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Eynsham Parish Council

Dishes for May

  • Fluffy strawberry pancakes
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 13/05/2013

    If you are used to making a rather thin pancake batter, the thickness of this mix may alarm you. Worry not, it needs to be thick in order to hold its shape when cooking and because these pancakes are indeed thick (well at least ½) an inch) when cooked, which is why they are so special.

    They can be served with lashings of maple syrup and extra butter or with crushed strawberries or any other seasonal fruit.

    To make 6 to 8 pancakes you will need:

    4 ¾ oz (135g) Self Raising flour

    1 level tspn baking powder

    2 tbspn caster sugar

    4 ½ fl oz milk

    1 large free range egg

    2 tbspn olive oil and extra to fry pancakes

    Generous pinch salt

    Strawberries, maple syrup or melted butter to finish dish

    Caster sugar to mix with crushed strawberries.

    Method:

    Mix together the dry ingredients - flour, sugar, baking powder, salt.

    Beat the egg into the milk, stir in the oil and then pour this mix into the dry ingredients.

    Stir until you obtain a very thick batter which should be set to one side in a cool place to settle for at least ten minutes before frying the pancakes.

    Heat a little oil in a frying pan, add a ladle of the batter mix and allow it to cook until bubbles begin to form on the top, turn and cook the other side.

    These pancakes can be kept warm until needed, but they are best when eaten straight from the pan.

    Serve with ripe strawberries that have been crushed to a liquid with a little caster sugar. These strawberries can be strained and served as a smooth sauce, but are great when little lumps of strawberry are part of the mix.

  • Lemony asparagus with almonds
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 19/04/2014

    This dish is easy to prepare and easy to cook. Whilst it makes for a perfect accompaniment to chicken or fish, it can also be enjoyed on its own as a first course. To get the most from this dish serve it straight from the pan the moment it is cooked and while swimming in the lemony, buttery juices. A pile of crusty bread slices to dip into the juices is an optional extra.

    To serve 4 as a side dish you will need:

    1 kg freshly harvested asparagus

    100g butter

    Juice of ½ lemon

    Fine grated zest of 1 lemon

    Handful of slithered almonds

    Sea salt to season

    Method:

    Trim woody parts from the asparagus.

    Roast the slithers of almond in a small pan until they take on a soft brown colour. Remove from the pan when cooked to prevent them overcooking.

    Poach the asparagus in a pan of salted water until tender but still crisp - 7 minutes should be enough.

    Remove asparagus from pan and drain on kitchen paper.

    Melt the butter and the lemon juice, but do not overheat.

    Arrange the asparagus spears on a warm dish, scatter the almonds over them, also the grated lemon zest, then pour on the butter and lemon mix.

  • Asparagus spears dipped in warm Camembert
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 06/05/2013

    It’s the time for us all to spoil ourselves and make the most of the spring sunshine while we can. Sitting under the apple tree with a dish of asparagus and a small tub of melted Camembert in which you can dunk the spears is heaven, particularly if you have placed a bottle of gutsy red wine such as Errazuriz’s Max Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon on the table.

    Asparagus is one of those vegetables that goes particularly well with intense full bodied wines such as this, especially if the asparagus has been cooked on a griddle pan or barbecue and is nicely charred.

    To serve 2 people as a nibble you will need:

    Small boxed Camembert (250g will do well)

    1 bunch freshly harvested asparagus from your local Pick Your Own

    Olive oil

    Salt and freshly ground black peppercorn to season.

    Method:

    Remove the packaging from the Camembert, place it on a baking tray and bake in a moderate oven (approx 210°C) for about ten minutes. On removing it from the oven, use a spoon to make a small hole in the top, big enough to dunk the asparagus spears in.

    While the cheese is cooking toss the asparagus into a hot griddle pan with a little olive oil and seasoning and cook for a couple of minutes until they begin to brown and take on a delicious charred appearance.

    Place the asparagus in a large dish and take outside along with the cheese. Pour your guest a glass of wine and then sit back and luxuriate in the flavour combinations this snack produces.

  • Wild garlic steak
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 02/05/2011

    Last week I travelled to Ozleworth, one of the quietest and most beautiful places in the Cotswolds and miles from anywhere. Actually, I don’t think I have ever walked such a lovely place - it was mind blowing. Throughout the Ozleworth valley wild garlic grew in profusion. I’ve never seen so much wild garlic growing so densely before and yes, I did pick a few white flower heads to take home.

    The result was a dish of rump steak, cooked with fresh asparagus and garnished with wild garlic flowers and leaves. It proved a simply glorious dinner when we returned home later that night.

