• Lockdown Larder: Salads

    It’s quite interesting looking back at my Instagram posts as there is a real absence of any salad posts.  You might ask, “why would a pastry chef post photos of salad?”.  You would be right in questioning this, but at the same time, if you have looked at my Instagram posts during lockdown, you will notice that the nature of the posts have changed somewhat.  This is not to say that there aren’t a fair number of baking posts, but there are also a number of non-baking posts as well.

    The main reason I have not posted salad posts, despite the warm weather in April,  is that my Lynwood & Co vegetable box has had a distinct lack of salad ingredients.  This is not to say that I haven’t had the odd lettuce, cucumber or tomato, but certainly in the last few boxes there has been a lack of salad ingredients.  You will be glad to hear that the absence of such ingredients has not deterred me.  I have, in fact, made a couple of delicious salads which I share with you below; salads which will be made time and time again in the future as for Jo an my taste buds, they are simply scrumptious.  I did make a third salad, using a new recipe, during lockdown, a cauliflower salad, but this hasn’t made the cut as compared to the other two salads, it was just not up to scratch.

    The first salad mentioned, is the last one I made, a roasted butternut squash and feta salad from Framed Cooks.  I have adjusted the oven and cooking times slightly, but if you prefer you can go with the suggested temperature of 225/230 degrees Celsius and a cooking time of 45 minutes.  For me, this would have ended up with rather scorched butternut squash.   While I had feta and pistachios in my fridge and cupboard, respectively, I am sure that the salad would work equally as well with goat’s cheese and toasted pine nuts.

    Roasted Butternut Squash and Feta Salad (Source: Framed Cooks)

    Ingredients

    • 1 large butternut squash, peeled and cut into 2cm chunks
    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • Juice from ½ lemon
    • 1 tbsp honey
    • ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
    • ½ cup shelled roasted pistachios
    • Handful of lamb’s lettuce or pea shoots

    Method

    • Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
    • Put the butternut squash into a mixing bowl and add the olive oil along with a pinch of salt and pepper.  Toss. Transfer the butternut squash to a non-stick baking dish in a single layer and roast until tender, about 30 minutes (check by piercing with a paring knife or fork – it should go in easily).
    • Once cooked toss the butternut squash with the lemon juice and honey.
    • Place the lamb’s lettuce or pea shoots in a serving bowl. Top with the roasted butternut squash, feta and roasted pistachios.

    The other salad, I made, is aptly called “favourite broccoli salad” by Cookie & Kate, as this has become one of Jo’s and my favourite salads, so much so that I have made it twice in recent weeks.  The recipe is as follows:

    Favourite Broccoli Salad (Source: Cookie & Kate)

    Ingredients

    Salad

    • 1 medium size broccoli, broken into florets and then thinly sliced and then roughly chopped
    • ½ cup raw sunflower seeds, toasted
    • ½ cup finely chopped red onion
    • ½ cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
    • ⅓ cup dried cranberries

    Honey mustard dressing

    • ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
    • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
    • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
    • 1 tbsp honey
    • 1 medium clove garlic, pressed or minced
    • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

    Method

    • Toast the sunflower seeds.  Pour the sunflower seeds into a medium skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the seeds are turning golden on the sides, about 5 minutes. Pour the toasted seeds into a large serving bowl.
    • Add the chopped broccoli, onion, cheese and cranberries to the serving bowl. Set aside.
    • In a small bowl, combine all of the dressing ingredients (olive oil, vinegar, mustard, honey, garlic and salt). Whisk until the mixture is well blended.
    • Pour the dressing over the salad and stir until all of the broccoli is lightly coated in the dressing. The flavours develop better if you leave the salad for a while before serving.
    • Leftovers will keep well for 3 to 4 days in the fridge, covered.

    I am not sure if there is anything else I can add to this post, other than to say, give these a try.  I am sure you will love them.  If I try any other salads, which I feel are worth sharing, I will add them to this post.

  • Lockdown Larder: Soups

    My foray into cooking during lockdown started with soup making.  On the weekend of the 14th March 2020, when there were signs that things were getting more serious on the Covid-19 front, my husband and I cancelled a family get together which we had already purchased all the ingredients for.  We took the decision to cancel the event as 4 of the guests were over the age of 70 and 2 had COPD.   It was not that our elderly relatives asked for the event to be cancelled, but we felt that given the circumstances it would be the most sensible thing to do.

