A Cold and dark Tuesday night at the end of October, oddly enough was just the setting for having a few friends over to break up the monotony of the working week, although the booze does not flow as freely as it would normally, say, on a Friday or Saturday. Rather brilliantly, it’s that time of year where the harvest has come in for the UK with an abundance of excellent vegetables and fruit after a long summer growing they are ready to give up their bounty for our plates and ultimately, palates.
The menu comprised a four course meal, which is outlined below along with a bit of praise, plugging and information regarding some of the suppliers or local food heroes that were used in putting together my menu. With regards recipes, I am only going to share 4, which has method. Firstly it will keep this blog a little more trim and secondly, the recipes for some of the other items are too simple to bother placing here, you’ll find them across the internet or in books or indeed, you’ll have your own way!
Spiced Pumpkin and Cumin Soup (served with roasted crushed nuts and sourdough crouton)
As stated above, it’s a great time of year for pumpkins through October and November. Being an extremely versatile fruit with a ripe melon-sweet flavour, they make excellent soups and are equally good in roasted chunks, mashed with butter or even that Thanksgiving favourite, pumpkin pie.
The pumpkin I got hold of was from a local producer, who is semi-famous for their production. Pulling up to their farm shop, it was easy to see why; thousands of pumpkins lined up outside their greenhouses and piled up in wooden crates, the farmyard was a sea of orange. I also picked up a choice few other items from here, as I am hugely in favour of these places often charging far less than supermarkets like-for-like on many few produce items which are mostly grown locally (sustainability and supporting local businesses boxes ticked!).
The local producer in question is Lydiate Church View Farm (website: http://www.churchviewfarm.co.uk/ ). Incidentally, I also managed to pick up a really good jar of locally produced honey from nearby Maghull which was used on the Spiced Honey Vegetables – worked a treat and has since livened up teas and toast!
Selection of Tapas Dishes: Patatas Bravas, Spanish Style Tortilla, Chicken and Chorizo, Spiced Honey Vegetables, Mixed Frijole and Lentil One-pot and Lime and Chilli Gambas
The decision to cook tapas was two-fold. Firstly, necessity to use up a lot of ingredients, especially a glut of vegetables obtained at a snip from the farm shop and secondly, to stimulate conversation between the guests, which is something tapas style meals invariably do well.
As stated above, the recipes in this blog will not include most of these items, as they are too straightforward to warrant a slot here and also there is a glut of recipes available already for some. I will therefore cover the Spanish Style Tortilla (as I have been threatening to do for a while!) and the Frijole and Lentil One-pot. The other recipes, if people really are desperate to know them, will be available upon request.
Pineapple and Crushed Chilli Kendal Mint Crepes (with crème fraiche)
Some of you might be regarding this idea with a modicum of apprehension, as bizarre as it sounds, it is based it on some sound food logic at its inception. Pineapple and mint go really well together, the crème fraiche has two functions (to provide creaminess and to provide cooling to the chilli) and the crepe performs the function of the anchor of the dish.
The Kendal Mint Cake addition was as a replacement for fresh mint, to champion another (relatively) local producer of some excellent wares, the rather brilliant Relish, based in Hawkshead in Cumbria. The website can provide you with many mail order treats, but it is worth swinging by their premises in Hawkshead for a visit to a veritable Aladdin’s Cave of goodies.
The dish itself was met with some apprehension, but ultimately seemed to be enjoyed by everyone! Clean plates do indeed tell a story...
Selection of Cheeses served with tea/coffee/digestifs
The cheeses were provided from another local food hero and award winning delicatessen and restaurant, Delifonseca, who have two premises in Liverpool. They provide so much more than cheeses, cured meats and other deli items; both sites are well worth a visit if you’ve not already been.
This course rounded off the night in fine style allowing everyone to nibble and lean back feeling satisfied and rather full.
Spiced Pumpkin and Cumin Soup (serves approx. 8)
1 Medium or Large Pumpkin, flesh scooped out
1 White Onion
2 Spring Onions
Water to simmer the Vegetables
3 medium/large Parsnips
4 Medium white Potatoes
2 large thumb sized pieces of Root Ginger
1 Green Chilli, roughly chopped
3 Cloves of Garlic, roughly chopped
4 tbsp Olive Oil
20-50g Butter (optional)
4-5 tbsp Cumin Seeds, dry roasted and ground to a fine powder
2 tsp Coriander powder
4 Bay Leaves
Salt and Pepper seasoning to taste
What to do
1. Slice the potatoes, parsnips, ginger (skins removed) into equally sized chunks and simmer with the two spring onions and bay leaves in a saucepan of water (enough to cover them, an inch or two above) for approximately 10 minutes.
2. Scoop as much of the pumpkin flesh out of the pumpkin and set this to one side. You may need to do this first, as you need to add the pumpkin to the simmering vegetables after 10 minutes. Bring to the boil and then simmer for a further 10 minutes.
3. Chop the garlic, chilli and onions and fry in a little olive oil until the onions are translucent. Place these items in a liquidiser/blender with all the simmering vegetables and stock. Blitz the ingredients together with the remainder of the olive oil and butter until they form a smooth consistency.
