peppers, deseeded and thickly sliced
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced (save the frondy tops)
  • 2-3 large, ripe tomatoes (I used plum; you could use tinned if you don’t have any fresh ones)
  • 1/2 glass red wine
  • 2 tbsps red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • Handful of green olives
  • 2 tbsps capers
  • Basil leaves (optional)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

  • Place the aubergine, onion, garlic, peppers and fennel in the small Aga roasting tin
  • Season and stir in about 3 tbsps of olive oil, coating everything
  • Slide the tin onto the top set of runners in the roasting oven and roast for 30 to 40 minutes until the vegetables are soft and slightly charred in places
  • Meanwhile put the tomatoes in a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Leave for a couple of minutes, then drain under cold water and peel off the skins and deseed. Chop the flesh
  • Put the wine, wine vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to the boil on the simmering plate. Add the chopped tomato and cook in the simmering oven until the mixture has reduced to a thick sauce. Season and stir it into the cooked vegetables.
  • Leave to cool to room temperature before mixing in the olives, capers and the basil or fennel fronds
  • Check the seasoning and serve

 

 

 

 

 

Scones and ‘Nearly’ Strawberry Jam

Scones and ‘Nearly’ Strawberry Jam

Yesterday I made the lightest and most delicious scones I’ve ever eaten. They are “Lily’s Scones” from Nigella Lawson’s “How to be a Domestic Goddess” book and I can’t think why I hadn’t tried them until now. You probably all already know about them but here’s the recipe, just in case. Oh, and I served them with Diana Henry’s “nearly” strawberry jam which I made the other day; it’s a quick way of making jam and perfect for this time of year when strawberries are in abundance. It’s a fairly runny jam (just like my Norwegian grandmother used to make, actually) and deliciously fresh-tasting.

Diana Henry’s “Nearly” Strawberry Jam

  • 350g strawberries, hulled and gently wiped clean
  • 75g granulated sugar
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon

Method

  • Quarter the large strawberries and leave the small ones whole
  • Place them in a saucepan with the sugar and lemon juice
  • Set on the simmering plate and stir a little until the sugar dissolves
  • Roughly mash the fruit with a fork or potato masher. You want to end up with a mixture which is part purée, part chunks of fruit
  • Remove to the simmering oven for about an hour until it’s thickened somewhat, but remember, this is a runny jam
  • Pour into a bowl and leave to cool or into a lidded jar for storing in the refrigerator where it will keep for at least four days

Diana Henry says you could make a larger batch and freeze some.

Lily’s Scones

(Makes about 12)

(You will need your large Aga baking tray, lined with bake-o-glide and a 6 1/2 cm crinkle-edged cutter)

Ingredients

  • 500g plain flour
  • 1tsp (or perhaps a little less) salt
  • 2 tsps bicarbonate of soda
  • 41/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 50g cold unslated butter, diced
  • 25g lard, in teaspooned lumps
  • 300ml milk
  • 1 large egg, beaten, for egg-wash

Method

  • Sift the flour, salt, bicarb and cream of tartar into a large bowl
  • Rub in the fats till it goes like damp sand
  • Add the milk all at once, mix briefly and then turn out onto a floured surface and knead lightly to form a dough
  • Roll out very gently to about 3cm thickness
  • Dip the cutter into some flour, then stamp out your scones. You will need to reroll for the last couple
  • Place them on the baking tray and brush the tops with the egg-wash
  • Slide onto the second set of runners in the roasting oven and leave for 10-12 minutes until risen and golden

Serve with jam and Rodda’s clotted cream: the jam goes on first and the cream on top, as my Cornish daughter-in-law insists.

 

Raspberry Yoghurt Cake

Raspberry Yoghurt Cake

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you’ll know how fond I am of baking with raspberries. I’ve made this raspberry yoghurt cake twice now, once with regular flour and once with spelt and can honestly say there was no noticeable difference. The recipe is by Diana Henry – no surprises there! – and is from her book Simple. I love that the recipe was inspired by a cake she ate at a café in Nettlebed, a village in Oxfordshire, which holds many happy memories for me.

