Monday, 28 September 2015

Tear-apart marigold and pumpkin seed focaccia recipe

marigold and pumpkin seed focaccia

I baked this for my edible flower supper club recently. It didn't last long - guests devoured it. A word about flour. Mostly one uses strong bread flour with high protein to make bread. Most Italians use tipo 00 flour to make focaccia which gives a fine light texture, a bit like an Aero chocolate bar, and a golden colour. Be aware however that there are several types of 00 flour: the 00 refers only to the grind, ie very fine. Look at the protein on the packet and choose a high protein 00 flour, it can range from 6º to 12.5º. Up to 10º, use it for pasta, over 10º, use it for pizza bases, Italian breads and focaccia. More protein, more gluten. Sorry coeliacs but love me some gluten. 
Marigolds are the basis for calendula, the cream which is very good for your skin. Regarding the pumpkins seeds and oil, obviously the very best is from Austria, Styria but ordinary pumpkins seeds and oil will do fine. 

Tear-apart marigold and pumpkin seed focaccia recipe

Serves 8

Prep time: 30 minutes plus rising plus 30 minutes baking time.

500g strong bread flour or high protein 00 flour
10g sea salt
7g quick yeast
1 tbsp of honey
320ml luke warm water
20g coarse semolina
50ml pumpkin seed oil
70g pumpkin seeds
Petals from 2 or 3 marigolds.
Marigold petals to garnish

Mix the flour and the salt.
Mix the water, the honey and the water separately. Leave to froth.
Then mix everything together, add the semolina, marigold petals, pumpkin oil and seeds. Knead for ten minutes.
Leave in an oiled bowl covered with cling film to rise for one hour or leave it overnight in the fridge to rise slowly.
Then tip the dough carefully out onto a floured surface and cut the dough into 8 pieces. One will be the centre and the other 7 will be shaped, delicately by pinching, as petals. Join the petals to the centre round and using a sharp knife slash the shape of the flower as above. Place the dough flower onto a silpat or parchment paper on a flat baking tray. Preheat the oven to 200ºc.
Leave to rise for another half an hour then bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, scatter marigold petals over the top, the red salt and drizzle over some more pumpkin seed oil. 
marigold and pumpkin seed focaccia

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Friday, 25 September 2015

Recipe: fresh floral lasagne with ricotta, sage and butter

How to make fresh floral pasta

Fresh flower pasta with ricotta and sage butter recipe

Fresh pasta is time consuming although remarkably easy if you will have a pasta machine. This is my recipe for flowery herby pasta which is so incredibly pretty. There is a vegan version of this recipe in my book V is for Vegan.

Fresh flower pasta with ricotta and sage butter recipe

300g 00 flour
1 tsp sea salt
3 eggs, beaten
Geranium petals (not Pelargoniums)
Herbs such as sage or dill
Nasturtium flowers
Marigold petals
Fine semolina for dusting
250g of ricotta (if making lasagne) seasoned with salt and pepper
Salted butter
Sage leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
Pecorino or parmesan (optional)

How to make fresh floral pasta

If using a food processor, put the flour and salt in the machine and pulse. With the motor running, gradually add the beaten eggs to the mixture, a large drop at a time. Gradually the mixture should look like couscous. If it is too lumpy, add more flour.
Then remove the dough from the food processor and knead by hand for five minutes.
If making the pasta by hand, put the flour in a mound on a clean work top. Make a well in the centre and add the salt and eggs. Using a fork, mix the sides with the eggy centre, eventualy bringing the mixture together into a ball. Then knead for five minutes.

Cover the kneaded dough with a damp tea towel or cling film and leave it to rest for half an hour. (This stage is very important, leaving the dough to rest you will see that it is far more malleable afterwards).

Screw your pasta machine to a work surface with the handle closest to you. Unwrap the pasta and flatten it with your hand. Run it through the machine on the widest setting, then fold the pasta tongue in half and thread it through again, with the unfolded end going through first. Do this around ten times, you will feel the pasta become more elastic. If you hear a little pop sound at the folded end, you know it is ready.
Then run the pasta through the machine on the narrower setting. Add geranium petals, dill fronds, nasturtium flowers and leaves, sage or other herbs on settings 4, 5, 6. Keep running the pasta through the machine on narrower and narrower settings until the pasta will be very fine, till the point you can see your hand through it.  The flowers and herbs will stretch as you go.  Keep going until the last setting when it will be three times as long. You'll probably need to cut it in half during this process.
When you have rolled it through notch 8, lay the lasagne out to dry on a large clean table, cutting it into sections of about 15cm in length. Leave to dry overnight.
To make fettucini 
Either roll it loosely and cut into noodles or run it through a fettucini attachment.
Now you have made your pasta you want to prevent it from sticking. Sprinkle a thick layer of fine semolina on a tray and spread the pasta in coiled nests on top. You could also hold this tray underneath the machine so that the pasta falls straight into the semolina flour. Sprinkle the nests with more flour.
You can leave this to dry for 24 hours then freeze it if not using straight away.
To cook the pasta, add plenty of sea salt to a large saucepan of boiling water. Cook the pasta for 1 to 5 minutes until it floats to the surface. Don't walk away from the stove! This cooks quickly.
Fettucini version: Drain the pasta and toss with salted butter, sage leaves, salt and pepper to taste. You could also dust a little pecorino or parmesan on top.

