Chapter One: Going back to basics

mixture

“Never work before breakfast; if you have to work before breakfast, eat your breakfast first”

– Josh Billings, Humourist

Well, hello delightful ample followers! What a joyous occasion it is to meet one and other a year since my first ever blog post. I’m not sure I can believe it myself but by God, it’s been an entire twelve months since my first article on ‘fruit tarts and new starts’ and ample servings is still going strong! Once more, this blog is about to go through a turn for the better, what with my culinary training fast approaching. I must admit that I’m a little nervous to start my new chapter but I’d foolish not to be! It’s going to be a whirlwind adventure and I can’t wait to begin. Needless to say, you wonderful people will get to treat yourselves, not to mention amuse yourselves, with an array of food related delights and culinary disasters! Blood, sweat and perfectly salted tears pave the way to my desired success. Wish me luck, I’m going in (to a professional kitchen!)

 Kitchen Aid Video:

Homemade mayo with Jamie Oliver in 3 minutes! Do it!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ypQuZX5MVsI

Seemingly Seasonal:

Fruit & Vegetables:

  • Apples
  • Blackberries
  • Peaches
  • Redcurrants
  • Nectarines
  • Damsons
  • Quinces
  • Figs
  • Pears
  • Plums
  • Apricots
  • Cucumber
  • Pumpkins
  • Aubergines
  • Beetroot
  • Courgette
  • Marrow
  • Chicory
  • Cobnut
  • Fennel
  • French Beans
  • Globe Artichoke
  • Cabbage

Meat & Fish:

  • Pork
  • Lamb
  • Goose
  • Halibut
  • Whiting
  • Salmon
  • Mussels
  • Mackerel
  • Oysters

Culinary Query

Libby, Balham

Please could you suggest some tasty vegan meals that I can cook at home for friends?

Amongst a meat-loving, dairy guzzling, food crazed crowd the word ‘vegan’ often warrants a raise of the eyebrows and a great heave of disgust. I find this response a little unfair because truly, vegans can eat a great deal of food and your meals can still be full of flavour. The trick is to just ‘think vegan’ not goose, no….definitely not goose!

Here are a few suggestions that I thought of myself;

Brunch: Toasted soda bread with crushed avocado, salt and lemon juice. This is wonderfully tasty and quick as you like to make. Toast your slices of bread (under the grill is best!) and cut open your avocado. Once the toast is done, directly squash the avocado onto it with a fork. One avocado usually does three pieces of toast. Season with plenty of salt, a little pepper and a good squeeze of lemon!

Light-lunch: Portobello mushrooms stuffed with roasted red peppers, tomatoes, breadcrumbs, garlic, parsley and homemade basil pesto. Have fun with the pesto and replace your pine nuts with toasted walnuts or pistachios for a different flavour! See my previous post of homemade pesto for a recipe. Simply roast your vegetables in the oven along with the herbs (add the mushroom stalks but not the mushrooms themselves!), then gently mix in a little tomato puree and handful of breadcrumbs before seasoning. Sear your portobello mushrooms in a pan on both sides and then place your vegetable mix on the bottom of each mushroom. Pop them in the oven for a further 5-10 mins until your mushroom is cooked through and serve with some rocket salad and a generous serving of homemade pesto on top of your mushrooms.

Aperitif: Homemade hummus by Yotam Ottolenghi is your best option here. It’s smooth, silky and totally vegan! Why not add some caramelised onions to the mixture for a sweet finish? Serve with pitta breads and wine! http://food52.com/recipes/22888-yotam-ottolenghi-sami-tamimi-s-basic-hummus

Dinner: Vegetable Thai curry is ideal for a flavoursome vegan feast. If you have time, make your own curry paste but one from the supermarket does the job just as nicely. Coconut milk is your main liquid as well as vegetable stock and obviously fine to use. I suggest that you use nice vegetables such as aubergines, squash and parsnips to keep it both interesting and filling. Don’t be afraid to use chilli, Thai basil (sweet flavour) and thai vegetables like water chestnuts and bamboo shoots. Pak choi is nice too! An example to follow: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/420641/veggie-thai-red-curry

This Weeks’ Recipes:

Grilled Halloumi with chilli

Halloumi

A very simple and easy dish which acts as a great accompaniment to any Mediterranean meal.

Ingredients:

250g halloumi cut into rectangles

Half a red chilli

Lemon

Olive oil

Method:

Place the halloumi onto a hot grill. Turn the pieces over when they get a nice colour on the bottom side this could take between 2-4 minutes. Once cooked and marked on both sides place them on a serving place. Finely chop your red chilli and sprinkle onto your halloumi, season with a little pepper and a good squeeze of lemon. Finish with a drizzle of good quality olive oil.