On the day Theresa May resigned I announced on Twitter that I was about to make this cake as a break from all the political drama, and there was quite a bit of interest, which is why I’m writing up the recipe for you today. The yoghurt doesn’t give the cake a yoghurt-y taste, if you know what I mean, but I think it gives it a lightness and makes it deliciously moist. It’s a perfect summer cake, but if you keep raspberries in your freezer, there’s nothing to stop you making it at other times of the year.

Raspberry Yoghurt Cake

Ingredients

  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 225g caster sugar
  • Finely grated zest of 2 unwaxed lemons
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 300g plain flour or spelt flour
  • 2 tsps baking powder
  • 115g natural yoghurt (I love Yeo Valley Greek Style)
  • 200g raspberries

Icing

  • 150g icing sugar
  • Approx. 2 tbsps lemon juice
  • About 10 raspberries

 

Method

(Preheat conventional oven to 180ºC)

  • Butter a 22 x 12 x 7cm loaf tin and line the base with bake-o-glide or baking parchment
  • Beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy
  • Add the lemon zest and vanilla
  • Add the eggs, a little at a time, beating well after each addition
  • Put 2 tbsps of flour in a bowl and toss the raspberries in it
  • Mix the flour and baking powder together and fold this into the batter, alternating with spoonfuls of the yoghurt
  • Put one third of the batter into your loaf tin and add half the raspberries, spreading them out evenly
  • Put another one third of the batter on top followed by the remaining raspberries and finishing with the rest of the batter
  • Bake for about an hour and 15 minutes in the baking oven, but check after 40 minutes or so and cover it with foil if it seems to be colouring too much
  • A skewer should come out clean when it’s done. Leave the cake in the tin for 10 minutes before turning it out onto a wire rack to cool
  • Mix the icing sugar with the lemon juice until smooth
  • Spread two thirds of this on the cooled cake
  • Partly crush the 10 raspberries and add them to the remaining icing. Don’t completely mix them in; you just want them to stain bits of the icing. Pour over the cake

 

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Jerusalem Artichokes with Fennel and Peas

Jerusalem Artichokes with Fennel and Peas

Having consumed during the Christmas period one massive turkey, a Norwegian spiced pork belly, a baked ham and a venison casserole, we are craving vegetables in this house. Sprouts, red cabbage, salads and lots of fruit also featured heavily on the menu but meat predominated. I’m not saying we’re going in for Veganuaray or any other New Year trend; it’s about needing to reset our dietary priorities. This month I’m going to cook without meat during the week but we’ll continue to have a roast or other meat dish on Sundays.

With this in mind I was delighted to pore over one of my Christmas presents from my sons: Joe Trivelli’s book, The Modern Italian Cook. I confess I was not familiar with Trivelli, who is head chef of the River Café, but I am glad to have been introduced. And Diana Henry, whose recipes you know I love, gave it a mention in her Telegraph column. If that’s not a recommendation, I don’t know what is.

It’s a beautiful book and I want to make everything in it but so far I’ve only got as far as making one of the dishes twice, first as a starter on New Year’s Eve and then last night we had it as our main meal with some fresh bread to mop up the juices. The recipe works well in the Aga.

Jerusalem artichokes with fennel and peas

Serves 4 (or 6 as a starter)

Ingredients

  • 500g Jerusalem artichokes
  • 2 fennel bulbs, trimmed
  • ½ large or 1 small red onion, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 500g frozen peas
  • 10 mint leaves
  • 2 parsley sprigs or a handful of chopped parsley
  • 1 lemon
  • Sea salt, black pepper and extra virgin olive oil

Method

  • Peel the artichokes and cut into wedges. Keep under water to stop them discolouring.
  • Remove any stringy-looking outer parts of the fennel and cut into thin wedges. Toss in some lemon juice to prevent them discolouring
  • Heat a tablespoon of oil in a heavy-based, wide pan with a lid and sweat the onion with a pinch of salt. You could place the pan in the simmering oven at this point
  • Once the onion is soft add the garlic and a minute or two later the fennel. Stew with the lid on for five minutes (or longer if you put it in the simmering oven)
  • Add the Jerusalem artichokes, peas and some black pepper and continue to stew. Trivelli says to do this for 10 minutes over a low heat but my artichokes needed a lot longer than this (in the simmering oven) before they were soft. In fact, to try to speed things up I put the pan in the baking oven for a while. And Trivelli is right to say that Jerusalem artichokes cook unevenly: I found that when some wedges were soft and tender, others were still hard. But your patience will be rewarded, I promise you
  • Once your artichokes are cooked, check the seasoning, add your herbs and stir them through with some extra virgin olive oil
  • Serve with wedges of lemon to squeeze over

