So, just as last week I celebrated the green-ness of spring, this week I'm looking at all things red: tomatoes, peppers, beetroot and summer fruits.
This week's menu starts with vegetable crumble ( a ratatouille with cornbread crumble topping ), and is followed by salmon on a bed of chilli noodle salad with ruby slaw. Dessert is a fruit tart, filled with creme patissiere and summer berries.
This meal is made mostly from leftovers- the ratatouille uses up some roasted veg which accompanied a meal during the week and the cornbread crumble topping uses some cornbread from the freezer ( see blogpost 'Take Half a Dozen Eggs' for the recipe.) The chilli noodle salad uses cold noodles in a chilli and tomato sauce, mixed with grated carrot, beetroot and cabbage-plus some chopped mangetout (also now in season.), spring onions and cashews.
If making the starter from scratch, roast some vegetables in a little olive oil and salt and pepper in a tray in a hot (190 degree oven). I used onions, quartered, sliced courgette, red pepper, aubergine, a few garlic cloves, some baby new potatoes and tomatoes.They are done when tender and starting to caramelize nicely. Mix with a strong tomato sauce (made from reducing 1 can of chopped tomatoes with a little red wine vinegar in a saucepan until thick, blitz with a stick blender (or leave chunky if you prefer) and toss the veg in.
|Veg ready for roasting|
Pour into a gratin dish or individual ramekins. Meanwhile, blitz together 2 slices of cornbread with a knob of butter, some grated cheddar or gruyere cheese and some parsley or herbes de provence. Place again in a hot oven (190 degrees) for 10-15 minutes until bubbling and golden on top. Serve with a green salad .
|Vegetable crumble with cornbread topping|
The main course features an ingredient those that know me might find surprising. My hatred of beet root is well known. As a child I lived In the Far East until I was 5 years old and returned to a chilly Norfolk winter in 1963. The weather ( the coldest winter ever in the uk) didn't faze me. I embraced the delights of snowmen and sledging with joy.
Not so the austerity of Norfolk County Council school dinners- they left me with severe food trauma. I was unused to dairy products and root vegetables, pickles and vinegary sauces- and these seemed to be the mainstay of their so-called salads. Over the years I have learned to love some dairy products, though am still wary of many cheeses. I love most root vegetables now- but vinegary pickles and beetroot rank high on my list of food hell. Just conjuring up the image in my mind of a blob of cold mashed potato, stained with a pool of pickled beetroot, salad cream and grated cheese makes me re-live the experience of feeling like an alien from another planet in a hostile world.
So why does my main course feature beetroot? Well, it was a mistake- but one that worked out quite well. I was cooking in someone else's kitchen, so for convenience sake, I bought a bag of ready prepared 'ruby slaw'. I prepared my dish, served it, ate it and enjoyed it- all the time blissfully ignorant of the secret ingredient.
Here's how it goes: boil some egg noodles for 2 minutes until tender and then refresh with lots of cold water. When just warm, toss in a chilli dressing made from sweet chili sauce and some tomato puree loosened with a little rice vinegar. Add chopped cashews or peanuts, some chopped spring onion, chopped mangetout and the 'ruby slaw' ( 1 carrot, 1 beetroot and 1/4 of white cabbage all grated together in a food processor.)
This salad made a lovely base for a fillet of cold poached salmon.
|Poached salmon with chilli noodles and ruby slaw|
Bake a sweet pastry case blind and allow to cool completely. Make the custard by bringing 500ml of milk to the boil in a pan with 4 tbsp of caster sugar. In another bowl, mix 2 egg yolks and 1 egg together with 4 tbsp of caster sugar and 4 tbsp of cornflour until smooth. Gradually whisk in the hot milk, return to the saucepan and gently heat until thickened. Whisk in 25g of butter and 1 tsp of vanilla and allow to cool completely in the fridge.
This quantity of custard is more than you need for the tart- so I also made a rhubarb fool with the leftovers: poached rhubarb mixed in and served in a pretty glass with ginger biscuits
These are the easiest biscuits in the world to make: 6 oz of self raising flour, 4 oz of soft brown sugar, 2 oz of melted butter or liquid Flora, 1 tsp of ginger, 1 tsp of bicarb of soda, 1 tsp of golden syrup, 1 beaten egg.
Fill the case and top with fruit of your choice.
|Summer Fruit Tart|
|Rhubarb fool with ginger biscuits|
Sift all the dry ingredients into a bowl, add the wet ingredients and mix thoroughly.
Line a baking tray with baking paper and place walnut sized balls of the mixture on the sheet. Space them well apart as they spread as they cook. After 10 minutes in a medium oven (170 degrees), they should be looking golden and round. Cool on the paper and lift off with a pallet knife.
I use this recipe too for gingerbread men when cooking with children, as they love the way the dough magically spreads out and gets 'fat'- like a real gingerbread man coming to life!