Apple & crab cakes


This recipe has become a fav recently, though it has taken me a little time to get the balance of taste and texture just right. The distinctive flavour of the crab, combined with the subtle sweetness of apple. It might sound a bit crazy but the two really do work well together.

Cooking from the book ‘Mighty Spice’ by John Gregory-Smith

Mighty Spice by John Gregory-Smith
Mighty Spice by John Gregory-Smith

All photographs copyright © Heather Wilkinson 2012

I was supposed to put up this post last week, but sadly it got eaten before I had time to photograph it (a good sign I think!) and I ended up having to make it again. 
I think I must have cooked almost all the recipes from John Gregory-Smith’s Mighty Spice book when I purchased it a few months ago. It really is a fantastic book, full of simple, honest, flavour-packed recipes – the type of food I could pretty much eat every day. I really enjoyed the introduction where John talks about the impact travel has had on his life and how it has influenced his cooking. 
For me, there were definitely a couple of standout recipes: Falafel Burgers with a Yogurt and Tahini Dip and the Bulgur Wheat Salad, (shown in the above pictures.) I’d never actually tried bulgur wheat before making this recipe, and I was pleasantly surprised by how simple it was to make – very similar to cous cous. I have to say that I did add make a couple of my own amendments of to the recipe: lemon zest and a huge handful of fresh mint.
I also made the mango, orange and nutmeg cheesecake. Sadly, this wasn’t very successful, hence I haven’t posted a picture. It wasn’t much of a looker, especially after I dropped it on the worktop while trying to get it out of the tin (whoops). It was supposed to have a delicate mango drizzle on the top of it, but I totally fudged it up and it ended up like mango mush that made the cheesecake a bit wet and sloppy. Not nice.
Anyway, I loved the book and I’m looking forward cooking many more meals from it. With any luck the weather will warm up here in the UK and we’ll be able to eat outside – yeah right, who am I kidding…
You can find a link to the book here.

Oyster mushroom, dill and walnut tart

All photographs copyright © Heather Wilkinson 2012

I first discovered the Espresso Mushroom Company (EMC) via Twitter, and my interest was sparked when I heard they were growing mushrooms on used coffee grounds from local Brighton coffee shops. When I found out they were attending the Big Sussex Market I was keen to meet them and, of course, try some of their mushrooms.

I think it’s important to point out at this stage that this isn’t a sponsored post, and I bought the mushrooms myself. I see blogging as an opportunity to give a little helping hand to local independent producers whose business ethics I support and whose products I would naturally want to buy. After all, the more we can support local, the more access we’ll have to better choice of quality food.

So, on with the mushrooms. I’ve always been quite disappointed by oyster mushrooms; if they aren’t super-fresh they can either be a bit rubbery, or just limp and pathetic. Not so the ones from EMC! These were delicate little beauties and they actually smelt like mushrooms. That might be like stating the obvious, but supermarket produce is often devoid of any natural smell, and sadly, taste too.

This tart is really simple to make and is ideal served cold for lunch if you want a change from sandwiches. It’s also rather delicious fresh from the oven and served with lightly steamed seasonal vegetables. I decided to keep my ingredient list simple so as not to overwhelm the delicate flavour of the mushrooms, and I added walnuts to give the tart a bit more substance and variety of texture. Read on for the recipe.

Oyster mushroom, dill and walnut tart

For the pastry
250g plain flour
a pinch of salt
125g chilled unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
75ml cold milk

For the filling
2 large eggs, plus 2 extra egg yolks
200 ml double cream
200ml whole milk
sea and black pepper to season
125g oyster mushrooms roughly chopped
Handful of fresh dill, finely chopped
50g walnuts roughly chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
a knob of butter

This is a basic tart recipe that I’ve adapted from a recipe in the River Cottage Veg book, using a 25cm tart tin. Hugh’s tart recipes are always so deliciously creamy – the perfect way to compliment the mushrooms. You can find a recipe for the pastry here  and once you’ve made your pastry, simply add to the tart tin, blind bake and set aside while you make the filling. Here’s how:

1.)For the filling, warm the butter in a frying pan and then add the mushrooms and crushed garlic. Cook for about 4 minutes, or until the mushrooms have softened and darkened in colour.
2.)Add the dill and walnuts and continue to cook for another minute. Season well with salt and pepper.
3.)Pre-heat your oven to 180oC/Gas Mark 4. Lightly beat the eggs, yolks, cream and milk.
4.)Spread your mushroom mixture evenly in the tart case and then pour the beaten egg and milk mixture over the tart filling.
5.)Bake the tart for about 35 minutes until golden all over.

