Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Lavender-almond croissants


Croissants: 220g plain flour, 7g yeast, 160ml milk, 2 1/2 tsp caster sugar, 1 1/2 tsp salt, 2 tbs vegetable oil, 150g butter.
Glaze: lavender jam Filling: 2 eggs, 100g ground almonds, 100g caster sugar, 100g butter, 1/2 tsp lavender

Serves: 12 Preparation: we're talking well over 8 hours...

Croissants aux amandes were invented, I believe, to revitalise day-old/stale croissants so you could buy croissants and just glaze and fill them if you prefer. Lord knows making croissants is a labour of love, one which will leave a sheen of butter on your table and leave you with aching hands from the lamination (layers of butter and dough which produce that magical flakiness - if your croissants don't fill your bra with crumbs, you aint doing it right!). Whether you bake or buy your croissants, my lavender jam makes the perfect glaze and the lavender almond cream in the centre is OUT OF THIS WORLD. Just look at those lovely shiny crescents, the effort is so worth it!

Baking the croissants

1) Combine the yeast, 3 tsps of warm water and 1/2 tsp sugar in one jug and set aside until it begins to froth. Add the vegetable oil. In a separate jug, dissolve 1 tsp sugar and 1 tsp salt in the milk.

2) Sift the flour into a bowl and add the two jugs of liquid. Mix thoroughly and then kneed for approximately 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Cover with cling film and leave in a warm room for approximately an hour until it has TRIPLED in volume.

3) Knock the dough back, gently with your fingertips, cover and set aside again to double in volume. Finally knock back the dough again and chill for 20 minutes in the fridge.

4) Now comes the fun part... roll out the dough into a rectangle (about 30 x 20 cm in size) and using room temperature butter, spread liberally over the left 2/3 of the centre of the dough, leaving a half centimetre unbuttered border. With the unbuttered 1/3 at the left, fold to the right, and then fold again. Roll back out then dust with flour, cover with cling film and chill for 2 hours in the fridge.

5) Roll dough back out and repeat the buttering and folding, dust with flour, cover with cling film and return to the fridge to chill for 2 hours.

6) Finally, roll out to a rectangle approximately 50 x 10 cm and slice in half lengthways. Return one half to the fridge to chill and roll the other out to approximately 40 x 10 cm, then cut into 3 squares and cut these squares diagonally to leave 6 triangles of dough. Repeat with the dough in the fridge.

7) Roll the dough into croissants by rolling each triangle gently from the long side towards the point at the top, thus creating the classic layer pattern, and then bring the two edges together to form almost a circle. Allow to sit for a few minutes until the dough begins to puff back up a little, then bake in the oven at the highest setting (mine is 240 for 15 minutes)

Preparing croissants aux amandes

1) Cream the equal parts of butter, sugar and almonds together, then beat in the eggs. Grind lavender in a mortar and pestle and stir in. (If you wish, you could substitute the sugar for lavender jam in order to get the flavour)

2) Poke a small hole into the croissant at the side of the central layer and use a piping bag to fill with the lavender almond cream.

3) Dip a pastry brush into your lavender jam and glaze the outside of the croissant. From here, you can also scatter with slivers of almonds but personally I find this a little bit overkill! Bake in the oven at 200 degrees for 5-8 minutes, until golden brown.


Blackberry lavender clafoutis/flaugnarde


200g blackberries, 200ml milk, 1 tbsp lavender, 1 lemon, 50g caster sugar, 30g plain flour, 2 eggs.

Serves: 4 Preparation: 1 hour

Not a day goes by when I don't crave lavender. There is nothing that brings me such pleasure as when my house is filled with the scent of it infusing, or when I discover yet more flavours that it will enhance. Blackberry and lavender is by no means a stranger to this blog, but I do believe this is my first clafoutis post!
Technically a flaugnarde unless cherries are used, this is essentially a
 fabulous wibbly custard set with fruit and as desserts go, contains very little fat and sugar. So go for it!

1) Infuse the milk with lavender for 30 minutes. 
In the meantime, lightly butter your baking dish with a smear of butter on a clean cloth or piece of kitchen roll and tumble the blackberries over it.

2) Sift the flour and sugar together, zest and juice the lemon and beat together with the eggs. 

3) Add the lavender milk through a sieve to separate out the flowers and whisk thoroughly.

4) Pour over the fruit and bake at 180 degrees for 40 minutes and serve hot or cold.

Chocolate chip & coconut encrusted French toast


Chocolate chip brioche, dessicated coconut, butter, egg.
Preparation: 10 minutes

Following on from my chocolate chip brioche recipe, I have to admit that I have finally found a use for besmirching brioche in this way. It makes the most fan-fucking-tastic fluffy French toast when paired with a crispy coconut crust. Oh my oh my oh my. If you have one naughty treat this weekend, make it this. You're welcome.

