Stuffed aubergine en papillote

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Stuffed aubergine en papillote is the perfect thing for vegetarians at a meaty barbecue. Rather than having to hover nearby the barbecue to ensure that your halloumi and zucchini aren’t chucked on the hot plate next to the sausages, here your dinner is sealed in a delightful little parcel, which can happily co-exist on a barbie with any meaty mates.

Stuffed summer vegetables immediately makes me think of marrow: over-inflated and forgotten-about zucchini that have grown into gigantic logs. I have a horror of stuffed marrows, which are so often watery and bland and the only redeeming feature is the stuffing. Eat the stuffing and chuck the marrow into the compost is my advice.

The vital difference between these stuffed aubergine and stuffed marrow is the container is equally as delicious as the filling. I’ve tinkered with Lois’ original recipe here. She stuffed hers with rice, with a footnote saying that the half of the rice could be substituted for chickpeas. I did half and half (but next time would just use entirely chickpeas) and added in loads more mint, sumac and chilli flakes. When I discussed this recipe with Lois she said that if sumac had been available when the recipe was published, it was something she would have definitely added herself.

Stuffed aubergine en papillote with cucumber & yoghurt sauce (Good Food, p.10)

3 medium-sized aubergine

1 onion, finely diced

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon sumac

1/2 teaspoon allspice

3 cups cooked chickpeas

3 medium-sized tomatoes, chopped

2 tablespoons golden sultanas, soaked in boiling water for couple of minutes and drained 

bunch of fresh mint, chopped

sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Leaving the stems on, cut each aubergine in half length-wise. Brush the cut-side with oil and sprinkle with a little salt and put cut-side down into a large frying pan for which you have a lid. Cook for a couple of minutes until starting to brown, then place the lid on top. You may need to do this in one of two batches if your pan isn’t large enough.

Cook until the eggplant is soft enough to scoop out; you can test it as it cooks by inserting a skewer. Once cool enough to handle, carefully scoop out the inside of the aubergine, leaving enough of the flesh intact so that the eggplant can act as a sturdy-ish container for the filling. Roughly chop the scooped-out eggplant and set aside.

Sauté the onion in a splash of oil until it is soft. Add the spices and chickpeas and continue cooking over a low heat for 4-5 minutes. Add the chopped tomato, soaked sultanas, chopped eggplant, mint, and season well with salt & pepper. Stir well and cook for a couple more minutes.

Place each aubergine half on a square of aluminium foil large enough to wrap it in a secure package. Divide the filling between the six aubergine halves and fold the packages. When ready to heat and serve, place the packages on the outer edges of the barbecue for 15 minutes (these packages can also be baked in a 180°C oven). Serve the eggplant with dollops of cucumber and yoghurt sauce on top.

Cucumber & yoghurt sauce

half of a telegraph cucumber

thick Greek style yoghurt (I used The Collective unsweetened culinary yoghurt)

handful of fresh mint, chopped

sea salt & pepper

Chop the cucumber in half lengthwise, then into thirds lengthwise, and then slice across the width to get small cubes. Mix with the yoghurt, chopped mint and season with salt and pepper.

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Fresh cherry cake

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It’s a miracle that there were any cherries for this cake at all. The cherries that  I bought to use in this cake were particularly good: large, glossy and so tasty to eat just as they were. Lois’ fresh cherry cake seemed like a worthy cause for the remainder of the cherries (or simply as a way to stop me from scoffing the entire punnet).

Similar to a torte in that it is made with largely just eggs, sugar, and ground almonds, I imagine that this cake could be made gluten-free by using some fresh gluten-free breadcrumbs.

Lois’ fresh cherry cake has a sense of elegance to it and could be served as a dessert cake with whipped cream or mascarpone, or as a cake to have with coffee.

Fresh cherry cake (Good Food, p. 35)

6 free-range eggs

120g caster sugar

150g ground almonds

50g dark chocolate, grated

50g fresh white breadcrumbs

1-2 cups of fresh pitted cherries

icing sugar to dust on top

Preheat oven to 160°C and grease and line a 20cm cake tin. Separate the eggs. Using an electric beater, mix together the yolks and caster sugar until it turns thick, pale and has expanded in volume quite a bit. Fold in the almonds, chocolate, and breadcrumbs.