Lamb Stuffed Aubergines

bergg

This is an Ottolenghi recipe and is utterly delicious. The one thing I would suggest is to not to stuff your aubergine until the last half hour of the aubergine cooking. My mince became a tad overcooked after an hour and a half of baking! Serve with some salad leaves of eat on its own.

Ingredients:

4 medium aubergines (about 1.2kg), halved lengthways

6 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon ground cumin

One and a half tablespoons sweet paprika

One and a half tablespoons ground cinnamon

2 medium onions (340g in total), finely chopped

500g minced lamb

50g pine nuts

20g flat-leaf parsley, chopped

2 teaspoons tomato purée

3 teaspoons caster sugar

150ml water

One and a half tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon tamarind paste

4 cinnamon sticks

Salt and black pepper

Method:

Preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan/gas mark 7. Place the aubergine halves, skin-side down, in a roasting tin large enough to accommodate them snugly. Brush the flesh with 4 tablespoons of the olive oil and season with 1 teaspoon of salt and plenty of black pepper. Roast for about 20 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.

While the aubergines are cooking, you can start making the stuffing by heating the remaining olive oil in a large frying pan. Mix the cumin, paprika and ground cinnamon and add half of this spice mix to the pan, along with the onion. Cook on a medium-high heat for about 8 minutes, stirring often, before adding the lamb, pine nuts, parsley, tomato purée, 1 teaspoon of the sugar, 1 teaspoon of salt and some black pepper. Continue to cook and stir for another 8 minutes, until the meat is cooked. Place the remaining spice mix in a bowl and add the water, lemon juice, tamarind, remaining sugar, cinnamon sticks and half a teaspoon of salt; mix well.

Reduce the oven temperature to 195C/175C fan/gas mark 5 and a half. Pour the spice mix into the bottom of the aubergine roasting tin. Spoon the lamb mixture on top of each aubergine. Cover the tin tightly with foil, return to the oven and roast for 1 hour 30 minutes, by which point the aubergines should be completely soft and the sauce thick; twice through the cooking, remove the foil and baste the aubergines with the sauce, adding some water if the sauce dries out. Serve warm, not hot, or at room temperature.

Choux Pastry

eclairs

Last week we saw contestants on the Great British Bake Off making an array of eclairs for the show stopper challenge. This encouraged me to seek some choux pastry training from a professional pastry chef, Alice Peel. Although Alice prefers bread over pastry, she didn’t mind teaching me how to make a decent choux pastry (of which she is most skilled at!) and turning it into a sea of chocolate eclairs and choux buns. This recipe is from BBC Food but is more or less how we did our pastries on Monday!

Ingredients:

100g/3½oz unsalted butter

pinch salt

150g/5½oz plain flour

4 large free-range eggs, beaten

Method:

For the choux pastry, preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6

Gently heat 150ml/5½fl oz water, the butter and salt in a medium saucepan until melted, then bring to the boil.

Sift the flour into a bowl then tip it into the pan of boiling butter and water. Remove from the heat and, using a wooden spoon, very quickly beat the mixture until smooth.

Return the pan to the heat and continue to beat the mixture until you have a smooth paste. Return the dough to the bowl and add the beaten eggs gradually, until the mixture has a smooth dropping consistency (the dough should hold onto the spoon but drop off when lightly tapped on the edge of the bowl). Spoon the dough into a large piping bag fitted with a 1cm/½in plain nozzle.

Line two baking trays with non-stick silicone parchment and mark six 13cm/5in lines on each piece of parchment, leaving as much room as possible between each line. Spray the parchment with water and pipe identical tubes of dough on the lines. Bake for 20 minutes, or until well risen and golden-brown.

choc

Behold Alice’s finished eclairs!

See you all next week for more foodie fun! I’ll leave you with a picture of my new chef shoes….I keep telling myself they’re not crocs! In fact, I think they’re worse!

shoe

Please note that all my opinions and comments on Ample Servings are my own and are not of the culinary school I attend currently.

Love E. Wells

The family secret

halves

“Mr Little is certainly warm-hearted, sir.”
“Warm-hearted! I should think he has to wear asbestos vests.”

-P.G Wodehouse

Call me English but by jove, it’s bloomin’ cold these days! We’ve barely begun November and I am quite certain that I’ll have to start digging around for my long johns within the week. Yes, I do own long, thermal underwear and I’m proud of it. Ho! ho! I hear you say! Ultimately, I will have the last laugh while you sniggering lot, shift from side to side in order to retain an inch of warmth. However, as I’m feeling generous today I’ve decided to assign this blog towards warming the culinary nation. As promised, the following recipes are here to heat up your cockles in the coldest of times. Remember the more people in a room, the warmer it gets! Any excuse for a dinner party eh?!

