Almejas

I have had the immense pleasure of staying at a friend’s villa in Spain this week. The weather has been beautiful, the peaches ripe, and the cerveza blissfully ice cold.

Though dinner has been delicious every night we’ve been here, tonight was something else. Below is my recipe for spicy clams with sherry and chorizo. I hope you like it.

 

Ingredients:

1 kg small clams

1/2 c chorizo, chopped

Olive oil

1 tomato, seeded and diced

1/4 c finely chopped onion

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 small dried red chili, chopped

1/4 c dry white wine

1/4 c Tio Pepe sherry

Chopped parsley

Method: Wash your clams and set them aside. In a large pot, cook the chorizo. When it is done, remove it with a slotted spoon and set it aside. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to the chorizo dripping then sauté the onion, garlic, chili, and tomato in it. When the onions are transluscent, gently add the clams. Stir to mix. Add the sherry and white wine then cover the pot with a lid. Cook on medium heat until the clams open. Throw away any that don’t. Stir in the chorizo and top with parsley. Be sure to serve this with your favorite bread to mop up the broth.

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Orange Almond Rhubarb Crumble Cake

My in-laws live in a country suburb in John Betjeman’s bucolic Metroland. It is a place where “knickers” with an exclamation mark constitutes a swear and on summer weekends village cricket reigns supreme.  The local church is more than 1,000 years old and the local watering holes have appeared in Richard Curtis films.  Spotting the forked tails of red kites flying high is a common occurrence as are bake sales, car boot sales, charity fun runs, bonfire nights, Scottish Association sponsored dance nights, and dogs in the pub.  It’s wonderful and on the weekends there is no other place I’d rather be.

This past Saturday, we didn’t stay the night though we did stay for elevenses and lunch.  Helena chased around Charlie cat while Henry read the papers and my mother-in-law tended to her garden.  It really is the most magnificent garden I’ve ever seen.  The flowers are abundant as are the fruits and vegetables.  For lunch, we had salad and cherries.  Afterwards, I made a floral arrangement for the house.

When it was time to leave, I took a bunch a rhubarb with me.  Which brings us to today.  I have just made the most delicious cake with said rhubarb and below is the recipe.  Because it is not that sweet it’s perfect for tea, morning or afternoon.

bucks bouquet

My floral arrangment

Gifts from the Garden of Eatin'

Gifts from the Garden of Eatin’

 

Ingredients:

125 grams room temperature butter, unsalted

3/4 c caster sugar

3 eggs

1 1/2 c flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp orange zest

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 c ground almonds

3/4 c milk

Enough chopped rhubarb to cover the top of the cake, for me this was 5 ribs

Crumble topping of your choice. I had leftover crumble in my freezer from Claire Ptak’s raspberry muffin recipe so I used that. Should you not have any on hand, crumble the following with your fingers until it resembles coarse meal: 1/4 c butter, 1/4 c sugar (I like to mix light brown, Demerara, and caster), 1 heaping tbsp flour, 1/3 c ground and flaked almonds.  Feel free to add some oats or desiccated coconut as well.

Method:

Preheat the oven to gas 4/180°C/350°F.

Prepare a 10″ cake tin by buttering it and lining it with paper.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until pale in color and fluffy.

Mix in the eggs one at a time.

Fold in the flour, baking powder, and almonds.

Incorporate the milk, vanilla, and zest.

Pour the batter into the cake tin.

Scatter the rhubarb pieces on top of the batter then sprinkle as much crumble as you like over that.

Bake for about an hour or until a skewer emerges clean when plunged into the cake and pulled out again.

Cool and serve.  Add Greek yoghurt or cream if you like.

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slice

Dill Pickles

Dill pickles are my favourite.  Of all the flavours I miss from the States, they’re at the top of my list.  The first time I tried a dill pickle in the U.K. I was surprised by how sweet it was.  I’ve tried many others since, but none live up to the crunchy, garlicky, vingeary goodness of my youth.

