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Eynsham Parish Council

Dishes for September

  • Stuffed courgette
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 24/09/2012

    Helen says: “My dear friend auntie Liz grew this courgette on her Eynsham allotment and was so proud of it that I promised I would bring it five minutes of fame by featuring it on our website recipe page. I think it has become a very happy courgette, particularly as I will eat it for supper. Perhaps there are other allotment holders who would like their vegetables to enjoy five minutes of fame?”

    Gardeners and allotment holders are now harvesting a plethora of squashes, courgettes and marrows that are swelling into all sorts of fascinating shapes and sizes. But what do you do with them all?

    One positive way of using these Autumn vegetables is to stuff them with a tasty filling and bake until done. When served with baked onions or shallots and perhaps a few roast potatoes, you will have a dish to that certainly keeps out the cold. It looks good too.

    To serve 4 people you will need:

    4 medium sized round courgettes

    1lb (450g minced pork)

    1 tspn coriander powder

    1 tspn ground cumin

    1 tspn ground turmeric

    1 piece of fresh ginger size of a walnut - chopped

    1 oz (25g) pine nuts

    1 tspn olive oil

    2 cloves of garlic - chopped fine

    Half an apple chopped fine

    Handful of fresh coriander - chopped fine

    Juice of half a lemon

    Method:

    Turn the oven to 180°C, 400°F and Gas mark 6.

    Slice the top off the courgette, scoop out all the seeds and rub oil inside and all over the skin, then place on a baking tray.

    Place minced pork into frying pan, along with a little oil, and cook over high heat until it begins to brown, throw in the garlic, ginger and spices, stir until exciting and appetising aromas begin to develop.

    Add everything else, including the lemon juice, stir well, pour in about a quarter of a glass of water, and allow to cook until the apple chunks begin to soften.

    Spoon the mix into the courgette; place the lid on the top and cook in the oven for at least 20 minutes, perhaps more. When the filling begins to bubble and the surface of the courgette begins to brown - it’s done.

  • Runner bean pickle
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 31/08/2013

    There comes a moment when you have a glut of runner beans and simply can’t find a use for them - this is the time to think pickles or chutney. Chutneys such as this one are cooked slowly to a jam-like consistency, then matured in the jar for a few weeks to produce a mellow fruity flavour that is a perfect accompaniment to cooked meats and cheeses.

    To fill about 6 pound jars you will need:

    2lb (900g) runner beans sliced thin (peeled weight)

    1lb (450g) onions sliced fine

    425 ml white vinegar

    2 oz (50g) plain white flour

    1 tbspn mustard powder

    ½ teaspn ground black pepper

    ½ teaspn ground turmeric

    5oz (150g) granulated sugar

    ½ teaspn salt.

    Method:

    First cook the beans by placing in a pan with the onions, add a pinch of salt and enough water to cover.

    Mix together the tablespoon of vinegar, the flour and the spices to a paste, then gently add the rest of the vinegar bit by bit and heat gently in another pan.

    Simmer for a few minutes until the flour is cooked and it begins to thicken, then add the sugar and allow to simmer until sugar is dissolved and you have a thick shiny sauce.

    Drain the beans and onions and add to the sauce and stir well, then allow to cook for about 10 minutes.

    Your pickle should be done now and can be spooned into sterilized jars. Seal with vinegar proof cover, and store for at least two weeks, though it is best if left to mature for longer.

  • Essence of British tomatoes
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 15/09/2013

    The first time I tasted this glorious consommé it took my breath away. Never had I experienced such a pure, sensational flavour. It had been prepared by Raymond Blanc and served to celebrate our autumn flavours. Because it is created from the juices of ripe tomatoes it has very little colour and so some chefs add a slice or two of beetroot to the mix to liven it up. Personally I don’t think this is necessary as its flavour speaks for itself.

    To serve 4 people you will need:

    2½ kg ripe tomatoes, preferably plum or cherry - rough chopped

    1 small shallot - diced fine

    1 stick celery - diced fine

    1 clove garlic - diced fine

    Fresh herbs to include 2 sprigs thyme,1 sprig tarragon and handful basil leaves roughly torn

    1 tbsp caster sugar

    1 generous pinch cayenne pepper

    Couple of drops Worcester sauce

    1 muslin straining bag (available on internet at very low prices)

    1 tspn salt.

