La Différence

La Différence
A passion for food

Monday, 12 September 2016

Braised Lamb Shanks with Autumn Vegetables



The nights here in Cheshire are drawing in.  I don't like to see the end of summer but at the same time I always look forward to the good wholesome, warming meals of autumn and winter.  There's nothing more indulgent to me than a good old lamb casserole especially if I can get hold of some great quality lamb shanks.  The ones pictured here are Welsh Lamb,  to my mind the very best lamb from anywhere in the world.  We're less than an hour away from the Welsh borders so it's also very local.

These shanks were taken from the rear legs so they are really substantial.  We had no problem though eating our huge portion as it was mouth-wateringly tender and absolutely delicious.  I added carrots, parsnips, celeriac, new potatoes and beans from my plot towards the end of the braising but you can add whatever is seasonal.

This makes a great dinner party or supper dish as once it's all in the pot you can put your feet up and enjoy your guests whilst it's cooking. The bonus of course is that it's a one pot meal so there's very little washing up at the end of the evening.

The Ingredients:-  for 4 people

4 lamb shanks
2 large onions Chopped into half moon slices 
4 cloves of garlic crushed
½ pt Passata (pulped tomato) bought or homemade 
2 lamb stock cubes
around ½pt hot water 
1 Tbsp Redcurrant Jelly
2 tbsp oil either olive or rapeseed
few sprigs of fresh Thyme or ½ tsp dried
1 tbsp fresh chopped Rosemary 
1 tsp fresly ground black pepper
1 tsp sea salt ( or to taste)

For the Vegetables I used

2  medium parsnips cut lengthwise into large chips
3 large carrots cut into 2" chunks
1 medium celeriac cut into 1" dice
around 1lb of new potatoes... scrubbed not peeled
a good handful or so of green beans

Method:-

Add 1 tbsp of oil to a large frying pan and fry the lamb shanks until browned on all sides.
Remove from the pan and place in a large ovenproof dish (that has a lid)  I used my cast iron pot.
Add the other tbsp of oil to the pan and gently fry the onions until soft & starting to brown
Add the garlic and cook on for a few minutes
Remove and place into the dish with the lamb shanks
Add the red wine to the frying pan and stir up all those meaty, oniony bits left
Then add the Passata and stock cubes that have been dissolved in the hot water,
the Redcurrant Jelly, Rosemary and Thyme leaves, salt & pepper... stir well together.
Now pour everything into the pot with the lamb shanks & onions.

The liquid should come around half way up the lamb shanks...add a little more water if they don't but don't cover the lamb completely or you will be stewing it instead of braising.  Place a firm fitting lid on the pot.

Place in the centre of a moderate oven 200C/400F for the first half an hour then turn down to 140C/275F and braise for around 1½ hours.

Remove from the oven and add all the chopped vegetables except the green beans.  Return to the oven and cook until the vegetables are tender...probably another hour.  Then add the green beans and cook on for 15-20 minutes when it should be ready for serving.

Check the seasoning and adjust according to your taste.

You can thicken the gravy slightly if you prefer it that way by adding 2 teaspoons of cornflour slaked in a little water.

Either serve immediately or this dish is perfect reheated as and when you need it.





    
  


Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Courgette/Zucchini & Lime Cake with Pistachios





If you prefer to measure your ingredients rather than weigh them here's a detailed Conversion Chart





  • 2½ oz/ 75g raisins soaked in 2 tbsp Rum or Bacardi for an hour or so

  • 9 oz/ 250g courgettes/ zucchini (2-3) weighed before grating... I used yellow courgettes but green will do just as well 

  • 3 medium eggs

  • 4 fl oz/ 125ml veg oil

  • 5 oz/  140g caster sugar

  • 8 oz/ 225g self-raising flour

  • the grated zest of 1 lime 

  • ½ tsp cream of tartar

  • ½ tsp baking powder

  • FOR THE FROSTING

  • 4 oz / 100g cream cheese

  • 6 to 8oz / 175g/ 225g icing/confectioners sugar, sieved ( you may need more icing sugar depending on the moistness of the cheese and the amount of juice in your lime)  
  •  
  • juice of ½ lime & the zest of a whole lime 

  • this frosting is best placed in the fridge for an hour or so before attempting to ice your cake with it

  • 2-3 tablespoons chopped pistachio nuts to top the cake

  • I've posted this in both Imperial & Metric Weight I have a Conversion chart on my blog if you would like to make this in cups.Detailed Conversion Chart






  • Method:- (adaptation of a River Cottage recipe)

    preheat oven 180 deg/350 f. gas 4

    grease & line the base of a 2lb loaf tin with baking parchment

     If using raisins, put into bowl and cover with a couple of tbsp rum or Bacardi to plump up. Put eggs, oil and sugar in bowl and beat until creamy. Sieve in the flour, cream of tartar and baking powder and continue to beat until combined. Stir in grated zucchini/courgette and add  raisins & lime zest. Pour mix a 2lb loaf tin, greased and lined and bake for around 40 minutes or until golden & firm to the touch.. Turn out and let cool completely.

