Monday, 12 October 2015

Salted caramel apple crepe recipe (gluten free)

Salted caramel apple crepe recipe (gluten free)

Salted caramel apple crepe recipe (gluten free)

Makes four depending on the size of your pan.

This recipe was inspired by this summer's visit to L'ile de Ré near La Rochelle in France. For years I've been buying their squidgy tan coloured squares of salted caramels sold in bags, which uses the famous fleur de sel from the island. But every time I indulge myself with a chewy sweet I end up spending a few hundred pounds at the dentist: my sweet tooth is an expensive habit, every bag of sweets ends up costing me about £300! (The packet of lemon bonbons I had in Dublin ended up like this.)
But all the ingredients in this recipe are favourites in the North of France: the salted caramel (which will not pull out your fillings), the buckwheat, a gluten-free flour used in savoury crepes from up the coast in Brittany, and lastly apples, famous in Normandy when used in their excellent cider.  This is a gorgeous brunch or dessert recipe, a bit naughty while being healthy.

For the salted caramel:
125ml of cold water
330g caster sugar
250ml double cream
big pinch of good quality sea salt

For the apples: 
2 apples, cored and thinly sliced
50g salted Butter
2 - 3 tbsp Brown sugar
Cognac (optional)

For the crepes:
110g Buckwheat flour
1 egg plus 1 yolk
275ml of single cream or milk 
15g of butter, melted
a pinch of sea salt
1 tsp of Xanthan gum

A small bowl of melted butter for cooking the pancakes.

Combine the sugar and water in a medium sized saucepan and heat gently under the sugar has dissolved. turn up the heat and bring the mixture to a boil without stirring but giving the pan the occasional swirl until it turns a caramel colour. This takes around 15 to 20 minutes.Brush down the sides with a pastry brush dipped in water to prevent crystallisation or keep the lid on which will make condensation run down the sides.
Once the caramel has reached the desired shade of brown carefully whisk in the cream.
Then add the salt to taste. You can pour this into jars when it has cooled and keep in the fridge for at least two weeks.

Core the apples then slice them very finely. Using a medium pan over a medium heat fry the apple slices gently in the butter and brown sugar. When slightly golden, set them aside.
(You could add a little cognac to them if you want).

Combine the flour, egg, yolk, cream/milk, butter, salt and Xanthan gum. (Xanthan gum add stretchiness to the pancake batter, which is useful when you don't have gluten which acts as a glue for baking and batters). Stir around until well mixed but don't overheat as it will make the batter rubbery.
Heat up a flat frying pan or even better, a crepiere, a kind of flat cast iron pan that I bought in France. Dip a bit of kitchen towel in some melted butter and wipe the surface of the pan with that.
Add a ladle of the batter to the pan and tip the pan until it spreads in a thin layer all over.
The first pancake will probably be rubbish. Keep going though.
Once the crepe has set and started to cook, you can flip it over but if it's thin enough don't bother, it'll cook through. Add 2 or 3 apple slices in the middle then fold over the sides, add some more apple slices on top. 
Put it on a plate and drizzle the crepe with the salted caramel you made earlier.
Repeat until all the batter is used.You'll get about four or five out of it so double the recipe if you want more.

Coming soon: my trip to Greece.
Secret Garden Club date on 29th of November, grow your own curry. 
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Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Dakos recipe, an easy Cretan rusk salad

Dakos Cretan rusk salad recipe, blue palace hotel
This cucina povera recipe from the Greek island of Crete, home of some of best ingredients in Greece, couldn't be easier. I use the Italian term 'cucina povera' 'poverty cooking' because there is an equivalent in Puglia, a dish called variously Frise, Frisa or Frisella.
I was shown this dish by executive chef Alexis Lefkatikis of the Blue Palace Hotel and Spa
He explained that traditionally the hard Cretan barley rusk ('paximathi'), the basis for this dish,  came about because the Cretan women worked in the fields like the men and didn't have much time to bake. So they would make a huge batch of bread then dry it in a low oven. This way it would last a month.
The rusks would be softened by pouring a little water, wine or olive oil on it then skinned crushed tomatoes, oregano, some black olives would be added.
Alexis also mentioned that they would make this barley rusk from a sourdough using water where Greek basil had been soaked.
Summer is over, but if you have a few home grown tomatoes left or can still get hold of some decent tasting tomatoes, have a go at this hearty, peasant-style salad. My kind of food.
You can buy barley rusks in North London in areas like Green Lanes in Haringey which has a large Greek cypriot population. You can also order them online from here at the Isle of Olive.
Dakos Cretan rusk salad recipe

Dakos Cretan rusk salad recipe

Serves 2

2 large barley rusks or a stale thick slices of sourdough bread, the harder the better
50ml of water
50ml of Greek olive oil (from Crete ideally, they have around 25 different types. As chef Alexis said of Cretans, they don't eat it, they drink it)
4 large juicy tasty tomatoes, skinned and crushed
2 tsps of Greek oregano
2 tsps of sea salt
100g of Greek feta (good quality), cubed
More olive oil
A few Kalamata olives
Black pepper

Place the rusks on a plate, pour a little water on them.
Drown them in olive oil.
Add the tomatoes (first you have skinned them by placing them in boiling water, cutting a cross in the top, skinning them and crushing them)
Then top with oregano, sea salt, feta and bung a bit more olive oil for good measure.
Finish with black pepper.

Serve immediately.

I'm on this trip courtesy of #discovergreece, the Blue Palace hotel, and Aegean Airlines.

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, i.e. 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