For a while when I was a kid, I went through a phase of only eating matzo ball soup or reuben sandwiches. Luckily for me, my parents had a house account at Greenblatt’s Deli.  I ordered food from there all the time.  I ordered it so much that when went I went to college my dad called them to place a delivery one day and when the driver arrived at the house he was surprised to find someone other than me at the door.  “Where’s the little girl?” Yves wanted to know.  Each time I’d come home for the holidays, I would go to Greenblatt’s to get my fill of pastrami and pickles.

Here is my refrigerator pickle recipe.  I’m too greedy and impatient to let anything ferment properly.  I simply cannot wait that long.  Like the dill pickles I love , these have a sharpness that are sure to “make your toikey poikey” as the Vlasic pelican would say.

p.s. I have Russian friends who swear drinking pickle juice is the best hangover cure.

 

Ingredients:

1 pint jar with a lid, washed and sterilized

3-4 Persian or Kirby cucumbers

2 smashed garlic cloves

1 tsp mustard yellow seeds

1/2 tsp black mustard seeds

1 tsp dill seeds

a few stems of fresh dill (these aren’t necessary as the dill flavour comes from the seeds, but I like the way the fresh dill looks–like seaweed swaying in a briny current)

1/2 c cider vinegar (for a bit of sweetness)

1/2 c white wine vinegar (for sharpness)

1 cup water

1 1/2 tbsp salt

optional: 1 tsp of sugar if you really want

Method:

Place the garlic, mustard seeds, dill seeds, and dill weed in the bottom of your jar.

Next, wash and dry the cucumbers then cut off their blossom ends.  If you don’t,  your pickles might go soggy.  Quarter the cucumbers and put them in the jar, packing them as tight as you can.  If you have to trim them so their tops don’t stick out, do so.

In a small saucepan, bring the water, vinegars, salt, and sugar if you’re using it, to a boil.  Once a rolling boil has been reached, take the brine off the heat.  Pour it over the cucumbers leaving a 1/2″ of head room.  Seal the jar and let it come to room temperature then place it in the refrigerator.  Try to wait at least 2 days before cracking it open.  I never can, but the flavour does intensify the longer you can leave it on a refrigerator shelf.

Small side note:  I usually can’t fit 4 cucumbers in a jar, but I always need more than 3.  What I like to do is top up my cucumber spears each time I take one out.

pickles

 

Strawberry Shortbread Sundaes

 

I love ice cream.  I love it so much that when I was child, I used to celebrate my birthdays with sundaes instead of cake.  Now that I’m an adult I celebrate with both.  Frankly, because I can.

For me, no sundae spells summer quite like strawberry.  Which is why I am going to share my strawberry shortbread sundae recipe with you.  The inspiration for it comes from one of my favorite milkshakes in Los Angeles–the strawberry shortcake from MILK on Beverly Boulevard.  It’s creamy and crunchy and bursting with strawberry sweetness.  Think of it as the summer solstice in a bowl.

Ingredients for the strawberry sauce:

400 g strawberries, halved

1/2 cup apple juice

the juice of half a lemon

caster sugar, anywhere from 2 tbsp to 1/4 cup depending on how sweet you like it

 

Method:  Place all ingredients in a saucepan and heat over a low flame.  Stir until all the sugar has dissolved then turn up the heat and bring to a boil.  Simmer for about 10 minutes.  Remove the saucepan from the heat.  Purée with a hand blender.  Pour into a small pitcher and allow to cool.  Once room temperature, chill the sauce in the refrigerator.

 

 

Ingredients for the shortbread:

2 oz caster sugar + a little extra for dusting

4 oz room temperature butter

6 oz plain flour

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

 

Method:  Preheat the oven to gas 5/190C/375F.   In a large bowl, mix the butter, sugar, and vanilla until smooth.  Beat in the flour a bit at a time until incorporated.  The mixture will be extremely crumbly.  Use your hand to push the dough together in the bowl.  Shape it into a disk.  Cover it with plastic wrap and chill it in the refrigerator for half an hour.  After this time, remove it and roll it out on a lightly floured surface.  I actually prefer rolling mine out on wax paper.  Roll it so it’s about 1/2″ thick.  Cut out shapes with cookie cutters.  Place them on a baking tray.  Sprinkle them with a bit of sugar and bake for about 15 minutes.  Do not let the cookies brown.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

 

To assemble the sundaes: Crumble part of a shortbread biscuit in a bowl.  Add your ice cream.  I like a scoop of vanilla and a scoop of strawberry, sometimes a bit of strawberry sorbet.  Top with strawberry sauce and the rest of the shortbread crumbles.  Put on the Beatles and enjoy.

