This one is a bit of an oddity, which is probably what made me so keen to cook it. I was really shocked when I moved to the South East of the UK and discovered that Yuccas seem to be pretty common garden plants around here, they are hardy desert plants so can cope with temperature extremes, but I have never seen one in a garden north of London. Yuccas are native to the Americas and taxonomically they fit in the Agave sub-family (as in Blue Agave, the Tequilla plant), many parts of the Yucca are apparently edible only in certain species, but as far as I am aware the flowers of all of them are perfectly palatable.
I ate this meal once, quite a while ago, as breakfast in the semi-desert of northern Zacatecas, Mexico, some of the guys had gathered a flower spike from near where we were staying. When I once again saw the distinctive foliage and flower spikes overhanging a wall close to my current home I decided I had to cook some. The inner stamen and fleshy parts of the plant are apparently bitter, so need to be removed before cooking. I’ve included some photos of the Yuccas I saw in Mexico as I think their strange sinuous forms really should be appreciated, they added a alien feel to an already hostile landscape, becoming especially dark and foreboding as the sun sets and the wild coyotes begin to howl.
- Recipe -
1 cup of Yucca Petals (just the petals, stigma and stamen removed) // 1 medium Onion // 1 Garlic Clove // 1 large Tomato // 1 Jalapeño Pepper // a pinch of Epazote // 2 Eggs
- Boil the Yucca Petals in salted Water until slightly translucent (2-5 minutes) and then drain and reserve.
- Finely dice the Onion, Garlic and Jalapeño and then heat a knob of Butter in a small frying pan.
- Add the diced vegetables to the pan and fry for 5 minutes or so until soft, roughly chop the Tomatoes and add them to the mix, fry for a further minute.
- Break the Eggs into a cup and lightly whisk with a little Salt, add the Yucca Petals and Epazote to the pan and then the Eggs straight after.
- Cook until the Eggs are done and then serve garnished how you like. I used a Salsa Fresca, Black Pepper, Radishes and Lime Juice.
A friend sent me this recipe saying it was really worth trying and a good example of traditional Hungarian food. The end results were a really rich satisfying ‘cake’ perfectly complimented by a smooth and sweet sauce. I use inverted commas because the best way to plate this is to pull the dumplings apart rather than slicing it in a more typical cake style.
Although I am using a recipe that can be found online here, I felt this was still worth the time it takes to write up as the instructions could do with a little bit more embellishment than they were originally given, a tiny bit of enrichment making the recipe much easier to follow. It’s a good idea to make the sauce a few hours in advance so you can let it completely cool before the cake is ready, the best way to eat this is having still warm cake with refrigerated sauce poured liberally over it.
- Recipe -
The Vanilla sauce
500mls Milk // 2 Egg Yolks // 50 g Granulated Sugar // 1 teaspoon Plain Flour // 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract (roughly 1 Vanilla Pod)
- Mix the egg yolks with 100 mls of the Milk and all of the Sugar and Flour.
- In a saucepan bring the rest of the Milk and the Vanilla to a simmer (don’t bring it to a rolling boil).
- Take the pan off the heat and stir in the Egg Yolks quickly so they mix thoroughly.
- Put the pan on the lowest heat setting on the stove and thicken it, stirring regularly, until it reaches your desired consistency.
- Take the sauce off the heat, cool it and then refrigerate.
500g Plain Flour // two packets of Live Yeast // 2 Egg Yolks // 300mls Milk // 60g Butter // 150g Granulated Sugar // a pinch of Salt // 80g butter, melted // 200g ground or heavily chopped Walnuts // 50g Caster Sugar
- Heat 100mls of Milk until lukewarm (warm to your finger but comfortable to touch).
- Stir into this 1/4 of a teaspoon of Granulated Sugar, all the Yeast and 3 tablespoon Flour, let stand for 15 minutes or so.
- Whisk the rest of the Granulated Sugar with the Egg Yolks, add the rest of the Milk and a pinch of Salt.
- Sieve the Flour into a bowl and make a well in the centre of it. Add the Milk-Yeast mixture to the well and then the Egg Yolk mixture.
- Knead this into a soft Dough and then knead the Melted Butter into it. Let this raise for one hour.
- Mix the Caster Sugar and Walnuts (the Walnuts should be less broken up than a Flour but still quite fine).
- Grease a baking tin (any shape you fancy) and sprinkle it with the Sugar and Walnut mix.
- Use a tablespoon to cut small lumps of Dough and roll them in the Walnut/Sugar. Add these to the tin in layers.
- Sprinkle some of the Sugar/Walnut mix and a little melted Butter on top of each layer until all the Dough is used.
- Bake for 55 minutes at 160C (Gas mark 3/325 F).
Enjoy while warm!