    Method:

    Place all the ingredients into a large ceramic bowl, mix well together then cover with cling film and let the mix marinate in a cool dark place for about 6 hours.

    Pulse the mixture in batches in liquidizer until roughly chopped, but not mushy.

    Pour the mix into the straining bag that has been placed over a large bowl that will catch the drips.

    After about half an hour most of the tomato essence will have dripped into the bowl. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Store essence in a cool place until time to serve. Don’t waste the pulp, it can be frozen and used as a flavouring agent for stews and casseroles another day.

    Although the essence can be served in a small soup bowl, and decorated with diced tomato flesh and basil leaves, it is usually served just as it is in ornate demitasse cups and drunk as one would drink an espresso.

  • Tomato crumble
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 06/09/2012

    If you have a glut of home grown tomatoes and are looking for a tasty way of using them up, turning them into a crumble that can be served alongside the main dish works very well. This is a dish that you can make up as you go along - if you feel like adding a crunch to the crumble, a small sprinkling of sesame seeds, or rolled oats, chopped or walnuts can be stirred into the crumble mix. Herbs such as thyme can be added to the tomatoes for extra flavour.

    To serve 4 people you will need:

    4 oven-proof ramekin dishes

    1lb (450g) ripe tomatoes peeled and chopped

    4oz (110g) plain flour

    1 oz (25g) soft butter

    1oz (25g) grated cheese - Parmesan if possible

    1 clove garlic - chopped fine

    Splash of extra virgin olive oil

    4 sprigs basil

    Salt and freshly ground black peppercorns to season

    4 cherry tomatoes for garnish (optional)

    Method:

    Turn the oven to 180°C / 350°F or gas mark 4

    Mix the chopped garlic into the tomatoes, along with the basil leaves that have been torn into small pieces, splash in a drop of olive oil for taste, season the mix and divide among the four ramekin dishes.

    Mix together the flour, butter, and grated cheese together, (adding extra ingredients such as chopped nuts, herbs and seeds if you wish).

    Season this mixture and spoon over the top of the tomatoes. Place a cherry tomato on top as a garnish (optional, but does look attractive)

    Place the dishes onto a flat tray and cook for about 15 minutes, until the mix begins to bubble and the topping begins to brown.

    Remove and serve hot as a side dish.

  • Warm figs with honey
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 31/08/2012

    Figs taste so good, especially when eaten when picked straight off the tree on a warm day, that you don’t really need to do much to them. However, they do taste rather special when a little honey flavoured with thyme is poured over them, after they have been cooked in the oven until their juices begin to ooze.

    To serve 4 people you will need:

    8 ripe figs

    2 tbspns of runny honey

    2 tbspns of water

    A couple of sprigs of thyme – leaves removed from the stalks.

    Method:

    Turn the oven to 180°C / 350°F or gas mark 4.

    Insert a knife into the top of each fig and make a cut like a cross, cutting almost (but not quite) down to the base and place the figs into a roasting pan.

    Allow the figs to cook for about 10 minutes or until juices begin to ooze.

    While the figs are cooking place the water, honey and thyme leaves into a pan and gently heat until water and honey have mixed and the thyme leaves have infused the liquid with their fragrance.

    Remove figs from the oven, spoon the honey mix over the figs, and serve while warm.

  • Figs and blue cheese
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 31/08/2012

    Figs and blue cheese were made for each other. The combination of salty blue cheese and sweet ripe figs, to which a few chopped walnuts and some Parma ham have been added is heavenly. There are loads of different ways of mixing them together. You can pierce a hole in the side of a ripe fig, push some blue cheese into the hole and bake in a moderate oven for a short while until the cheese melts. You can serve them both as they are, sliced and offered as nibbles with a glass of dry rose wine, or cut the figs into quarters, lay out like a star, add a blue cheese topping and grill until toasted for a warm tasty starter.

    To cook the fig as pictured you will need:

    One fig for every person

    1 dspn crumbled blue cheese for each fig

    Two or three walnuts per fig, broken into small pieces

    Olive oil

    Balsamic vinegar

    Small slice of Parma ham on which to lay each fig

    Method:

    Cut into the fig from the top, taking the knife almost to the bottom to obtain four quarters.

    Open up the quarters and lay each one on top of a slice of Palma ham which has been placed on a baking tray.

    Sprinkle the cheese and walnut pieces on top of each fig.

