Friday, 27 July 2018

Gooseberry Sorbet

A few years ago we had the most amazing gooseberry ice cream on a cliff top in Cornwall. I can't remember exactly where we were, or what company made it, just that it was after a blazing hot morning of walking with full packs along the coastal path, and that it was the best thing I'd ever tasted (it might have been the heat, but it was pretty darn tasty). So when an allotment friend gave us a bagful of super-ripe gooseberries the other day, we decided that was what we wanted to make with them. As we're trying to eat less dairy products, we went with sorbet rather than ice cream. This takes a while to make without an ice cream maker - several hours of stirring and freezing - but it's got such an intense flavour it's definitely worth it. It's super refreshing on its own, but it would go really well with some plain yoghurt for a creamier pudding, vegan or otherwise, whatever's your bag!

                                                                                                                                                          (c) Becca Thorne 2018

Gooseberry Sorbet

1kg ripe gooseberries, blossom and stalk removed
400g caster sugar (golden's best, but white will do)
400ml water

Find a saucepan big enough to fit everything in and, over a low-medium heat, gently stir the sugar and water together until the sugar's dissolved. Add the gooseberries, bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer for around 5 mins, or until the gooseberries are squishy and broken apart. It won't take long.

Using a blender, blitz up the gooseberry mixture until it's super smooth. Place a sieve over a good-size bowl and pour in the mixture, a bit at a time, gently pushing it through the sieve with a wooden spoon until you have just seeds and bits of skin left in the sieve. Discard these bits, and continue until it's all sieved through. If you taste it now, you'll probably find it's a little too sweet - this is because freezing dulls sweet flavours slightly, but the sugar also stops it turning into a solid block of ice in the freezer. Cover (to keep the fruit flies away - they go nuts for this stuff) and set aside to cool to room temperature.

Once cooled, tip the puree into a freezer-proof tub with a lid, and place in the freezer - or, if you've got an ice cream maker, tip it in there, follow the machine's instructions and walk away, you lucky bugger. But if, like me, it's just you and your freezer, you'll need to check on it after about an hour, when you should find it's becoming icy around the edges of the mixture. Use a fork to stir and mash these bits into the mix. Do this approx once an hour until it's more solid than not, and then let it freeze completely. If you don't do all the mashing you'll still have a tasty sorbet, but it will be full of hard, jagged ice crystals, rather than the nice, smooth texture you want. So give it a go!


Monday, 9 July 2018

A Summer of Courgettes

It's been a whole two years since I last posted here, but the past few weeks' insane courgette production has forced me to come up with so many different things to do with them, that I thought I'd share a couple of super simple, quick little courgette recipes that I've been making. You'll notice they contain almost identical ingredients, because that's what's in season right now!

I love me some courgettes, and this year I've grown two varieties - the classic, green ones you can buy in supermarkets (I think we've got 'Ambassador'), and a beautiful Italian-style, yellow, globe variety ('Floridor') which not only look amazing, they taste it too. If you pick them when they're about the size of a cricket ball, you can use them exactly as you would a standard courgette, and they're ideal for the first recipe below. If you leave them to get a bit bigger, the seeds grow too, and they become a bit more squash-like, so they're perfect for scooping out and stuffing like a marrow (I did them with a vegan mushroom stuffing, which I might also share soon), but they're so much more flavoursome than a marrow, and they haven't got that gross wet texture that marrows have.