Moroccan-style Bean Stew

All images © Heather Wilkinson 2012

I’ve really got into combining sweet and savoury flavours recently, and I thought I’d use these as a basis for creating a dish for Meat-free Monday. This is a Moroccan-inspired bean stew, healthy, tasty and incredibly simple to prepare. I made sure to make plenty so there was enough left for lunch the next day. I really wanted to try making flat breads but ran out of time, so I served the stew with toasted wholemeal pittas and a yogurt dip.

You will need
400g (dry weight) of mixed beans and pulses (I used chick peas, kidney and flageolet beans)
400g of good quality chopped tinned tomatoes (+ half a tin of water)
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp dried chilli flakes (or fresh chilli if you prefer)
½ tsp paprika
A handful of sultanas
1 handful of dried chopped apricots
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp dried powered ginger
1 tsp tomato puree
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 generous glug of olive oil
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

1.)Heat the oil in a large pan. Add your onion and allow to soften before adding your garlic, carrots, cumin, ginger, paprika, cinnamon, chilli and coriander. Cook for about 3 minutes.
2.)Add your beans, tomatoes, tomato puree, sultanas, apricots and half a tin of fresh water. Stir gently to combine all the ingredients together. 
3.)Leave on a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 30 mins to allow the stew to cook down.

Cosy winter vegetable soup

All images © Heather Wilkinson 2012

The temperature has really plummeted here this week. It’s the kind of cold weather that means you have to hop from foot to foot just to generate enough heat to stop your toes going numb. I basically live off soup when the weather’s like this, and I luckily had enough root veg to whip up a batch today. Soups of this nature can be a tad bland, so I add just a pinch of dried ginger to give it a subtle lift.

You will need

2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 stick of celery, sliced
1 leek, sliced
150g potato, peeled and diced
150g swede, peeled and diced
½ tsp freshly ground nutmeg
½ tsp dried ground ginger
1 litre milk
Single cream

1.) Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the onion and fry until soft.
2.) Add your garlic, carrot, leek and celery, stir it all together and continue to fry for about 5 minutes.
3.) Next, add your swede, potato, nutmeg and ginger, salt and pepper. Add the milk, bring to the boil then turn down to a simmer for 25 minutes, or until all the vegetables have softened.
4.) Add your soup mixture to a liquidiser and blend together until it is smooth. You can run it through a sieve if you want it extra smooth.
5.) Return the soup to a clean pan, add a little cream, mix and heat thoroughly. Serve with fresh crusty bread.

Chicken noodle soup

In my last post, I promised recipe ideas for leftover roast chicken. So, here goes with the first, ideal for this time of year when you want something warm, satisfying and healthy. This recipe serves two people.

You will need:
2 pints of chicken stock (read my last post for a how-to)
1 tsp caster sugar
half a red chilli
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
2 tbps of dry sherry
2 portions of dried egg noodles (thick, thin, or whatever you prefer)
½ small leek, shredded
Leftover roast chicken, cut into small slices or bite-sized pieces
2 tsp sesame oil
A handful of fresh coriander

Add the stock, a mug of cold water, soy sauce, chilli, sugar, star anise, cinnamon and sherry to a large saucepan. Bring to the boil and then turn the heat right down and allow to simmer very gently. In a separate pan, cook your noodles, drain and then toss in the sesame oil. Remove your soup mixture from the heat and sieve it over a bowl or pan.

Divide your noodles between two big bowls, ladle the soup over the noodles and then add chicken. To finish, add shredded leeks and coriander and, if you’re feeling adventurous, some thin slices of red chilli too.

Keep your eyes peeled over the next few days for the final roast chicken recipe.

I almost forgot to mention that I was really chuffed to be featured on Fiona Beckett’s (Guardian food and wine columnist) lovely blog recently. Thanks Fiona!


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