 

 

Lemon and Ricotta Cake

Lemon and Ricotta Cake

The first lemon and ricotta cake I made was not a success. It was a Jamie Oliver recipe and didn’t really work, producing a rather dense cake. It may of course be entirely my fault and I might try it again one day. On the other hand, I’m not sure why I’d bother because yesterday I made a Diana Henry version from her book Simple and it was light and moist and delicious.

This cake works as an afternoon tea cake but also as a dessert served perhaps with some berries and crème fraîche or whipped cream. It’s best eaten slightly warm. It’s the ricotta that makes the cake moist but it also means it doesn’t keep that well. Don’t do what I did and make it on a day when hardly anyone’s around to share it with you because it really is best eaten on the day it’s made. If you do have some left, wrap it in clingfilm and refrigerate it. This is what I did and the next day I gave it a blast (a minute or two at high heat) in the microwave to warm it up a little and it freshened up beautifully. I was thrilled when our Italian friend, who is very particular about the food of his homeland and whose late wife was the most wonderful cook, gave it his approval.

Lemon and Ricotta Cake

Serves 8 (depending on hunger/greed)

You will need a 20cm springform tin, lightly greased and base-lined (with bake-o-glide)

Ingredients

  • 175g unsalted butter, softened
  • 175g golden caster sugar
  • Finely grated zest of 4 unwaxed lemons and the juice of 3
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 250g fresh ricotta, drained in a sieve
  • 100g self-raising flour, sifted
  • 25g ground almonds
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Icing sugar to serve

Method

  • Beat the butter and sugar together in an electric mixer until light and fluffy
  • Lightly beat the egg yolks with a fork and gradually add them, beating well after each addition
  • Stir the lemon zest and drained ricotta into the batter
  • Whisk the egg whites until they form medium peaks
  • Stir the lemon juice into the batter, then fold in the flour, almonds and baking powder
  • Fold two big spoonfuls of the egg whites into the batter to loosen it, then fold in the rest
  • Scrape the batter into the prepared tin
  • Put it in the baking oven and bake for 45-50 minutes; a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake should come out clean once it’s cooked
  • Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes or so, then remove the springform ring and let it continue to cool, although as I mentioned above it’s delicious served slightly warm
  • Dust with icing sugar to serve

 

 

 

Smoked Salmon Quiche

Smoked Salmon Quiche

As we Aga cooks all know, cooking a quiche in an Aga couldn’t be easier because there is no blind baking required. You just have to add the filling to your pastry-lined tin and place the whole thing on the floor of the roasting oven to bake for 30 minutes or less. The pastry will cook from underneath avoiding a “soggy bottom”, as Mary Berry would tell you. The top will be golden brown.

The classic quiche is Quiche Lorraine made with bacon and Gruyère cheese, but there are so many variations you could try. For example, Diana Henry’s delicious salmon and crab tart with Thai flavours which I wrote about here.

Yesterday I made a simple smoked salmon quiche based on a Delia Smith recipe from her Complete Cookery Course. It was for a picnic for my husband and two friends who have been spending today salmon and trout fishing on the Usk. They also took with them roast asparagus dressed with olive oil and lemon juice, some mini pork pies (not homemade, I’m afraid), strawberries, rock cakes (my own), cinnamon buns (our favourite ones from Hart’s Bakery) and flasks of tea and coffee. They will not starve. I think I spotted a bottle of wine in the picnic basket too.

Smoked Salmon Quiche

Quantities here are for a 20cm fluted quiche tin, ideally with a loose bottom. Yesterday I doubled the quantities and used a 28cm tin. 