 

sundae

 

 

Spicy Pickled Radishes

I don’t care much for radishes unless they’re pickled, but recently my daughter begged me to buy her a bunch.  We were at the farmer’s market when she spotted them.  I don’t know if it was the color or the shape or the fact that Peter Rabbit eats them, but she insisted that we had to have them.  Once home, I let her try them.  She hated them.

CUT TO:

Me with a bunch of unwanted radishes.  That’s when I decided to turn them into a quick refrigerator pickle.  Luckily, they were delicious.  Particularly so with egg salad sandwiches and crispy pan fried salmon.  For as spicy as they are they are surprisingly palate cleansing, a bit like pickled ginger I suppose.  Below is the recipe.  I hope you enjoy them.

Ingredients:

1 bunch of radishes

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 tsp yellow mustard seeds

1/4 tsp black mustard seeds

1/4 tsp coriander seeds

a pinch of fennel seeds

1 small smashed garlic clove

3/4 c cider or white wine vinegar

3/4 c water

2 tbsp honey

1 tbsp salt

1 pint sized jar with a lid

*DO NOT USE ALUMINUM, COPPER, BRASS, GALVANIZED OR IRON UTENSILS/CONTAINERS WHEN MAKING THESE.  THE METALS WILL REACT WITH THE ACID.

Method: 

Slice the radishes into 1/4″ rounds.  Pack them in the jar.

Put the seeds, flakes, and garlic clove on top of the radishes.

In a small pot, bring the vinegar, water, salt, and honey to a boil.  Once the mixture starts to bubble, turn down the heat.  Simmer the brine for a few minutes and stir it to make sure everything has dissolved.  Remove it from the heat.

Pour the brine over the radishes and seal the jar.

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Let the jar cool to room temperature before placing it in the refrigerator.  The radishes will be ready to eat immediately.  I like to eat them after they’ve chilled for at least 24 hours. They will keep for a couple weeks in the fridge, but they will be at their crispest in the first few days.

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Swarthy Chicken in 2016

 

Swarthy chicken is a family classic, but over the years it has evolved.  For a while, I was queen of this dish.  These days, my husband, Henry Jeffreys, is king.

Though I have always loved cooking, my abilities drastically improved when Henry entered my life.  In many ways, he taught me how to cook.  He taught me that it was not only wasteful to discard the carcass of a roast chicken, but also a shame as it makes such delicious stock.  Most of the pasta sauces I make are versions of his.  Same with my savoury pies.  I’ll admit I never even made gravy until he showed me how.

The first time I visited him in London, he made a rolled shoulder of lamb stuffed with anchovies, garlic, capers, parsley, and lemon.  He served it with a bottle of Rioja Reserva. Immediately I fell in love and then into a food coma.   But I digress. . .

Below is his recipe for swarthy chicken which is reminiscent of barbecue due to all that smoky paprika.  If you enjoy it, do check out his World of Booze and also his book, Empire of Booze, which comes out this November.

 

henry

My wife and I have been making this recipe now for about six years. At one point it was a sort of Moroccan thing with preserved lemons, olives and cinnamon but gradually it has morphed into the recipe below. It’s extremely easy to make. The magic of the dish is in the mix of crispy and gooey. The chicken skins must be crisp and the vegetables need to be slightly charred in places. It’s best to use smoked paprika as it gives the dish a BBQ flavour. Oh and a word about the wine at the end. You want something dry but with lots of flavour. Fino sherry won’t cut the mustard. Waitrose own label Palo Cortado works well, Noilly Prat vermouth also good. The best is a Marsala Vergine such as Terre Arse if you can find it. It doesn’t seem to make any difference whether you marinade the chicken for an hour or overnight. This is a recipe that never fails to lift my spirits.

