Summer Minestrone

I once talked about how a simple bowl of minestrone is the ultimate comfort food. But in the summer months I crave something a little lighter. I’m a huge believer in using produce that’s in season, which is exactly why this minestrone is not only light and delicious, but completely accessible and affordable.

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Love the Seasons – February

Love the Seasons – February

I love cooking with what’s in season. It tastes better and it’s good for you. For me, the winter months have some of the best seasonal produce as many of my favourite foods are in their annual prime.

Here are three recipes using key ingredients which are currently in season.

Jerusalem Artichoke, Horseradish and Leek Soup

Ingredients:

  • 500g Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and chopped
  • 2 leeks, finely chopped
  • Horseradish cream
  • 1 pint vegetable stock
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Butter
  • Crème fraiche

Method:

On a moderate heat add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a large saucepan and melt in a tablespoon of butter.  Add the sliced leeks and sauté for 5 minutes or until soft. Add the Jerusalem artichokes and cook gently for 10 minutes. Add a heaped teaspoon of horseradish cream and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add to the pan the vegetable stock until the vegetables are just covered. Cover and cook for around 30-40 minutes on a gentle simmer or until the Jerusalem artichokes are soft and tender.

Transfer from the pan to a liquidiser or blender and blend to a smooth texture. Sieve any lumps and put the soup back on a medium heat. Add 3 tablespoons of crème fraiche and mix well. Add seasoning to taste and serve with crusty bread…mmm.

Hake with a Chorizo and Breadcrumb Crust, Oven Baked Tomatoes and a Honey Mustard Dressing

This recipe was inspired by a similar hake recipe featured in Food and Travel magazine. Hake is such a beautiful fish, complimented perfectly by the salty chorizo and the slightly sweet tang of the dressing.

Ingredients:

  • 2 fillets of Hake
  • 2 large or beef tomatoes
  • 4 slices of chorizo
  • Handful of breadcrumbs
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Butter

Dressing:

  • Olive oil
  • Mustard powder
  • Honey
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Method:

Preheat oven to 130°c

Starting with the tomatoes, blanche and then peel off the skins. Cut into thick slices and remove the seeds. Place on a baking tray, sprinkle with salt and some olive oil and bake for 20-30 minutes.

Meanwhile prepare the chorizo and breadcrumbs. Cut the chorizo into tiny cubes and mix with the breadcrumbs. Sauté in a pan for a few minutes until slightly crispy and the oil from the chorizo has coated the breadcrumbs. Set aside.

Sprinkle some salt onto the hake. Melt some butter and brush onto the skinless side of the fillet, then press the fillet into the chorizo and breadcrumb mix, coating evenly.

On a medium heat, place the fillet breadcrumb side down in a frying pan and cook for 5 minutes. Don’t move the fillets around in the pan as there is no need and it will only remove the breadcrumb crust.

By this time the tomatoes should be done so set them aside keeping them warm and increase the oven temperature to 180°c. Place the hake breadcrumb side up on a baking tray and cook for around 10 minutes.

To make the dressing simply mix together 2 tablespoons of olive oil, a level teaspoon of mustard powder, a teaspoon of honey and seasoning. Mix well until all ingredients are incorporated.

Serve the hake fillet on top of the oven baked tomatoes, with a drizzle of dressing.

Serves 2

Orange Cake with a Rosewater Dark Chocolate Ganache

I adore the combination of orange and chocolate. This cake is perfect for anyone who shares the same love. I used dark chocolate for the ganache but if you prefer something a little sweeter, I suggest using half dark and half milk chocolate. Rose is a perfect partner to dark chocolate and shares the same floral vibes as orange blossom – so I figured why not have a party and invite rosewater along? Admittedly I did do something slightly unorthodox and used food colouring in order to accentuate the orange factor; this is entirely optional and makes no difference to the yumminess of the cake.

Ingredients:

  • 200g butter, room temperature
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 140g flour
  • 2 level teaspoons baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • The zest and juice of one navel orange
  • Orange food colouring

Ganache:

  • 150ml single cream
  • 150g dark chocolate
  • 2-3 tablespoons rosewater

Method:

Preheat oven to 190°c

In a large bowl cream together the butter and sugar until a pale yellow. Add 2 eggs and 70g of flour and mix well before adding the other 2 eggs and remaining flour to the mix, along with the baking powder, salt, zest and juice of the orange. If using food colouring add to the mix drop by drop until you have achieved an obvious orange colour. Mix well for a good 2 minutes. I tend to use a hand held electric whisk which produces an extremely smooth and fluffy mixture which in turn results in a deliciously moist cake.

Once you have whisked the mixture, pour into a lined cake tin (I used an 8” for this recipe), and place in the centre of a preheated oven for 30-45 minutes, as ovens tend to vary.

Once cooked (using a toothpick to check the centre of the cake, it should come out dry) let the cake cool almost completely in the tin before transferring it onto a cooling rack. Don’t worry if the middle of your cake sinks a little as you will turn the cake over anyway, in order to get a straight top for the ganache to settle on perfectly.

Once cooled flip the cake over (so the top is now the base) on a baking tray. To make the ganache, slowly heat the cream in a pan until almost boiling. Break up the chocolate and place in a heatproof bowl and pour over the hot cream, whisking until smooth. Add the rosewater, tasting as you add (although this is possibly just an excuse to eat the warm ganache).

Pour the ganache over the cake, and smooth it out so it runs over the sides. Put the baking tray into the fridge for around 15 minutes to help the ganache set slightly. Once it has set, remove from the fridge and using a palette knife scrape up the ganache mixture that has settled on the baking tray and use it to ice the sides of the cake.

Sprinkle with orange zest and grated milk chocolate and return to the fridge to set for a further 15-20 minutes.

Devour.

Minestrone con Gnocchetti Sardi

This is probably one of my all time favourite Saturday afternoon comfort meals (yes, comfort meals are not just for lazy Sundays!). Minestrone is great because you can throw in any vegetables you have lying around and you’re guaranteed a tasty outcome, and even though gnocchetti sardi isn’t typically used in minestrone, for me it’s first choice.

Ingredients:

  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 large white onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 2 sticks celery, finely chopped
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 1 pepper either red, yellow or orange, sliced
  • 100g lentils, soaked for 30 minutes
  • 100g tinned fagioli (beans) such as cannellini or butter beans
  • 400g chopped tomatoes
  • 1 ½ pints vegetable stock
  • 1 ½ cups gnocchetti sardi pasta, or any other small soup pasta
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Dried oregano

Method:

In a large saucepan heat the oil, adding the onion, garlic and chilli. Sauté for a few minutes until soft then add the celery and carrots and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add the pepper, season to taste and mix well. Add the chopped tomatoes and vegetable stock, followed by the lentils and fagioli and bring to the boil. Throw in a couple of teaspoons of oregano then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes – or until all vegetables are tender.

Meanwhile prepare the gnocchetti. Bring a large saucepan of water to boil adding plenty of salt.  Cook the gnocchetti for around 9 minutes or until al dente. Drain and toss in a little olive oil, then leave to one side.

Add the pasta to the soup when ready to serve rather than adding it all at once. This will ensure that the pasta doesn’t soak up too much of the liquid and the soup stays soupy!

Serve and eat, then proceed to have seconds.