Clean the beaters thoroughly and then use them to whip the egg whites in a large clean bowl until stiff. Fold the egg whites through the mixture. Pour half of the mixture into the cake tin and arrange half of the cherries over the top; cover with the remaining mixture and arrange the rest of the cherries on top.

Bake for 55 minutes until the top has turned a lovely golden colour. Allow to cool before removing from the tin. Dust with icing sugar before you serve it.

Summer fritters

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Making Lois’ summer vegetable fritter recipes gave me an unexpected sense of nostalgia, as I remembered that mum had made these fritters for us when I was young. Corn fritters, made with freshly shucked corn off the cob in a light batter, and zucchini fritters with a little mint and some feta. Lois keeps both recipes simple so that the flavour and texture of each vegetable stays the central focus.

I like to serve both fritters with a refreshing salad of raw summer vegetables cut into small cubes; cucumber, corn, fresh green beans, cherry tomatoes, red capsicum, mixed with chopped mint, Italian parsley, or coriander, a squeeze of lemon, a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a grind of pepper and sea salt. Serve each person a small pile of fritters, with some salad and dollop of thick Greek yoghurt.

Zucchini fritters (Good Food, p.13)

4 zucchini, grated

2 spring onions, finely chopped

handful of fresh mint, chopped

50g feta, crumbled

1/2 cup flour

4 free-range eggs, beaten

sea salt & freshly ground pepper

In a large mixing bowl, place the grated zucchini, spring onion, mint and feta and grind lots of black pepper over and sprinkle with sea salt. Add the flour and stir until the flour is evenly coating the other ingredients. Pour in the eggs and stir until thoroughly combined. Heat a wide frying pan over a medium heat and add enough oil to make the surface slick. Place heaped tablespoons of the mixture into the pan and cook until golden brown on each side.

Fluffy corn fritters (Good Food, p. 16)

4 medium-sized corn cobs

4 free-range eggs, separated

1/2 cup flour

1 teaspoon sugar

couple of hot sauce

sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

oil for frying (I used avocado oil)

Husk the corn cobs, taking care to remove as much of the corn husk threads as you can. Cut the corn kernels from the cobs using a small serrated edged knife. Chop half of the kernels roughly, leaving the rest whole. Put all of the kernels into a large bowl with the egg yolks, flour, sugar, hot sauce, salt and pepper. Mix well. Put the egg whites into a medium-sized bowl and whisk until soft peaks form. Fold the egg whites through the corn mixture.

Take a large, heavy bottomed frying pan and add a good slosh of oil, to cover the base of the pan and heat the pan to medium-high. Drop in spoonfuls of the batter and fry until the edges of the fritters are firm and the bottoms golden-brown. Flip over and cook the other side. Serve the fritters while they are still hot.

 

Raspberry drenched chocolate cake

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This cake is being added to my regular cake repertoire. A raspberry-infused chocolate cake with a fudgy consistency but not so dense and rich that you can’t have a sneaky second slice.

When I mentioned this recipe to Lois, she wondered whether it might be more popular now than it was when she first published it, as the taste for dense, rich chocolate cakes has grown. As chocolate cakes go, this isn’t the most intense, mousse-like one you’ll find, but I think that it is one of the nicest.

This recipe is has a few stages and a number of bowls involved, but it’s not tricky. And totally worth it.

Raspberry drenched chocolate cake (Good Food, p.35)

Cake:

100g dark chocolate (I used Whittaker’s Dark Ghana 72%)

100g unsalted butter, cut into cubes

3 free-range eggs

1/2 cup caster sugar

1/4 cup flour

raspberries for decorating

Raspberry purée:

1/2 cup raspberries (fresh or frozen)

1/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon orange or raspberry liqueur (I had some kirsch kicking about, so I used that)

To make the cake and puree:

Preheat oven to 180ºC. Butter and line a 20cm loose-bottomed cake tin. Set up a double boiler: find a small to medium-sized pot and a glass bowl that will sit inside the pot with the edges of the bowl supported by the edge of the pot. Put just enough water into the pot so that the water doesn’t touch the bowl. Bring the water to a gentle simmer and then carefully place the bowl on top. Break the chocolate into chunks and place into the bowl. Stir until melted, then add the butter cubes and stir until shiny and smooth.

