Habas con jamón (broad bean and Serrano ham stew)

Habas con jamon serrano served with a poached duck egg with a runny yolk
When I was about 3 years old my family spent 3 months in Granada in the south of Spain. My dad was on a sabbatical with work and my mum was still on maternity leave after my little brother and sister had been born. Some of my earliest memories are from our time in Spain – vague, fuzzy recollections of eating jamón sliced off the bone on the balcony of our apartment, rows of kids lined up on the floor for our afternoon siestas at my nursery school and the very specific way that my nursery teacher used to peel fresh oranges (still known to this day as “The Mercedes Way” in our household). To help with all the children at home we had a live-in au-pair, a Spanish woman called Coco, and this is one of her recipes. It’s a rich, hearty stew and despite its peasant origins the dish has bags and bags (and bags) of flavour.

To get the depth of flavour in this dish you really need to get the right bit of Serrano ham – not the light meat which is sliced into thin slivers for eating, but the tough, dark meat right next to the bone usually used for stocks. Of course, if you’re living in Spain then getting your hands on this is easy, but it’s a slightly trickier task in the UK. Try Spanish or Mexican (or other) delis or even the deli counter at your local supermarket – they might do you a nice deal on this part of the ham. In my area of Edinburgh I was struggling to find the meat when I struck the jackpot at the tapas restaurant Tápame. The lovely chef there very kindly gave me a whole Serrano ham bone, which not only had plenty of dark meat on it but also added the most delicious, decadent flavour to the stew. You don’t need to add a bone to the stew – it isn’t included in Coco’s original recipe – but lucky you if you can find one! Be careful about adding salt if you use a bone – you probably won’t need to add any extra salt at all. If you can’t find any dark meat at all, then you can still use slices of the lighter ham, but the flavour won’t be quite the same.

Broad beans are in season right now, and won’t last much longer than the month, so get out to your local green grocers and get cooking!

One year ago:
Mini puff pastry apple pies
Ingredients for habas con jamon serrano
Ingredients (serves two as a main course, or more as part of a spread of tapas)
150-200g dark serrano ham (or a 500g bone, with meat)
1.5-2kg fresh broad beans still in their pods (about 500-600g once podded)
6-8 large Spanish spring onions or 1 white onion
2 garlic cloves
Extra virgin olive oil
Small glass of white wine
Freshly ground black pepper and salt
Optional to serve: fresh bread and poached eggs

Method
1. If you have managed to get your mitts on a gorgeous serrano ham bone then remove as much of the tough, dark meat as possible. You will need a small, very sharp knife to do this – I actually used my Swiss Army pen knife. If you have bought a chunk of meat then simply chop into small pieces.
Serrano ham bone with all the meat removed
Jamon serrano
2. Pod the broad beans (one of the most therapeutic kitchen tasks) and set aside for later.
Podded fresh organic broad beans
3. Chop the onions and finely chop the garlic cloves.
Finely chopped Spanish spring onions
4. Heat about 4 tbsp of good quality olive oil in a pan (large enough to hold the ham bone if you are using one). Add the onions and garlic and gently fry on a low heat for 5-10 minutes until soft.
Gently frying spring onions in extra virgin olive oil
Softened spring onions in extra virgin olive oil
5. Stir in the serrano ham, and continue to cook gently for about 5 minutes.
Adding serrano ham to the softened spring onions
6. Add the broad beans to the pot and stir to coat well in the oil. Increase the heat and pour in the wine, allowing it to bubble for a couple of minutes.
Adding broadbeans to the ham and onion
7. Reduce the heat to the very lowest setting possible and nestle the ham bone amongst the beans. Cover the pan with a lid and cook very slowly for 2 hours. Keep an eye on the stew while it cooks and if it looks particularly dry add a splash of water.
Adding the serrano ham bone to the stew
Habas con jamon after two hours of slow cooking
8. Taste and season with black pepper (and salt, if necessary). Serve immediately, or leave to cool and reheat later. This can be kept in the fridge, or even the freezer, if you want to make it in advance.
Reheating the habas con jamon
9. To serve, gently poach 2 eggs (I managed to find some incredible duck eggs at our local organic shop) and slice some crusty bread to soak up all the delicious liquid at the bottom of the stew.
Habas con jamon served with sourdough bread
Fresh duck eggs for poaching
Habas con jamon served with a poached duck egg and sourdough bread
Habas con jamon serrano served with a poached duck egg with a runny yolk

