Category Archives: Eating

Caramelised onion and three cheese tart

It’s coming up to the end of the month. This means two things, the coffers are a little low but there are lots of random bits of food lying around. Rather than just go shopping this morning as I often do, I decided to carry out a thorough stock audit in an effort to use up all those bits and bobs that were lurking in the fridge and freezer, to not buy what I didn’t need and to use up any veg before it went off.

Caramelised onion tart

I found some rather nice casserole and things in the freezer and, about 1.5 kilos of onions (among other veg) which were right at the tipping point of ending up in the compost bin.

What do you do with that much onions? Well I guess soup is an option, but I wasn’t really in an onion soup kind of mood, however, I also discovered a packet of puff pastry, the ends of a few nice bits of unpasteurised cheese that were about to turn and a half used pot of creme fraiche. So I decided a tart was in order. This is going to be my husband and I’s lunch for the week, better than a few quid a day on a sandwich.

Serves 12 (or 8 big pieces)

About 1kg of onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1 packet of ready-made puff pastry (or make your own)
Olive oil
3 eggs
150g creme fraiche
50g grated unpasteurised Comte (or Gruyère or similar)
50g Baronet, rind removed, chopped into smallish pieces (or Reblechon or similar)
50g grated unpasteurised cheddar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pour a good glug of olive oil into a large heavy bottomed frying pan and heat over a low-medium heat. Add your thinly sliced onions and cook gently, stirring occasionally until the onions are soft, sweet and golden, about an hour. Honestly, when you cook onions this way you’ll almost never believe they are onions when you eat them. I first read to cook them this way in the Moro Cookbook and seriously could not believe that you could or would want to cook onions for an hour. You really must use quite a gentle heat, so they don’t burn, and also a decent glug of oil. If you see the onions catching at all, turn down the heat and add a little more oil. You won’t regret the time it takes.

tart before the cooking

While the onions are cooking, make the savoury “custard”. Take your eggs and beat lightly, add in the creme fraiche and mix well until all combined, stir in the grated cheeses, but not the Baronet or similar, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. There is not a lot of the custard, but this is not a quiche, the onions are the main player.

Then roll out your puff pastry to fit your tray. I used a tray approximately 14 inches by 8 inches. Grease the tray with a little olive oil and then line with your pastry. Preheat the oven to 200°C.

When the onions are done spread them evenly over the pastry. Then pour on your custard to give a fairly even distribution. There is not loads so go sparingly and then spread around with a palette knife or spatula to cover the onions. Scatter the Baronet pieces. Pop the tart into the middle of your hot oven and bake for around 20 minutes or until puffy and golden brown on top.

ready to eat

The tart filling does puff up quite a lot while cooking but will settle pretty quickly as soon as you take it out of the oven. Serve hot with a green salad, some tomatoes and a chilled glass of white wine for a delicious lunch. Or, slice and chill then eat for a packed lunch, better than sandwiches! My estimate is that the total cost for ingredients for this dish was less than £4 and I cut 8 large slices for lunch, so not bad for 50p per portion.

Foraged wild garlic soup

I’m not working on Monday’s at the moment and I wanted to do something fun with my kids today, and I wanted to cook with wild garlic. Yesterday a friend told me about a secret spot not far from home with a great big patch of wild garlic, so we, myself and my two little helpers, headed down there this morning to pick some.

Half of our haul being washed

Half of our haul being washed

It was a lovely sunny morning and we had a nice walk down there stopping off on the way for some coffee and hot chocolate from a local cafe. We headed down to a small wooded area really right in the middle of our town. Wild garlic grows in woodland areas, the sort of place you’d find bluebells. You have to be a little careful what you are picking because it does look quite similar to other members of the allium family like Lily of the Valley which is not edible, but in fact toxic. The easiest way to tell is to pick a leaf and rub between your fingers, there is a definate aroma of garlic there if it’s the right stuff! The garlic we picked was not in flower but you can also eat the flowers of wild garlic.