Prepare the purée by putting all three ingredients into a blender and blitzing until smooth. Scrap out of blender and push through a sieve into another bowl.

Now, back to the cake. Separate the eggs and place the yolks into a medium-sized mixing bowl and the whites into a large-sized bowl. Add 1/4 cup of caster sugar to the yolks and beat until thick and pale with a set of electric beaters. Pour in the chocolate and butter mixture and the raspberry purée. Sift the flour into this mixture next and stir until combined.

Clean the beaters thoroughly and whisk the egg whites until stiff. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of caster sugar and beat until glossy. Fold the egg whites, a spoonful at a time, through the chocolate mixture – you want to keep the mixture light and airy but fully incorporate the egg whites with no lumps. Pour batter into the cake tin and bake for 30 minutes. Leave to cool in the tin.

Chocolate glaze:

100g dark chocolate

45g butter

2 tablespoons more of the same liqueur you used in the raspberry purée

Set up your double boiler again and melt the chocolate. Add the cubes of butter and mix until smooth. Add the liqueur and remove the bowl from the double boiler. Once the cake has cooled, carefully pour the glaze over the cake and decorate the top with fresh raspberries.

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Pueblo beef & cornbread

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We made this on a Sunday afternoon in January. Outside it was grey and drizzly but warm; definitely not weather for eating salad, something warm and comforting was required. Served in bowls with a wedge of cornbread on top, Pueblo beef with corn, tomatoes and beans is a perfectly light, yet hearty supper.

I tweaked Lois’ recipe slightly by adding some fresh red chilli and I opted to use avocado oil to fry the meat and onions in, instead of the suggested lard or dripping. Once the beans and corn were added, I cooked it for a shorter time, as I like my green beans to still have a bit of bite.

Pueblo beef, corn, tomatoes and beans (Good Food, p. 15)

500g braising beef (Lois suggests blade steak)

2 onions

2-3 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons cooking oil

a small red chilli

500g fresh tomatoes or a 420g can of tomatoes in juice

1/2 cup water

couple of large sprigs of oregano or thyme (I used both)

salt & freshly ground pepper

2 cups corn kernels

2 cups green beans, cut into halves or thirds depending on size

2 tablespoons sunflower or pumpkin seeds

Cut the beef into 1cm cubes. Dice the onions and finely chop the garlic. Heat the oil in a heavy pan (for which you have a lid) over a medium-high heat . Add the beef and quickly brown it. Lower the heat and add the onions and garlic and cook gently until softened. Add the finely chopped chilli and cook for a minute longer. Add the tomatoes, water, herbs and grind over some pepper and salt. Cover and simmer very gently for one hour. Stir in the corn, beans and seeds. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for another 15-20 minutes. If there is still lots of liquid, remove the lid for the last 10 minutes of cooking.

Cornbread (Good Food, p. 17)

1 cup corn kernels, roughly chopped

1/2 onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons butter

1 small red chilli, finely chopped

1 free-range egg

1/4 cup sour cream

1/2 cup grated cheese

1/2 cup cornmeal, coarse or fine

1/2 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 180ºC. Sauté the onion in a tablespoon of butter until soft and add the chopped chilli and corn kernels. Transfer this mixture into a medium-sized mixing bowl. Beat the egg and sour cream together and add to the corn mixture with the grated cheese. In another bowl combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pepper. Stir into the corn mixture. Add milk and stir until you’ve got a fairly runny batter.

Lois suggests baking the cornbread in a cast iron pan; I used a large loaf pan but you could also use a cake tin. Put the remaining tablespoon of butter in whatever pan you’ve decided to use and put into the hot oven to melt. Remove the pan, pour in the batter and bake for about 25 minutes until firm and golden-brown. Best served warm, but also excellent the next day, cut into wedges and heated in a griddle pan.