     To make the icing beat cream cheese and in a bowl until smooth, add the sieved icing sugar and then stir in the lime juice & zest, beat well. Leave the frosting in the fridge for at least an hour until it starts to thicken , spread over the top of the loaf .  Put cake in fridge for a little to firm up then sprinkle over with the pistachios.

    While researching this recipe I found another fabulous one, where the cake cake batter was split into two sandwich tins and baked. It was then filled with lime curd and then topped with the lime frosting and pistachios. Sounded totally lush to me.   



    Sunday, 21 August 2016

    Parmesan and Courgette/Zucchini Quiche with Parmesan Pastry and CherryTomatoes

                    Parmesan and Courgette/Zucchini Quiche with Parmesan Pastry & Baby Tomatoes


    Even though the summer's been cold and wet  the courgettes are still producing well at my allotment.  This recipe is perfect for the ones that have grown a little too big.  I used 2 courgettes for this recipe, both were about  9"/23cms in length.  I also had lots of little Sweet 100 tomatoes ready although any cherry tomatoes will do nicely. 

    This dish is just gorgeous... if you love cheese as much as I do then it's a real winner. 
    The pastry is rich crisp and cheesy, so delicious and the filling is just lovely.  It's best  served warm or at room temperature.. as with most quiches when the flavours have had time to meld together. 

    I made Parmesan pastry but feel free to use your own shortcrust pastry recipe or shop bought if you need to. 

    The recipe will serve 4 good portions for lunch or 6 quite comfortably for a starter.  The recipe should make around  10-12 muffin sized smaller quiches if preferred.

    You will need a deep 9"/ 23cm greased loose bottomed quiche tin ( or just the same size pie dish if you don't want to remove the quiche) Baking Beans & Parchment Paper

    Parmesan Pastry

    40gms/ 1½oz /  ½ cup of freshly, finely grated Parmesan Cheese (use Cheddar if you prefer)
    225gms/ 7oz/ 1½cups plain flour  (all purpose)
    150gms/ 5oz / ½cup + 1tbsp cold butter 
    1 level tsp mustard powder or Cayenne Pepper
    1 level tsp Sea salt
    1 large egg beaten
    (a little ice cold water may be needed if the dough won't come together)

    The Filling

    2 large courgettes mine were 9" 23cms  coarsely grated  or 4 regular sized ones
    1 large onion finely diced
    2 large Garlic Cloves minced
    1 tbsp Olive Oil
    4 Large Eggs 
    250ml/ 8fl oz /1 cup Whipping/Pouring Cream
    100gms/ 3½oz/ 1 cup Freshly grated Parmesan Cheese (save a little for sprinkling the top) use Cheddar if you prefer 
    A few good grinds of the Black Pepper Mill
    1 tsp of Sea Salt
    1 tbsp Fresh Thyme leaves or 1 tsp dried thyme
    around a dozen cherry tomatoes (optional)

    To make the Pastry

    Sieve the flour, mustard/cayenne & salt into a mixing bowl
    Cube the butter into small pieces and add to the flour
    Using your fingertips rub the butter into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs
    Add the Parmesan to the bowl and combine with the flour & butter "breadcumbs" 
    Beat the egg
    Make a well in the centre of the bowl and place the beaten egg into it
    Carefully bring together to make a soft ball of dough
    If it doesn't come together add a tiny drop of cold water and try again.  Don't add too much at a time..the dough will be ruined if too wet.
    Wrap the dough in cling film...flatten it slightly and leave to rest for at least ½ hour or until you need it.
    Remove the dough from the fridge and roll out on a floured surface until quite thin 
    Line your greased tin with it overlapping the edges and tucking the pastry carefully into the corners
    Prick over with a fork
    Scrumple up the baking parchment and cover with the baking beans
    Pop back into the fridge for around 10 mins 
      