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Ingredients:

Chicken pieces – I used 4 thighs and 2 legs from a specially bred mutant chicken.

2 heaped teaspoons of smoked paprika

Juice of one lemon

1 teaspoon sherry vinegar

2 tablespoons of olive oil

2 small onions sliced

2 red peppers sliced

6 cloves of garlic in skin

Small glass of dry sherry

Lots of salt and pepper

 

Options:

If I have fresh thyme in the house, I’ll add some leaves to the marinade.

Ditto with a little chopped parsley at the end.

 

Method: Put the chicken, paprika, lemon juice, sherry vinegar, olive oil, lots salt and pepper in a plastic bowl and mix thoroughly until chicken completely coated in the mixture. Leave for at least an hour.

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Pre-heat oven to gas mark 7.

Take the chicken pieces out and place in large glass dish. Put the onions, garlic cloves and peppers in the plastic bowl and mix them around to get the last of the spicy sauce out. Strew the vegetables around the chicken pieces. You want edges of the onions and peppers to get a little charred. Add a bit more salt and pepper to the vegetables.

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Heat in the oven for 20 – 30 minutes or until skin begins to crisp. Give the vegetables a good mix in the juices, turn oven down to gas mark 3 and leave for an hour. Take out and have a look at the dish. The chicken should be crispy, the vegetables gooey and charred in places (if they’re not, turn the oven up a little.) Add a glass of sherry and put back in the oven for 10 minutes.

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Take out and serve with boiled rice. Don’t forget to smash the now gooey garlic out of its skin and into the rich sauce.

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Rhubarb and Strawberry Sunday

 

I love the Home Counties.  For me, they hold great charm.  Village fêtes, farm shops, afternoons sipping cider at the pub, bake sales, plant sales, hedgehog sanctuaries, Sunday lunch, cricket teas, thirsty vicars, vintage cars, and the scent of wood burning fires wherever you go.

Walking past Shardeloes en route to The Red Lion makes me feel like I am deep in the country. The truth, though, is that I am only an hour outside of London.  It’s brilliant and gives me a proper excuse to wear my wellies without looking like a knob.

This weekend in the Garden of Eatin’ (that’s what I call my in-laws’ backyard as it is so full of edible goodness), my daughter explained the difference between bluebells and forget-me-nots to her stuffed friend, Little Bear.  There was also an overabundance of rhubarb. When my mother-in-law asked me to help by cutting it for her, I was happy to be of service.

8 jars of jam and a crumble to be eaten later tonight was our yield.  And to think, there’s still plenty left.

Below is my recipe for today’s rhubarb and strawberry jam.  The strawberries I used were not our own, but they were British (Honi soit qui mal y pense) and came from 2 of the home counties–Kent and Berkshire.

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Ingredients:

3 lbs rhubarb, cut into 1″ pieces

1 lb strawberries, halved

juice of 2 lemons

1 cup apple juice

1.2 kg sugar

1 tbsp butter

 

Method: 

First, place a small plate in the freezer.  This is so you can test your jam later to see if it’s set.

Wash then sterilize your jars by placing them on a tray in a warm oven.

Place the rhubarb, lemon juice, and apple juice in a maslin pan.  Bring to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes.  The reason for this is twofold. 1) Rhubarb takes longer to cook than strawberries.  2) Both rhubarb and strawberries have such low pectin that the addition of apple juice, which naturally has high pectin, will help your jam set.

Turn off the heat and stir in the berries and the sugar.  Stir until all the sugar has dissolved.

Turn the heat back on and bring everything to a boil.

Test for a set by placing a bit of the molten mixture on your frozen plate.  Place the plate back in the freezer.  Remove it after a few minutes.  If the jam crinkles when you push it with your finger, then it has set.  If not, continue cooking for a few more minutes and test again.  Be sure to turn off the heat each time you test for a set.  You do not want to overcook your jam.

Once a desired set has been achieved, stir in the butter.  This will prevent your jam from being scummy.

Let the jam cool for at least 5 minutes before potting it in warm jars.

 

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