Individual summer puddings

Homemade summer pudding served with creme fraiche and currants 1
Summer pudding is one of my all-time favourite desserts; I think it could even give the chocolate fondant a run for its money. The pudding has a nostalgic, exciting feeling for me, partly because it meant that the berries and currants at my dad’s allotment were ripe and ready to be used which in turn signaled that summer was well and truly here, but also because I think it’s the first properly impressive pudding that I learnt to make. It’s a sinfully easy recipe, but turning out a perfectly set pudding and slicing into the stunning pink exterior to reveal the jumble of different summer berries inside is a very satisfying feeling indeed.

This is based on a Katie Stuart recipe (the kitchen goddess that our household regularly turn to for instruction, and who I’ve mentioned many times before), though she makes one large pudding to serve about 6 people. If you’re feeding a crowd then I’d highly recommend this – just double to quantities of fruit and sugar below to fill a 2 pint pudding basin (about 1.1 litres) and you will need to use a bit more of the loaf of bread. If, like me, you’re catering for less people then these make the cutest little treats.

A few tips before we begin: make sure you do use stale bread, so remember to buy a loaf in advance. I bought mine two days before I made these and it worked perfectly. Use whatever combination of summer berries that you prefer or have available, but try to use more redcurrants than other berries. For example, I used 180g redcurrants, 100g raspberries, 100g blackcurrants and 70g raspberries. Katie Stuart recommends 450g redcurrants, 225g raspberries and 225g strawberries for one large pudding (double this recipe). You do need to leave the puddings in the fridge overnight so that they set properly so no short cuts here I’m afraid! Inevitably you will be left with crusts and small cuttings from the slices of bread – throw them into a food processor or blender and blitz to breadcrumbs. They can be stored in airtight containers in the freezer for months and used as you require for recipes.
Turning scraps of stale white bread into bread crumbs to freeze
One year ago:
Stuffed courgettes
Ingredients for summer pudding
Ingredients (makes 3 individual puddings)
One loaf of stale white bread (you will use about half of it – the rest will make perfect toast!)
450g summer berries
70g castor sugar
Crème fraiche and extra berries to serve

Method
1. Rinse 3 small pudding basins (150ml capacity each) with cold water and thinly cut about half the loaf into 1cm slices – you can always cut more later if you need it.
Sliced stale white bread for summer pudding
2. Trim the crusts from the slices of bread and cut 6 circles – 3 small circles for the bottom of the bowls and 3 larger ones to cover the top – and enough wedges to cover the sides of the basins. Firmly press the small circles into the bottom of the basins and do the same with the wedges round the sides. Make sure there are no gaps at all in the bread lining and plug any with small pieces of the leftover bread.
Removing the crusts from slices of stale white bread
Lining mini pudding basins with stale white bread
3. Put the fruit and sugar into a small saucepan and cover with a lid. Place over a gentle heat for 5 minutes until the fruit has softened.
Summer berries and castor sugar
Summer berries and castor sugar cooked until the fruit has softened
4. Spoon the hot fruit into the pots, ensuring an even distribution of the different types of berries. Fill the basins right to the top, pouring over as much of the juice as possible.
Cooked summer berries ready to fill pudding basins
Filling the bread lined pudding basins with summer berries
Bread lined pudding basins filled with summer berries 3
If you have any extra juice left at the end then don’t throw it away – you can pour a little extra liquid over the puddings once they are turned out, especially useful if there are any little pieces of bread that haven’t been completely soaked through.

