Corn, zucchini & tomato soup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fresh corn tastes magical, barely cooked and cut from the cob it has an almost grassy sweet lightness that is otherwise totally lost and catapults it far, far away from possible associations with chicken feed. It only needs a minimum of dressing (butter & salt; lime & chilli; epazote) or other ingredients as company to shine like in this perfect summer salad or today’s soup. This simple dish has become an instant hit at supper time with even the most demanding of customers (small Michelin testers, only ‘slightly’ less well-mannered) and is my go-to summer soup this year.

What I originally only intended for the children is a real winner for all of us when the temperatures are high and even the thought of dinner feels like a lead weight in the stomach. Basil gives it a deserved kick and apart from salt & pepper there is no other seasoning necessary. Served lukewarm or even cold like a Gazpacho it transports well in a Thermos for a picnic or beach/pool day and can be spooned (in it’s thicker version) or sipped from cups.

Measurements or proportions are intentionally given in a lackadaisical way since the sizes of these veg can vary and I tend to use the stuff I’ve got in my veg box and anyway, who wants to fuss about a soup on a hot day?

 

More summer soups & salads: corn-tomato-basil salad; pea shooter, chickpea salad with cucumber, tomatoes & peppers, broad bean bruschette, lettuce cups with red pepper-lentil balls;

 

Corn zucchini tomato soup


Sweet corn-zucchini-tomato soup

 

2-3 ears of sweet corn
1 zucchino / courgette
3-6 tomatoes or 1/3 bottle tomato passata
chicken or vegetable stock
salt, pepper
basil

 

Cut the corn of the cob and chop all other ingredients. Place in a saucepan with a little chicken stock to taste and cook for the briefest of time, maybe 10 minutes. Season, add freshly torn basil, puree and pass through a sieve to get rid of all the corn kernel skins for a smoother soup. Serve a thicker puree/soup for small babies and a thinner version for more adult eaters at room temperature or even cooled.

 

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Spinach-ricotta gnocchi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, I was going to write another quick post soon after the last one but… – who would have thought that having twins means not only, to employ the well worn but nevertheless true cliché, double the joy but also double the work, double no time & double no sleep. Lucky the people who have grandparents, aunts & uncles and the whole extended family around to alleviate the daily grind and provide small pockets of breathing space. We don’t, so it has been a hard year with fantastic experiences, precious moments coupled with absolutely back (& spirit) breaking times. I thought we had it covered. Continue reading

Cumin-chile lamb skewers with lemon yoghurt

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We ate those gorgeous spiced lamb skewers since they were on the cover of Bon Appétit’s Grilling Issue basically all through summer and haven’t stopped since. Why not, caraway & cumin are as much winter players as summer spices and their warm tones are welcome in cooler weather, just as heat & floral notes are provided by Sichuan, Aleppo and black pepper. Most importantly if you have two hurricanes, ahem babies, playing havoc with longwinded supper plans: they are super easy to prepare and quick to make (if you have your butcher debone and cut the lamb shoulder, of course, which you definitely should) and reward you with an explosion of flavour that revives the taste buds after a long, long day. Continue reading

Pebronata aux aubergines

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Miniature veg

Resisting a picturesque vegetable display abundant with the best of summer’s crop is not something I am particularly known for – I usually can’t control myself and buy ways too many things (some might say). With two (rapidly growing) babies to carry three flights of stairs in their car seats (mine seem to be made from lead) I am trading market chatter and instant gratification for a weekly organic box delivery. Though there are moments when I cave in and these tempting finger-sized aubergines were just too pretty and just the right size for a vegetable Pebronata. A hearty stew lingering between summer and autumn: the vegetable sauce is perfumed with herbs & resiny juniper berries reminding me of walks in the hills of the southern Provence and Côte d’Azur where the sun dried air is full of earthy, wild herb scents while a strong red wine pushes the sauce towards more autumnal flavours.