    While it's chilling heat up your oven to 220c/ 425f/ gas 7

    When the oven is hot place the pastry case on the centre shelf and bake for around 15 minutes,  remove the paper & beans and if the pastry is still not cooked through pop back in until it's lightly brown all over.
    Trim off the overlapping edges with a sharp knife ( I always scoff these straight away ...cooks perks)


    Reduce the heat 180c/  350f /gas 4



    The Filling:

    After grating the Courgettes place them in the middle of a clean Tea Towel and squeeze out as much water as you can.
    Add the olive oil to a frying pan on a low heat.
    Throw in the onions and fry gently until starting to soften
    Add in the garlic and continue to cook until completely soft and translucent but not brown
    Beat the eggs in a large bowl, add the cream, Parmesan, Black Pepper & Thyme 
    Add the onions & garlic and the courgettes
    Mix well together and carefully pour the mixture into the pastry case
    Sprinkle over the little grated  Parmesan that you saved 
    Cut the tomatoes in half and place around the edge of the quiche 
    Place the quiche tin onto an oven tray and put onto the centre shelf of the oven
    Bake for around 25 minutes..maybe a little more or less but the top should be beautifully golden and the centre set.
    Place on a cooling rack...don't be tempted to remove it from the tin until it's relatively cool.

    Serve warm or at room temperature

    I served this with a mixed green salad and a few warm new potatoes 

    I hope you enjoy it as much as we did ♥



    If you would like more posts like this then please help &  leave me a comment below 





      



      
       


       





    Sunday, 14 August 2016

    Courgette/Zucchini Pakoras with minted yoghurt dip


    I always seem to have a glut of Courgettes/Zucchini at this time of the year. I planted up six, two yellow and four green and they are just so prolific that I've been scouting high & low for some new recipes. I'm turning a few into a courgette & blueberry cake later, it's a bit of an experiment but hey ho, if you don't try you'll never know.

    Now I love Indian food and any kind of Pakora is my kind of Pakora. I've grated up around 6 courgettes for this recipe. Every last drop of water needs to be squeezed out of them otherwise a soggy greasy mess will ensue. If you try this yourself then please leave the courgettes to one side even when you think you can't possibly get any more water out. 5 minutes later you'll find you can.

    Okay here we go.

    5/6 medium sized courgettes/zucchini coarsely grated by hand* placed into a sieve and 1 tsp of salt sprinkled over then mixed in. Place over a bowl and leave for a least 1 hour. Rinse under the tap and keep squeezing until absolutely no more water comes out.
    4 tbsp Gram (Chick Pea) Flour
    1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
    2 eggs separated, lightly whisk the whites just before you fold in
    1 large red chilli finely chopped you can leave the seeds in if you like it hot
    2 tbsp chopped coriander/cilantro (if you don't like coriander I'd recommend half parsley, half mint)
    2 spring onions/scallions finely sliced
    2 garlic cloves minced
    1 tsp Black Onion (Kalongi) seeds (Optional)
    1½ tsp salt
    2 heaped tsps pre-prepared curry powder (I used Sharwoods medium Madras) or you can make your own favourite blend.
    black pepper to taste
    around 1½" of sunflower/veg oil place in the bottom of a frying pan/skillet and heated to a medium-high heat
    Sea salt flakes to sprinkle when cooked.



     * Grate the courgettes by hand, a processor seems to make them too wet for me



    Place in a sieve over a colander, sprinkle with salt and leave for at least one hour.


    Rinse, then squeeze out every last drop of water

    Add the curry, chilli, spring onion, coriander, seasoning, gram flour & baking powder and the egg yolks, beat the egg whites until stiff but still light and fold in. You should have a thick dropping consistancy, if it's way to thick then just add a drop of fizzy water to help to loosen everything up.

    Heat the oil and test with a little of the mixture. It should bubble up straight away. Don't have the oil too hot, just a steady medium heat.
    Place dessert spoonfuls in the hot oil about 6 at a time. Fry for just a 2 or 3 minutes a side until golden brown and crispy. Drain onto kitchen towel
    Sprinkle over a touch of sea salt.
    These are best served hot, but they can be reheated in a hot oven for around 5 minutes. They also freeze well if you don't plan to use them straight away. Defrost and bake in a hot oven for around 8 minutes.

    For the minted yoghurt

    ½ tub of Thick Greek Yoghurt (I used Total) 2%
    2 tps concentrated Mint without the vinegar or 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh mint
    1 crushed clove of garlic
    a little seasoning

    Just mix everything together and it's ready to go.


