Norfolk Marrow Tart

You may have gathered from the previous couple of posts that I have quite a lot of courgette and marrow to get through! I rather like having a glut of a fruit or vegetable because it tends to lead to the invention or discovery of new and exciting recipes.

I found this recipe in one of my mother’s 1970’s cookery books. I was a little sceptical but thought I would give it a go – it’s delicious, my new favourite thing! The cooked marrow and egg makes a kind of egg custard, and the nutmeg gave it a wonderfully autumnal feel which reminded me a little of American pumpkin pie (although friends who tried it thought it was apple!). I have made it a couple of times now and intend to make it a few more times as I try to get to the bottom of the pile of courgettes and marrows.

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I find that older recipes tend to assume that you know what you are doing, so I add the following clarifications:

  • You can buy shortcrust pastry but it is pretty easy to make. I tend to use a recipe from another of my mum’s old books, where the proportions are 8oz flour, 4oz fat (half lard half margarine is best) and 2 tablespoons of water. I am very lazy and bung it in a food processor; this time I was even more lazy because Steve made too much pastry the previous day (he is renowned for his pies).
  • It works best if the marrow is mashed while it is in a colander or sieve, so as to get as much liquid out of it as possible. The first time I made it it didn’t look like it would set; I took some beaten egg, added some more sugar and nutmeg and put this as a layer on top of the tart and cooked it for another five to ten minutes which rescued it nicely.
  • The recipe doesn’t say what to do with the sugar; I sprinkled demerara sugar on top of the pie which made it nice and caramelised.
  • I used quite a small, deep dish because I like thick flan filling; this is a matter of taste.

 

 

 

 

Marrow stuffed with vegetable chilli

Ahh marrows – if you have one you have a hundred! I have inherited my mother’s glut of courgettes and marrows because she is away on holiday (not that she would have had a hope of getting through them anyway) so I have been putting them in everything. Some I have ‘hidden’ – grated into curry sauce, thinly layered in lasagne, used to make an egg custard (no, really!). Others I have fried in butter and garlic as a delicious side dish, sometimes with added leeks or mushrooms. This one I stuffed.

Am I bored of courgettes and marrows yet? Certainly not!

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There are many variations on stuffed marrow; I remember my mum stuffing them with minced beef when I was younger which was rather nice. This particular version was vegetarian, and included some good using up of leftovers as well eating into the glut of marrows.

I had cooked far too much rice to go with a curry I had made the previous day (the curry of course had grated courgette in it…), and also had a part pack of cooked lentils and kidney beans in the fridge from a previous meal. I added this to fried onion, garlic,  fresh chillies and a couple of tomatoes to make the filling.

While the filling was cooking I cut a marrow in half longways (one marrow is more than enough for two people), scooped out the middle, and then put them skin-side-up on a lightly oiled baking tray. I then put them in the oven (preheated to about 180oC) for 10 to 15 minutes. When I had tasted and seasoned the filling I took the marrow out of the oven, turned them over, filled them and then covered with grated cheese. Another 20 minutes or so in the oven and they were done.

Delicious, cheap, and incredibly filling!

 

Simple September

Following a very decadent summer (getting married is a good excuse!) it is time for a ‘Simple September‘.
My husband Steve and I are having a near-complete shopping-ban this month; we are combining two very well stocked kitchens into a much smaller space, plus we have been eating and drinking rather well recently and some simpler fare won’t go amiss.   The exceptions to the shopping ban will be some seasonal vegetables, onions, garlic, eggs, milk… and the occasional treat of nice cheese or meat from the reduced section of the supermarket.
As well as saving money and kitchen space, I’m hoping that Simple September will kick-start my recipe writing again after a five month hiatus (I’ve been a little distracted!).

As a reward for getting the kitchen in our new house tidy, I decided to start Simple September with a (reasonably) healthy treat; coconut and apricot flapjack. All of the flapjack I make is based around the same basic recipe which I have shared with you previously. This time, I decided to have a go at using coconut oil; I substituted it for half of the butter because I wasn’t sure how it was going to behave. I’m glad that I didn’t make the switch to coconut oil in one go because it made the mixture rather more liquid; I recovered the situation by taking it out of the oven part way through cooking and covering it with a layer of drinking chocolate followed by desiccated coconut.

A delicious mistake which I fully intend to make again!!

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Mushroom Soup 

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Autumn is drawing in, and as far as I am concerned that equals soup weather (and pie weather of course!). This one I find particularly warming, I think partly due to the mace which I very much associate with autumn and winter cooking. Mace is a truly wonderful spice; if you do not have any in your store-cupboard I highly recommend that you get some. Mace comes from the same tree as nutmeg but has a rather more savoury taste, it is fantastic in all sorts of wintry stews and I recently put it in a rather delicious beef pie.

This mushroom soup recipe is vegan;  I put soy milk in it rather than cows milk because I had some in the fridge which needed using. I have to say that I don’t like soy milk in tea or on cereal but it is really good to cook with. I am also rather fond of almond milk – it’s great to cook with and rather good in hot chocolate.

Ingredients

  • Mushrooms! I used quite a big bowl full (see picture below) which were left over from Punk Night – I don’t like to waste things! Mushrooms shrink more than you think they will, so don’t worry if they fill the whole saucepan because they will reduce.
  • A small red onion
  • Half a teaspoon of Mace
  • A teaspoon of mustard seeds
  • A couple of grinds of black pepper
  • A tablespoon of cornflour

Method

Heat some oil in a frying pan and then add the onion, mustard seeds, mace and pepper.