    To serve 2 people you will need:

    2 generous-sized rump steaks, trimmed of fat & diced into bite sized pieces

    2 cloves of garlic - chopped fine

    One small bunch wild garlic flowers and leaves, rough chopped

    Handful mushrooms - rough chopped

    Handful baby spinach leaves

    8 spears of asparagus, chopped into pieces

    Juice of half a lemon

    Oil to fry steak

    Salt and freshly ground black peppercorn to season.

    Method:

    Add enough oil to a large heavy bottomed frying pan to cover the bottom, and bring to full heat.

    Add the pieces of steak and cook until the meat begins to brown, turn and add the asparagus pieces, reduce the heat and allow to cook for about four minutes.

    Add to the pan the chopped garlic, the mushroom pieces and baby spinach leaves and stir well into the mixture.

    Squeeze the juice of half of one lemon into the pan, add about a dessert-spoon of water, season, toss in the wild garlic flower heads and leaves, place a lid on the pan, remove from the heat and leave to settle for a couple of minutes.

    Taste, adjust seasoning and serve.

  • Hot steak & asparagus salad
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 27/04/2010

    Because the sun was shining and Charles Gee of Medley Manor Farm Pick Your Own, Binsey, just presented me with some of his first asparagus cut, I simply had to make something very special for lunch. So I invested in a couple of fillet steaks from Richard Golsby, Eynsham’s family butcher, and a load of freshly harvested salad vegetables.

    I have not given exact quantities for this salad, as it can be made up from whichever salad leaves you fancy - rocket is particularly tasty if you can get hold of some.

    To serve 2 people you will need:

    Half a bunch of freshly harvested asparagus

    2 fillet steaks

    Mix of salad vegetables to include: Little Gem lettuce or salad leaves, watercress, spring onions, cucumber, sprigs of fresh mint, a little chopped parsley and any other fresh herbs you have handy that you think might add flavour.

    1 clove garlic - chopped fine

    Juice of one lemon

    Olive oil

    Salt and freshly ground black peppercorns to season

    Method:

    Trim the asparagus and poach in a shallow pan of boiling salted water for about six minutes or until it begins to soften and turn a translucent green.

    With a slotted spoon remove the asparagus and allow it to drain and cool on kitchen paper while you prepare the rest of the salad and cook the steaks.

    Fry the steaks in a little olive oil until done to your taste, remove from the pan and add the chopped garlic to the oil and juices that remain, cook for a moment then remove from the heat and stir in the juice of one lemon. Taste, season and add more olive oil if needed - allow to cool.

    While the steak is resting chop any herbs you are using and cut the cucumber and spring onions into small chunks. Chop some of the lettuce leaves, leaving a few whole to decorate the edges of the dish.

    Cut the steaks into slices, and pour any juices that escape into the sauce.

    Chop the asparagus into pieces and toss with the salad vegetables and steak to achieve a good mix. Use the whole lettuce leaves to place around edge of salad.

    Pour the sauce onto the salad and serve immediately.

  • Chilled cucumber, mint & yoghurt soup
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 24/05/2010

    Now that there is an abundance of fresh mint growing in our gardens, allotments and pots on the windowsill, it’s time to enjoy it while it is at its best. Mint tends to toughen up somewhat as summer progresses and often takes on a harsher flavour; it should be celebrated now while at its best.

    This soup, which is popular in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Asia, is best made several hours before needed, to give the mint time to infuse its flavours into the yoghurt.

    To serve 4-6 people you will need:

    2 cucumbers, peeled and chopped into small cubes

    8oz (250g) carton of Greek-style yoghurt

    9fl oz (275ml) tomato juice

    1½ pts (900ml) vegetable or chicken stock

    One generous bunch of fresh mint leaves - chopped fine

    4 sprigs coriander - chopped fine

    1 tbspn salt

    Tabasco sauce (optional)

    Method:

    Place the cucumber cubes into a colander, sprinkle with the salt then leave for 30 minutes: this will remove much of the moisture in the cucumber.

    Once the cucumber is covered with salt, combine together the yoghurt, tomato juice, stock and half the chopped mint and leave to infuse.

    When 30 minutes has passed, rinse the salt from the cucumber and pat dry with kitchen paper, then strain the liquid infusion into a clean bowl.

    Stir the cucumber into the yoghurt mix, add the rest of the mint and the coriander and leave to infuse for a further 30 minutes.

    Taste, adjust seasoning, spicing it up a little with a few shakes of Tabasco sauce if liked, then place in a covered container and allow to chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours before serving.