Griddled (or BBQ'd) summer veg with basil drizzle
This first recipe is a cooked dish, but as Rowan's been away this past week I've been making myself enough to have half warm for dinner and the rest cold for lunch the next day. It's best done on a griddle pan or BBQ, to get those tasty charred lines on the veg, but a frying pan will do fine. It's delicious either way. I've been using the globe courgettes for this one, but it's just as good with normal ones sliced lengthways. It looks like a lot of steps, but it's actually dead simple.
Serves 2

for the drizzle 
A good handful of basil leaves, (approx the amount in those little supermarket bags should do it, or around 40 leaves)
1 small clove garlic
Juice of half a lemon
Extra virgin olive oil
approx 1tsp sea salt

for the veg
1-2 globe courgettes, sliced into 1cm thick rounds
1 red pepper, cored and quartered, then cut in half horizontally to make chunks
Handful of french beans, topped and tailed
10-12 ripe cherry tomatoes, halved
1 large clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped or crushed
10-12 pitted olives, halved (kalamata or nocellara are my favourites, but use whatever you like)
Olive oil 
Sea salt and black pepper

In a small bowl, mix together 2 or 3 tablespoons of olive oil with the finely chopped garlic, a pinch of sea salt and a good grind of black pepper, and set aside to allow the garlic to infuse the oil a bit while you make the drizzle and prepare the veg (this will be the oil you use to cook the veg).

Next, combine basil, garlic and lemon juice in a different bowl with the pinch of salt, and add a good slug of the nicest olive oil you've got (better olive oil = better flavour) and blitz it all up with a stick blender (or blend them in whatever manner works for you). Test the consistency - you want it wet enough to drizzle, so if it's too thick or dry, add a little more oil or even a little cold water. Cover and leave to get all delicious while you prepare and cook the vegetables.

Cut up your veg as suggested, then use a pastry brush to apply a little of your garlicky oil (try to get some of the garlic bits on there too) to one side of the courgette slices before placing each on your hot griddle pan in one layer - they all need to be touching the griddle, so you probably won't fit all the slices in at once. They should sizzle as soon as you set them down. Allow them to cook for a couple of minutes on this side, until you can turn them over and see good, dark char lines and the flesh is looking softer. You want them to be almost burned. Brush the top sides with more oil and flip them over to cook on the other side. Remove cooked slices to a  large dish or plate, and do the same with the pepper, leaving some of the oil mix to toss the beans in. You can really burn the pepper skin to get it super tasty. Cook the beans in the same way, allowing the last of the garlic bits to cook in the pan with them, until they're softened but retain just a little bite - I find shaking the pan, or stirring them, rather than trying to turn each individual bean makes things easier!

Chuck (or nicely arrange, depending on how fancy you're feeling) it all in the same dish, with all the cooked, blackened garlic bits from the pan, and add the tomatoes and olives, before drizzling with plenty of the basil dressing. Serve hot or cold with good bread to mop up the juices, or on a bed of quinoa or brown rice.


Courgettes in lemon marinade
This simple little number came about when I really had to eat some of the courgette glut while Rowan was away, but I needed something I could prepare in the evening before going to yoga, so I could eat as soon as I got back. It was a super hot day and I really didn't want to be standing over the cooker or using the oven, so I decided this might be a good way to have the courgettes raw. It's dead easy, and can be served as a courgette-only side, but I've added some suggestions to make a full meal and use up some more allotment gluts!
Serves 2

2 courgettes, thinly sliced into discs
Zest and juice of one lemon
Sea salt and black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

Lay your courgette slices out on a wide dish or plate, then use the fine side of a grater, or a lemon zester, to grate the lemon zest all over them. Now squeeze on the juice, ensuring you cover as much of the courgettes as you can, and sprinkle all over with a pinch of salt and a good grinding of black pepper. Cover with a pan lid or foil to keep in the moisture and keep out the fruit flies, and leave for an hour or two (no longer or it will get soggy).

When you're ready, drizzle over a little good olive oil, stir it all up and serve as is for a side dish, or wilt some spinach/chard/beet tops in a pan with olive oil, finely chopped spring onion, a pinch of salt, nutmeg and black pepper and mix together with the courgettes, some steamed broad and/or French beans, some halved cherry tomatoes and some torn basil leaves. The veg is so fresh tasting that it goes well with roasted, skin-on new potatoes - I recommend cooking them with rosemary and garlic for extra tastiness!