food for thought

by michelle

yoghurt, honey and pistachio cheesecake with oranges in cardamom syrup

leave a comment »

For the finale of our Summer Solstice feast Deborah made this cake from Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons by Diana Henry. With classic Middle Eastern flavours it was a perfect way to end the meal.  

For the biscuit base, bash 150g (5 ½oz) of sweet biscuits and 55g (2oz) blanched almonds together in a plastic bag using a rolling pin. You should end up with quite a textured mixture. Melt 75g (2¾oz) of butter and mix it with the ground nuts and biscuits. Lightly grease a 22cm (8½”) spring-form tin and line it with baking paper. Press the biscuit and butter mixture into this and put it in the fridge to firm up for an hour or so. Meanwhile, in a bowl, mix together 500g (1lb 2oz) of Greek Yoghourt, 500ml (18 fl oz) of crème fraiche, 120ml (8 tablespoons) of honey (orange blossom honey would be ideal), 2 teaspoons of orange flower water and the grated rind of 1 orange. Juice the orange into a small saucepan and sprinkle over 1 sachet of powdered gelatine. Allow it to bloom for 5 minutes then melt it over very low heat. Pour it onto the yoghurt mixture and quickly stir it through. Now pour the entire mixture on top of the biscuit base and refrigerate until set (allow at least 5 hours, preferably a day or two). For the oranges in syrup, heat 175ml (6 fl oz) of orange juice, the juice of 1 lime, 100ml (3½ fl oz) of water, 120ml (4¼ fl oz) of runny honey and the crushed seeds of 8 cardamom pods. Bring to the boil, stirring from time to time, and cook for about 5 minutes until the mixture is quite syrupy. Set aside to cool. Remove the peel and as much pith as possible from 4 oranges, and either segment or finely slice them, placing them in a shallow serving dish. Pour the cooled honey syrup over the top. To serve the cake, remove from the tin and scatter with 60g (2¼ oz) of chopped pistachios. Serve with the oranges.


Written by michelle picker

January 16, 2019 at 12:12 am

spiced roast chicken with harissa + greek salad

leave a comment »

Here is our Summer solstice main course. Spiced roasted chicken served on a bed of home-made harissa and garnished with herbs and watercress. Lorraine chose this recipe from Karen Martini’s Where The Heart Is and cooked it to perfection.

You will need Baharat, a Middle Eastern spice mix, for this recipe. If you can’t find it ready-made you can make it by combining pepper with any or all of the following: paprika, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, star anise and nutmeg. For the spice rub combine 3 teaspoons of Baharat with 2 teaspoons of ground fennel, 5 large crushed cloves of garlic, 2½ teaspoons of salt flakes, freshly ground black pepper to taste and 3 sprigs of fresh thyme. Make horizontal cuts through a butterflied chicken and rub the mixture into skin. Cover the chicken and put it in the fridge for at least 1 hour. When you’re ready to cook preheat your oven to 220ºC (430ºF). Meanwhile, heat ¾ of a cup of olive oil in a large pan over high heat. Place the chicken in the pan and brown it on all sides. Transfer to a baking dish and roast for 40-50 minutes until cooked through and golden. For the harissa, roast 1 bulb of garlic, 1 large red pepper and 10 large red chillies. When they are cooked, remove them from the oven and place the red pepper and chillies in an airtight container. Allow them to sweat before removing the skins and seeds. Toast 4 teaspoons of cumin seeds and 3 teaspoons of caraway seeds until fragrant then grind them. Squeeze the roasted garlic out of it’s skin and combine it with the red pepper, chillies, the ground cumin and caraway seeds, 150ml (5 fl oz) of tomato passata, 5 pinches of salt flakes, 2 tablespoons of castor sugar and ½ a cup of olive oil. Process to a smooth paste in a blender or food processor. To serve, spread the harissa on a platter, place the chicken on top, scatter with sprigs of herbs and watercress and garnish with lemon wedges.

Having just been to Greece, Mary was inspired to make a wonderful greek salad as an accompaniment.

Written by michelle picker

January 9, 2019 at 12:20 am

fennel and seafood salad

with one comment

Here in the southern hemisphere we recently celebrated the Summer Solstice. Our feast began with this salad, a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe from the cookbook Ottolenghi, cooked by Fifi. It looked magnificent and tasted even better.