This recipe does what it says on the tin. It’s incredibly simple and quick to make and perfect for mornings where your head feels a little fuzzy and you need a quick grease fix. It’s a slight adaptation of a recipe I got from the Jamie Oliver cookbook “Jamie at Home”, and as gastronomically unrefined as it sounds this is easily my favourite recipe from that particular book.
This is up there with Turkish Omelette: Sucuklu Yumurta as my very favourite way to start a morning where I just happen to have a huge clearly non-alcohol related headache that needs curing.
- Recipe -
2 Large Eggs // Salt to taste // Cracked Black Pepper // 4 British Crumpets // 1-2 medium heat Green Chillies // 1/2 a tablespoon Butter // 6 or so slices of Smoked American Pork Belly Bacon //
- De-seed the Chilli and then julienne it into short strips.
- Crack the Eggs into a bowl, add the Chilli, Salt and Cracked Black Pepper then lightly whisk with a fork.
- Warm a pan on a medium heat and then fry the Bacon in it till crisp, reserve the Bacon and keep it warm.
- While the Bacon fries dip the Crumpets into the bowl of egg mix. Turn them a few times and squish them down so they soak up as much egg as possible.
- Fry the Crumpets until golden on each side and serve with the Bacon on top. Serve with a drizzle of a sauce of your choice; Ketchup, Maple Syrup, Brown Sauce, Chilli sauce, whichever you like.
Every blog post I have done in the last few months starts with a disclaimer that it’s been ages since my last one! And well when at 110+ recipes I think most people’s standard repertoire of food would be pretty exhaustively listed. I meant to post this last year when I made it with the chile poblanos I had growing in the greenhouse at my old home, but honestly the photos were blurry and terrible so I never got around to it. This year I used peppers from the garden again, sadly just British bell peppers lacking the fruitiness and subtle heat of poblanos, but still a very worthy substitute that made for a tasty side dish.
To make this you need to use ‘fleshy’ and mild type chillies, chile poblano is the most traditional but bell peppers, jalapeños, banana pepper or Anaheim chillies would make good substitutes if like me you live in a part of the world where getting poblanos from a shop is basically impossible.
- Recipe -
4 Poblano chillies // 1 small Onion // 1/2 a cup Sweetcorn // 1 teaspoon Butter // 1/2 a cup of Cream // finely grated Cheese to taste // Salt and Black Pepper to taste
- Place the chillies whole on a hot grill. Turn every few minutes to char them all over.
- When the chilli skins are charred evenly, but not burned through to the flesh, take them off the heat and seal immediately in a plastic bag. Doing this helps with peeling. Leave them to cool for 5-10 minutes.
- While the Chillies are cooling thinly julienne the Onions.
- Peel the chillies when cool enough to handle, cut the stalk/seeds out and then slice into strips lengthways.
- Melt the Butter in a hot pan and then add the Onion slices, fry on a medium heat until soft.
- Add in the Corn and cook for 2 minutes and then add the Chilli slices, fry for 30 seconds or so before adding the cream.
- Bring the Cream to a simmer, thicken it for 5 minutes while stirring and then season with Salt.
- Transfer to a serving bowl and top with the grated Cheese and Black Pepper.
Quinoa, or quinua in Spanish, is a pretty trendy foodstuff these days with it’s nutritional properties being made much of by trendy tv chefs and dinner party types. Being gluten free and a source of calcium is an excellent foodstuff for those with allergies as well as being rich in other nutrients. In terms of flavour this Andean pseudo-grain it is mild, soft, a little fluffy and pleasant, but not strong… and if served on its own, a little dry. It probably should not be the main flavour in your meal, but it makes an excellent compliment for a lot of foods and strong flavours, try pairing quinoa with foods in rich sauces, bbqs. In culinary terms quinoa is designed to follow, not lead, and when it follows it does things really well.
In Peru the most common ways I saw this served were in the form of broths and soup or with strong meats such as beef steak and the beefy tasting llama and alpaca. Generally I didn’t find typical Bolivian food to be particularly outstanding (apart from a couple of very nice dishes which I will talk more about some other time!), cold chips with a hunk of meat and rice got a bit monotonous, but always every time I had sopa de quinua it was fantastic! This recipe can be adapted by adding a few big chunks of beef at stage 3 and then boiling until they go soft before carrying on at stage 4 But really this is a great rich and filling soup with or without.
- Recipe -
1 teaspoon Vegetable Oil, 1 large Red Onion, 1 large carrot, 1 bell Pepper, 1 clove of Garlic, 2 bay Leaves, 1 teaspoon of Oregano, 1/2 a teaspoon of Ground Cumin, 200g Squash or Pumpkin, a handful of Parsley, 1 cube of vegetable stock, 2 tomatoes, 2 medium potatoes, 50-200g of Quinoa (less for a broth, more for a thick soup)
- Begin to heat the Oil on a medium temperature in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Finely chop the Red Onion and garlic and then cube the Carrot and Bell Pepper.