1) Prepare two bowls, one with dessicated coconut and one with a beaten egg. Melt a knob of butter in a pan.

2) Dip your slice of brioche into the beaten egg, ensuring that it is coated, then into the coconut and turn over before adding to the pan.

3) Sizzle for one minute on each side, then serve!

Fine bean, pea & mozzarella scramble


Egg (one per person and one for the pot!), fine beans, peas, butter, bread, mozzarella pearls.

Preparation: 5 minutes

I am blessed with a very low-maintenance child who will happily play in the kitchen whilst I bake bread or make cheese. However, some days he quite rightly wants a bit more attention and knocking together a quick veggie scramble is absolutely delicious, and gives me enough of a protein kick to fuel our post-lunch playtime. In this hot Summer weather, peas and fine beans give this a sweet, refreshing crunch which is perfect with the creamy mozzarella and egg.

1) Top and tail the beans and slice into sixths. Add equal parts of peas to the pan (about 1/2 cup per person) with a knob of butter and sizzle for 2 minutes.

2) Whisk the egg and pour into the pan, stirring constantly until it begins to take form. Stir in the mozzarella pearls (always use from room temperature, it has no business being in the fridge!) and serve with toast.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Bean & aubergine ravioli

2 aubergines, 1 can cannellini beans, 1 bulb garlic, basil oil, dried basil, passata.

Serves: 2 Preparation: 45 minutes

Given that I find it intensely irritating when people, upon discovering that I am a vegetarian, suck air in through their teeth, grimace and say "oooh I could never be a vegetarian" or worse still ask "what do you EAT!?"... I feel a little guilty for the exclamation which will follow this absurdly long sentence.

I could never be a vegan. 
There I said it. I'm sorry. Mainly for the lack of dairy, because we all know that I am a filthy cheese whore, but mostly for pasta. Oh pasta, how I love thee.
But I don't want to alienate my lovely vegan followers by being so closed minded, so here you are darlings - a way to make ravioli without using eggs.
The aubergine squidges together and seals perfectly (as long as the aubergine slices are the same size - not all of mine were!) and the wonderful bean paste in the centre gives this a substantial feeling without the dreaded bloat that pasta causes. So hurrah all round for aubergines!

1) Slice the aubergines to half centimetre thick discs and sprinkle with salt. Leave to rest until you see dark juices beading the surface, then wipe away with kitchen towel

2) Rinse the beans and put on the hob to boil for 5 minutes. Strain and add to the blender.

Put the entire bulb of garlic in the oven and roast for 20 minutes. Squeeze the puree from 3 cloves into your blender along with a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of basilPulse until smooth and set aside to cool.

Melt a little basil oil in a frying pan and add the aubergine slices (I cook 4 at a time), turning immediately to allow them to soak up the oil evenly. Sizzle until the oil is completely soaked up by the aubergine before turning again - then continue turning until the surface of the aubergine colours and the skin changes to a vibrant, shiny purple. Set aside to cool.

5) Squeeze the rest of the garlic bulb into the passata and warm through on the hob before serving.

6) Fill the centre of half of the slices of aubergine with the bean puree and top each with another slice. Pinch the edges to seal and add to the sauce.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Tequila, lime & avocado risotto


1 cup risotto rice, 1 pint vegetable stock, 1 lime, 1 avocado, 1 leek, 1/2 cup tequila, 30g cheddar, butter. dried chilli flakes to garnish

Serves: 2 Preparation: 45 minutes

All risottos (no matter what the ingredients) can be made in 3 simple stages. The first is called tostatura - coating the rice in fat, the second involves cooking off some alcohol and the third involves releasing the starch from the rice one ladle of stock at a time. This risotto is one of my favourite new summer recipes. The sharp tang of lime and tequila, the creamy texture of melting cheddar in combination with soft avocado... it's scrumptious and so different.

1) Zest the lime and cut in half. Squeeze the juice and stir into the tequila.

2) Slice the avocado in half and use a tablespoon to scoop it from the shell. If the avocado is ripe enough the stone will pop out with a spoon but another good method is to prick it with a knife and pull it out. Slice the avocado into chunks, and cut the cheddar into chunks roughly the same size.

3) Slice the leek and sautee the discs in a little butter until soft strands remain. Add the risotto rice and stir until the rice becomes transparent, revealing a white dot in the centre and pour in the tequila and lime juice. Once the alcohol cooks off, add the first ladle of stock, the lime zest and stir through.

4) Continue adding the stock to the risotto, one ladle at a time, adding the avocado with the second to last ladle of stock.

5) When the rice has fluffed up and has become soft, stir through the chunks of cheddar, sprinkle with the chilli flakes and serve. Remember, risotto should be soupy, not solid.

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