When the onion is nicely softened, add the mushrooms. Give it all a stir, turn the heat down and put a lid on the pan allowing the mushrooms to ‘sweat’.

Keep an eye on it;  you probably won’t need to add any liquid because a lot will come out of the mushrooms,  but if it looks like it is drying out then add a splash of hot water from the kettle.

When the mushrooms are cooked, put them in the blender along with the cornflour. Give it a good whizz, adding the soy milk (or other milk) a bit at a time.

Put the mixture back in the pan and heat slowly, allowing the cornflour to thicken.

Taste, and add further seasoning if required. More milk can be added, depending on how thin or otherwise you like your soup.

Done!

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Crêpes (aka ‘Punk Pancakes’)

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This week I have mostly been teaching myself to make crêpes… and not taking enough pictures of them to share with you.

I was asked quite a while ago to do the catering for a Punk Night at my local community hall, the Trinity Rooms in Stroud. Until a week or two before the event I had had absolutely no inspiration as to what I was going to do… and then I went to France. At the Youth Hostel where we stayed there was a chap making fresh pancakes each morning on a specially designed electric hot-plate; they smelled delicious, were fun to watch being made, and gave me the inspiration I needed. One trip to a French supermarket later (I adore French supermarkets!) and I had procured my new toy – a Tefal Crêpe-maker. Hurrah!

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My new toy 🙂

Needless to say, I needed quite a lot of practice before I was prepared to make them for people I didn’t know; my lodgers and neighbours weren’t complaining though!

I took the batter recipe from the Tefal instruction booklet which was fantastic (as you would hope) and then had fun coming up with yummy fillings.

Batter 

  • 250 g sifted plain flour
  • 0.5 litres of milk
  • 3 eggs
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of oil or melted  butter (I used rapeseed/ canola oil)

Put the flour into a mixing bowl and gradually beat in the milk until you get the consistency of single cream. Then gradually beat in the three eggs, a pinch of salt and a tablespoon of oil or melted butter. It is best to leave the batter to stand for 1 to 2 hours.

It took me a little while to master spreading the mixture onto the hotplate and I’m not entirely sure how to explain it other than ‘practise makes perfect’ – sorry! Your friends and family won’t complain about you practising though! I did get much better at it once I started brushing the hotplate with oil every couple of times – dip a clean but unloved tea-towel or some kitchen towel into oil (preferably rapeseed/ canola) and then swoosh it around the hotplate quickly. Also the hotplate came with a small ladle, two of which is supposed to be the correct amount for a crêpe, and I found that it was too slow and it cooked before I could spread it out; it became a lot easier once I had started using one of my own ladles of the correct volume.

Fillings

The sweet fillings are pretty obvious; Nutella (do I have to say ‘other brands are available?!), lemon and sugar…

A slight variation on a theme which was truly delicious was Nutella and raspberries, I also had one particularly decadent crêpe where I chopped up a big dark-chocolate coated praline onto the crêpe and allowed it to melt – mmmm…

The savoury filling presented a bit more of a challenge. What I needed was a traditional crêpe filling (cheese and cream sprang to mind – sorry vegans!), which tasted impressive but was also very easy to prepare in advance for a lot of people.  I experimented with a couple of different ideas as to how to make a really good creamy and cheesy filling which I could easily put together ahead of the event.

What I came up with (which I’m sure has been done before, but nonetheless I am proud of myself for ‘making up’) is a combination of Crème fraîche, grated cheddar cheese (in approximately equal measures) plus a generous amount of Herbes de Provence and some freshly ground black pepper. Mixed herbs or oregano could also be used in lieu of Herbes de Provence. I then prepared very finely chopped mushrooms and bacon which could then be added to the savoury crêpe if people wanted it; this made it a very good way to cater for both vegetarians and non-veggies.

I added the cheese mixture and other savoury bits to the crêpe while it was still on the hot plate and then folded it into quarters, the cheese quickly melted into the Crème fraîche to make a beautiful instant cheese sauce.

Delicious! The feedback from Punk Night was pretty good too!

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Smokey Baked Feta Cheese with herby rice and salad

Emma and I made this together a couple of weeks ago. It is delicious and so simple – pretty much just cover feta cheese with smoked paprika and out it under the grill.
The rice had lime juice and zest, cumin, fresh coriander and spring onions. Emma thought that she didn’t like radishes but was converted!

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I have been doing some cooking with Katherine. I thought I didn’t like radish but it is great covered in lime!

I have put a picture of what we made and a photo of the recipe in case you want to mark it yourself.

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Pickled Beetroot 

I love late summer and autumn, not least because it is pickle and chutney time!

A few weeks ago I had lots of surplus beetroot and so I went hunting around for a pickled beetroot recipe. I decided to wait until I had tasted it to share it with you, and I can now confirm that it is indeed yummy. It has been only a couple of weeks in the jar, consequently it is still rather vinegary – which is fine if you like it like that but it will mature more with patience.

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/pickled-beetroot

I (mostly) used the above recipe; one of the things I like about it is that no preparation of raw beetroot is required and so it isn’t too messy. I still managed to get rather red hands though!

For twice the amount of beetroot I used the same proportion of vinegar to sugar, plus approximately 3 tbsp pink pepper corns, a few cloves  (all that was left in the jar), 2 tbsp coriander seeds,  1 tbsp pickling spice and 1 tbsp juniper berries.

I ended up with a couple of extra jars-worth of pickling vinegar, which I used to pickle some little cucumbers from my garden. I haven’t tried the gerkins yet but I’m looking forward to it;  I am going to try to be more patient because I only have one jar of them.

Bring on Autumn!