After a week in Italy I’ve come back with a delicious recipe for you and a supperclub menu to blow you away!! Plus a lot of delicious Italian cheeses to finish the menu..mmm..
So, to my recipe…Courgette flowers are delicious, and easy to grow (if you’re into growing your own veg). But not always easy to find in London and less easy to find at an reasonable price. But! In Italy they are plentiful, so there was no choice but for them to be the recipe for this blog post. You don’t need to buy 18 flowers, but a few for yourself and loved ones and enjoy the treat.
You often see stuffed flowers in restaurants here lightly battered and deep fried, which to me is a waste of their delicateness. So this recipe, although a little rustic is utterly delicious and worth making, the ingredients (I think), being used to their best. Please though, don’t buy those under ripe tasteless tomatoes and use good quality tinned tomatoes, it will all make a a better sauce, this is a treat so make it as good as it can be.
The anchovies are optional, they add a depth of flavour, not too strong but aren’t essential if you’d like to make this veggie but I love anchovies so it worked well for my tastes.
The other photos in this post are an octopus salad I made with potatoes, honey grilled radicchio, fresh artichoke and toasted marcona almonds. The recipe I will be up soon!
Stuffed Lemon Ricotta Courgette Flowers with a Tomato, Basil Sauce
Serves 6 as a starter
18 courgette flowers
70g grated parmesan
zest 1 lemon, juice 1/2
1 garlic crushed
1/2tsp chilli flakes (optional)
handful basil, roughly chopped
handful chives, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1 red spring onion, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 anchovy fillets, finely sliced (optional)
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 large fresh tomato, deseeded and diced
400g tinned tomato
1- 1½ small young courgette, finely diced
handful torn basil, plus extra whole for garnish
Mix together stuffing ingredients and taste for seasoning.
Unravel the flowers carefully and stuff the filling into the flowers, twist the tops back and set aside.
For the sauce, heat the olive oil in a medium frying pan, add the spring onions and cook for a couple of minutes until they start to soften, add the garlic and anchovies, mixing through cook for another two minutes. Add the tomato paste, fresh tomatoes and tinned tomatoes. Cook the sauce down for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally adding a little water if the sauce becomes too thick.
While the sauce is cooking finish the courgette flowers. Using a wide based pan heat the olive oil and add the flowers, being careful not to break them. Cook until lightly browned on all sides.
Check the seasoning of the sauce, adding salt and pepper to your taste. Add the torn basil and place on your serving plate, gently placing the courgette flowers on top.
Scatter with basil leaves and serve with crusty bread to mop up the sauce.
This months Flamingo Flamingo I’m cooking up an Italian feast, the catch is I’m only giving you an outline of the courses..
So there’s an element of surprise and trust in this months supperclub. The reason for this is that the week before I will be in Italy and so I thought it made perfect sense to form my menu on dishes that inspire me on my trip. So please, supperclubbers, wish me happy eating on my holiday, so I can come back and share the treasure’s I find with you.!
The menu will go something like this…
£30 Suggested Donation. BYO. Vegetarians Welcome, just ask.
Those of you who know me will know I’m a bit addicted to popcorn, well, all things corn but we’ll focus on the ‘popping’ variety shall we? I thought it was about time I posted on popcorn after my love of homemade popcorn was reignited.
I’ve always preferred making my own popcorn, you can control what’s put in it (no nasty fatty, processed things), flavour it yourself, it’s cheaper, and you don’t need a microwave!
So what was going wrong with this love affair was that I couldn’t get the popcorn to pop just right, it was always a bit chewy, not perfectly popped.. Until a friend came a long and kindly showed me his technique!
What he told me was that you need to allow steam to escape while you’re popping. Obviously you can’t leave the lid off because you’d have popcorn everywhere, so we devised the colander technique, perfect! It’s like a net for your popcorn that let’s out steam.
And hurrah! Perfect popcorn, free for you to flavour how you like.
The technique is simple, heat a little oil in your pan, over a medium high heat, add popcorn, shake, and remember to shake regularly. When the popping slows down and almost stops, take it off the heat and flavour to your liking.
I personally am a savoury popcorn kinda girl, and here I have four ideas for you to flavour your popcorn with, firstly salting then you can add:
A drizzle of truffle oil and grate of pecorino
Black pepper and grated parmesan
All delicious.. mmmmm. The options are endless, and so easy!!
So a quick note on why NOT to use microwave popcorn.
Microwaves actually altar the chemical structure of foods in quite an unnatural way.
That lovely fake butter flavour is not so good for you and not just because it’s fatty.
Studies done show that diacetyl, an FDA-approved chemical found in this butter flavouring is linked with a serious lung disease called bronchiolitis obliterans, or “popcorn workers lung”.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, (NIOSH) have concluded that diacetyl needs further study so that workers in the flavourings and snack industry are no longer at risk. Scary!
The chemical coating in the popcorn bags has also been found to be a likely carcinogen, not something worth risking.
So it seems that microwave popcorn is something we should stay away from. But homemade popcorn is something we should rejoice in!!
It’s a healthy snack, low in fat that you can flavour in any way you like, its cheap; you can makes buckets of the stuff at hardly any cost and effort! Perfect for all occasions. Oh yes.
Sorry this blog post is a little late, I’m not sure where the past couple of weeks have gone!! In my time away I hosted a couple of private supperclubs amongst other little projects and I’m now getting ready for out Latin Twist Flaming Flamingo this Saturday.