Always assuming that Pebronata was a Provençal dish since seeing John Thaw and Lindsay Duncan facing butcher and customers discussing the finer details in Peter Mayles’s A Year in Provence: ‘Ça ne vas pas non, Felicieng, c’est quattre poivrons rouges et un poivron vert’ – ‘ Je dis, et je repete, quattre poivrons verts et un poivron rouge’… I was puzzled why I never came across it there but apparently the Pebronata sauce originally hails from Corsica and the aubergines replacing the customary pork is Anne Willan’s great idea. My favourite version.

 

 

 

Aubergine pebronata


Pebronata aux aubergines

Serves 6. Adapted from Anne Willan: The Country Cooking of France.

 

700g / 1½ lbs. small aubergines / eggplants (mine were the size of a large man’s thumb)
about 120ml / ½ cup olive oil, divided
1 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1.35kg / 3 lbs. tomatoes, peeled, seeded, cut into strips or 4 small tins diced tomatoes
1 bouquet garni (thyme, parsley, bay leaf)
2 red peppers, cut into narrow strips
1 green pepper, cut into narrow strips
4 juniper berries, lightly crushed
250ml / 1 cup hearty red wine
 

Cut aubergines lengthwise into quarters and halve those for two-bites-sized pieces (about 5cm / 2 inches long). Sprinkle with salt and leave for 20 minutes. Rinse and dry with paper towels. Meanwhile make the sauce:

Pebronata sauce: Heat 2 tablespoons (30ml) olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat and sweat the onion until it is beginning to turn brown, ca. 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for a scant minute before adding tomatoes with the bouquet garni, season with salt and pepper and simmer for 15-20 minutes until you’ve got a coulis. Heat another 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large casserole and sauté the peppers with juniper berries until softened (ca. 10 minutes). Season, pour the wine over the peppers, bring to a boil and reduce, simmering slowly, to roughly half the amount. Add the tomato coulis and continue cooking over low heat into a thick, rich sauce vegetable sauce (about 15-20 minutes).

Sauté aubergine pieces over medium heat in the remaining 60ml olive oil until they are browned on all sides. Best to do in two batches to ensure browning and avoid steaming the aubergines. Decant into the casserole with the pebronata sauce, cover with a lid and simmer for about 10-15 minutes until the aubergine pieces are tender. Season again if necessary and serve hot or at room temperature.
 

 

 

Deutsches Rezept:

 

Aubergine pebronata


Auberginen-Pebronata

6 Portionen. Nach Anne Willan: The Country Cooking of France.

 

 

700g kleine Auberginen (meine waren so groß wie der Daumen eines großen Mannes)
ca. 120ml Olivenöl
1 Zwiebel, gewürfelt
4 Knoblauchzehen, gehackt
1.35kg Tomaten, gehäutet, entkernt, in Streifen geschnitten oder 4 kleine Dosen Tomatenstücke
1 Bouquet garni (Thymian, Petersilie, Lorbeerblatt)
2 rote Paprika, in schmale Streifen geschnitten
1 grüne Paprika, in schmale Streifen geschnitten
4 Wacholderbeeren, leicht angedrückt
250ml kräftiger Rotwein
 

Auberginen der Länge nach vierteln, diese dann halbieren (ca. 5 cm lange Stücke). Großzügig salzen und 20 Minuten stehen lassen (um ihnen Flüssigkeit zu entziehen). Dann abspülen und mit Küchentüchern abtrocknen. In der Zwischenzeit die Sauce kochen:

Pebronata sauce: 2 EL (30ml) Olivenöl in einer Pfanne bei mittlerer Hitze erhitzen und Zwiebel anschwitzen bis sie zu bräunen beginnt (ca. 5 Min.), dann Knoblauch hinzufügen und 1 Minute später ebenso die Tomaten und das Bouquet garni. Würzen und 15-20 Minuten simmern lassen bis man ein schönes Coulis hat (eingekochte stückige Tomaten/Sauce). Weitere 2 EL (30ml) Olivenöl in einer großen Kasserolle erhitzen und die Paprikastreifen mit den Wacholderbeeren sautieren bis sie weich sind aber noch ihre Form behalten (ca. 10 Minuten). Würzen, dann den Wein hinzufügen, zum Kochen bringen und dann langsam köchelnd bis auf die Hälfte reduzieren. Tomatencoulis hineingeben und weiter bei niedriger-mittlerer Hitze zu einer dicklich-stückigen Gemüsesauce einkochen (ca. 15-20 Minuten).