    Serve with hot garlic bread.

  • Potatoes with rosemary and garlic
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 01/05/2010

    If you have walked past a rosemary bush recently, particularly after the spring rains have fallen, you won’t need reminding that it has the most aromatic fragrance - intensified at this time of the year when its little mauve flowers are bursting forth.

    Use rosemary in the kitchen and the house will be filled with the most mouth-watering aroma, especially if you add garlic to the dish.

    This recipe is so easy, you will wonder why you have never cooked new or waxy potatoes this way before. It’s the perfect dish to serve at lunchtime with a dish of cold meats.

    To serve 4 people you will need:

    Approx 1lb (450g) new or waxy potatoes

    2 cloves garlic - chopped fine

    4 large sprigs of rosemary (select young new shoots if possible)

    Olive oil to fry the potatoes

    Salt to season.

    Method:

    Cut the potatoes into small bite sized potatoes, leaving the skin on.

    Break the rosemary springs into pieces and chop the garlic fine.

    Heat enough oil to cover the bottom of a medium sized frying pan and when it is really hot, add the potatoes and place a lid on the pan for a couple of minutes to help them soften up.

    Remove the lid of the pan, stir in the rosemary and garlic and continue cooking at a high heat, stirring now and again until the potatoes begin to turn a delicious golden brown and the rosemary is turning crisp.

    Scatter a little salt over the potatoes once they are cooked and serve while they are still nice and hot.

    NOTE: Don’t remove the spikes of rosemary. Once they are cooked they add a tasty crunchy extra to the dish.

    If serving this dish with a salad - scatter rosemary flowers over the salad if you have any on your rosemary bush.

  • Wild garlic soup
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 01/05/2010

    If you have bluebells growing in your garden or allotment there’s every possibility you will discover wild garlic growing there too. They seem to go together.

    Wild garlic is far milder than the garlic you use in your kitchen, the bulbs are smaller and the lovely little white flower that comes out as May approaches makes a delightful addition to a tossed green leaf salad.

    You can identify wild garlic by its smell and its broad leaves, which are similar to those of the Lily of the Valley. It’s the leaves that I use for this recipe.

    To serve 4-6 people you will need:

    2 medium onions rough chopped

    4 large potatoes peeled and rough chopped

    20z (50g) butter

    300ml hot chicken or vegetable stock

    1 large bunch of wild garlic leaves

    2 tspn cream

    Salt and freshly ground black peppercorns to season

    For the pesto garnish:

    1 large bunch of wild garlic leaves

    2oz (50g) toasted hazelnuts - skins removed

    20z (50g) Parmesan cheese grated

    Olive oil

    Method:

    Prepare the pesto first by crushing all the ingredients together in a pestle and mortar, or zapping together in a liquidizer, adding as much oil as you feel it needs to enable it to be drizzled over the soup when completed.

    Make the soup by melting the butter and sweating the chopped onions and potatoes in a heavy bottomed pan for about 10 mins until they begin to soften but are not turning brown.

    Add the stock and continue to cook for a further 10 mins.

    Toss the wild garlic leaves into the pan and cook for just a minute, and then remove from the heat.

    Allow the soup to cool a little then liquidize until smooth, add the cream and season to taste.

    Reheat the soup, and garnish each bowl with a drizzle of the pesto. Wild garlic flowers can be used as a garnish too.

  • Asparagus carbonara
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 14/05/2010

    Now the earth is heating up, asparagus spears are pushing their way through the earth with such enthusiasm you can almost see them moving towards the sky. Asparagus is plentiful now - so this is the time to indulge yourself and add asparagus spears to everything you can.

    Its season is short, lasting only until midsummer’s day, so don’t put off your purchase of local asparagus, because it will be over before you realise it.

    For the best asparagus, visit your local pick-your-own or farm shop where it is usually picked the very morning you purchase it. I haven’t got an asparagus bed in my garden so I get mine from Medley Manor Farm Binsey - look for the asparagus sign to the left on the Botley road as you head towards Oxford - where it is picked fresh daily by the Gee family who have been farming it for years. I have never tasted anything quite so wonderful, particularly if cooked the day it is picked.

    his recipe is but one of many that you can cook which celebrates this wonderful vegetable at this time of the year.

    To serve 4 people you will need:

    1 bunch asparagus

    12 oz (350g) spaghetti

    4 free range eggs - beaten

    2oz (50g) Parmesan cheese – grated fine

    Small bunch fresh basil

    Salt and freshly ground black peppercorns to season.