    Dribble a little balsamic vinegar over each fig, also a little olive oil.

    Place under the grill and cook until the cheese begins to bubble and brown. Remove from the heat and serve while warm.

  • Tomato jam pepped up with chillies
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 26/08/2012

    This jam is a great way of using up an end of season glut which includes red ripe tomatoes, mild red chillies and perhaps one or two hot chillies too. This makes a great Christmas gift, particularly if you add a box of savoury biscuits and perhaps some cheese.

    To fill 4 sterilized 9oz jars you will need:

    14oz (400g) ripe tomatoes

    14oz (400g) cherry tomatoes

    2 medium onions chopped very fine

    3 large mild red chillies deseeded, chopped very fine (add half a small fiery chopped chilli too if you want to give it a bit of a ‘kick’)

    2 medium sized onions chopped very fine

    I piece of fresh ginger the size of a large walnut - chopped fine

    9 fl oz white wine vinegar

    10 ½ (300g) soft brown sugar

    2 tsps soy sauce

    1 star anise.

    Method:

    Place chopped onion and tomatoes into a large pan that is standing over a low heat.

    Add to the pan the chillies, ginger, star anise, vinegar and sugar and bring the whole lot to the boil.

    Once the mix has reached boiling point, take it down to a slow simmer and allow the mix to cook for about half an hour.

    When the mixture begins to thicken (such that any marks made by the wooden spoon will leave a pattern over the surface), then add the soy sauce, stir and cook for another couple of minutes then remove from the heat and spoon into warm sterilised jars.

    NOTE: It is worth trying to remove the star anise when you are bottling up, if you can find it!

  • Spicy beans and pears
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 26/08/2012

    This dish is very easy to make and goes very well with cold or hot sliced meat, or grilled fish. The main flavouring agent is fresh chilli, and this is where you have to be cautious, adding only a little chilli the first time you cook this dish. You can add more next time if feel you can cope with a little more heat. Mixing together pears and green beans is Oxford’s celebrity television chef Sophie Grigson’s idea. She says in Germany fruit and vegetables are often combined in one pan for a flavoursome dish. I added the chilli and ginger just because it seemed a good idea.

    To serve 4 people as a side dish you will need:

    9oz (250g) fresh green beans which are in season now

    14oz (350-400g) pears

    ¼ of small red chilli de-seeded and chopped into thin slices

    Piece of fresh ginger size of a walnut, peeled and chopped into thin slices

    1oz (30g) butter

    10 fl oz water

    Salt and freshly ground black pepper

    Method:

    Peel the pears, and cut each one into about six to eight wedges having removed the core and pips.

    Top and tail the beans and place beans and pear slices into saucepan with the water and butter. Toss in the chopped chilli and ginger, place a lid on the pan season and turn the heat up high.

    When the liquid has reached boiling point, remove the lid of the saucepan and keeping the liquid at fast boil continue to cook. Soon the liquid will begin to evaporate - watch the pot at this point as you need to remove it from the stove at the very moment the last of the water has evaporated.

    Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

  • Tomato soup
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 30/08/2008

    Sometimes all the tomatoes seem to turn red at once and soften quickly in the muggy weather. Don’t throw them away! These are the tomatoes you can set aside for soup. They can also be chopped and packed in small bags in the freezer so that they can be used to flavour stews and casseroles during the winter, or you can use them to make a sauce for serving with pasta.

    This soup is easy to make and because it’s chunky it can be used as a main course lunch dish if you wish.

    You will need (for 6 people):

    2lb (900g) ripe tomatoes - chopped

    3 medium onions, chopped fine

    3 sticks celery cut into small dice

    3 medium carrots cut into small dice

    1 clove garlic chopped fine

    1 to 1 ½ pints ( 600 - 900ml) vegetable or chicken stock

    1 bay leaf

    ½ bunch fresh basil chopped

    ½ bunch tarragon chopped

    Salt and freshly ground fresh peppercorns to season

    2fl oz (50ml) olive oil

    1oz (25g) butter

    Parmesan cheese to garnish finished soup (optional).

    Method:

    Place the olive oil and butter in large saucepan and heat gently.

    When the butter has melted add the chopped onions, carrots and celery and sweat for a few minutes until the onions soften.

    Add the chopped garlic, herbs and bay leaf and cook for about five minutes.

