Roasted Tomato Soup

 
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This a super simple recipe; take a load of tomatoes -the ones that smell like tomatoes, chop them roughly, along with some garlic cloves and an onion sliced -throw all of these into a roasting tin, season with plenty of salt and pepper and drench them with a fairly decent olive oil, pop into a pre-heated oven around 180'C /Gas 4 and cook until the onion is softened...if you can get a bit of char going on all the better. Then whizz everything up in a saucepan, add some vegetable or chicken stock, enough to get it to the consistency you want -warm through, check seasoning. Serve with some cream, basil and whatever bread you fancy.  Initially when you have them whizzed, you have at your disposal a kick ass delicious tomato sauce, which you can throw into a ziplock bag and freeze -perfect with linguine and buffalo mozzarella, as a pizza sauce or yum yum salsa with juicy meatballs!

Elderflower Custard with Berries

 
 

The delicate, florally-ness of soft summer elderflowers married with creamy custard is a combination I discovered a few years back and it never fails to make me smile. In a recent effort to get the last pick of elderflowers I got stuck on a really high wall and had to phone home to get a rescue party organised...it was worth it though.

What you need-

  • 6-8 fresh dry heads of elderflower blossom (don't pick them if it's just rained)
  • 500 ml full fat organic milk
  • 1 vanilla pod 
  • 80g caster sugar
  • 4 free range/organic egg yolks

What you need to do-

  • Shake the elderflower heads to knock off any insects and trim off the largest part of the green stalky bits
  • Put the elderflowers and the milk into a container and leave in the fridge for a few hours or preferably overnight
  • Next day, split the vanilla pod length ways and scrape out the seeds
  • Gently warm the vanilla, milk and elderflowers on a medium heat
  • While they're warming (don't boil), whisk up the egg yolks and sugar until they become pale (only takes a minute or two)
  • Strain out the pod and elferflowers and slowly add the warm milky mixture to the egg yolks -whisking all the time
  • Pu the eggy milk back into the saucepan and heat gently, stirring all the time, until the eggs have cooked through...this has happened when the mixture is coating the back of a spoon and holds a line on the spoon if you swipe your finger though it
  • Allow the mixture to cool and chill it in the fridge until you want to eat it
  • Serve with fresh berries, almond praline or toasted flaked almonds

 

A Fast-Food Lunch -Caprese Salad

 

When I am Queen of the Universe I will only allow buffalo milk mozzarella to exist. Do you have food things you want to share with everyone you know because they're so damn good? For me it's buffalo mozzarella -so creamy, so delicious, so very different from the cows milk version.  This Salad of Capri epitomises the Italian approach to food; take a handful of beautiful ingredients, treat them in an uncomplicated way and finish with a sprinkle of amore. I know that sounds saccharin, but I don't care!  

 

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Take some ripe vine tomatoes, slice them as you wish, tear up a ball of buffalo mozzarella, arrange on a plate, add some fresh basil, a drizzle of olive oil, some lemon zest, salt & black pepper.

 

Pistachio & Lemon Polenta Cake

 

Rainy days drive many a cook to baking, seeming the perfect counterbalance to the damp greyness, which in Ireland can last all day long. This was a drizzly, sideways rain kinda day. I was hungover, albeit mildly. But enough to manifest an apathetic humour... I wanted to go for a walk -but I didn't want to go for a walk in the rain. I wanted to go get the paper -but I didn't want to drive in the rain. I knew if I didn't do something...anything, marginally productive, I would be filled with self loathing. Oh and also, me and a half eaten packet of pistachios, had been giving each other the eye for about three weeks.

And so it began.

It all came good. Pouring tea, pouring memories, eating cake.

It all came good. Pouring tea, pouring memories, eating cake.

Let me just introduce this cake, for my fellow 'not so keen on sponge' people, this is one for us. It's nutty, lemony and moist. And for gluten intolerant tummies it works really well.