A typical field of wild garlic

A typical field of wild garlic

So today’s lunch is wild garlic soup. Now I know I’m mostly paleo but this has to be an exception and so I’ve got a lovely loaf of bread, local bakery too.

Just after blending

Just after blending

You need:
Two large handfuls of wild garlic leaves about 200 g
A few potatoes two large or several small I used some that had been hanging around in the back of the fridge for while
2 celery sticks
A bunch of spring onions
Glass of white wine
Chicken stock
Glug of olive oil
Few spoons creme fraiche (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Delicious!

Delicious!

Wash and chop the spring onion, celery and potatoes. Add a glug of olive oil to a large pan and heat, throw in the chopped veg and cook without colouring for a few minutes. Wash your wild garlic well in plenty of cold water and drain. Remove any tough stalks or roots. Add the white wine and  enough chicken stock to cover the vegetables to the pan. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook until the potatoes are tender and then add in your wild garlic leaves. Allow them to wilt and cook in gently with the other ingredients. Simmer for a few minutes. Then blend using hand blender until you have a really nice smooth consistency. Stir in the creme fraiche or yoghurt, or omit if you want dairy free. Taste, adjust seasoning and serve with crusty fresh bread (or not!).

Banana pancakes, a breakfast revelation.

Quick share this morning of another super quick, tasty and incredibly easy breakfast a few friends have mentioned they enjoy.

pancake cooking

You need:
One banana
One egg
Dollop coconut oil

Mash you banana and beat in the egg. Heat a small pan and add a dollop of coconut oil, less than a teaspoon in enough. Scoop a scant quarter cup of the banana mix into the pan and fry until set then flip and cook until done. About 1 more minute.

Delicious protein rich breakfast and not a cereal in sight. Took the same time as toasting a slice of frozen bread, I did both together.

UPDATE: Following on from the comments, today I added a pinch of cinnamon a couple of drops of vanilla extract and a squeeze of honey, delicious and no toppings needed! Thanks for the ideas.

a cooked pancake ready to eat

Frome Annual Town Meeting Tonight!

Tonight my town is having it’s annual meeting, and if you live locally you should of course go along!

In my role as Secretary of Frome Womens’ Institute I was approached by the Mayor to get the ladies of the WI to cater for the event. So, there will be some delicious food, there, my house is heaving with sweet and savoury treats.

Just to whet your appetites I’ve baked 80 mini cheese & spring onion quiches which are pictured below hot from the oven, and when I get home from work I’m going to create 90 mini fruit tartelettes filled with creme patisserie and topped with strawberries, grapes and kiwi. Made by some of the other ladies of the WI are chocolate brownie bites, lemon drizzle bites, almond slice bites, sausage rolls, toad in the hole and sandwiches.

See you there!

mini cheese and spring onion quiches

A flash in the pan breakfast

When I tell people about Paleo eating one of the first things they usually ask is “but what do you eat for breakfast?”. Our current eating habits are so based around cereal products in the morning it’s often hard to image what you could eat that is quick and easy and doesn’t contain wheat, grains, sugar and milk whether it be toast and jam or cereal and milk. They also usually think it won’t fill you up.

I’ve pretty successfully ditched wheat based breakfast and there are a whole host of options out there. Anyway, I just thought I’d share this mornings’ quick and easy offering with you.

pan scramble

This took a grand total of 4 minutes to prepare, so no more “I don’t have time to cook” excuses, it takes at least that long to toast a piece of bread and spread it with butter and jam!

As always, if you are doing strict paleo just omit the cheese! I used raw unpasteurised Keen’s Cheddar as I have decided that unpasteurised cheese is healthy in small doses and it add’s great flavour.

½ an avocado peeled and chopped
2 or 3 slices of wafer thin sugar free, sulfite free organic (preferably) ham
1 egg
1 tbsp olive oil or ghee
small handful of raw cheese, grated
seasoning/herbs/spices

Heat a small frying pan and add the oil or ghee. Add in the avocado and mash up a bit which gets easier as it warms up. Add in the ham and toss until warm, then break the egg into the pan and scramble with a fork, mix in the cheese if using, season with salt, pepper, chillies to taste.