    Chop the tomatoes roughly (if you wish, skin them first by dropping them in boiling water for a moment, then pull away the skin which should remove easily).

    Add tomatoes to the pot, cover the pan with a lid and allow to simmer for 15 minutes, stirring now and again to help the tomatoes break up.

    Once the tomatoes have softened you can start adding the stock. How much stock is up to you, which is why it is important not to add it all at once.

    Season to your taste, and let it cook for a further 15 minutes.

    Serve as it is or with a garnish of basil leaves and Parmesan cheese.

  • Cherry Tomato tarte Tatin
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 09/09/2011

    Now is the time to make the most of your cherry tomatoes that are ripening on the vine. As most gardeners know, one moment they are all green, the next they have turned bright red and demanding to be picked.

    This easy-to-make little upside down tart recipe, which is just a variation on a classic French dish made with apples, is an ideal way of using up your cherry tomatoes. The tarts can be served as they are with a green leaf salad, or served as an extra side dish with the main meal.

    To serve 4 people you will need:

    7 oz (200g) puff pastry

    Approximately 50 ripe cherry tomatoes (depending on size)

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    Now is the time to make the most of your cherry tomatoes that are ripening on the vine. As most gardeners know, one moment they are all green, the next they have turned bright red and demanding to be picked.

    This easy-to-make little upside down tart recipe, which is just a variation on a classic French dish made with apples, is an ideal way of using up your cherry tomatoes. The tarts can be served as they are with a green leaf salad, or served as an extra side dish with the main meal.

    To serve 4 people you will need:

    7 oz (200g) puff pastry

    Approximately 50 ripe cherry tomatoes (depending on size)

    4 tablespoons olive oil

    4 dessert-spoons balsamic vinegar

    Salt and freshly ground black peppercorns to season

    4 x 10cm muffin or tart tins

    Method:

    First turn the oven to 425°F / 220°C or gas mark 7, as puff pastry needs to be cooked in a hot oven.

    Divide the olive oil between the tins, swirling it around so that it covers the sides.

    Arrange the tomatoes tightly over the bottom of the dish in a single layer.

    Pour a dessert-spoon of balsamic vinegar into each tin, and lightly season.

    Now divide the puff pastry into four balls and roll each into a 13cm disc.

    Place each over the tomatoes, tucking in the sides to form a lip, then place into the hot oven.

    They should take about 15 minutes to cook and are done when the pastry has turned a golden brown and puffed up.

    When cooked and removed from the oven run a knife round the edges to free the pastry and make the tart easy to turn out.

    You do this by placing a plate on top and inverting the tart quickly so the tomatoes are sunny side up.

  • Sweetcorn blinis
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 07/09/2010

    Sweetcorn is now in season. If you purchase it or are able to pick it fresh from your garden or allotment and eat it within a day of bringing it into the kitchen, you are in for a real treat as the kernels will be succulent and sweet. Leave them hanging about for a few days and you will find that the sugar will begin turning into starch and the corn will begin losing that delicious just-picked taste.

    To make approximately 6 you will need:

    4 oz (125g) ricotta or soft white goat’s cheese

    2 free range eggs

    2oz (50g) self raising flour

    Kernels from 2 sweetcorn cobs

    1 small green chilli - chopped fine

    Handful fresh parsley - chopped fine

    Olive or vegetable oil to fry

    Salt and freshly ground black peppercorns to season

    Method:

    Using a sharp knife cut the kernels from the cobs.

    Beat the eggs and place in a large bowl together with the ricotta, corn kernels, flour, parsley and chopped chilli.

    Add seasoning.

    Mix well, then cover and leave to stand in a cool place for at least 30 minutes.

    Heat a little oil in a large frying pan, and using a dessertspoon, add spoonfuls of the mixture to the pan, allowing them space to spread.

    Cook gently, turning once the underside begins to brown.

    Serve warm as a snack or as part of a main meal.

    NOTE: Coriander can be used instead of parsley for extra flavour.

  • Filled baked squash
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 18/09/2011

    Whilst I have listed ingredients for this recipe, they are but suggestions as this dish is a celebration of harvest and all it brings, which fluctuates according to weather conditions, or the amount of vegetables shared between neighbours.

    The main ingredient of course is a small squash for each person, which can be hollowed out and used as an edible container. It goes without saying that the rump steak can be purchased at Eynsham’s family butchers Richard Golsby, if you are looking for juicy tender steak that melts in the mouth.