5. Place the basins on a large plate or tray (some of the juice will probably spill over the top so this keeps your fridge shelves clean!) and gently press the last 3 circles of bread on top of the puddings.
Topping the pudding basins with circles of stale white bread
6. Put small plates or saucers on top of each pudding and weight down with tins or other suitably-sized heavy objects. Refrigerate the puddings at least overnight.
Weighting down the individual summer puddings
7. When you’re ready to serve, run a knife around the edge of each of the puddings and tip out onto small plates. If you have saved some, spoon over a little extra juice.
Homemade summer pudding 1
Serve with a generous dollop of crème fraiche and a few fresh berries or currants.
Homemade summer pudding served with creme fraiche and currants 2
Sweet, soft, sharp and undeniably summery.
Cutting into the mini summer pudding
What do you like to do with summer berries? Do you have any favourite, nostalgic puddings?

Gazpacho

Gazpacho soup served with green pepper and croutons
If you’ve never eaten a chilled soup before, you’re going to just have to go with me on this one. It might seem very strange, or even off-putting, to those who have never tried it before, but believe me when I say that you are missing out and need to rectify that ASAP. Gazpacho, a southern Spanish tomato soup, is probably the most famous of the chilled soup family and it is one of my all-time favourite recipes. There are slight variations in ingredients and methods between the recipes available (some including peppers or bread, some soaking the ingredients overnight before blending, some adding stock or basil at the end), but this simple recipe is the one that my family has always used, passed down from my mum’s mum, and it is the best there is (unbiased family opinion).

Gazpacho makes use of the fresh, young allium produce that are available during the late summer. If you can’t get your hands on any young red onions or “green” garlic, as it is sometimes called, then you can use the regular varieties though you may want slightly reduce the quantity you add to the soup as it will be stronger and sharper in flavour. Err on the side of caution, since you can always add more in after the first blend, but you can’t take it back out at the end! This is the perfect seasonal recipe for a light lunch or supper, or to serve as a starter at a summer dinner party. However, I can also highly recommend having a large bowl of the soup the day after a night of excess – it’s zingy and refreshing, is reminiscent of comfort-food-hero hot tomato soup, has a high water content and is packed with vitamins.

One year ago:
Refreshing watermelon salad
Ingredients for homemade gazpacho
Ingredients (makes 4-6 servings)
450g ripe tomatoes
½ a cucumber
1 medium young red onion
3 cloves young garlic
450ml tomato juice
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
Green bell pepper and breadsticks or croutons to serve

Method
1. Begin by peeling and deseeding the tomatoes. The easiest way to do this is to plunge the tomatoes into a pan of boiling water for 30 seconds.
Boiling tomatoes to remove the skin
Remove and drain – the skin may already have started to blister – and leave to cool for a few minutes.
Tomatoes ready to be skinned
The skin should now very easily peel away, and then the tomatoes can be cut in half and the seeds either cut or scraped out.

2. Roughly chop the cucumber (including the peel and seeds), red onion and garlic and place in a large bowl.
Chopped red onion, garlic and cucumber
3. Add the peeled and deseeded tomatoes to the bowl, roughly chopped.
Adding peeled and seeded tomatoes to the gazpacho mix
4. Pour in the tomato juice, and add the olive oil, white wine vinegar and a generous season of salt and pepper.
Seasoning the gazpacho mix
5. Use a hand blender to blend the ingredients together. I like to keep the soup just a little bit chunky, but you can blend until you have the consistency you want – for a very smooth texture you will need to pass the mixture through a sieve. Taste the soup for seasoning (including vinegar, onion and garlic, not just salt and pepper) and adjust if necessary.
Blending the gazpacho soup
6. Chill the soup for at least 2 or 3 hours – this step is very important, so don’t skip it unless you are incredibly short on time, in which case having the tomato juice already chilled in the fridge is a top tip from my mum.
Blended gazpacho soup
Serve the soup chilled, in chilled bowls if you’re feeling extra fancy. Top with diced green pepper and, traditionally, homemade croutons either baked or fried in olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. At home we always just broke up breadsticks to scatter over the soup, which is far less effort and a little healthier too. This time we spotted a box of olive oil crostini at the shops, which worked perfectly too.
Homemade chilled gazpacho soup 1
This soup will keep well in the fridge for up to 5 or 6 days, the flavours mingling and only improving with time.