    Method:

    Trim the woody ends from the asparagus and chop the spears into bite sized pieces.

    Cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water until almost cooked, then drop in the chopped asparagus pieces and cook for a further three minutes.

    Drain and transfer into a large warmed bowl, then pour in the beaten eggs and Parmesan cheese and mix well together with a little seasoning. It is important that this is done while the spaghetti is still hot enough to cook the eggs as you mix.

    Tear the basil leaves into pieces and scatter over the dish just before serving with a little extra cheese.

  • Asparagus with hollandaise sauce
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 29/04/2008

    Now that spears of asparagus are beginning to poke their way through the soil, it’s time to enjoy one of nature’s most succulent vegetables. As its season is short and usually over by mid June, not one spear should be left to go to seed.

    Asparagus goes particularly well with salmon fillets which you can buy frozen from Eynsham’s family butcher, Richard Golsby, if you are unable to travel to Oxford or Witney and buy it fresh. Those delicious flavours of asparagus are also complemented by an egg sauce, Hollandaise being one of them. This is a really quick and easy way to cook this sauce at home.

    To serve four people you will need:

    One bunch freshly harvested asparagus

    Juice from half a lemon

    3 tbsp dry white wine

    One bay leaf

    6 whole peppercorns

    One tbspn cold water mixed with three free range egg yolks

    6oz (175g) butter - melted

    One tbspn fresh parsley or chervil - chopped fine

    Salt and freshly ground black peppercorns to season

    Method:

    To make the Hollandaise put the lemon juice, wine, bay leaf and peppercorns in a small pan, place over high heat and allow to boil until the mix is reduced to just one tablespoon

    Strain the reduced liquid into the food processor, stir in the cold water and egg yolks and zap on high speed for three minutes, by which time the mix will have become frothy and lighter in colour.

    Leave the processor running on low and gently feed the melted butter onto the eggs until the mix has begun to thicken.

    Stop the machine, taste, and adjust seasoning, add the fresh parsley or chervil, give it another second or two in the processor and you are finished. Keep the sauce covered in a warm place while you cook the asparagus.

    To serve pour a little Hollandaise over the asparagus, keeping the rest in a jug so that your guests can help themselves to more when they need it.

  • Asparagus omelette
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 16/05/2009

    Eggs and asparagus make for the perfect marriage of flavours, textures too. What’s more, if you use fresh free range eggs laid by hens who are feeding on a diet of grass and greens, the sunshine yellow of the omelette set against the green of the asparagus looks simply fantastic. This recipe is due to appear in the Oxford Times on 28 May.

    For one person you will need:

    6 spears of freshly picked asparagus

    2 free range eggs - beaten

    Salad leaves to garnish

    A little oil

    Salt and freshly ground peppercorns to season

    Method:

    Half fill a small frying pan with salted water and bring to the boil.

    Trim the woody area from the asparagus spears, wash spears under chilled running water, then place them into the boiling water.

    Allow the spears to cook for approximately six minutes or until the asparagus is almost cooked. Test for softness by piercing the thick part of the stem with a sharp knife and remove on to kitchen paper to drain.

    Heat a teaspoon of oil in an omelette pan, swirling it round the bottom of the pan so that the entire surface is oiled.

    Once the pan has reached full heat, pour in the beaten egg mix, allow the mix to set for a moment, then stir in the uncooked egg and cook for a few more seconds undisturbed.

    Lay three spears each end of the omelette, fold the omelette in half, covering the asparagus, then gently turn the cooked omelette out onto a serving plate.

    Serve with mixed leaf salad.

  • Asparagus - roasted
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 04/05/2008

    There are loads of ways to cook asparagus. As its season is so short (May to mid June) it really is worth making the most of it while it’s available by adding it to everything you cook.

    Try roasting it for a change for example. Roasting is easy and really does keep all those delicious flavours locked in. Roasted asparagus certainly makes a flavoursome addition to the Sunday roast.

    All you have to do is cut away the woody bits at the end, rinse the spears under cold running water and pat dry.

    Place the spears in a pan or roasting dish large enough to take them comfortably.

    Drizzle a little olive oil over the asparagus and roll the spears round until the olive oil coats them entirely.

    15 minutes before you serve up the rest of the meal, sprinkle a little salt over the spears and place in a hot oven (about 200° C / 400°F or gas mark 6).

    Serve immediately you remove them from the oven.

  • Asparagus and pasta
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 21/05/2008

    This may be a way of encouraging children to try asparagus. It’s easy to make and tastes great.