    Anyway, the first soup I made, was a warm cucumber and courgette soup.  It wouldn’t have been my natural choice of soup, but I had excess courgettes, cucumbers, celery and spring onions to use up.  Although I say that cucumber soup was not my natural choice, I have had it once before, when my husband and I climbed Kilimanjaro a few years ago.  It was one of the meals that was gratefully received after a long day hiking.

    Unfortunately, I can’t find the recipe I used for the soup as I have Googled so many recipes since I made the soup that I can’t find the recipe in my search history.  Suffice is to say that I used the spring onions instead of onions, added in a couple or three of celery sticks and chopped up two cucumbers and two courgettes.  I sauteed these off  in some oil in a large saucepan for  a few minutes and then added stock, seasoning and a bay leaf or two.  When the vegetables were cooked through I blended the soup until smooth and then served it warm with a dollop of natural yoghurt.   As with many of my soup meals, I accompanied the soup with a slice or two of Sourdough bread from Sourdough Revolution.

    As mentioned before, not long into lockdown, it was beginning to become clear that my online Ocado food orders were going to dry up, so I subscribed to the Lynwood & Co vegetable and fruit boxes.  In the first week, my vegetable box contained two rather large heads of broccoli, so I decided that broccoli soup may be in order.  After my online search for broccoli soup recipes, I settled on the trusty BBC Good Food site and the following, very easy, recipe:

    Ingredients

    Method

    • Heat the oil in a saucepan and fry the garlic for 1-2 minutes
    • Pour the vegetable stock into the pan and add the broccoli florets
    • Bring to the boil and reduce the heat and simmer gently for 10-12 minutes, until the broccoli is tender
    • Season with salt and pepper, then transfer to a liquidiser. Blend until smooth.
    • Ladle the soup into serving bowls and drizzle with cream to serve (if you have any).

    The recipe was so easy that I made it twice in one week.

    My last order (of two) from Ocado substituted my requested two punnets of mushrooms with two, rather large, family packs of mushrooms.  As there are only two humans in our household (and one fur baby), two family packs of mushrooms were clearly going to be too much for us.  The simplest way of using up excess vegetables is, of course, making soup, so I made a rather large batch of mushroom soup, using another recipe from the trusted BBC Good Food website:

    Ingredients

    • 90g butter
    • 2 medium onions, roughly chopped
    • 1 garlic clove, crushed
    • 500g mushrooms, finely chopped (chestnut or button mushrooms work well)
    • 2 tbsp plain flour
    • 1 litre hot vegetable stock
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 4 tbsp single cream (if you have any or use natural yoghurt instead)
    • small handful parsley, roughly chopped, to serve (optional)

    Method

    • Heat the butter in a large saucepan and cook the onions and garlic until soft but not browned, about 8-10 minutes.
    • Add the mushrooms and cook over a high heat for another 3 mins until softened. Sprinkle over the flour and stir to combine. Pour in the vegetable stock, bring the mixture to the boil, then add the bay leaf and simmer for another 10 minutes.
    • Remove and discard the bay leaf, then remove the mushroom mixture from the heat and blitz using a hand blender/liquidiser until smooth. Gently reheat the soup and stir through the cream/yoghurt. Scatter over the parsley, if you like, and serve.

    After my Ocado orders dried up and my Lynwood & Co vegetable and fruit boxes became a regular thing, my challenge was not, not having enough fruit and vegetables, but rather having too many.   Not only having too many, but also not of the variety I would normally choose.  I am not a huge root vegetable fan, except at Christmas, so the next two boxes presented me with an additional challenge in that they contained parsnips, turnips and celeriac.

    Not wanting to be defeated, I made a creamy parsnip and turnip soup using a Mindful Living Network Recipe, followed by a celeriac soup using a recipe from Delicious Every Day.

    Creamy Parsnip and Turnip Soup

    Ingredients

    • 3-4 mid-sized turnips
    • 2 medium parsnips
    • 1.5 cups of water
    • 2 tsp of garlic powder
    • 1 tsp vegetable bouillon
    • 1 tbsp of olive oil
    • Sea salt and pepper to taste
    • 1/4 cup of white wine vinegar

    Method

    • Rinse the turnips
    • Peel the skin and dice the turnips and parsnips into small chunks
    • Bring 1.5 cups of water to a boil in a cooking pot
    • Add vegetable stock, garlic powder and sea salt into the water
    • Add the turnips and parsnips into the mixture
    • Half way through the cooking process (20 minutes, or until the turnips and parsnips are semi-tender), add the white wine vinegar
    • Once the turnips and parsnips are soft, remove from the stove top and add pepper to taste
    • Blend the mixture until a smooth puree
    • For a less creamy consistency, add a little more hot water