Have you eaten chilled soups before, and if so what is your favourite type? Do you have your own gazpacho recipe? – I’d love to hear about it below!…

Victoria sponge with fresh strawberries and cream

Victoria sponge cake with strawberries and cream
I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again (and many times more): Scottish strawberries are the best strawberries. Despite the amount of moaning we do about our weather here, we are actually lucky enough to live in a country which happens to have the perfect strawberry-growing climate: long daylight hours during the summer, consistent temperatures that aren’t too scorching (see, it’s good for something!) and water, water everywhere. Right now we can get a kilo of Scottish strawberries for £3 in our local supermarket, which is the perfect excuse for over-indulging in the small, sweet treats until your finger tips are stained pink and your tummy is just a liiittle bit sore.

And this weekend is the perfect time to fit some strawberry-themed baking into your schedule, since it’s the Wimbledon finals. This cake is just a regular Victoria sponge, but it’s a handy little recipe to have under your belt, or up your sleeve, or in whatever metaphorical clothing garment you desire. It’s the simple rule of 200:200:200:4, which means 200g of butter to 200g of sugar to 200g of flour and 4 eggs, and it works perfectly every time. A Victoria sponge is often sandwiched together with jam and butter cream icing, which is lovely too, but I think fresh strawberries and double cream are called for during the summer. And without horribly jinxing the outcome of tonight’s semi-final, maybe your Scottish strawberry cake will have a particularly patriotic connotation come Sunday afternoon…

One year ago:
Strawberry and vanilla muffins
Ingredients for Victoria sponge cake with strawberries and cream
Ingredients
200g soft butter, plus a little extra for greasing
200g caster sugar
4 medium eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
200g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
300ml double cream
400g strawberries
Icing sugar for decoration

Method
1. Heat the oven to 190C/170C fan/Gas Mark 5. Grease and flour 2 x 21cm cake tins.
Greased and lined 21cm cake tin
Or if, like me, you only have one cake tin this size then just bake the layers one at a time. Be ready to wash out the cake tin, and grease and line it quickly the second time, as you don’t want the wet cake batter to sit for too long – the raising agents begin to react as soon as they come in contact with the wet ingredients so should be baked as quickly as possible.

2. Place the butter and sugar into a large bowl and beat well to a light, fluffy consistency.
Soft butter and caster sugar
Creamed butter and caster sugar
3. Slowly beat in the eggs, one by one, and add the vanilla extract. A tip to avoid a split batter (where the mixture looks a little curdled) is to add a dessert spoon of the flour after both the first and third eggs.
Adding eggs to the butter and sugar
4. Sift the flour and baking powder and fold into the cake batter until well combined.
Sifting the flour and baking powder into the wet ingredients
Folding the dry ingredients into the wet mixture
Victoria sponge cake batter
5. Divide the mix evenly between the cake tins and bake for 20 minutes until they are golden brown. The sponge should spring back when gently pushed and a skewer pushed into the centre should come out clean.
Cake batter ready to be baked
6. Remove from the oven and allow the cakes to cool for 5 minutes in the tin. Then turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely.
Cooling the sponge in the tin
Cooling the sponges on a wire rack
7. Whip the cream to soft peaks and prepare the strawberries by removing the stalks and cutting into thick slices.
Preparing the strawberries and double cream
8. Place the bottom layer of the cake (I usually pick the flatter sponge for this) onto the plate you want to present your cake on and arrange the strawberry slices into a thick layer.
Arranging the strawberries on the sponge cake
9. Carefully spread a generous layer of double cream on top of the strawberries.
Spreading the whipped double cream on the strawberries
10. Sandwich the top layer of the cake on top of the cream, pressing down firmly.
Sandwiching the second sponge layer 1
Sandwiching the second sponge layer 2
Dust the cake with icing sugar just before serving.
Dusting the Victoria sponge cake with icing sugar
This cake doesn’t really need to be served with anything, other than perhaps even more strawberries piled on top. And of course a cup of tea, or a glass of Pimms if you’re really doing things right, to wash it down with.
Slice of Victoria sponge cake with strawberries and cream Continue reading

A few of my favourite things

I have something a bit new for you today. Since I’m taking myself on holiday for a few weeks to France, it felt like an appropriate time to give this blog a little summer chill-out too. So until I have eaten all the cheese and bread and drunk all the wine that France has to offer, there won’t be any new posts from me.