    Wednesday, 10 August 2016

    Apricot, Amaretti, Chocolate Crunch Cake


    If like me you're a fan of those deliciously bitter sweet Almond Amaretti biscuits then you're going to love this cake,  A deliciously different bake with the tang of fresh apricots, creaminess of dark chocolate along with the crunch and nuttiness of the Amaretti. I've adapted the recipe from a leaflet that I picked up in Waitrose a while back...sometimes these little giveaway recipes are a real treasure to find.

    Here's a little bit of the interesting history of these wonderful little Italian Almond Macaroons that I have sourced from Wikipedia. I didn't realise that they had such a romantic connotation or that the actual crushed kernels of the apricot stone were often used to make these darling morsels.
                       ______________________________________________________________

     Amaretti di Saronno (singular amaretto di Saronno) refer to an amaretto (almond flavored) macaroon that is traditional to Saronno, a comune of Lombardy, Italy. It is one of many types of traditional amaretto biscuits.
    The Amaretti di Saronno are widely available commercially, most notably through the brand Lazzaroni. Amaretti di Saronno are unrelated to Amaretto liqueur, which is produced by two other companies based in Saronno - ILLVA and PLF.
    The invention of this amaretto has received an amorous Renaissance treatment. In the early 18th century, a Milanese bishop or cardinal surprised the town of Saronno with a visit. A young couple, residents of the town, welcomed him and paid tribute with an original confection: on the spur of the moment, they had baked biscuits made of sugar, egg whites, and crushed apricot kernels or almonds. These so pleased the visiting bishop that he blessed the two with a happy and lifelong marriage, resulting in the preservation of the secret recipe over many generations.
                                        ____________________________________________


     THE CAKE:-  

    It's a really easy throw everything together recipe that takes only minutes to prepare. We enjoyed this over the weekend with our late morning coffee instead of our normal brunch but it certainly can be eaten at any time of the day and would make the perfect dinner time dessert when served with a dollop of mascarpone.

    If you prefer to measure your ingredients rather than weigh them here's a detailed conversion chart




    THE INGREDIENTS:-

    200 gms Skinned and chopped fresh Apricot flesh ( approximately 4 large or 6 small fruits chopped into 1" cubes)
    50 gms dark chocolate chips
    150 gms Amaretti (roughly crushed)
    125 gms Plain flour
    1½ tsp Baking Powder
    100gms Ground Almonds
    3 eggs beaten
    175 gms unsalted butter ( at room temperature)
    175 gms caster (superfine sugar)
    A little Icing (Confectioners Sugar) to dust
    A chopped apricot to decorate (optional)

    Butter and line a 20cm baking tin (preferably with a loose base) with baking parchment..

    Set the oven to 150c 300F Gas 2

    METHOD:-

    Place the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder, almonds and eggs into a large bowl and beat together either with a whisk or by hand until well combined.

    Now fold in carefully ¾ of the chocolate chips, ¾ of the chopped apricots and ¾ of the Amaretti biscuits.

    Place the batter into the prepared tin ...level it and then roughly scatter over the  remaining chocolate chips, apricots & Amaretti.

    Place in the centre of the pre-heated oven and bake for approximately 1 hour 20 minutes.  Check to make sure there is no wobble in the centre of the cake, Test with a skewer if it comes out clean it's ready. Test at 7 minute intervals if it isn't quite baked through.

    Leave in the tin on a wire rack until quite cold.  Remove the parchment paper and it's ready to serve
    Dust with icing sugar and decorate with a chopped apricot (Optional)

    We served ours with deliciously creamy Mascarpone on the side

       











        


    Monday, 8 August 2016

    Warm Halloumi Salad with Pomegranate and Walnuts





    Halloumi is known as squeaky cheese in this household...after you've tried it you'll know why.  It's a fabulously different cheese originating in Cyprus, sometimes made from Goat's milk but mainly Cow's milk... it doesn't melt when cooked even at high temperatures so it's perfect for grilling or frying.  It's a brined cheese so it's deliciously salty .. the pomegranate certainly cuts through this saltiness and is a perfect accompaniment along with the toasted walnuts that give that pleasant slightly bitterness to the dish. You should find it at most supermarkets these days if not try your local Deli.  Another alternative would be to use Paneer the lovely Indian Cheese.

     If you've not tried griddled Little Gem Lettuce then you're in for a real treat...it's a revelation..so sweet & tender. Just make sure you serve it immediately to keep that beautiful green colour.    
    Try it served with some Lebanese flatbread...it's just wonderful.