    Celeriac Soup

    Ingredients

    • 2 tbsp of olive oil
    • 1 celeriac peeled and cut into cubes
    • 1 large potato peeled and cut into cubes
    • 1 leek trimmed, washed and roughly sliced
    • 1 onion peeled and roughly chopped
    • 1 clove garlic sliced
    • 4 cups vegetable stock
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • Leaves of a handful of parsley washed and roughly chopped

    Method

    • Place a large pot over a medium low heat and add the olive oil.  Add the celeriac, leek, potato, garlic and onion, and season with salt and pepper.  Gently sweat the vegetables until the celeriac starts to soften, around 10 minutes.
    • Add the vegetable stock and bring the soup up to a boil before reducing to a simmer.  Simmer for 20 minutes or until the celeriac is completely tender.  Add the parsley and use an immersion blender to puree until smooth, or alternatively blend in batches in a blender.  Return to the heat and check the seasoning and adjust as necessary.
    • Serve with a drizzle of olive oil or a dollop of yoghurt or sour cream.

    Okay, I am now a bit souped out now.  I hope this gives you some food for thought, if you like me, have spare vegetables to use up.  Maybe not the best recipes going into Summer, but hopefully useful at some point in the future.

  • The Lockdown Larder: The Essentials

    When I was growing up, my maternal grandmother, Constance, had a large dresser in the corridor near her kitchen, where she stored tin upon tin of food.  I am not sure how long there had been in there or how often she replenished them (i.e. if they were still in date), but the cupboard was always full.

    I never asked my grandmother about the cupboard, but my mother told me that my grandmother always kept a well stocked cupboard as she had lived through the second world war with three young daughters, as well as post war rationing, and never wanted to be in a situation again where she didn’t have enough food to feed her family.

    Although I have never lived through a war or rationing and until recently never really considered the possibility that food may be difficult to come by, I have always had a well-stocked dry store cupboard.  The fact that I am also a Pastry Chef and have a lot of baking ingredients, has also meant that I started the lockdown period is a relatively good state.  Sorry, I should have also mentioned that I have a very well-stocked herb and spice cupboard (much to the annoyance of my husband, who is constantly trying to keep them in some order – he has been know to alphabetise them on more than one occasion) and a range of vinegar, oils  etc.

    On another subject, a while back, long before the lockdown, I bought a book called “The Art of the Larder” by Claire Thomson with the strap line “Good food from your store cupboard, every day”.  While her book is very informative and has an array of wonderful recipes, the larder basics she suggests, go beyond what I will be suggesting here.   i guess the main difference is that her book was written at a time when access to the supermarkets was easy and there was no constraint on the food stuffs that could be bought.

    With the above in mind and without any further delay, the following is a suggested list of larder essentials.  I am likely to add to this list as the lockdown continues.

    • Dried pasta  (my favourites are penne or rigatoni, spaghetti and macaroni)
    • Noodles (wheat or rice)
    • Couscous
    • Tinned beans (my favourites are cannellini, red kidney, black beans and chickpeas)
    • Ready cooked lentils (green lentils and puy lentils)
    • Dried pulses (split peas and red lentils)
    • Rice (of your choice)
    • Porridge oats
    • Flour (plain, self-raising, spelt, rye, 00, strong white bread, gram, corn, wholegrain/brown)
    • Semolina and polenta
    • UHT milk (cow’s, almond, oat, soya)
    • Tinned milk (evaporated, condensed and coconut)
    • Sugar (caster, white, dark brown, light brown, icing, jam)
    • Honey, maple syrup, treacle, malt extract, syrup
    • Peanut butter and/or other nut butter
    • Chocolate (milk and dark)
    • Cocoa powder
    • Desiccated coconut
    • Spices (salt (coarse and fine), peppercorns, ground cinnamon, ground ginger, ground nutmeg, ground cumin, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, garlic salt, celery salt, rose harissa, sumac, turmeric, paprika,  curry powder, Garam Masala, chilli powder and chilli flakes)
    • Herbs (dried oregano, basil, rosemary, thyme, mixed herbs)
    • Vanilla essence and vanilla paste
    • Baking soda and baking powder
    • Easy bake yeast
    • Seeds (poppy, sunflower, sesame, pumpkin)
    • Nuts (raw cashew nuts and peanuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecan, almonds (whole, ground and flaked), pistachio
    • Dried fruit (raisins, sultanas, figs, dates. cranberries)
    • Oil (olive, coconut, sunflower or vegetable oil)
    • Vinegar (malt, white distilled, white wine, red wine, sherry, cider and balsamic)
    • Other larder essentials (tomatoes, sweetcorn, passata, tomato puree, olives (black and green), tuna, anchovies, vegetable bouillon, mustard (English, Dijon, Wholegrain), capers, stem ginger)