    For four people you will need:

    One bundle of freshly harvested asparagus (plus extra if you want to serve asparagus alongside this dish)

    12oz (350g) dried spaghetti or dried pasta of your choice

    One bunch fresh herbs to include marjoram if possible

    Olive oil

    Salt and freshly-ground black peppercorns to season.

    Method:

    Wash asparagus under cold running water and trim off any tough white stalks.

    Wash the herbs, remove their stalks and chop roughly.

    Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente, which is a chef’s way of saying until tender but still firm to the bite.

    While the pasta is cooking place the asparagus in a frying pan of boiling salted water and cook until it begins to change colour and becomes a superb translucent green.

    Remove half the asparagus at this point, drain on kitchen paper and keep warm, allowing the other half to cook on for a few moments until soft enough to purée.

    Remove soft asparagus from the pan, drain on kitchen paper and place in food processor with a generous slurp of olive oil and the chopped herbs. Season, then zap into a purée, adding more olive oil if it appears too thick. You are aiming to produce a sauce that’s will cling comfortably to the pasta.

    Pour the finished sauce back into clean saucepan and bring back to full heat.

    Chop the remaining cooked asparagus into small bits and stir gently into the sauce - try to avoid breaking the heads. Remove from the heat.

    Drain the pasta, stir in a few drops of olive oil, then serve with the sauce poured on top, and perhaps a few extra asparagus spears if you have loads to spare.

    Serve with a green salad. Grated Parmesan cheese can be used as garnish if you have some to spare.

  • Radish & chicken stir-fry
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 05/05/2008

    When friends admitted that they were snowed under with radishes because they had scattered radish seeds before departing for an overseas holiday, only to discover that their allotment was almost overrun with this spicy vegetable on their return - they cried for help.

    What could they do with them? There was a limit to how many raw radishes they could munch when enjoying a glass of wine at the end of the day. Add them to a stir-fry, I said. And here’s the recipe I offered them.

    For two hungry people you will need:

    A large handful of fresh radishes (at least 8)

    Two chicken breasts - skinned and sliced

    Flour to coat raw chicken

    One clove garlic - chopped fine

    One small onion - chopped fine

    One handful small spinach leaves

    Three sprigs parsley - chopped fine

    One teaspoon horseradish sauce

    Quarter pt water

    One chicken stock cube

    Oil to fry chicken

    Salt and freshly ground black peppercorns to season

    Method:

    Slice the chicken and toss it in seasoned flour.

    Remove foliage from radishes, wash, trim and cut into four.

    Heat enough oil to cover the bottom of a large saucepan, when it has reached full heat toss in the chicken slices and allow to fry until they begin to brown.

    Add radishes to the pan and stir for a few moments, then add the garlic, chopped onion and parsley and cook for at least three minutes, until the radishes begin to soften.

    Toss in the chopped parsley and the stock cube, and the horseradish sauce, then pour at least a quarter of a pint of water into the pan and stir well.

    Allow to bubble for a moment or two, taste, adjust seasoning, adding a little more horseradish if you wish, then throw in the spinach leaves, place a lid on the pan and turn off the heat.

    Leave for a moment, until the spinach leaves begin to soften and serve with rice of your choice.

  • Asparagus for breakfast
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 04/05/2008

    Because asparagus goes well with eggs, it’s worth serving it for breakfast now and again as a special treat.

    For two people you will need:

    4 free range eggs

    1oz (25g) butter

    4 tbsp single cream or milk

    Salt and freshly ground black pepper corns

    One bunch asparagus

    Buttered toast.

    Method:

    This dish tastes best if you make the scrambled eggs while the asparagus is cooking in boiling salted water. If you can prepare the toast at the same time it will taste even better.

    Prepare the asparagus by cutting away the woody ends. Rinse under cold water.

    Either steam the asparagus or cook for about five minutes in a frying pan filled with boiling water - the spears are easier to remove with a slatted spoon when cooked this way.

    While the water for the asparagus is heating up, whisk the eggs and the cream/milk together, season with salt and freshly ground black peppercorns.

    Place the butter into a non-stick saucepan, and place over a moderate heat.

    When the butter has melted, add the egg mixture and keep stirring with a whisk or fork to break up the curds.

    Remove from the heat before completely cooked as it will continue thickening for a moment or two and can go dry very quickly.

    Remove the asparagus from the pan and drain on kitchen paper, butter the toast and assemble the dish. Now enjoy a breakfast fit for a king.

  • Radish and almonds
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 17/05/2008

    There’s a bonus that comes from growing your own radishes - you get to cook the leaves too.