4. Transfer the soup back into the saucepan and gently heat through for at 10 minutes and serve piping hot, adding salt and pepper to taste, stirring through to ensure even flavour. To do the crushed roasted nuts, finely chop raw hulled peanuts and cashews and place in a hot dry frying pan, as the nuts start to brown, move them around the pan to ensure they do not burn and you liberate as much of the oils inside the nuts as possible. Sprinkle these over the top of the soup to serve.
Spanish Style Tortilla (serves approx. 8-10)
4 Large Eggs
3-4 medium sized white potatoes
½ An Onion (white or red)
Paprika and Oregano
Salt and Pepper for seasoning
What to do
1. Peel and slice the potatoes into half a centimetre wide disc shaped slices (as you would for a dauphinoise). Place these in a cold saucepan of water (ensuring all the potato slices are covered) and bring this up to the boil for approximately 10 minutes. Now slice the onion into thin strips and place to one side. One the potatoes look as though they are starting to get slightly crumbly at the edges, remove them from the heat and place in cold water to maintain their integrity.
2. Beat the eggs in a bowl as you would for an omelette. You will now need to grease a pie tin (using butter or olive oil for a more healthy option), something approximately 6-7 inches in diameter and 2-3 inches deep. Place the onion and potatoes in layers with sprinkled pinches of oregano, paprika, salt and pepper scattered conservatively across the layers.
3. Once all the potatoes and onions are in the pan, pour the beaten eggs into the pie dish and place the tortilla into the oven at gas mark 7 (220 degrees celsius) for approximately 35-40 minutes or until the top has gone completely golden and the egg has risen ever so slightly.
4. Allow the tortilla to cool down before tipping it out onto a wooden board for slicing and serving. It is usually best served cool.
Mixed Frijole and Lentil One-pot (serves approx. 9)
100g Yellow split Lentils
75g Red split Lentils
300-350g of Borlotti or Canellini Beans
100g of Green Beans
½ Red Onion – finely chopped
100ml Vegetable Stock (or very thin onion gravy mix will do)
2 tblsp Paprika
1 tblsp Ground Cumin
½ tsp Ground Nutmeg
2 tsp Ground Coriander
2-3 tsp of balsamic vinegar
2 cloves of Garlic – finely chopped or minced
1 Red Chilli – finely chopped and deseeded
1 Green Chilli – finely chopped and deseeded
What to do
1. The Yellow Lentils will need to be soaked overnight or at least 12 hours before you cook with them. Once soaked and ready for preparation, simmer them in water for 40 minutes. Add the red lentils and then simmer for a further 5 minutes before adding the borlotti beans.
2. Now drain off the starchy water from the lentils and beans and replace with cold water, return the pan to the heat until it begins to simmer.
3. Simmer the mix for 5 mins and then add the finely chopped onion, garlic, all the spices and chilli. Now add the vegetable stock and balsamic vinegar, simmer for 5 mins and then add the green beans.
4. Cook the one-pot stew until it almost has a thick curry or paste-like appearance.
5. Serve piping hot!
Pineapple and crushed Chilli Kendal Mint Crepes (serves approx. 8)
1 Fresh Pineapple
300g Crème Fraiche
½ bar of Chilli Kendal Mint Cake (from Relish) – alternatively, use flaked dried chilli and plain Kendal mint cake
(Optional – Rum – 4 tblsp per crepe)
The Batter mix:
100g Plain Flour
3 Medium Eggs
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Caster Sugar
175ml milk (semi skimmed)
What to do
1. Sift the flour into a plastic measuring jug with a sieve held high above the bowl so the flour gets an airing then add the salt and sugar. Now make a well in the centre of the flour and break the eggs into it. Then begin whisking the eggs (a normal whisk or even a fork will do) into the flour and gradually add the milk into the batter, ensuring you include all the flour that sticks to the sides of the jug ensure the batter is thoroughly and evenly mixed. Place it to one side in a fridge for at least 15 minutes.
2. Chop the pineapple into 1 inch sized chunks, removing all of the tough outer skin and fibrous core. Next, crush the Kendal Mint Cake using the back of a spoon into a coarse powder.
3. Get a frying pan really hot and add a knob of butter, ensuring even coverage, but making sure it doesn’t burn the butter. Pour in enough batter to the pan to get a thin (approximately 3mm maximum) coating for the crepe, working the batter around the pan quickly and evenly. Allow this to cook through until the upside is firm, now add 4 tblsp of rum splashed across the pancake and then flip over using a palette knife if you’re not feeling adventurous!
4. Cook the crepe until it is golden on both sides and then place flat on a warmed plate. Pile the pineapple chunks on one side of the crepe, with a scattering of the Kendal Mint Cake across, then on the opposite side, add a dollop of crème fraiche.
5. Serve as quickly as possible to your hungry guests!
That's all there is to it guys!!
Feel free to fire over any questions or request any clarification if you're unsure about tackling any of the recipes. I'm only too happy to help.