Monthly Archives: September 2013

Fatty Prawns and Borlottis

I went to the market today  and bought five fatty prawns. This was even though I am home alone. Home alone with a bowlful of fresh borlotti beans that is. Prawns and borlotti beans are a mean combination and one that I hanker over each autumn when the borlotti beans are ready. It’s such a small window of opportunity to have the fresh beans and find fatty prawns at the same time that even though it seemed slightly sad that I cooked this all for myself  I had to go for it.


I cracked the heads off of the prawns and put them into large pot with a little olive oil and roasted them for a few minutes before bashing them with the end of a rolling pin. When they were well bashed I put enough water to cover, half a diced onion and a stick of celery and bought it to the boil. Once it was bubbling away I turned it to simmer.


The borlotti beans were podded and popped into a pot with a couple of shallots and cooked for twenty minutes. Once they were tender I tossed them in olive oil and a little salt.


The prawn bodies were butterflied and left to relax in a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil, some chopped garlic and black pepper – this is one of the best ever ways to cook fatty prawns.IMG_3109

I drained the prawn heads. it had reduced down and there was about half a cupful of stock.

In a small pan a I cooked half a diced onion in a little olive oil then stirred in a clove of chopped garlic then I stirred in a grated a ripe tomato – a clever Spanish trick – and the half cupful of stock.


I let this all bubble away whilst I heated a pan and the cooked the prawns

First belly down

Then belly upIMG_3113

I seasoned the sauce, put a puddle on the plate , then a little heap of borlotti beans and piled the prawns on top.


Yum! Absolutely yum!  Even if I do say so myself – mind you my kitchen is trashed and I’m feeling very stuffed!

Aubergine Adventures


I was walking around the garden trying to decide on a recipe for this month. My first thought was the quinoa, which we have harvested and have stretched out to dry in the tunnel. Then of course there is also an inviting collection of pumpkins, which we’ll be eating for most of the winter. But when I walked into the tunnel and saw our mighty crop of aubergines it became obvious that this was the vegetable of the moment. We grew three different varieties of aubergines this year. Long mauve Thai ones, long skinny dark purple Chinese ones and chunky stripy Spanish ones and they are all ready to eat.


One of my first culinary adventures was to make a moussaka in a domestic science class at school. It’s a Greek dish that uses minced lamb and aubergines. I hadn’t got a clue what I was doing but was I was curious, it sounded so exotic.

My mum scoured the town for aubergines, which were relatively uncommon at that time, and I carted all the ingredients into school on a bus. The instructions must have said something like ‘fry the aubergine in oil’ which I followed to a T, pouring in more oil as the aubergine drank it up like a sponge. The resulting dish was quite disgusting and nobody wanted to eat it.

I have since learnt to salt the aubergines, not so much to eliminate any bitterness, but to slow down the oil absorption. And for a dish like moussaka I now brush the aubergines with oil and roast them in the oven rather than fry them in the pan..

Aubergines cooked this way have a wonderful velvety ‘meatiness’ which paired with Puy lentils makes a great vegetarian dish.

Puy lentils are King in the lentil world. –  also known as the caviar of lentils. They are grown in the sunny volcanic region of Auvergne in France and are protected with a designation of origin status (AOC).

They are more expensive than the other lentils but the beauty of these little blue/green gems is that they hold their shape when cooked.

Saying that, do cook them carefully. They don’t require any soaking and will take about twenty minutes. I start checking just before the twenty minute mark – just pop one in your mouth and if it’s tender they are done..


Vegetarian Moussaka

125g Puy lentils

1 bay leaf

2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1-2 onions

2 sticks celery

2 cans tomatoes

2-3 aubergines

fresh basil or oregano

olive oil

3 eggs

225g ricotta

200ml cream

75g grated parmesan

Put the lentils into a pan and cover them with water, add the bay leaf. and bring to the boil. Turn down to simmer, cover with a lid and cook for 20 mins, until the lentils are tender. Drain off any remaining liquid and discard the bay leaf.