    Radishes from the supermarket will be washed and wrapped in plastic. Pull them from the earth and you have both greens and a vegetable.
    When I first cooked freshly harvested radish tops, I made the mistake of cooking the stems too. As they take longer to cook I soon learned to cut them off and simply pop the green leaves into a pan of boiling salted water. The result is a spinach-type flavour, which when served with a knob of butter is delicious.

    This recipe is one I serve with cold meat that needs vegetables with a bit of a kick to complement the flavours. The mix goes particularly well with left over cold lamb, as red wine vinegar is the main flavouring agent.

    For two people you will need:

    A large handful of radishes - the amount is up to you

    One tablespoon olive oil

    Two tablespoons red wine vinegar

    Half bunch spring onions - cut small

    Dessertspoon sliced almonds

    Salt and freshly ground black peppercorns to season.

    Method:

    Cut the tops from the radishes and cook those separately in boiling water until soft.

    While the tops are cooking washe the radishes and cut them into quarters.

    Toast the sliced almonds in a pan over high heat until they begin to brown. Remove from heat and reserve.

    Pour a tablespoon of olive oil into a frying pan and heat.

    Add the radishes, stir from for a moment or two, until they begin to soften. Once soft they loose their delicious peppery flavour, so don’t cook them too much, allow them to retain a little crunch.

    Remove the radishes from the pan, pour the vinegar into the pan and turn the heat high so that the oil and vinegar mix bubbles and is reduced to half its original measure.

    Toss in the spring onions and almonds, return the radishes to the pan, stir well, season with salt and freshly ground black peppercorns and remove from the heat immediately.

  • Warm rump steak salad
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 16/05/2009

    If you adore a big fat juicy rump steak, but are finding it difficult to purchase such luxuries at the moment, why not buy one steak and make it stretch to two portions by making a warm rump steak salad?

    You will need:

    One rump steak

    Two handfuls of mixed salad leaves

    A couple of radishes if you have them

    Any other salad vegetables you would like to mix in

    Vinaigrette salad dressing

    Salt and freshly ground black peppercorns to season.

    Method:

    Grill or fry the rump steak to your liking

    Wash the salad leaves, chop the radish and prepare any other salad vegetables you are using

    When the steak is cooked, remove from the pan and allow to rest for at least five minutes in a dish which will catch the juices as they run.

    Arrange the salad leaves etc on the serving dish.

    Slice the steak, trimming off any fat first.

    Add the steak slices to the salad.

    Drizzle the juices that have fallen from the meat over the dish, dress with a little vinaigrette, season and serve with crusty bread and butter.

  • Apple & ginger fillo parcels with rhubarb
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 03/05/2009

    The wonderful thing about Bramley apples is that you can still use them in the kitchen while the blossom for this year’s crop decorates the trees.
    2009 is the Bramley’s bicentenary. A young girl, Mary Ann Brailsford, planted the original pip that gave us the first Bramley apple tree in 1809 - the rest is history.

    Bramley apples are a must if you make an apple pie. They can also be used to flavour numerous sweet and savoury dishes throughout the year.

    If you have managed to store your Bramley apples over winter and still have some left, this recipe might interest you as it also celebrates rhubarb, which is flourishing now. If you haven’t any Bramleys left, Eynsham Co-op have a plentiful supply.

    To serve 4 people you will need:

    8 tablespoons of sweetened apple purée made from Bramley apples

    A tspn chopped ginger or pinch of powdered ginger

    Ready made Fillo pastry (400g packs are available from Cornucopia - Sandy’s deli in High Street)

    2 oz melted butter

    Aprox 2 fat sticks of fresh rhubarb

    Dash of grenadine (optional but nice as it adds sweetness and colour)

    Icing sugar to decorate the fillo parcels.

    Method:

    Prepare apple purée - if you make too much, don’t worry, it can be frozen and used for another recipe.

    Stir chopped ginger or powdered ginger into the apple purée

    Slice the rhubarb into thin strips and poach in a little water, sugar and a dash of grenadine - when cooked remove from the heat and keep warm.

    Melt the butter but do not let it bubble.

    Carefully open the pack of fillo paste; remove one sheet at a time, covering the rest to stop the pastry drying out while you work.

    Lay the first sheet onto a clean surface, brush all over with melted butter, cut the sheet into two squares, and lay one upon the other.

    Repeat this process to give you four sheets of buttered fillo, then place spoonful of the apple and ginger puree in centre of the buttered square.