In the meantime, I thought I’d share with you some of the blogs and ingredients and TV shows that have been inspiring my cooking and recipe planning recently…

1. Everyone Has To Eat

Gluten-free Kung Pao chicken

Gluten-free Kung Pao chicken from Everyone Has To Eat


This new blog is in its infancy, having emerged into the ether of the internet only last week, but it is very close to my heart. It belongs to one of my very dearest friends (my brother-from-another-mother some (we) might say) and I have huge expectations for the recipes to come. The idea for the blog came to him as he got to grips adapting some of his most-loved Chinese recipes for his girlfriend, who was recently diagnosed to be coeliac. The recipes are gluten-free, which will be music to many peoples’ ears, but even if you’re not fussed about the gluten-free part surely everyone can get on board with authentic Chinese home cooking right?! And if the first recipe for Kung Pao chicken is anything to go by (I need to cook this ASAP, just looking at the picture makes me drool), this is going to be a cracker of a food blog. One to watch…

2. Nigel Slater’s Eating Together


I am a huge fan of Nigel Slater: his cookbooks are simple, but interesting, his presenting style is gentle and warm and he has such an emotional, nostalgic connection with the food he cooks and eats which really chimes with my own way of thinking about food. I always love his TV shows, and his new series Eating Together, currently showing on BBC TWO, is no exception. The concept is lovely: each week he finds three people in the UK, each with their own way of cooking what is essentially the same dish, but from a variety of different cultures (think dumplings, soup, custards…). It’s a celebration of multiculturalism, family and modern British home-cooking, all rolled into one.

3. The Londoner’s Seabass & Samphire Parcels


I’ve talked about The Londoner on my blogroll page, and one of her recent recipes was just the inspiration I needed for a weeknight dinner. I ad-libbed a bit with this recipe, swapping seabass for cheaper cod loin and adding seasonal sprouting broccoli along with the samphire (my favourite new ingredient discovery – if you haven’t already you must try it!), but it’s really the kind of recipe that is made for improvising with what’s in the shop or your fridge. Add this one to your weekly repertoire pronto!

4. Asparagus Risotto

Asparagus risotto with chorizo and slow roasted tomatoes

Asparagus risotto with chorizo and slow roasted tomatoes


Asparagus season is in full swing, and it’s one of those seasonal produce that you should take advantage of when it’s available. I haven’t yet done a risotto recipe on the blog, but believe me it is much easier than many people think. The base of this particular risotto came from a pack which contained risotto rice (most commonly Arborio rice) and dried asparagus for flavouring, but it was a gift which was bought for us in France so I’m afraid I don’t have a link to it! However, if you’d like to try recreating something similar you could follow a simple risotto recipe like this one from Jamie Oliver, adding some chopped asparagus stalks with the onion. Take your time with the risotto, cooking it over a low heat (though it should only take about 15 minutes for the rice to cook after adding the first ladle of stock), and add a generous hand full of parmesan and knob of butter when the rice is cooked through and off the heat. What really made this dish was all the added extras on top: griddle a bunch of asparagus spears, slow roast tomatoes on the vine seasoned with plenty of salt and olive oil, fry some chopped chorizo and finish the dish with a drizzle of the chorizo oil and some shavings of parmesan. Et voilà!

And finally, in case while I’m away the weather here takes a dramatic turn for the better and you’re all basking in summer sunshine, here are some of my favourite hot-weather recipes from the last year…








Happy summer everyone!

Tabbouleh

Tabbouleh salad
Is it salad season yet? Let’s just say it is and hurry in summer time, yes? Good. In that case we might as well kick off with one of my favourite ever salads: tabbouleh. Tabbouleh (or tabouli) is a vegetarian salad made from bulgur wheat, mixed with fresh herbs and vegetables and seasoned with plenty of lemon juice and olive oil. It originates from Lebanon and is traditionally served as part of a mezze alongside dishes like hummus, fattoush and baba ganoush. If you’re not familiar with bulgur wheat, but like grains like couscous or quinoa, then jump on board the bandwagon right now (except bulgur wheat is SO much better than quinoa!). Bulgur wheat is really easy to cook with as it just requires soaking in boiling water for about 15 to 20 minutes and you’ll be left with fairly substantial, chunky grains to flavour as you like.