    To serve 2 as a light main course  or 3/4 as a starter

    2 or 3 little gem lettuces. Each cut into quarters lengthwise and keeping the stem intact
    1 Pomegranate  ( tip.....roll the fruit on a firm surface, cut in half and tap the bottom of the fruit with a wooden spoon...over a bowl and the seeds will come out easily)   & save any juice, just add to the dressing. Alternatively you can find them already prepared in the salad aisle.
    250g packet of Halloumi Cheese cut across into 8 equal slices
    50g of toasted walnuts or pine nuts if preferred
    a few baby tomatoes sliced in half
    a little olive oil for cooking
    A little chopped mint, flat leaved parsley or coriander leaves to dress


    the dressing (just whisk everything below together)

    1 tbsp Pomegranate Molasses (*see below for a substitute)
    1 tbsp red wine vinegar
    1 clove of garlic
    1 dsp runny honey
    1 tbsp olive oil
    salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

    Method

    Brush the cheese slices on both sides with a little olive oil
    Do the same with the lettuce
    While heating a griddle pan to very hot mix the pomegranate seeds and the nuts into the dressing.

    Griddle the cheese until lightly browned on both sides but turning just the once   remove from the pan and keep warm
    Using the same hot griddle, sear the lettuce quarters and tomatoes. The lettuce should be slightly charred. Add any remaining juices to the salad dressing.

    Arrange the lettuce the plates, place 4 slices of Halloumi on each and spoon over the dressing.
    Sprinkle over some chopped, coriander, mint or parsley and serve immediately.

    * if you can't get hold of Pomegranate Molasses substitute with 2 tsps honey, 2 tsps good Balsamic vinegar
    It won't be quite the same but a really good alternative




    Sunday, 31 July 2016

    Gluten-free Peach & Almond Cake





    It's that time of year again when beautifuI stoned fruits are cheap & plentiful.  I love to make the most of any seasonal ingredient so when delicious peaches, nectarines and apricots become available I'm so very happy.

    I tweaked a recipe I regularly use to make this cake. Based on a  the River Cafe Apple & lemon cake. I've substituted the apple & lemon for peaches & almonds and wheat flour for rice flour to make it totally gluten-free.

    This is a great dessert cake for any coeliacs out there. The cake has ground almonds & rice flour instead of regular flour but you could also just substitute the rice flour for gluten-free self-raising flour. If you don't have to worry about the gluten just use regular SR flour. 

    You will need a 23cm loose bottomed tin, buttered and lined with parchment paper

    Set the oven to 150c/300f/gas2

    If you prefer to measure your ingredients rather than weigh them, then here's a Detailed  Conversion Chart... just click onto the link.

    >
    Ingredients
    >

    4 medium sized ripe but still firm peaches

    150gms/5oz ground almonds

    110gms/4oz unsalted butter melted

    300gms/11oz caster sugar

    ½ tsp almond extract

    2 large freerange eggs

    6 tbsp rice flour and   

    1 tsp gluten-free baking powder   (sift the 2 ingredients together)      
    (or substitute the rice flour & baking powder for 6 tbsps gluten-free SR flour or 6 tbsp regular SR flour)

    extra tbsp caster sugar for sprinkling over the cake

    a handful of flaked almonds to top

    METHOD:-
    >
    Blanch the peaches and remove the skin
    Cut in half and stone them
    Slice thinly into slices
    >
    Beat the eggs and sugar together until thick & creamy
    Slowly add the melted butter & almond extract mixing well
    Fold in the ground almonds, rice flour, baking powder
    Add 2/3rds of the sliced peaches reserving the remainder for the top and mix gently through the batter
    >
    Pour into the prepared tin
    scatter over the remaining peaches and sprinkle with the tbsp caster sugar and the flaked almonds
    >
    place in the centre of the oven and bake for approximately 1 hr 20 mins -1 hr 30 mins
    Check after  1 hour 10 mins  but mine has always taken a while longer
    This is a moist cake but a skewer should still come out clean when inserted into the centre of the cake.
    >
    remove from the oven and leave in the tin until completely cold.
    I like to put the cooled cake in the fridge for an hour or so, it makes it so much easier to slice. If you can't wait just dig in
    Remember this is a dessert although it would make a great afternoon tea.
     It's delicious with whipped Cream or Greek Yoghurt in fact I had the last slice of this one for a cheeky little breakfast this morning with my coffee  shhhh!!!! don't tell a soul






    Mmmm!!! so delicious