    Bring two opposite corners of the square together, pinch into shape, then bring the other two to the centre to form an attractive parcel.

    Brush finished parcel with butter, and then use a fish slice to gently place on oiled baking tray.

    Repeat this process until you have used up the purée.

    Bake in a moderate oven for about 15 minutes, or until the fillo pastry has turned a delightful golden brown.

    Sieve a little icing sugar on top of the parcels.

    Make up the dish by arranging the cooked rhubarb strips on the serving dish, then place the pastry parcels on top.

    Serve with double cream or yoghurt.

  • Rhubarb crumble
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 12/05/2008

    Fruit crumbles are a real village favourite - especially with the older generation, who like me, were probably brought up on them.

    Crumbles are very fashionable now - restaurants feature them on their menus often, though top chefs have played about with the basic recipe somewhat. Oxford’s Michelin starred chef Raymond Blanc, for instance, bakes the crumble mix separately, then adds it to the cooked fruit just before serving. He argues that this stops the juices of the fruit mixing with the crumble mix and turning it heavy. Others add all manner of things to the basic mix to enhance both texture and flavour.

    I give you the basic mix that my mother loves - but remember that this is a village recipe which is open to interpretation. All sorts of extra ingredients can be added to a crumble.

    To feed the family you will need:

    One pound (450g) rhubarb - chopped

    Sugar to sweeten rhubarb

    Juice of one orange (optional)

    8oz (250g) plain flour

    3oz (75g) soft butter

    2oz (50g) sugar

    Pinch salt.

    Method:

    Prepare the rhubarb and place it in your favourite pudding dish, adding as much sugar as you think it needs to sweeten (2 tablespoons is usually enough), along with the juice of one large orange, or the equivalent measure of water.

    In a large bowl place the flour, butter, sugar and salt and rub together with your finger tips until the mix resembles breadcrumbs.

    Scatter the crumble mix over the rhubarb and cook in a moderate oven for about 20 minutes or until the rhubarb juices begin to flow and the topping has begun to brown.

    NOTE: To give the topping a real crunch try making it with a bread flour such as Matthews Cotswold crunch to which you can add a couple of spoonfuls of sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds - delicious.

  • Rhubarb fool with a modern twist
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 08/04/2009

    Rhubarb is one of those plants that suffers from an identity crisis. Is it a fruit or a vegetable? Some experts are still out on that one. Today's Michelin starred chefs solve the problem by using it to flavour savoury dishes as well as puddings. Actually despite being considered a rather humble plant, rhubarb now features frequently on gastro pub menus.

    At this time of the year gardeners are often giving it away because it is so abundant. If a gardener friend does offer you a bundle of fresh rhubarb from the allotment take it and enjoy making rhubarb crumbles, pies, tarts or rhubarb fools which provide a light summery pudding that everyone can enjoy.

    For four people you will need:

    One lb (450g) rhubarb

    4 dspns honey

    4oz (125g) mascarpone

    200ml double cream

    Grenadine.

    Method:

    Trim the rhubarb and cut into small chunks.

    Cook the rhubarb with the honey over a moderate heat until really soft, then remove from the heat and allow to cool.

    Remove four dessertspoons of the cooked pulp, pour a little grenadine over it and set aside.

    Place the mascarpone into a large bowl, beat until soft and smooth, then add the main bulk of cooked rhubarb and beat in well.

    Whip the cream until almost stiff and fold it into the mascarpone mix and taste. If the rhubarb was particularly sharp you may need to add more honey or a little caster sugar if you wish.

    Divide mix into four bowls, place a spoonful of the reserved rhubarb in grenadine on the top and allow to chill for at least an hour.

    Splash a little more grenadine on top just before serving if you want to add extra colour.

  • Rhubarb wine
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 12/05/2008

    In 1983 the late Mollie Harris, whose delightful books about the countryside made such an impact on Eynsham, wrote A Drop O’Wine. My copy is now brown with age and the pages are dropping out, but I still count it as a kitchen Bible. Those lucky enough to own a copy too will know that these simple recipes, which call for basic ingredients, work every time. What’s more they are a great way of using up fruits and vegetables from the allotment that are suddenly so abundant you can’t even give them away.

    This is Mollie’s recipe for rhubarb wine. She advises it should be made in late May or early June.

    You will need:

    4lb rhubarb

    3 ½ lb sugar

    1 gallon boiling water

    ½ oz yeast (fresh or dried)

    A piece of root ginger as big as a walnut.

    Method:

    Wipe the rhubarb with a cloth and cut it into small pieces - you don’t need to peel it.