I ate mine from the pan, saves on washing up!

chilli mills

I like a bit of a chilli kick in the morning and on the Frome Artisan Market this weekend I bought some new seasonings from The Wiltshire Chilli Farm. I love to support local business and they had an amazing range of very tempting seasonings, sauces, dips and more. I chose these lovely grinders as I know we’ll use them often. They were £5 for the Lemon Chilli Pepper and £4 for the Chipotle Chilli Salt which I thought was a bargain as the grinder was included too. I just hope they start doing refills! They were delicious and added a nice spicy kick to my breakfast.

Rootin’ Tootin’ Curry

This one’s for Phil. It’s a great recipe that really got me into grinding my own curry spices, which is in fact super easy and nowhere near as scary as it seemed at first. It’s vegan (if you want it to be) and paleo friendly if you don’t put any off-road type ingredients in (potatoes or corn!) and don’t serve it with rice. To be honest, you don’t really need rice as it’s full of roots but we do like it with rice!

This recipe was inspired by Nigel Slater’s root vegetable curry recipe, but I’ve removed all the dairy and changed up a few things! It’s a Korma curry, so mild unless you add loads of chillies.

Serves 6-8

2 medium onions, chopped
2 inch piece of fresh root ginger, grated
3 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
1.5kgs mixed roots, peeled and chopped. Some suggestions: butternut squash (ok, not a root!), sweet potato, carrot, parsnip, jerusalem artichoke, potatoes (not strictly paleo if you add these).
100g unsalted cashews, half roughly chopped
6 cardamom pods
2 tsp cumin seeds
3 tsp coriander seeds
2 tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp chilli powder
1 cinammon stick
2 small green chillies
300ml coconut cream
2 tbsp olive oil or ghee
large handful freshly chopped coriander

Take the cardamon pods and split them open (you can do this with your thumbnail), remove the seeds and put in a pestle and mortar. Add the cumin and coriander seeds and then grind until you’ve got a coarse powder. Mix in the turmeric and chilli powder.

Put the oil or ghee into a large heavy bottomed pan, add the onions and stir gently letting them soften but not colour, then add the ginger and garlic and allow them to cook gently for a couple of minutes. Add the spices, stir for a couple of minutes until the spices release their fragrant aromas.

Add the roots and the chopped half of the cashews to the pan, season with the chillies, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Then add 750ml water to the pan, partially cover with a lid and simmer for 45-50 minutes or until the roots are tender to a knife point.

While the roots are simmering toast the remaining cashews in a pan. To do this use a dry frying pan on a medium heat, add the cashews and stir regularly for a few minutes until the nuts start to colour, keep them moving to toast all over. Do not use a high heat or the nuts will quickly burn.

curry up

When the roots are tender add the coconut cream to the pan. Check the seasoning and then serve garnished with the toasted cashews and fresh chopped coriander.

If you wish you can substitute the coconut cream with 150ml of cream and 150ml thick natural yogurt. If you do this do not allow the curry to return to the boil or the yogurt will curdle. If this does happen, the curry is still perfectly tasty and edible but does have a slightly grainy texture to the sauce.

All about buttermilk, and how to make your own.

Yesterday I wanted to make my favourite Grain Free Pancakes for breakfast for everyone but, I realised at about 6am that I didn’t have any buttermilk in the house. Boo. But then I remembered that when baking cupcakes before now I haven’t been able to get hold of buttermilk so I’ve made a sort of substitute version.