Ingredients

For the pastry:

  • 110g plain flour
  • 25g lard
  • 25g butter
  • a pinch of salt
  • cold water, to mix

For the filling:

  • 175 smoked salmon, chopped
  • 2 large eggs
  • 275ml double cream
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • a dash of cayenne pepper
  • Salt and black pepper

Method

  • Lightly grease your tin
  • Make up the pastry by rubbing the fats into the flour and salt with your fingertips and adding a little cold water to combine. Rest it in the fridge wrapped in clingfilm for at least half an hour. Alternatively, use shop-bought pastry; I don’t mind one bit
  • Roll out the pastry on a floured surface and line your tin with it
  • Arrange the smoked salmon over the pastry base in the tin
  • Beat the eggs with the cream and add salt, pepper and some freshly grated nutmeg to taste
  • Pour the filling into the tin and sprinkle over a little cayenne pepper
  • Carefully slide the tin onto the floor of the roasting oven and bake for 20-30 minutes. Check it at 20 minutes and turn it round. When the pastry is golden and the filling is firm and golden brown, it is ready

 

Braised Pork with Ginger and Star Anise

Braised Pork with Ginger and Star Anise

My sons gave me two cookery books for my birthday. My daugher-in-law looked a bit sceptical and asked if I was sure they were what I wanted (I do have quite a few already), but I assured her it was. I had dropped a few (many) hints in the run-up to my birthday. One of the books was Diana Henry’s new one, How to Eat a Peach, which is a beautiful 71ztiybGwmLcollection of menus rather than recipes; it’s also a sort of memoir, an account of the places she’s travelled to since she was a teenager, and where she discovered all the dishes she loves to cook and eat. I have already cooked a few of the recipes from the book, although I haven’t yet put together a whole menu. The first thing I made was this braised pork, which I pounced on because I knew it would be perfect for the AGA simmering oven. I adjusted the quantities because there were only four of us eating and off I went.

 

Braised Pork with Ginger and Star Anise

Serves 4

Ingredients

For the pork

  • About 1tbsp groundnut or vegetable oil
  • 1kg pork shoulder, cut into 3cm cubes
  • 200g shallots, sliced
  • 20g fresh root ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely grated or crushed
  • 5 tbsps kecap manis
  • 3 tbsps light soy sauce
  • 11/2 tbsps tamarind paste
  • 400ml chicken stock
  • 1 star anise
  • 2 medium-hot chillies, halved, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 2 birds’ eye chillies, left whole

For the crispy fried shallots

  • Groundnut or vegetable oil
  • 100g shallots, finely sliced
  • Sea salt flakes

Method

  • Spread the pork out on a large baking tray, lined with bake-o-glide and drizzle with the oil
  • Place on the top rung or on the floor of the roasting oven for 10 minutes, then remove it, turn the meat over and return the tray to the roasting oven for about 5 minutes. Your aim is to have golden brown pieces of pork; you’re not trying to turn it dark brown
  • Meanwhile  get on with your shallots. Heat a tablespoon or two of oil in the casserole you want to braise your pork in. Do this on the simmering plate. Add the shallots, turn them over in the oil, put the lid on and transfer the casserole to the simmering oven for about 15 minutes until they are soft and golden
  • Stir the garlic and ginger in and return the pork to the pan along with the kecap manis, soy sauce, tamarind and stock
  • Bring to the boil on the boiling or simmering plate, add the star anise and all the chillies and place your casserole, uncovered, in the simmering oven for about 3 hours but, as I’m sure you know, when slow cooking in the Aga simmering oven the timing is not crucial as long as you end up with meltingly tender meat
  • Remove the star anise and the whole chillies
  • Meanwhile make the crispy fried shallots by heating about 2cm of oil in a small pan on the simmering plate. Add the shallots and fry, moving them around, until they are crisp and golden. Remove with a slotted spoon to a sheet of kitchen towel on a plate and sprinkle with salt
  • If the liquid around the pork is not thick and glossy and seems a bit thin, remove the pork with a slotted spoon to a dish and keep it warm in the simmering oven. Boil the liquid for a while on the boiling or simmering plate until it’s reduced and then return the pork to the pan to heat through
  • Serve the pork with the crispy fried shallots sprinkled over. We ate ours with rice and stir-fried pak choi