Fresh flower pasta with ricotta and sage butter recipe

I cooked 3 to 4 leaves of lasagne per person, draining it in a colander then sandwiching it with fresh ricotta cheese and drizzling it with the sage and butter. I wouldn't cook more than say 8 leaves at a time, you don't want them to stick together. So serve guests two by two.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Biscuit recipes for dipping into sweet wines

wine biscuits: biscuits roses de reims and pistachio cantuccini

biscuits roses de reims

Sweet Biscuit Recipes for dipping into wines

Long ago bakers discovered that if you bake something (two) cuit (cooked) it becomes crunchy and lasts longer hence the name biscuits. 
One of the earliest biscuits is the Ships Biscuit or hard tack as it's often known. It required baking four times to a rock hard consistency,  in order to withstand the dampness of being at sea for long voyages. This was served at every meal. I've made hard tack for a historical supper club based on the books of Patrick O'Brian author of Master and Commander. I baked them twice rather than four times, but still had to warn guests that I would not be responsible for their dental bills.

Sweet and savoury

The British are biscuit lovers; unlike the French we eat cheese with biscuits rather than with bread as the French do. 
We also love to dunk them in tea. In France they will often dunk buttered (unsalted) bread into their coffee (making an early 'bullet proof' coffee) but when they dunk biscuits on the continent, they prefer to dunk into alcohol.
In my Patrick O Brian supper club I made ratafias, a little like macaroons, which they would drink but not dunk in a glass of Madeira wine.
You could try this gorgeous amber Madeira wine from Portugal, Henriques & Henriques Malvasia 10 Years at £18 a bottle. 
In Italy they dunk Biscotti into Vin Santo (Holy wine) but the original Vin Santo comes from Greece, which winetrust stocks, Santorini Vinsanto, Argyros Estate at £26. This fortified wine  is comprised of three native grapes (80% Assrytiko, 10% Athrini, 10% Aidani) from Santorini, a hot, dry volcanic island that grows vines in a low lying basket shape to avoid destruction by the winds. 
Another sweet Italian dry biscuit is Cantucci, sometimes called Cantuccini. What is the difference between Biscotti and Cantucci? According to one source it's that Biscotti are larger and contain fat. I'd try these with a low alcohol (only 5.5%) white refreshing Italian Vajra Moscato d'Asti at £12.95.
In Puglia they dip Taralli, a dry crunchy plain biscuit which is either sweet or savoury tied into a knot, into wine. Taralli are one of the oldest food stuffs, the recipe originally hails from Greece. I'd recommend a Sicilian wine Zibbibo, Gibelè, at £11.75 for dipping purposes. 

In Spain anise and olive oil thin Tortas de Aceite, a kind of thin flaky sweet and salty crispbread, are popular eaten with cheese, coffee and sherry. There are different flavours, some with orange or lemon. 
Dip these into a dry fino sherry 'Innocente', from Valdespino, Jerez at £8.95 or a Castano dulce at £15, the latter particularly good with a cheese board.

In France, in the champagne region, there is a celebrated speciality 'biscuits roses de reims', a sugary pink boudoir style biscuit that I have tried to recreate. Actually I think mine are tastier because I've added rose water. The recipe is below. Dip these into champagne or sparkling wines such as a pretty pink Moscato, Innocent Bystander at only £5.75 for a half bottle or going more upmarket in terms of pink fizz, an English 'champagne' style Nyetimber Rosé Brut at £35.00 or classic champagne such as Gremillet Rosé d'Assemblage Brut at a bargainous £25!

Here are a couple of recipes for you to try at home, the perfect end for a dinner party. 
Home made biscuits roses de reims

Biscuits Roses de Reims with rosewater

The original recipe is a secret so I spent several days testing and this is the closest I could get to it. I added rosewater which isn't in the original recipe, and actually I think this is a bit nicer. If you don't like rosewater you could leave it out.
I'd get out a few bowls for this to weigh your ingredients into, otherwise it's easy to make a mistake with the order of ingredients. 
These will be piped by hand so they won't look exactly like the Biscuits Roses de Reims but they will look like funky sponge fingers.
Pistachio cantuccini
Do you have any biscuit and booze combinations that you like? Do let us know in the comments. 

wine and biscuits: biscuits roses de reims and pistachio cantuccini