So here are a few pictures I managed to quickly snap along the way, sorry they’re a little more rustic than usual.
..And the menus to wet your appetite.
Supperclub number one was for a group who meet up each month with a theme based around Sex In the City and this month the theme was the cocktail Tartini.
Starting with the Tartini, I then did a kind of ‘American’/ ‘New York’- esque menu.
And here it is:
Aperitif and Savoury Popcorn- Wasabi, Black Pepper and Parmesan.
Spiced Prawn Cocktail with Lime, Avocado and Pico di Gallo
Quinoa Crusted Fish
served with César Salad and Truffle Fries with Chipotle Aioli
New York Salted Caramel Chocolate Cupcake with Raspberry Sorbet
Supperclub number two was for a birthday celebration, here’s the menu:
Aperitif and Fried Aubergine with Honey
White Pepper Squid with Mint Tabbouleh
7hr Paprika Crusted Lamb
Bittersweet Salad with a Sherry Vinaigrette and Toasted Pecans and
Sweet Potato Skodalia, Caramelised Onions and Roast Garlic
Passion fruit Ganache Tart with Raspberry Sorbet
Both nights a lot of were a lot of fun for both the guests and us. :)
If you like the sound of this; a supperclub for just you and your friends, where you can tailor the theme to you, please get in touch..
Our next supperclub Latin twist dinner 13th Saturday April is sold out but the next will be 25th May and the menu will follow soon!
I’ve discovered this great new green grocer in Swiss Cottage, aptly called Swiss Cottage Grocers. All the fruit and veg is so fresh, very reasonably priced, with a great range of produce. So it’s my new favourite shop and I’ve been raving about it since finding it a couple of weeks ago.
Planning out my weekly menus, knowing I had to do a side salad to go with a chorizo and butter bean dish, I spotted some radicchio, chicory and fennel, so a grilled bittersweet salad was the only option!
Grilling anything, even in a griddle pan gives such a delicious smoky flavour, nothing really beats it.. Of course, other than an actual flame and BBQ, but we’re not quite in there yet weather wise.
Because the radicchio and chicory are quite bitter I thought a sweet dressing would be needed, and the sherry vinegar goes so well, keeping the Spanish flavours. Add some toasted pecans for crunch, and that delicious sweet buttery flavour, fresh herbs and some rocket to lift it up and keep it fresh and there you have a great salad!
And in case you were wondering about the nutritional benefits of this salad. I can tell you its pretty good for you! Pecans are full of antioxidants; nutrients found in foods that help protect against cell damage, helping with disease prevention and contributing to heart health.
The antibody vitamin E may also provide a key element to neurological protection, therefore protecting your mind. Pecans also help lower cholesterol, and can help with weight control by increasing metabolic rates, and adding texture and flavour, without cholesterol to low fat diets. They are high in good fats however; so don’t over do them if you are trying to keep your calories down.
Radicchio, sometimes known as the Italian chicory is said to be useful as a blood purifier and can help with insomnia too. Which is always good to know, I’ll keep some on hand.
Chicory, also know as Belgium or French endive, supports digestion by increasing the flow of bile which helps break down fats, also nourishing the healthy flora in your intestine, thus helping digestion once again. It optimises blood composition, and its lack of glucose helps optimise blood sugar levels, helping to eliminate toxins effectively. To top it off, it’s also very high in valuable antioxidants and provides functional support to the liver.
So there you have it, an extremely healthy salad in these ingredients alone, and I haven’t even mentioned the herbs, garlic, olive oil… All also very good for you! And it’s delicious. Need I say more?!
Grilled Bittersweet Salad with Toasted Pecans and Sherry Vinegar Dressing
1 head of radicchio
1 large chicory or 2 small
1 tbsp olive oil
sea salt and fresh black pepper
small bunch tarragon, finely chopped
small bunch dill, finely chopped
small bunch parsley, finely chopped
small bunch mint, finely chopped
50g pecans, toasted and roughly chopped
Sherry Vinegar Dressing
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
½ tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp honey
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil
Cut the radicchio in half, cut out the tough middle and then cut each half into three. Do the same for the chicory, and the fennel but cutting this into eighths.
Toss them separately in olive oil and season.
Heat your griddle pan on a high heat until smoking hot, grill the vegetables separately, making sure you don’t over crowd the pan. They should have dark grill marks and will take on that great grilled flavour.
Transfer the veg to a large mixing bowl when they are done.
While you are grilling the veg, make your dressing by mixing all the ingredients together.
Once the vegetables are done, mix the dressing through. Allow to cool, adding the rocket, herbs and nuts, check for seasoning and serve.
I served this with Rick’s Steins’ recipe for butterbeans and chorizo, and a simple white barley risotto.
The chorizo and butterbean recipe is made simply with fried garlic, chorizo, reduced red wine, judion butter beans and herbs. The flavours went really well with the bittersweet salad, the meal as a whole worked wonderfully. This time I made a risotto to make the meal gluten free but it would go really nicely with some gorgeous fresh bread.
You could also eat this salad alone with some pulses, such as butter beans mixed through to make it a more filling meal.
NB. Judion butter beans are a giant Spanish butter bean, available from Spanish stores. They’re not cheap but just so good!
The Swiss Cottage Grocers is called just that. Happy shopping!!