- Put them into the pan with the Bay Leaves and fry them for about 5 minutes stirring regularly.
- Add the Oregano, Cumin and the chopped stalks of the Parsley. Crumble the Stock Cube in then stir for 30 seconds before adding the tomatoes and the Squash, stir a bit more.
- Add in the Potatoes and Quinoa and then Water to cover by an inch or so. Bring to the boil on a high heat, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 25 minutes until the Potatoes are soft and the Quinoa has separated into the main bodies and smaller white bits (see the images).
- Chop in the Parsley leaves and then garnish with slices of Avocado and chilli powder to taste.
The weather was pretty nice for a while, wasn’t it. I made this last week when summer seemed to be swinging into gear and it was actually warm enough to eat a couple of meals out in the garden, enjoying the warmth and the sensations that come with being in a place you will lose soon. The only rain I had to worry about last week was the pink and white rain of cherry and apple blossom carpeting the lawn in it’s thick beautiful snow. But good weather never lasts in the UK and we are back to high winds and rain, blagh!
I made Candied Ginger months ago, around Christmas time and I preserved half of it dried out with sugar and the other half in the thick delicious syrup that is a by-product of the candy making process. It imparts a softer and mellower ginger flavour to the recipe than using straight Ginger, one that hints it’s flavour rather than spelling it out, but Root Ginger would make a fine substitute for a slightly stronger tasting cake.
2 medium Eggs // 400g Brown Sugar // 3 tablespoons Ginger Syrup // 2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract // 240mls Vegetable Oil // 2 teaspoons Cinnamon // 1/2 teaspoon Salt // 1 teaspoon Bicarbonate of Soda // 600g Plain Flour // 1 large Cooking Apple // 100g Candied Ginger
- Set the oven to gas mark 4 (350F, 180C). In a bowl beat the Eggs with the Sugar, Ginger Syrup and Vanilla Extract until smooth and then beat the Oil in to the mix.
- In a second bowl mix the Cinnamon, Salt and Bicarbonate of Soda and then mix in the Flour.
- Slowly add the contents of the second bowl to the first while stirring to prevent lumps forming. Once the dough has been mixed thoroughly it should have the texture of a very thick batter.
- Chop the apple into rough 1-2cm cubes and chop the Candied Ginger to your preference and then mix them into the batter with your hands.
- Pour into a lined cake tin and bake from between 45 minutes to an hour and a quarter until a cocktail stick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean when pulled out.
I wanted comfort food, something to keep my stomach happy and full but I also wanted something seasonal. This year I haven’t started growing any fruits or vegetables and have barely used any wild food as well, basically, I’m moving house in three weeks…
There’s no time to grow any vegetables, it’s time to start ending the old things, throwing away what I don’t need, reassessing what I do need, saying goodbyes. Anyway, I wanted something comforting and fairly simple but I also wanted to use something that I had grown myself or at least picked myself… and we have a front garden full of delicious wild garlic leaves. I’d also been thinking about things we will leave behind, and this probably shows that my gastric tract does more of my thinking than my brain because I will really miss the pork and sun-dried tomato sausages from the local butcher, they are some of the best I have ever had. So here is a homage to both of those ingredients.
- Recipe -
12 Sausages //100g Green Lentils // 1 large Onion // 3 sticks of Celery // 1 Leek // 1 Red Pepper // 1 teaspoon of fresh Thyme (leaves only) // 2 bay Leaves // 1 teaspoon of Smoked Paprika // 400g tin of Plum Tomatoes // 2-4 cups of Cider // 1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce // 1 tablespoon Cider Vinegar // 1 teaspoon Hot Sauce // 2 tablespoons Tomato Purée // 200g fresh Wild Garlic leaves
- Boil the Lentils in a pan of water for 20 minutes while grilling the Sausages until browned all over.
- When the sausages are ready let them cool for a while and then drain the cooked lentils.
- Preheat the oven to gas mark 7 (220°C, 425°F).
- Chop the Onion into quarters and being to fry with a tablespoon of Butter in a thick bottomed saucepan.
- Roughly chop and add the Celery, Leek and Red Pepper, fry for 5 minutes.
- Add the Thyme and Bay Leaves; then briefly take the saucepan off the heat to add the Paprika. Add in the Sausages and Lentils and then mix in the Tomatoes, Cider (so that the solids are just covered over), Worcestershire Sauce, Cider Vinegar, Hot Sauce and Tomato Purée.
- Bring to the boil, place a lid on the pan and put it in the oven for 30 minutes, taking it out to stir once or twice.
- Chop the Wild Garlic leaves into ribbons and stir them through the casserole immediately before serving.
Serve with Mustard Mashed Potatoes and Enjoy!