    To service 2 people you will need:

    8oz (225g) rump steak

    Two small round squash

    Bunch spring onions, trimmed

    Several mushrooms, quartered

    Handful of spinach leaves

    Several cherry tomatoes

    Clove of garlic - chopped fine

    Half an apple - chopped small

    Oil to fry

    Soy sauce to taste

    Chopped parsley to garnish

    Freshly ground black peppercorns to season.

    Method:

    Using a sharp knife, carefully remove the top of the squash, which can act as a lid when the dish is finished.

    Scoop out flesh from the squash, removing pips and retaining the flesh which can be chopped and added to the filling mix.

    Place the squash upside down in a saucepan of boiling salted water, add the tops and simmer for about 10 minutes or until the flesh begins to soften. Remove and place the right side up in moderate oven having brushed them with oil.

    Prepare the filling by slicing the rump steak into bite size strips and tossing it into a frying pan containing just a small amount of hot oil. Stir and continue to cook until the steak bits begin to brown.

    Now lower the heat a little and add all the vegetables also the apple and flesh from the squash to the pan, only holding back the spinach leaves which are best added last so that they still retain their colour and shape.

    Season the mix with a teaspoon soy sauce and freshly ground black peppercorns.

    Remove the squash from the oven, divide the cooked mixture between them, scatter a little chopped parsley on top, serve with green vegetables.

  • Apple cake
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 04/09/2008

    With the high winds and inclement weather, apples are falling from the trees in their dozens at the moment. Although this means that many are bruised and damaged, it doesn’t mean we have to throw them away. The good bits can be sliced and cooked, then frozen so that the pulp can be used as a pie filling in the winter.

    You can also use some up by adding apple slices to cakes to give them a tasty moist finish. This easy-to-make cake is a great way of using up bruised apples.

    You will need:

    Equivalent of a couple of whole apples

    5oz (150g) caster sugar

    5oz (150g) soft butter or margarine

    8oz (250g) self raising flour

    2 free range eggs

    4 tbspns milk

    Pinch of salt.

    Method:

    Turn the oven to 180°C / 350’F or gas mark 4.

    Cut away the bruised parts of the apples, dice one small and cut other into slices.

    Grease or oil a loaf tin, scatter a little flour onto the oiled surface to prevent sticking.

    Cream the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy, then add the eggs one by one and beat well.

    Fold in the flour, adding enough milk to create a dropping consistency.

    Toss the diced apple into the mix, stir in well and spoon mixture into the cake tin.

    Smooth the surface and garnish with apple slices.

    Bake for about an hour, or until risen and firm to the touch.

    Remove from the oven, but leave in the tin for about five minutes to allow it to settle.

  • Duck breast with apple & blackberries
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 12/09/2010

    Blackberries are so prolific this year that I have picked enough to make several buckets of wine and still have some over to cook with. They go particularly well with duck and when mixed with apple make a splendid sauce that adds a distinctive autumn flavour to a duck breast.

    To serve two people you will need:

    2 duck breasts

    1 medium sized cooking apple

    4 oz (100g) blackberries

    2 medium sized potatoes

    1 clove garlic - chopped fine

    Small bunch parsley - chopped fine

    Oil to fry duck breasts

    Salt and freshly ground black peppercorns to season.

    Method:

    Peel the potatoes and apple and chop into slices.

    Boil the potatoes and half the sliced apple together in salted water until cooked.

    While the apple and potatoes are cooking, heat a little oil in a large frying pan and fry the duck breast at a moderate heat, skin side down.

    When the duck breast skin has begun to turn a golden brown, turn over, reduce the heat and a place a lid on the pan and cook for a further 5 to 8 minutes.

    Strain the cooked potato and apple, retaining the liquid. Mash then stir in the chopped parsley and keep warm while you make the sauce.

    Having removed the duck breasts from the pan, allow them to settle, and use the pan along with remaining residue in which they have been cooked to make the sauce.

    Bring the pan to high heat, stir in half the blackberries and garlic and cook for a moment, before adding the cooking water from the potatoes. With a potato masher, mash the blackberries into the liquid so that they are broken up. This will add colour to the sauce.

    Slice the second apple into thin slices and add to the pan, along with remaining blackberries.

    Taste and season, and cook for a couple of minutes at high heat to soften the apple slices.