I used a butter churn like this

Buttermilk is the liquid which is left when you have churned butter. Have you ever churned your own butter? As a child I visited my Baba in Macedonia in the summer holidays and we often churned butter on her porch. If you want to have a go at churning your own butter you can have a go quite easily. You need non-homogeonized milk, the sort where the cream sits on the top, or, cream from a more traditional dairy. Put it in a jam jar and then shake. Keep shaking till you get butter. We also used to do this as kids as milk was not generally homogeonized then, and we would spoon the cream off the top and have fresh butter for breakfast. A few tablespoons takes only about 5 minutes of shaking. What you have left is “buttermilk”, with a few differences!

Click for more on how to make butter in a jam jar on www.makesandtakes.com

As you beat the milk or cream the fats all bind together to form the butter and what you are left with is buttermilk. The buttermilk is almost fat free as all the fats are in the butter. You had to leave the milk to stand so that the cream naturally seperates from the milk, so you can skim the cream to make the butter. If the milk is not refrigerated while you do this it begins to ferment. The Lactobacillus bulgaricus bacteria begin to digest the lactose sugars in the milk and it becomes slightly acidic or sour, which is where the distinctive sour taste of buttermilk comes from. This actually makes it easier to make butter as the fats bind together more easily. The acidic buttermilk also has a longer shelf life as the acidic environment is hostile to microrganisms.

Unfortunately these days buttermilk is not quite made in this way! Why do we mess with everything? Older generations knew something and even in warm climates, without refrigeration this method did, and does, make milk last. It occurs to me that is why fermented milk and other fermented drinks are also popular. More on those another day!

ivy house farm buttermilk sm

So, these days the milk is pasteurised and that means all those lovely lactose digesting bacteria and the good enzymes get killed along with the bad bacteria. To make buttermilk in the west we “culture” it, that means we add the bacteria back in! And, it is not naturally occuring bacteria, it is grown in a lab so it is uncontaminated. What a lot of effort for nothing! Anyway, some places start with the leftover watery milk from churning but most mainstream commercial buttermilk uses skimmed or semi-skimmed (1% or 2% fat) milk which is also kind of not the point! I love the fact that the point of buttermilk was to not have any waste, even the watery milk left after churning butter was useful and not thrown away.

Buttermilk works because of its slightly acidic nature. If you bake soda bread or scones or pancakes with buttermilk and use bicarbonate of soda as the raising agent a wonderful chemical reaction occurs and carbon dioxide is released. All those lovely bubbles of carbon dioxide get trapped within your baked goods as they set in a hot oven and provide the rise. The buttermilk usually ensures a delightfully soft texture too.

check out all those bubbles!

check out all those bubbles!

I love that cooking is really chemistry. When you cook with buttermilk and bicarbonate of soda you have to work fast to get the full benefit of that reaction. If you’re baking cupcakes it’s best to work in small batches as you don’t want the mix standing around for 30 minutes while your oven is full, the reaction will be over and you won’t get the rise. Make sure whatever it is you are cooking, you have everything ready (tins lined, oven hot etc). Mix all of your dry ingredients together and add the buttermilk last, you’ll see the reaction happening before you’re eyes.

It’s pretty much impossible to make proper buttermilk at home unless you have a stash of bacteria ready to go somewhere, because all commercially available milk is pasteurised and the bacteria are gone. So you can make acidified buttermilk. It’s quick and easy and because the chemical reaction relies on the acidity of the milk rather than specifically the cultures in it, largely it works.

You will need:

1 tablespoon of white distilled vinegar (this is pretty much colourless and tasteless acid)
or 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
1 cup or 250ml less 1 tablespoon of milk. Most people use whole milk (4% fat) for baking as it makes a thicker milk

Combine the two and leave to stand at room temperature for at least 10 minutes. Effectively this sours the milk. Give it a good stir before using.

I have used this successfully in cupcakes and the like where there was buttermilk and baking soda and baking powder to give the rise, however, it sadly was not so successful in the Grain Free Pancakes. They came out ok, but they were not the fluffy clouds of delight that we had with actual buttermilk (cultured). I could see them rise but they fell again, so I can’t quite recommend it for that.

What do you think? Have you tried any of these methods?