We begin our menu with a spiced pomegranate cordial and honestly, it tastes just as good as it sounds. This is a recipe forged together by yours truly and it works perfectly for both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Originally, I wanted it to be a syrup acting as a base of a refreshing fizzy cooler and yet, I have found that heated up over the stove, the pomegranate syrup works well as a hot toddy. A drop of rum works a real treat for something a little more special and festive. This cordial is Christmas in a glass and is incredibly easy to make. Similar to my infused vodkas, this would make a lovely gift.

pom

Spiced Pomegranate Cordial

(makes 300-400ml)

one pomegranate

2 ½ tablespoons of caster sugar

one tsp of cinnamon

¼ tsp of mixed spice

cup of boiling water

one orange

Remove all the pomegranate seeds from its shell and push through a juicer. If you don’t have a juicer, don’t panic! Put all the seeds into a blender and push the liquid and seeds through a sieve to get all the juice. The actual amount of juice that is produced from one pomegranate is shocking but it will be enough. In a saucepan, pour the freshly pressed pomegranate juice and place over a low heat. Add the sugar, cinnamon and mixed spice and stir well. Keep the heat low as you don’t want the sugar to burn. Check for taste and squeeze in the juice of one orange. The smell is divine! Finally, add the hot cup of water and let the syrup simmer for a few minutes. Take off the heat and push through a sieve once more. Pour the syrup into a nice glass bottle and store in the fridge.

half pomorange sqanother pour

It is at this point that you have all the power! If you want something fizzy and light, decant a small amount of syrup to the bottom of a glass (as you would with say Robinsons squash) and top up with some sparkling water or tonic. But, if you’re in the mood for some a little more fruity and festive, pour some syrup into a pan and add your desired amount of water (a cup of water for each person should be enough). Once the mixture is heated up, serve in a cup or pretty glass. Oh, and if you want to be really naughty, pour a little rum into the hot liquid before serving. Rum works wonders in this fragrant concoction.

pom 1

Let’s move on to something more…solid? The other day I found myself in and amongst the cookery section at Waterstones. Quelle surprise! I found a book entitled ‘À la mere de famille’. I think it retails for £28 and it is SO worth it. The illustrations are ever so sweet on the front cover and the recipes within are brilliant. It specialises in classic French bonbons and chocolate recipes however, there were a fair few biscuit, macaroon and meringues recipes too. My eyes fell upon a beautiful picture of pistachio and chocolate biscuits and I couldn’t resist. It sounds utterly ridiculous but the difference of colour between the brown of the cocoa and green of the nuts looks stunning. They are almost too pretty to eat. I said almost….

yum biscuits

Pistachio and Chocolate Biscuits

(makes 20)

220g unsalted butter

80g icing sugar

280 plain flour

30g cocoa

70g crushed, unsalted pistachios

1 egg

Pinch of salt

Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl. Add all the rest of the ingredients and combine with a wooden spoon. Once mixed well, cover the mixture in cling film and place in the fridge for an hour. Sixty minutes later, take out the mixture and place on a floured surface. With a floured rolling pin, roll out the mixture to an inch thick and use any biscuit cutter you desire. Place the biscuits in the oven for 10-12 minutes at a temperature of 180ºC. When ready, place on a cooling rack and enjoy! The recommended time above should be right. Don’t overdo as the first I made them, I cooked them for longer and they were so hard and for once, inedible. Shock horror!

bashing up pistaeggsgreat mixture shotbrowncutting bisbiscuits on a tray

Now, not too long ago I discussed a smattering of restaurants in Bristol that had prepared food which was more than edible, if such a thing exists! This week I was in Richmond and I happend to visit two establishments that are well worth mentioning to a foodie crowd. The first was a little restaurant (gasp! it was a chain..) however, the food was gorgeous, the staff were great and there was a superb prix fixe menu of which is very reasonable. My friend Rebecca and I ate heartily and left with contented smiles upon our faces. If you find yourself in Richmond, do try out Cȏte Brasserie. Oh, I recommend the endive salad with goats cheese and pear to start!! It was divine I tell you.