    Divide the mashed potato onto two plates. Cut the duck breasts into thick slices and arrange carefully on top of the potato.

  • Apple and sausage roll
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 29/09/2008

    The combination of freshly picked cooking apples and Richard Golsby’s pork sausage meat is great at this time of the year. This dish can be served hot or cold, though it’s best enjoyed straight from the oven.

    For four people you will need:

    1lb (450g) Richard’s pork sausage meat

    2 large Bramley apples

    2 sprigs of sage and extra for garnish

    Salt and freshly ground black peppercorns.

    For the pastry:

    8oz (250g) plain flour

    4oz (125g) soft margarine or butter

    One free range egg - beaten for egg wash

    Pinch of salt

    Sprinkling of salt crystals for garnish (optional).

    Method:

    Turn the oven to 220ºC / 425ºF or gas mark 7.

    Prepare a flat baking tray by rubbing it with oil or margarine, then sprinkling flour over the surface (this prevents the finished dish from sticking).

    Prepare the pastry by placing the flour, salt and margarine/butter into large bowl and rubbing contents between our fingers until it resembles breadcrumbs.

    Add a little chilled water and gradually work into the mix until you have formed a soft dough.

    Cover the pastry with a cloth and leave to rest in a cool place while you prepare the apples.

    Peel and core the apples, cut one into really thin slices and the other into small dice.

    Finely chop the sage leaves.

    Mix together the diced apple, chopped sage, and the sausage meat, season and shape into a flat sausage approximately 12 inches long.

    Roll out the pastry to make a rectangle 14 inches by approximately 8 inches and place it on the baking tray.

    Place the sausage meat in the centre of the pastry and brush the sides with the egg wash.

    Arrange the apple slices along the top of the sausage meat and along the sides.

    Using a sharp knife, make cuts half an inch apart into the pastry either side of the sausage meat at a 45º angle.

    Weave the cut edges together, overlapping each side to create a plaited pattern.

    Brush with egg wash, sprinkle with a pinch or two of salt crystals (optional) and place in the oven for about 25 minutes or until the pastry is a delicious golden brown.

    Remove from the oven, allow the roll to settle for five minutes before removing from the baking tray with a fish slice.

  • Red onion tarte Tatin
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 22/09/2008

    It’s been a good year for onions so make the most of them by cooking this easy to make and very tasty tart. This dish is best if cooked in a 9 inch cast-iron oven-proof pan if you have one. The classic recipes call for perfect red onions of the same size so that they can be cut in half. As onions you grow yourself don’t always conform to size, I’ve made this tart with sliced onions instead. It tastes just as good and looks pretty good too.

    For 4 people you will need:

    2lb (900g) red onions - sliced

    1oz (25g) butter

    1tsp caster sugar

    1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

    Salt and freshly ground black peppercorns to season.

    For the pastry:

    5oz (125g) plain flour

    2oz (50g) butter or margarine

    1oz grated cheddar cheese

    Pinch salt.

    Method:

    Turn the oven to180ºC / 350ºF or Gas mark 4.

    Remove skins from onions and slice thin.

    Melt the butter, add the caster sugar and the onions and cook slowly and gently until the onions begin to brown.

    Add the balsamic vinegar and bring to high heat, so that you reduce liquid by half. Remove from heat and adjust seasoning.

    While the onions are cooking make the pastry by rubbing the butter and flour together with a pinch of salt, until the mix resembles breadcrumbs.

    Add the grated cheese and then gradually form into a dough by adding chilled water until all the crumbs are gathered together. Do not over handle.

    Roll the pastry into a circle that is at least an inch larger than the size of the pan.

    Carefully place the pastry on top of the onion mix, tucking the excess pastry in all round the inside of the pan.

    Place the pan into the preheated oven and allow to cook for about 20 to 25 mins, or until the pastry is crisp and beginning to brown.

    Remove from the oven, allow to settle for a moment or two, then place a plate over the pan and turn it over, so that it’s onion side up.

    This dish is best served warm.

  • Pickled onions
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 26/09/2009

    If you want a few jars of pickled onions to get you through the winter, now is the time to get pickling.

    Shallots are smaller than onions and have a particularly papery skin. They taste slightly milder than most onions and are idea for any savoury dish calling for an onion. But it is only when they are pickled that they really come into their own.

