Loquat salad with serrano ham and goat’s cheese

We’re at the height of barbecue season (yes, even in the rain – we’re British!) and while meat plays the staring role in most people’s barbecues I find the supporting role of the salad to be just as important. So my next couple of posts will focus on delicious salads that go perfectly with your barbecue.

Fresh loquats

Last month one of my lovely regulars, Pam, gave me a couple of homegrown loquats the day before I was due to host a family barbecue. The loquat is a tangy plum-like fruit originally from China and Japan but it’s increasing in popularity in the UK – and as Pam has proved they can be grown in Wimbledon!

Loquat salad with serrano ham and goat’s cheese

Loquats make delicious jams and jellies but I decided to use them in a summer salad. I sliced the loquats and layered them along with pieces of serrano ham and slices of goat’s cheese on top of a bed of baby salad leaves and I have to say this salad was just beautiful as a side dish to the delicious burgers and sausages we feasted on. You may also want to try my potato salad recipe for a refreshingly zingy side!

Apple and elderflower cake

I can’t get enough of elderflower in the warm weather and this juicy apple cake is yet another delightful way to enjoy what has become a rather British taste of summertime. I would suggest enjoying a slice of this cake with a cup of black Earl Grey. Too delicious for words!

Ingredients:

8oz butter

8oz sugar

4 eggs

8oz self-raising flour

3 apples, roughly chopped

Icing sugar

Elderflower cordial

Dried elderflower petals

Method:

As with most of my cake recipes, soften the butter and cream in the sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, and then mix in the flour (make sure you don’t overmix, it’s important to keep as much air in as possible). Fold in the chopped apples. I like to keep the skin on for texture. Bake in a greased and lined loaf tin on 150 for around 40 minutes or until golden brown. Don’t forget to do the skewer test to make sure it’s cooked all the way though!

To make the drizzle add a couple of capfuls of elderflower cordial to half a mug of icing sugar and stir vigorously. You may need to add a tea spoon or two of boiled water to help it on its way – I would advise you to add a tiny amount at a time or you might find you need to add more icing sugar. Drizzle the icing over the cooled cake and lightly sprinkle the dried elderflower petals on the top. This pretty loaf cake deserves to be served on your finest china!

Well-seasoned soup; perfect for winter!

We sold a lot of our homemade soup in Willow Bough last week. It’s not surprising with the cold weather and the promise – or was it threat?! – of snow. What I love about our soup is that it’s so easy to make and there are an abundance of different varieties you can make; it really is just a case of what your favourite vegetables are.

The two tips I give for making soup are: firstly don’t worry about how neatly or small you chop the vegetables.  It’s going in soup and will get blitzed at the end so it really doesn’t matter what they look like; and for the same reason, I always buy the supermarket economy vegetables for my soups.

Today we made curried parsnip soup and Edie, who was working with me, was keen to take note of the recipe for when she goes to university in September. She’s conscious of cost and making sure she gets her five a day, plus Edie is a big fan of parsnips cooked in any way, and so this soup will be perfect for her once she moves into student accommodation. As with all homemade soups you can make a big batch of it and store in individual portions in the fridge or freezer. It seems obvious but I’ve learned over the years that it can be easy to get out of the habit of being organised in order to eat well on a budget. And the cherry on the top is, that this soup is so tasty it really is a win/win recipe!

 

Curried parsnip soup

Recipe

A knob of butter

1 white onion

2 packets of supermarket parsnips

2 vegetable stock cubes in 2 pints of water

2 teaspoons of mild curry powder

Salt and pepper to taste

Milk or cream (optional)

 

Method

Chop the onion and sweat it in the butter in a large pan. Chop the parsnips and add, handfuls at a time, sweating them with the onions. Once the vegetables have softened add the stock and simmer for around 20 minutes. Once the soup has cooled down blend it with a hand-held mixer (or similar) and add the curry powder and seasoning to taste. The soup can be decanted into individual portion-sized containers and put in the fridge or even frozen ready to be enjoyed on a cold day!

 

Angel kisses

For me Christmas baking is some of the best baking of the year; I’m not sure whether it’s the seasonal flavours of cinnamon, mint and orange that get added to so many goodies or whether it’s just good old fashioned nostalgia but whatever it is, the magic ingredient seems to send me into a festive frenzy!

And so many Christmas bakes make great presents too! These peppermint creams – or angel kisses as I like to call them – are not only tasty but look so pretty in a little box or cellophane bag finished off with sparkly ribbon. And I do think that homemade gifts are so much nicer – someone has taken the time to make something especially for you.

I make my Angel Kisses with American peppermint extract but they can be made for other occasions with rose water, lavender or bubblegum flavours. And they make lovely wedding favours or additions to party bags.

Angel Kisses

Ingredients

The white of one egg

12oz icing sugar

Peppermint essence

Silver balls to decorate

Method

Whisk the egg white in a mixer and then add in the sifted icing sugar, mixing periodically. Add a few drops of peppermint essence and mix again. You should end up with what looks like a ball of white plasticine.

Roll out the dough, making sure there’s plenty of icing sugar on the counter and the rolling pin. Using a cutter, cut out your mini-sweets and add a silver ball for decoration. I like to use a mini heart-shaped cutter with frilly edge – the perfect shape for angel kisses xx