Slice the aubergines lengthwise , not too skinny as they’ll shrink slightly whilst cooking – a little less than a centimetre thick. Sprinkle with a little salt and leave them to sweat for about half an hour

Pre heat the oven to 180c.

Dab the liquid that will have accumulated on the aubergines with kitchen paper or a clean t-towel to dry them off.

Oil a large oven tray. Slice the aubergines lengthwise and lay on the tray. Brush the tops of the aubergines with olive oil.

Bake in the oven for about 15=20 mins. The aubergines should be soft but not crispy.

Peel and chop the onion, chop the celery and sautee together in a little olive oil When they are soft and translucent add the chopped garlic and cook for a couple of minutes longer then add the tomatoes and cook for about 30 mins. Stir in the drained lentils and season with salt and pepper. Add the chopped basil or oregano.

In a bowl mash the ricotta together with the eggs then beat in the cream. Stir in the grated Parmesan and season.

To assemble the moussaka pour 1/3rd of the tomato lentil mix into an oven proof dish. Cover with a layer of aubergines then 1/3rd more of the tomato lentil mix, another layer of aubergines and then the remaining lentil mix. Pour the egg mix over and bake in the oven for approx 25 mins, until the topping has risen and is golden.

Feeds 6 hungry people

Apple Mania


This summer has produced some fantastic fruit. Right now the hedgerows are filling with ripe blackberries and the garden has an incredible amount of apples. The apple trees are espaliered around the wall and some are really ancient – they’ve certainly been here longer than we have – and produce both fragrant eating apples and gnarled knobbly cooking apples. We have also planted lots of crisp juicy eating apples in our time here and these trees are literally drooping with apples.

We have been picking up the windfalls and our kitchen has buckets of apples lined up against one wall. This has started an apple cooking frenzy. We have apple chutney, apple compote, apple muffins and apple tart tatin on the go.


In our house one of autumn’s special treats is an apple tart tatin. They have to be the ‘queen’ of apple tarts and they also use an impressive amount of apples to make each tart, so are ideal in the apple consuming quest. To make a tart tatin the apples are gently caramelised in butter and sugar, then covered with pastry and baked. When the tart cools it’s tipped out onto a platter so the apples sit on top. It tastes divine. I wouldn’t normally be an apple tart person but these are the business. To prevent ourselves from dying of tart over consumption we are sharing these with the shop so if you would like to try a slice pop in and get a piece.


I was going to write the tart tatin recipe but when I sat down to write it I realised it was a bit tricky. It’s one of these recipes that you really need to see to unlock the secret.


Amidst all this apple mania I have been experimenting with muffin recipes. Muffins are a North American invention and the recipes are so simple that it’s possible to imagine early pioneers with very little in the way of a kitchen knocking these out. No fancy equipment needed, just bowls, a wooden spoon and an oven. Here’s one of my successful culinary creations: apple and blackberry muffins.

Apple and Blackberry Muffins.


100g whole wheat flour

125g white flour

225mls natural yoghurt or sour cream

125g butter

2 eggs

1 dsp ground cinnamon

1tsp baking powder

1 tsp bread soda

125g light muscovado sugar or light brown sugar

2-3 eating apples

1 large cup of blackberries

A little extra sugar for the top of the muffins


Pre heat the oven 180c

Grease a twelve-portion muffin tin with butter or line with muffin cases.

Melt the butter in a small pan then put aside.

Put the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and sugar into a large bowl and mix together.

Beat the eggs together with the yoghurt or sour cream.

Peel the apples and chop into small pieces.

Tip the egg/yoghurt mix, chopped apples and blackberries and melted butter into the dry ingredients and mix briefly. Put a large spoonful of the mixture into each muffin case. Sprinkle the top with a little muscovado sugar then bake for 20-25mins.

Check the muffins by inserting a clean sharp knife; if it comes out clean the muffins are ready.