    When processed properly, these crisp, crunchy little treasures transform a plate of cold meat into a feast. They are great with chunks of cheese and crispy bread, too.

    You will need:

    2lb 4oz (1kg) shallots

    4oz (125g) salt

    1 ¾ pints (1 ltr) water

    1 pt (600ml spiced vinegar or 1pt (600ml) white wine vinegar

    And a small pack of mixed pickling spices.

    Method:

    If you wish to spice your own vinegar the easiest way of doing this is to pick up a packed of mixed pickling spices and boil them with the vinegar for 15 minutes according to the instructions on the label, then strain and discard the spices.

    Using a stainless steel knife to prevent the shallots darkening when you cut them, prepare the shallots by removing the outer skin and the root.

    Prepare the brine by mixing water and salt together in a large bowl.

    Place the peeled and trimmed shallots into the brine, cover with a lid or plate and leave for 24 hours.

    Drain the shallots and rinse thoroughly in cold water, to remove the salt, then drain again, patting with kitchen paper to obtain a reasonably dry finish.

    Pack the shallots into cold sterilised jar and top up each jar with cold strained spice vinegar and seal.

    Leave the shallots to mature in a cool dark place - then enjoy.

  • Leek and potato soup
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 26/09/2009

    Leeks are a great winter vegetable, providing you take great care to wash them properly. Ignore the washing process and you will end up with a very gritty dish. After cutting off the root and the greenery, leeks need to be washed under a running tap, until you are sure that all scraps of earth have been removed.

    The best way of cooking leeks is to steam them, but if this is not possible, try cooking them in a pan with a lid, to which you have added a large knob of butter and a splash of water. This method calls for very slow cooking and constant vigilance - if the heat is too high they burn. Add a handful of chopped parsley at the end, and you have a gorgeous dish.

    Turning spare leeks into a soup is a great way of using them up if you find you have too many. I always cook up a big pot of this soup, then freeze half for another day, which is why I have written this recipe for eight. Simply halve the ingredients if you just want soup for four.

    To serve 8 people you will need:

    6 leeks - washed and rough chopped

    3 medium potatoes - peeled, chopped small

    1 small onion

    Handful fresh parsley - chopped fine

    1 tbspn olive oil

    1oz (25g) butter

    1 litre (2pts) chicken or vegetable stock

    500 ml (1pt) milk

    8 tbspns single cream

    Salt and freshly ground black peppercorns to garnish

    Pinch nutmeg (optional - but adds extra flavour).

    Method:

    Prepare leeks, onions, potatoes and parsley and place in a heavy-bottom pan along with the olive oil and butter and cook over a moderate heat, stirring frequently, until they begin to soften - this should take about 10 minutes. Do not allow the mix to brown.

    Add the stock, place a lid on the pan and continue to cook until all vegetables are really tender.

    Remove from heat, allow to cool for a few moments and then zap through the liquidizer.

    Return to the pan, add enough of the milk to provide a reasonably thick consistency, adjust seasoning and bring back to full heat.

    Finish the soup by adding the cream just before serving.

    For a really tasty garnish, try topping it with crispy slices of bacon that have been chopped finely.

  • Baked apple meringue
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 27/09/2009

    This simple-to-make apple recipe adds a twist to the traditional baked apple and is a great way of using up all those extra apples that are around at the moment. Because this calls for the apples to be cut in half before baking, it gives you a chance to use fallers that may have a bruise or two that needs cutting out.

    To serve 4 people you will need:

    4 medium-sized cooking apples

    3 egg whites

    6oz (175g) caster sugar

    1oz (25g) flaked almonds

    1oz (25g) ground almonds mixed with 1oz (25g) caster sugar

    Method:

    Turn the oven to 180°C / 350°F or gas mark 4.

    Prepare the apples by cutting in half horizontally and removing the core.

    Fill the hollows with the ground almond mix.

    Bake for at least 20 minutes or until the apples are almost cooked.

    While the apples are cooking, whisk the egg whites until they become stiff but not dry.

    Gradually stir in the sugar to the whisked egg whites and whisk again.

    Remove the almost-cooked apple halves from the oven and carefully spoon the meringue mix on each one.

    Sprinkle flaked almonds on the meringue and return the apples to the oven.

    Bake for a further six or seven minutes or until the meringue begins to brown slightly.

    Serve hot just as they are, with lashings of double cream.

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