Monday, August 31, 2015

Courgette Soup with Mint and Lemon – how to make a glut vanish !

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At some stage over what remains of the summer, a friend will drop in with a slightly desperate look in their eye. They will ask you how you are and there will be small talk as you wait for the kettle to boil. The friend will be clutching (but studiously ignoring) a mysterious newspaper-wrapped parcel and you’ll frown and wonder if they bring it everywhere with them.

Halfway through a pot of tea, the friend will suddenly ‘remember’ the mysterious parcel and casually mumble through a mouthful of chocolate biscuit crumbs:  Oh, by the way, I brought you some courgettes, fresh from my garden.” If you haven’t got a courgette plant churning out the little blighters almost by the minute, accept gratefully and make this light, summery soup. If you have got a courgette plant, you’ll almost certainly produce a newspaper-wrapped parcel of your own as the friend takes their leave…

The friend will be clutching a mysterious newspaper-wrapped parcel...


For 3-4 servings of light summery soup you will need

25g butter (or 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil)
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon of finely grated lemon zest
500g courgettes, sliced
1 litre of well-flavoured chicken or vegetable stock
1 tablespoon of very finely chopped fresh mint

Melt the butter (or heat the olive oil) in a medium saucepan. Add the onion and lemon zest and cook gently without colouring for 8 - 10 minutes or until translucent. Add the sliced courgettes, followed by the stock. Simmer gently for about 10 minutes or until the courgette is soft.

Remove the saucepan from the heat. Add in the fresh mint and blend until you’ve turned the vegetables into a smooth liquid – a stick blender is the perfect tool for this. Taste and add salt and pepper only if necessary.

Serve it just as it is, or with a sprinkling of fresh herbs and/or a swirl of cream.



OK, that's 3 courgettes taken care of. Only another 7 to go...


...What’s your favourite recipe – savoury or sweet - for making a crop of courgettes vanish?
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Friday, August 21, 2015

A 'dyschefull' of Apple Snowe - a hauntingly delicious dessert from medieval England

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England was on its very best 'green and pleasant land' behaviour for our recent visit - all blue skies and sunshine. We spent Sunday morning visiting the ancient bones of Henry VIII’s ship, the Mary Rose, in Portsmouth (wow, by the way – what a feat of marine archaeology!). However, there was a wailing and a gnashing of teeth when himself missed out on a change of plan and had to forego his much anticipated, post-sightseeing ye-olde-traditional-English-country-pub-Sunday-roast-dinner-with-all-the-trimmings.

He was like a dog with two tails when we got an unexpected invite to a delicious traditional-English-homecooked-Sunday-roast-dinner-with-all-the-trimmings… on the following Tuesday… in the garden of a gorgeous 350 year-old cottage, (complete with ghost, or so it is rumoured).

Leaving with very contented stomachs, we were further delighted to receive a bag of organically grown apples plucked from the two heavily-laden trees in the garden – one, deliciously zingy, rosy-cheeked eaters; the other, tart, green-skinned cookers. For some reason, Apple Snow sprang to mind immediately. This is a dyschefull the Tudors - perhaps even the bold Henry himself - would have enjoyed in one form or another. Maybe it was a favourite of the ghost



My version is soft meringue mixed with apple purée – an apple mousse if you will. You can serve it virtually fat-free as in this recipe, or fold in swirls of whipped cream and yet more apple purée  A drizzle of honey or maple syrup over the top won’t hurt if the apples you use are a little on the tart side. Scoop it up with shortbread fingers or langue de chat biscuits.

Note: As the meringue is so lightly cooked, it should not be given to pregnant women, infants, or anyone with a compromised immune system.


Drop the prepared apple slices into water with a generous squeeze of lemon juice to stop them going brown

First, to make the apple purée you will need…

900g apples, uncooked weight, sliced (this was 8 medium apples, after peeling and coring. I dropped them into cold water with a generous squeeze of lemon juice to stop them going brown until I was ready to use them.)
50g caster sugar or honey
the zest (in slices) and juice of a lemon (you should have about 4 tablespoons of juice)
the zest of an orange
2 whole cloves
1 stick of cinnamon
3 drops almond extract

Place all the ingredients in a large saucepan with a lid, over a medium heat. Cover the saucepan and cook the apples until soft (about 10-15 minutes) checking occasionally to make sure they haven’t boiled dry (if necessary, add a small amount of water, apple juice, or cider). When the apples are soft, remove the lid and if there is a lot of juice, continue cooking until any visible juice has evaporated.

Remove from the heat, cover, and leave to cool. Taste and add a little more sugar or honey if necessary.




Next, for the meringue you will need…
… a sugar thermometer and an electric whisk or stand mixer (or good strong muscles in your arms)

2 egg whites room at room temperature
60g caster sugar
3 tablespoons cold water
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Place the egg whites in a bowl and whisk until fluffy and the mixture flops into soft peaks when you remove the whisk.

Place the caster sugar, water, and vanilla extract in a small saucepan and place over a medium heat until the sugar crystals have dissolved. Turn up the heat and boil the mixture until it reaches the ‘soft ball’ mark on your thermometer (or 118°C or 235°F).




Carefully remove the saucepan from the heat and drizzle the hot syrup slowly into the bowl of egg whites, whisking all the while. (Avoid drizzling the hot liquid directly onto the whisk unless you want to enamel your kitchen with molten sugar and quite possibly burn yourself into the bargain). Continue whisking until you have incorporated all the syrup, the mixture is thick and smooth and white and glossy, and a clean finger touched to the mixture tells you that the temperature has dropped to about room temperature (3 - 5 minutes).




The assembly job…

Next, remove the strips of zest, cinnamon stick and cloves from the cool apple mixture and pass it through a coarse sieve. Whisk the resulting apple purée into the meringue and chill until needed. It will keep for about 48 hours, covered, in the fridge.


When ready to serve, swirl into pretty glasses or bowls, and serve with shortbread biscuits or langue de chat. 



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