    Place rhubarb in a clean bucket and pour a gallon of boiling water over it.

    Add the ginger (chopped), cover with a cloth and leave in a warm place for four days, stirring each day.

    Strain into a clean bucket, add the sugar, stir until dissolved, then sprinkle on the yeast. Cover again and leave for two or three days.

    Strain through a muslin cloth into a sterilised demijohn using a funnel, topping it up with a little water if the demijohn is not quite full.

    Fix a bung and an airlock which has a little water in it, make sure it’s secure and then wait for the wine to begin working. When little bubbles begin escaping though the airlock, making a comforting plopping noise as they go, you know the wine is ready to be placed in a dark place for a few months to allow the yeast to do its work.

    NOTE: Most of Mollie’s wines are ready to be bottled off in about three to four months, though I prefer to give them longer. Demijohns and all the equipment you need for home made wine making, including labels, corks and funnels, can usually be found at car boot sales or you can search for it on the internet.

    Try Amazon for a copy of A Drop O’Wine - when I last checked there were several copies available at a very reasonable price.

  • Strawberries & avocado
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 21/05/2008

    Strawberries don’t have to be reserved for the pudding course. You can use them as a starter too with great effect.

    This dish is so easy you don’t need a recipe as such. Just allow half an avocado for each person and enough strawberries to fill the space where the pip rested before you removed it.

    Cut the strawberries in half, stuff them into the avocado halves and drizzle some vinaigrette over them.

    Grind a generous amount of black peppercorns on top, decorate with a couple of green leaves (choice is up to you) and serve as a starter.

    You won’t be disappointed providing you put this dish together at the very last moment so that both avocado and strawberries are freshly cut.

    NOTE: Whenever you serve avocado halves, don’t forget to cut a small slice from the bottom of the avocado so that it sits firmly on the plate.

  • Strawberry Pavlova
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 21/05/2008

    The combination of cream, strawberries and soft meringue is irresistible which is why a pavlova is the perfect pudding for a party or family get-together.

    This recipe calls for strawberries, which will be ripe and ready to pick any day now.

    You will need:

    One punnet of fresh strawberries

    13 fl oz (375ml) double cream

    4 egg whites

    8oz (250g) caster sugar

    1 tspn cornflour

    1 tspn wine vinegar

    Few drops vanilla essence

    Pinch of salt

    Non stick baking parchment or tinfoil.

    Method:

    Beat the egg whites until stiff then gradually add the caster sugar, one tablespoon at a time.

    When all the sugar has been added, beat in the cornflour, wine vinegar, salt and vanilla essence.

    Draw a circle about the size of a small dinner plate on the baking parchment, or form a circle from tinfoil and place on flat baking tray.

    Spread the mixture inside the circle, building up the sides so that they are slightly higher than the centre.

    Bake at 150ºC / 300ºF or gas mark 2 for about an hour or until the meringue is firm to the touch. You are aiming for a crisp crunchy shell with a soft marshmallow centre. Turn the oven off, but leave the pavlova in the oven for a further hour to dry out a little, then remove from the oven and peel off the parchment paper.

    When the pavlova is cool whip the cream and pile it in the centre, then decorate with the strawberries.

    NOTE: The pavlova can be baked a day in advance and stored in tin until needed - do not try to freeze it.

  • Swiss chard
    Photo: Helen Peacocke 16/05/2008

    This is a quite remarkable vegetable which, if you cut it back but left the roots in the ground last autumn, will now be ready to harvested again and enjoyed.

    Swiss Chard is one of those rare spring vegetables that gives you two quite different textures and two different tastes.

    You seldom see Swiss chard on the supermarket shelves as it tends to wilt quickly. It wouldn’t cope with the bright lights of a supermarket for more than half a day. It needs eating the moment it’s harvested, or packed in a plastic bag and stored in the refrigerator to keep it crisp - but for no longer than a day - two at the most.

    Chard gives you glossy green leaves and a massive white rib. The leaves and ribs can be cooked separately, or together by placing the ribs into a little boiling salted water about three minutes before you add the leaves to the same pot. The leaves will take just a little longer than spinach to cook.

    To prepare, wash under cold running water, cut the leaf away from the rib, slice the green leaves quite fine, and cut the rib into strips.

    If you cook them separately, try cooking the white ribs in a mix of salted water and a knob of butter and placing the green leaves into another pan containing a little salted water. When served as separate vegetables they complement each other perfectly.

    Try adding Swiss chard to a stir-fry, adding the rib pieces first, and putting the green leaves into the wok only at the very end.

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