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cheese 9

Rebecca’s three bean risotto

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My steak frites

Secondly, en route to the bus stop home I caught site of the new Whole Foods and oh my, it was beautiful. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many different varieties of chocolate in my life! If any of you are a chocolate snob, go to Whole Foods now! The pastries, cakes and lunchtime offerings looked great but little did I know the real gems of the shop were downstairs….I’m going to call it a Cheese Cave because it describes how exciting and mysterious the different range of cheeses made me feel. It was simply, magical. The Whole Foods in South Kensington actually has a room doted to cheese (heaven!) and yet, because I wasn’t expected this number of cheeses, it was even better. Cheese lovers, go! Be free and roam this cave of delectable dairy! This brings us on to our next recipe or two….

cheese 8cheese 5

The next little treat that I wish to share with you is in fact a family recipe. My grandmother on my father’s side, who is unfortunately no longer with us, was a wonderful cook. When I was a young, my dad and I would visit her by either taking the train to York or driving in the family car listening intently to Stephen Fry’s reading of Harry Potter. When we arrived, it would usually be cold and dark (that’s up North for you!) and I’d run up to her door and be welcomed with a cuddle and a cheese scone. To this day I still remember sitting on her sofa, curled up in a blanket opposite her electric fire, tucking into these divine cheesy, mustard tasting snacks. I suggest that you slice the scones in half and spread a good helping of salted butter on both sides. A cup of tea helps it all go down rather nicely. This special recipe has been used for three generations of the Wells family, and it never fails. Look after our secret well.

cheese 4

Nana Mole’s Cheese Scones

(makes 6)

6oz self-rising flour

3oz grated mature cheese

1oz margarine (or butter)

2 good tsp of mustard powder

1 egg and enough milk to make up ¼ pint when beaten

Pinch of salt and pepper

Sieve the flour and mustard powder into a bowl and add the margarine. Rub the margarine into the flour mixture to make small, soft breadcrumbs. Add the salt and pepper, almost all of the cheese (save a little for the tops of scones at the end) and a little of the milk and eggs mixture. You want the breadcrumbs to turn into dough. Add a little milk at a time and when it’s at the right consistency to cut into shapes, mould into a ball shape. Place the dough onto a floured surface and using your hands push the dough about its ½ inch thick, cut into circular shapes. Place the scones on a buttered tray and brush the tops with the left over milk and egg mixture. Finally, sprinkle over the remaining cheese and place in an oven at 220ºC for 10-15 minutes. In my experience, it is best to check the scones at 10 minutes, they should be a light golden brown colour. Serve immediately with salted butter or keep in an air tight container for an afternoon snack.

nana mole

Joyce, my paternal grandmother nicknamed ‘nana mole’.

We both shared a love of cooking, roast pork and as you can see, wine.

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Me, third generation scone baker.

While I was looking into my family recipe book written by the now infamous Nana Mole, I came across her sticky gingerbread cake. The recipe uses nutural yoghurt and I remember my grandmother being really perplexed. The cake was delicious and so, I decided to make one myself. However, a major problem was presented to me….I had no ginger preserve which is core to this cake. “Good heavens!” I exclaimed, “what is young aspiring chef to do?”. Then it hit me, I could use another jam such as apricot and make a spiced apricot cake instead. “Oh, I’m good” I whispered. Third person arrogance aside, feast your curious eyes upon this little Babylon and eat to your heart’s content!

cheese 1

Sticky Ginger and Apricot Cake

8oz plain flour

¼ tsp salt

2 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp  grated nutmeg

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

4oz butter or margarine

4oz soft light brown sugar

4oz golden syrup

1 egg

3tbsp plain yoghurt

2 tbsp apricot jam

Line and grease a 9 inch square tin and set the oven to 160ºC. Sift the flour, salt, spices and bicarbonate into a bowl. Heat the butter, sugar and syrup gently in a pan until the butter melts. Beat the egg and yoghurt in a separate bowl and then mix into the dry mixture with the butter and syrup. Stir in the jam (you could put in ginger preserve to make the original recipe) and pour into the tin. Bake the cake for 50-60 minutes and rest on a cooling rack. This cake is ideal for a wet, Sunday afternoon.

For today’s finale, we will close on something rather indulgent, a twice baked cheese soufflé. During the summer, I had my ‘drinking gang’ over for supper. The theme that was decided upon was French and yet, it swiftly became a night of cheese and wine- nothing else! I’m surprised none of us were seriously ill at the end of the night because we certainly consumed more than our fair share of dairy for an entire month….and grapes. One of the highlights of the evening were my friend Susie’s soufflés. These little gems go very nicely with a crisp green salad and a little pear or apple as it cuts through the creaminess. Susie used Delia’s vegetarian recipe which is to die for!

Once again, I want to say a BIG BIG thank you to the gorgeous Grace Jenkins who took all the wonderful photos on this blog. If you want to get hold of her for personal work email her on: gracejenkins@me.com. Until next week folks. Have a lovely week and happy cooking!

E.Wells X