Währenddessen die abgespülten und abgetrockneten Auberginenstücke bei mittlerer Hitze im restlichen Olivenöl (60ml) sautieren bis sie auf allen Seiten angebräunt sind. Um ein Dämpfen der Auberginen zu vermeiden, dies am besten in zwei Portionen machen. Dann die angebräunten Stücke in die Kasserolle mit der Pebronatasauce geben, mit einem Deckel verschließen und für 10-15 Minuten köcheln lassen bis die Auberginen weich sind, aber nicht auseinanderfallen. Wenn nötig, nachwürzen und warm oder bei Zimmertemperatur servieren.

 

 

Spring onion tart with wild green garlic

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I always have spare bits of pastry dough in the freezer from when I make some for a smaller tart or when plans change and many days they have been supper savers or made light work of a quick fruit tart for dessert. If you’ll do the same you know what I am talking about: making pastry is not exactly hard labour but sometimes it seems that way. Then you are really glad to have homemade frozen short crust at your finger tips. Just remember that labelling helps is really essential when you do not want to end up with savoury filling in a sweet dough.

Spring brings us again the bounty of fresh vegetables, delicious rich eggs and cream and about time to! There is fragrant Bärlauch (wild green garlic leaves) again and wonderful fresh spring onions, both perfect for a tart to celebrate the beginning of spring. They may seem simple, almost humble ingredients, though the result is a more than impressive. Feel free to glam it up with asparagus, morels etc. which I am not averse to but please try this simple version out first, it is worth it. Continue reading

mushroom and barley ‘risotto’

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Typical April weather calls occasionally for, no, demands the food equivalent of woolly jumpers or cashmere cardigans: soups and stews to keep warm and cozy when the temperature drops suddenly from 20 to 5 degrees. My grandmother’s vegetable and barley soup usually fits that bill being nurturing and full of great memories at the same time, though I’ve had plenty of vegetable soup already in past couple of weeks (my back-up lunch when I could not be bothered). There were bags full of various mushrooms from my last market trip and so a mushroom & barley ‘risotto’ or ‘pearlotto’ was just the thing to go for.

I love the different textures of these mushrooms, especially the intensity and sylvan notes of the trompettes de mort while king oyster deliver bite as well as substance and shiitake a decidedly mushroomy taste. It doesn’t always have to be porcini although I would be the last person to prevent you from adding a few. Continue reading

Finnish rye flat breads

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Before the big event, we decided to slip in a little time away in the Alsace and I’ve put everything on the back burner. Though now it his high time for the ‘bun in the oven’ post – I have been dying to do so for months. And, there’s one more thing: let’s make it buns! See, there is a reason for the erratic posting, extreme tiredness, some serious cooking ennui (bread & cheese for supper again, darling) and questionable dishes that should never ever see the light of day again (someone else managed to render the ‘Spanish’ chicken from Food 52 absolutely inedible?). On the other hand you are suddenly super busy getting all the (strictly necessary, right) paraphernalia and wonderful things and, even if you don’t coo at the sight puppies (really?), you’ll definitely swoon over maritime striped bodies in miniature sizes, tiny embroidered shirts and the cutest red corduroy dungarees, which I just had to buy for late spring… and those adorable blue bloomers, of course. Just to clarify: I am pregnant with twin boys. Puppies would be nice, too. One thing after the other.

 

The other buns: mini rye flat breads with a slight sourdough tang. Wholemeal or stoneground rye flour and the fermented buttermilk-yeast starter dough give them a rustic appearance, masses of flavour and just a little rise. They are perfect little buns for a hearty lunch or supper and make irresistible brunch fare with some fitting (as in going on the Scandinavian route) fishy things and herby spreads Continue reading