Take;

  • 250g butter room temp.
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs at least free range
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 120g ground pistachios
  • 60g polenta flour/fine maize meal (or plain flour if gluten is tolerable)
  • 9" /23cm spring form cake tin, greased and lined

Icing

  • 100g icing sugar
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp rose water (optional)

Do;

  • turn oven on to 160'C/Gas 3
  • beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy
  • add the eggs 1 at a time
  • add the lemon zest and juice
  • in a separate bowl mix your dry ingredients
  • mix dry into wet, pour into prepared cake tin, smooth over top
  • bake for 40-50 mins -check at 40!
  • cover with foil if it's browning on top but still not cooked fully
  • allow to cool before icing
  • to make icing; sieve the icing sugar, add the lemon and rose water if using and mix with a whisk before pouring over the cake
  • enjoy with tea/coffee/prosecco/lemonade/ dollop of creme fraiche/whipped cream
 

Artichokes & Butter

 

Despite the fact that artichokes grow extremely well in Ireland, I didn't have the pleasure of "m-eating" one until I moved to the big city of Dublin (wink). They have a sort of dinosaur/alien like quality, in feel and appearance. I would like to shake hands with the first person who persevered and removed all the tough, inedible, spiky outer leaves and eventually reached the delicious heart of this beast. 

We always steamed them whole and peeled the leaves, dipping them into melted butter as we began to reach the center. Lately though, by the very fact of their thriving in the garden and therefore producing almost (ssshhh...) too many, I've taken to peeling them quickly and paring down to the heart, dropping them into a pot of simmering lemony water until tender, followed by a non-optional baptism in liquid butter with a generous squeeze of lemon. I then walk around the house with the warm saucepan and a spare fork, stopping to share with anybody who crosses my path. The path is filled with smiles, mostly because I fought the prickly beast, tended to it's cooking and now the heart is offered freely.

The red variety have spikes but are considered tastier.

The red variety have spikes but are considered tastier.

Take;

  • a couple of artichokes 2-3 for 2 people, for a pre-dinner snack
  • lots of butter
  • fresh black pepper & salt
  • 2x lemons

Do;

  • get a large bowl of cold water, squeeze one lemon in to prevent the artichoke going brown from the air
  • put a pan of water on and bring it to a simmer
  • peel away the outer leaves, watching out for little thorns found on some varieties
  • when you reach the softer central leaves (see top photo) slice the top off
  • using a paring knife carefully work down to the solid heart
  • scrape away the soft hairs with a teaspoon
  • place in the cold lemony water while you continue prepping
  • when they're all done, cut any lager ones into quarters or thirds
  • simmer until tender
  • melt butter in a small pot, add lemon juice and zest if unwaxed, s&p -taste and adjust to your liking
  • enjoy straight from the pan...or a bowl at the table
  • you can also eat the younger ones raw in a salad
 

Amazing Orange & Almond Cake

Sponge cake...hmmmnn...I like it on the day, called Victoria, dressed with raspberry jam and whipped cream. But, that is where my love affair with sponge ends. I will never not love this Claudia Roden recipe, it stays moist for days and you can jazz it up with chocolate ganache if it's for a special occasion...i.e you feel like really treating yourself. Did I mention that it is gluten and dairy free?

What you need;

  • 2 large oranges (preferably organic because you're gonna eat the skin!)
  • 6 free range eggs
  • 250g ground almonds
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder

What you need to do;

  • scrub the oranges if they aren't organic boil them for 2 hours, remove pips when cooled
  • turn oven on to 170' fan oven/ 190' conventional /gas mark 5
  • prepare a 23cm round cake tin, grease and line
  • whizz up the oranges with a hand blender or in a magimix, add the eggs whizz some more
  • mix your almonds, sugar and baking powder
  • add wet to dry pour into prepared tin
  • bake for about an hour, (check at 45 mins cover top with foil if it's getting too much colour)
  • serve with coffee, tea or a glass of lemonade
  • you can use 2 lemons or one pink grapefruit instead of one of the oranges, or use blood oranges