This particular recipe for tabbouleh is one that my mum has made for years and years, and originally came from a Mollie Katzen cookbook. Mollie Katzen is an American chef and cookbook writer, and is well known for her beautifully illustrated (by her) vegetarian cookbooks like The Enchanted Broccoli Forest (best name for a vegetarian cookbook ever right?). This tabbouleh recipe is from The Moosewood Cookbook and has just been slightly adjusted by both my mum and then me over the years. Feel free to adjust the recipe again to your taste – whether you like it to be sharper with extra lemon juice, herbier with the addition of more fresh herbs or saltier with some sliced olives mixed through.
Ingredients for tabbouleh salad
Ingredients (makes 6-8 generous portions)
250g (1 heaped cup) bulgur wheat
360ml (1½ cups) boiling water
1½ tsp salt
1½-2 lemons, juiced
2 garlic cloves, crushed or very finely chopped
4 spring onions
Small bunch parsley
2-3 tomatoes
½ medium cucumber
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Optional extra ideas: feta cheese, chickpeas, olives, avocado, fresh mint

Method
1. Place the bulgur wheat in a large bowl with the salt and pour over the boiling water. Give it a quick mix and then cover the bowl with a large plate. Leave the bulgur wheat for 15-20 minutes until it has soaked up all the water.
Soaking the bulgar wheat
2. Add the lemon juice, garlic and a few generous glugs of olive oil and mix well. Chill in the fridge for a few hours.
Soaked bulgar wheat with garlic, lemon juice and olive oil
3. Finely chop the spring onions and parsley, and chop the tomatoes and cucumber into small chunks (I recommend removing the watery middle of the cucumber – you can do this very easily by halving the cucumber length-ways and using a teaspoon to scrape out the middle).
Chopped vegetables for tabbouleh salad
4. Add all the vegetables to the chilled bulgur wheat and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Adding vegetables to the bulgar wheat
Mixing the vegetables through the bulgar wheat
This is a great side salad to serve alongside a spread of cheese and bread, or grilled meat, fish or vegetables.
Tabbouleh salad
It also makes a super packed lunch, which you can bulk up with some extras like avocado, feta cheese, chickpeas or even some roasted vegetables. The tabbouleh will keep very well in the fridge for 4 or 5 days.
Tabbouleh salad served with ripe avocado for lunch

Rhubarb syrup (with soda water)

Rhubarb syrup and soda water 1
As promised last time, today I have a quick little recipe for using up extra rhubarb juice. When I made my rhubarb curd the other week I had quite a lot of rhubarb juice leftover and it would have been a crime to waste even a drop of that gorgeous pink liquid. Instead I boiled it up with a splash of water, a few strips of lemon peel and a drop of sugar to sweeten. The flavour of this syrup is just pure rhubarb, and creates a delicious spring drink when mixed with soda water, which is also pretty in colour. I’m coming to the end of the bottle I made and now desperately need to get my hands on another batch of rhubarb to top it up.
Chopped fresh rhubarb for rhubarb curd
Ingredients (makes about 500ml syrup)
300g rhubarb
90g granulated sugar
1 lemon

Method
1. To extract the juice from the rhubarb follow steps 1-3 here. (Short version: simmer rhubarb with splash of water; strain.)
Straining stewed rhubarb for rhubarb juice
2. Mix 150ml of the rhubarb juice with 300ml water, the sugar and 3 strips of lemon peel.
Rhubarb juice
3. Simmer the liquid over a medium heat for 15 minutes.
Rhubarb juice, sugar and lemon peel for rhubarb syrup
4. Allow the syrup to cool, pour into a bottle and keep refrigerated until needed. The syrup will keep for a few weeks in the fridge.
Homemade rhubarb syrup
Close up of homemade rhubarb cordial
To serve, mix a few tablespoons of the syrup with soda water – use in the same way you would use any fruit cordial, adjusting to your taste. For a more grown up version, mix with gin, soda and a generous squeeze of lemon juice.
Rhubarb cordial and soda water