Trim the tops and bottoms of four fennel bulbs then slice them crosswise as thinly as you can. In a large bowl combine the sliced fennel with ½ a finely sliced red onion, the grated zest and juice of 1 lime2 cloves of crushed garlic, 2 tablespoons of chopped dill, 2 tablespoons of chopped flat-leaf parsley, 1 seeded and diced red chilli, ½ a teaspoon of salt and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Mix well and set aside. Prepare 8 large tiger prawns (shrimp) by removing their heads, shelling the body (leave the tail intact) and de-veining. Toss the prawns and 350g (12 oz) of cleaned baby squid in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Heat a heavy pan or griddle and cook the prawns and squid in batches until just cooked. Cut the cooked squid into rings and when the seafood has cooled add it to the salad bowl along with some tomato wedges and toss to combine. If you are not serving the salad immediately it will keep in the fridge for up to a day. To serve stir in 1 tablespoon of sumac and 2 tablespoons of chopped coriander (cilantro) and adjust the seasoning to taste.

Written by michelle picker

January 2, 2019 at 12:26 am

christmas 2018

with one comment

Only four of us this hot Christmas day, so we decided to have a Chinese hot-pot. Cooking everything at the table is the ultimate slow food but very satisfying and delicious!

Our home-made stock was made with pork bones, chicken and ginger. Before serving we seasoned to taste with salt and added a black cardamom pod, star anise, black peppercorns and Sichuan peppercorns. To cook we had: prawn and ginger dumplings; shiitake, king oyster and enoki mushrooms; a variety of fish balls; prawns; beef; pork; fried beancurd and beancurd skins; Choi sum and Chinese broccoli; quail eggs; and mung bean noodles. For dipping we chose our ingredients from soy sauce; black rice vinegar; sesame oil; sesame paste; minced garlic; minced ginger, chopped coriander (cilantro); chopped spring onions; and finely sliced fresh chillies. And some chilli oil.

Written by michelle picker

December 26, 2018 at 12:43 am

lemon and blueberry polenta cake

leave a comment »

A lovely lemony cake with pockets of moist blueberry and no wheat.

This recipe makes one small 15cm (6″) cake. Preheat your oven to 180°C (350ºF) and grease and line your cake tin with baking paper. Cream 100g of unsalted butter with 100g of caster sugar until soft and pale. Beat in 2 eggs, one at a time, adding 1 tablespoon of ground almonds with each egg. Stir through 90g (3¼ oz) of instant polenta, the juice and zest of one lemon, 1 teaspoon of baking powder and another 4 tablespoons of ground almonds. When well combined stir in 100ml (3½ oz) of natural yogurt and 50g (1¾ oz) of fresh blueberries. Pour into the prepared tin and scatter another 50g (1¾ oz) of  fresh blueberries over the top, lightly pressing them into the mixture. Bake for 45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Written by michelle picker

December 19, 2018 at 12:37 am

kohlrabi, quinoa, radish and apple salad

leave a comment »

This lovely crunchy salad goes well with any smoked meat or fish and is an excellent addition to any smorgasbord. We ate it with smoked duck.

Rinse ½ – ¾ of a cup of white quinoa and boil in a generous amount of water until cooked but still retaining some texture. Rinse with cold water and draining. Peel and cut 1 kohlrabi and 1 apple into fine julienne. Finely slice 1 bunch of radishes. Combine the quinoa, kohlrabi, radishes and apple in a bowl. Add a handful of chopped fresh dill and ½ a cup or more of broken walnut pieces. For the dressing combine 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon of sour cream, 1 tablespoon of walnut oil, 1 tablespoon of cider vinegar, a squeeze of lemon juice and salt to taste. Toss well and serve.


Written by michelle picker

December 12, 2018 at 12:17 am

spaghetti with mussels

leave a comment »

It’s definitely worthwhile taking the mussels out of their shells for this wonderful spaghetti dish.

Clean 3 kg (6½ lbs) of mussels. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot with a tight-fitting lid. Add the mussels, cover and cook over high heat until all open. This should take about 5 minutes. Drain the mussels and keep the liquid. Reduce the liquid by half and set it aside in a bowl. When the mussels are cool remove them from their shells, chop them, add them to the liquid and set aside. In a large pan heat another 2 tablespoons of olive oil and add 3 peeled and chopped cloves of garlic, 1 crumbled dried red chilli and 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh oregano. Cook until the garlic just begins to colour then add 150ml (5 fl oz) of dry white wine. Reduce for a minute then add a can of peeled and chopped tomatoes. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until reduced. Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in a large pot of well-salted water until just al dente. When the tomato is reduced, add the mussels and their juice, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste and add 3 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley. Heat the mussels then add the spaghetti. Mix well and serve drizzled with a little olive oil.

*This recipe is adapted from River Cafe Cookbook Two by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers.


Written by michelle picker

December 5, 2018 at 12:32 am