Sunday, 13 May 2012

Homemade pesto and ideas for eating it

Sunshine in a pot that's good for more than just partnering pasta.

Dollop it onto crostinis topped with roasted vegetables, spoon it over chicken mayonnaise on toasted onion bagels, run it through cold cooked rice studded with black olives, sweetcorn and prawns, or use it in place of ketchup on BBQ charred lamb burgers.

This is pretty far removed from a traditional Sunday lunch, but when the sun is trying to come out it's nice to usher it on with a bright dish, and the heritage tomatoes and buffalo mozarella suit a pesto dressing perfectly. 

Lets eat...

Heritage tomato and buffalo mozzarella salad 
with lemon pesto dressing

Makes 1 jar of pesto
160g fresh basil leaves - this took three full supermarket bought plants to reach this weight 
90g grated pecorino cheese
75g pine nuts dry toasted in a frying pan until lightly golden (keep your eye on them as they burn really quickly) 
1 clove of garlic
125mls extra virgin olive oil

For the salad
5-6 different heritage tomato varieties, sliced into half cm thins
2 buffalo mozzarella balls, torn gently by hand - but only just before serving
Juice of half a lemon
15ms / around 1/2 shot extra virgin olive oilSea salt and black pepper

- Place the pesto ingredients into a food processor but reserve 25mls / 1 shot of the oil, and blitz until smooth. Decant into a jar and then pour over the remaining 25mls / 1 shot of oil to just cover the pesto - this will protect it and mean it keeps longer in the fridge
- Make the pesto dressing by spooning a few tablespoons of the pesto into a squeezy bottle used for putting dressings onto plates in restaurants - these are basically squeezy sauce bottles and are easy to find - then to the pesto in the bottle add the lemon juice and 15mls of olive oil, shake until combined (holding your finger over the end of the nozzle)
- Take a large serving plate or flat dish and arrange the tomatoes on the plate, then top that with the freshly torn mozzarella, a few scrunches of salt and a grind of black pepper, followed by the pesto dressing, which I like to add to the dish in lines across the plate, but splodges would taste equally delicious 

Monday, 7 May 2012

Ham hock and minted broad bean crostini with wholegrain mustard dressing

If you follow me on Twitter you'll probably know that I recently moved house. I didn't get very far (just five minutes down the road from the last place) but with this new location comes a totally new high street to explore, that of West Didsbury.

Amidst the leafy tree lined roads, polished period housing and shabbier properties full of promise, cheek by jowl sit an eclectic collection of independent bars, restaurants, clothing and interiors boutiques.

As an area it feels quirky, lively and full of fun and games and all this played a large part in bringing us to this side of Dids. Food for all moods is catered for and as you might imagine, we're currently exploring the offerings of the area in some detail. It's a hard job but it simply must be done.

During Saturdays trip down Burton Road on the way to Folk (great rose vino was calling) we stopped in at Moth. It's an interiors store that's very reminiscent of the cool homeware shops in Amsterdam's 9 Streets - and it's nice to have access to quirky and affordable home design right on the doorstep.

I'd planned an economical and easy dinner and on setting foot in Moth decided that I simply couldn't blog it unless I was in possession of some of their bits. It just wouldn't do. I scooped up several small textured bowls that look hand thrown and as if they have fabric set under the glaze, a small industrial antique looking tray, a rubber-wood spoon and textured glass jar. With this (somewhat random) collection of kitchen paraphernalia our dinner would look splendid. I was sold.

Ham hock, mint, broad beans and wholegrain mustard are a fantastic marriage of flavours and in this combination on top of crispy crostinis they taste vibrant, healthy and of springtime. If you fancied the combination hot, you could easily bind them with some fluffy mashed potato, form them into small cakes and fry gently until crispy and golden in unsalted butter. Woof. 

For around 12-15 crostinis 

The ham - buy a cooked one if you don't have time to poach your own, but if you do have the time doing your own is very satisfying, ingredients needed listed below:
One ham hock (or as the local butcher told me, in MCR it's a ham shank) uncooked 3 carrots, roughly chopped 
4 celery stalks, roughly chopped
One large golden onion, peeled and quartered
A bay leaf
A teaspoon of peppercorns

The minted broadbeans and crostini - 
350g shelled broadbeans - Easiest way to pod them is to plunge the frozen beans into boiling water for 2 minutes, drain and rinse under cold water and then shell by pinching a hole in one end with your fingers, and then squeezing the pod out 
A handful of fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons natural yogurt, you could also use ricotta 
A large pinch of grated Parmesan
Black pepper
A glug of extra virgin olive oil 
French baguette, cut into slender rounds

The vinaigrette - 
A heaped teaspoon wholgrain mustard
One shot rice vinegar, you could also use cider vinegar if you prefer 
Juice of half a lemon
One shot extra virgin olive oil 
2 spring onions, finely chopped
A small pinch fresh chopped parsley
A couple of pinches sugar

- Place the ham ingredients into a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and once boiling, turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for 3 hours
- After 3 hours if you have time, let the meat go totally cold in the pot. This will make sure the meat is as tender as can be (truly butter-like) but it takes a good few hours extra, so if you don't have time, take the ham out after 3 hours cooking time and let it go cold separately so it's quicker to use
- Once cool simply shred the meat from the bone with your fingers, discarding as much of the fat as possible, leaving you with just the soft pink meat, then set aside
- Into a food processor place the broadbeans (but leave out a handful of them), mint, olive oil, yogurt and a generous grind of black pepper, pulse until coarsely combined, then decant into a bowl and stir in the last of the broad beans, and the grated Parmesan, set aside
- Into a cup or jar place all the vinaigrette ingredients - you won't need salt as the ham is saltyish and the Parmesan also provides body and seasoning - and stir or shake until totally combined
- When you're ready to eat, heat a frying pan on a high heat and dry fry the crostinis on both sides until they're golden, then remove, top with the broad beans, followed by the shredded ham, and then spoon the vinaigrette over the top before each is eaten - this ensures the crostinis stay crisp