    In addition to ambient larder goods, there are also a few staple fridge and freezer ingredients that you will need:

    • Milk
    • Cheese (cheddar, halloumi, feta, mozzarella, parmesan)
    • Butter
    • Plain yoghurt
    • Eggs
    • Filo pastry
    • Puff pastry

    Okay, having written this list of ‘essentials’, I am a bit embarrassed to consider them essentials, so I may need to refer to the above as the things that I have accumulated over some time and which you will need should you wish to cook the recipes I will be posting.

  • Time flies when you are having fun

    They say that time flies when you are having fun, so I must have been having fun as it is a long time since I last wrote and I didn’t realise how long it had been until I checked.

    To be honest, having fun is not exactly the truth, as I have had a few challenges over the last few months since I last wrote.  My main challenge has been my health.  The last few months have seen me have visits to a consultant on a number of occasions, a CTI, a MRI and the threat of another operation, which was averted at the 11th hour as the blockage in my colon sorted itself out prior to the need for further surgery.  On the back of the threat of further surgery, I had to cancel the event baking that I had planned for December.  Cancelling catering for the events was the last thing that I wanted to do, but I had to change my priorities given the threat of surgery.  Despite being given the all clear by the consultant on the surgery front, the 2nd week in December saw my stomach take a turn for the worse again, so much so that I managed all but two hours at our Christmas party at the Swan in Bibury on 13 December.  I managed to go into work for the last week before the Christmas break, but I was very glad when the Christmas break finally came.

    My well-being improved over the Christmas break.  Having our youngest son home and preparing for the family Christmas meal at home focused my mind on other things.   The Christmas meal was a success and I thoroughly enjoyed making the starters and desserts.  The starter was Mary Berry’s blue cheese and fig, filo tarts and cranberry sauce and goat’s cheese, filo tarts with fresh thyme.  The desserts were mixed berry pavlova, Christmas brownies and spiced orange tart.

    The time since Christmas has been a whirlwind.  I was just about to start the event catering season, when Covid-19 stuck and all events I was going to cater for have been cancelled for the foreseeable future.  As the Company I work for is an event business, our annual event has been cancelled and the majority of staff have been furloughed.  After a period of time working from home, I was furloughed as of yesterday.  While this gives me time to do other things, I do miss having structure to my day and interacting with other people.

    That being said, my period of home working and social distancing has certainly been getting my creative juices going again.  Being told to stay at home, except to go out for essentials, has meant that we are being much more cautious with what we are buying and we are using everything up that we have in our fridge and cupboards.  There is far less waste and far more tasty meals in our house at the moment.  Although I was fortunate to sign up to Ocado for home delivery, before you could no longer become a customer, we only had two deliveries before we were no longer able to secure home deliveries as they are now prioritising the most vulnerable people (and quite rightfully so).  I am just so grateful for Lynwood & Co, a local cafe (the cafe I used to work for) who are now doing home deliveries of vegetable and fruit boxes and other goodies i.e. bread, milk, eggs, coffee, muesli, butter etc.  The eggs, butter, milk etc. are from other local producers so we are very happy to be supporting our local cafe and other local producers during this time.  Not only are we being provided with great produce, which means our trips to the supermarket are being reduced, but I am being kept on my toes when it comes to menu planning and meals.  Google and my cookbooks haven’t been as busy as they have in the last few weeks as I have been scouring them for new and exciting recipes to use up my array of fresh fruit and vegetables.

    This flurry of activity in my kitchen made me think about my blog, my rather neglected blog, and I have decided to write a blog within a blog.  The title of the blog going forward, well as long as we are told to stay at home and are under lock down, will be called the Lockdown Larder.   I will share with you the recipes of what I have cooked to date, as well as the recipes for the meals I cook going forward.  I will give you some ideas about essential equipment and ingredients which are helpful to have when you can’t replenish your fridge or freezer on a regular basis.  I will also talk about some of the substitutes that I have used, which I have found useful along the way, when I haven’t had the ingredients I needed.

    Before I start posting pictures of food, I wanted to share a picture of Izzy, who is now 10 months old.  As both before and during the Covid-19 outbreak, she has been my constant companion.  She is very different to Montague, but has become a wonderful new addition to the the family.